Blended Opportunities

A post this week by Wes Fryer caught my eye. He said: “I tire of dealing with folks who continue to not only cling to, but vigorously defend the anachronistic, 19th century teaching model of “asynchronous, non-interactive” face-to-face learning.” He had a draft matrix of teaching processes that specified activities as synchronous versus asynchronous and interactive versus non-interactive. I built on his framework and added some additions below:

As Will Richardson and Jeff Nugent noted this past week, we are in a transformative time. Will noted that some 75% of educators in this country do not realize that they can have a network. I would add that many of the 25% that do realize that they can have a network are blocked by their school systems from using that network…but that has been discussed before and hopefully will change as school board members die off. Both Will and Jeff talked about technology as a second language, with Jeff looking for ways to translate for the 75% who do not yet appreciate the transformation occurring around them.

In thinking about this language issue and Wes’s comment about the 19th Century model of teaching, it once again raises in my mind Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles of Good Practice. They noted that good practice in undergraduate education:

– Encouraged student-faculty contact
– Encouraged cooperation among students
– Encouraged active learning
– Gave prompt feedback
– Emphasized time on task
– Communicated high expectations
– Respected diverse talents and ways of learning

Non-interactive lecture violates the 7 Principles, and many faculty have worked hard to modify their lectures to add Classroom Assessment Techniques and other practices that make them more interactive. However, they miss many opportunities in which technology could play a role.

Many administrators and faculty equate technology as a point-to-point add-on to a class. For instance, they see adding a classroom capture system such as AnyStream as a vehicle for distance learning rather than an enhancement and study aid for local students. Some universities are adding YouTube Channels, but if it simply replicates passive delivery of lectures, an opportunity for learning is lost.

The framework above lists numerous tools and web applications that can add interactivity to learning environments. One of the more compelling aspects of many of these tools is the ability by students and the larger world to comment on and interact with student work. Wes has demonstrated some amazing uses of VoiceThread to connect students and their global audiences. I am amazed at comments I receive through SlideShare. The Google family of applications have collaboration at their heart. I am a junkie and feed off the new learning I see everyday from my very rich and global network. RSS feeds have opened up the blogosphere and provided new avenues for instruction.

Wes has some nice resources at his Blended Learning Wiki, and learning is increasingly blended. Jeff blew me away about six months ago as we debated “What is online learning?”. His answer – all learning today is at least in part online learning – you cannot separate online from offline. As part of translating for the faculty with which we work, we need to expand on their desire to add interactivity by introducing and modeling the uses of Web 2.0 applications and help them see that the world indeed is online.

Our Kids Future(s)

Back on February 14th while I was heading down to eLearning 2008, Will Richardson made an interesting blog post entitled, “What Do We Know About Our Kid’s Future, Really?“. I commented and have followed the ensuing conversation, which now is up to 73 comments.

In our office, we have been using wordclouds to look at underlying themes, so I thought it would be interesting to capture Will’s original post and the 73 comments, and create a workcloud from them. I used TagCrowd, which makes it very easy. Here is the result:

As you can see, some terms stand out. It would be interesting to continue the conversation based on what “message” one takes from this cloud.

Unintended Audiences

…and that is not all bad!

One month ago, I did a “brown-bag” session here at VCU to introduce faculty and staff to the concept of RSS Feeds and Google Reader. I did a second session for some faculty on our medical campus. All told, I had about 15 people attend between the two campuses.

I also happened to upload my presentation slides to SlideShare.

One month later, I am amazed at my unintended audiences’ “participation” as illustrated by views, downloads and embeds:

Slideshare stats

In fact, a friend in Romania commented that she intended to use it with her faculty, and a nursing college in the West Indies embedded it in their Library blog for their faculty development:

St Kitts

I find it fascinating and illustrative of our interconnected world that many more people across the globe have seen a presentation I gave to so few here on campus!

Thick and Chunky Instruction…

Jeff Nugent, Bud Deihl and I were having coffee yesterday and an amazing conversation developed. We were reflecting on our own journey of discovery about the Web 2.0 world. In the past year, we have all started social networking (meeting some wonderful colleagues at College 2.0). This led to social bookmarking and international sharing of ideas. Throw in RSS feeds, which we all now use. Then, since the first of the year, all three of us have begun seriously blogging. The time investment has more than been compensated by the richness of ideas that have developed. We now recognize that – through our social networks and blogs, our “local” conversations have expanded to at least four continents.

Our “day-job” remains faculty development here at VCU. What we are beginning to recognize is that we three have made some fundamental paradigm shifts…and therefore no longer see the world in the same way as the faculty we assist. They come to us for help with discrete tools, whereas we now see many of these tools as interconnected and part of our culture.

Badge, Cann, and Scott published an article in 2005 regarding e-Learning versus e-Teaching. The article describes how most Virtual Learning Environments are designed to be simple to use by staff and students alike. This has led to academic staff rejecting formal centralised training and instead attempting to teach themselves how to use the system. What they found was that this resulted in widespread use of the system but with poor pedagogic development, leading primarily to an electronic document repository rather than an online learning tool which made full use of the potential of the full suite of available tools. While this article described a British institution, the same principles appear to play out here. There data showed how Blackboard was used at their institution:

Bb Usage Table

At ELI this January, Jeff heard faculty say they were tired of being “workshopped.” Yet the data above suggests that not attending centralized training leads to poor adoption of technology. I know that we are not the only institution facing this challenge. In reflecting on our own journey versus our clientele’s, we realize that they do not see the implications on NOT using Web 2.0…because they do not yet speak the language.

PregoOne of my favorite TED Talks is Malcolm Gladwell talking about what we can learn from spaghetti sauce. He described a food industry consultant who uncovered a key secret to what eaters like. Running huge focus groups to find customers’ truest tastes, Gladwell’s hero drew a radical conclusion, an epiphany that has defined food marketing ever since. When people were asked to describe the perfect spaghetti sauce, they typically talked about runny sauces. But when taste tests were conducted, they overwhelmingly chose “thick and chunky.” At the time, thick and chunky did not exist. This consultant found that people did not know to ask for thick and chunky…but it is what they wanted. He convinced Prego to not come out with one best spaghetti sauce but dozens…and the food industry was totally changed.

The Web 2.0 world is the “thick and chunky” side of web applications of which most faculty are oblivious.

Two years ago, I was stunned when an 18-year-old girl in a focus group I was running equated “internet” and “oxygen” as co-equals – both necessary for life. I did not understand her then. I think I do now…and that realization is a bit scary. Jeff, Bud and I basically have moved beyond Prensky’s notion of a digital native because we embody his concept without fitting his model. We now speak with that digital accent he alluded to…which is making conversation with our chief clientele more difficult. Our interconnected use of Web 2.0 applications has become like the very air we breathe, unconscious but necessary. We no longer think about using technology in teaching – that has become a given. Now we focus on the rich variety of choices – trying to find the variety of “sauces” that will enrich our instruction.

Our challenge … helping our colleagues see the thick and chunky applications they (and their students) are currently missing. I would be interested in your thoughts on how you are solving this at your institutions.

Final Wrap-Up: eLearning 2008

eLrn08 logo .

Been digging out back in my office in Richmond, so did not get to this yesterday. I wanted to summarize two other sessions that I attended at the ITC eLearning 2008 conference earlier in the week.




Putting Our Stake in the Ground: Baldrige and Distance Learning
Xeturah Woodley, Distance Learning Director, Central New Mexico Community College

I was interested in this presentation because I have over twenty years in the quality movement and was a Baldrige examiner for the state of Georgia in 1999 and 2000. So this is a subject I feel passionate about!

Xeturah gave some background on her college and program. Their accrediting body has institutions submit AQIP’s (Academic Quality Improvement Programs), so the language of quality is institutionalized. She discussed the merits of using the Criteria from the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award as a way to take her program to a higher, world-class level. My only caution to her is that her focus appeared to be on winning the Baldrige rather than on improving quality….and typically those focused on the award miss the point of the process.

She went over the seven Baldrige Criteria and their relationship to her program. She used as a model work Jim Hinson has done at Presbyterian Hospital, where they used the Baldrige to improve quality and won New Mexico’s top quality award.

She faces an uphill challenge. Her campus does not have consistent policies regarding assessment or data collection. It is a unionized campus – union rules do not allow online teachers to work off-campus! I wish her well. She has the right approach, as the Baldrige Criteria can be successfully used by any institution to help focus the search for better quality. However, it appears her institutional culture will have to change as part of the process. If nothing else, Xeturah may improve the quality of her small piece of Central New Mexico Community College.


Instructional Challenges in the Mobile Education World
Peter Chepya, Professor of Digital Innovation {love that title}, Post University

I thought that Peter did a pretty innovative thing for a presenter at a technically oriented conference – he stood in front of a roomful of practitioners and used absolutely no technology – no powerpoint, no websites, nothing fancy. Instead, he helped us focus in on the cellphone each of us were wearing, and spent the hour visualizing education delivered through these devices.

Peter has authored an article in The Community College Enterprise (Fall 2007) entitled, “A short take on design challenges in the mobile education world.” He discussed the movement to use the cellphone as the Fourth Screen:

Movie Screens –> TV Screen –> Monitors –> Cellphone Screens

Most of us in the room still see the cellphone as a “device” or tool…but to our students it is more a part of the fabric of their lives. Informal learning and personal lives are intertwined with formal learning in this environment…and Peter suggests that we not try and separate them, but instead co-opt them. He noted the frustration many faculty feel when students take a text message, but he suggests in his article that such:

…a state of total immersion has enormous potential for instructional
design. In the culture of mobility, the user is not passive. The user is
reaching out, continuously making choices of what to pull in, expecting
to be engaged and to contribute.

The engagement of the cellphone might be visualized by looking at what other cultures are doing. In Japan last year, five of the top ten bestselling novels were “written” on cellphones. Commuters draft novels while going to and from work and post them to web sites where their “public” vote on the best ones…which are then published in print form. The casual use of SMS text messaging by today’s youth is in line with their comfort level with FaceBook, blogging, and other social mechanisms and networks. Rather than censuring this behavior, why not embed education into it?

Many of us in the room felt restricted by the small size of the cellphone screen, but Peter countered that the micro-screen could become wall-sized in the mind’s eye. I know personally that I have my grandson’s photos loaded into my iPod Nano…and have no problem visualizing his smiling face when I see it on the small screen! Innovations such as the iPhone suggest that the micro-screen is growing in size anyway and could be a moot point.

I suggested that those of us “chronologically-gifted” need not necessarily become “thumb-people” as Tom Friedman called them. New voice to text software and processes suggest that a website such as Jott might be able to take a voice message the teacher sends via cellphone and convert it into a text message for each of our students.

A very interesting and engaging presentation!

My Presentation at eLearning 2008

These are the slides that I presented at the ITC eLearning 2008 conference Monday.


While you can listen to a narration of the above slides, you might find interesting a neat web application that Barry Dahl used during my presentation to “capture” what was happening.  Check out his blog for a timeline that he captured as the presentation unfolded.  It automatically uploaded to his blog.  Cool!!!!

The Gold Standard for eLearning

I am back in Richmond from the ITC eLearning 2008 conference. Spent yesterday traveling (and losing my cellphone in a Florida IHOP … whole ‘nother story!!!)

So wanted to post a few blog posts about Monday’s sessions.

The keynote speaker Monday was Patrica McGee, Associate Professor of IT and Program Coordinator for Adult and Higher Education at the University of Texas – San Antonio. Her talk was on the “seeking the gold standard,” as she described below:

Many institutions see the use of technology as a way to increase revenues and decrease the need for campus-based classrooms and other resources. However, emerging Web 2.0 technologies have moved our instruction from teaching- to learning-centered education. Strategies that were effective in the past no longer offer the same return on investment and elude the “gold standard” for using technology for learning. She discussed how we could maximize the return on the value of technology to increase learner engagement, add instructional options and improve faculty capabilities, without devaluing students, instructors or content.

Patricia used the term “gold standard” to remind us that American money was once backed by the equivalent value in gold. This gold standard gave value to our currency. Her question to us was – What are the underlying values that we use in determining to use or not use educational technology?

Technology provides us with both choices and challenges when it comes to access, accountability, assessment, and retention of students. Technology allows for increased access and alternate modes of communication with students (and the world). It provides opportunities for data collection and data mining. Assessment can be interactive, formative, and again, provides opportunities for data warehousing. The ubiquitous availability of the web and social networks opens up new ways to connect with and retain students.

Yet, Patricia suggests that we are making technology decisions without looking at the multiple perspectives concerned. She polled the audience using clickers and determined that we were:

– 1% Veterans (born before 48)
– 63% Boomers
– 33% Gen-X’s
– 3% Millennials

Most of the administrators were therefore boomers, not necessarily looking at technology with the same perspective as Gen-X’s or Millennials.

Patricia said one myth might be Prensky’s concept of digital natives. She cited a recent Australian study that found that unlike Prensky’s assumptions, more than half of the teens in Australia had never sent a photo by phone, never blogged, never accessed the internet from their cellphone, nor ever set up a personal webpage. We may be making false assumptions about the degree to which entering students ARE savvy when it comes to technology {…though I would counter that the entering students appear to be much more comfortable with technology than many faculty today}.

Patricia showed the K-12 take-off of Michael Wesch’s Vision video: A Vision of K-12 Students Today. She suggested that in higher education, we need to ensure that our adoption strategies align with the digital skills emerging from K-12. We should examine acceptance of edtech from both undergraduate and graduate perspectives, as well as from gender, cultural, and disciplinary differences. Technology should integrate with both school and life, and allow for delivery of learning in multiple formats.

She reminded us of how far we have come in the last ten years. In that time, email shifted from being an option to being required. Access to course materials is now expected from off-campus. Classrooms are expected to have web access. She chided those of us in faculty development to recognize that while both learning and teaching have a variety of styles, we tend to use only workshops to deliver faculty development {…a topic we have been recently discussing in our Center for Teaching Excellence…where we do offer online tutorials, institutes and consultations in addition to our workshops!}.

Patricia raised some good points, and one of her final ones hit home for me. Many faculty come to us in the Center looking for help in using some “tool”…be it Blackboard, blogs, wikis, or podcasts. She noted that in research for her book, Course Management Systems for Learning: Beyond Accidental Pedagogy, she found that the CMS was invisible to Millennials. The technology was like the air – necessary but not noticed. We need to become familiar with the various technologies we use in technology, but they are a means to an end…and we need to focus first and foremost on the learning.

Why I Do Online…

eLrn08 logo

Day three of the Instructional Technology Council’s eLearning 2008 conference, and we had a good keynote from Patricial McGee this morning. I did my presentation on Social Bookmarking, and attended a session on applying the Baldrige Quality Award to distance learning. I’ll blog more about those later.

However, it was the Awards Ceremony at lunch that blew me away… unexpectedly.

Let me tell you about it.

Each year, ITC awards faculty and colleges who demonstrate excellence in e-Learning. I was honored to win the faculty award in 2003. ITC awarded Coastline Community College with the program award, Savannah College of Art and Design with the Outstanding Online Course, and Terry Morris of Harper College with Outstanding e-Learning Faculty. It is great to see wonderful programs being recognized!

The show-stopper for all of us was the award to Pamela Himmel as Outstanding e-Learning Student from St. Petersburg College. Her story reinforced the power online learning makes in people’s lives.

Pamela is definitely a non-traditional student. A single mother whose two daughters urged to return to college, she worked nights and attended college during the day. However, when her younger daughter was admitted to the hospital awaiting a heart transplant, she moved to taking online courses. She was urged to do so by her daughter, who was also continuing her courses from University of Florida from the hospital. Mother and daughter would work on their separate courses from that hospital room. Pamela never missed an assignment, never asked for special favors, and finished last spring with top grades in all her classes. She continued her online classes this fall after her daughter had her transplant. However, her daughter developed complications and passed away last November. Pamela, as a tribute to her daughter, finished her fall courses with top grades as well, and continues working on her degree now.

She received a standing ovation when she accepted the award, but her words really moved me when she told us in the audience that it was we who made it possible for people like her to have access to education she would not have had otherwise. Her spring working on her courses while her daughter worked by her side are memories she will always treasure.

This would be a special story on its own merits, but what connected us (and few know this) is that I won the ITC Award the same year I had surgery to combat prostate cancer. While I was home from the college recuperating for a month, I only missed three days in my online classes, and I believe that my online students were part of my support structure that helped me beat cancer. The ability to take courses … or teach courses … when life happens is part of what drives me to advocate for online learning and to celebrate the successes I saw demonstrated here today!

Three Stellar Presentations and One Dud

eLrn08 Logo
Hello again from the Instructional Technology Council’s eLearning 2008 Conference. It was a full day today and I have already blogged about Myk Garn’s keynote this morning…which set the pace for an instructive day.

The first presentation I attended was “fun” but fell flat for reasons I will discuss below. The other three were insightful and stimulating. A brief recap of each.


Researching and Teaching Digital Natives with Web 2.0

Manoucher Khosrowshahi, Tyler Junior College

He tried to take a day long workshop and cram it into one hour. It was entertaining but geared for a non-techy audience, which this was not. He spent the hour detailing the differences between Boomers, Nexters, and Millennials (nice job), and then discussed how faculty needed to adapt to deal with educating millennials. His key point (with which I agree):

If students do not learn the way we teach, maybe we need to teach the way they learn.

Where he lost me (and turned this in to a dud) was at the end, when one of the participants asked if he would share his slides. His comment, “This is my intellectual property, so no, I will not share, but if you want to pay me to come to your campus, I will be happy to do so.”

Okay – a guy’s gotta make a buck…..but don’t feed me Web 2.0 platitudes for an hour and then practice Web 1.0 philosophy on a personal basis. This really turned me off and demonstrated for me that – in the end, he does not get Web 2.0!

<end of rant>


Online Instructor Competencies – It’s About Time

Edward Bowen, Executive Dean, Distance Learning, Dallas TeleCollege

Slides available at Ed’s Blog. (Someone who DOES get it!)

Ed started out with one of the nicest moves I have seen at a conference. He first asked everyone in the audience who would be giving a presentation to give a 15 second promo (nice touch). He then asked for a quick round-up of “take-aways” others had learned so far. One was an inexpensive text to speech conversion tool. I discussed a tool my colleague Bud Deihl is investigating: Jott – and Bowne ran with it – talking about how cool it is to be able to call an 800 number and have Jott RSS feed the text of your call to all students in your class!

Ed then shifted to his presentation. He started by noting that one cannot talk about competencies until one decides how learning occurs online. For instance, he solicited input from the audience as to their articulation of a philosophy as it relates to our online discussions:

Learning outcomes
– Social connections
– Motivation

He suggested that we need to develop instructor competencies in five areas:

1. Subject Relevance (Outcomes / Expectations)

2. Media (Text / Audio / Video)

3. Assessment (Formative / Summative / Peer / Remediation)

4. Control of time/place/pace (Flexibility / Continuing)

5. Type of Relation with instructor/other learners (Social / Personal / Professional)

Ed discussed the components of the online environment and suggested we need to be assessing courses not only at the end, but pre-course and during. We should be assessing students entering the course, teachers capabilities to teach online prior to the course, and course design prior to the course. During the course, the process in the LMS should be reviewed. And post-course, one should look at student evaluations and learning outcomes.

In focusing on teaching, he suggested we look at seven categories of competencies:




Instructional Design



Social Processes and Presence

All of these should be aligned with the learning outcomes and aligned with faculty development.

Nice job, Ed Bowen!



Personalized Learning Environments – Tools that Support Learning-Centered Instruction

Rhonda Ficek, Minnesota State University

A very nice presentation on the use of different web-based tools to drive the development of PLE’s for students. PLE’s are personally managed learning spaces that are social, distributed, and layered with both formal and informal learning. Key features included:

– Communication tools

Flexible structures

Integrated formal and informal learning

She discussed tools in four areas of instruction:


4 quadrants

Writing: Google Docs / Wikis / Google Notebook

Presentation Tools : Google Presentation

Organize Resources: Zotero / Flickr / delicious

Collaboration: Skype / Wimba

Think Tank

E Portfolios: Minnesota eFolio



Free Web-Based Tools

Google Notebook


Google Docs:

Zotero – bibliography help (Firefox only)

Nice job, Rhonda!



Mashing Up the Face of Academia –

John Krutsch, Senior Director of Distance Ed, Utah Valley University

John reviewed teaching and personal learning through mash ups. He demonstrated:

Viral videos (President George Bush singing rap)

– The Mashed Up song of the day from local radio
Nothing new – Simon and Garfunkel in 1969 combined Silent Night and Evening News

Teachers have historically been doing this:

Rewrite stories

Thematic Events

Movie Madness http:/

Romeo and Juliet’s Blackboard / WEBCt “affair”

John discussed some of the technologies available, including Twitter feeds, Google Map feeds, Open API (application programming interface), FlickrVision, TwitterVision, SLoodle (mashup of Second Life and Moodle), etc.

John’s main point: Culture of Mashups allows students to participate in creation of course content.

Mashups can occur at lesson-level, course-level, or degree-level. Mashups at the course level help break the monopoly of single textbooks as content source.

John reinforced Barry Dahl’s point from yesterday that teachers need to engage their students, and suggested teachers of the future will resemble Club DJ’s, shifting their content if it is not engaging students.

He summarized by suggesting that mashups allow students to take more ownership of their own education, reusing, remixing, and resubmiting material as part of their personal learning journey. This all supposes that alternate forms of assessment will be needed.

John’s blog –

Still trying to get my head around tying mashups to learning outcomes…but an interesting presentation, John!


As usual, my head is spinning. I present tomorrow on Instructional Uses of Social Bookmarking, and I am looking forward to another great day!

Worst Practices

It is day two at the ITC eLearning 2008 conference, and this morning we heard a very engaging presentation by Myk Garn, Associate Vice President for eLearning/Executive Director of the Kentucky Virtual Campus.

Myk started the session by noting that conferences in general are filled with presentations on “best practices” but most learning occurs from failures. It is a point Wes Fryer has frequently made in his podcasts, bringing to our attentions the Disney movie “Meet the Robinson’s” and the movie’s point about failing forward! In fact, Myk noted that if you google “best practices” and “worst practices”, the best outnumber the worst by a factor of 174 to 1.

Myk’s blog noted why he shifted to focusing on worst practices:

I had just sat though a wonderful presentation detailing how an information technology team had directed itself and its company though a massively complex software development and implementation process. At every turn they had faced problems and at each crossroads and conflict their management plan had guided them to success. Clearly this team and their project were a shining example of the “best practices” in IT development.

As I sat there I was both in awe of their insight and dedication to following their framework through thick and thin – and feeling depression as I reflected on my previous efforts to manage such projects myself. In contrast to their clarity of vision and incisive action my projects always seemed to find me in a muddle of data of questionable accuracy, unplanned problems of indeterminate cause or solution, and goals that shifted long before they were achieved. What, I mused, was I doing wrong? Was I the only person who failed to craft and lead such efforts? Or, was it possible, that these enlightened presenters had only told me about had gone right in their efforts? To be sure, they had mentioned problems, but their narrative showed how they had solved those with near prescient insight and skill. And ultimately their description of the best practices that had led them to success were indeed insightful and useful.

But, I wondered, I’ve always found I learned more when something went wrong than we things went right. While I was always happier when things were right, the heuristics that I rely on, the axioms that lead me into and through my next challenge, are those learned in the crucible of challenge. Instead of looking at what went right in a project – wouldn’t it be more educational (okay – and more entertaining) to look at what went wrong?

Myk’s insight translated into a delightful interactive session in which members discussed their “dumb moments” and what they learned from them. Myk noted how few classic planning concepts work when disruptive technologies or concepts are introduced, and he resonated with me when he suggested the “READY / AIM / FIRE” model was outdated. He suggested FIRE first, though I have always been more aligned with a little pre-planning, or in my lingo, READY / FIRE / AIM. But we are brothers aligned in the basic concept.

One example he provided of where Ready/Aim/Fire is not cafe scribeworking concerns the concept of faculty developing and sharing learning objects through repositories (and I had a few years experience with this and the Georgia LOR for technical colleges). In contrast to LOR’s, Myk suggested we look at Cafe Scribe, a very non-SCORM compliant website where students create and share content between themselves.

Myk noted that we need to learn to fail in an organized manner…and that we need to fail faster in order to learn more. Plans need to be directed towards learning as much as if not more than implementing.

All in all, a great keynote. Now it is off to some of the concurrent sessions.