Distance Learning Training and Resources for Educators

Posts tagged ‘Online 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.

Strategies for Expanding your e-learning Skills

Harnessing the Tools and Technologies for Online Teaching.

technology

 


E-Learning is growing at such a rapid pace because it is…..


• Market Driven
• Student Driven
• Technology Driven
• Budget Driven

Education at all levels is changing very rapidly (understatement)

Question we must all ask ourselves…

Do we want to be behind the technological curve or ahead of it?

If we want to stay ahead of this technological wave then we must harness and effectively implement the technology we have at our disposal for delivering and assessing our course content.

1. Master the LMS (Learning Management System)

Moodle / Blackboard / Angel etc.

2. Look at your CMS as your teaching / learning hub.

From your CMS platform you can add a variety of “open source” tools that can enhance / enrich the online learning experience.

3. What other online tools/applications do you want to incorporate into your CMS

Skype, YouTube, ITunes U, Join.me, Twitter, Blogging, Jing, Photobucket, Flickr, Voicethread, to name a few.

4. Develop an online teaching methodology that is a reflection of your personal teaching style and draws from some e-learning best practices. An approach that enables your personality to come through. An approach that lets students know there is a compassionate, engaged, enthusiastic teacher on the other end that sincerely cares about their learning and success. This is the biggest challenge or online educators in my opinion and will take the most time so don’t get frustrated as you are climbing this learning curve.

Lets take a look at a cross section of these online tools and see what each one does best as to instructional delivery.

Each tool/application in the CMS plays a specific role in delivering (and/or assessing) your course content (instruction) and then you add additional tools to broaden and enhance the functionality of your course.

Within the CMS

• Discussion Forums
• Assignment Manager BB / Advanced Uploading of Files Moodle
• Lessons / Create Web Pages/Glossaries
• Test Manager (BB) – Quiz Function Moodle
• Blog / Wiki / external links
• Announcements

e-learning

Open Source (Outside CMS)

YouTube and Vimeo

Great for embedding tutorials that either you create or find on Youtube into your course. YouTube for lectures under 10-15 minutes and Vimeo for over 15 minutes.
Anything you ever wanted to know about Photoshop for example is in a tutorial on YouTube. You just have to sift through and find and embed the best most viable tutorials for your lesson.

Slideshare.net

Great for embedding powerpoint slide shows / lessons directly into CMS instead of linking to them for download.

Jing / Screenflow / Camtasia

I use these tools for screencast tutorials. You can record your screen and your voice as you demonstrate a technique in Photoshop or In-Design for example. Jing for quick and dirty and Screenflow for longer presentations. These can be linked or embedded directly into Moodle or Blackboard.

Audacity for Audio Editing Podcasts

Excellent (FREE) audio editing software. Very shallow learning curve to let you create audio podcasts (MP3’s)

podcasts

Enhanced Podcasts (Illustrated with images / video)

Great for demonstrating “hands’on”  activities like a dissection in Biology or Chemistry Experiments.

IMovie, Movie Maker or Camtasia will allow you to create visually sophisticated enhanced podcasts for your lectures and demonstrations.

Once I create these I will upload to ITunes U, YouTube and/or Vimeo and embed them into my courses. These do not have to be fancy or highly sophisticated productions. I usually have a student keep an eye on my video camera as I demonstrate a basic lighting technique on the sweep for example. After class I put a title on it – edit out any bad spots and then embed it into the Blackboard or Moodle class.

Join.meYuuguu (Screensharing)

Low budget way to share your screen with students for “real-time” synchronous critiques. Just send the students a link and they are viewing your screen. You would use this in conjunction with Skype so you can all have a conversation while discussing a Photoshop technique or critiquing an image.

Skype  (online office hours, conference calls and screensharing)

Google Hangouts! Great for lectures, demonstrations, critique sessions and student meetings or real time lectures.

I find skype and google hangouts bot invaluable for office hours and online meetings. Students seem to be very open to meeting me on skype to discuss a project, look at work or just discuss a school or personal issue.

Twitter for Reminders and Course Updates

We have faculty using Twitter for sending out updates (reminders) to students about various course related projects, due dates, course changes and share short bits of information. All students are asked to create a course twitter account and subscribe to the instructor. I see a lot of possibilities with this tool.

Drop Box

Great for storing images or have students place their work in a central location for you to evaluate and/or critique.

Voice Thread

Another excellent quick and dirty voice with images application that you can embed into a discussion board or anywhere into a CMS.

WordPress Blog for easy web e-portfolios, journeling, travel logs, marketing.

I am a big proponent of blogging for educational purposes and e-portfolio’s.  All my student set-up a portfolio blog the 2nd year of our Photo Program. They set-up pages for each discipline like Portraiture, Sports/ Action, Fine Art, Documentary, Commercial Illustration in addition to posting their artist statements, resume’s etc. Click Here for an example from one of my graduating students. Ira Morris BloG

Rachel Eddins Photo Blog

ITunes U

Excellent and expansive resource for instructional podcasts and video content. You just have to search for topics that relate to your course and download the podcasts and embed them into your course. All ITunes U colleges must sign an agreement that everything they upload to ITunes U is free to anyone who wants to use it in their online courses for edicational purposes. There is a vast array of Photo History Lectures in ITunes U for example. Why reinvent the wheel when someone has already created and made available excellent photo/art media content.

ITunes U Carteret Site

This is the student link to my College ITunes U site. I have over 200 audio and enhanced podcasts in my various photo course tabs. Students can download my podcasts (lectures and demonstrations) to their mobile devices or watch them while sitting at their computer. I do all my exam reviews as podcasts and students download them and listen before taking the exam.

Photobucket and Flickr

Online repositories for storing, sharing and commenting on images. You can have students post a link to their photobucket album or flickr stream to the discussion board and then you can review – post comments and help with editing and sequencing their pictures. Flickr seems to have more functionality for editing and sequencing than photobucket.

IMovie / MovieMaker

IMove for Mac users for making quick enhanced podcasts and instructional videos – Movie Maker is the alternative for PC users as far as being easy to use and enables you to create videos that can be uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo or Itunes U.

Keynote

Take a PowerPoint and add narrative then save as a mov. or MP4 file

dragonDragon Naturally Speaking

I would imagine this software is going to be invaluable to effective online instruction and a big time saver for those of us who are burned out with typing.

Yammer – Educational Social Network

Check this cool “free” educational social networking tool out. Essentially like a facebook interface for communicating and engaging students and colleagues on a variety of topics. You can embed video and audio into it as well. I use that as a communications tool for all my Distance Learning Faculty at my college for sharing ideas, accomplishments and anything related to distance learning.

tutorials
YouTube – Thousands of Instructional Videos and Tutorials on just about every subject.
Adobe.com
Lynda.com

Each one of these online tools and applications can help you deliver and assess your course content and some will enable you to engage your students effectively in the online environment.

The trick is to know WHEN and WHERE and HOW to use them most effectively to accomplish whatever learning objective you are addressing.

evolving

You must be aware that these online tools and applications are constantly evolving and changing and you have to retool your courses accordingly.

elearningOnline faculty must accept the reality that there is no standing still in the world of e-learning. We are life long learners and essentially students as well – the online environment has forced us to be facilitators / moderators and guides to the learning journey instead of the sage on the stage.

Those educators who are aware of this reality and ready and willing to navigate the digital / technological terrain will be the most successful, in-demand and marketable.

DL Forum April 22


Carteret Community College had its first Distance Learning forum moderated by Dr. Abbie Brown and Dr. Bill Sugar both Professors in the Instructional Technology Graduate Program at East Carolina University. It was an extremely productive event, and I believe will be a catalyst for some of the initiatives we implement in the coming year. One thing continues to be very evident and was brought out by many participants in the forum. Education is evolving and changing rapidly. The tools, techniques, methods and environments are changing. However, good teaching is still good teaching, whether it’s done in the online environment or the traditional classroom environment. It goes back to the “Human Element”. The personal touch – the connection between the teacher and student. If that connection isn’t made (and nurtured) the teaching / learning, journey will be an uphill climb. Due to the rapid advances in technology and the shift to a global economy we as educators don’t truly know for sure what skills our students are going to need in 5, 10, or 15 years. That’s the scary part.


Technology is changing so fast. It’s incredibly difficult to keep abreast of it. However, if we as educators are going to remain viable, effective and competitive we MUST do everything we can to continually upgrade our skill sets, especially when it comes to technology. Our students are changing. Their backgrounds and instructional needs are very different, yet the one CONSTANT we still have in education is that we all crave connectivity and are social creatures. Whether we as educators teach in the classroom or online, teachers must make the effort to harness the new sophisticated communication tools and use them to make those connections. I don’t care what environment you teach in, if you can’t connect with your students, communicate effectively with them, empathize , relate or motivate them, you can’t get them to join you on the learning journey.
The issues (see below) brought out and identified at this forum using the SWOT approach (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) will continue to be addressed and talked about here at CCC and in High Schools and Colleges across the country. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are all in this together, and we must not forget that good teaching is still plain old good teaching, whether we are in the classroom or online. The traits and skills that make good students and teachers for the most part are the same as well, even though the environments may have changed, and Blackboard may have replaced the overhead projector. Change is a reality for all of us and we must all be willing to embrace it and not be intimidated by it.

STRENGTHS

Convenience
Gas Prices
Funding
Participation & Accountability
Flexibility both student & faculty
Peer Review Opportunity
Increase reading & writing skills
Instructional Tech Support
Increase administrative support for student
Richer multi-media
Access to external resources
Improved technology
WEAKNESSES

Online instruction does not meet the needs for students and faculty
Lack of student and faculty computer skills
Feelings of isolation
Danger of miscommunication
Lack of tech support (inadequate)
Extreme approaches to technology
From the student perspective, online instruction requires self-discipline & time management
Time constraints for faculty
Security & Ethical behavior
State Orientation is problematic
Human element is difficult to include

OPPORTUNITIES
Complete degree on-line
Partnership with high schools
Learn & Earn (Free)
Business & Government
Quality of life for Seniors
Increase multi-media
International (Student & Faculty)
New faculty (new skills)
Raise student skills (orientation)
Increase/Diversify social interaction
Raise & Diversify faculty skills
Marketing (expand beyond local area)
Save money on books (e-books)
Make best use of all resources

THREATS
Power failure
Rapid pace of technology change
Competition from other state institutions
Afraid of change
Computing resources for students
Student wants choices between hybrid and online course offerings

Please feel free to comment to this post. Address any issues you see that CCC must tackle in the coming months or elaborate on any of the issues raised at our DL Forum.