Online Learning Summit 2014

Online Summit graphicOver the next two days (thanks to a lot of hard work by Joyce Kincannon), VCU will host its third Online Learning Summit.  The Online Learning Summit invites participation from colleges and universities across the Commonwealth of Virginia, and at last count, we expect about two hundred to participate.  The Summit theme of “Connections and Community: From Course to Commonwealth” reflects the need to engage in critical conversations within Virginia (and elsewhere), and to debate the role of online learning and the future of higher education. This summit provides a timely opportunity to consider and share important ideas about teaching and learning online, as well as issues related to program development, strategic planning and institutional and state policy.

Alec Couros will be our keynoter.  He is conducting a workshop tomorrow morning and then delivering his keynote Wednesday morning.  We are looking forward to hearing his perspective the next two days!

Tomorrow, among other activities, I will be one of three panelists delivering short 10-minute presentations before our combined Q&A session.  My portion is “Discourse in the Open”.



Looking forward to reconnecting face-to-face with good colleagues from around the state and hearing about experiments in learning that are occurring both on this campus and around the state!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Innovation in Pedagogy Summit

Newcomb HallYesterday, Joyce Kincannon and I traveled up the road to Charlottesville and the University of Virginia for their second annual Innovation in Pedagogy Summit. We spend a good deal of our mental energy in our learning center focused on innovation in teaching and learning, and so this was an opportunity to see now another university might approach both the topic and the process of faculty development around the topic.  This full day event was a collaboration between the UVa College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the Teaching Resource Center, the Office of the Executive Vice President & Provost, and the 4-VA Collaborative, and we appreciated the invite!

During the morning, six faculty shared their innovations in teaching with their peers, while the afternoon was devoted to José Bowen, author of Teaching Naked.

In many ways, what we saw from faculty were concepts we have advocated for the past few years…yet these concepts seemed new to many in the room.  We saw Ran Zhao’s Elementary Chinese course that incorporated student-created videos as assignments, Claudrena Harold’s African American studies course which scaffolded mini-assignments before sending student groups out to interview and archive alumni perspectives, and Brian Helmke who welcomed student use of Google before and in his lectures.  Mark White discussed the use of spoken stories to motivate students, Stephanie Van Hover used Structured Academic Controversy to encourage the use of multiple perspectives in class discussions, and Dave Kittlesen illustrated how low-tech paper handouts can help students conceptualize difficult genetic concepts.

While the focus for the morning was “engaging students”, I was struck by how few faculty in the room had devices to connect to the internet during these morning presentations.  It appeared that digital engagement was lacking.  There was no established hashtag for the summit, and little advocacy was apparent for digital engagement – other than demonstrating how a few faculty used digital connections with their students.  It hit me as an interesting missing element at an “innovation” summit…or else it highlighted that the web is so much a part of me that I am surprised when it is not a part of my colleagues.

ALC 4110 Learning Studio

During lunch, each table had a “theme” assigned.  I sat with folks who wanted to discuss “collaborative spaces” as a new breed of classroom.  I shared information about our Learning Studio – carefully designed by my colleague Jeff Nugent – which seemed in line with some proposals UVa is considering.  Our Learning Studio is a state-of-the-art classroom that has been designed to support VCU faculty members and students in their exploration and study of new learning spaces. Located in the Academic Learning Commons, the Learning Studio contains a wide array of technologies and furniture that combine to provide unique opportunities to enhance teaching and learning.  For larger classrooms, José Bowen shared a view of a traditional tiered large classroom in which all desks had been removed and replaced with “Learn2″ chairs on wheels to facilitate small group work.  This also aligned with changes being considered at UVa.  As the welcomed outsider, it was interesting to hear faculty discuss new ways of conceptualizing class spaces with no clear “front of the room.”

Teaching Naked bookFor me, the highlight of the day was José Bowen‘s afternoon presentation.  He is the author of Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of the Classroom Will Improve Student Learning.  I was expecting a “close your laptop” focus, but what I heard was the exact opposite.  I subsequently read a review by James Lang that summed José’s premise up well:

“The book’s title make Bowen sound like a cranky Luddite, a chalk-and-talk professor who wants the kids to put away their smart phones and get their noses back into the books, and then sit up straight and listen to the professor in class.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Bowen actually celebrates the ability of technology to move much of our traditional teaching work out of the classroom, and wholeheartedly embraces a wide range of educational technologies as capable of doing the work of teaching content more effectively than professors.

The flip side to that argument, though, is that once we actually get students to interact with those technologies outside of the classroom, we should be spending our time in the classroom engaging in more frequent face-to-face interaction with them. Bowen sees the classroom as the space where we prove our value as educators to students, and argues that we should not be wasting that valuable space by lecturing students on basic content.  Let them gain first exposure to that content through podcasts, videos, e-mails, Google searches, and so on.  Then let them deepen the exposure in the classroom through human interaction.”
José Antonio Bowen is currently dean of the School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, and was recently named to be the 11th President of Goucher College effective in July.  He is a dynamite presenter, passionate about good teaching and even better learning.  He suggested that much of the focus on technology in teaching has been misplaced … and that the opportunity exists to create “Massively Better Classrooms.”  To do this, he suggests “teaching naked”, which involves:
  • A digital entry point as first exposure to a topic
    • By email, Facebook, or other social media
  • First exposure to the topic through a pre-assignment
    • Short and focused
    • Find open content (or let students find it)
    • Use summary sites like Wikipedia
  • A short writing (a paragraph on index cards…or Evernote) to reflect before class
    • Start with what matters to students…then connect to what matters to you
    • Ask the question not in the summary site
    • Interpretation…not summarize
  • A low stakes exam on entering the classroom
    • Use higher order thinking skills from Blooms
  • A challenging class – not lecture
    • Alter conditions and have students reanalyze
    • Complicate and reframe problems
    • Have students work on problem solving and “learning to learn”
    • Keep it relevant and real world
    • He suggested using techniques from Stephen Brookfield
  • Digital communication after class to reinforce
  • Cognitive wrappers for self-regulation of students
    • Self-reflection by students on time they spent preparing, process they used, and what they might do different next time

José’s focus is that the role of faculty no longer involves providing scarce content.  Technology provides richer content than any of us could provide.  Instead, our role is to prepare students to face the unknown…to be critical consumers of this ubiquitous content.  Students pay a lot for class time…and they should get more than a lecture.  New technology means that we can focus with our students on thinking and integration.

This aligned nicely with a post this morning by Debbie Morrison – “A Not-So-New Recipe for “A New Culture of Learning”“.  Debbie was reviewing a book by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown entitled A New Culture of Learning.  Thomas and Brown suggests that this:

“…new culture of learning actually comprises two elements. The first is massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything. The second is bounded and structured environment that allows unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries”.

In this new culture, questions are more important than answers, and students learn through inquiry rather than instruction.  Debbie suggests that this message is not new…but will be new to many faculty.  I would agree.  Our work with our GRAD-602 students reinforced that their concept of teaching is rooted in older models…not this new reality.  José suggested to me that I remind our GRAD-602 students that they are the outliers – successful in the game of school and looking to continue that game.  That no longer matches “the real world” … and José passionately believes we need to help students prepare for this real world – a world of unknowns and a world where unlearning and relearning will be key skills.

So fun day at UVa and a chance to add José to my PLN.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Sloan Online Conference Days Two and Three

SLOAN Conference logo

An interesting second and third day here at the 19th Annual SLOAN Consortium International Conference on Online Learning.  The second day started early with an 8am keynote by Daphne Koller of Coursera, entitled “The Online Revolution: Learning without Limits.”

Her abstract for this talk made the following points:


“We are at the cusp of a major transformation in higher education. In the past year, we have seen the advent of MOOCs – massively open online classes (MOOCs) – top-quality courses from the best universities offered for free. These courses exploit technology to provide a real course experience to students, including video content, interactive exercises with meaningful feedback, using both auto-grading and peer-grading, and rich peer-to-peer interaction around the course materials. We now see MOOCs from dozens of top universities, offering courses to millions of students from every country in the world. The courses start from bridge/gateway courses all the way through graduate courses, and span a range of topics including computer science, business, medicine, science, humanities, social sciences, and more. In this talk, I’ll report on this far-reaching experiment in education, including some examples and preliminary analytics. I’ll also discuss how this model can support a significant improvement in the learning experience for on-campus students, via blended learning, and provide unprecedented access to education to millions of students around the world.”

Given the hype around MOOCS and her early talks, I was a bit skeptical going in, but she delivered a solid keynote.  She seemed to emphasize that Coursera was in the platform business more than revolutionizing higher education…that Coursera was a good supplement filling a need that life-long learners had – given that 80% of the 5+ million Courserans already have a degree.  She noted that her own degree in computer science was dated, and so the types of courses offered by Coursera attracted (and completion demonstrated) those that wanted to update knowledge and skills.

She was quite proud of the reach of Coursera, noting not only numbers, partners, and courses, but that 14 students in Antarctica were currently enrolled in Coursera courses. #neat! She also made the point that when you reach massive scale, the cost of a course per student approaches zero. She demonstrated some neat applications of both machine grading and peer assessment in physics courses, chemistry labs, and humanities essays.  Of particular note (for me) was a study in which 1200 peer graded essays were also graded by TA’s, and the results strongly correlated.  I thought it was a leap to suggest that peer grading built community, but it is evident that sub-communities do form in Coursera courses.

She took on the issue of retention and completion rates, noting that first of all, completion was not the intent of most.  However, if one measured completion of those who paid and signed up for Signature Track, the completion rates approached 85%.

Sloan07Contrasting her talk was the keynote on the third day, with Anant Agarwal (edX & MIT) discussing “Reinventing Education.” My colleague Yin Wah Kreher captured me madly tweeting during Anant’s talk!  His abstract noted:

“Digital technology has transformed countless areas of life from healthcare to workplace productivity to entertainment and publishing. But education hasn’t changed a whole lot. EdX is a MOOC (massive open online course) initiative that aspires to reinvent education through online learning. EdX’s mission is to dramatically increase access to education for students worldwide through MOOCs on our platform, while substantially enhancing campus education in both quality and efficiency through blended models that incorporate online elements created by the edX team.

This talk will provide an overview of MOOCs and edX, and share student stories that reveal how they are increasing access to education worldwide. The talk will also discuss where MOOC technologies are headed, and how they can enhance campus education. Finally, the talk will provide some recent research results that will allow us to improve education online and on campus, and discuss how MOOCs might evolve in the future.”

I found his talk much more nuanced and positive compared to Koller’s talk.  Rather than “selling” Coursera and pointing to huge (and impressive) numbers, Anant focused on the slower growth of edX and how lessons learned from decades of educational research was mindfully integrated with their approach.  Their first course was one of MIT’s hardest, requiring differential equations and complex problem solving.  They anticipated 2,000 signing up, but 155,000 signed up.  Over  26K did the first problem (indicator of true interest and not “tourist” status}, over 9K passed the midterm, nearly 7200 were certified at the end.  As Anant noted, the press focused on 95% not completing, but he focused on the fact that 7200 completers represented the potential output of 36 years of teaching circuits by the old model…something to be celebrated.  edX has continued to grow and now has nearly 100 courses.

As impressive as the courses and partner institutions are, Anant singled out how other institutions like San Jose State University are using edX MOOCs as “next generation textbooks.”  SJSU’s circuit course that used the MOOC for content and interactions saw a class failure rate drop from 41% to 9%.  Anant saw no difference to using MOOCs as next generation textbooks as he saw in the typical practice of most university courses using a textbook written by someone other than the teaching professor.  Huge implications for both publishing and teaching practice, but this concept really resonates with me!  As Rena Palloff tweeted:

Anant was very proud of the edX platform – OpenedX.  He described it as the GarageBand of education!  The active learning technology that he demonstrated was indeed – as he passionately noted – “very cool!”  He showed a Science of Cooking lab simulation that sizzled when the students cooked their steak.  Homework feedback gives big green checkmarks when work is correct, and green checkmarks have now become a meme on campus.

Overall, the twitter backchannel had some skeptics, but the majority saw this final keynote as a winner.  Well done, SLOAN-C!

Dropping back to Day 2, David McLeod and I did our presentation on “Liberating Students: Harnessing the Power of Open Student-Generated Content.” I have to say that the tech gods certainly smiled on me, as my presentation depended on first the use of Prezi, then playing the embedded YouTube with David’s portion of the presentation, and finally connecting with David at University of Oklahoma by Hangout for the Q&A portion…all in a 35 minute window.  Yet, it all worked perfectly.  I had set my laptop up on top of the podium facing the audience, and during the Q&A, David interacted with the audience like a rock star!

We described how we empowered students to create their own meaningful content outside the confines of an LMS, using WordPress, Netvibes, Protopage, and the creativity inherent in our students to make impacts in student lives…and in David’s case, the wider community.  Our Prezi is below, and I would recommend watching David’s pre-recorded 7 minutes within it, as all of the follow-up questions were directed at his super-innovative Project710 class.

I felt so bad for Lauren Cummins in the session following mine, as the tech gods that smiled on me frowned on her.  She presented on “Social Presence: Creating Online Learning Communities that Empower Student Learning.”   Two doors down from mine, yet she could not connect to her Prezi, and ended up using a Powerpoint hastily constructed the hour before…which was too large for the projection screen, so the words were cut off.  She gamefully pressed on and discussed ideas for creating community. Key was the social presence of both the students and the teacher.  Research has demonstrated that student perceptions of the presence of the teacher lead to higher student satisfaction with the online course…as well as potentially increasing student engagement.

Yesterday I noted that Bill Pelz was awarded a SLOAN Fellow.  At the second day luncheon, numerous other awards were distributed, including one to Kelvin Thompson and Baiyun Chen of University of Central Florida, for their work in faculty development.  I caught up with Kelvin afterwards, along with other BlendKit alums, to discuss BlendKit 2014, which Kelvin is currently developing.

I briefly attended a panel discussion by some of the thought leaders in higher education on “Leading the e-Learning Transformation in Higher Education.”  Most discussed the beginnings of elearning, but I left before I heard any transformative thought…in order to meet up with the BlendKit folks.  I will have to go back and listen to this one, as the make-up of the panel was impressive.

poster2The poster session was lively.  Quite a few posters on a topic that bothers me – processes to proctor tests using video systems.  I know such processes are probably needed…but current state of technology (to me) seems to try and sell a false sense of security.  But as one faculty lamented…if I can just get my students to stop cutting and pasting during tests, that would be an improvement.  With all the amazing enhancements to assessment demonstrated during (in particular) Anant’s edX keynote, it seems that there are better ways to assess students – and use assessment formatively to enhance learning.

<Climbing off soapbox>

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed three days of interaction and engagement with my colleagues at the SLOAN International Conference for Online Learning.  Looks like next year’s conference will be October 29-31 in Orlando.  I understand that the Sebastian Thrun costume was already trending on Twitter as must-wear next year!  I hope to be back.

{Credits: Josh Murdock, Yin Wah Kreher, Britt Watwood}

Enhanced by Zemanta

SLOAN Online Conference Day One

SLOAN Conference logo
The 19th Annual SLOAN Consortium International Conference on Online Learning (did you notice…I said NINETEENTH) kicked off today.  Our keynoter this afternoon brought our attention to the fact that SLOAN has been fostering a conversation about online learning for 19 years.  With the Year of the MOOC last year notwithstanding, online learning was not discovered last year!  But more on that in a moment.

Today, I attended three information sessions and the keynote address.  As usual, I was active on Twitter using the hashtag #aln13, so one can get a sense of the proceedings by following the very active tweet stream.

My first session was with Melissa Venable ( and Amy Hilbelink (Ultimate Medical Academy): “Can Existing Quality Guidelines Inform Faculty Participation in Online Course Design.”  Check out their slides.  My take away was that quality is and should be a faculty initiative.  Administrative drivers do not always work well.  They discussed both the QM rubric and the Quality Scorecard, emphasizing that the first was course-based while the second was program-based.  Given my past blog posts on Community of Inquiry, I noted with interest this tweet from Phylise Banner:

I hope to connect with Phylise later to learn more!

My second session was with Steve Ehrmann and others from George Washington University, on Six Design Features of Distinguished Online Programs.  At VCU, we are committed to creating online courses and programs that are “distinctive”, so I wondered how Steve approached this.  He noted that the proliferation of online offerings nationally has led to commodity online education.  Learners have access to dozens of programs that are indistinguishable from each other.  They end up competing on size and sizzle.  Like any technological advance, there are positives and negatives.  Depending on audience, online education has increased quality in some programs and seen it decreases in others.  For some, online education has increased access while potentially denying it to the poor, disabled, or remote populations. Steve suggested that new programs need to be both exceptionally good and perceived by constituents as exceptionally good.

Steve suggested six features for programs that might meet these two requirements:

  1. Recruit a dream team to develop and teach the program.
  2. With a hybrid approach, exploit “place” in online programs (though place does not necessarily mean on campus).
  3. Find corporate partners to help make the program distinctive.
  4. Take advantage of scale to create customized learning for each student.
  5. Use small group synchronous activities to create tight bonds with students.
  6. Educate students to thrive in a hybrid digital workforce.

Our excitement of the day came just as Steve’s session was ending, when the hotel fire alarm sounded.  Luckily for those presenting, it was a short lived false alarm, but it cut a few minutes into my third session. Shanna Jaggars discussed recent research into online learning.  She noted that many reference the DoE Meta-analysis study published in 2009, that that study really only looked at 7 research studies of full online courses at four-year institutions.  These studies tended to research small class-size courses at elite institutions.  Her Center for Community College Research attempted to dig deeper at more traditional online students by exploring success in two-year college online courses in Virginia and Washington states.  Her study of 23 courses at two Virginia community colleges using student interviews raised an unexpected issue of students complaining that they really did not know their teachers nor feel their presence in class.  For me, I would question whether this is a factor of “online learning” or one of how teachers are selected, assigned, and supported in teaching online.

Shanna ended her session by suggesting that online teaching and learning could be improved through the conscious use of faculty inquiry and the scholarship of teaching online.  One-oft workshops were not the answer.  Totally agree here, and our CTE Online programs do attempt to integrate the research and the practical aspects of teaching online.

Hal Plotkin of the U.S. Department of Education was our keynoter.  He discussed how online learning aligned with President Obama’s goals for improving education in America. In a somewhat rags to riches story, he discussed his own background and how one event changed his life and led to a career in newspapers after first dropping out of (or as he noted, being pushed out of) high school, then eventually obtaining an Associates degree and Bachelors degree.  He noted that currently, only 7% of the world’s population go on to some college, and that meant the 93% were a hugely untapped potential.  His admonition to us was not to further prop open the door of access to higher education, but to blow the hinges off that door!

Sketch of Keynoter

As Plotkin was talking, Josh Murdock tweeted the above sketch on Twitter. I thought it was pretty cool and wondered if he had done this on an iPad?

Some tweets were pretty snarky regarding Plotkin’s message, but it resonated with me that he called for more open access, more sharing of resources, and less judging of current experiments.  He noted that the current set of MOOCs were the Model T’s of online learning…with better cars on the way.  He also noted that in the rush to develop online programs, we needed to keep the law of the land regarding ADA and accessibility front and center.

The day ended with the awarding of this year’s SLOAN-C Fellow Awards.  It was most gratifying to see my good friend and colleague Bill Pelz of Herkimer County Community College recognized with this national award!

We closed the night with dinner with VCU colleagues at Cat Cora’s restaurant on the Boardwalk.  My presentation is tomorrow.  I hope the internet gods are kind!  🙂



Off to SLOAN

SLOAN Conference logo

Tomorrow, I fly to Orlando for the 2013 SLOAN-C International Conference on Online Learning.  With my colleague David McLeod of University of Oklahoma, I will be doing a presentation on “Liberating Students: Harnessing the Power of Open Student-Generated Content.”  We will showcase our use of open processes such as WordPress, Protopage, and Google apps to free student work from the confines of an LMS. Our Prezi is below:

I’ll be tweeting using the hashtag #aln13. Come join the conversation!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Group Reflections on OpenVA

cropped-openva_headerMy colleagues in the VCU Center for Teaching Excellence spent an hour this morning debriefing our experience at the first OpenVA Conference held October 14-15 at University of Mary Washington‘s Stafford Campus.  Our Jeff Nugent was on the organizing committee for this conference, with strong input from our colleagues at UMW like Jim Groom and Martha Burtis, as well as cool outside speakers like Alan “CogDog” Levine and Audrey Watters.  It was a homecoming in some regards for our new Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success, Gardner Campbell, who spoke at several sessions.

In our podcast, Yin Wah Kreher suggested that we use the 4 C’s thinking routine as a guide for today’s discussion.

  • Connections: How does it connect to what we already know?
  • Challenges: What do we find challenging?
  • Concepts: What are the big ideas?
  • Changes: How have our actions and attitudes changed as a result?

All in all, a great learning experience…it will be fun to think about how “open” continues to impact education in Virginia and globally!


Enhanced by Zemanta

Integrating Teaching and Technology

tptechThis past weekend, I was in my old hometown of Atlanta for the first Teaching Professor Technology Conference.  With only 650 people attending, the conference had an intimate feeling to it.  This was one of the first conferences I have attended in which I knew very few people, but friends were quickly made…and I added to my Twitter PLN.

After the opening plenary, poster sessions, and a day of rapid fire sessions (including mine), I awoke Sunday morning with an interesting epiphany.  Online education actually has become mainstream.  Many of the sessions mentioned online instruction, but the fact that the instruction was online was not the point.  The point was how technology … digital technology … was being used to impact learning.  It seemed everyone at the conference was passionate about learning!

For someone who adopted online instruction before Blackboard was created…this rocked!

Friday afternoon, Joshua Kim, Director of Learning and Technology for Dartmouth and blogger for Inside Higher Education, gave the opening plenary talk entitled “The Teaching Professor in 2020: Shaping the Future in a Time of Rapid Change.  A good talk, yet troubling.  With the increasing use of online education and the fascination this past year with MOOCs, Joshua suggested that higher education is in the midst of a historic shift…and that shift could be one that moves education from relationships with students to mass production of learning content and processes.  He suggested that higher education over the past two hundred years succeeded because of the relationships built between faculty and students (and between students).  In an era when rock star faculty can create a “course” that has 160,000 people enrolled, Joshua suggests that there cannot be an implicit relationship between the individual faculty and individual student.  In some ways, it reminds me of the move industrially from craft manufacturing to assembly line manufacturing – which had both positive and negative outcomes. Joshua suggested that you need those relationships for authentic learning … and stated “Authentic learning does not scale.”

True?  I am not sold that authentic learning is implicitly tied to small class size…but I do buy the issue of relationships.  And I agree with Ollie Dreon, who tweeted:


Joshua suggested that higher education might move in similar directions to the airlines, which have unbundled travel into commodities you buy…or very elite high end first-class travel.  The relationship-creating experiences might become our “first-class” education while MOOCs and low cost competency assessment represent “coach-class” education.  Reminded me of the discussions we have had in our CTE led by Jeff Nugent on the idea of the post-course era.

In a blog post, Joshua noted that his three takeaways from the conference were:

  • Faculty Not Satisfied with the Status Quo – Looking to Improve Teaching and Learning
  • Faculty are looking for Campus Partners
  • A new generation of tech savvy faculty will be the future campus leaders

The poster sessions were held Friday night during the reception.  Fun discussing digital technology while wandering with a glass of wine…might be a model for future faculty development! 🙂

One high point for me was as I wandered by the poster of Erin Wood of Catawba College entitled “Engaging the Change: From Hardback to No Back” and heard her say “We got that idea from the Center for Teaching Excellence at VCU.”  Turned out that Erin was a graduate of VCU and had attended a number of CTE workshops while working on her degree.  At Catawba College, she had pointed her colleagues to our website of resources, many of which they have adopted.  One never knows the impact our group might have…but fun seeing a concrete example.

Saturday, Brian Kibby from McGraw-Hill Higher Education gave the breakfast plenary entitled “Gradually then Suddenly: How Technology Has Changed Teaching in Higher Education.”  I initially tweeted that it was interesting that the conference brought in someone from publishing to talk to faculty, yet Brian gave an uplifting talk.  He stood not at the podium but out in the room, and used no technology (other than a microphone).  One of Brian’s strengths is storytelling, and he wove a compelling story that examines the parallels between changes in publishing and changes in teaching.  In both cases, the “customer” or “consumer” is changing.

Brian’s question was whether the culture at our institutions was one of YES or one of NO when it came to using technology for teaching and learning.  Rather than focus on why one should not use technology, he suggested one look for the possibilities and then make it happen.  He discussed the focus on learning analytics and suggested that if one focuses on results, one is use a lagging indicator.  Instead, he suggested we should look for leading indicators, and engagement might be one of this indicators. (So how does one “measure” engagement in an online class?  Page views, time on pages, eye tracks?)

Brian had a recent article in Inside Higher Education that looked at the question of when will we see the complete digital transformation of higher education in the United States?  He suggests that it is started and will occur in the next three years.  Optimistic…but then again, I am an optimist!

Sheryl Barnes mentioned something on Twitter that I had not caught:

Brian ended his session by discussing MOOCs.  After the session, I talked to him and made the suggestion that McGraw-Hill might want to consider MOOCs less as a new model for courses as much as a possible new model for textbooks.  He seemed intrigued with the idea.

The next session was led by Ike Shibley, Chemistry professor at Penn State Berk, on tips for blended courses.  Ike teaches organic chemistry online…reminding us that the hard sciences can be taught online.  However, given lab components, blended makes much more sense.  Ike reminded us that students were not paying for our time or lectures…they were paying for learning.  He suggested that course design should include opportunities for learning before, during, and after each class.  He uses screencasts to cover lower order thinking levels of Bloom so that he can concentrate on higher order thinking in class.

skifailOne interesting question for online faculty lay in how authentic our learning might be.  His metaphor was that it did little good to spend 45 hours talking about skiing and viewing videos of great skiers…and then for the final exam placing the student at the top of the hill on skis and pushing them downhill.  He suggested a climate of rehearsal in courses…formative assessments tied to authentic outcomes.

This conference had lots of practical applications embedded in the sessions.  One tool that Ike demonstrated was PeerWise out of Australia.  Students use PeerWise to create and to explain their understanding of course related assessment questions, and to answer and discuss questions created by their peers.

A team from Anderson University discussed their implementation of a campus-wide iPad initiative.  They saw their initiative not as a technology initiative but as a learning initiative…looking to change practices for faculty and students.  The tablets open up new possibilities for classroom instruction, but faculty have to rethink class policies about use of iPads in class.  What does one do if students do not bring their iPad to class?  Students get AppleCare and supplemental insurance if they need to replace their iPad, and have the option to buy it if they leave early.  Faculty are issued iPads, but they remain the property of the university.

A good comment made by one of the team is that iPads do not mean business as usual.  It is a new tool suggesting new practices, and for active learning to occur in class, one should have students doing active learning between classes.

Another app that looked interesting is BaiBoard, which allows for interactive shared whiteboard through iPads.

At lunch, Ray Schroeder, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at University of Illinois and founding director of the Center for Online Leadership and Strategy at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, discussed the Vortex of Technology.  This link is a Google Site page that Ray used as both his presentation and his handout, something I found rather cool. With my aging eyes, it also helped that I could sit in the rear of the ballroom and bring his presentation up on my iPad to follow along – links and all.

One emerging technology that he discussed was LeapMotion, which uses hand movements to replace mouse or touchpads…very cool!  At $80-some dollars, I see a purchase in the near term!

One of the more interesting sessions dealt with cognitive load and screencasting, by Oliver Dreon, Millersville University of Pennsylvania; and Tim Wilson, University of Western Ontario.  I loved Ollie’s comment that an hour-long (or two-hour long) screencast was not a technical problem, it was a teaching problem.  He suggested ways to chunk material into ten-minute videos.  They noted lots of screencasting options, but suggested that for many, screencasting was an opportunity to create poor material.  At the same time, they repeated a mantra I have heard from Bud Deihl, do not let perfect be the enemy of good enough.

My session was on “Preparing Digitally Savvy Future Faculty,” which I co-developed with my fellow GRAD-602 co-teachers, Jeff Nugent and David McLeod.  Around 30 people showed up at 4pm…so I was stoked!  The Prezi is embedded below:

The last session of the day dealt with service learning and social media, a topic that my partner David McLeod will discuss in our presentation at the SLOAN International Conference on Online Learning in November.  Purdue is doing some interesting things with OpenBadges as a way to incentivize service learning.  Another Purdue app that got some buzz was Backdraft, which allows a speaker to create tweets before a presentation and then release them via iPad as they speak to punctuate their talk.  Very cool!

On Sunday morning, I attended two more sessions.  Matt Cazessus of Greenville Tech led a session on student-led blogging.  He used Blogger to create a central class site, and then multiple group blogs with 4-6 student authors in each for online discussion…in both online and face-to-face classes.  He did a nice job contrasting how boring a Blackboard discussion is versus the creativity of student blogging.  I was following the tweets from Jill Schiefelbein‘s session in another room on adding human touch to online classes, and was struck how we were having the same discussion in the blogging session.

My last session was led by Shawn Apostel of Bellarmine University on using Prezi for active learning in a class.  Shawn shares his Prezi’s before class so that students can edit and add questions or resources…which he then uses in class.  He also creates shared Prezi’s for small group brainstorming.  I have used Prezi for presentations and done the shared editing with co-presenters, but had not considered using it in class.  I did learn a new word – Prezilepsy: sickness caused by unnecessary Prezi swoops and dives around the screen.  #guiltyascharged  🙂


Good to be back in the town in which I was born 63 years ago.  Atlanta has grown from a southern town to a megatropolis of over 6 million people.  When I graduated from high school, the blue domed Hyatt in the lower right of this image was the tallest building in town.  Now, I was sitting in my hotel room looking down on the Hyatt!  I left Atlanta to join the Navy in Annapolis, but spent another 7 years nearby when I was at Gwinnett Tech.  So good to come back to Atlanta!

And good to attend a conference exploring the intersection of teaching and technology.  Next year, the conference will be in Denver October 10-14.  I look forward to returning!

{Images:  Teaching Professor, Shelly Duffer, Britt Watwood}

Enhanced by Zemanta

At SLOAN-C Conference

I am enjoying my second day at the SLOAN-C International Conference on Online Learning.  The program can be found here.  The Twitter backchannel at #aln12 has been lively and fun. What is neat is that no one is dominating discussion, and lots of  voices are being heard:

Twitter stats for #aln12

The theme this year is Online Learning at a Crossroads…and that has been appropriate. SLOAN-C has been holding this conference for 18 years, and yet never in those 18 years has online learning been so much in the news or so diverse (lots of people differentiating between “traditional online” and experiments like Udacity and other MOOCs).

The keynoter was Sebastian Thrun, who discussed his vision for Udacity.  They are offering (a few) high quality courses to the masses for free, and have designed the courses to take advantage of interactive and engaging multimedia content with instant assessment and feedback.  A comment worth noting – this individualized approach allows for one to view his course not as a single class with 160,000 students, but rather 160,000 courses each with one student enrolled.  I thought that was interesting!

I attended some great sessions yesterday. John Vivio’s “Improving Course Interactions Through Analytics” looked at the analytics currently available in Blackboard and how one might use them for proactive interventions with students.  Jeff Seaman discussed the upcoming latest version of the Babson annual survey on online learning, with the interesting comment that after 10 years, there has remained a consistent 12% of academic leaders who do not see online learning as critical for their institution. Alex Pickett and friends discussed “Best Faculty Strategies“.  It was a Twitter moment, but after years of tweeting with Alex, I got the chance to meet her face-to-face!

The first day ended with a plenary panel with Jeff Young of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jose Cruz of the Education Trust, Alan Drimmer of the University of Phoenix, and Jack Wilson of the University of Massachusetts.  Cruz and Wilson hit homeruns, setting a compassionate case for the use of online learning to better this country.  I was disappointed in Drimmer’s remarks.  He seemed to be not as prepared and as eloquent as his fellow panel members, and more apologetic than positive about online learning.  Perhaps this is because Cruz had just illustrated that for-profits had taken advantage of the disenfranchised populations of this country, charging high tuition and setting up high debt without the retention and successful completion of degrees by for-profit students.

Today, in addition to Thrun’s keynote, I attended a great session by my old colleague Bill Pelz, again teaming with Alex Pickett, to discuss SUNY BLEND.

Jeff Nugent and I had good attendance at our session: From Critique to Community.  It is obvious that quite a few of us are trying to figure out the best way to do faculty development for online teaching and learning.  Jeff put out a call for other Centers to think about partnering with us to share best practices and processes.

Our Prezi:

Heading to EPCOT tonight, and then will finish the conference tomorrow.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Where I Am Going Next Week

Next week, Jeff Nugent and I will be attending the 18th Annual Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning, October 10-12, 2012, at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, FL.

This will be the first time I have attended the SLOAN-C conference, so I am looking forward to it.  Jeff and I will be making a presentation on October 11th in the Oceanic 5 room at 2:20pm entitled “From Critique to Community: Exploring Faculty Development for Online Teaching”, which will discuss our Online Course Development Initiative.  I will post our Prezi next week.

A Summit and Academy

May is always a crazy time here in the Center, and this has been a busy week leading up to two more busy weeks.  On Monday, our Center of Teaching Excellence hosted our first Online Learning Summit.  Yesterday, several of us did a road trip to Fredericksburg for University of Mary Washington‘s 17th Faculty Academy.  Next week, we start our third Online Course Development Initiative, and the week after, we conduct our EdTech Collaboratory. As I said, crazy…

I have not blogged in a while, so let me try and at least capture some of what we did at the summit and academy.

VCU Online SummitThe online learning summit Monday was a first for the faculty of VCU and our CTE.  In some ways, it started as a trip down memory lane.  Bill Pelz of Herkimer County Community College and the SUNY Learning Network was our keynote presenter.  I had the pleasure of working with Bill at HCCC, and was there as he started Herkimer on its online journey.  In fact, we were recalling that he, I and Ron Carvin gave a presentation to SUNY chairs back in 1998 on this new thing called online learning!  Bill gave the keynote, and he was followed by seven VCU faculty presenting papers.  I have linked to the papers below.

Bill Pelz

The summit was conducted in a room with multiple round tables, and following each set of presentations, the presenters moderated the table discussions to capture faculty perceptions about shifts in teaching practice.  Bill set the stage with his discussion of “technoheutagogy” – a term most had not heard (since Bill created the term) but a term that captured in part the evolution of learning online.  Bill took us on a historical look at first pedagogy (how children learn), then andragogy (how adults learn), followed by heutagogy (self-determined learning).  Bill added the “techno” prefix to move self-determined learning online.

Our first panel presented the following papers:

We really wanted this summit to be a chance for dialogue rather than passive reception of talks.  Following these presentations, we discussed the talks at our tables and collected ideas on what shifts in practice seem most important, how are instructor roles changing, and how does teaching online shape expectations about faculty load.  We also brainstormed support that faculty felt they needed in order to more effectively teach online.

In the afternoon, three more faculty presented their papers:

We again did small group discussions around effective teaching practices as demonstrated by these papers.

Our plan is to collect these table discussions with the papers and publish a conference proceedings from the day.  All the papers contained valuable and relevant information, and I would recommend your review of them.

We spent Tuesday completing our plans for next week, and then hit the road Wednesday morning for UMW and Faculty Academy.


We could only attend one day, but as always, Mary Washington’s Faculty Academy inspires us.  Martha Burtis was unfortunately out sick, but Jim Groom,  Steve Greenlaw, Tim Owens, Alan Levine and others welcomed those of us from off campus and provided a rich selection of presentations to move our thinking.

Giulia Forsythe let us use multiple markers as we played with visual notetaking.  While she had each of note “I can draw!” on our charts, Joyce’s looked a lot better than mine!

Jason Davidson, Mike McCarthy and former student Shannon Hauser showed different uses of the UMW WordPress blogs in their teaching and learning.  I was particularly blown away by Shannon’s rich uses of blogs both personally and professionally.

Grant Potter gave a great plenary on “Tinkering, Learning, and the Adjacent Possible”.  His main point was that creativity and innovation do not often happen in structured spaces (physical or virtual), but rather need open, transparent, and chaotic processes that allow recombinations / remixing of ideas.

Lots to think about from these past few days…and lots to look forward to in the next two weeks!

{Photos shot on iPads by Britt Watwood and Bud Deihl, the FA12 Banner from UMW FA12 website}



Enhanced by Zemanta