Archive for July, 2010

27
Jul
10

Week 8, Part 2: Something new in the future…

The last part of this week’s assignment is to create this scrapbook, which I have done and to post something new that I’d like to try.  There is a tool that I’d like to find or (as I’m doing) develop that is fairly specific to community colleges:  an online orientation module.

I believe that students drop out of online classes (specifically the older returning students in community colleges) because they are unprepared for the environment.  It used to be that “if you can surf the internet, you can take an online class”, but this is no longer true.  As we have discovered during this course, there are TONS of tech tools out there available for instructors to add to their courses and with each of these tools comes a learning curve, not just for the instructor, but more so for the student.

Students need to know how to upload a file to a drop box, how to post to a discussion forum and reply to other posts, how to do an online survey or quiz – even timed ones, and how to send/receive emails with attachments.  This can be very overwhelming to a student who has few computer skills and is pursuing a vocational degree or certificate in an area that will not require computers in the job field.

To me the ideal orientation will start while students are doing placement/assessment testing, to determine the skill level that they have with computers and the online environment.  This can be added to their student profile so that advisors can better place students in classes where they can succeed.

The ideal second phase of this orientation is online modules that can be taken to improve these skills.  It can be set up within the LMS as a course in which they are given simple tasks to do repeatedly until they are comfortable with the system and participating in an online environment.  Upon successful completion of the orientation process (which may or may not include module trainings), they can enroll in online courses.

I believe that an institution’s commitment to this type of orientation is promoting the educational success of its students and thus resulting in higher retention and lower withdrawal rates.

Currently, there is such an orientation-type tool on the web, ILCCO’s OASIS but it is a voluntary program, not particularly associated with any single institution.  Additionally, ILCCO has, I believe, plans on the horizon to modify or replace this system as most institutions are moving toward their own online orientation programs.  However, most programs are still voluntary for students.  Personally, as online course enrollments and offerings grow, I believe that such orientation programs need to become mandatory and part of placement/assessment testing in order to ensure the continued success of online programs.

27
Jul
10

Week 8, Part 1: Reflection

So we’ve made it through 8 weeks of examining and testing different technology tools for use in online learning.  It’s nice to know that there are so many internet tools available…in fact, one could probably create an entire online course without the use of a learning management system.  However, my concern with that is it requires the students to create login accounts for multiple sites and then remember to check them regularly to make sure they are not missing anything.  That is where the true “pros” for an LMS comes into play – a secure, single-login environment where all of the student’s course materials are kept in a nice package, clearly laid out in a pleasing manner with no questions about whether they logged into Twitter or Diigo or ProProf this week.  While a 19-year old university freshman might find the multiple-tool method challenging and fun, the 50-something adult learner returning to a community college with few computer skills will be pulling their hair out.  So regardless of the tools we use, our first commitment has to be to the student and making sure that we create an inclusive and inviting learning environment.

27
Jul
10

Week 7: Assessments/Surveys

Assessing student progress and outcomes is vital to determining the viability of an online course.  While most learning management systems have self-contained assessment tools, there are several online options as well.  And during week 7, we investigated some of those options.  For surveys, we had surveymonkey.com and zoomerang.com; for assessments there is proprofs.com and quia.com.

I’ve had experience with survey monkey, but not sure that I really like it that well.  I didn’t like the fact that when I clicked the link it took me from the site in which I was in directly to the survey, requiring a back-track and logging in again to the original site.  I also didn’t like the fact that the only way I could obtain the results of the survey was to create an account and log in, so it doesn’t give much leeway to users who take the surveys.  I’m sure the reports for the survey creator are concise and helpful, but from a user standpoint, I wasn’t impressed.

I created an assessment using proprofs.com.  It was really easy to set up and had very basic settings, which is to be expected with a free online quiz program.  It didn’t seem to have a pool feature, although I can randomize the questions…so while all students get the same questions, they are not in the same order, which helps cut down on the cheating potential.  It provides a stats page where I can see number of attempts, scores, etc. – even score per question in graph format.

From a user’s perspective, it’s really cool.  It does not require a login, yet gives you a mini-certificate at the end, shows you your score as well as the questions/answers so you can see what you got wrong.  The report does show user name and individual quiz for each user, so this is a viable tool that could easily be incorporated into any online class as a legitimate assessment tool.

27
Jul
10

Obligatory Intermission…

27
Jul
10

Week 6: Creating Content

In week 6, we were given the challenge to create our own content using resources such as Prezi, Jing and Audicity.

Because of my job and my access to Camtasia, I have created many screen videos with audio for a faculty training course that I teach. One such video is here.

However, I decided to give one of these other resources a try and created a presentation on Prezi.  Once I got used to how it worked (you really have to watch the introduction video), it was amazingly easy to do.  The hard part is coming up with the content to add to it.  🙂

These tools are fantastic for someone who has creativity and time to commit to putting them together as they add to a course visually (and audibly).  However, the drawbacks are the ability to be creative…Prezi doesn’t really guide you, you have to know what looks good; time…these things take time to learn and then time to create them, so you can lose a good chunk of an afternoon putting together one presentation, depending on how much flair you want to add; and too much of a good thing…while the Prezi presentations are cool, I could see where they could get tiring to watch multiple chapter presentations on them.  I think I’d use Prezi sparingly for special types of presentations rather than for every chapter review.

27
Jul
10

Week 5: Ready-made Content

Because sometimes the text from publishers can be dry, instructors look to the web for some interesting content that can supplement their materials and make the course more interesting to students.  Of course, we have to be careful of copyright issues, so it’s best to link to the site that contains this content (or seek permission from the author/creator to use the content).

In week 5 of this course, we had to find a video and podcast that we could use in our course.  I found a video on YouTube that is about Business Ethics in which students and parents on a university campus are asked at random what they think business ethics means.  It’s a pretty interesting video and while I found it as an assignment for this class, I may actually use it in my course to get students thinking about ethics.

Films on Demand is also a great educational subscription service that institutions can use to purchase multi-year licenses for video content to be shown in their classes.

The podcast assignment was a little more challenging for me since business ethics is not a mainstream topic.  I found this one, but shared that since my institution is now part of iTunesU, I could more easily create and distribute my own podcasts than trying to locate one on the web that would fit my course curriculum.

For extra credit during this week, we could find an online learning object.  This assignment was fun!  I used the Wisc-Online site that was suggested.  I did have to create an account, but it was easy and I was given space to create up to 5 games if I didn’t find one that already existed to meet my needs.  So, after playing around a bit, I created a very simple game on Business Ethics using some quiz questions from my own course materials.

I think that there is great value in ready-made content on sites such as Wisc-Online,  Merlot, and even YouTube.  While I doubt that an entire course could be created using these sites, there are literally thousands of supplemental materials that can add creative touches to an online course.  By doing so, we’re creating an engaging environment for our students and giving them access to resources that they can access long after the class is over.

26
Jul
10

Week 4: Synchronous Communication

In week 4, we got into real-time communication in online courses.  Now, this is a challenging concept because the majority of online students take an online course for the convenience of working when they have time – not at specific class times.  However, online courses can easily incorporate engaging assignments so that students don’t feel like they are all alone in their virtual classroom by using synchronous tools, such as Elluminate, Wimba or Adobe Connect Pro.

For the course that week, we met online using Elluminate with the instructor and he showed us the tools that are available using a web conferencing software.  Voice and camera options make this technology tool give a more personal touch to an online class.

Personally, I have more experience with Adobe Connect Pro and have used it quite a bit for everything from tech support in my job to training sessions.  The use of such software as these can make meeting face-to-face a reality regardless of distance and location.  The challenge is generally finding a time that works for all parties to meet online.  However, I’m sure that as technology progresses and the applications for smart phones improve, you will eventually be able to communicate in this manner regardless of whether you have a computer handy or not…we’ll be using our phones for this type of communication.

The educational value of synchronous communication is great; students need to be aware that the real world will not allow them to do work on their own at 2 a.m. – they are going to have to learn to work with people.  And those people will not always be in the same office, building, city, or country.  They will very likely be using some form of live web communication tool in their business life time.