Need-to-Know News: Role Reversal of Teacher & Students, A Revealing MOOC Scorecard & New Take on Robo Grading

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.

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The lab manual and its iPad version were created by Columbia medical students themselves. The manual is accessed on the iPad during the lab–the screen covered in plastic.  The digital version also includes interactive quizzes.

1) Role Reversal: Students and Teachers
The Wall Street Journal published a report this week, Unleashing Innovation in Education dedicated to innovative programs and events happening in higher education and K-12. There are numerous articles and videos of interest—a breadth of topics, and a variety of media used to report the stories makes this a  good read. One in particular caught my attention— medical students creating their own textbook; it illustrates the changing dynamic between student and teacher.

Here’s the reversal, students are now actors in their learning, not observers, and teachers at times become the observer as well as the actor.  We can see this play out with these young medical students who created a digital textbook/manual, Columbia Clinical Gross Anatomy Dissection Manual. They saw a need to replace the textbook assigned for their anatomy class —”Grant’s Dissector” published over 60 years ago.  The students, not happy with their spiral-bound Grant text, decided to create their own. And they did so, over the summer by taking thousands of pictures of the dissecting process. One of their professors advised them along the way. The students used Apple’s iBooks program to create the text, and embedded interactive quizzes within.

Insight: This example showcases the shift that is happening with students and learning. Students not only want to get involved in learning and be part of the curriculum, but expect to be able to do so. The role of the educator shifts in response, evidenced in this example by the professor that guided and advised the students during the process. The role of the professor is not minimized, but is changing. Instructors now need to adopt a variety of teaching styles in order to adapt to the student and situation.

2) MOOC Scorecard Says Much
Another article in the WSJ report worthy of review is An Early Report Card on Massive Open Online Courses.  It covers the background of MOOCs well, the key players, the platforms etc. But most telling is the MOOC scorecard graphic which outlines student demographic data released by Canvas Network, Cousera and Udacity.  Though it’s not a meta-analysis by any means as the numbers are stand-alone for each platform, nor is it statistically significant data that is generalizable, however there are patterns and themes that stand out. One in particular is the education level of students in Canvas Network data —over 75% of MOOC students in the sample held at least a four-year degree. This falls in line with other reports I’ve read outlining similar data on specific MOOC courses, which I described in a previous post.

Insight: MOOCs may not be best format for undergraduate and high school students. They still [in most cases] need guidance, feedback and instruction from a skilled educator. Learning in an open course requires a skill set that undergraduates develop while they are in college. This is where they should learn how to learn, get support and guidance from instructors, whether that be face-to-face or in small online environments.

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Figure 1 from Stanford report displaying image of linear regression representing over 40,000 student code homework submissions. Colours correspond to performance on a battery of unit tests.

3) Robo-Clustering for Student Feedback
Automated essay grading, where a computer grades an essay with programmed software is controversial. It’s been hotly debated among educators in the blogosphere over the last several months. Here’s another robo-type approach that’s not automated essay grading per se, but automated clustering of assignments which allows instructors to give feedback to students en masse.

From what I gather from reading the report by the program developers [Stanford professors] here’s how it works—student assignment submissions are entered into a database and clustered by similar response patterns. The professor then reviews and provides feedback on one assignment from a given cluster; this feedback is then broadcast to the rest of the students in the same cluster.

“Clustering submissions along key metrics is a natural way to reduce the amount of work required. The hope is that homework submissions within the same cluster are similar enough, that feedback for one member can be propagated to the rest of the cluster.” (Huang, Piech, Nguyen & Guibas, 2013)

The researchers suggest the application can be applied to other grading scenarios, i.e. AP exam grading, or to brick-and-mortar classes which give the same homework assignments over multiple sessions. I can [sort of] see the value of this program, though it seems a stretch to think it will be applicable to broader education contexts anytime soon—but the data sure makes beautiful artwork (see figure 1).

Essential Resources for Educators of Online and Blended Courses

back-to-school_imageIt’s that time of year when educators seek fresh ideas and strategies to create meaningful learning experiences for their students. I too have plans for the upcoming school-year; one of my goals is to create a robust selection of useful resources accessible here on Online Learning Insights. This resource bank will be a list of links by topic targeted to professors, instructors and instructional designers looking for ideas, inspiration and/or skill development specific to online or blended learning and instruction. The resources are carefully selected; I’ve included only those that I refer to consistently, are of high-quality and support knowledge and skill development.

This post [part I] is the beginning of the resource section—it will grow over time. If you have ideas for additional topics, or would like to suggest a resource, please do so by adding a comment to this post.

I. Skills for Teaching Online [Introductory]

Though there are a plethora of available resources specific to skill development for teaching online, I’ve chosen resources to share here that are targeted to educators that are in the developmental phase of teaching blended or online courses.

1. Shifting from a face-to-face setting to an online classroom requires not only a different skill set, by a different mindset. Georgian College’s Center for Teaching and Learning site includes excellent information on online and blended teaching skills for the novice instructor including this article—Key Shifts in Thinking for Online Learning. It’s a good starting point for instructors moving from face-to-face to the online classroom.

2. The most comprehensive resource for teaching online [in my opinion] is the COFA series, Learning to Teach Online produced with University of New South Wales (UNSW).  The program features a series of videos [maximum of six minutes each] available on Youtube. The primary objective of the program is for viewers to gain an understanding of successful online teaching pedagogies. One of the twenty-five videos in the series is  Planning your Online Class which explores the key elements educators need to consider when planning an online or blended class.

3. Teaching presence in the online environment occurs when students feel that the instructor is ‘there’. Though online presence sounds vague, it’s instrumental in supporting meaningful learning. This slideshare Understanding Teaching Presence Online provides an overview of how to establish presence and outlines why it’s essential.

4. Thanks to University of Minnesota State Colleges for this excellent mini-course on how to teach online, Getting Started Online, Advantages, Disadvantages and How to Begin. Open to anyone—this resource is applicable to novice and experienced educators.

II.  Using Rubrics for Effective Instruction and Course Design

1. Chico University created this site for instructors and designers of online courses with the concept of the Rubric for Online Instruction (ROI).  It includes excellent tools for educators wanting to evaluate their own online courses and can be used for course redesign. Though it is geared to faculty teaching within a higher education setting, it can be adapted to other environments.

The Rubric for Online Instruction (ROI) is a tool that can be used to create or evaluate the design of a fully online or blended course.  The rubric is designed to answer the question, “What does high-quality online instruction look like?” http://www.csuchico.edu/roi/the_rubric.shtml

2.  University of West Georgia created a webpage specific to rubrics and included resources about online instruction for faculty including the Five Star Rubric for Online Instruction.

3. This slideshare presentation, Rubrics for College – The Easy Steps Way,  provides a good overview of rubrics that instructors can create for students—tools that provide clarity and guidelines for student assignments and assessments. The presentation covers the why, and the how of rubric implementation applicable to face-to-face and online environments.  More resources specific to student rubrics to follow.

III. Blended Learning and Teaching [Introductory]

Blended Learning Panel @richardgorrie et al [v...
Blended Learning (Photo credit: giulia.forsythe)
Blended learning has several definitions, though overall the idea is that a portion of the face-to-face class time is augmented or replaced by online instruction. In most cases it involves reduced class time, but not always. Results from numerous studies show an increase in student performance with the blended format, more so when the curriculum is adapted and modified to maximize each instructional method.

1. The Clayton Christen Institute gives an overview of the blended model for K-12 and higher education on its site in a section dedicated to defining Blended Learning. The pages include links to several research reports on Blended Learning specific to K-12.

2. This resource, the mother-of-all resources on blended learning from EDUCAUSE, is a comprehensive tool that provides links to numerous research reports on blended learning outcomes as well as how-to tools for educators wanting to implement their own blended learning programs.  The Blended Learning Toolkit: Improving Student Performance and Retention also includes the Blended Learning Toolkit, a how-to resource provided by the University of Central Florida, is an open educational resource licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike license.

3.  Georgian College is one of several higher education institutions implementing the blended model. The schools’ site provides an overview of the pedagogy associated with blended learning, and compares it to online and face-to-face instruction – Blended Online/Face-to-face Courses.  Purdue University, another school recently implementing  blended courses across campus, has a web page designed for its faculty, though it still offers helpful insights for educators of any institution.

Closing
I’ve only just started sharing the many resources that I’ve collected, and in my next post, I’ll share resources on fostering discussion in online environments, learning theory—exploring how people learn, and finally, the pedagogy of MOOCs.

The second post featuring resources for online instructors is available here.