Monday, September 27, 2004

Faculty do not receive enough training in order to teach online

This is not a shocking conclusion. A recent article in The Journal explains the results of a survey that shows clearly that Faculty believe they are not receiving enough training in order to become online teachers.

The interesting thing to me about this article is tied to the conluding recommendations. I quote:

Training for faculty to teach online should contain four major components:

1. Technical training
2. Pedagogical training
3. Mentoring
4. Online coursework

I bet these might surprise you? I have recently experienced resistance from the "powers that be" at my intitution about giving Faculty "pedagogical training." I was a proponent of it and it looks like this article might also support that. In addition, the idea of giving Faculty experience in the Online Environment by giving them Online Coursework exercises during their training is also something I support!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Bye Bye Textbooks

This is an interesting report about a school in Tuscon, Arizona that is currently being built with technology in mind. The powers that be have decided to design the entire school around technology and one of the ways they have chosen to mitigate costs is to forego buying textbooks. Yup... and entire school without textbooks. Instead every student will be issued a laptop and every teacher will select readings from the Internet for their class.

It's an interesting and creative solution that cuts out the insidious problem of textbook edition changes and escalating costs of books. Also, a student no longer has to worry about a locker full of textbooks; instead they only have to worry about one laptop. The article goes on to say that those students who still love books won't go hungry, as there will be a conventional library on site.

I think this is a great idea.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Instructional Design Gone Wrong!

In an effort to learn a new skill, I registered in an Introductory Macromedia Flash course. It's a 30 hour community college level course offered entirely online at a distance. The First Class Learning Management System is being used to construct a virtual classroom where students can exchange ideas and obtain all the course content: assignments, learning activities and lecture materials.

I'm into the 7th day of the course, and so far the only learning activity we have been asked to perform is to post a brief biography of ourselves to one particular forum. Ok, so don't get me wrong, I like the biography activity. The thing I don't like about it is that I was able to complete this task on day 1. So what have I been doing the last 6 days of class: twiddling my mouse!!! BORING.

I was quite excited to be taking this course, now I'm getting bored before it even "begins." At this point, no student has access to the first set of lecture notes, the first assignment nor have any other activities been assigned. We just wait. Yesterday I learned that it will be day 14 before the instructor "releases" the first set of lecture notes and assignment. This frustrates me a great deal.

(Eric puts on his Instructional Designer hat... here's a close approximation of what he looks like with it on )

I will argue that adult students in distance courses have the highest degree of intrinsic motivation for a course at the beginning of it. It follows that if an Instructor wants to cultivate and leverage this high level of motivation, that he or she must fuel it with learning activities and material in the early stages of the course. Based on this idea, I beleive my instructor is missing the boat by waiting 14 days before he releases any material and that students may have a less than optimal learning experience as a result.

I fail to see how waiting 14 days to deliver material can promote or enhance the learning. If someone has any ideas about what might be motivating this Instructor, please let me know by posting a comment.

PS: I hope he doesn't come across this blog before I get my final grade.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

WebLogs in Higher Education

BINGO BANGO! I've been waiting for more articles to appear in the academic litterature about the utility of Blogs in Higher Education.... and here's a beauty! Nice work by Jeremy Williams and Joane Jacobs published in the Australiasian Journal of Education technology in 2004.

I especially like the analysis of the data collected from the Brisbane School of Graduate Studies on their use of Blogs in an MBA two MBA courses.

In summary, there seems to be a broad favourable reaction by students to using this technology in University settings. However, best practices which outline effective usage of this technology may not yet exist.

The Edu-Blogger: ITI: Stephen Downes keynote

The Edu-Blogger: ITI: Stephen Downes keynote

Here's a wonderful recap created by Rick West of Stephen Downes' talk at the Instructional Technology Institute in Utah last week. When I was reading it, a great many points rang true in my mind. The best point is that certain successful applications such as FTP, email, blogs have common criteria that made them successful.. they were:

* - simple
* - decentralized
* - open – we could all play
* - free, etc.

I would suggest that these four criteria are a must for educational applications to be successful; however, what companies are going to invest in R&D around products that are FREE? Catch 22 right there. So successful educational initiatives might be found at the grass roots level in the future. Just interesting food for thought.