Need-to-Know-News: What Will Next Generation Learning Environments Look Like? Two Reports Share Different Views & MOOC sans Lecture Videos

This ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series features noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform traditional education as we know it.

New white paper suggests the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment requires a ‘Lego-approach’ to its development

1) EDUCAUSE releases paper “Next Generation Digital Learning Environment”

The LMS has been highly successful enabling the administration of learning but less so in enabling learning itself”

Hear, hear! The above quote from the white paper released by EDUCAUSE this week the ‘Next Generation Digital Learning Environment’ highlights the YAWNING gap between what the current learning management systems (LMS) can provide in terms of a learning experience and what is needed to address the needs of a more student-focused, social virtual learning space (Brown, Dehoney & Millichap, 2015). Though the report hits on the key aspects, to gain a broader perspective readers would benefit by reading another report released this month “Future Technology: Infrastructure for Learning” (Siemens, Gasevic & Dawson, 2015). The EDUCAUSE paper identifies the shortcomings of the LMS, highlights how most platforms focus on teaching not learning, operate in silos, and offer little interoperability. The solution, authors suggest, is a mash-up, a mix of applications that will allow individuals and institutions to construct learning environments tailored to their requirements and goals. Sounds good so far.

Yet the article gives the impression that next generation digital learning environments (NGDLE) be built around the needs of the institution, not the learner.  Statements like “assessment is foundational to learning and therefore of central importance to any learning” suggest an institution focus, as does “the analysis of all forms of learning data—is a vital component”. There’s also considerable emphasis on the need for learning analyticsfor all stakeholders learning analytics….must address three levels including institutional oversight” (page 6). Perhaps it’s the word choice (such as ‘must’) that suggests a directive approach to what ‘needs’ to be included in a NGDLE and gives the impression of an institution-focus. The report concludes with an analogy that compares the needs of the NGDLE to interlocking, building components, a ‘Lego approach’ (page 9).

Legos work because of a design specific that ensures the pieces will interlock, while enabling a wide variety of component parts. For NGDLE to succeed, a similar set of specifications and services will be to be defined that constitute the conformance needed to make the Lego approach workable”

Image: Geemo toys as an alternative to Lego-approach used in the analogy of interlocking parts for a new generation digital learning environment. Geemo fits the bill – a flexible “awesome-strange-plaything-slash-art-object” that is adaptable and allows building of fluid, creative shapes and structures.

Insight: Using Lego blocks as an analogy is an unfortunate choice to represent the idea of interlocking components for a NGDLE. Lego blocks suggest rigidity, inflexibility, even resistance. And vintage, given Lego’s been around since 1932. I see the next generation technology platform needing to be innovative, fluid, adaptable and customizable by the learner and the instructor. A more fitting toy for the analogy might be Geemo, a stretchy, flexible, connectable set of pieces that can build a variety of shapes and structures by attaching the ‘arms’ to other pieces. It works on the Lego principle, but in terms of a learning platform, is more representative of a system that can adapt to meet the needs of the students and institution, and allow for creativity, fluidity and flexibility. The latter are characteristics needed for a NGDLE.

Further Reading

2) Another perspective in the Next Generation Learning Platforms in “Future Technologies Infrastructure for Learning” (Siemens, Gasevic & Dawson, 2015, pages 201 – 230).

A similar theme in this report—the next generation of digital learning spaces, but it takes a  different perspective providing balance to the article by EDUCAUSE.  It’s one paper of several in the report released this week “Preparing for the Digital University” written by three esteemed educators—George Siemens is one. This article also suggests a needed change in the type and functionality of education technology infrastructures (platforms) required to support new digital learning spaces. There are parallels between the two papers, both identify the gap in current systems, yet this paper takes an analytical and holistic approach. The authors examine learning platforms in distinct phases, or generations of development:

Generation 1 — Basic technology use: Computer-based training (CBT) and websites
Generation 2 — Enterprise systems: learning management systems (LMS) and content management systems (CMS)
Generation 3 — Fragmentation and diversification: social media, e-portfolio software and MOOC providers, integrated vendor/publishers
Generation 4 — Distributed and digitally shared technologies: adaptive learning, distributed infrastructures, and competency models (page 204)

Insight: The holistic approach includes the perspective of the student. Authors also don’t use the term LMS, which is typically associated with commercial platforms (Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace), but instead refers to learning platforms as ‘technology infrastructure’. The report examines a range of innovative and unique learning platforms that are either research projects that are being piloted in various higher education settings, or are institution-developed and implemented platforms. This report aims to provide guidance to institutions and educators who want to plan and prepare for future transitions, providing insight into how higher education can anticipate the next generation of education software (pg. 204).  The paper can also be viewed as instructive, since several technology infrastructures are examined—platforms that are unique, innovative and model (ironically) many of the needs outlined in the NGDLE paper. Authors examine the platforms via four dimensions, control, integration, ownership and structure. These factors are critical elements in the learning paradigm and are not addressed adequately in the NGDLE paper. The element of control for instance—who has control of the data that students generate during their learning experience, or the content that students (and instructors) generate?

The paper reviews eleven technology platforms with diagrams that illustrate each of the four dimensions on a continuum.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 8.05.18 PM
Screenshot of figure showing how the platform KNOWN aligns with the four dimensions examined: control, ownership, integration and structure (Siemens et al., 2015, p. 229)

3) A MOOC Professor Bypasses Video Lectures

This professor cuts right to the point and shares her opinion on the value of lecture videos in massive open online courses (MOOCs):

Despite their popularity in MOOCs and flipped classrooms, “lecture videos” have the same pitfalls as regular lectures: they provide a false sense of clarity and are utterly forgettable (Barba 2015).

She goes on to describe the design approach of her own MOOC, #NumericalMOOC,

Quality learning is happening without them, because we combine learning pathways, instructional scaffolding, interactive computing with our IPython Notebooks, and independent student work.

Another perspective on MOOC development and one worth examining.

Image credits: 1) Lego Bricks, (2006), Alan Chia and 2) Geemo Building Toy, (2010)

Need-to-Know News: A MOOC Contest, the Week of Open, and California’s Bold Move

In this ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series my goal is to share noteworthy stories with readers that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform the traditional model of education.

MP900405500There are three hot topics creating much buzz this week in education around the world including 1) a MOOC contest with a stipend of €25,000 that is open to scholars from around the world that seeks to find the ten most creative and innovative MOOCs, 2) Open Education Week with new courses for learners and webinars for scholars offered around the clock, and 3) California’s bold announcement that’s rocking higher education institutions in California, and perhaps other public higher education institutions across the United States.

1) Calling all Instructors and Professors: A MOOC Contest
There is a contest for building a better MOOC—or at least building one that is sustainable and innovative. The contest is offered by the MOOC Production Fellowship sponsored by the open learning platform iversity and Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft. iversity is a learning management platform created by group of scholars based in Berlin.

The essence of the contest—the organization is looking for creative, yet sustainable courses to be offered in the open format, which means there are no barriers to entry, on the platform iversity, beginning in Fall 2013. My guess is that this contest is in part, an effort to promote iversity, which from what I gather is designed to be everything that traditional platforms aren’t. You can find out more about the contest by visiting the website, and I’ve highlighted the key points below:

  • A €25,000 fellowship will be awarded to 10 groups/teams with the most innovative MOOCs. The selection committee [jury] is a panel of nine that appears to be mostly scholars, though the web page states that there will be consideration of a public voting phase. I would like to have seen one or more students on the voting committee—a mix of individuals without advanced degrees that would be representative of potential MOOC participants.
  • Applications must be in German or English, though courses can be in any language.
  • Fellowship funds can be used for production costs, research and/or student assistants, equipment or a teaching buyout.

Further Reading:

5093053155_515aedf1e82)  Week of Open: March 11 – 15
I realize that Open Education Week is almost over, though there are many resources worthy of review, including the newly launched School of Open which resides on the P2PU platform.  There are also several webinars that cover various topics of related to open, offered on Friday, March 15—check out the schedule link below.

Further Reading:

  • Schedule of Events,  All events are in GMT time, check the time on the top right hand corner of the web page for a link to the time converter.
  • Open Education Week Website
  • The launch of School of Open, on P2PU which features numerous courses on  topics that all deal with openness and sharing on the Web, including Introduction to Open Science, which I was involved in developing with Creative Commons.
  • Resources for learning about and accessing Open content.
  • Check out the Twitter stream, #openeducationwk

3) California on the Move Again
The newswires are hot this week with an announcement made on Wednesday of proposed legislation that will affect three systems in California that provide public higher education which would mandate that public schools give credit for faculty-approved online courses taken by students that can’t register for the needed courses in the face-to-face classes on campus. This is big news, it leaves the door open for many possibilities, and though a step in the right direction, there will be challenges. Thoughts and highlights:

1) Online courses [a list of approximately 50 introductory courses] from a variety of providers may be accepted, not just MOOC providers, but courses offered through online providers such as StraighterLine, and independent colleges that offer online general education courses, of which there are hundreds. The latter format differs significantly from a MOOC—these are closed, online classes which use different pedagogical methods [I touched upon this topic in this post]. Below is a selection of text from the Bill:

(b) For purposes of this article, the following terms have the following meanings:(1) “Online courses of study” means any of the following: (A) Online teaching, learning, and research resources, including, but not necessarily limited to, books, course materials, video materials, interactive lessons, tests, or software, the copyrights of which have expired, or have been released with an intellectual property license that permits their free use or repurposing by others without the permission of the original authors or creators of the learning materials or resources. [Bill SB 520]

2) There is the possibility that other states will follow, or at least there may be pressure for many to do so.
3) The wording, faculty-approved, is significant, as it could create a laborious and lengthy process in itself to approve courses.

We want to be the first state in the nation to make this promise: No college student in California will be denied the right to move through their education because they couldn’t get a seat in the course they needed,” said Darrell Steinberg, the president pro tem of the Senate, who will introduce the bill. “That’s the motivation for this.” (Lewin, 2013)

Further Reading:

Never a dull moment in the world of higher education. Stay tuned for more developments on Twitter @OnlinelineI

Photo Credits: Newspaper Airplane, iStock, and Open Access, PGRsOnline, Flickr

Learning Analytics for Instructors Need to be Loud and Clear

Learning Analytics…less data more insight. Analytics primary task is not to report the past, but to help find the optimal path to the desired future. (Shum, 2012)

Learning analytics, [analyzing students’ online behaviour patterns to support learning improvement] is not about data collection, but helping learners and instructors make connections with the data. I attended a webinar this past week with Campus Technology, Grand Canyon University: How we are improving student outcomes using LoudAnalytics on the LoudCloud Ecosystem. Grand Canyon University of Arizona shared results from their learning analytics pilot project using LoudAnalytics from LoudCloud, a company which presents themselves as a learning ecosystem, the next-generation of learning management systems. In this post I identify what kind of analytic reports are essential and the most useful to course instructors, which are not, and why this is so. The findings in this post I gathered from the webinar and content from week four of the course Current/Future State of Higher Education.

Meaningful’ Data for the Instructor
I wrote a post last week that addressed how student data gathered from online behaviours from a school’s platform, can put the learner in the ‘driver’s seat’, essentially in control of his or her own learning. A dashboard which gives real-time info on a student’s ‘stats’, can be a visual tool to help learners reach their goals, identify problems and contribute to  motivation. However, what about the course instructor? What analytic tools are available through the LMS platform that can provide meaningful data, data that is consumable – in a usable form that encourages instructors to take action in real-time?

Grand Canyon University Webinar,  Slide #14

To the left is an example of a report from LoudAnalytics that displays data about students’ progress in a visual format. Students are represented by circles; the size of the circle representative of the hours spent on the course home page (interacting with course content, etc.) and the colour of each circle representing a letter grade. I see this as a ‘snapshot’ view of  students progress holistically, but don’t see this report on its own as providing ‘actionable’ data. Time spent within the LMS does not translate always to grades and engagement level, but is just one metric.

Grand Canyon University Webinar, Slide #47

The report to the right however, does appear to provide constructive data for the course instructor. When instructors consider the previous report and the one here, the instructor is able to do something with it. For example upon review, the instructor might want to reach out to student #2 (and potentially one or two others) with an email to the student that might read like this:

Dear [name of student], it appears that you have an assignment outstanding, and have not participated in a forum recently. I am concerned about your progress in the class. There are several resources available for support, …..”

There are limitations to this scenario I’ve described here, it is one-dimensional given we don’t have complete information, but the idea is that the indicators provided in this report are specific about student actions, or non-actions that give the instructor something to work with.

What Data is NOT Helpful
It is information about student actions, i.e. missing assignments, non-participation in discussion forums, low test grades, that is valuable for instructors, what I call ‘actionable’ data. Other data, such as number of times logged on to the course  home page, or the number of minutes spent within the platform, is not meaningful or of much practical use. I suggest that platform providers (i.e. Moodle LoudCloud etc.) consider generating reports that are focused and specific to the users needs (users defined within three groups: student, instructor and administrator). However, making too many reports available will detract from the value of the analytics. For example, the report below shows the time in minutes a student spent within the LoudCloud system, which gives a snapshot of student behaviour, but, I don’t see how this information is useful for the instructor. Perhaps it might be, if considered in conjunction with other reports, but then we get into data overload.

Grand Canyon University Webinar, Slide #48

Furthermore, just because we can measure something, doesn’t mean it is valuable or even useful. Another example is the program that Course Smart, the e-textbook provider is launching to give course instructors reports on student engagement. I wrote about this last week, yet I use this again as an example to show how reports are created from data that end up being inconsequential.

It [Course Smarts’ program] will track students’ behavior: how much time they spend reading, how many pages they view, and how many notes and highlights they make. That data will get crunched into an engagement score for each student. The idea is that faculty members can reach out to students showing low engagement (Parry, 2012).

I have a hard time imaging how instructors will use this information. The problem from the get-go is that Course Smart assumes that student engagement is defined by the number of electronic ‘notes’ made in the e-book and how long the student spends ‘reading’ the textbook. Not only is this logic flawed, but as one of my readers pointed out, it has a ‘big brother’ feel about it. I do agree, and I will be writing about the ethics of learning analytics next week.

Closing Thoughts
Learning analytics can be a powerful tool for instructors, yet only when meaningful data is compiled in such a way that it is user-friendly, relevant and actionable, in other words reports must be loud and clear.  LoudCloud is onto something here, I very much like their visual presentation. Yet LoudCloud and other LMS providers need to narrow down the number of analytic reports made available, customizing what they offer to the users needs. Make it clear, specific and meaningful.

Next post: Dream or Nightmare: The Ethics of Learning Analytics, Online Learning Insights

Grand Canyon University: How we are improving student outcomes using Loud Analytics on the Loud Cloud Ecosystem. (November 13, 2012) Campus Technology Webinar (now on demand)

LT-C2012 Learning Analytics Symposium, (2012),  Simon Buckingham Shum, Slideshare
Introduction to Learning and Knowledge Analytics Syllabus, (2011), An Open Course
Putting Learners in the Driver’s Seat, Online Learning Insights

Why Tech Training for Faculty is a Waste of Time

Providing faculty training for ed tech tools is a waste of time, unless accompanied by instruction that shows instructors how to incorporate the tools to enhance teaching. In this post I share reasons why tech training for course instructors must include pedagogical instructional methods and how instructors and institutions can incorporate such strategies into faculty ed tech training.

Note: In the following post when  I use the term ‘LMS’, I’m referring to learning platforms such as Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas, Desire2Learn, etc.

Deutsch: Logo der freien Software Moodle moddl...

This past week I facilitated a session on how to use Moodle effectively with twenty-five faculty members who teach face-to-face classes for the degree completion program. In the institution that I work with, more than two-thirds faculty use the LMS platform for administrative purposes only, such as posting syllabi, PDF files, and links for students to upload assignments.

My goal for the session was to prompt faculty to want to use the LMS; to view it as a tool to teach more effectively, use it pedagogically rather than administratively. I believe we achieved what we set out to do, if we use the level of involvement [which was high] and the questions from the instructors as indicators. Many appeared motivated, if not enthused by what they could do with the tools within Moodle. This prompted me to research further and write this article.

The Research
With the research I’ve done on our institution’s and others LMS usage, and in speaking with several friends that work as adjunct faculty with public universities, it seems that only a fraction of the instructors are using the LMS as a teaching tool and the rest as a static web page. Furthermore, training in how to use the LMS, if available at all, traditionally focuses on the technical aspects of the platform.

My findings are consistent with survey results conducted recently by an instructional designer for his institution last year in the school’s quest for an alternate LMS platform. Eighty-four faculty responded to the survey, and the results, of which I’ve posted a summary below, support the theory that LMS’ are used primarily for posting syllabi and as a drop box for assignments. A partial list of faculty responses: (Curran, 2012):

  • Posting Documents, PowerPoint’s, and PDFs: 90.3%
  • Posting Course Announcements: 84.7%
  • Emailing Students and Colleagues: 76.4%
  • Web 2.0 Tools (Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, Private Journals): 25%
  • Chat: 12.5%
  • Creating TurnItIn Assignments: 11.1%
  • Virtual Classroom 1.4%

Pedagogical versus Administrative
Faculty need to see that the LMS  can be a valuable teaching tool, not just an administrative one. This means that someone needs to show them how to use it as a tool that can enhance and support classroom instruction. Too often LMS training for faculty and staff is taught as a how-to-use-this-technical-platform for uploading a document, posting a message, emailing etc. The technical aspects are important, but are only one aspect of the training. It is only after the basics are mastered, that we can go further;  demonstrate how a discussion forum can create deep and meaningful conversations that continue after the face-to-face class. Or, how pages created within the LMS for each week can outline focus questions, objectives that can prepare students for classroom learning. And, how the LMS can be a vehicle for interaction, for example with students conducting peer reviews of draft documents of assignments through virtual, small discussion groups, etc.

4 Faces of Personal Learning Network (w Tools)
4 Faces of Personal Learning Network (w Tools) (Photo credit: catspyjamasnz)

I realize that there are far more complex and robust platforms, or non-platforms that create a virtual learning environment, many of which are described in-depth in an excellent piece featured in EDUCAUSE Review by Jon Mott. Mott examines the limitations of LMS platforms and presents two alternatives for learning environments. The first is PLN’s, Personal Learning Networks, which are personally customized networks of blogs, wikis and web 2.0 tools, and the second, open learning networks, which leverage the open architecture of the web, and suggest that the LMS is too limiting and confining. However, these options, appear far beyond the scope of most faculty who are still acquiring skills in mastering the basics of  the LMS.

Why LMS is Necessary for now at least…
Though I find the idea of PLN and open learning network attractive, I also believe that institutions that offer education programs or open, online courses need to provide a virtual meeting place, which is what the learning management platform provides. Though I do suggest that faculty and students also develop their own personal learning networks, where perhaps content and resources they access or create through the LMS could be added to their own PLN, or conversely could be shared and brought into the LMS.

‘Teaching’ Centers for the Teachers
Faculty that teach in all modalities not just online, need support in learning how to adapt their teaching methods and pedagogy to the digitally connected student and the virtual meeting place. Some institutions have dedicated centers for such education, like Texas Christian University, which has the Koehler Center for Teaching Excellence that offers workshops, open ‘labs’ for support in LMS development, and technical support. Training programs are not all one and the same, technical support and training is differentiated from pedagogical support.

Purdue University has the Center for Instructional Excellence, which offers a robust selection of training support for instructors. Many resources are open and accessible online to anyone, making it a tremendous resource for course instructors at any institution.

Suggestions for Institutions

  • When it comes to providing training for instructors, consider emphasizing the desired results and outcomes of using the LMS effectively.
  • Though a trainer might be technically adept in the technical aspects of the LMS, he or she may not be able to provide pedagogical training. Offer both, technical training [foundational training] and training in educational methods and theories that emphasize the use of technology as a tool.

Suggestions for Course Instructors

  • Determine what training is available within your own institution.
  • Request training in pedagogical methods that incorporate technological applications and tools.
  • Visit other institutions web sites that offer resources, such as the ones listed above.
  • Review training videos that might be available on YouTube on your own LMS system. Many educators post training videos on LMS features they are experts in.
  • Develop a personal learning network (PLN) to aggregate resources and web content, and build a network.

Faculty training and professional development involves resources of time and money, as do investments in LMS platforms and other ed tech tools. Money is wasted however, if training is not conducted effectively to reach faculty, to help them to teach and incorporate technological tools, such as LMS platforms, that support learning outcomes and learner development. Too often training is ineffective, is one-dimensional focusing on only one aspect, either technical or pedagogical skills. Both are needed to support and develop faculty in becoming an instructor that is relevant and skilled in knowing when and how to use ed tech tools appropriately and effectively.


5 [very good] Ed-Tech tools for Online Instruction

In my last post I wrote about how to choose the ‘right’ ed-tech tools for online instruction. I shared a 5-step Ed-Tech Integration Strategy developed to help educators select the best ed-tech tool from among the hundreds of tools available on the Web. With so many options of educational technology tools and applications that can enhance instruction, how do you choose the one that will be the best fit for your course? In this post I’ll  introduce five tools that we have implemented [or plan to] in several of our online courses at my workplace along with the strategy we used for the selection process.

To put this strategy into context and to see how it works, I’ll illustrate the 5-step review process using Google Hangout as the ed-tech application, which we are considering for one of our [100%] online credit courses. The course is a general education undergraduate course, English Literature. Class sizes for our online classes range from ten to thirty-five students, though the average class size for English Lit is usually about twelve students.

Ed-Tech Tool  #1: Google Hangouts for Seminar Discussion
Google Hangouts: I am enthusiastic about this application available through Google + (Google Hangouts requires a plug-in to work). I believe it has tremendous potential for the online learning environment and am eager to use it in our program.

While taking the course Introduction to Sociology through Coursera, I was exposed to Google Hangouts through the live weekly seminar discussions between the professor and six or seven students, which were recorded. The recordings were available following the discussion for the rest of the class to view. Even though the majority of students could not participate live, we benefited by viewing the guided discussions led by the course instructor which focused on the readings for the week. The live discussions were interactive, each student was able to engage in the discussion. [You can view a screen shot from a Google Hangout recorded discussion below. When a student is speaking, his or her image is on the screen, and the rest of the student images are below, when a student speaks the image switches to feature the speaker.]

The 5 Step Ed-Tech Strategy Applied
The questions which guide the 5-step integration strategy are highlighted in italics and bold [to view a visual representation of this model click here] below. Following each step is the thought process we went through when considering Google Hangouts for one of the learning activities in module #2 of the English Lit course – a discussion needed to support objectives around an assigned reading.

1. Consider: will this application/tool enhance, improve instruction or motivate learners? Yes – A Google Hangout will promote interaction and create dialogue about course content, in this case an assigned reading, amongst classmates and the course instructor. The instructor will be able to guide discussion and draw out important concepts and themes. Students will take turns participating in live discussion throughout the course – a maximum of 7 students per discussion. Session will be recorded for later viewing by those students not participating.

2. Review learning objectives for the lesson or module. One of the three objectives within this module is: ‘To identify and apply themes from a literary work from the Middle Ages [in this case Beowulf] to events and themes that exist within current culture’. The class discussion, led by the course instructor through Google Hangout will support part of this objective, a follow-up activity will be needed to support entire goal.

3. Identify the content student needs to learn – review, augment and/or update.
Students are required to read the poem Beowulf (either through the free e-book link provided, or via purchased textbook) prior to participating or watching the recorded discussion. To augment the reading, students are also required to listen to an audio clip of a reading from the poem to gain further appreciation of the literary work (to view the site where audio resource was sourced, click here.)  Students are required to review discussion questions prior to the live or recorded discussion.

4. Assess: will it [Google Hangout] encourage students to apply the content and learn the material, construct knowledge and/or promote critical thinking?  Yes – in two steps, 1) through the guided discussion led by course instructor and 2) after the discussion students will be required to post to a discussion forum a written response to one or more identified [by the course instructor] discussion questions. This serves two purposes – encourages  student to reflect on the discussion within context of course content, and to ‘describe’ what they learned, thus encouraging critical thinking.

5. Select and implement the best application. Create concise instructions of how-to use tool. We will be implementing Google Hangouts in our next session’s course, though we need to write specific instructions and provide how-to resources for students in order that they have the technical aspects mastered prior to participating. Creating concise instructions and offering tech support is often a neglected component when using ed-tech tools which can undermine the success of the learning.

Four More [really good] Ed-Tech Tools

2. Camtasia or Jing Screen Cast programs: Screen casts which record a screen image of a Word doc or Power Point file with a  highlight function and are accompanied by (user voice) audio recording – is an excellent tool for instructor’s to give feedback on individual or group assignments. One of my professors in grad school used this tool for giving feedback on all group assignments, using our group submission of a Word Doc, and highlighting points within it as he verbally gave feedback on key points.  One of our professors will be using this tool for graded essays in our English Composition Class next session, and another professor of a general ed Science class will be recording mini-lectures using power points slides for a part of the content delivery.

3. Khan Academy: I love Khan Academy for the concise, and specific topical lessons that can supplement a lesson beautifully. We currently use Khan videos in two of our courses, and student feedback is positive. In our United States Government course, we use a video that explains the United States Electoral system, and in our Critical Thinking and Problem Solving course to support several of the mathematical concepts required within the modules. These videos augment the lessons – a form of the content delivery.

4. Google Docs: An excellent collaborative tool that allows real time collaboration between students using documents  (Word, Excel or Power Point). In one of our courses we require a group project be submitted where all members contribute. We encourage use of group discussion board within our LMS and Google Docs. The challenge is that Google Docs is outside our current LMS making it difficult for instructor to monitor and evaluate. However, of the collaborative tools I have worked with, Google Docs is superior.

5. Course Development Planner: For Course Instructors and Designers
I was introduced to this tool by one of my readers. It was developed at Utah State University, and is a free tool for course instructors and/or course designers featuring a user-friendly design in a worksheet format through Adobe Reader. The format makes it easy to plan and organize a course. It is an ‘open source’ tool, so if you do use it I’m sure the developers would appreciate your feedback. Download the tool and watch the intro video from the You Tube site, click here.

How to choose the best ed-tech tools for Online Instruction, Online Learning Insights, Blog
Google +, Google Hangouts Learn More
Google + Hangouts Plug-in

Webinar Round-Up: Get thinking out of the Box…

I find Webinars [web based seminars] a tremendous, efficient and effective way to stretch my thinking beyond the ‘normal’ parameters that I work within day-to-day, kick-start my creativity and learn something new that often leads to novel way to approach a project. Usually only an hour-long, often for free, [and with a web-enabled device], Webinars allow you to log on and listen to an expert in a given field [social media, leadership and education which I’ll focus on in this post] ask questions through chat and learn about a new topic, technology or perspective. As part of my own personal development, my goal is to participate in one Webinar a month on a topic that might be related to my work though often is not. In this post I’ll share some upcoming Webinars around the Web that may be of interest.

Below I’ve listed upcoming sessions in May and June that look interesting –  in a previous post, I explained the ins and outs of Webinars, with some tips for maximizing their effectiveness, if interested, click here.

The Culture Cycle: How to Shape the Unseen Force that Transforms Performance, Sponsored by Harvard Business Review. Date: May 21.  No cost. The host is one of Harvard’s esteemed professor’s James Heskett who will discuss his new book Culture Cycle, describe how culture evolves, is shaped and sustained, fosters innovation, and can promote organizational survival in tough times. Click here for further details.

Conversations in Leadership. Sponsored by Skillsoft. Date: June 6. No cost. Author  Shawn Achor, former professor of Harvard University, has extensively researched the elusive concept of ‘happiness’ and in this webinar discusses his findings in his new book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.  Though this webinar is free, it is promoted by Skillsoft company, likely for leads for new business. Click here for further details.

In Conversation with Jay Cross: Social Business takes Social Learning. Sponsored by Social Learning Centre. No cost with free membership to the Social Learning Centre. Hosted by Jane Hart and facilitated by Jay Cross, author, educator, who is considered “the Johnny Appleseed of informal learning”. Jay has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix. A champion of informal learning and systems thinking. Click here for further details.

Social Media
Using Social Media to Support Workplace Learning, featuring Jane Hart (a leader in social media for professionals and educators, founder of Social Learning Centre a terrific network that offers free resources and insights into emerging tools and technologies). Sponsored by eLearning Guild. Date: Fee based. June 12. In this session, listen and discuss with Jane Hart about her experiences in, ideas about, and predictions for using social media to support workplace learning. Click here for further details.

Managing Traditional and Social Media for Libraries. Sponsored by the Public Library Association. No cost.  Date: May 31. This session, geared to the media library media specialist, will discuss the fundamentals of media planning and outreach, social media, and skills required to promote library activities and advocacy efforts.  Click here for further details.

Higher Education
Meeting Today’s Workforce Education Challenges. Sponsored by Pearson Learning Solutions. No cost. Date: May 31. The Webniar’s host, Pat Gerity, is VP of Workforce Education at Westmoreland College in PA,  and appears to have extensive experience in  transitioning college students into the workforce. Click here for more info.

Captioning for Lecture Capture. Campus technology. Sponsored by Campus Technology and Tegrity, McGraw Hill. June 5. No Cost.  Click here for further details.

Improving Student Engagement Through Early Career Mapping. Sponsored by EDweek. Date: May 22.  No Cost. Click here for further details.

How States use Digital Learning to support Education Reform. iNacol (International Association for K12 Online Learning).  Date: June 13. Members $39, Non-members $99. In a report from Illinois State Board of Education, co-authors Dr. Tom Clark and Dr.  E. Oyer explore the changing landscape of education reform and technology programs to develop and sustain innovation. Click here for further details.

Empowering School Cultures to Support all students. Sponsored by Edweek. Date: June 5. No cost.  Education author and speaker Alan M. Blankstein, will discuss how to create and build resourceful and confident school cultures. Click here for further details.

Beyond LMS Boundaries: Web 2.0 Enriching Online Learning and Assessment. Sponsored by iNACOL  (International Association for K-12 Online Learning). Date: June 21. Fee based. Click here for further details.

Learning Management Platforms
Haiku, Learning Management Platform. Learn about this K-12 LMS platform with webniars offered every Tuesday and Thursday. Click here for further details.

The Flipped Classroom. Sponsored by Sophia, Learning Management Platform. May 22, and June 12. Click here for further details.

The Moodle Gradebook. Moodle Rooms. Date: May 30. Click here for further details.


Photo Credit: Tic-Tac-Toe, Think outside Box, by ArtJonak