Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 Year in Review

"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." - Mark Twain

"Another fresh new year is here/ Another year to live!/To banish worry, doubt, and fear,/ To love and laugh and give!" - William Arthur Ward

2011, we barely knew you. You brought earthquakes and tsunamis, unemployment, an Arab Spring, and an Occupy movement. There were blizzards when you first arrived, drought and wildfires as you took your first steps, tornadoes, floods and stifling heat waves as you reached midlife, and strange storms in your latter days. You saw the end of the Space Shuttle program, Oprah's 25-year reign over daytime television, Borders bookstores, and American troops in Iraq. You take with you Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Taylor, Joe Frazier, Amy Winehouse, and many more we will miss. From my desk at CCC, here are four things I'll remember you for:

1. TTIP Consolidates. We learned in early spring that TTIP (Telecommunications and Technology Infrastructure Program, which funds CCC Confer and several other statewide projects) was going to experience budget cuts. To cope with reduced funds, a plan was developed to consolidate TTIP projects into two centers. Tim Calhoon, Director of the California Community Colleges Technology Center, will be directing the California Virtual Campus (CVC) along with CCCApply and CCCTran. My end of the deal will include CCC Confer, 3C Media Solutions / Edustream, and the @ONE project. My sincere thanks to Bill Doherty, who will be retiring at the end of next month, and Lenora Pinkston (who will remain at Evergreen Valley College) for their help in the transition and planning for this consolidation, and to all of the staff from these projects who have collaborated to ensure an effective alliance of minds and efforts. We're a terrific team and I'm fortunate to be part of it.

2. Mobile Learning. In January, I was part of the Mid-Pacific Information and Communication Technology (MPICT) Winter ICT Educator Conference in San Francisco. One of the tracks that fascinated me and all of the attendees had to do with educational mobile apps: there are thousands of them, and they're multiplying! The Horizon Report predicted that this would be the year for adoption of mobile learning, and it certainly seems to have been a banner year for iPhones, iPads, eReaders, Androids, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).  Irvine Valley College hosted a symposium entitled "Mobility Matters" in March, where I joined Craig DeVoe, Jim Gaston, Bob Bramucci, and several others to discuss mobile computing and the impact of mobility on learning and higher education. (Incidentally, I'm going back to MPICT next month for the 2012 iteration; hope to see you there!)

3. Open Learning Heroes. The 2011 Online Teaching Conference at Orange Coast College used the theme "Be an Open Learning Hero" for good reason. Open educational resources are a growing part of the landscape. Early in 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor introduced the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program, a $2 billion effort that mandates the use of openly licensed materials. Open Educational Resource University (OERu) began to take shape this year, along with the Open Course Library. And State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg proposed a bill that will allocate $25 million to create free online college text books and establish the California Digital Open Source Library. View Jane Park's presentation, "Opening the Door to Sharing Content in Education," by clicking here. Eric Frank's talk - "Free the Text! How Open Texts are Disrupting Publishing and Improving Outcomes" - can be viewed here. And Steve Hargadon's keynote, "Open Learning: The Future of Education" is available here.


4. Learning is Social. Facebook now has 800 million users, more than half of whom are daily users. Over 900 million objects (pages, groups, events) are shared every day on the site, with 250 million new photos uploaded daily. 350 million of Facebook's active users connect from mobile devices. It took three years, two months, and a day from the first Tweet to the billionth Tweet on Twitter. Currently, it takes a week to send a billion Tweets.  Twitter now adds an average of 460,000 new accounts per day, and saw a 182% increase in mobile users in 2011. Google+ was introduced this year and is nearing 100 million users (all adult). Michelle Pacansky-Brock calls this "The Era of Participation" and we're all (willing or not) participants.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bring 'Em On Board: How to Get Your Colleagues to Confer

"The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance." - Alan Watts

"I have a mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it." - Groucho Marx

Julian Prior and Marie Salter at the University of Bath recently reported on their pilot of Web conferencing software at their university. With funding from HE STEM grants, and a need to connect teams in partner colleges and organizations, they decided to test the Web conferencing waters. Here's how they got their colleagues to wet their feet:

  • Interviews. Almost by accident (literally!), they discovered that candidates can be interviewed without the expense and bother of having to bring them to campus, order a room, and fill it with committee members. A candidate at Bath was hospitalized and could not attend her interview, but with this technology "she was able to respond to questions, complete the interview task planned, and demonstrate skills - just as she would have been able to do in a face-to-face situation."
  • Regional Conferences. They tested this with a group of lecturers and technologists who wanted to discuss lecture capture as a strategy. What better way to demonstrate than with a remote technology that allows for capturing and reviewing the proceedings?
  • Virtual Open Day. The Clinical Psychology department held a program that was so popular that there was insufficient space and resources for the students who wanted to attend. The solution: take the program online and allow everyone to participate.
  • Regional Meetings. Naturally, the far-flung HE-STEM network was quick to discover the ease and convenience of meeting online rather than traveling to meetings.
  • Case Study Presentations. The Chemistry department used the technology to present case studies.
  • Project Proposals. The Health Department - no stranger to distance education - used the technology to allow students in distant countries to present project proposals to on-campus mentors.
  • Postgraduate seminars.  A series of seminars was delivered to Masters students in Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Palestine, Syria, and the UK by means of Web conferencing.
  • Professional Development. The Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology made use of the virtual learning environment to deliver continuing professional development training.
The reactions of the Bath experimenters were positive and enthusiastic. They tried several technologies and shared their findings with each other and the larger professional community. Prior and Salter conclude that "we are in the enviable position of reporting overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants who have been involved in a number of different usage scenarios."

If you're feeling lonely on your campus because you haven't found other instructors or practitioners who've taken the leap of faith required to become a virtual instructor, consider trying some of these scenarios with your colleagues. Many of our most ardent supporters and users were first introduced to CCC Confer by means of an invitation to an online event like one of these. They became curious, and later found out for themselves that Web conferencing provides a solution to challenges in their own circumstances. Share it with someone you know. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Are You a Visitor, or Do You Live Here?















"I come from the Batman era, adding items to my utility belt while students today are the Borg from Star Trek, assimilating technology into their lives." - David Tuss


"They are used to the immediacy of hypertext, downloaded music, phones in their pockets – which are on 24/7; a library on their laptops/computers, and connectivity anytime, anywhere. They’ve been networked most or all of their lives. Being always connected is something natural to them, and they have conversations constantly going with their social networks via text messaging and instant messaging." - Eva Windisch and Niclas Medman


I've just read the "Visitors and Residents" paper by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu. They're proposing an alternative to Prensky's Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. One reason this may be necessary - aside from the fact that Prensky's model has been under fire lately - is because the native-immigrant model pre-dated social media. Prensky's "natives" lived in the digital information world, whereas today's "residents" live in a digital world that combines infinite information with relationships, social and political networks, and new approaches to teaching and learning. Visitors "understand the Web as akin to an untidy garden shed" where they find tools, do a job, and return the tool once the job is over. Residents "see the Web as a place ... in which there are clusters of friends and colleagues whom they can approach and with whom they can share information about their life and work."





This video gives a good summary of the visitors/residents idea, and you can access  (and use) the Prezi presentation here. Though I'm not sure the name change is necessary, the new definitions and typology appeal to me. Our students tend to fall into "use it to do this" vs. "Welcome to my world" categories.

Katie Piatt has collected some data to support the visitor/resident dichotomy, using a questionnaire with her students that asks these questions:

  1. Do you have any online friends that you have never met face to face?
  2. How often do you update your Facebook status or post on Twitter each day?
  3. Do you ever feel like you are missing out because you've been offline for a long time?
  4. Have you ever Googled yourself?
The first question is aimed at discovering online relationships. The second is a measure of desire to leave records of one's persona online. The third question distinguishes between the "native" and the "resident" by pointing at the value of conversations and relationships - as opposed to mere information - online. The last question tries to indicate one's attachment to a digital identity.

The distinction might help explain students' approaches to your virtual classroom, and even your own approach. Do you miss online time with your students, chatting, sharing, laughing, networking? Are you inclined to force students to report what they're doing every day? Is the Web your home, or do you just come here to teach?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Connecting with Students: It's a Whole New World

"If I had asked our students, faculty, and staff before all of this if they thought social media was a huge part of their lives and work, the answer would have been no. But now, many are seeing that it is a really big part of how we behave and what we do." (Eric Darr, Provost at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology)
Last week, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology imposed a ban on social media sites: students' access to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and AOL Instant Messenger. The idea, according to Eric Darr (quoted above), was that " the set of technology we call “social media” has a big impact on the way students, faculty, and staff here at the university live their lives and do their work. It’s not just a peripheral time-waster. But posing this to students in an academic setting didn’t seem to quite get to it; habits are very hard to talk about and articulate because we’re not aware that we’re doing them. Imagine a world without social media! " Darr claims that several students reported less stress, better concentration, and improved sleep once the ban was enacted. He also acknowledges that the ban didn't really work:  the proportion of students who actually went "cold turkey" was probably around 10% or 15%.
Also last week, the second Education Nation summit was held at Rockefeller Center in New York City. This summit brought together some of the nation's most prominent education reformers, policymakers, and funders to discuss important and emerging educational trends and policies. Ann Curry of NBC also convened a very important panel of - students (!!!) to provide insights and suggestions about what's important to them about education. They suggested 20 things, but I'll highlight a few that stand in sharp contrast to the Harrisburg experiment:
  •  I can't learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.
  • Us youth love all the new technologies that come out. When you acknowledge this and use technology in your teaching it makes learning much more interesting.
  • We appreciate when you connect with us in our worlds such as the teacher who provided us with extra help using Xbox and Skype.
  • You need to use tools in the classroom that we use in the real world like Facebook, email, and other tools we use to connect and communicate.
Finally, I've included in this entry a snapshot of a Facebook conversation I had this week with a young woman from India (I've intentionally protected her privacy by smearing her name and profile picture) who posted on CCC Confer's Facebook page. At first I thought she was asking for training materials related to using the technology, which would have been fine and even a bit flattering. But it became clear in the conversation that she had an interest in the archived lectures of a particular instructor at a particular college in California who teaches high-tech computer classes. Here's an illustration of how dramatically the technologies of lecture capture, synchronous online education, and social networking combined to make international connections and learning possible. (I checked yesterday: the instructor and the student are now Facebook friends.)

Ironically, this week was Banned Books week: libraries around the country held programs and readings to discuss the evils of censorship and content restrictions. Ban (Face)book? Not in my world!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Five Reasons You Need to Learn to Web Conference

CCC Confer has grown tremendously since 2003, both in terms of adoption by constituents and usage by the general population. Many have embraced this technology to the extent that it is now the medium of choice for holding meetings, conducting classes, or engaging with students. Several people have told me that CCC Confer has acquired such an important role in their everyday work lives that they could no longer work or do business without it.

 How about you? Are you straddling the fence, wondering when the technology will become easier to use or more reliable? Are you concerned about support? Do you worry about security? You may want to check out some testimonials to change your perspective.

Meanwhile, consider these arguments in favor of Web conferencing in your future:

  1. No travel time. You can meet with your class, colleagues, team, or organization anytime, from anywhere. No rental car, traffic jam, airline security scan, hotel stay, hunt for decent food. No need to change clothes. Take travel out of your budget and bring the world to your desktop.
  2. No back seats. In the face-to-face meeting or class room, somebody sits in the front and others have to sit away from the speaker, away from the screen, and removed from where the action is. Not so the Confer room: everyone has equal access to the presentation content and the speakers' voices. No straining to hear or craning to look around the person in front.
  3. Better brainstorming and interaction. That's right: in the Confer environment, you'll get better sharing of ideas than in the face-to-face situation, provided you use the tools. You can let participants add ideas anonymously to a whiteboard, respond to polls, chat privately and publicly, and convene in private rooms to work out side issues. 
  4. Your reach can exceed your grasp. Your local campus or office building will always be an obstacle to some of your potential audience members. The home-bound, handicapped, geographically challenged, schedule-challenged, or otherwise-unable-to-come-to-you student or colleague can be reached now with little effort from either of you. The world is literally available to you, and you to it.
  5. Kodak moments. Did you ever wish you could capture a class you'd taught or attended so that you could review it later for better understanding? Do your meeting notes and minutes suffer from an inability to "rewind" and get the statements right? With Confer, recorded sessions are a snap to create and access. 
 There are plenty of other reasons, but those should get you motivated. Watch this spot to learn more.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Can You See Free Code in Your Future?

"Do you pine for the days when men were men and wrote their own device drivers? " (Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel, and David Diamond, Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, Collins, 2001)

Open Source and free digital content have been big in education news this week, and I couldn't help but notice. For example:
  • Google concluded the seventh Summer of Code this week. More than a thousand college students from 68 countries participated this year, all dedicated to creating and sharing code. The program pairs students with mentors, with the purpose of writing code for 175 open source organizations. Students get a shot at sampling future employment, and the organizations receive the benefit of expert and peer-reviewed programming. The rest of us benefit from source code that we can use or adapt.
  • A major database of academic journal articles, JSTOR, declared this week, "we are making journal content in JSTOR published prior to 1923 in the United States and prior to 1870 elsewhere freely available to anyone, anywhere in the world.  This “Early Journal Content” includes discourse and scholarship in the arts and humanities, economics and politics, and in mathematics and other sciences.  It includes nearly 500,000 articles from more than 200 journals." You may recall that on July 19, Aaron Swartz of DemandProgress was indicted for capturing nearly 5 million of JSTOR's articles onto a laptop hidden in an MIT closet. Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for the State of Massachusetts, was quoted saying, "Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars." Ironically, the "stolen" articles are now free for the taking.
  • Michael S. Hart, inventor of the e-book and founder of Project Gutenberg (the first producer of free e-books), died this week. Read his obituary here.
  • A "crowdsourced" e-book, Hacking the Academy, was published this week by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. The work was compiled from a week of blogs and tweets posted in one week in May of 2010. As Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt explain in the Preface, "We asked for contributions to a collectively produced volume that would explore how the academy might be beneficially reformed using digital media and technology. The process of creating the edited volume itself would be a commentary on the way things are normally done in scholarly communication, with submissions coming in through multiple channels, including blogs, Twitter, and email, and in multiple formats—everything from a paragraph to a long essay to multimedia. We also encouraged interactivity—the possibility that contributors could speak directly to each other, rather than creating the inert, isolated chapters that normally populate edited volumes. We then sent out notices via our social networks, which quickly and extensively disseminated the call for submissions. Finally, we gave contributors a mere seven days, the better to focus their attention and energy." The result: 330 submissions from 177 authors. And, of course, it's free.
As director of projects that offer content to educators and students, I'm happy to see so many signs that free access to educational content is a shared goal of peers and pioneers around the world.

It was a good week.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Are You Using the 4Cs to Go Above and Beyond?

"Storytelling  is a powerful tool for teaching and learning. It's also a powerful tool for humanizing and clearly conveying complex messages and ideas." - Peter H. Reynolds, co-founder of Fablevision.

Reynolds proves his point with a video that illustrates the "four Cs" of 21st century learning: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity, Above and Beyond. Please take a look:



The video was written and illustrated by Mr. Reynolds and released by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and Fablevision. There's also a poster you can download here to reinforce the lesson.

In the virtual classroom, communication is necessary to define problems and make solutions possible. Students and instructors can discuss concepts and misunderstandings, share information, clarify ideas, and develop new visions by using the audio tools, text chat areas, polls and emoticons, and whiteboard.

Collaboration makes it possible for collective or group efforts to exceed those of any individual. The virtual classroom allows students to work in breakout rooms, where they can present ideas and projects, work on problems, share computer applications, and come to consensus.

Critical thinking requires students to test hypotheses or assumptions and solve problems by means of a disciplined approach. Instructors in the virtual classroom can reinforce this skill by allowing individuals and groups to actively apply their skills in solving problems that the rest of the class can analyze and critique.

Creativity, the fourth C, involves new approaches and innovative processes. Newsweek recently lamented The Creativity Crisis, citing research that American creativity is declining. In the virtual classroom, instructors can encourage creative approaches by allowing divergent thinkers to mix with convergent thinkers, letting old ways of thinking combine with new insights or ideas.  A recent study from IBM's Institute for Business Value shows that creativity is the most desired leadership quality among today's chief executives.

In a world where we are all interconnected and interdependent, students need the 4 Cs to interpret complex situations and find successful approaches to dealing with them. Let's help them by showing our own innovative natures in the virtual classroom.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Presence Is Not Learning, But It Helps

"[T]he social presence construct is somewhat problematic and requires further articulation and clarification if it is to be of use to future researchers seeking to inform our understanding of online teaching and learning." - Peter Shea,  and Temi Bidjerano (2010). Learning presence: Towards a theory of self-efficacy, self-regulation, and the development of a communities of inquiry in online and blended learning environments. Computers & Education, 55(4), p. 17.

There's been a lot of attention in online education circles to "presence" in the online classroom. Much of this is traceable to the "Community of Inquiry" model proposed by Garrison, Anderson and Archer in 2000, in which social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence are seen as essential attributes of online instruction. Social presence is reinforced online (e.g., in the Confer classroom) by using emoticons, seeding the chat room, injecting humorous remarks, greeting students, asking individuals for opinions, and so on. Teaching presence is reflected in direct instruction (lecturing), demonstration, lesson designs, feedback, focused discussion, and similar activities. Cognitive presence is "the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication." This happens when the class collaboratively engages in problem-solving, brainstorming, exchanging information, exploring ideas, testing solutions, integrating new knowledge, etc.

Of course, this makes sense to online instructors in the Confer classroom (and anyone who's been following these blog posts). We've learned a lot about how to promote interaction and learner engagement by using smiley faces judiciously, inserting chat comments, and allowing students to write on our whiteboards. We can demonstrate how a well-designed Confer class session moves students from one concept to another and elicits their responses and understanding. And we're sold on the use of breakout rooms for collabative groupwork, application sharing to elicit interactive demonstration, and using the Confer toolset to maximize cognitive presence.

But presence is not all that's involved in learning. Getting students to interact with one another - and the instructor - are terrific ways to start the learning process. Reflection can be accomplished in a group environment as well. Talking to the instructor is essential. But there's an important element - instructional content - that requires individual learner engagement. Students have to read and digest texts, charts, data, practice exercises, notes, and subject matter in order to learn in most classes. Some of this can be done in the Confer classroom, but it's hard to imagine that all of it can. Every learner is unique, and individual intellects develop uniquely.

Knowledge is cumulative and community-based, and the interchange of ideas is vital to cognitive growth. So is critical thinking, studying, reflecting, assimilating, remembering, and practicing. Some of these are done together in the Confer classroom, and some necessarily occur in other contexts. But when they're allowed to co-exist, it's beautiful.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How to Make Demonstrations Interactive

“If you use application sharing only for instructor-presented demonstrations, participant attention will soon drift. Instead, make demonstrations interactive by creating a series of completion examples that lead to a full practice exercise.” (Clark and Kwinn, The New Virtual Classroom: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Synchronous e-Learning, 2007, p. 115)

Instructors use interactive demonstrations to help students master a concept or technique that is eluding them, either because of misunderstandings, ambiguity, or the need for real-world or "concrete" examples. Application sharing is a tool in the Confer classroom that provides this kind of capability, and it can be used effectively to allow students to become involved in the subject matter, experience it by performing specified tasks, and reflect on the outcome.

If you're unfamiliar with application sharing, review the options in this video tutorial. As an instructor, you can request control of a student's desktop, and you can even decide to give control of your own desktop to a student. This is a great way to involve your students in real-time problem solving, demonstrations, and practice, but it requires some preparation on your part to make it work well.  Here are some tips:

  1. Decide what you want students to see on your desktop, in what order, and how much of any given application (or document, screen, etc.) you want them to see. Here's a good explanation of why this is important.
  2. As you share your applications, explain to students what they're seeing and what you're doing. This also applies when students are sharing their (or your) applications. As the screen changes, students can become disoriented by pixellation or sudden moves, so it's important to interpret these changes by relating them to the actions that caused the screen changes. See this video for more information.
  3. Define the area of your desktop that will be seen by students. (This relates to the first point.) You want them to see certain areas, but not (usually) your Confer desktop. You can define this area in advance.
  4. Allow students to do what you're doing. Give one student control of your application, so that the other students will see these actions and hear your explanations along with those of the students. This approach keeps students "on their toes" because it makes everyone realize that they may be required to help demonstrate the application at any point during your class session.
Here are some examples of instructors who use application sharing for various instructional purposes.









Friday, June 3, 2011

Learning from the Confer Community

"We use the term community centered to refer to several aspects of community, including the classroom as a community, the school as a community, and the degree to which students, teachers, and administrators feel connected to the larger community of homes, businesses, states, the nation, and even the world." - John Bransford, Ann Brown, and James Pellegrino (eds.), How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (NAP, 2000).

The Confer community hasn't actually formalized yet, but it's available to anyone struggling with synchronous online instruction or toying with the idea of learning a new skill set that will make online classes more vibrant and effective. Every week, educators post archives of their classes, Webinars, and meetings in which tips and advice are freely shared. You can build a better lesson plan or help stretch your online skills without much exertion: all you have to do is drop in with a point-and-click. Here's a sampling of some of the amazing things I've seen from the Confer community in the past month:


 




Supporting your students in the online environment-How and Why with Peggy Hohensee, Michelle Lis, and Gina Quesinberry






Friday, May 6, 2011

The Death of Distance

"Physical distance has vanished." - Yong Zhao, in Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization

My friend Pierre Thiry teaches high technology classes to students in Paris, France from his office in San Francisco. He does this in real time using CCC Confer's technology, and he tells me the students are enthusiastic and he is having a great time with the class. This venture could not have been attempted without the positive experiences Pierre and his colleagues at MPICT (Mid-Pacific Information and Communication Technologies) have had over the last two years using CCC Confer to make distance disappear.



Pierre's MPICT colleague Michael McKeever discovered that CCC Confer makes it possible for him to keep students in his classes even when they are unable to attend the physical classroom. He has had students travel to India for weddings, move out of state for jobs, or leave his college's district for various reasons. With Confer, they've been able to finish their classes by attending them online. Michael also teaches some classes so specialized that his own college does not have enough students qualified or interested in taking them. But he can get sufficient enrollment for these classes by drawing from five or six other colleges who offer a similar curriculum.



Michael even shows students how distance is dead by demonstrating the network routes Confer uses to provide real-time interaction across the ocean. From his classroom in Santa Rosa, California, he locates the 22 hops the data take to get to the network location of a student in Shanghai, China. He uses traceroute to locate the province router, the CHINANET backbone, the "leap" across the Pacific to San Jose, and the final jumps to Santa Rosa Junior College.

To the instructor and student in the Confer classroom, there is no distance. Each sees the other (if cameras are in use) or the other's data from a front row seat. Interactions between students in the next room or in the next county have equal impact. There are no geographical borders, barriers, or limitations to interfere with the teaching and learning process.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Results Prove: Online Student Support Leads to Student Success

"Online support transforms online classes from 30-40% killing grounds to more successful environments than classrooms." - Dr. Patt McDermid, Professor of Literature and Humanities at Sierra College

Sierra College has, over four years, collected significant data demonstrating the efficiency of online tutoring using CCC Confer in its Online Writing Center. Each semester's student population and results were gathered meticulously and the results are impressive.

Here's Patt discussing some of the statistics:


Students participating in the Online Writing Center (OWC) in the spring of 2009 succeeded at an impressive rate of 90% compared with their non-participating counterparts who managed only a 48% success rate.  Moreover, all of the 59 individuals who participated in the OWC remained in the course, resulting in a 100% retention rate compared with an overall rate of 70-78% in online courses.



 The data also indicate that online student support was more effective than face-to-face (on-ground) support. 

In the much more significant area of online student success - completing a course with a grade of “C” or better - 9 out of 10 students who received online writing help, regardless of those students’ assessed skill levels, received grades of ”C” or better.
As Patt says, "This thing really, really works."

Friday, April 8, 2011

When Travel Budgets Disappear, Teamwork Grows

"Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation." -  Elizabeth Drew
World Wide Web of Informatin
"The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway." - Henry Boye 

Colleges and organizations throughout the state and country are slashing travel budgets to save money. We've done the same thing here at CCC Confer, and I have to admit that I don't miss the hotels, restaurant tabs, tips, airports, toll roads, car rentals, packing and unpacking, lost items, or germy travel environments as much as I thought I might. And I'm getting more done - with more people - by staying in my office and meeting with them virtually. Now that more people are foregoing statewide trips, I'm getting more opportunities to introduce them to the quickest, easiest, and most effective way to bring teams from different geographical locations together. 

I recently helped to host an event at a local college that required speakers and attendees to drive to the event, food to be prepared and served, tables to be set up, equipment to be arranged, and a sound and video system to be tested. It took two hours to set up the room, ensure that the microphones and projector were working properly, skirt and decorate the tables, and work with the caterers. The keynote speakers each drove more than 100 miles to attend, so they also needed two hours advance time to get to the meeting and another two hours afterward to drive home.

For the same event, if it were to be held virtually, it would require less than five minutes to order the meeting and send e-mail invitations to all attendees. Loading the speakers' presentation might take another two minutes, and testing the audio connections might add another minute. In less than ten minutes, we'd be ready to go, and no one would have had to leave the home or office!

In the large room where my local college's event was held, there were corners of the room where it was difficult to see and read the speakers' slides, and even the P-A system was unable to bring an equally clear signal to all participants. The sunlight streaming through the windows reduced the visual clarity of the content, making it even harder to make out all of the images on the screen. In a Confer presentation, everyone sees exactly the same images and hears the same audio signals: there are no "cheap seats" in this environment and no problems with lighting. One of the speakers, anticipating potential problems with the room and presentation, brought more than 100 paper copies of his presentation, which had to be distributed throughout the room. In the Confer meeting room, a single click distributes a file instantly to all participants (even those who aren't in attendance but are able to view the archive later). 

I'm not celebrating the budget crisis or decrying the virtues of travel. After all, I've got a collection of school gear from California colleges that can only be complete if I'm able to visit more schools. But there's no question that we waste a lot of time and money with face-to-face meetings that can easily be saved by taking the meetings online. With a good agenda, a prepared moderator, and motivated team members, you can accomplish more in a virtual meeting than is possible in most face-to-face conferences. I'm just happy that so many of my colleagues are discovering this for themselves and coming away from Confer experiences pleasantly surprised.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Critical Teaching and Learning Issues Worldwide

"I am gratified to see that new technologies such as collaboration and video are globally increasing in importance in education, as they can open the door to a world of opportunities for students, regardless of socio-economic status or geographical location." - Renee Patton

A global survey recently commissioned by Cisco and conducted by Clarus Research Group indicates that more than three-quarters of educational administrators and officials around the world  believe educational technology can change how students learn and how teachers teach. The countries surveyed were Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom; poll respondents were evenly divided between higher education and K-12. 

Learning Issues
  • 86% noted the need for programs and curriculum that develop skills in team- and project- based learning, with an emphasis on modern communications technologies.
  • 85% of these educators saw technology playing a "large role" in how students learn, and were hopeful that student engagement and participation could be increased by using technology in education.
  • 83% of  respondents cited the need to prepare students to compete in a global economy, including the need for effective and productive use of technology.
 Technology Issues
  • The top concerns of these educators were protection from Internet abuse, improved collaboration technologies, stronger cybersecurity measures, and administrative efficiencies that can be achieved through technology.
  • Embedding video and multimedia resources in the learning process were seen by most of the respondents as a near-term goal.
  • 65% of the higher education officials see online international programs as a realistic opportunity to enlarge their virtual student body within the next five years.
Regional Perspectives
  • Respondents from the Asia-Pacific region placed highest priority on communications with students and investment in the research infrastructure.
  • European educators were mainly concerned about funding, online security, and increasing their international presence.
  • Latin America rated highest on overall aspirations for education. 
Today's educational climate stresses globalization and technology, as my friend Yong Zhao explains in his new book, Catching Up or Leading the Way. You can learn more about these issues by watching the archive of Yong's recent Webinar here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Using Students Experts

"An expert knows all the answers - if you ask the right questions." - Levi Strauss. "Have you heard of this new thing called the internet? It's giving people new expectations. It's allowing them to become their own expert. Knowledge lies anxious at their fingertips." - Roy H. Williams


Angie Thompson's "daily experts" technique is a simple way to encourage student participation - both in traditional and online classes. "I list five or six students’ names on a PowerPoint slide at the beginning of my classes.... These individuals, assuming they are in class, then become my daily experts—the first ones I ask questions to or opinions of before opening discussion to the whole class. " Thompson says this technique breaks the ice and helps students realize that she is approachable. Other benefits she cites are providing for one-on-one interaction in large classes, encouraging class preparation, allowing all students at least one chance to speak in class, helping the instructor to learn names, and offering engagement to the entire class. I suspect that the accountability for class attendance - knowing that your name may be on the board today - may be positively affected as well. 


Anonymity in the Confer classroom is both a good and bad thing. It's good when students don't feel embarrassed about their opinions or lack of skill. It's bad when students become disengaged, alienated, and feel that their performance and/or participation are unimportant or ignored. Having a technique like "daily experts" - which reinforces accountability - allows you as an instructor to make sure that your students feel individually responsible for paying attention, coming to class prepared, and participating in their own learning experience. 


Since you have a class roster with the names of students always available, you don't have to prepare a PowerPoint slide before class with the names of the day's experts. Instead, you can select from the list of those present. Using the whiteboard tools, you can have the experts posted (see the image above) as an initial class activity, which will add to the intrigue and anticipation of the session. Doing this acknowledges students' presence and helps you (and the other students) get to know them as individuals. Students will begin to appreciate that there is no "hiding" in your classroom. And you'll benefit from the insights they give you into how well the material is being absorbed and understanding is growing.



Saturday, February 19, 2011

On the Horizon



The New Media Consortium's 2011 Horizon Report, produced jointly with EDUCAUSE, predicts technologies which will have a large impact on teaching, learning, and creative expression in higher education. Now in its eighth year of publication, the report is distinguished by predictions of adoption cycles in education; i.e., how long it will take teachers and schools to actually use these emerging tools. Let's look at what's on the near-term (one year or less) horizon.
 
Mobile computing is on the short adoption cycle (as with last year's report). Last year, Horizon cited the wide range of activities mobile devices make possible; this year, the report says, "mobiles are here because so many people use them as their first choice for accessing networked resources." For online instructors, the impact of mobile devices is that they can literally teach from and to anywhere there is a cell signal. I'm looking forward to the Java-enabled mobile device that supports Confer sessions, and at the same time I'm pushing for a mobile-ready version of the Confer classroom.


Also singled out for near term adoption are electronic books. Yes, we all know that texts can be downloaded and read on mobile devices, and that both devices and content are now readily available. But that's not the real point: "What makes electronic books a potentially transformative technology is the new kinds of reading experiences that they make possible." What's happening with this new technology is that our definition of "reading" is changing, with audiovisual, interactive, and social components mixing into the act and extending the process.


These predictions will be welcomed by iPhone, Android, Kindle, iPad, and shiny new app owners. It's important to remember, though, that we serve a student population that includes a large number for whom constant Internet access is not a given, and some for whom "reading" on a small screen is more of an obstacle than an advantage. We have to be careful not to create a new digital divide: between the mobile "haves" and the desktop- or "dumb-phone"- bound "have-nots": new technology adoption has to occur in a relevant and practical context.

Meanwhile, I'm excited by what's on the horizon. How about you?
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