Some Sloan-C Takeaways

For those who were unable to get to Sloan-C this November, here are some notes I took…did anyone else go who would like to do a guest post, or be part of a discussion at our next meet-and-greet?

2013  SLOAN-C International Conference on Online Learning — Nov 20-22, Orlando, Florida

Online Orientation: Getting Students to Use It!   Lead Presenter: Lynn Wietecha (Lawrence Technological University, USA)

When students skip the online orientation, the professor ends up dealing with a lot of “tech support” issues. Wietecha increased orientation participation by working with the Campus’s Bb admin to add an adapative release “module 0 – Orientation” – completion of the orientation is a pre-requisite  to access remaining course modules.  Orientation needs to be flexible enough to adjust to new technologies, and updated each semester.    While it might mean some students “repeated” the orientation, it was best way to remind/alert students about who-to-contact for what and where to go for support services.

A Path in the Wilderness: Helping Faculty and Students Overcome Isolation in Online Learning   Lead Presenter: John Vivolo (NYU-Poly, USA)

Offered 3 mutually reinforcing suggestions (1) offer robust orientation (2) offer community sites (places to hang out virtually and synchronously) (3) live-stream events.   Vivolo noted that LiveStreaming events allows DL students to feel more connected to campus.  (http://new.livestream.com/)  “it is expensive & synchronous, but worth it”.   Re-iterated that synchronous elements are key to combating isolation

HBI Faculty Perceptions of Barriers to Online Teaching in Maryland

Lead Presenter: Tiffany Thompson-Johnson (Morgan State University, USA)

Thompson-Johnson presented her dissertation research: a correlational study which focused on 4 constructs & perceived barriers to Historically Black Institution faculty in adopting online teaching (she modified Berge, 1999).  Her study was limited to 4 HBI in MD.  Consistent with studies: “limited technical expertise, limited technical training, or lack of technical support” are biggest barriers to adapting to Online teaching.

Integrating Interactive Technology to Promote Learner Autonomy: Challenges and Rewards

Presenters Jaya Kannan, Marie Hulme,  Maria Lizano-DiMare, Pilar Munday – all from Sacred Heart University, USA

SHU’s DLI for faculty development:  offer time and money incentives, encourage peer mentoring, capitalize on prior knowledge, create an environment that encourages experimentation, emphasize interdisciplinary approaches and knowledge sharing.

For student engagement: Created SHUsquare: a social media version of “public square” which fosters multi-modal projects, low-stakes writing, Information Literacy, and conversations that engage in cross-disciplinary connections.  SHUSquare “hubs” look at overlapping courses/topics from multiple discipline perspectives, emphasizes discussions that refer to reliable sources.  On a smaller scale, Prof. Munday uses twitter to re-inforce Foreign languages use, engages students with participants in Spain, interaction often extends beyond the end of the course.  Focus on use of technology when it fosters or captures “Transformational vs. information learning” i.e.: uses soc media fosters autonomous learning which extends beyond the classroom.   E-portfolios capture transformational education  moments,  the affect-aspects of learning … the ah-ha moment where what you learn in one field-of-life informs another.

Nov 21 KEYNOTE: The Online Revolution: Learning without Limits   Lead Presenter: Daphne Koller (Coursera, USA)    Koller emphasized that her intention in creating/offering Coursera as a MOOC platform was to benefit those people throughout the world who would otherwise not have access to educational opportunities.  Not looking to replace Universities (she is herself a University professor) but rather she is looking to augment learning for anyone, anywhere.  Professors can use elements of Coursera materials as part of a “flipped classroom” model or to augment their own course material.

Global Citizens Educating Future Global Citizens: Using Social Media for Environmental and Social Justice   Presenter:  Linda Ralston (University of Utah, USA)

As part of an “global citizenship” course that emphasizes both research skills and ICT-literacy skills, Ralston has students  pick topics of global import/concern and create a social media awareness campaign. Students take a Global Awareness Profile pre-and post-test.  (GAP test cost = $10/student) .  Students conduct extensive research on topic in first two weeks,  create a blog that outlines campaign plan, and has extended entries that are well-researched and properly cited.   They also create infographics with proper research and citation (a more reader-friendly version of their final research paper).  Students use twitter to promote blog entries, as well as sharing ongoing research and related news items. (Note: for any SJU faculty member, librarian or club interested in doing similar campaigns, our LibTech guides cover these tools, we are also available for 1:1 help for an activity like this one http://stjohns.campusguides.com/libtech)

Nov 22nd KEYNOTE:  Reinventing Education  Lead Presenter: Anant Agarwal (edX & MIT, USA) The creator of  EdX also reiterated that MOOCs are not intended to replace Universities.  (He too is a University professor). He took on the argument that “MOOCs fail because  only 5% complete them”; he points out that his circuitry course is a tough one, and even if all 100 students who took this same class on MIT’s campus this semester should pass, it would take MIT 36 yrs to teach the same number of people who are included in the 5% MOOC pass rate.  Additionally, MOOCs ultimately help us to perform statistically sound, quantifiable research for pedagogy and student practices.   While the initial MOOC try at San Jose State did not fare well, when they did an EdX trial, course retake rates at San Jose State dropped from 41% to 9%  (fall 2012 to spring 2013)

MOOCs and Copyrights: Navigating the Terrain  Lead Presenter: Linda Enghagen (University of Massachusetts, USA)

I had taken 2 of Enghagen’s SloanC courses on Copyright & TEACH Act before, and found them very helpful so I was looking forward to her take on MOOCs. She did not disappoint.  She qualified her presentation by saying that there are more legal issues to MOOCs than copyright, but this session would cover copyright in relation to 4 parties: The hosting-IHE, the MOOC platform provider, the faculty member and the student.  All parties should know who-owns-what prior to deciding to participate.  Two main parties to the contract are the hosting-IHE and MOOC platform provider, but the faculty and students end up being subject to the agreement because of the nature of the contractual language.  MOOC platform providers have inserted language that gives them license to re-purpose any information delivered to the platform by faculty and students.  While faculty may be bound by their contracts with IHEs to contribute, the students should be made aware of these issues. Commercialization of that content is the plan, it is inevitable. [Note: this is similar to controversies surrounding our use of Turnitin]   IHE’s should explicit about what we are “giving away”,and it is an occasion to point out that we are often subject to similar agreements by posting content to any online platform.  Enghagen did not talk specifically about the use of e-reserves in MOOCs except to say that it is unwise to use most of the hosting IHE’s library proprietary resources because MOOC attendees are not technically “our” students, thus the course materials should really be limited to free and open access research.   For those interested in the Georgia Case regarding E-reserves, Enghagen will have a detailed analysis of it in the forthcoming January 2014 issue of Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks.

Faculty on the Fast Track: Efficient Effective Development and Design for Faculty Creating and Teaching Online Courses  Lead Presenter: Lujean Baab (Virginia Tech, USA)

Baab proposed an “Online course development” agreement as part of re-invigorating faculty development for Online pedagogy, this in turn encouraged faculty cohort engagement, allowed the faculty member to complete re-vamp of course and improved follow-up review of faculty .   In the course development agreement, faculty members are offered incentive in the form of a 1-semester course reduction, University DL funds adjunct pay to department to cover that course reduction. Faculty member agrees to be part of a cohort, serve as a mentor in future cohorts, agrees to departmental review and Quality assurance review.  In addition to cohort support, the faculty member works with an Instructional Designer to develop the course over a semester. Requires that ID (helper) is separate from the role of project manager (deadline enforcer).  DL withholds 50% of funding until pedagogy course requirements are complete (helps keep faculty accountable and makes funding/planning easier) “Data shows this model works”

W3C, WCAG2.0, 508, Hut, Hut, Hike! What’s Your Game Plan for Accessibility

Lead Presenter: Donna McLauchlin (Education Service Center Region 4, USA)

In addition to general overview of barriers to accessibility in online materials, the speaker offered some concrete tips for creating course content that is accessibility-friendly: MSWord: (1) use of alt-text labels for any non-text times. (2) Use styles and heading to improve navigability (3) appropriate use of color to help low vision or colorblindness (4) use descriptive text for hyperlinks (not click-here) (5) use columns/tables not tabs to keep related text together (6) descrive tables and charts, use row/column headers.  (7) MS PPT: Avoid Textboxes, use notes section instead, save as Outline.  PDFs:  Use Adobe Acrobat to Save As Word.doc.  MultiMedia material:  Use captioning.  Describe info contained in video.  In keeping with principles of Universal design, what helps disabled students also can be beneficial for other students as well.

Workshop participants noted some tools they found helpful: “ReadSpeaker” or “Read&Write Gold”  for text-to-speech ;  http://syncwords.com/ for captioning

Recurring themes:

  • Poking holes in the “myth of the digital natives”…although current students have grown up with technology doesn’t mean they are tech-literate when it comes to research, professional communication, the dangers of social media or the nuances of discipline specific technologies.
  • “independent learner” isn’t necessarily Robinson Crusoe isolated world, but rather the learner who knows where to go in hyper-connected world
  • Although distance learning platforms can be used for “entirely asynchronous learning”, synchronous contact & ad-hoc meet-ups combat isolation, reinforce learning and encourage progress/completion among participants.
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