Distance Learning Training and Resources for Educators

Posts tagged ‘Education’

Are we graduating smarter, more prepared students in the digital age?

I recently attended and presented at the NC3ADL Distance Learning Conference.  It was great to see my old friends and colleagues at the Raleigh Convention Center especially since I retired from full time teaching and distance learning administration at Carteret Community College.

Presenting at the NC3ADL Conference

Presenting at the NC3ADL Conference

One thing that struck me while attending one of the conference sessions was just how many amazing and powerful digital tools and applications we as educators have at our disposal for delivering (teaching) our courses compared to 20-30 years ago. The digital (internet) age has changed (impacted) education at all levels dramatically.

The question I have is… are we graduating smarter more prepared students because of all these new, powerful and sophisticated instructional tools and applications?  I hate to admit it, however, I would have to say no if I were to base my answer on my personal experiences as an online educator. Students and teachers now have access to endless amounts of information with a click of the mouse, more than any time in human history.  Is this seamless and easy access making us smarter? Is it making us better teachers? Is it making our students smarter and more prepared for viable careers after they graduate? Are all the technological tools, applications, systems, networks and sophisticated software making the educational experience better and more effective than 20-30 years ago? I think this is a conversation we as educators need to be having.

Could the inundation of information and digital tools like cell phones, laptops, tablets and IPads and IPods make us more distracted and possibly overwhelmed to the point where we can’t possibly process the vast amount of data and information coming at us from commercial, political, and educational realms.

Speaking for myself I feel somewhat overwhelmed by the constant flow of digital content coming at me from morning to night. I teach exclusively online and incorporate a wide array of instructional material into my online classes. Everything from podcasts, screencasts, instructional videos, graphics, animations, and text based content.  Teaching and learning in 2013 is so incredibly different than it was back in the 1950’s, 60’s and even into the 80’s before the computer and the internet.

Students now have the same access to information their instructors have. Is it now the teachers role to help students decipher this information, make sense of it and put it into context?  The roles and relationships between teachers and students is certainly changing (evolving) and have been for the past 15 years.

I personally think there are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the state of education in America. We certainly spend more than any other country on schools, colleges and education in general.  I’m just not convinced we are getting the best bang for our buck and I wonder if we could be doing a better job with the incredibly powerful instructional tools and applications we have at our disposal as educators in the digital realm.

Could it possibly be that the technology could possibly be getting in the way and/or inhibiting the process of learning?  I see many students struggling to stay focused on one learning activity  (task) because he/she is distracted by checking facebook, texting or surfing the internet. There may be more to this than we as educators think and we may have to come up with new and creative strategies for dealing with and addressing these issues.    Just sayin…..

Here is the world education ranking for 2012. USA dropped to 17th in developed countries. Finland and South Korea kicked out butts! Can’t we do better than this?

Click Here for Global Report on Education.

Noel-Levitz Conference Debrief

Journal Entry from July 24th rethink

Sitting in my hotel room with my bags packed and ready to head back to North Carolina, I have a few minutes to digest the varied issues that were addressed at this Noel-Levitz conference that dramatically impact educational institutions from every state in the country.

2009_0317_shutterstock_cable_recessionThe number one issue is the economic downturn and how it’s impacting educational institutions throughout America. I walk away from the conference more positive about this challenge than negative because of the way conference presenter’s framed it and turned it around to be an opportunity for positive change and growth rather than an insurmountable hurdle.

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I also feel good about the presentation Title III Project Director Don Staub and I gave the first morning of the conference. We had very positive feedback and participation from our audience. Sharing the strides we’ve made at Carteret Community College made me realize that our efforts are paying off and the grant has been a catalyst for changing the culture of the college for the better when it comes to technology, distance learning, outcomes and assessment of all we do.

Considering I was out of my element at a conference that concerned marketingtexas3 and retention rather than distance learning, I was pleasantly surprised at the excellent quality of the presentations and how I learned no matter what area of education your in, whether that be faculty, staff and/or administration we are all facing the same challenges and grappling with rapidly changing instructional delivery technologies and student demographics that no longer fit the mold we as educators created decades ago.

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One thing is certain. We can no longer conduct business the same way with the same outdated models. We have to be willing to completely and totally rethink how we offer our instructional services to our students. These are students that are very VERY different than the students that attended our colleges 10, 15, 20 years ago. They communicate differently, socialize differently, learn differently and think about their education and careers very differently, and this reality in itself demands that we rethink how we serve and teach them.

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I for one am excited about the challenges ahead, however as I consider some strategies for overcoming these hurdles I think about the bureaucratic road blocks and archaic mindsets we must break through in order to seriously compete and grow in this ever changing, dynamic global economy, where students shop for the best services and colleges online and no longer have to attend the institution in their geographical region thanks to online education. That seems to be one of our biggest challenges as educational institutions. To change the culture and attitudes about education and how we conduct business – because it is no longer business as usual.

innnvjpgMany colleges still use the outdated and archaic industrial revolution model to teach their students. This approach for the most part is no longer viable and one of the first things we must take a good hard look at when rethinking how we operate and deliver instruction. We should also take a hard look at the nine to five, Monday – Friday work week. Is this still viable? I walk away from this conference realizing that absolutely everything we do should be on the table for reevaluation. There should be no sacred cows during this process of self examination.

We have an excellent opportunity to rethink how we operate, streamline, and begin retooling all aspects of our college services and instructional modalities. Unfortunately instructional technologies (and our students) are changing at a must faster rate than we can change so their must be a sense of urgency about our ability to compete and remain viable in this dynamically digital and wired world we find ourselves in.

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We should be soul searching and asking ourselves some questions. How are we communicating to our students? How are we marketing to them? How are we delivering our services to them? Do we go to them or expect them to come to us. Is our web site visually dynamic and interactive? Are we exploring the potential of social networks as a way to be more proactive in meeting our students needs? There are many questions to ask and we may not have all the answers and solutions right away, BUT if we don’t start seriously asking these questions at our institutions we are going to (in the not to distant future) find ourselves losing touch with the very market that sustains us.

Reinventing Teaching and Learning

2009-2I recently attended the NC3ADL (NC Community College Association of Distance Learning) Conference in Raleigh, NC and was struck by what the keynote speaker NC Community College President Dr. Scott Rawls said in his talk. Dr. Rawls hit a nerve with me and got me thinking about the nature of education as it relates to the current budget crises and America’s ability (and desire) to compete in the “Global Marketplace”. The following article is what I took away from his talk.

The nature of education started changing about 10 years ago. It began slowly as more and more people learned about the internet and the potential of e-mail to communicate with one another. Now after this incremented paradigm shift educator’s are at a crossroads. I believe it’s time we take a good hard look at where we were, where we are and where we want to go as teachers and learners. Today’s communication tools are so incredibly powerful and sophisticated it’s almost as if the course management systems available for teaching and learning have outpaced educators (and students) ability to use them effectively. The Industrial Revolution educational model has run its course and educators must reinvent themselves and learn how to harness and incorporate these new instructional delivery tools and techniques in order to teach students their course content in creative and innovative ways in the online environment

It’s also up to today’s educators to help students transition away from the old “archaic” learning model of “sage on stage” while sitting attentively in rows of desks towards a more interactive, engaging and dynamic learning environment that incorporates a host of new tools and systems such as Blackboard, Moodle, discussion boards, video conferencing, instant messaging, facebook and blogs. moodle_logo

I don’t see this as an optim for educators in 2009. I believe it’s imperative if we are serious about preparing our students for the highly “global” competitive work environment they’ll be competing in. There is sense of urgency now because of dramatic budget cuts in education throughout the county. We must continue to teach our students, but do it in more effective, innovative and proactive ways. list-service1

Teachers in 2009 must develop new skill sets over and above their knowledge of specific course content. Computer literacy is now a must for all educators and learners. but that’s only the first step. Harnessing and incorporating online communication tools and applications into their courses is the next step towards breaking away from the industrial mold and reinventing the dynamic between teaching and learning effectively in both online and traditional environments. Aggressive, proactive and extensive professional development at all levels is key to making this technological shift and changing how we think about teaching and learning.

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First educators must learn how to use these various instructional delivery tools and then begin changing the way they deliver their course content, in addition to adapting their methodology and expectations to the online environment. This process has already begun. The technological snowball is rolling down the hill and no one is going to stop it. That’s why it’s essential for educators and administrators to regroup, rethink and reinvent their instructional methods before diving into the web enhanced world of education blindly.

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After all, you can’t build a home if you don’t know how to use power tools and you can’t teach and compete in the online environment and the global economy if you don’t understand course management systems and the vast array of communication tools that can be incorporated into instructional delivery. flickr_153718581