Monday, December 20, 2010

Access and Equity in Online Classes and Virtual Schools

[Last post of 2010]
While this is a K12 report about online learning, as more traditional students come from environments where online learning is pervasive, it is important for colleges to keep pace.

Even in the Washington DC area, the amount of technology used in K12 schools varies widely.  Smartboards and smart classrooms are widely used (<-- that link is from 2007!)  in Montgomery County and to a lesser extent in PG County.  Fairfax always leads the way, and   DC has been playing catch up and the large number of independent charter schools have varying levels of technology use.

Here's a summary from the report:

Equity and access are important issues in education. The virtual school community has an obligation
to ensure that their programs are accessible and the educational opportunities are equitable. Virtual
education programs need to pay attention to these issues to be sure to have the greatest benefit
to the largest number of students. From there begins the same legal obligation that all public
education programs have.

Virtual education programs can become proactive on equity and access issues by:
  • Collecting and analyzing student demographic data, then use that data to make program modifications where needed
  • Developing policies and procedures that require and ensure all courses and educational materials be broadly accessible
  • Developing special needs policies that explain the program responsibilities for service to special needs students
  • Creating and publicizing a non-discrimination policy
  • Appointing, when necessary, Title IX and Section 504 Coordinators
  • By implementing these best practices, virtual education programs can be assured of helping the
    greatest number of students obtain a high quality education. 

Below, respected educator Robert Marzano speaks on the paradigm shift technology will bring to the classroom.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mapping Web 2.0 Benefits to Known Best Practices in Distance Education


This post is from the University of Maryland University College's online journal -->


The last several years have been filled with enthusiastic discussion regarding Web 2.0 technologies and their positive, dynamic enhancements to a user’s experience on the Internet. This same wave has somewhat belatedly crashed over the realm of online education, and it has been a much-mulled subject ever since. The reason is for this is simple: The potential positive impact of Web 2.0 tools on the online learning experience is believed to be myriad and vast. 

Recent research has confirmed and identified benefits to the use of Web 2.0 technologies within the online classroom. Such benefits can be mapped to known best practices from the distance education literature to help enhance and optimize their potential positive effects within the online classroom. This article outlines the suspected and documented benefits of Web 2.0 technologies and links them to known best best practices in distance education.

Read the Full post: Mapping Web 2.0 Benefits to Known Best Practices in Distance Education by L Odom

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How Long does Change Take?

"The Art of Great Design" is an interesting piece on the need to focus on design when sharing information online.  Proven is a publication which deals with performance, training, workforce and development.

Here's a quote from the article (probably need to print to read):
Not that long ago, it was impressive when someone made information available via the Internet -- no matter how cumbersome or unappealing the presentation.Contemporary consumers expect sophisticated navigation and palatable aesthetics at the very minimum.

When I first started teaching in 1999, I used to put stuff on the web on my own.  As a web designer (at least back then), I was always conscious on how the information was represented.
Taken with my camera phone...low budget technology
This graphic above caught my eye, how long does it really take for CHANGE?

Anyway, as I started to read the article, I made another connection:

I just completed a Quality Matters certification course where online learning design is the primary focus.  One question I've had is: "Doesn't good online learning design encompass good design? Don't you need to be an effective 'designer' before adding the words 'online' in front of it?"

While learning management systems like Blackboard and emerging standards like Quality Matters are streamlining design, they don't assist with the creativity needed to effectively stimulate folks (traditional students and otherwise) online.

Here's what I wrote in the discussion board of a 6 week Online Teaching course I am lurking/working in. 
QM doesn't teach creativity.  I think what is SORELY missing from QM design is the notion of creativity.  Not just, folding napkins creativity, but online learning creativity.  There is a visual aspect to the Internet.  For those who have never designed a webpage or any other Internet medium (blog, newsletter... something), I think it is nearly impossible to be a stimulating online educator.  Here's a Fast Company article on Creativity:  The quote I like:
Thankfully, there is hope. According to a joint study between Harvard and Intsead, it turns out that creativity is 85% a learned skill. That means that all of us, even on our groggy days, have 85% the creative potential as Mozart, or Picasso, or Da Vinci. We simply need a process to tap into this valuable natural resource.Creativity is like a muscle--we all have the capacity to build muscle mass if we exercise. If we fail to do so, our muscles atrophy. The same is true with creativity. By embracing and exercising our creativity muscles, we unleash a wellspring of insight. This innovation will drive success in both your company and your career. For dozens of exercises, links, resources, and best practices, click here.
Your thoughts?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

J Term Workshops at UDC

The Center for Academic Technology will conduct workshops during the first week of school, Jan 3-5.  See schedule below.  Seats are on a first come first serve basis.

J-Term Workshop Calendar

Friday, December 10, 2010

Online Education in the United States

The Babson Survey Research group and the Sloan Consortium released an impressive report detailing online education in the United States.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Web 2.o Tools and Introducing SpiceyNodes

SpiceyNodes is a neat visual communication tool which represents information in nodes... kinda like how the human brain stores the info.

I maintain my academic homepage on spiceynodes and form time to time create topical 'nodes' for public consumption.  The web can certainly put you on information overload, and if anything, SpiceyNodes keeps you within Miller's Magic #7 rule.  I've learned, comfortably teaching a little less than you expected in the time given is better than rushing and teaching 'more' than you expected.  SpiceyNodes helps chunk content not only for yourself, but students as well.

Below is a representation of Web 2.0 tools [read Campus Technology article on why web 2.0 is important to higher education] which can be used in the classroom.  Click here to interact with the SpicyNode below ... seems not to like Blogger... it should be accessible below:(

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What This All Comes Down To

[Special weekly post from Rachel Jorgensen, Digital & Information Literacy Librarian, University of the District of Columbia]

The other day I got a call from a student who I helped with a research paper. She wanted to tell me about the grade she had gotten -- an A. She was excited to tell me that her professor had lauded her on the resources she used and how she had used images to illustrate the narrative of her topic.

Of course, I was grateful to know that I had been a part of her achievement and excited for her -- she had finally experienced creating a solid and interesting piece of scholarly work and had been recognized for it. I could tell that this had strengthened and encouraged her.

After she said goodbye and I hung up, I sat there and thought about what the conversation had meant to me. I realized that at the end of the day what I care about the most are the students of UDC. I say this with the knowledge that many of our students come to UDC with limitations to their body of knowledge and deficits in skill sets.  

From my vantage point on the reference desk, as well as providing instruction to individual classes, I observe that many students lack the type of reading, writing and critical thinking skills that are necessary for them to not only be successful college students, but also successful in their lives more generally. 

They lack basic reading, writing and critical thinking skills, which, quite often, obscures their intelligence. However, I also know these things to be true: they are curious and not afraid to ask for help; they are opinionated; they persevere and are tenacious.

As I look back on this semester, my first at UDC, I am resolved to continue to help students, not only by providing them with the resources and learning opportunities that they need in order to excel, but also by challenging them to move beyond their current abilities. Hopefully, by doing so they will begin to express in themselves what I understand them to be -- intelligent, tenacious, challenging people.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Teacher vs Learner Centered Learning

I'm typically the person in the room who uses words that end with '-centric', ego-centric & exo-centric are personal faves as well as user-centric. Before coming to UDC, I facilitated a yearlong blended learning fellowship [view their screencasts], I am often caught talking about learner-centric activities.

I often think that most educators 'teach they way they were taught'. When transitioning to an online setting, this is academic suicide. We must take the view of the learner when creating lectures, designing activities, and developing assessments.

Some of the literature uses the word "connectedness" to describe the paradigm shift away from teacher-centered instruction.

Screen shot 2010-04-23 at 12.38.57 PM.png One of the reasons I chose the book "Blended Learning in Higher Education" was to highlight the need for community and connectivity in an online environment.

More than a technology book, it delves into issues of pedagogy in the online classroom and provides a 3 point framework to follow called the "Community of Inquiry". [view PPT]

While not covered in the book, the term 'blended learning' does not embody the 'learner-centric''s teacher-centric:) I won't argue against it, but food for thought.

Taken from the publisher's website, the book has the following main areas:
  • Outlines seven blended learning redesign principles
  • Explains the professional development issues essential to the implementation of blended learning designs
  • Presents six illustrative scenarios of blended learning design
  • Contains practical guidelines to blended learning redesign
  • Describes techniques and tools for engaging students
From all accounts, fellows did find the book helpful. Moreover, they agreed that building a course in a blended manner was a great way to redesign their course; allowing for new ideas to be implemented into an existing curriculum. Here’s another nice article on the paradigm shift from instructional vs. learning paradigm.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Web 4 Faculty Grading Instructions

Web4Faculty is a grade management system operated by the Office of the Registrar.  Separate from grades in Blackboard, final semester grades must be entered into web4faculty.  This is the grade students will see on their transcript.  Grades entered on Blackboard will not show up in web4faculty... they are two separate systems.

If you have any questions, call the Registrar's office at: 202.274.6200
sorry it's a little crooked, I can neither draw a straight line, or scan a document without a slight angle(;

** Page numbers refer to the 2009 Technology Handbook.  Your department chair or dean may have a copy.  It's a bit much too scan all of that...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication

When communicating with students online, it's important not to rely too much on any one medium.  At a high level, this post attempts to compare and contrast asynchronous and synchronous communication.
View More cool graphics like this.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tools For Students and Professors

[Special weekly post from Rachel Jorgensen, Digital & Information Literacy Librarian, University of the District of Columbia]

I think the largest obstacle for students in using appropriate resources is their ignorance -- many students have no idea that the UDC library buys and provides access to a large number of resources. One of the reasons for this is the lack of process modeling within the classroom -- many  students are told to use books, articles, etc., but they are not told where these materials are located, nor how to access them. It is never safe to assume that students know how to use the library or its resources.

A large portion of my day is spent teaching students how to find and access these things. While it is rewarding to help students in this way, it is also a waste of time -- both for me and the student. I say this because finding and retrieving are the simplest tasks when using the library and I'd much rather spend my time helping students gain more complex skills, such as assessment and critiquing.

This problem of identifying and retrieving could be alleviated to a great extent within the classroom. Namely, students should be explicitly told to use UDC library materials. However, this requires professors and other teaching staff to have a clear understanding of what the library offers and how it is organized. Too often I
encounter students who are completely confused because they've been told by their professor to find scholarly articles in Aladin. The students quickly find out that this is impossible, because Aladin is a library catalog, not an article database. (If you regularly teach classes and you don't know how these two
things differ please contact me -- I'd be happy to give you an orientation of library resources!)

One of the things that I can do to help students and instructors alike is to create research guides, such as the ones found on the LRD's research guide website. I think these are an efficient and effective means by which to help students (and instructors) identify and access appropriate materials. If you would like a research guide made you can submit a request using the Information Literacy Request Form. (The link to this form can also be found on the library's website.)

Over the past year many other changes have been made to the LRD website -- the intent of this was to make accessing library materials easier. Above is an illustration of the library's website and the main access points for the catalog, article databases and electronic materials. Become acquainted with these resources -- gain an understanding of how they differ -- and then tell your students about them!