Tuesday, December 18, 2007

E-Learning the Big Loser at FSU

There's somewhere in the vicinity of 25 football players and at least one tutor and one academic advisor who are losers in the cheating scandal at Florida State University (FSU). Chances are also good that the FSU football team will lose to Kentucky in their lower-tier bowl game coming up at the end of the month. However, I think the biggest loser in all of this is going to be e-Learning in general. (CC Flickr photo by portorikan)

Of course they just had to have cheated on tests in an online course. In our one-size fits all world, that means everyone will be talking about how easy it is to cheat in online courses, as if cheating is somehow unique in online courses or more rampant than in other forms of higher education. I don't believe that, but many people do believe it and they will now have more ammunition as they talk negatively about e-Learning.

As I have read the somewhat sketchy (not very detailed) stories on the Internet about this scandal, I am struck by how none of what I'm reading appears to be specifically related to the fact that these courses were taken over the Internet. A tutor had been apparently (allegedly) helping the athletes cheat on exams, doing homework for them, and writing papers for them. Gee, does that sound anything like Jan Ganglehoff at U of Minn several years ago? Those allegations (truths, actually) were very similar, but had nothing to do with Internet-based education. Did people call for the end of all tutoring? Did people call for the end of all term papers? Did people call for the end of all athletic programs? No, no, and no! But this time it will be different. This time there will be a huge cry for the end of Internet-based courses and programs.

There are some interesting comments (almost 1,000 total comments as I write this, but only a few of them are interesting) at the end of a story about this on ESPN.com. Here's a good example from a source of unknown character and reliability (cbusch17): "I'm not excusing this, but for those of you who haven't been in school in the past 5-10 years or so and don't know anything about them, these internet courses are RIDICULOUS. I graduated from college in 2000, but I'm back a second time right now (at another major Florida university). When I went through the first time, we didn't have these classes. This time through, I took a couple of internet courses, but I quit taking them because EVERYONE CHEATS. It is RIDICULOUS. I have a 4.0 in my major right now, but I had to work harder in those internet classes than any other class I have had. Everyone uses their books or works together to take online quizzes/tests (unsupervised testing!?!? WHAT A JOKE!), and for the very few of us that didn't want to cheat, everyone else's overinflated grades made it almost impossible to do well in the class. I was tearing my hair out in these classes. Like I said, that doesn't excuse anyone, but when you put something like this in front of 18 year-old kids, especially ones who are as busy as student athletes, and under extreme pressure to keep their grades up, what do we expect to happen??? Internet courses are a joke, and another example of U.S. school systems cutting performance to save a buck. P-A-T-H-E-T-I-C." (link)

Another commenter (robert_ingalls) says the following: "Who gives online classes and then expects integrity?? Instances such as these are rampant on every campus and not limited to athletes. Stop giving online tests and no one will cheat on them. In a perfect world everyone would hold themselves to a high standard of integrity, but until then..." (same link as above).

A third one joins in but with a different take (cbn00034): " While I agree that Internet classes can be a bit of a joke it really depends on how the classses are administered. In reality the classes could be some of the better classes w/ a greater level of depth. Those administering the classes need to understand and EXPECT that people will huddle up, use notes, etc. So now it is up to them to create a class that requires people to use their brains in a different manner. Perhaps even have them come in to take their test on a computer bank that is proctered, on a scantron sheet, or a bluebook to thwart cheating if the group testing is not desired. It's all up to the schools and administrators. Wow - accountability for both the school and the students! There's a novel concept!"

The final one that I'll post right now is another post from the first one above (mister P-A-T-H-E-T-I-C.) Now he is agreeing with cbn00034: "cbn - Agree, the internet class system has got to change. Proctored exams would be a start, but right now it is so easy for the schools to just post everything online and wash their hands of it...why would they want to change that by creating more work for themselves? Maybe FSU will start the change, now that they obviously have a reason to..."

First of all, these quotes come from individuals who we cannot possibly know whether we should care about what they have to say. Having said that, I do think they are indicative of the kind of rhetoric that we can expect to swirl around this issue for quite some time now. Some of it pro, but most of it con.

My prediction: online learning will be the real loser here. The pundits will not blame the cheating student-athletes and the tutor, at least not nearly as mush as they blame online learning as the cause of this scandal.

One last note before I close, it is quite ironic that I have been working on another one of my e-Learning Mythbuster questions and that question deals with whether cheating is running rampant within e-Learning. Stay tuned for that.

Monday, December 17, 2007

E-Learning Mythbusters #6

Myth or Reality?

By using the Quality Matters™ (or similar) rubric and a rigorous quality review process, we have sufficiently answered the persistent questions about the quality of online learning.

The embedded SlideCast below takes a little over 9 minutes to explain my take on the answer to this question (click the green play button at the bottom of the slideshow window). I posed this question as part of the e-Learning Mythbusters presentation because I very often hear QualityMatters (TM) being offered as the solution to the persistent questions about whether we are attending to the quality concerns about e-Learning.

Lastly, as I state during the SlideCast, we have used an adaptation of QualityMatters at Lake Superior College for the past three plus years now, and it has been an extremely positive experience overall. See the LSC Peer Review blog for more info.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

ITC Best Course Awards

For the second year in a row I volunteered to be on the committee that chooses the Best Online Course and Best Blended Course awards for the annual ITC conference - e-Learning 2008 to be held in St. Pete Beach in February. Yesterday we made our selections and chose one winner in each category. I can't tell you who the winners are just yet, but I can talk a little bit about the process. (Past winners here)

We used a scoring rubric that was new and improved this year. A few of the other board members worked hard on revising the award rubrics and I found these two rubrics to be much better and more helpful in selecting winning courses than in the past. The rubric contains a total of 20 items with each worth 5 points maximum for a total possible score of 100.

I find it interesting how different people using the same rubric can come to very different conclusions about whether what they're seeing satisfies the rubric requirement or expectation. First of all, let me say this committee was comprised of people who very easily came to agreement on which were the best courses, with very little disagreement and a very strong overall consensus that we made the best choices in both of the categories. What I find interesting is how we can come to those same conclusions even though the paths we took were quite different and we tend to value different things more or less than the next person.

For example, my rubric scores for the good courses (IMO) ranged from 70-80. The not-so-good courses scored right around 50 points by my calculations. Some of the other judges thought that the good courses scored in the mid-90s out of 100 points. Last year there was an even larger disparity with one person scoring most of the courses in the 30s and 40s while others scored most of the courses in the 80s and 90s. I always was known as a hard grader, I guess this exercise just proves that some things never change.

Another interesting thing is how certain items tend to take on more importance than their point values would indicate. I think that the judges, myself included, tend to place more importance (than 1/20th of the total score) on things such as accessibility and navigation. For example, giving a score of zero out of five on ADA compliance doesn't seem like a large enough penalty for a course with serious accessibility issues. That course could still score 95 points and be an award winner. However, I think the judges make other adjustments to make sure that doesn't happen.

Another example is where the judges can't find the syllabus for the course. If we can't find it, chances are good the students can't find it, and chances are also good that it isn't there at all. As you can imagine, chances are also not good that we will not pick that course as an award winner. However, the lack of a syllabus itself should only cost the course 5 to 10 points in the scoring. In practice, I think it is a death knell, a deal breaker if you will.

This year we actually had fewer nominations in the Best Online Course category, and a few more than last year in the Best Blended Course category. Even though we had fewer online courses to review, it is my opinion that we had significantly higher quality to choose from this year. I feel that we have a truly outstanding online course award winner, and there are four more that are worthy of a strong honorable mention, even though we don't officially recognize those that just missed being chosen.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Presentation Proposal Comments

A while back I submitted a proposal to a conference related to teaching with technology. This is the presentation title and abstract (limited to 75 words) that I submitted: (some of you may recognize it as one of my standard presentations)

Web 2.0 Whirlwind--Free Web Tools

There are many new Web applications that are free and easy to use. Many of these services have specific applications in higher education. The presenter will demonstrate these free applications currently being used by students, faculty, and staff. Applications related to digital photos and video, digital music tools, one-to-one and one-to-many communications, web office, and other services are demonstrated. A presentation wiki containing all resources is shared for use after the conference.

This week I received an email that started with the following: "Congratulations! Your session has been accepted for (blah-blah-blah)."

Normally that would be a pretty good email. However, by the end of it I was more than just a little bit offended. Through a pretty good use of technology the conference organizers give you access to a password protected site where you find out what four anonymous reviewers thought about your presentation proposal.

  • 1st Reviewer said nothing.
  • 2nd Reviewer said: "I want to attend this session! :-) "
  • 3rd Reviewer said: "I would like to see the Presentation Abstract expound just a bit more on the types of tools attendees would see or use."
  • 4th Reviewer said: "Better title it assumes to much/doesn't say enough. "Web 2.0 Whirlwind" ?? and "Free Web Tools" is what the presenter will demonstrate; "those free applications currently being used by students, faculty, and staff." To do so Web 2.0 is a given. How will this lead to a discussion and use in the 3.0 - now and in coming future - is also something" (and was apparently cut off for exceeding the word limit)
Don't you just love anonymous reviews? How exactly do you know whether that person has any credibility? Should I care what the person thinks who uses "to" when he means "too" as part of a run-on sentence? Maybe I should, but how do I know?

Below is a copy and paste from the email I sent to the conference organizers:

I just wanted to provide a little bit of feedback regarding the feedback I've received from the reviewers of my session proposal.

I'm actually feeling a bit insulted by a couple of the comments. So much so that right now I am inclined to no longer submit proposals for (your conference) in the future.

This is a presentation that I have given many times in many different settings. Twice it has been rated as the best concurrent session at national conferences. After several of these presentations I have been invited to give similar presentations at various schools and organizations. Funny how none of these attendees felt the need to change what my presentation is about as (the 4th reviewer) would like to do.

Additionally, I see little value in the comment from (the 3rd Reviewer) who "would like to see the Presentation Abstract expound just a bit more on the types of tools attendees would see or use." Does this reviewer know that there is a word limit on the abstract? How exactly can someone expound more while remaining within the word limit?

Maybe I'm the only person out here who doesn't appreciate being talked down to by an anonymous reviewer. If I am, then you have nothing to worry about. If there are others who feel the way that I do, then you might want to re-think your system of reviewer comments.

Respectfully submitted, Barry Dahl

(end of email) ******************

Was I making too much of this? Should I just let it slide? Is it just me?

I was ready to post the item above when I did hear back from the conference organizers. They replied to my email shown above and were very kind and apparently have a thicker skin than yours truly when it comes to receiving feedback that is less than glowing. Although keep in mind that their feedback clearly came from me and not from some anonymous source.

One thing that was very important in their reply was that this was a double-blind review process. In other words, the potential presenter does not know who the reviewers are and the reviewers did not know who the presenter is. This is a little different from what I assumed to be true, but I'm not sure how much it changes things. On the one hand I definitely do not appreciate anonymous reviews when they are only single-blind, as is usually the case. But I'm still not quite sure what I think about the double-blind review. For example, someone might write a boffo presentation description but maybe has a track record of being absolutely dreadful when actually making a presentation. In fact, I think that I see that all the time. I would want to know that it is Joe Blow who is making the proposal because I know that Joe Blow mainly blows smoke and we really don't need to hear from him again - or we'll blow our brains out (that's just a figure of speech, of course).

So now I've had a couple of days to cool down from all of this, but I'm still not quite sure what to think about the whole thing. One thing that I do know is that the conference organizers responded very quickly and professionally to my concerns, and I appreciate that. One more thing is certain - I don't particularly like receiving anonymous reviews where there is no chance for a rebuttal and no chance of assessing the credibility of the source. End of rant. Life goes on.

CC photo by Violator3

Sunday, December 02, 2007

E-Learning Mythbusters #5

This one is sure to tick off a few people. That's really not my intention, but I guess it goes with the territory.

Sure do wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone say how much harder online teachers work than those old-fashioned classroom teachers. This is the question I asked during my keynote at the ETOM conference in October. I didn't give them the opportunity to be on the fence; they couldn't say "well, some of them work harder," or any other weasel options. They had to pick a side with their hand-held clickers. True or False?

Online Faculty Work Harder

Below you see the results of the voting. 60% say yes, it's true.

Of course it's true that some online faculty work harder than the off-line faculty members. It's also true that some of the women work harder than the men, that some of old teachers work harder than the young ones, that some of the short people work harder than the tall ones, and that some of the attractive faculty members work harder than the homely ones.

In other words, it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it.
  • For every one of the really hard working online faculty members I can point out one who looks at online teaching as a break from actually having to do something significant.
  • For every one of the online faculty members who creates and facilitates a highly interactive online course, there is one who does nothing more than create an electronic correspondence course.
  • For every one of the online faculty members who has a great "presence" in their online course, there's another one whose students question whether the person actually exists.
It's absolutely true that some of the very best online instructors work extremely hard at teaching their online classes. It's also true that there are many people who don't fit that definition.

So, here's my take: Highly motivated, highly interactive, and highly engaged faculty work very hard – regardless of the delivery method.

It's also been my experience that the people who work very hard at teaching their online classes also work very hard at the other things they do in life and at work. That's just the way they are, and there's nothing surprising about that.

One closing thought: as I think back on my many years as a student, there is only a handful of faculty members who were really good in the classroom. There were many who were just okay, and there were some who stunk out loud (gee, a bell curve comes to mind.) That small group of outstanding educators consists of the kind of people that you would want to continue learning from - year after year. Those people are few and far between. That "reality" doesn't change and it isn't dependent upon the delivery method.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Distance Education and Reauthorization

The Committee on Education and Labor in the U.S. House of Representatives passed the "College Opportunity and Affordability Act" (H.R. 4137) on November 15, 2007. This means we are nearing the end of the long road leading to reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). The House committee bill now joins the bill passed by the U.S. Senate (S.1642) in July 2007.

House link: H.R. 4137, go to part H, section 496-A
Senate link: S. 1642, go to part G, section 491 (formerly 496)

At some point the language differences between the House and Senate will need to be hammered out. However, with regard to accreditation concerns for distance education, the House committee bill is identical to the Senate bill. The current language would allow college and university accrediting agencies to address the quality of a school’s distance education offerings without the need to create separate standards, procedures or policies related to distance education (for a while this looked to be the direction that they were going).

However, the most troubling language included in both bills is that accreditors must require that colleges take some steps (undefined as to which steps) to establish that the student who registers for a distance education course or program is the same student who participates in the course or program, who completes the course or program, and who receives the academic credit for that completion.

Lastly, institutions will be required to report to the Secretary of Education (apparently) on their distance learning offerings and enrollments. Why? Well that's not entirely clear.

The Instructional Technology Council (full disclosure: I'm on the board) would like to work through the American Association of Community Colleges to try to influence this legislation before it is finalized and sent to the President for his signature. In particular we are concerned about the language relating to authentication of distance students.

  • We believe that this language assumes that there is a problem (fictitious students) when we have no clear evidence that a problem exists.
  • We believe that this language assumes that colleges are not already taking steps to assure that credit is only being granted to real students who do real work.
  • We believe that this language is not a clear directive as to how we should deal with this (nonexistent) problem.
  • We believe that the legislators crafting this language have no idea what we distance educators have been dealing with for the past 10-15 years while striving for quality offerings through online delivery and other methods.
  • We believe that this language will create far more problems than any that might currently exist (the phrase "mountain out of a mole hill" comes to mind).
  • We believe that distance education is being unfairly singled out when the same questions can just as reasonably be applied to "traditional" face-to-face learning (which we maintain is also NOT reasonable, but it is JUST AS reasonable).
Finally, I admit that maybe this isn't necessarily what "WE" believe, but it is what I believe. What do you believe?

Monday, November 26, 2007

e-learning is g-learning

What do you think? Is e-learning part of the answer to our climate problems? Is e-learning green-learning (or g-learning)?

This is not something that I have spent much time contemplating, but at the ITC Board Meeting a couple of weeks ago this topic came up and I found myself somewhat intrigued by it. Board member David Hutto from North Carolina has done some research about this. What I heard him say is the following (paraphrased slightly): if 1,000 commuter students per state moved to e-learning (rather than driving to campus for F2F classes) we would save $5.4 million in energy costs (gasoline) per year.

I wonder if he was basing these calculations on the current price of over $3.00 per gallon or some earlier, lower amount. Either way, I think there is probably some potential for the idea of leveraging e-learning for gasoline savings, reducing dependence on foreign oil, and reducing carbon emissions. Of course, I don't think that anyone else actually cares, but at least David and I do.

(CC photo by Thiru Murugan)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Upcoming ITC Audioconferences

The ITC Audioconferences keep getting better and better. These are the next 5 topics:

  1. Dec. 4, 2007 - iTunes U: Podcasting Made Easy
  2. Dec. 11, 2007 - Building Quality: Using QM Standards in Online Course Development
  3. Jan. 8, 2008 - Ten Ways to Improve your Faculty Online Training Course
  4. Jan. 15, 2008 - A Collaborative Approach to Online Student Support Services
  5. Jan. 22, 2008 - Moodle - an Online Course Management System
These are one-hour audioconferences and cost $25 per connection ($50 for non-members), although you can have as many people listening to that one connection as you choose. Check out the link above for more info.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Desire2Pod Cast 15: Fantasy VLE

In this short (under 12 minutes) recording, I share some thoughts about the possible future development of virtual learning environments (VLE) and how they could be more like current Web 2.0 tools, more open to the public (where appropriate), and probably a lot more engaging and productive places to get your work done. Since I'm not playing fantasy football this year, I thought I would try my hand at fantasy e-learning.

powered by ODEO

I admit that this is not the deepest of thinking. Just some thoughts that have been rolling around in my head, plus an effort to jump start the Desire2Pod series that has been dormant for several months.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

E-Learning Mythbusters #4

This post begins with a definition of terms. One problem in e-learning is that we have so many terms that are used interchangeably which leads to the confusion of many.

Example: Digital Natives (not a fan), Millennials, Net Generation, NeXt Generation, iGen, Gen Y, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah until you wanna puke. Let's end this stupidity and all decide to use the following term when referring to the newest crop of college-bound students - "Native Net-gennials." Please enunciate carefully - notice that there is a "t" in the first word, a "t" in the second word, but no"t" in the third word.

e-Learning Myth #4: Native Net-gennials are well prepared for e-Learning

Ummmh, no, they aren't!! Do not pass go, do not collect $200. The native net-gennials don't get the technology used in e-Learning. They get MySpace and FaceBook. They get IM and text messaging. However, they have very few technology skills that we expect them to use in e-Learning. Is that their problem, or ours?

Do academics need to bend a little and start using some of the tools that the net-gennials are accustomed to, or do the NNGs need to learn how to save an MS Word as an RTF file and upload that file into a drop-box even though they'll never again see something quite like that? Almost nothing in their technology-laden worlds are as structured, as inflexible, as "old-fashioned" as the current virtual learning environments into which we expect them to immerse themselves.

Let me repeat. Is this their problem, or ours?

(NOTE: Don't forget the new term:)

CC Flickr photo By D'Arcy Norman

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Web 2.0 Inside D2L - ProtoPage Widgets

This video shows the use of Protopage inside Desire2Learn. Protopage is an easy to manage widget-driven website. Near the end of this less-than-5-minute video I state that using ProtoPage inside a VLE (virtual learning environment) might be a little glimpse of the future. It seems to me that any VLE would be more flexible, more customizable, more personable (think PLE or personal learning environment) with a widget-driven structure. Of course I could be wrong.

You can load your own background graphic, which I have done on the Protopage used for this particular D2L embed. You can change the color scheme. You can make it private, semi-private, or public. Anyone can move the widgets around but only someone logged in with editing rights can make permanent changes.

Here is the link to the video in blip.tv (full-screen option available).

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Online Tutoring Update

There was an increased usage of the SMARTHINKING online tutoring service at LSC as reported previously (two posts below). It turns out that about half of the increase (46 hours) comes from natural causes (due to the lack of a better phrase), and the other half of the increase (a little more actually) comes from two particular students who used a total of 58 hours between them (in one month!!).

Online Tutoring Hours - LSC - http://sheet.zoho.com

In the first three of years of offering this service we imposed a limit of 10 hours per student per semester. There were only a few times when students reached that limit and tried to exceed it. In the fourth year we decided that the limit wasn't necessary since few people reached it, and it didn't seem like a big deal if they needed a few extra hours of tutoring help.

Obviously we didn't anticipate the situation where one student would use 39.5 hours of tutoring in a single month. Now we're taking steps to make sure that doesn't happen again. Live and learn.

Monday, November 05, 2007

e-Learning 2008 Schedule is Out

Here's my next pitch about the ITC annual conference. e-Learning 2008 will be held in St. Pete Beach (small town, next to the big city of St. Petersburg) on February 16-19, 2008. No word yet on whether the wi-fi will extend all the way to the actual beach. However, they are promising a sunset every night.

ITC e-learning 2008 Conference Program

The schedule looks great. Compared to many other conferences that I go to, I've found the quality of the concurrent sessions at the ITC conferences to be better, pound-for-pound. There are 7 sessions to choose from at each time slot, not 30-35. Movers and shakers from most of the top PUBLIC e-learning schools are there and making presentations. I'm not saying that the private providers and the for-profit providers are not there at all, but this conference has a heavy dose of influence from state colleges and universities. That works for me.

CC photo by porkfork

Friday, November 02, 2007

Online Tutoring Usage

I'm a bit baffled about why our student usage of online tutoring hours has gone through the roof. This is our fifth year of providing free online tutoring services to students at Lake Superior College. I'm going to look at the usage to ensure that only LSC students are accessing the hours. As long as that is true, then apparently many more faculty members are encouraging the use of the SMARTHINKING service than in previous years. Sounds like a survey topic to me.

Online Tutoring Hours Used - LSC - http://sheet.zoho.com

Monday, October 29, 2007

E-Learning Mythbusters #3

Go to any e-Learning conference and you will hear a great deal about the importance of building a sense of "community" for your e-learners. This is one of the myths/realities that I try to explore in my e-Learning Mythbusters presentation. At the ETOM conference at Mott Community College I posed the following question to the audience (about 60 people responded with clickers):

As you can see, 71% of the educators in the audience indicated that developing a sense of community for the students is either important or very important. Before we explored this question any further, I asked the second question which is whether they think students want (desire) to develop a sense of community in their e-learning.

I think that the audience came pretty close on this one, at least in a round about way. I actually think that 40% of the audience gave the wrong answer - because I believe that (generally speaking) online students are not very interested in spending their time developing community among their peer learners. However, I think the audience numbers are somewhat reflective in the following way: in my estimation (read - SWAG) 40% of the students at most are interested in developing a sense of community with their e-learning endeavors. The majority are not interested in doing so.

Why not? My theory (and I admit that it is a bit if a stretch to even call it a theory) is that the average (if there is one) e-learner has several communities that they are already a part of. At my school, our online students are typically raising a family, working at one or two jobs, and in many other ways not your typical “captured” college student. In other words, they are already heavily involved in several “communities” that are very important to them - work(1), work(2), kid’s school, church, neighborhood, friends, etc. etc. For many people, the idea of developing another community (takes time and commitment) is just a bit too much to ask. One reason that they are drawn to e-Learning in the first place is because their lives are very full and heavily scheduled. They want to get their coursework done and meet deadlines (OK, that’s not always true). Building community in their e-learning takes time that they prefer to spend in other pursuits.

So we have a bit of a dilemma. Educators believe that students need to develop a sense of community with their online college, but the students believe otherwise.


Isn't that what we always assume? Of course we know what's best for them, even when they can't see it. Hmmm, maybe we need to re-think this.

One more take on all this, which I believe is especially true of the younger e-learners out there. They spend a great deal of time building online community in their social networking (Facebook, MySpace, etc.). The last thing they want is for their e-Learning to look like their social networking. They are sending a message to us when they tell educators to stay out of their social networking spaces. We also need to recognize the amount of informal learning that takes place outside of the e-Learning environment. Of course, we haven’t figured out how to do that yet. 'til next time.

Friday, October 26, 2007

My e-Learning Quick PD

Here are some of the things that I learned about e-learning recently from my blog aggregator. In total, I spent about 15 minutes learning about things that might take me several hours to track down by myself, if I knew they were out there at all.

1. via Michael Feldstein: Blackboard continues to look like a very bad partner for higher ed institutions (if you think ethics are a good thing) - also from the D2L Patent Blog (10/24 entry)

2. from Inside Higher Ed: Sloan-C reports continued online enrollment growth, but slowing

3. from Rapid e-Learning: this post seems to get at what I was trying to say about the difference between "action" and "interaction" in e-learning exercises - making the distinction between passive engagement and active engagement.

4. via Stephen Downes and Michael Feldstein: this Educause report about Academic Analytics is worth the reading time, although that time was not included in my 15 minutes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Using Zoho Show Inside D2L

I've been playing around a bit with Jing (from TechSmith) to make screencasts. It works pretty well. Here is an example.

Screencast of embedding Zoho Show presentations inside Desire2Learn.

I would like Jing better if it was a web-based application. I don't recommend very many apps that require a download and install. However, this one appears to be worth it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

e-Learning Mythbusters Keynote

On Friday (10/12) I had my first opportunity to deliver a keynote address. The topic was e-Learning Mythbusters and the audience was the ETOM group: Educational Teleconsortium of Michigan. Prior to the conference I had gathered a list of 36 potential myths about e-learning. I knew that there were some that I was forgetting about, and sure enough I was reminded of two more right away early in the day. These two are things that I have actually ranted and raved about previously, so it just provides further evidence of the fact that I have an increasingly weak memory.

Overall it went pretty well, but I have already made about a dozen significant edits to the presentation and also to the clicker questions that go along with it. The clicker questions are fun, but I think they need to be tightened up significantly to increase effectiveness. I am also busy analyzing the wheat and separating it from the chaff. There is no point in having a list of 38 things when you only have time to get through 12-15 of them. It makes you look disorganized (or possibly not grounded in reality), which is not the best look for a presenter.

All in all, it was a good dress rehearsal for the next time I give this presentation, which right now appears to be the opening keynote for the ITC e-Learning 2008 conference in beautiful St. Petersburg. The ETOM group was a lot of fun and the sessions throughout the day were well done and informative. Best part of all was getting to meet a bunch of really nice people and dedicated professionals. Special thanks to my friend Ronda for making this happen.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

e-Learning in Asia

I'm just returning from a 2.5 week trip to Asia learning more about e-Learning there and trying to teach them more about the type and quality of e-Learning that is going on in the states. I visited Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, and Korea. Suffice it to say that pretty much everything I heard falls into one of these categories, in decreasing order of commonality:

  • questions about how e-Learning could possibly be any good (same questions we faced 8-10 years ago when things were just starting to get serious in the U.S.)
  • outright dismissal of the idea as something that doesn't merit serious consideration
  • shock and surprise that so many American students are choosing e-Learning as an option
  • a genuine curiosity about e-Learning as a delivery method and how it might impact international students who desire to earn U.S. degrees.
Of the countries visited, this is my ranking of the enrollment potential in U.S. e-Learning for each of the countries, starting with the highest potential:
1 - Korea
2 - Vietnam
3 - Indonesia
4 - Macau
5 - Hong Kong

Time to board the plane in Seoul. More later.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Web 2.0 Inside D2L - Zoho Writer and Sheet

This video shows the use of Zoho word processing and spreadsheet documents inside Desire2Learn. I'm a big fan of Zoho and find it very useful for managing documents that I want displayed on the web and works great for student group projects for collaborative writing.

Here is the link to the video in blip.tv (full-screen option available).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Web 2.0 Inside D2L - Embedding Video

Putting video inside your online course can enhance learning if it is done well. That's a big IF, but still, good videos are useful ... as long as you can see and hear them. Unless your college has a dedicated multimedia streaming server, you should look at alternatives rather than uploading your video files directly into D2L.

This video above promotes embedding videos inside a Desire2Learn online course by using the free video hosting services such as YouTube and Blip.tv where they will convert your video to flash and give you the html embed code for you to paste into your D2L course. Easy, peasy.
Direct link to Blip where there is a full-screen viewing option.

Monday, September 24, 2007

E-Learning Mythbusters #2

Myth or reality? The "distance" in distance education means something?

Ummm, no, it doesn't! At least not for the vast majority of e-learners. The GIS map above shows the geographic distribution of 98% of the e-learners for LSC Online in the fall semester 2005. The other 2% (corrected 9/25/07) came from other places besides Minnesota and Wisconsin. About 50% of the students indicated on the map (probably more) could not have easily attended LSC by coming to campus since they are more than 30 miles away.

So, that makes it sound like there really is something to this distance thing, right? Wrong. When you ask these students (as we have) why they signed up for online courses they do not indicate distance as a leading reason. In fact, it comes out quite far from the top. We have seen this data collected using two different instruments. The Noel-Levitz PSOL includes ten "factors to enroll" for students to rank how important the factor was in their decision-making to enroll online. "Distance from Campus" comes in ninth out of ten factors, and a distant ninth at that.

We also ask students to submit surveys each year that allows us to keep abreast of changes in the demographics of our online learners at LSC. 61% indicate the number one reason for taking online courses is the need for time flexibility and busy schedules. Even "online courses are a better fit for my preferred learning style" (10.7%) is a more popular reason than distance from campus (6.7%). Even those who live more than 100 miles from LSC do not choose distance as an important factor - in other words, they'll find it somewhere else if not from us.

Apparently we need to come up with a more descriptive term than "distance ed."

Friday, September 21, 2007

E-Learning Mythbusters #1

I'm putting together a presentation titled "e-Learning Myth-busters." The goal is to explore and explode a dozen or more myths about e-Learning.

Here is an example: "E-Learning is anytime, anywhere learning."

Here's one quote: "AAL – Potentially the single most significant educational initiative in decades"

No hype there. It's also nice that it has an acronym: AAL, although some people call it anyone, anytime, anywhere learning which must be AAAL.

Busting the myth: it's a nice catch phrase, but it really isn't true when you consider the individual student experience. If you work 45 hours per week, have two kids, and all the other normal demands on your time and attention - you can't just engage in your learning anytime and anywhere. You may have a 3-hour window on Friday nights (oops, the library with their wireless access is closed? - so much for anywhere) and another large window on Sunday afternoons when your spouse is watching football. If that is the case, then the most essential aspect of your e-learning experience is flexibility.

I've seen far too many faculty who say that they are being flexible by having a four-hour window of opportunity for students to take an online exam (or other assessment). You can take that exam ANYTIME you want between 4:00 & 8:00 PM on Thursday. That is definitely not anytime, anywhere to the student who works at her second job on Thursday nights. Finding the right mix of allowing time flexibility and giving a time line to keep students on task is a difficult balancing act. I've seen more examples of a rigid time line for an online course than I have of great time flexibility.

Update: looks like this topic has been debated quite a bit already. I don't particularly have much to add to all of that. Maybe I'll just reference their work in the keynote.

CC photo credit: advisorymatters

Web 2.0 Inside D2L - del.icio.us

Here is a third short video from the presentations that I make about using Web 2.0 tools inside D2L. This video shows the use of embedded del.icio.us pages inside D2L content pages, and suggestions for using the social bookmarking tool for group projects and other web research objectives.

You can also view this video at Blip.tv with a full-screen option available.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Web 2.0 Inside D2L - SlideShare

Here is a second short video from the presentations that I make about using Web 2.0 tools inside D2L. This video shows a couple of embedded SlideShare presentations inside D2L content pages.

You can also view this video at Blip.tv with a full-screen option available.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Web 2.0 Inside D2L - YackPack

This first video (4 min.) is a demo of using an embedded YackPack inside Desire2Learn using a content page. This is very simple to set up by just linking to the URL of the YackPack that you have created.

YackPack is free. (UPDATE: It appears that YackPack will no longer be free, which probably means that I will no longer recommend it. It's cool, but not that cool. $35 bucks a year per user probably won't work for us. Free account still allows 10 second messages, but that is pretty limited.)
You can also view this video at Blip.tv where you have a full-screen option in the lower-right hand corner of the player.

Proposal Deadline for e-Learning 2008

The proposal deadline is nearing for the ITC e-Learning 2008 conference. Friday, September 28 is the deadline for submitting a proposal for the conference.

Year in and year out, this is the best e-Learning conference that I attend. If you're looking for a high-powered research-based conference where everyone makes presentations about their dissertation results, then look elsewhere. This conference is all about online teaching and learning with presenters coming from most of the leading schools in online learning.

The fact that this next conference will be held in St. Petersburg Beach is just a little icing on the cake. I will be presenting two half-day pre-conference workshops which will be hands-on sessions in the computer labs at St. Petersburg College. My friends at SPC have great facilities to share and are genuinely a great bunch of people to work with. I'm really looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

LSC Online - Ten Years and Counting

I'm going to begin writing a somewhat sporadic series of posts related to lessons learned (and that sort of junk) from the past ten years of e-learning at Lake Superior College. Our first online class was delivered to eight Cell Biology students during the winter quarter of the 1997-98 academic year. That was the only online class offered that first year.

In our tenth year of e-learning we taught 304 sections of online classes with a total of 7,850 student enrollments. Needless to say, some things have changed over the years.

I remember when I was still a faculty member and e-learning was just beginning to take shape. There were many doom-and-gloom stories out there about how the sky was falling in higher ed because of this online learning thing. I clearly remember sitting in an auditorium at Normandale Community College listening to many people grouse about all the fears related to e-learning. Some of the most common (or maybe the most popular) fears went something like this:

  • "When anyone in the world can take their College Composition course from Harvard, why on earth would they take it from us instead?" (as if Harvard was going to start admitting all comers)
  • "There will be one best online course in every subject, for example American History. Why would anyone want to take an online history course from another school that wasn't the best?" (as if quality is the driving decision point for students)
  • "There will be one best online teacher for Political Science courses. Why would anyone want to take the course from a lesser instructor?" (as if we don't almost always settle for something less than the best)
All of these fears were just different ways of expressing the same concern - namely that e-learning was going to change the way instruction is delivered and that everyone will end up in one big class because the learners (consumers) will only want the best when the best is easy to get.

Ten years down the road I have not seen any evidence that these fears had any basis in reality. At LSC we still teach class sections that have the same number of maximum students (enrollment caps) on-line as they do on-ground. We still have some really great teachers and some who are somewhat less than that. We still have lots of students who come to our school even though they now have easyaccess to many other schools (at least easier than it used to be).

Ten years down the road and I think that students (consumers of education) still know less about what they're buying with their education dollars than in any other purchasing decision that they make. They don't all flock to the best online teacher because no one knows much about who that is (rateyourprofessors.com not withstanding). They don't all flock to the best school that offers online degrees because no one knows much about who that is either. Although there is some shopping around that occurs, most students don't pick up one class here, one class there and try to piecemeal their way to a degree (partially because we don't make it easy for them to do so, and partially because that just never occurs to them).

I'm not saying that none of the original fears about e-learning have come true, I'm just saying that most of the ones I can remember have turned out to be totally unfounded. You can learn a lot in ten years. More later.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Playing Catchup

I've been mostly out of touch and not in the blogging mood since the Desire2Learn User Conference ended in mid-July. I haven't really kept up very well on many of the maneuvers in the D2L-Blackboard-Turnitin craziness. In case you have also been somewhat asleep at the switch, here is a brief recap of recent events.

Have my opinions changed about Blackboard (sucks) and Turnitin (sucks)? Nope.

Friday, August 17, 2007


I've been disconnected most of the past two weeks and am just now getting caught up on over 1,000 new posts in my Bloglines account. Of special interest to me is the battle between two of my least favorite companies from the higher ed arena of edupatents. I love it when Blackboard and Turnitin start taking shots at each other.

I've still got a lot of reading to do before I'll really understand what is going on (if I do), but in the meantime just let me say that there aren't two sets of lawyers that I would rather see beating each other up than these two. More later as time permits.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dogs on the Internet

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. (CC photo by Alan "Cogdogblog" Levine). But soon the jig will be up and we will all be safe from those crazy non-students out there.

In a move that has been expected for about eighteen months now, the Senate has passed a bill (S.1642, Higher Education Amendments of 2007) that "requires an institution that offers distance education to have processes through which the institution establishes that the student who registers in a distance education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the program and receives the academic credit."

So far, it is anyone's guess as to what methods/gadgets they might accept for the required "processes.' Informed people (like Steve Crow of the Higher Learning Commission) have told me that they probably won't dictate methodology, but that we will be required to determine our own processes, communicate them widely, and then follow them. Will that mean requiring proctored exams/assessments? How about fingerprint authentication or retinal scans? Will the Big Brother device used at Troy University become the norm? Ick! Apparently on-ground students (see Stanford U for example) don't need to be authenticated - only those dastardly distance learners.

One things that gripes me about this is that they (Congress) are about 10-12 years late to the party (go figure). This is exactly the concern that was raised in the early days of e-learning, and it has been raised in somewhat decreasing frequency (in my experience) since that time. To my knowledge, there has never been more than just a small amount of anecdotal evidence that this is any kind of a real problem. However, Congress, in it's infinite wisdom is about to again use a sledgehammer for a minor or non-existent problem.

This won't become law until after the House acts and probably then some sort of compromise between the two, but I still think that we should start preparing for how to respond when it becomes a requirement. This is almost certainly going to become law. The pain will be widespread, and very little improvement will be the result. Don't you just love it?

For more, search for S.1642 here: http://thomas.loc.gov/

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

ITC Board Meeting - Annapolis

I just spent three days in Annapolis attending my first board meeting for the Instructional Technology Council (ITC). What a great bunch of people and what a great location to spend a few days getting to know them all a bit better. We spent a fair amount of time planning for the 2008 e-Learning Conference which will be held in St. Pete Beach and hosted by St. Petersburg College. Building upon the incredible momentum of the 2007 conference, I predict that this next conference will once again break attendance records and be a huge success.

I was almost chosen by the group to give my first keynote address at a national conference. Almost, but not quite. This is an opportunity that I am actively preparing for in hopes that I will someday be asked. I have about four different keynote topics in mind right now, some of which are ready for prime time, and others that still need a bit more nurturing and development. A couple of the board members were very supportive of the idea of naming me to be a keynote, and I am very appreciative of their words and efforts.

I will be presenting a pre-conference workshop at e-Learning 2008 based on my Web 2.0 Whirlwind presentation. This will be three hours long and will be offered in the morning session and repeated in the afternoon on the first day of the conference. Pre-conference workshops are always offered on the first day (Saturday) of the ITC e-Learning conference. I love making this presentation and having three hours to do it (twice) will really give people a chance to play around with some of the tools and see just how easy they are to use and how easy they are to integrate into an LMS.

At the D2L conference in Duluth I experimented with a different approach to the whirlwind presentation. All of the presentation materials were laid out in the content and discussions areas of D2L with guest access accounts given to the workshop attendees. This worked well, and I think I can make it work significantly better by refining a few things and developing a few of the examples even more.

While in Annapolis we stayed at the Maryland Inn which is one of the three buildings constituting the Historic Inns of Annapolis. Very cool old buildings with relatively lousy service (staff). It was a great location right on Main Street and within easy walking distance of several crab shacks and an active part of Chesapeake Bay. Yes, I did have various types of crab dishes while I was there, yummy! We also had a special dinner with actors playing the roles of 18th century Marylanders, as well as a guided walking tour of the historic district including the old Maryland State House and the U.S. Naval Academy. We got a lot of work done also, but I’ll save that for a separate post.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

LTAC Panel Presentation

This will be my last post about the IMS Global Consortium LTAC meetings in Redmond, WA held last week. Thursday early afternoon - Panel Presentation: Standards and Best Practices for Providing Online Programs - Me, Russ Adkins of Broward CC, and John St. Clair of Tennessee Board of Regents.

$ - I talked about best (or at least pretty good) practices from the perspective of both LSC and MnOnline, including the following: 1) LSC Online Student Mentors, 2) LSC Events-based Distance Learning, 3) Quality Matters at both LSC and MnOnline, 4) Noel-Levitz PSOL data gathering at LSC and MnOnline, 5) online tutoring at LSC and MnOnline, 6) Minnesota efolio, 7) Statewide electronic library services.

$ - Russ talked about how BCC went from almost no e-learning five years ago to a very large e-learning operation today.

  • BCC overall has about 23,000 FTE and about a 60,000 student headcount.
  • In 8 years, they grew from nothing online to about 200 full-time and 350 part-time faculty teaching something online.
  • They have 5 associate degrees and 4 certificates available completely online, and have started working toward SCAS accreditation for online programs.
  • In ’06-’07, they had over 12,000 student enrollments in online classes, almost 3,600 in blended (hybrid) courses, and another 12,540 web-assisted classes.
  • They support a faculty mentoring opportunity for new online faculty.
  • They have created a scalable and affordable course development and delivery capacity through an emphasis on learning objects and master courses.
  • Going through the SACS accreditation change request (for online degree programs) is helping them sustain energy for improving online services, shining a light on the existing on-the-ground services, and providing new institutional resources; in particular: a) Research/business intelligence, b) Cyber advisors, c) Library instruction, d) Infrastructure expense, e) E-program management and advising, f) E-learning becoming ‘everyone’s job.’
$ - John talked about the mandate delivered by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) for the schools in the system to move quickly and seriously into e-learning. He also talked about how it is legal to eat your road-kill in Tennessee. That really says a mouthful.
  • The TBR seems to be a pretty good parallel collaborative for MnSCU. There are 45 schools and 180,000+ students. It includes all the public colleges and universities except for the UT schools. They’ve gone from about 2,000 online enrollments in fall 2001 to over 13,000 in spring 2007. 96% of their online enrollments come from Tennessee residents.
  • Unlike MnOnline, they have made a much more bold effort to eliminate duplication of courses, programs, and services. They have also achieved system-level branding, which is a ship that sank in MnSCU a long time ago. Unlike MnSCU, not all online courses within the system are considered to be part of the TBR. Only courses and programs that conform to certain guidelines are part of TBR.
  • They have a significant surcharge for online TBR courses. Students pay 40% extra to take an online TBR course. Standard tuition for a 3-credit course (2007) would have been $504. The surcharge adds another $204 to the cost of tuition. Of the surcharge, 30% ($61) stays with the “home institution” of the student, where presumably they receive most or all of their student services. 70% of the surcharge ($143) goes to the central office for administrative costs and state-wide services, etc. Apparently they have one tuition rate for all of the TBR online courses, at least at the same level (bachelor’s level, for example). The base amount of tuition stays with the “delivering institution,” which is the school that provides the instructor for the course. The FTE for the course stays with the home institution (again, the school where the student is earning a degree). There is one more factor, something called the “developing institution.” That is the place where the course was first developed for the TBR. This is apparently how they eliminate some of the duplication of efforts. If I understood it correctly, the developing institution has the right to be the delivering institution for the first 60% of the sections offered by TBR in a term, up to the first six sections.
  • The contrast between TBR and MnOnline are stark. Two state systems that seem to have a lot of similarities appear to have gone after the online collaboration process in completely different ways. Neither one is perfect, but I believe that one is vastly superior to the other in their planning and execution. Can you guess which?
  • Much like MnSCU, TBR has distributed many of the needed support services to campuses around the state that are able to provide the service. For example, their server hosting and help desk are handled by the University of Memphis. Their P.R. and marketing efforts are contracted to Tennessee Tech. Their classroom evaluations are handled by East Tennessee State U.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Meeting Michael

The best part of the IMS-LTAC meetings in Redmond was the opportunity to meet Michael Feldstein. After reading his e-Literate blog for more than a year and listening to a couple of audio interviews/presentations, I felt as though I already knew him. He has been one the most prolific writers about the Blackboard-D2L debacle, and about edu-patents in general.

We spent the better part of two days engaged in conversations (and presentations) about e-Learning standards, IMS Global Consortium projects, and other things related to educational uses of learning management systems and the like. Michael is one of those deep thinkers and no-B.S.-kind-o-guys that I enjoy spending time with. We were also able to have a casual conversation at the end of the events while enjoying the halibut at the Coho CafĂ© in Redmond. I won’t even mention that he spilled his beer across the table and into my lap. I will mention that his opinion matches mine about how Blackboard is doing irreparable harm to their reputation and their future by way of this lawsuit (if they continue on the same course). Unfortunately, we will all have to wait quite a while before the legal mechanisms finish grinding slowly to any sort of a conclusion.

LTAC Summit - Afternoon

Craig Bartholomew, general manager of the Education Products Group at Microsoft, welcomed us to the Evil Empire (his words). Example of not being evil - 60% of the MS employees donated over $72 million to charity last year (employee donations matched by company). Gates Foundation's 3-R's: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships.

Panel Presentation: Establishing Course and Content Quality Standards - Keith Hampson, Bill Evans, and Michael Feldstein.

  • Bill Evans, Cal Sate Chico - Data warehousing and analytics have been largely ignored but they are now starting to get more attention. Anecdotes from the CSU & Beyond: 1) Accessible Technology Initiative (ATI): universal design improves courses for all students. 2) Assessing Online Facilitation (AOF): peer evaluation of facilitator skills/process, 3) Exemplary Online Instruction (EOI) Awards: faculty recognition and reward 4) Institute for Teaching and Learning (ITL): support for the highest standards of university teaching excellence, 5) Peer Review of Online Content: peer experts evaluate learning objects, 6) Rubric for Online Instruction (ROI): course design and evaluation guidelines, 7) Transforming Course Design (TCD): sustainability, student success, quality of learning outcomes, cost of instruction, outcomes assessment, sharing of exemplary practices.
  • Keith Hampson, Ryerson University - we have been hampered by the cottage model of online course development, where the faculty member is responsible for the development of the electronic course content, which leads to an inconsistent student experience, high support costs, limited volume, limited rich media, poor navigation, and no brand. But you also get happy faculty, no management grief from faculty, and less change and fast startup. Academic freedom is often interpreted as occupational autonomy, which are really two different things. He wonders whether content really matters. We don't seem to kill ourselves to ensure that we have great content. However, he also believes that this an area where institutions can get a competitive advantage over others. Students continue to shift to a shopper-style approach to higher ed and we could use great content to convince them that we have better quality than the competition does. We also have to realize that the for-profit institutions pay more attention to content than we do, and we may need to play catch up.
  • Michael Feldstein, Oracle Corp and formerly with SUNY system - Here are a few tidbits that particularly got my attention: 1) almost all software is odious; what we put out is not good. That is because it is really hard to do it well, not because we don't care or because we (programmers and designers) are stupid. 2) We don't really see cognitive theory translate itself into teaching theory. 3) How do we know good (high quality) content when we see it?

Panel Presentation: Faculty and Staff Training for Application of Learning Technologies - Glenn Trammel, Mark Jenkins, Connie Broughton.

  • Glenn Trammel, Delta State University - home of the Fighting Okra (actually the Statesmen, but they prefer the unofficial mascot). Faculty Technology Institute is a five-day training session for new WebCT users. It is facilitated by the Director of Instructional Technology and two faculty instructors. He compared fully-online courses with "fully-static" (traditional classroom) courses. I've never heard the fully-static term before.
  • Mark Jenkins, Portland State University - PSU uses both WebCT and Sakai. He views online learning as a combination of storytelling, experiential learning, something else, and community building. Online learning is not a strategic objective at PSU, which is a demotivating factor. There is an eternal cycle of early adoption which does not result in any sustainable results. Whatever he does there can't cost anything, since there is no significant funding made available. Co-dependency relationships between faculty and instructional designers are not productive ways to grow capacity for online learning.
  • Connie Broughton, Washington Online - more than 60,000 students took an online course (05-06). 12,434 FTE system-wide. 34 community and technical colleges. Nine staff members. Supports about 25% of completely online courses in CTC system. Shared search engine, with cascading sections as they fill up. Students get separate transcripts from each college from which they take a course. WAOL Instructor Training class is different from what individual campuses might do. Four-week, completely online course (about 50 hours; where first half they are treated as a student and second half they transition to the faculty role. This training is required for any instructor teaching in WAOL. Over 2,000 faculty have completed the training over the past ten years.

Panel Presentation: Higher Education Technology Leadership - Debra Saunders-White, Robert Sapp, Paul Kim

  • Paul Kim, Stanford University - Does Academic Technology Competency Make CIO 2.0? Transformations of CIO roles in Higher Ed: CIO 1.0 was concerned with connectivity, legacy systems, email service management, dreaming of ERP, putting out fires. CIO 2.0 era more concerned about productivity, security and identity management, too busy trying to learn new solutions. CIO 3.0 now focuses on accountability, resource visualization, learning outcomes as measurable ROI with rubrics and matrices, too busy convincing faculty senate.
    Parallelism paradox in academic technology R&D - research trends include high tech innovations, working with schools that well-developed technology infrastructure, ICT research follows the innovations not vice-versa.
    Creating new traditions
  • Robert Sapp, University of Maryland University College: Expecting Growth and Growing Expectations. Their growth is phenomenal, with over 10,000 additional new students each of the past two fall terms, as well as new programs and services. Over 90,000 students worldwide, only 45,000 in U.S. 44% are minorities. median age = 32. 179,000 online enrollments in '06-07. Rise of the CIO as an executive: 1) member of president's cabinet, 2) increasingly a partner in senior decision making and determining institutional policy, 3) more of a service partner than service provider, 4) required participation in strategic activities such as planning, budgeting, policy development, etc., 5) form and manage external strategic partnerships and alliances.
  • Victor Wong, University of Michigan - Leading up to Innovations: a Case for Off-line Leadership. Cross-cutting innovations - they cut across core missions, core organizations (silos), disciplines, even technologies. Basic organization principle: place authority where responsibility resides.
Planning for Emerging Technologies - Bill Corrigan, U. Washington: Integrating iTunes U because students come to the institution already having the equipment and knowledge to use the technology. Outsourcing email: trying to decide between two large vendors (Google and Microsoft?) and manage the problems that come with this - sharing info with a third party, advertisements. Service Oriented Architecture - what things do we need to provide online and do we need a governance process around that. Testing services with Google Calendar. Collaborative applications including social networking (need to do a lot of listening) and virtual worlds (Croquet, SL). Web services for researchers (compute cloud, for example Amazon). A new formula for customer engagement - Bob Greenburg.

Paul Kim, Stanford University - Pocket School: $16 mp3/mp4 player for developing countries. Putting language learning on a small device for poor people (children) in developing countries. In Ecuador, 18% benefit from full-time education, but only 1% of the indigenous population. mLearning - truly nomadic learning. This was excellent - good luck with this project!!

LTAC Summit - Morning

Notes from the LTAC Summit, July 19, 2007 at Microsoft.

John Falchi: IMS GLC Overview and Role of LTAC: Formal project charters are developed when they are attempting to address a challenge. We started to develop a charter yesterday around the standards for Distance (Flexible) Learning. They focus on the use and accessibility of work product. Practical application: (Challenge) usable, quality digital content availability; (Outcomes) increase faculty productivity, reduce costs, etc.; Possible solutions: IMS Common Cartridge, IMS Tool Interoperability.

Kevin Riley (IMS Senior Strategist for New Activities): Common Cartridge - Benefits: lower integration costs (hooking together tools, content, etc.), greater choice of content, reduces vendor/platform lock-in, greater assessment options, increase flexibility, sharing and reuse. Why will it succeed? 10 years experience in interoperability work, based on the most widely used standards, widely supported even by the platform vendors, easy to implement and flexible.

Ed Mansouri (UCompass Educator) demonstrated a use of common cartridge, something called ENRICH that looked pretty cool. These common cartridges can be run (displayed) even without an LMS. The common cartridge player also has been ported to the iPhone. Using Adobe AIR they have developed a common cartridge that runs on the desktop without the need for an Internet connection. Ed wasn't given much time, but clearly had some cool stuff that we would have liked to see.

Bill Lee (Desire2Learn): Enterprise Services - objective is to improve interoperability between enterprise systems. This goes far beyond the course and tool interoperability, and looks at the other functions that make an LMS an enterprise-level service. For example, they are currently reviewing the LDAP binding feature.

Gloria Pickar (Compass Knowledge Group): Standards for Distance Learning - named changed yesterday to "Standards for Technology-enabled Flexible Learning." The deliverable for this group is an authoritative source of standards that: a) are evidence-based, b) are applicable globally in higher education, c) support student learning outcomes for technology-enabled flexible learning, d) guide the development of better educational technologies.

Next up was a panel presentation of which I was a part. Separate post coming later about that.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Standards for Distance Learning

Wednesday at the IMS Global Consortium Meetings, I attended a workshop on Standards for Distance Learning. This is an attempt to develop the definitive list of best practices for e-Learning programs.

Starting with definitions. What are we talking about? Are they standards or best practices or something else? Is this targeted at higher ed, K-12, corporate learning, all, or what? Is "distance learning " the correct term? Probably not, but what is?


  • Level of education
  • Course or program?
  • Distance?
  • Type of technologies
  • What else?
  • What do we call it?

Michael Feldstein asks what the outcome will be. Who will use this information and why? Why the IMS guidelines rather than Sloan-C or others? Possibly because the IMS is a more international organization and not just focused on U.S. higher ed which is not true of several of the other organizations working on similar issues. He wants to make things "less odious," which came up many times throughout the day.

Ellen (Denver) and I are apparently kindred spirits. She articulated my thoughts very well. We don't need to duplicate the work already done in this arena, but most of that work is too specific on current practices and not capturing the changing nature of technology-enhanced learning opportunities. We looked at several other definitions where I saw several terms that I consider unacceptable: distance learning, computer-based, Internet delivered, separation of student and teacher, best practices, etc.

Is it technology-mediated or technology-complicated? (Michael)

We spent some time talking about the term "flexible learning." I think there is something valuable in there, but have been cautioned to not go whole hog on this idea lest students might think that this learning is totally flexible - do anything you want anytime you want (uhh, no thanks!).

Flexible learning: Is it widely enough used to be understandable to most people but not so widely used to have everyone arguing about what it means. (Michael again)

Technology-enabled flexible learning (is that too much?)

For me, the best part of the day was the chance to meet and get to know Michael. He is one of my favorite bloggers on my bloglines list. Extremely sharp dude.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

IMS Global Learning Consortium

I'm in Seattle (Bellevue/Redmond actually) for the IMS Global Learning Consortium Quarterly Meetings and Learning Technology Advisory Council (LTAC) Summit. I think it will be more interesting than the name implies.

It's my first time here, both in Seattle and at Microsoft. I've been completely turned around since arriving yesterday afternoon. North seems south and east seems west. Not sure how that happened. Of course it's raining this morning. Not that I expected anything else. First impression? This is another one of those places where it is next to impossible to find a Diet Dew. What is up with that? I went into a RiteAid (like Walgreens, if that helps) and they don't even have shelf space for Diet Dew, not in the cooler and not on the shelves of 12-packs. I'm heading for the Microsoft campus in about five minutes and hope to report out on the activities of the Summit as they progress. But I need to find a Diet Dew.

Friday, July 13, 2007

From D2L to ITC

The D2L User Conference is over so it's time to start concentrating on the next big conference event. As a newly-elected board member, I will be promoting the ITC's e-Learning 2008 conference far and wide to any and all who will listen.

ITC (Instructional Technology Council) is a great organization of leaders in e-learning and other uses of educational technology. There is a great mix of single stand-alone institutions as well as multi-campus districts; community colleges and technical colleges; four-year institutions and graduate schools; non-profit organizations along with a few for-profit organizations. The common thread that runs throughout is that they are all interested or involved in instructional technology.

There are two reasons why I know that this is going to be a fabulous conference. First is that it is being hosted by St. Petersburg College. At the last e-Learning conference in Albuquerque I had the privilege of getting to know some great people from the Web and Instructional Technology Services staff at SPC, including Alan Shapiro, Nancy Doolittle, Vicki Westergard, and of course Lynda Womer, current Chair of the ITC Board and Seminole Campus Associate Provost.

The second reason is that it is being held in the City of St. Pete Beach. This is not quite the same as St. Petersburg (which is also great), as St. Pete Beach is almost all beach. The conference is at the TradeWinds Island Grand Beach Resort. Trust me, this conference is well worth attending no matter where it is held, but this combination of a great conference and a great location should make this a huge success.