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Why is “Social Networking” like “Global Warming”?

March 12th, 2014 No comments

There are obvious reasons why academic communities can be resistant to adopting a new technology, more resistant than other other disciplines.

Step aside from the political and economic reasons why acting on “Global Warming” hasn’t seen a bigger initiative in the United States, and consider the failure of “Golbal Warming” to capture the overall dynamic of the situation. By no means am I the first person — more accurately like the 5000th — to talk about the failure of the term to accurately describe the issue, with “Climate Change” being a more useful label.

“Social networking” is a label like “global warming.” It is not entirely misapplied, but it fails to represent the bigger picture. Again I am not breaking new ground here, but I would prefer to talk about these tools in the context of “collaboration and communication.” The paradigm shift is not based in the ability to move a rolodex to the cloud.

The origins of the technology are social and flat, but the models currently being deployed emphasize a different set of tools that foster a different model of communication and work.

One of the failures of Facebook is the complexity in managing Lists of people who fall into different categories. The biggest — and most ballyhooed — change that arrives with Google + is the much more straightforward Circles interface.

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Categorizing Online Behavior

July 12th, 2011 No comments

In association with the book Empowered by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, Forester Research provides an online tool for helping companies define their clients using a set of seven overlapping categories. They call this “Social Technographics.”

This tool is really directed at B2B and B2C, rather than an educational context but the underlying taxonomy makes sense when narrowly considering individual students and faculty behavior using technology, and more broadly in examining the underlying dynamic in the classroom.

Bernoff and Schadler’s categories are

  • Creators
  • Conversationalists
  • Critics
  • Collectors
  • Joiners
  • Spectators
  • Inactives

They organize this as a hierarchy, with the following explanations of what defines the behavior in each category.

Social Technographics Ladder

One reason this descriptive model seems so apt for the educational context is the loose correlation it has with models which advocate for greater participation, collaboration, and application. This is the whole argument behind the power of Web 2.0 technologies, where passive consumers become active creators. It also echoes the underlying argument against purely lecture-based models of teaching in lieu of more collaboration and student-centered, interactive work.

One of the critical areas we are going to be asking faculty at IIT as we reach out to work more closely with them is how this kind of hierarchical description applies:

  • Where do faculty themselves fall, both personally and professionally among peers?
  • Where do faculty think their students fall and what are their expectations?
  • What kind of environment do faculty cultivate to meet those student expectations about being able to participate and collaborate?
Categories: Best Practices, Ideas, Research Tags:

A “Drinking from the Firehose” Post

July 11th, 2011 No comments

A member of the the LinkedIn “Instructional Designers & E-Learning Professionals’ Group” posted a question, seeking advice on useful tools.

I have not had the opportunity to evaluate each of the tools thoroughly (or even all of the sites) but these were some of the more useful looking ones cited in the responses.

Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies

Edudemic

GO2WEB20 (Web Applications Index)

Please reply with comments regarding any of the sites or specific tools.

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Bridging a Distance in Education

July 6th, 2011 No comments

Scientific American is backing a new STEM education initiative that tries to connect scientists, mathematicians, and engineers with public school teachers and classrooms.

The mission is to “seek scientists who are willing to volunteer to advise on curricula, answer a classroom’s questions, or visit a school”for instance, to do a lab or to talk about what you do.” The initial goal is a directory of STEM professionals by the 2011-12 school year and say “How much you choose to participate will be up to you.”

Overall they want to make “it easier for scientists and teachers to connect.”

For a brief post on the program visit GOOD or visit Scientific American for a direct link to more details and the registration information.

 

Categories: Best Practices, General, Ideas Tags:

Engineer Guy

June 14th, 2011 No comments

engineerguy.com

Website of Bill Hammack — engineer, educator, and advocate for innovative engineering education.

Worth a look.

In addition to videos and white papers, he provides a link to a free pdf of his book Why Engineers Need to Grow a Long Tail, which explores using new media in engineering education.

The site also includes audio and video clips that he podcasts via rss and itunes.

 

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e-learning Glossaries

December 7th, 2010 No comments

Blog post from a training vendor (eFront) with a handful of links to e-Learning glossaries.

I agree with the poster who says the American Society for Training & Development’s (ASTD) glossary is probably the best of the lot.

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Loyola University Chicago | “Teaching with Technology Guide.”

November 8th, 2010 No comments

Loyola University Chicago has done a really nice job putting together their “Teaching with Technology Guide.”

As with any resource designed to serve a specific institution, external folks should be aware that certain policies may not be applicable and particular tools may not be supported.

In general, though, an impressive and fairly comprehensive resource.

11.05.10 New York Times “Learning in Dorm, Because Class Is on the Web”

November 5th, 2010 No comments

A cover story from today’s (11.05.10) New York Times provides a fairly broad snapshot of the boom in online college courses: Learning in Dorm, Because Class Is on the Web.

Some interesting numbers mentioned in the piece:

  • “4.6 million students took a college-level online course during fall 2008, up 17 percent from a year earlier, …. A large majority — about three million — were simultaneously enrolled in face-to-face courses.”
  • “At the University of Florida,…resident students are earning 12 percent of their credit hours online this semester, a figure expected to grow to 25 percent in five years.”
  • “At the University of Iowa, as many as 10 percent of 14,000 liberal arts undergraduates take an online course each semester.”

One troubling fact in many of the cases mentioned in the article is that “online” is synonymous with massively increased per course enrollments.

“I would prefer to teach classes of 50 and know every student’s name, but that’s not where we are financially and space-wise,” said Megan Mocko, who teaches statistics to 1,650 students.

If it’s simply a matter of preference, that is one thing. However, there is a fundamental mistake in seeing geography or the number of chairs a fire department will allow in a room as the only impediments to increasing class size. You don’t want a student (like the one quoted in the article) to come back and say that “In the 10 or so online courses she has taken in her four years, “it’s all the same…. No comments. No feedback. And the grades are always late.”

When faced with that kind of miserable description, you need to ask whether it reflects a series of individual failures on the part of faculty to meet reasonable minimum expectations in instruction (either through lack of training and support or simple negligence) or whether massive scaling up to increase enrollments makes it impossible to expect faculty to reasonably meet those basic standards.

Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Sloan Survey of Online Learning, explicitly points to a tiering of educational delivery and hints at the underlying disparity:

“Many [online students] are in community colleges, he said. Very few attend private colleges; families paying $53,000 a year demand low student-faculty ratios.”

There should be very legitimate concerns if “online” automatically equals a student-to-faculty ratio of 1650:1 or 100:1 or even 50:1, particularly if the bricks-and-mortar equivalent course has a student faculty ratio of 30:1 or 15: 1. This sort of bulk teaching has the potential to backfire purely from the perspective of customer expectations, regardless of whether the student learned:

“When I look back, I think it took away from my freshman year,” said Kaitlyn Hartsock, a senior psychology major at Florida who was assigned to two online classes during her first semester in Gainesville. “My mom was really upset about it. She felt like she’s paying for me to go to college and not sit at home and watch through a computer.”

In late 2010, we should all understand that “watching through a computer” alone shouldn’t be the problem. It is what the student is watching and whether watching is all he or she is being asked to do.  The questions of delivery mode and  student to faculty ratio should be considered in terms of efficacy. While the provost of the University of Florida acknowledges that budget cuts are the prime motivator, he acknowledges that “the higher education industry in the United States has not been tremendously effective… if you look at national graduation rates.”

The article very briefly touches on some techniques that faculty can use to improve the online experience:

Kristin Joos built interactivity into her Principles of Sociology course to keep students engaged. There are small-group online discussions, and students join a virtual classroom once a week using a conferencing software called WiZiQ.

Those sorts of  small group sessions and those synchronous “virtual” interactions are integral for an online program to be successful, but they also point back to the kinds of course content that might make for the most effective educational experiences more generally.  Large lecture courses  likely suffer the least in being moved online without being more comprehensively re-envisioned, but that is because they are the ones with the least student-faculty interaction in the first place. Less is lost in the “translation” but maybe there is value in reconsidering the source material too.

Both this article and the short piece accompanying it in the New York Times  (Live vs. Distance Learning: Measuring the Differences) point to studies previously mentioned on this blog (Online & the Classroom). They ask serious questions about measuring the effectiveness of online classes, particularly as universities look for way to serve broader student audiences in the face of  dire economic conditions.

Right now there are far more questions than answers about how the two delivery modes compare in the widest sense, but what seems obvious is that there will not be a single answer and any honest analysis  will need to account for

  • What is being taught.
  • Who is teaching.
  • Who the students are.

What does seem clear is that moving forward, online courses are a fact for both distance education students and their residential, on-campus counterparts. The question remains of how to leverage Internet-delivered courses to reap the gains of broader access and economies of scale while not saddling faculty with unreasonable responsibilities or more basically, undermining the overall goals and missions of the institutions themselves.

Categories: General, News, Research Tags:

Blackboard User Tip | Adding/Revising Grading Scales

November 1st, 2010 No comments

As a faculty member using Blackboard, you use can add new or revise existing grading scales for your course(s).

Log into your course: at IIT you login to Banner, click the Blackboard icon Blackboard icon, and select a course.

  • Select the Control Panel (left side navigation).
  • On the Control Panel page under Assessment (middle right), click Grade Center.
The Grade Schema page allows you to add a new grading scale, revise an existing scale, or copy an existing scale so you can keep the original and modify a similar alternative scale.
Grading Schemas page

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After you have selected or created a scale/schema to work on, you will see it presented in two columns.
The first column establishes what grade will be applied when a percentile score is entered. The other indicates what percentage will be used for calculation when a student’s performance is entered as a letter grade.

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This grading schema should now be available to associate with Blackboard content (assignments, tests, etc…) in your course and to display in the Grade Book.

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Blackboard User Tip | My Courses list on My Institution page

October 4th, 2010 No comments

If you are a IIT Blackboard user, when you when you log in and land on the My Institution page, you may find an overwhelming list of courses without enough information there to figure out exactly what you are looking at or to get where you want to go.

Presented alphabetically by course name with no indication of term or session, these include not only the courses you are currently teaching, but also all of those archived items you can still access in the LMS.

Thankfully, this can be customized based on your personal preference.  How to do this isn’t that obvious at first glance but the actual process is pretty easy.


To get started , click the small pencil icon in the My Courses area of the page.

My Institution Landing Page

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On the next page, you will see a list of the courses grouped by your role (e.g., Courses You Are Building, Courses You Are Teaching, etc…).

My Courses | customize display

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The current IIT default setting is Display the Course Name and Display Announcments.

You can change how Blackboard displays your courses, or hide a course entirely  (for example, archived sessions).

The options are:

  • Display Course Name
  • Display Course ID
  • Display Instructors
  • Display Announcements
  • Display Tasks
  • Display Calendar Events

For example, if the current setting was to Display Course Name, you might see Adv Web Site App Development. If you wanted to display the course ID and term as well, you could click Display Course ID, and you would now see ITM-564-01-02.10S: Adv Web Site App Development, which includes the course number and the term. You could hide the title by unchecking the Display Course Name box and then you would see ITM-564-01-02.10S.

A little extra work customizing your My Institution landing page should increase the ease of use here and decrease the guesswork and blind clicking.

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