Below are a few links I’ve run across recently discussingÂ online education, open Â access, and quality. Whether k-12, community college, or university, more and more and more students learn online.Â With each press on a keyboardÂ and swipe across a screen, students learn. And they are learning much more than the content displaying in front of them. TheyÂ learn to expectÂ certain features and even principlesÂ as the norm.Â Â As these expectations, fueled by both academic and non-academic forays into the world of instant access and information, become more sophisticated – not to mention, more demanding – we, as academic content providers, must become learners ourselves, expect more, and become more demanding. So that what we provide and how we provide it continues toÂ engage students and allows them toÂ think beyond the immediateÂ and trulyÂ achieve their potential.
If you are a current student or an alum of one of IIT’s distance learning programs offered through IIT Online, IIT Online wants to hear from you!
Why did you choose distance learning in general and IIT Online in particular? How does the distance learning program or coruses help you in ways that the were just not available in our traditional face-to-face classes?
We will gather replies, post a summary, and use your comments as we continue to improve our programs.
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 andÂ competitorÂ to Apple’s iOS. Learn how Android isÂ bringing mobile technology even more into the learning experience.
Check out 7 Things page in the ELI ResourcesÂ section by EDUCAUSE to see all ofÂ the monthly topics in this long-running series from its most recent on Android (Dec 2010) to one of its first,Â Clickers (May 2005).
Blog post from a training vendor (eFront) with a handful of links to e-LearningÂ glossaries.
LoyolaÂ University Chicago has done a really nice job putting togetherÂ their “Teaching with Technology Guide.”
As with any resourceÂ 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.
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 â€” about three million â€” 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.
â€œI would prefer to teach classes of 50 and know every studentâ€™s name, but thatâ€™s not where we are financially and space-wise,â€ 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, â€œitâ€™s all the same…. No comments. No feedback. And the grades are always late.â€
When faced with that kind of miserable description, you need to askÂ 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 atÂ 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:
â€œWhen I look back, I think it took away from my freshman year,â€ said Kaitlyn Hartsock, a senior psychology major at Florida who was assigned to two online classes during her first semester in Gainesville. â€œMy mom was really upset about it. She felt like sheâ€™s paying for me to go to college and not sit at home and watch through a computer.â€
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. Â The questions of deliveryÂ mode and Â student to faculty ratioÂ should be considered in terms of efficacy.Â 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 onlineÂ 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 Â 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 educationalÂ experiencesÂ more generally. Â Large lecture courses Â likely suffer the least in being moved online without being more comprehensively re-envisioned, but that isÂ becauseÂ 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 theÂ sourceÂ material too.
Both this article and the shortÂ pieceÂ accompanying it in the New York Times Â (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 serveÂ broaderÂ student audiences in theÂ face of Â 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 Â will need to account for
- What is beingÂ 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 responsibilitiesÂ or more basically, undermining the overall goals and missions of the institutions themselves.
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 , and select a course.
- Select the Control Panel (left side navigation).
- On the Control Panel page under Assessment (middle right), click Grade Center.
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.
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 informationÂ thereÂ 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. Â How to do thisÂ isn’tÂ 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.
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…).
The current IITÂ defaultÂ setting is Display the Course Name and Display Announcments.
You can change how Blackboard displays your courses, or hide a course entirely Â (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 seeÂ 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.
The focus here is on journalism (and communicating to a lay audience), but has clear application beyond that for the academic/educational context. Also some solid basic lessons about communicating information that are of value for creating simple slide decks like PowerPoint.
A few of the resources mentioned later in the video are:
Swivel (company blog)
YouÂ couldÂ spend all dayÂ readingÂ literature aboutÂ educationalÂ technology without being reminded that this frontier of ignorance [i.e., how the brain works] lies before us.
Jaron Lanier, from his “Does the Digital Classroom Enfeeble the Mind?” — an interesting short piece from The New York Times Magazine education issue (09.19.10)Â on the persistent tension between knowledge and information.