This morning concluded the 3 day eLearning conference in Long Beach, California. Overall, the conference has been incredibly inspiring, however there definitely were some bad seeds. Here is my recap of this morning’s sessions.Concurrent Session – “eLearning Digital Story Slam.” I’m going to have a biased opinion of this session, mainly because I was one of the presenters. This session was a showcase of 7 different digital stories, all using different tools and for different academic purposes. This presentation was planned remotely as all 7 of us live in various parts of North America, including 2 from Canada. We fielded several questions about digital storytelling and also mentioned Bryan Alexander’s book about the subject. The website (Google site) with information on our presentation can be found here.Concurrent Session – “An Evolving Blogging Case Study – the Impact on Learning and Satisfaction.” To be honest, I’m not really sure what this presentation was about. I paid attention for the first 1/2 of the session but never fully understood the point. It was a data-driven presentation on “blogging” in their nursing course. I use the word blogging loosely because I didn’t get the impression it followed the traditional definition of blogging. Based on the presenters’ information, I got the feeling that students were contributing to a discussion forum instead. Their data looked to be well thought out and presented, but what I missed was the reason they did the study in the first place. I was still lost 1/2-way through the presentation so I decided not to stay the 2nd half.Closing Keynote – “The Obviousness of Open Education.” Side by side with Gardner Campbell’s presentation, this was definitely one of the most inspirational of the conference. The openness of education is a huge topic these days with the increasing cost of education. Presented by Cable Green (Creative Commons), I was both frustrated and inspired to help change the way content is perceived and delivered in higher education. Green referred to the word “free” such as “free beer” (cost) and “freedom” modifications. One of the biggest challenges these days is the rising cost of education and the restrictions that are put in place by publishers. Simply by making content accessible (adding alt tags) or translating it to another language, you break publisher copyrights. The statistics that Green presented were astonishing. Here is just one of them:
A single textbook for 1 course (ENG 101) at 1 community college in 1 state runs upwards of $9.6 million dollars that is given to book publishers.
In looking at this statistic, what if that school spent $1 million to to create an open textbook for that course, saving students millions of dollars each year. Now, what if that open textbook were adapted for all ENG 101 courses across the nation. Think of how much money that would save?!Some links provided by Cable Green:
2 closing thoughts about this presentation:
- Content is now a commodity – students don’t come to an institution for the content, they come for the instructors, student services, etc.
- The opposite of “open” isn’t “closed” – the opposite of “open” is “broken.”
Due to being ill while attending the Conference this year, I had to miss out on some of the sessions during the second day of ITC. It’s unfortunate, because I really wanted to attend some of the Tuesday morning sessions. Here is a recap of the sessions I did attend on the second day.Morning keynote – “From Here to 2020: Forces Reshaping Teaching and Learning in the Next Decade.“ Josh Jarrett is the senior program officer from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and was the keynote presenter. The short version of my review is that I wasn’t impressed by his presentation. Jarrett provided slides upon slides of statistics regarding students in higher education, however it appeared that he focused mainly on community colleges. Most of the information that was presented wasn’t new knowledge and Jarrett didn’t really dig into the deeper meaning. One key point that I strongly disagreed with was that there will be “lower cost per student by 2020.” Anyone who can read a newspaper knows that the cost of education is greatly increasing, primarily due to the terrible economy. Jarrett also presented hat online learning is “content-driven” while setting aside the community aspect. Any educator who has dealt with online learning, whether teaching an online course or supporting online educators, knows that online education is just as community-driven as it is about the content. Many ITC keynote presenters (past and present) have action items, things that the audience can get motivated behind to start acting in their everyday teaching and learning. Jarrett left me, and others, wanting more. The only takeaway that resulted from this presentation was to sit and wait for the Gates Foundation to come up with a solution. Much of the presentation was spent talking about what the Foundation is doing and who they are partnering with, almost as if it was a sales pitch to throw money at the Foundation.Afternoon concurrent session – “The Secret to Informal Personal Learning Networks.“ Before I go too far into this session, I do want to say that it wasn’t what I was expecting. I went into the session expecting to hear about a variety of PLNs and what you can do to be successful with your own network. The session was really promoting CyberSalon, a PLN that the presenters in the Southwest U.S. have been a part of. Talking about the importance of PLNs and what each of the presenters have gotten out of them, the presenters received several questions from the audience about how to go about starting their own CyberSalon. There were 2 presenters physically present and 1 presenter who was attending via Google Hangout. In talking with Barry Dahl about this session afterwards, we both agreed that the presenters could have done more to engage the virtual presenter. I definitely think that having an informal, unconventional PLN can be just as effective has formal professional development. While not unconventional, Twitter is an informal PLN that I have gained more knowledge than any other professional development opportunity.Afternoon vendor session – “Five Effective Practices for Professional Development.” This was the only vendor session that I would attend during the conference. I normally don’t like vendor sessions because their purpose is to sell a product. Well, I’m not in a position to propose large, proprietary softwares, so I don’t care that much. This session was different, however. Barry Dahl, owner of Excellence in Education, clearly stated at the beginning of the session, that many of the things he would talk about were things that we could implement on our own. We didn’t need to hire him. That’s honesty I can believe in. Barry went through seven (instead of five) tips that can/will positively impact online education.
- Administrators should join CCOBLA. This community shares ideas, effective practices, and other items between institutions that are in similar positions. Joining CCOBLA is free.
- Conference Comes to You. Instead of spending $5000-10,000 to send some staff/faculty to a conference, host a conference at your own institution. Invite national experts to present and utilize on-campus expertise to help facilitate the conference. The cost can even out with sending individuals to a conference.
- Accessibility training. Access e-Learning from Georgia Tech and Web Accessibility Training
- Peer review of online courses (voluntary and faculty-driven). Resource from Lake Superior College.
- External course review, such as QM
- Clarify expectations among stakeholders. What should students expect from online instructors (and vice versa), and expectations between instructors and administrators.
Excellent tips from Barry!
The first thing up for the afternoon was lunch, which of course meant that it was time for the Great Debate. Always an engaging time at #ITC, this year’s resolution was “Resolved: Developmental Students Cannot Succeed Online.” The debaters were Fred Feldon (Coastline Community College) in favor of the resolution and Donna Gaudet (Scottsdale Community College) against the resolution. Going into the debate, everyone was rooting for Donna, knowing that students can succeed online, assuming they are set up for success. The debate didn’t bring up anything that I didn’t already know. Students can (and are) succeeding in online courses, as Donna can attest. All in all, both debaters did a great job. Fred was at a disadvantage because no one likes arguing in favor of the resolution – that’s just how it’s set up.The concurrent session that I was going to go attend in the afternoon ended up not being what I was expecting, so I picked up the handout and left. However, I did attend:Concurrent Session 3 – Universal Design in Practice: Teach Yourself to Design Universally Accessible Courses. This was apparently a big topic. I had no idea what UDL was before going into the session, but after the brief intro video (below), it was clear that most of the concepts were common sense. The primary aspects were providing multiple methods of engagement, representation, and expression. The organization that is known for universal design is Cast, which has a website devoted to the topic. The big topics were closed captioning and addressing accommodations for students with disabilities. For instructors that have questions about the resources that are available, they can visit the Association of Higher Education And Disabilities.One thing that I wish we could encourage is for LMS companies (or companies in general) to pair up with the creators of JAWS so that accessibility can be tested prior to software release. The fact that JAWS is always behind the times puts students with disabilities at an even greater risk. If and when institutions look to contract with software companies, ask them to fill out a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template so that they can be held accountable if accessibility problems occur. Another resource for faculty is to find Youtbe videos with closed captioning. To do so, search YouTube for “[term], cc” and only videos with closed captioning are returned. If instructors need to create closed captioning for their own videos, the best tool appeared to be screencast-o-matic.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDvKnY0g6e4I’d say it’s been a good day with lots of information!
I’m sitting in my hotel room in Long Beach, California after the first day of conference sessions. I decided to skip the last set of sessions for the day in order to do a full debrief of the information I took in during the day. With a keynote by Gardner Campbell, a debate about online education, and several concurrent sessions, I’ve definitely been re-inspired in my professional life. One of the biggest downsides to this inspiration is that I can only use the things I’ve learned if and when faculty want my assistance. I can’t use most of these things because I want to. Let’s see if I can provide a recap…Gardner Campbell keynote. Gardner Campbell is one of those names that you have to know in this field. As the director of innovative technologies at Virginia Tech, he is right on with the topics at hand. During his talk, Campbell compared teaching to a Skinner box, with the levers being grades, credits, etc. The biggest take away that I sort of knew but never acknowledged, was that learning outcomes should also include the things that you don’t directly teach students. Quality education should include not only the topics that you set out to teach your students, but also the things that they learn on their own, during the education process. Gardner called this idea “double-loop learning.” During his presentation, Gardner talks about the unlimited possibilities of online education and referenced the virtual choir, directed by Eric Whittacre (video below).http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7o7BrlbaDsConcurrent Session 1 – Challenges and Opportunities in Hybrid Courses. As the first concurrent session of the conference, I was slightly disappointed. The presenters ended up being a panel who talked about their individual experiences of hybrid learning. The room was rather large and due to the popularity of the subject, I sat in the back of the room, making hearing pretty difficult. The instructors didn’t really talk about things that were new to me, which was unfortunate. The presenters made quite a few generalizations that I disagreed with, including “students prefer fully online courses, rather than hybrid format.” One point that I did commiserate with was that listing hybrid course offerings is something that many institutions haven’t adequately tackled. When students go to register for classes, they think that the course is either fully online or fully face-to-face. The presenters were all from Coastline Community College and they have set times for 2 days per week and then list a third day with TBA as the time. They suggested a way to fix this problem is to put a set time for that third day. I’m not sure that this solution would solve the problem, because students would then think the course is fully face-to-face. I don’t know that there is a good answer to this solution quite yet. There were a few questions asked by the audience that I thought stood out:
- What institutional support is needed for hybrid/online courses? This is a topic that I was hoping they’d talk more about than they really did. The only aspects they provided were that science labs would require more support than a typical lecture course. There was no mention of faculty training or certification to ensure that they are qualified to teach online. I know my current institution doesn’t have a certification process like this because of how decentralized online education is, however I can definitely get on board with some sort of training for faculty. More about this to come later in the post.
- How do you handle assessments? It was only a matter of time before this question came up, and low and behold, it did (in the first session, no less). The presenters completely dodged the question and left it alone. I think the presenters lost some credibility due to this. I may be preaching to some of the choir here, but stop giving multiple choice tests if you’re concerned about cheating! It’s all about application and higher-order thinking (Bloom’s Taxonomy) that proves when students have mastered the topics. Recall is not in considered higher-order. Okay, I’m off my soapbox now.
Concurrent Session 2 – Building Community in a Fully Online Class. This session was completely opposite from the previous. The presenter was engaged and I loved the things she talked about. One of the criticisms that instructors have when you propose them teaching online/hybrid is that you lose student engagement and/or sense of community. Barb Mathieson (Capilano University) definitely proved that wrong. She talked about many of the tools that she uses to create community online. The first thing that got my attention were the enrollment caps. In Capilano’s face-to-face courses, the enrollment is capped at 35 students while online courses are capped at 30. To create community, she uses tools like EyeJot to send video emails to students, WizIQ for synchronous communication (instructor-student and student-student) and JoinMe.com for remote screen sharing. She also creates groups of 3-4 students and lets them set up times when they meet, rather than dictating those requirements to students. Lastly, she has students create the test questions and then has students grade the answers to the questions they came up with. Done after giving students a copy of Bloom’s Taxonomy, she is incredibly surprised by the test questions each term. I think that these ideas are great, but getting buy-in from faculty is always going to be the hard part. One participant did ask how much time she puts into the course and she chuckled – clearly it’s a lot of time.That’s it for now, I’ll post again about the afternoon sessions next!