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.

OF COURSE THE STUDENTS ARE WRONG, AREN'T THEY?

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.