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Department of Energy Creates Online-Learning Platform for Technical Training – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education

June 22nd, 2012 No comments

Department of Energy Creates Online-Learning Platform for Technical Training – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Interesting piece today from Wired Campus in the Chronicle about a new open-source online learning platform used to build 3d models…

Categories: Design, General, Ideas, News Tags:

IIT Online Fall 2011 User Survey

January 3rd, 2012 No comments

Happy New Year!

As we prepare for a next week’s first new semester of 2012, I’d like to thank all of our Illinois Tech students who took the time to complete our Fall 2011 IIT Online survey.

A record-setting 540 students responded! That’s the largest response since IIT Online started formal semester-end surveys after the spring 2010 semester.

And to toot our own horn, most of the response ratings are overwhelmingly “satisfied,” “very satisfied,” or better yet, a combination of the two. Credit goes to our staff who each strive to ensure an excellent online experience for every student. Take a peek at the results and see for yourself: IIT Online Fall 2011 User Survey.

Where the responses and suggestions are not so overwhelmingly positive, please know that we take them all seriously. Suggestions help us to improve our workflows, processes, and technology, and bring you the best service possible.

So once again, thanks for ending 2011 on such a positive note – look for even better and bigger things in 2012!

Lauren

Categories: Best Practices, General, News, Research Tags:

SLATE ’11 – photos, videos, notes, handouts, and reflections shared by participants at 2011 SLATE Conference, October 13-14, 2011

October 17th, 2011 No comments

SLATE ’11 – photos, videos, notes, handouts, and reflections shared by participants at 2011 SLATE Conference, October 13-14, 2011.

Last week a few IIT faculty and staff attended the SLATE (Supporting Learning And Technology in Education – Midwest Blackboard User’s Group) Conference held in downtown Chicago, at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center. The conference provided forums for all participants – faculty and staff from several neighboring institutions -to connect and learn from each other, by discussing best practices and implementation strategies for not only the Blackboard LMS, but for online learning in general.  As an institution moving toward the next generation of Blackboard within the next year, IIT Faculty and staff took the opportuntiy to learn more about what to expect and what to plan for, and how to make the transition a successful transition for everyone involved. Check out this year’s notes, conference run-down, and comments from the link above.

SLATE not only discusses issues and concerns related to Blackboard, but also fosters discussion of broader issues in areas like online learning and pedagogy, program integrity, and faculty development. Meetings are hosted regularly throughout the year by member institutions. For more information about SLATE, visit SLATE at http://slategroup.uchicago.edu/.

7 Things You Should Know…

January 6th, 2011 No comments

7 Things You Should Know is a monthly series on emerging learning technologies published by EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI).

The latest brief discusses Android, the Linux-based open-source operating system for mobile devices and competitor to Apple’s iOS. Learn how Android is bringing mobile technology even more into the learning experience.

Check out 7 Things page in the ELI Resources section by EDUCAUSE to see all of the monthly topics in this long-running series from its most recent on Android (Dec 2010) to one of its first, Clickers (May 2005).

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:

Online & the Classroom

September 17th, 2010 No comments

Wanted to share links to a few recent posts from the New York Times BITS blog (Business*Innovation*Technology*Society).

The first (Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom) is from August and describes the results of a report produced for the US DoE about the effectiveness of online courses compared with that of comparable face-to-face offerings.

The second (Second Thoughts On Online Education) is a follow-up that discusses another study, funded the the DoE and the NSF, in which the finding were more nuanced in important ways. The comments readers posted in response to this second piece were also fairly thoughtful as well.

Would love to hear other responses from within the IIT community.

Categories: General, News, Research Tags: