ITC eLearning 2015: Day 1 – Morning

So here we are again, another year at the most wonderful eLearning Conference. The conference officially started last night with the opening keynote, but I decided not to blog specifically about that session. In general, I wasn’t thrilled with the session. I think the presenter (Phil Hill) had the potential to be very engaging with a great topic, but I thought the content was a little dated and it really raised more questions for me than provided answers. The backchannel to me had more of an impact on me than the presentation itself.

Keynote: Getting Serious: Creating a Culture of Success Online

Brenda Harms, Converge ConsultingI’m always skeptical when an educational conference keynote is presented by someone from a consulting firm, but the title is interesting so I’m going into it with an open mind.I have to admit that the session started off strong. There were jokes and statements that should ring true to everyone at the conference. are certainly analogies that I didn’t  follow, like the fact that 57% of cars don’t start – that analogy doesn’t fit. 57% of students starting but not completing college isn’t a product that “doesn’t start.” To me, students that start but don’t complete is more like a product that doesn’t get off the assembly line. I’m wondering if I misunderstanding her analogy, though.There are other thoughts that I have, but one that really sums it up comes from @slamteacher: think the picture below shows hard conversations – I think #2 sums up a lot of the conversations I’ve had in the last 6 years. It’s definitely the hardest, IMO. this point, I’m starting to tune Brenda out – she’s started moving into marketing advice (based on her consultant role). Sure, marketing & recruitment are part of it, but recruitment isn’t going to solve any problems if the students you’re teaching aren’t completing.Retaining students, however, is a big issue. Brenda asked how many institutions have full-time retention specialists – only a small number raised their hands. I have yet to hear her address the importance of retention handled by faculty. She has spent a good amount of time pushing the need for a recruitment specialist at every institution. I completely agree, but I think that she should take into consideration her audience. I highly doubt there are any decision makers in the audience who can implement that change. It’s issues like this (not knowing the audience) that I think forces a large percentage of the audience to tune her out. (Either that or not enough coffee)At this point, Brenda Harms has just offended a large percentage of faculty across the country (world?). “If you don’t want to work on the weekends, don’t work online.” I very much do NOT agree with this. First of all, a large percentage of faculty are adjuncts – If retention is so important to her, how can you RETAIN those instructors by forcing them work on the weekend? Also, what about work/life balance? How does that “expectation” impact instructor’s families? I agree that there should be expectations on when instructors should be participating in their online courses/communicating with students, but I do not think the expectation should be that faculty work on the weekends. Regardless of how an instructor chooses to handle their weekend communication/grading/participation, the expectations should be clearly outlined to the students in the syllabus.As the session wraps up, she clearly knows that she’s lost the faculty group in the audience; which is likely 80% of attendees. She’s also lost me and likely other instructional designers. I honestly don’t know what I took away from this keynote other than completion numbers are all that matter.

How Your Student Would Design Your Online Course

Amy Pilcher, Iowa State UniversityThis session is not off to a good start when you refer to something that Brenda Harms said from the morning keynote. But enough of that, moving on…Here is the opening slide, for those of you interested.’re pretty early into the presentation, but it seems like this session is more about her opinion as an online student rather than having surveyed students (or conducted focus groups). It’s not that I don’t disagree with what she’s saying, but, well… Yeah. There was a comment on Twitter on whether personal experience qualifies as research, which is valid, but I’m more interested in quantitative/qualitative data from students themselves, rather than personal observations.She does have some good points. like that the presenter draws on her personal experience as an online student, but not every student learns the same way. So while she does have good points, I would have liked to see some percentages for some of the things that we (as faculty, IDs, etc.) assume.One of the slides was titled “Peer-to-Peer Interactions.” The content is basic and what I consider to be common sense in building an authentic learning experience. But what types of interactions? Group projects? Discussion forums? These have very different learning implications.There was a section on using social media in your class. The instructor openly said that she doesn’t like using Twitter in the class, but has no problem using Facebook for class. I find this to be a big problem on many fronts. But the last time I saw some data on the topic, students didn’t want to use their personal space (Facebook account) for school work – they wanted separate spaces school & private life. I wish she had data to back up what she’s saying about this., it happened. It was bound to. The surprising part is that the presenter is telling the audience about loopholes to FERPA. I have a feeling that would open the instructor up to liabilities.Overall, I thought the topics in this session were really common sense. It’s sad that a session like this is needed, but it is, and I’m glad that Amy did it. The session wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but good none-the-less.

Many Hands Make a Lighter Load: Bringing a Mobile Initiative to Life

Robert Benson, Roane State Community CollegeStacie Bradshaw, Roane State Community CollegeNichole White, Roane State Community CollegeA few bullet points of things I took away:

  • Students have the ability to download apps to the iPads
  • Students can be polled anonymously for understanding / ability to ask questions without being embarassed.
  • Instructor can use the iPad to control presentation – modeling for students
  • Use Apple TV – students can “steal the screen” from instructors

I like the idea of using Apple TV on campus because it’s easy to get connected wirelessly and allow students to engage with the technology as well. I haven’t seen that widely implemented at any organization thus far. Roane decided to implement iPad carts where they have students use institutional devices, rather than BYOD. It’s clear based on the cart that they use why they chose this approach. By having institutional iPads, they can sync iPads (up to 30 at a time) to the same Apple ID and ensure that they all have the same apps.Instead of purchasing Apple TVs for every classroom, they purchased bulk licensing for AirServer to install on all of the teacher stations. The issue that they ran into but didn’t foresee in planning is the range of connecting to AirServer – 1 student actually shared their screen with a class on the other side of the building. It’s a good problem to have (students wanting to engage/share), but they then looked at using passcode authentication to connect to AirServer.To have faculty support each other through the use of iPads, CTAS started “Appy Hour” where faculty meet over lunch to discuss apps – they’ve also started a Google Group of iPad users to share thoughts on different apps.Overall the session had a lot of great information if you’re looking to implement iPads at your institution. Unfortunately I was hoping to hear more about the use of iPads in rural locations (based on the abstract), but regardless, great session!

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