Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Web-based Objectives Builder

When I first started teaching at the post-secondary level I was introduced to Bloom's Taxonomy. It was a rocky relationship in the early days because I really didn't "get it." Once I started designing courses of my own, I realized more and more the importance of using a systematic approach to developing performance-based objectives (e.g., observable and measurable). James Basore from Golden Gate University in San Francisco has developed a Flash-based Tutorial and Web-based tool that can help instructors and course designers to understand how to formulate performance-based objectives using Bloom's Taxonomy. For those that are embarking upon their first course design project, or for those who need a little refresher,this is a great tutorial. Check it out and kudos to James!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

EduTechnology is Mainstream

Technology that is common to EduTechnologists has been entering the vernacular of mainstream society for years. If you are unconvinced, you could simply turn to these recent vocabulary winners. Do these sound familiar? (*grin*)
  • 2002 - Most Useful Word of the Year - by the American Dialect Society - "Google"

  • 2004 - Word of the Year - by the Meriam-Webster Dictionary - "Blog"

  • 2005 - Word of the Year - by the New Oxford American Dictionary - "Podcast"

People wouldn't bat an eye if they heard this sentence today: "Just Google me to find my Blog and you'll be able to check out my recent Podcast." (*smile*) Five years ago people would have looked at you like you were an alien from another planet if you said that! Things do change quickly don’t they!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pre-registration diagnotic testing

Diagnostic testing prior to registration into a credit course is not a new concept. It's probably most well known in the language arts. For example, testing a student on their oral abilities in their second language with a short interview can quickly allow the professor to recommend which level of course to enrol in. In distance education, one can still do this! There are many examples of this and they can vary in technical complexity from simple self-grading of text-based answers to fully automated graded testing including media such as figures and graphs. Either way works well and accomplishes the goal.

For example, visit the DCE050: Essential Writing Skills course description at the Royal Military College of Canada. On this page is a link to a text-based "threshold test" that students take at their own pace and then they download an answer key to self-grade the test. The course administrator then goes on to write: "If you score below 70% (35 out of 50) on this Threshold Test, we recommend that you enrol in DCE 050 – Essential Writing Skills." Simple to use, easy to understand and there is clear criteria that students can self-assess themselves against. The results are never communicated back to the school, are anonymous in every way and the responsibility for enrolling in the course resides with the student.

Another example can be found in the mathematics department of Athabasca University. Called the Mathematics Diagnostic Evaluation, it is an Authorware-based application that delivers three different difficulty categories of mathematics questions. Each question is multiple-choice, and some questions have visual aids such as figures and graphs, etc. Also, instead of guessing when the student doesn't know the answer they may simply click the skip icon. Like the text-based example at the Royal Military College, this test is simple to use (once you have Macromedia Authorware player installed on your machine). At the end of the test the program calculates a student's score and recommends which mathematics course they should begin with. Another strength of the test is that it then allows students to download all the correct answers if they are interested. One weakness I did notice was the lack of published criteria that students can self-assess themselves against. The algorithm of what score ranges result in what course recommendations would be nice to see. Again, like the text-based test discussed previously, the results in this test are never communicated back to the school, are anonymous in every way and the responsibility for enrolling in the course resides with the student.

In my view, although nothing replaces a useful academic counselling session with a real life body (whether face-to-face or on the phone), both of these tests are highly student-centered and can be valuable tools for the learner in planning their choice of courses at a distance.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Are you still in the dark about

Andy Carvin has written a very readable summary of what is and how to use it. A must read if you're still in the dark about Check it out.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Yup.... we've heard of PODcasting... well.... welcome to Skypecasting. I've written about Skype before but there has been a new development. Previous versions of Skype have been limited to 5 users per teleconference; however, the new version is now limited to 100 simultaneous users all being able to access the microphone! WOW! What a mega-teleconference! This is ground breaking in my opinion because it's free. Yup. Free. You could certainly use this in distance education scenarios to host free office hours with the professor or to host a lecture even. Imagine the professor sends out a PowerPoint slide deck to the class and then sets a synchronous time of 10am to meet on Skype. He walks everyone through slide-by-slide using audio and people can ask questions on the fly. Beautiful... and inexpensive!

It's not completely free of bugs as Robin Good reports in a recent product test but the potential to impact distance education especially for small schools with limited budgets is certainly there.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

PODcasting on the Cheap!

I recently went to a talk offered y the University of Hio TeachU series on PODcasting and it really sparked some interest in me. They were DEMOing their PODcasting setup and they also took the opportunity to talk about iTunesU. I've written about that before. I'm going to try to test iTunesU over the summer.... maybe with Janet's help (*grin*) and I'll let people know how I make out. If it's a success I intend to PODcast all my lectures this Fall (*smile*);-)

In the meantime if you need some reading on PODcasting, here is a nice Wiki that contains some great information on the topic: PODcasting on the cheap! You can even join this Wiki and contribute material yourself. Fun!