DePaul University and the SUNY COIL Center have teamed up to offer the first-ever Global Learning Conference: Transcending Boundaries Through COIL. This don’t-miss event will be held October 30-31, 2017 in Chicago.
The Global Learning Conference illustrates best practices and innovation in collaborative online international learning (COIL). COIL is an approach to fostering 21st century student competencies through the development of multicultural learning environments that link university or college classes in different countries using online technologies. The conference invites faculty and lecturers, instructional technologists and designers, international education and study abroad managers, and anyone interested in the internationalization of higher education to attend and share knowledge with their peers in this growing field.
Do instructional designers secretly serve as change agents in higher education institutions? Change is a faint tremor that rarely erupts to alter the academic structure cemented in tradition and intricate policies. However, instructional designers have a unique role that gives them access to the three primary stakeholders at a university: faculty, administration, and students. Acting in a supportive, non-threatening role, instructional designers have the opportunity to create change without having to move the weighty levers of the academic machine. Taking a look at the five characteristics of change agents identified by George Couros, author of Innovative Mindset, provides a better understanding of why instructional designers may be the secret change agents in higher education institutions.
During a recent research jaunt to update some FITS resources on online learning, I stumbled across an article about the value of including the instructor’s face in course videos. If you don’t have time for the entire piece, here’s my TL;DR:
Faculty often ask me “if it matters” to include their faces within course videos. My standard response is that they should try it in the introductory video. Start the video with your face on the screen, either in full-frame glory or in a small square in the corner (depending on the software you’re using), and then transition to the other typical intro video elements, like a tour of the course or syllabus. That way, you only have to think about being “on camera” for a minute or two.
But what faculty are really asking is this: does including my face in videos either (1) make students feel more engaged with the course materials, or (2) actually result in better learning?
In my last post, I detailed a study in the summer of 2016 using the Knewton Adaptive Learning engine built into Pearson’s MyMathLab. This was a limited study with a trial of Knewton in 4 developmental math courses. The results of the trial were compared to sections of the same courses in which the adaptive engine was not used. In that limited study we found that students got better scores overall on the MyMathLab quizzes and that they spent less time on task.
The summer cohort of students isn’t reflective of regular semester classes (in DePaul’s First-Year Program we typically see entering freshmen, where this is the first university level course they have encountered), so we implemented the same trial in 4 courses with larger enrollments and traditional students during the winter 2016 quarter. Please see my previous blog post for information about the Knewton engine and the previous trial.
When I’m contacted by faculty who want help creating video for their courses, one of the first things I ask is why they want to make a video. Most of the time it’s to add some instructor presence in an online or hybrid course, but often it’s to replicate a lecture they’ve given in the face-to-face version of the course.
I’m always a bit apprehensive as I tease out the reasons for the request. I don’t want to trespass on the instructor’s prerogative to teach the course as s/he wishes, but I do know that many of the videos I see don’t serve their intended purpose—assuming the purpose is to promote learning or add instructor presence.
Recently, on “Pi Day” (3.14, or March 14 for the non-nerds out there) I was reading an article about the benefits of learning programming on the Raspberry Pi, a micro-computer that costs only $35 dollars, and all the ways that it helps tinkerers learn programming and solve obscure issues by creating their own software and hardware solutions. I had recently fallen into the trap of tech lust—the feeling nerds get when they suddenly want to buy some piece of technology they may or may not really need—and decided that I wanted to buy a Pi device and get back into programming, having not written a line of code since high school.
That last bit presented a bit of an issue for me, however. Learning to code was always easiest for me when I had a specific issue to solve, since it helped me predict what kind of code I needed to learn, while also making the motivational factor much easier to maintain. It’s this feeling of not knowing where to start that I often see students struggle with as well.
Facing this issue myself, before I decide which Pi to purchase I’ll look online for specific Pi projects that others have done, to see what solutions I may be able to integrate into my own network and test bench at home. At the same time, I think it is helpful to consider the different pedagogical approaches available to instructors to naturally integrate problems into the assignments we give, in order to help students learn to solve them.
If you think the title of this blog is too complicated to understand, you can use an analogy, such as eating candy without a sweet taste, or drinking water to booze up, or anything that sounds oxymoronic, self-contradictory, and illogical.
If instructor-agnostic means removing the trace of any specific instructor, how could you create a sense of instructor presence in the same course? And why would you want to do it? Have you ever seen a course like that?
Before answering these questions, let me share a personal story with you. Two weeks ago, I received news that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Devastated by the phone call from her primary care physician’s office, which offered nothing but a quick read of the final diagnose, I struggled to find out anything about breast cancer—the causes, the symptoms, the types, the treatment, the chance of spreading. Yet none of the information on the Internet could put me at ease or tell me how to deal with this life-threatening illness. I was overwhelmed by feelings of fear and helplessness until I received the phone call from Beth, a nurse from the pathology department of the hospital.
The New Media Consortium recently released the 2017 Horizon Report. First launched in 2003, the annual report taps into a panel of higher education experts to identify emerging technologies and trends that will impact the industry near term (one year), mid-term (three to five years), and long term (over five years). In addition, the Report identifies six major challenges to the implementation or adoption of education technology. The first two were deemed “wicked difficult” challenges.
Oh my! What could these be? The first is managing the obsolescence of human knowledge and the second is the changing role of the educator. Let’s leave the second on the table for now, and just deal with the thorny first wicked challenge.
Getting good feedback from students can be a challenge. Gone are the days where someone from the academic department came into your class and distributed paper course evaluations to every student. Response rates for online course evaluations are abysmal, and the students who respond usually represent the extremes—they either tend to be really happy with the course or decidedly unhappy. So what to do?
Recently the college I support conducted two focus groups for our online students. I didn’t facilitate the focus groups; I have to give credit here to our great online operations team and the researchers who support the college Teaching, Learning and Assessment committee. In these focus groups, our adult students were asked “If you had the opportunity to design your ideal online course experience, what are the features you would include?”
So what did they tell us?
Blue Apron is a meal delivery service that provides all the pre-measured, raw ingredients and instructions customers need to quickly prepare home-cooked meals. When I signed up for the service last year, I was pleasantly surprised by the concise, well-designed recipes that come with each set of ingredients. The folks at Blue Apron must have known their target demographic would include a lot of anxious, inexperienced cooks like me, and they clearly invested in a top-notch team of graphic designers, photographers, and writers to create their recipes. Continue reading