Monday, December 26, 2011

Free Online Learning: MITx

This week the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced an online learning initiative that will make many graded courses available online for free. The program is called “MITx” and consists of a set of specially designed web-based courses that are available to anyone free-of-charge.

Those who take the course and earn a passing grade, may pay a small fee and receive an MITx certificate of completion for their work. The course will be taught by MIT professors although MIT is exploring software developments that will allow homework and exams, even written essays, to be graded via computer




This good-will initiative is intended to change the way we think about the availability and delivery of high quality education. It is likely to appeal to knowledge seekers, retired or unemployed persons, or anyone seeking to shore up their resume via education and training.

For Faculty and Students at the University of the District of Columbia, this initiative also provides access to free resources that may support and extend local learning initiatives. For example, group projects may be organized around learners enrolled in a free version of an MIT course. Faculty may also have the opportunity to interface with colleagues in various fields of interest.




At the end of the day, this innovative model provides a bold and provocative path for distance education. MITx is expected to go live in the Spring of 2012 with an experimental prototype version. They also intend to release an open-source version of their open learning software to support similar developments at other colleges and universities. You can sign up for updates about this initiative by contacting the MIT news office:

Monday, December 19, 2011

How to and How to Share the Knowledge

So you want to leverage technology to know-how to do something…what? Anything! It doesn’t matter!

We wanted to take a moment during this holiday season to share with you some great- How-to sites designed specifically to help faculty and students!


Instructables  is a great web-based platform where people contribute and share what they do and how they do it making it a great DIY website.

I have used the technology portion of the site and found it to be very helpful!


instructables image  teaches you how to do all the things you never considered.

From how to publish a book to how to select learning materials for your course.

The site offers some areas that are more scholarly in nature but there are also more practical how to’s such as how to paint a room or play poker.


blog image-soyouwanna


This next resource is not only a great place for you to learn some great how-to tips but a space to add to the community with your expertise.


WikiHow is the how-to manual that anyone can write or edit. It is a collaborative effort to build and share the world’s largest how-to manual.

Like Wikipedia, wikiHow is a wiki that anyone can write or edit.


wikihow image


Articles on this site verify from arts and entertainment, education and communication to health and philosophy.

Other how-to sites:

How stuff works – Online reference tool powered by the Discovery Channel.


Knol – This website allows you to easily share what you know and write a knoll (a unit of knowledge) to create your own how-to on a topic.

Your topic can be collaborative as you connect with others experts in your interested area or set to hear only your voice. The choice is up to you.

Note – come May, Knol will cease to exist but knolls may be migrated to Annotum 1.0 (a hosted theme on, a free theme on, and a freely available download on GitHub.


eHow is the go-to place to find out how to do just about anything!  Its library has more than 1.5 million articles and 150,000 videos, written and produced by experts, as well as others who share their knowledge and know-how. 

Over 70 million people visit eHow each month.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Get Organized! Two Web 2.0 tools that are worth checking out!

Make your Classroom a community with Edmodo

Edmodo is a microblogging service designed specifically for educational use. Faculty who use Edmodo are able to create a microblogging network for their classes. The latest version of Edmodo updates in real-time so that members of groups may quickly respond to each other. This tool enables a place to post assignment reminders, build an event calendar, or post messages to student groups. To learn more about Edmodo watch the video below.



Get organized in your thinking via is a project management tool that utilizes the concepts of mind mapping and drag and drop sequencing. It is a place to create to-do lists or project management schedules. You can organize your project into groups that refers to as "trains." Your lists can include text notes as well as links. The "trains" you create are basically categories for your to-do lists. You can rearrange the boxes in each of your trains by dragging and dropping them into place. Your can be made public or kept private. See the image below to get a quick view of what looks like.


In the educational arena, could be useful for students to organize all parts of their academic lives (classes, projects, social activities, Greek events, etc…). For example, students could create a "train" of to-do lists for their classes, a "train" for extracurricular activities, and a "train" for community service activities. can also be used to outline writing assignments or research projects. Utilizing the drag and drop feature makes it easy to change the sequence quickly to better organize a project.

Thanks to Richard Bryne - for introducing me to Thought Boxes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Second Life to vAcamedia: The Future of Virtual Worlds for Distance Learning

Beginning around 2005 Colleges and Universities around the country became increasingly interested in the learning opportunities offered by the 3d Virtual World Second Life. Colleges and Universities around the country from Texas State Technical College which developed an online associate’s degree program, to Ivy’s like Harvard, flocked to Second Life to develop virtual campuses and classrooms. At the University of the District of Columbia, the Administration of Justice program created a Second Life Virtual World to simulate investigation scenes.

Educators would say that: “.. Second Life is an effective teaching tool in part because it provides a social laboratory where role-playing, simulations, exploration, and experimentation can be tried out in a relatively risk-free environment. But perhaps the most touted benefit of Second Life is the opportunity it gives students to interact with people around the world (Graves, 2008).”



In spite of this explosion in interest, use of Second Life seems to have peaked in 2007 and has been in declining since. There seems to be much speculation about why this is the case, but a couple of theories discussed in a chronicle article find that:

1. Some found it cumbersome to navigate the landscape.

2. Some found that paying for and designing an immersive 3d landscape was time consuming, complicated and expensive.

3. Lastly, because Second Life is open to anyone, university landscapes were sometimes vulnerable to “griefing,” a cyber-term that refers to vandalism of virtual spaces.

Educators and learners who enjoy virtual environments may now find other alternatives that speak meaningfully to the idea of being able to easily access a user friendly, 3d, virtual, immersive landscape devoted to higher learning. A new platform focused specifically on education and learning has been developed, it is called vAcademia (i.e. Virtual Academia). This new resource allows one to hold ongoing classes, meetings or live lectures or give presentations in a virtual space. Any classes held in vAcademia can be held in real time, or simultaneously recorded and made available to students at a later point.



This concept means that the learning experience for students can be extended and enriched through their engagement with a wide variety of learning modules. vAcademia classrooms are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. vAcademia is also a great collaboration resource. In fact, you can read more here about innovative ways academics have found to use vAcademia for collaborative learning in a 3-d virtual environment.


Will vAcademia replace “Second Life”? That remains to be seen, but as a resource gaining interest among faculty looking for immersive, 3d virtual alternatives for online learning, it may be worth a look. To learn more about vAcademia go to



Graves, Lucia (2008). A Second Life for Higher Ed: A virtual world offers new opportunities for teaching. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved from: