Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Realities of the College Transfer Experience

photograph of trees lining a pathway
This post reflects on his struggles and the ways convoluted higher ed processes can derail students trying to earn a degree. It also provides some general information about the public higher education system in California and tips for transferring. I hope this information will be helpful to many.

The Many Values of Community Colleges


The public higher education system in California is immense. And the complexities involved with moving between institutions are too.  In CA, there are 112 community colleges (CCCs) that serve more than 2 million students. On the four-year side, the California State University (CSU) system includes 23 campuses and the University of California (UC) has 10 institutions.

The CCC system enrolls 24% of the nation's CC students. I'm an advocate and supporter of community colleges. In the 1960s, my father left his impoverished family of fifteen siblings on the east coast and became a resident of California to enroll at Porterville Community College, which was then free to CA residents. He then transferred to San Jose State University (part of the CSU system) and completed his Master's degree and then moved to Iowa State to complete his Ph.D.  The opportunity provided to my father through California community college and the CA Master Plan for Higher Education improved his and my economic and social status. It also produced a healthy stream of educated workers in California, creating a fertile soil for transforming CA into a nexus of innovation. 

While CCCs are no longer free, they are still an incredible financial value. They provide the same lower division coursework that 4-year institutions provide and usually do so in a smaller class environment with instructors whose primary responsibility is to teach, as opposed to research. I plan to have my two boys attend a community college after high school. They are fully aware of this and they understand why.  My boys will spend two years at a CC to explore and figure out what they love to do (assuming they don't figure it out before then). They will transfer to a 4-year institution and complete their undergraduate degree there.  I have also taught in the CCC system, as both a full-time and part-time faculty, for twelve years.

Our family plan will, of course, save my husband and I thousands of dollars too.  Student loan debt in the U.S. has now topped $1 trillion.  If a student completes a 4-year degree within 4 years in the CA public higher education system and the first two years of transferable, lower-division coursework is completed at a community college, the savings is roughly $10,000 if the student transfers and graduates from a CSU and more than $20,000 if the student moves on to a UC. 

That plan seems simple and worth it in many ways, doesn't it? And many families/students follow it with success. Each year, according to the Community College League of California, roughly 60,000 students transfer from a community college in California to a CSU or UC. And 28% of UC graduates and 55% of CSU grads started their higher education journey at a CCC.

The Student Experience


As we consider this data and the critical role community colleges play in the college completion process, let's also consider the student experience. My nephew is in the midst of transferring from a CCC to a CSU. He, and most college students, do not view their higher ed experience through a bird's eye view of institutional organizations.  I know I didn't when I was in college. It took me a long time before I even understood how CCCs, CSUs, and UCs were different and had the potential to function as an interconnected system.  Nonetheless, my nephew has learned that navigating the transfer process is no simple feat.  He completed some of his course work at one community college in CA and then moved to a nearby city and began attending a separate community college, where he completed his lower division coursework.  Both colleges are "feeder schools" for the 4-year institution to which he is transferring.  A counselor at the second college provided him with  list of courses he needed to complete to be ready to transfer.  He completed all of the courses on the list.  However, one of the courses, a math class, was completed at the first community college.  He learned late in the game that the university only accepts that math course from the second community college and not the first.  As a community college instructor, this did not surprise me.  But I certainly saw it through a new lens -- and realized how this convoluted system messes with students' lives and finances.

What did surprise me was the plan his counselor suggested he follow to remedy the problem.  The counselor suggested he enroll in an out-of-state university and complete the math course online. The online course from the out-of-state institution would articulate to his university of choice and he could then officially transfer.

He accepted the counselor's suggestion, as it would not require him to travel hours to the nearest community college at which the math class is offered (with full articulation).  He could also pick up additional hours at work, while completing his class online.  So, now he is paying out-of-state tuition to complete a single online math class to enable him to transfer from a California Community College to a California State University.


This situation reveals how online classes can improve a student's chances for succeeding with their educational goals.  It also reveals the tremendous need for CA's CCCs to continue to be leaders in the online learning space, but also to create fully online lower division pathways for students with the ability to enroll easily in these classes, as opposed to needing to register at each individual college.  This plan is in motion and our students in California, as well as our state, will benefit from it greatly.

Next, I asked my nephew how the online class has been (as the semester was coming to a close).  "Rough," he replied.  He shared that math is difficult for him and he has feels that he learns best in a face-to-face setting.  I asked him if the instructor was present in the online class.  He said, "No. In fact, when I emailed her for help, she gave me a phone number for a support center." I asked him if he experienced interaction with his online peers in the class.  He said, "No.  I just read the book and completed assignments in a Pearson website."

That's unacceptable and demonstrates that, while he is completing the required course to be able to transfer, his learning is suffering due to a poor quality learning experience. How will this impact his success in his future math classes? How does this impact his confidence as a human and as a student? How does this reflect on the general attitudes about online learning? All of these questions, and more, are critical to the future of higher education and often get lost.

Transfer Tips


Research shows that 1 in 10 students who transfer from a CC lose credits because they are not transferable. This extends the duration of the degree, as the courses must be repeated, and wastes time and money (albeit, these courses may provide value in other ways!). If you know a student planning to transfer from a community college to a 4-year institution, here are some resources to help improve the experience.
  • If the institutions are located in CA, become acquainted with Assist.org. It provides up-to-date information about which courses at your CC transfer to the your 4-year institution of choice.  CaliforniaColleges.edu also provides a comprehensive set of resources to guide students from high school through the completion of a 4-year degree.
  • Create a mobile toolkit. More and more startups are forming around the goal of improving the student transfer process.  Transfer Bootcamp (founded by a former community college student) is designed to improve a student's organization and awareness of the transfer process.  ImFirst is an app designed to support, guide and celebrate first generation college students through graduation.
  • Become familiar the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program if you live in a western state (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, N. Dakota, Oregon, S. Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming). This program provides residents of these states an opportunity to apply for a significantly reduced out-of-state tuition rate.
  • Use the tools the counselors use. The site, CCC Transfer, is developed and used by counselors throughout the CCC system to assist students with the transfer process. It is packed with great resources!
Please share your own tips and experiences about transferring from a community college to a 4-year university in a comment.

Monday, November 24, 2014

ET4Online CFP Closes 12/1!


The deadline to submit your proposal for the OLC Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Symposium (April 22-24, 2015 in Dallas) is December 1st!

This year's OLC (formerly Sloan-C) Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Symposium, a joint symposium with MERLOT, offers you the option to select from a variety of presentation formats and six different tracks.

 

When you submit to a track, you will have the option to:

  • Be a chef in the Technology Test Kitchen (submit to the Technology Test Kitchen Track be considered as an ET4Online Chef!). What is this, you ask? View this 1 1/2 minute video:

  • Present an interactive workshop (of 90 or 120 minutes). Workshops are included in the standard program (no extra fee for participants).
  • Present a 50-minute information session.
  • Share an Electronic Discovery Session.  This year, all Discovery Session presenters will receive a complimentary 1-year license to VoiceThread (a $99 value!), in exchange for sharing your session online with our virtual attendees in the form of a VoiceThread.  More details here.
Don't miss out! #ET4Online has it going on!

Click here for full details!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

OLC Partners with VoiceThread for ET4Online's Discovery Sessions




Today, I was part of an exciting conference call with the Online Learning Consortium (formerly Sloan-C) and VoiceThread.  The two organizations have established an exciting partnership for the 8th Annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning (ET4Online) Symposium 2015!

The partnership will connect face-to-face ET4Online Discovery Session presenters with virtual conference attendees (and beyond).  Simply by uploading a PDF of one's Powerpoint or Keynote presentation into VoiceThread and recording  personalized voice comments to expand upon each slide, each Discovery Session presenter will also create an asynchronous voice conversation about their session topic.  VoiceThreads are interactive, providing an opportunity for virtual attendees to view and ask questions on any slide in a VoiceThread.

But that's not all ... each ET4Online 2015 Discovery Session presenter will also receive:

  • A complimentary 1-year Higher Ed Single Instructor license. This is a $99 value. Wow!
  • The opportunity to be part of a cutting-edge VoiceThread feature (not even released yet!) that will facilitate the curation of a group of VoiceThreads in an embeddable content frame.
The Call for Proposals for ET4Online 2015 closes December 1, 2014.
VoiceThread Resources:

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Beautiful Stroke

"You had a stroke," said the ER doctor last Tuesday, as she looked straight into my eyes with an expression mixed with surprise and concern.

At that moment, everything around me seemed to disappear -- the doctor, the nurse by her side, the hospital room I was in, even the sounds in the distant background.  I felt as if I was alone and very small in an empty, dark, and quiet space.  The moments after I heard my diagnosis were strange and uncomfortable. I hope to never experience that feeling again.

Six days later, I am feeling well and immensely grateful for recovering virtually unscathed.  I'm not one who believes my life is guided by a predetermined plan, but I do believe life is the greatest teacher there is. So, as I transition back into my daily activities, I am reflecting deeply on what I can learn from this experience and use it to impact my life in positive ways.

Past Experiences Shape Our Behaviors 

 

When I was released from the hospital, my husband and I sat down to talk about what had happened.  He asked me, "How did you know? I probably would have ignored the symptoms you had." This question has sat with me now for several days. The answer to that question is quite simple and it makes me think differently about my students and the faculty I work with.  Each human filters external stimuli through her or his past experiences.  These experiences deeply shape our behaviors.

The Event

 

Six hours before the doctor informed me that I had a stroke, I was running on my treadmill.  About ten minutes to my activity, my left arm and hand went numb and heavy. While most 43 year-olds may not take this incident seriously right away, I immediately reacted with concern. It was a holiday, my husband was out of town for the day and I was home alone with my two boys, ages 12 and 14. I knew if these symptoms were stroke-related, they may progress and I instantly began to prepare for this scenario.

My Reaction

 

Being the tech geek I am, my first reaction was to document the event on video with my smartphone -- thinking if something more happened to me, the video would be important data for the doctors.  Then I went downstairs and informed my boys of what was happening, trying to stress (without scaring them) that it was only my hand and arm so they would be clear how things started if I lost more motor function. I called the advice nurse who connected me with an ER doctor. The ER doctor felt quite certain I had a pinched nerve, but encouraged me to come in for testing just in case.

 

 My Past Experiences 

 

Nine years ago, I had a large aneurysm in my aorta that prompted a 5-hour open heart surgery to replace the root of my aorta and my aortic valve.  The valve that I received is a mechanical St. Jude valve.  I take warfarin every day to protect myself from blood clots -- the body's natural defense to a foreign object.

Since my surgery nine years ago, I have lived in a continuous state of heightened awareness about my body. I react to each twitch, each pain, each irregular heart beat wondering if it is something to be concerned about.  I often report symptoms that turn out to be nothing. So, when my arm went numb and heavy, it was natural for me to jump into gear, but I also expected the tests I would have that day would turn up negative. I was wrong.

 

 Why This Matters

 

As a teacher and an instructional technologist, I create experiences for my students and colleagues.  These experiences are intended to challenge, provoke, and initiate the process of learning.  I frequently think about how the learning preferences and differences of my students and the faculty whom I work with are impacted by the design of the online experiences I create.  I am also aware of the tremendous value the diverse experiences of learners bring to an online class and strive to create an environment that depends on the sharing of these experiences to cultivate meaningful connections between individuals, as well as make learning relevant. Yet, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about how a person's past experiences inform how she or he reacts to particular external stimuli.

When I was a child, for example, I was introduced to computers and networking at a very early age. My father was a research scientist at IBM and he was the first person in our neighborhood to have a computer at home in the early 80s that was connected to a mainframe.  My earliest memory of my dad's computer was anchored in relationships, not high technology. I have a memory of my dad calling me into his home office and saying, "Look at the screen. What do you see?"  I peered at the large black display screen and read emerald green courier font that said, "Hi, Jake. This is ____." I can't remember the person's name right now but it was one of my dad's colleagues writing to him from his own home office.  I can remember feeling dazzled, amazed, and totally overwhelmed by the thought of another human communicating with my dad in real-time -- from a completely different physical location.

Positive experiences like this one, which anchor technology in human connectivity have shaped my attitudes about technology.  Not everyone brings these types of positive experiences to the table in an online classroom or in an online teaching preparation program. This lesson is important, as it highlights one thread in the complex web of human behavior.  Understanding how and why people respond to situations as they do is a skill that is very necessary today in education, as technology continues to play a bigger role and hold new possibilities each year.

How Smartphones Can Help Humanize an Experience

 

Last Tuesday, I had very little control of my left hand. My pinky and ring finger were virtually useless.  I already shared how I used my smartphone to document the event on video. As the day continued, I found myself unwilling to put my phone down, even though it was tricky to use it with a single hand.

I used my phone to take photographs of my various environments -- the CAT scan machine, the cardiac bubble test, my breakfast tray, my view from the ER bed.  Those photographs grew more important to me as I returned home. I can't put my finger on why exactly, but they are precious reminders of the day that I frequently look back on. I know some of you may find that odd, but I find the images to be important reminders for me as I move back into my routine. I want to remember this event. I want it to stay vivid in my mind, so I continue to live each day with gratitude. I do not want to forget it -- and that is what happens over time without photographic documentation.

I used my phone to stay in continuous contact with my husband during the day and my sisters. I sent a text message after each test result was shared. I asked my sister to contact my other sister and my parents after I learned I had a stroke. At one point in the day, a nurse was taking my blood pressure and said, "Put your phone away and just relax."  I turned my phone off and felt more anxious than ever.  That phone allowed me to have my family with me. But the nurse clearly did not see it the same way as I.

Finally, I used the voice-to-text feature built into my smartphone to enable me to communicate without the need to type.  This was tremendously valuable to me while my left hand was not functioning well.

Why This Matters

 

I imagine many educators may find it difficult to value a smartphone as a vehicle for enabling human relations, documenting personal experiences, and supporting the diverse needs of users.  But that's precisely how I view them and this experience has reinforced that value for me. Being sensitive to your environment and placing a priority on interactions with humans around you is an essential characteristic for living in a mobile, digital society. But there were plenty of medical professionals who poke me, prodded me, even placed me inside of machines in the hospital without interacting with me at all.

As I watch my two boys grow into teenagers with smartphones in tow, I can understand that their phones mean something very important to them.  Their phones are very much a life line. They have friendships with individuals via text, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, and Vine do not have the same depth in-person. They communicate with people from away -- past friends that have moved, friends that are not local, and, yes, and superstar soccer players and golfers.  They document everything meaningful to them in photographs and share them with their network of friends.  The role a smartphone plays in the development of relationships and human memory takes me back to my childhood memory of my dad's computer. Yet, today, we hold this potential to connect and share in the palm of our hands.  As educators, how can we not embrace smartphones as powerful communication and learning tools?

Finally, as an educator who designs online learning environments, I have a refreshed perspective about the value of voice technologies. I am a long-time user and advocate of VoiceThread, as I've discovered many powerful findings about how it impacts learning, the development of online community, and empowers students to become more proficient verbal communicators.  And now I see the value of voice-to-text communications, as well. I think about dyslexic students and how this emerging technology opens new opportunities for demonstrating their knowledge and participating with peers in text-discussion -- with the challenges of writing greatly diminished.

I do not ever wish to have another stroke. But I'm grateful for what I've learned from this experience.

 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reflections on Being Woman in #HigherEd #EdTech

Why am I writing about my experiences as a woman in edtech? Because sharing our personal stories helps to promote awareness and understanding of the complex topic of gender.  In a society where women are constructed to be passive, polite, decorative objects to be desired by heterosexual men, women confront a unique experience when taking the leap to contribute our thoughts, critiques, ideas, and creations in the open web.  I acknowledge that these are my own reflections and I do not suggest that there is a singular "woman's" experience that I represent here.

Over the years, I have felt tensions upon jumping into the active, public space of participation, which I am informed in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, is not where I belong. I am aware of the self-talk that surfaces as I begin to type a blog post (especially a post like this one). As critical as I am about gender issues, this self-talk is persistent.  As fortunate as I am to have a family and community that encourages me to pursue my voice and follow my passion, that self-talk continues to try to silence me and situate me into a more passive role. Where does it come from? And why is it so important to shut it down?
It comes from the destructive messages about women that I hear every day in popular music.  It comes from the inferior roles that I see women stitched into on television and in the movies.  It comes from seeing the wrinkles increase on my own face when I look in the mirror and, in turn, see nothing but 20 something year-old hot babes delivering the news on television alongside aging, overweight men.

Over time, women internalize these messages and, painfully so, actively participate in their construction. I have a vivid memory of seeing a young mother answer her mobile phone in a grocery store after hearing her ring tone, "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?," a song performed by pole-dancing, lingerie-wearing women, to which her toddler daughter bounced back and forth to the catchy beat.  Little girls' clothing has become hyper-sexualized, toys for girls (which are all pink and mostly glittery, just to make it clear it's for a girl) drip with the message "it's your looks that matter," and as I scan my children's Instagram feeds, I see the posing that more and more young girls enact in selfies.  I also painfully aware of the 3.6 million videos that are retrieved (mostly of adolescent girls) when I search for the phrase "Am I pretty?" on YouTube.

I was born in 1971, the year Ms. Magazine was launched. When I was young, there was no such thing as a MILF and having a baby was not tied to a race to drop the baby weight, as it is today. And when I was seven, my birthday wish was to become Wonder Woman, not a member of the Real Housewives cast.  I did not have a mother or know anyone who did that regularly visited a "med spa" to spend thousands of dollars a year to diminish the natural effects of age on her body.  When I was a kid, cosmetic surgery was something celebrities participated in. Today, there are children's books written to normalize the concept of plastic surgery for moms -- all in the name of "beauty."

The social construction of gender informs the way many women feel about themselves and impacts their sense of belonging in professional spaces, as well.  It also informs the choices made about who is important, who should be listened to, and who should be followed.  Over the years, as I have reviewed the keynote presenters showcased at higher education conferences, I have sensed that this is not a realm in which women are valued equally.  As I view the "top" EdTech bloggers, I see men outnumbering women 3:1.

For about four years, I taught an online faculty development course for @ONE titled "Building Online Community with Social Media."  I taught the class two to three times per year and it maxed at 20 participants.  Regularly, I had no more than 2-3 men enroll in each class. As I reflect on this experience, I grow concerned about the gap between the gender of higher ed practitioners leveraging emerging technologies to transform pedagogy and those who speak out about how to make it happen.

A few years ago when I took the leap to start hosting live Google+ Hangouts on Air, the message was communicated to me, as well.  There I was, facilitating the sharing of ideas and participating in active dialogue. After one of my first Hangouts on Air (which, by the way, stream live to YouTube), I was excited to see that there had been comments made to the YouTube video feed during the live conversation. When I visited the video page, I found comments that were made about my own body. I felt violated. I felt outraged. I felt disgusted. I quickly trained myself to manage the situation - instead of withdrawing from these conversations, I trained myself to disable the comments on the YouTube page as I delivered a Hangout on Air.  I did this for about a year before it dawned upon me that this is precisely one of the obscure barriers that prevent women from participating in edtech conversations. 

What I find inspirational are organizations like EdTech Women, dedicated to creating networks for women to connect with other women in a supportive community; conferences like SxSW, which make an explicit effort to value and integrate diversity into their dialogue; contributions that acknowledge gender issues in edtech, like Rafranz Davis's The Missing Voices in EdTech, Rebecca Hogue's post after #ET4Online in 2014 and Maha Bali's post, #NoMomLeftBehind, which opened a dialogue about the topic of including childcare at edtech conferences; and men like Michael Berman who regularly practice inclusivity in their work and John Farquhar for asking how improve things.
And while I agree with Jesse Irwin that EdTech Women events should not contribute to the turning women into decorations...
I do believe we all need to support the cultivation of conversations about this topic and to facilitate the development of communities that inspire, support, and encourage the work of women in edtech.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The New VoiceThread: A Peek Inside

VoiceThread has released a new interface that has some nice changes. If you use VoiceThread in an individual account (or free account), you have the option to use the new VT now.  If you are part of an organization that uses VoiceThread, the organizational administrator may make the switch any time between now and this August. In August 2015, the new interface will be implemented for all users.


The 4-minute video above demonstrates:

  1. The new "Home" page, which takes the place of "My Voice."
  2. The uploading interface and editing canvas.
  3. The new commenting interface.
  4. How to disable the video countdown.
  5. How to make a voice recording using the new keyboard shortcut (just press R).
  6. When you leave more than one comment on a slide using the same Identity, your profile pic/avatar will appear again. This is going to be very helpful for teaching!
  7. How to move comments simply by clicking and dragging the corresponding avatar. This is a big improvement over needing to press and hold "Shift" while relocating the small gray segments at the bottom of a screen.

New HD Player

One thing I failed to realize while recording the video is that the new VoiceThread uses HD dimensions. As you watch the video, you'll notice the black bars on the sides of my slides, which are the result of my slides being set to "standard" size (4:3) in Keynote.

New VoiceThread showing media with a 4:3 ratio.


I resized my slides to HD (16:9) (which requires some redesign too) and uploaded them again into VoiceThread.  The image below displays the HD slide. It's much more lovely when the image fills the entire viewer.
New VoiceThread showing media with a 16:9 ratio.

So, what do you think?

Have questions about the new VoiceThread? Search the new support site here.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Share your stuff: #ET4Online CFP is open through 12/1


Online Learning Consortium (formerly Sloan-C)

8th Annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning 

International Symposium

Call for Proposals is OPEN through Dec. 1, 2014. 


This year's tracks include:
  • Organizational Leadership & Challenges for Innovation -- New!
  • Learning Environments & Frameworks
  • Open & Collaborative Education
  • Evidence-Based Learning & Assessment
  • Effective Teaching & Learning Pedagogy
  • Technology Test Kitchen -- New!
Take a moment to identify what you want to share and submit your proposal today! Academic Affairs and IT leaders from organizations are encouraged to attend with faculty and instructional designers to increase dialogue about the the use/impact/implementation of emerging technologies in online learning.

Hands-on workshops are included within the conference program (as opposed to an extra fee as pre-conference events).  This year's program features provocative presentations by Mimi Ito, Gardner Campbell, and Bonnie Stewart; the 3rd annual Launch Pad (featuring promising ed tech starts selective through a competitive application process); and the new Teacher Tank, a dynamic session that will engage Launch Pad ed tech start up participants in a pitch and feedback dialogue with higher education leaders.

It's going to be GREAT! Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

8th Annual #ET4Online Symposium - join us!


OLC Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium

April 22-24, 2015, Dallas, TX

 Follow @OLCToday for updates!

#ET4Online


Sloan-C has been newly rebranded as the Online Learning Consorutium and this April, the Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium will convene in Dallas, TX for its 8th annual event.  This year's symposium, which is a joint event with MERLOT, is shaping up to be dynamic!

Keynote & Plenaries

Mimi Ito is confirmed as the keynote speaker.  Ito (@Mizuko) has contributed ground breaking research about the impact of digital media on today's youth. Gardner Campbell (@GardnerCampbell) and Bonnie Stewart (@BonStewart) will be presenting the plenary talks at the symposium. Together, these presentations will engage in a mindful exploration of how emerging technologies are reshaping formal and informal learning, as well as impacting the nature of identity for us all.

More Hands-on Experiences!

Also included in this year's program you'll find the Technology Test Kitchen, where brief hands-on sessions will be conducted to introduce you to an array of new technologies that hold potential for reshaping and improving the way we teach and our students learn online. The Technology Test Kitchen was introduced at #Blend14 and will also be part of the OLC's International Conference in Orlando at the end of October. I'm really looking forward to this new program feature!

EdTech Startups Return with a Revamped Launch Pad

The Launch Pad will also be back again this year with a new feature -- the Teacher Tank, which will provide our Launch Pad participants with an opportunity to pitch their product to a panel of online educators. Anchored in the context of formative feedback and learning, this event will be fast-paced and high energy! Join us!

Submit Your Great Ideas: CFP Opens 10/1!

If that whets your appetite, mark your calendar for the Call for Proposals which will be open from October 1-December 1 (no extensions will be provided).   YOUR participation will make this symposium more diverse and representative of how emerging technologies are reshaping online teaching and learning.

I hope to see you in Dallas!
Michelle Pacansky-Brock, @brocansky
#ET4Online Conference Chair, 2015




Thursday, September 18, 2014

Online Learning: Are We Doing It Wrong?

Tomorrow, I will be making two presentations to two very different audiences. One is a free webinar I'm doing for the TLT Group (register here) -- the audience will be primarily college instructors and instructional designers. Another is for the California Community College Online Education Initiative -- the audience will be a diverse group of stakeholders collecting input about the important characteristics for a statewide LMS for California Community Colleges (for classes that are offered through OEI initative).

Both of these presentations will incorporate my experiences and my students' experiences with using VoiceThread as an asynchronous discussion tool since 2007. 

"Experiences" is the key word here. This is not about a tool. It's about how teaching with a tool not typically found within an LMS toolkit can create a learning environment that impacts the student learning experience differently.  It's about the importance of relationships and affective learning in an online environment.  It's about the power of the human voice when a person is trying to figure out a new idea or delivering feedback. It's about supporting and inspiring students to be vulnerable.  It's about what gets lost if online instructors rely only on the LMS toolkit.  It's about how LTI integration with web-based tools saves faculty time (and money) and lowers the barrier of adoption of emerging technologies by providing embeds with a click, secure activities, grading from the gradebook, and automatically generated student accounts (with a single sign on), and the ability for students to generate their own creations that can be shared with a public audience (or secure to just the class registrants).

Below is a presentation you may review that provides the current (through Spring 2014) results of four consecutive semesters of anonymous online student surveys about how using asynchronous voice/video conversations impacts their experiences.

As I reflect on these findings, I am left with one question: Are we doing it wrong?  What are your takeaways?



To be clear about my relationship with VoiceThread, I am a college instructor and instructional technologist who has taught online and face-to-face with VoiceThread since 2007.  I supports faculty with the effective pedagogical application of the tool. The community college at which I teach has a sitewide license with LTI integration of VoiceThread into Blackboard and so does the university where I work as an instructional technologist. In the past, I was a paid higher education consultant for VoiceThread (to develop a higher ed webinar series) from 2012-2013.  In 2013, I authored a self-published eBook with compensation from the last months of consultancy at VoiceThread.  This eBook is available at no cost to VoiceThread site license holders and it is available for sale or rent to the general public. I receive royalties from the sales of the eBook.  I am a doctoral student working with VoiceThread as my research site to explore how the use of an eBook as a faculty support resource for a web 2.0 tool impacts faculty perceptions about the tool. Currently, I receive no income from VoiceThread.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Getting Started with "Connected Courses"


I'm putting my best learner foot forward and attempting to engage in an open online course that is filled with EdTech rockstars and exploring the dazzling topic of learning in the open web through peer interactions.  The course is called Connected Courses (#CCourses) and includes all of these amazing people as facilitators.

I'm making this post to be able to connect my blog to the syndication feed for the course.  Want to join in?  Sign up today (yes, it's free and open to all who have an interest in joining together to explore the possibilities of connected learning in the open web.  The class officially begins on September 15th. The first unit will explore:
What is, or should be, the future of higher education?  What do we stand to lose or gain in pursuing the possibilities opened up by the Web?  What are the underlying logics and effects of different approaches to teaching with technology/online?