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.

One thought on “The Gold Standard for eLearning

  1. I’m editing a compilation of the best articles from volumes 31-35 of Learning & Leading
    with Technology magazine, and I’d like your help in selecting articles. You seem like you
    have some good insights on technology use by teachers.

    If you’re not familiar with Learning & Leading with Technology, feel free to visit their
    site ( and read some of the articles. http://bestofll-links.blogsp has direct links to the pages, if you don’t want to wade through too much to find
    the articles.

    Then, please visit my blog at and nominate the articles you

    * Hold up over time
    * Help advance the appropriate use of technology in education
    * Help teachers understand and apply complex pedagogical principles in the classroom
    * Have helped you support teachers in the classroom
    * Are enjoyable to read

    Thank you for your help with this. Feel free to forward this message to colleagues you
    think might also be interested in helping.

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