Can digiital badges increase capacity for online learning?

According to the ITC Distance Education Survey 2013, the number one challenge administrators face regarding distance learning faculty is ”engaging faculty in development of online pedagogy”. – Instructional Technology Council (ITC)

Too much coffee, Luigi Anzivino, CC-BY-NC-SA

The problem is one of Capacity! Too much coffee, Luigi Anzivino, CC-BY-NC-SA

Like many colleges, online and blended enrollments continue to grow even as overall enrollments decline. The demand for more flexible learning options outpaces our capacity for online delivery, in part because we lack enough faculty with the training and experience in teaching online.

This past year we began offering the Teaching Online Workshop Series – a series of twelve hands-on, competency-based, professional development workshops designed to prepare instructors for teaching online.

The Teaching Online Workshop Series consists of four units:

  • Extending your Course with Blackboard Learn
  • Teaching with Blackboard Learn
  • Designing the Online Course
  • Teaching & Learning Online

The first unit of three workshops is designed to introduce the LMS and provides basic use as far as navigation, file and folder management, setting up a grade book and using common communication tools. The second unit (workshops 4 – 6) focuses on implementing assignments, quizzes, and online discussion. The third unit (workshops 7 – 9) introduces the Quality Matters standards in areas of learner engagement, measurable outcomes, and assessment. Finally, the fourth unit of three workshops focuses on design, especially in regards to accessibility, usability, and student support resources.

The hands-on, competency-based model is a natural fit for digital badges.

…digital badges [are defined] as “credentials that represent skills, interests, and achievements earned by an individual through specific projects, programs, courses, or other activities.” – Alliance for Excellent Education

according to a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Mozilla Foundation.

The report, “Expanding Education and Workforce Opportunities Through Digital Badges,” examines how digital badges can be used to improve student learning and outcomes. It explains what digital badges are and how they work, provides examples of digital badges that have already been implemented, and speculates on the future of the system.

According to the report, digital badges are “credentials that represent skills, interests, and achievements earned by an individual through specific projects, programs, courses, and other activities.” They provide a digital hyperlink to information about the badge’s associated skills and the projects or tasks the badge holder has completed to earn it.
Read more at http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/08/29/report-digital-badges-help-learners-demonstrate-accomplishments-need-documentation-for-credibility.aspx#vmPxWhPzwJZ4ALYM.99

We considered three digital badge systems: Mozilla Backpack, Open Passport, and Credly. While all three require that awardees open an account with their system in order to accept their badges, Credly provides a preview of the badge at the time it is awarded. For this reason – and that they host the badges on their own server – we decided to go with Credly. We also liked the ease for sharing the awardee’s successes on social media including Mozilla Backpack, for which there is a building block in the next version of Blackboard.

We put together an organizational account for Lakeland Learning Technologies. The pro account permitted us to have a “verified account” – adding a certain level of authenticity. Awardees can share their badges on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Mozilla Backpack. We will be looking at integrating the badges with Blackboard in the next service pack upgrade.

Lakeland Learning Technologies on Credly

Lakeland Learning Technologies on Credly

Earlier this week we began offering the full Teaching Online Worskshop series in a HyFlex format to all full and part-time Lakeland faculty. In an effort to increase capacity we intend to recruit future workshop facilitators from those who have successfully attained a certificate of completion for the entire workshop series.

 

Posted in Blended Learning, E-Learning / Distance Learning, Educational Techology - EdTech, Emerging Technologies, Online Learning, Open Educational Resources, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smartphones and Voice to Text

Most of our students have smart phones and while they work great for looking things up on the web and playing YouTube videos and social media, writing using handheld technology can be cumbersome at best.

How to type diagram CC-BY by Crossett Library Bennington College on Flickr.

How to type diagram by Crossett Library Bennington College on Flickr.

The technology of voice-to-text is actually improving over time. It’s quite possible to effectively participate in a discussion or post an essay using a smartphone or tablet with just a little practice.

“Writing” from your smartphone maybe done using voice-to-text but it takes a little getting used to. If you simply dictate into your phone you’ll spend a good deal of time correcting words, breaking out paragraphs and inserting punctuation, capitalizing the first word of each sentence, etc.

With a little practice you can get the job done and potentially in less time than it takes to write an essay. By ending sentences with “period” or “question mark” and starting a new paragraph by including “new paragraph” in the dictation, the outcome is much improved. If you make a mistake, you can repeat the sentence and simply delete the error.

Dragon dictation is a free app I downloaded to my iPhone and iPad. I find it does a much better job of interpreting than a lot of other voice-to-text solutions. Because it makes very few mistakes dictation can be significantly faster than typing using a keyboard.

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Adopt a Peer-reviewed Open Textbook

When considering the adoption of open educational resources (OERs) I have heard instructors express concern regarding the quality of the materials – stating a preference for commercially published materials because they are peer-reviewed. That excuse is losing merit on a number of fronts as educators, together with public and private organizations, work together in addressing these concerns.

Book Stack

CC-BY-NC- by Benton Library Media Center on Flickr

We recently learned that the openly licensed Precalculus textbook authored by Carl Stitz, Ph.D. (Professor of Mathematics, Lakeland Community College) and Jeff Zeager, Ph.D. (Associate Professor of Mathematics, Lorain County Community College) has been approved by the American Institute of Mathematics.  Stitz and Zeager have released their textbook using a Creative Commons License.

The text is available free for students to download in pdf format, as well as at a very reasonable price for the print version from Lulu.

In a recent report by U.S. PIRG, entitled “Affordable Higher Education: Fixing the broken textbook market…

  • 65% of students surveyed reported they had decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive.
  • [despite this fact] … 94% of students who had forgone a textbook were concerned doing so would hurt their grade in a course.
  • Nearly half of all students surveyed said that the cost of textbooks impacted how many / which classes they took each semester.

In an era where the focus in on completion and student success, we can no longer ignore the impact the high cost of textbooks has on our students and college affordability.

OpenStax College, an initiative of Rice University offers free open licensed peer-reviewed Textbooks in several general education subjects including: Physics, Sociology, Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, Statistics, Economics, Macro-economics, Micro-economics. More textbooks are in the queue including: Chemistry, Pre-calculus, History, and Psychology.

The OpenStax textbooks are licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 license

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Improve accessibility using YouTube captioning…

A short video on how to go about editing your YouTube video captions…

I prefer this method to that of uploading a text file for short videos – just a few minutes in length. As far as anything longer than ten minutes, you might be better off writing the script and uploading a caption file or adding a transcript.

Posted in E-Learning / Distance Learning, Educational Techology - EdTech | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Phablets?

My colleague got a new smartphone and it’s kinda huge. I said to him, “that’s the biggest phone I’ve ever seen”. “Its an android”, said he. He showed me the display and all the stuff he had on it and I have to admit, its pretty cool. But still… seems like a lot to lug around.

On the other hand…

It appears Bluetooth might be the answer.

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Does social media belong in the classroom?

Social media, when used for teaching and learning encourage student-to-faculty, student-to-student, and student-to-content interaction and thereby have the potential to increase learner engagement.

CC-BY-NC-SA by Espacio Camon on Flickr

CC-BY-NC-SA by Espacio Camon on Flickr

A few years ago, Rey Junco researched the effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades and found that “Twitter can be used as an educational tool to help engage students and to mobilize faculty into a more active and participatory role.”

Although use of social media has increased for both students and teachers their preference is for personal rather than for educational purposes.

The Social Media for Teaching and Learning report by Pearson & Babson finds faculty use of social media has increased in all areas: personal, professional, and educational. However, most faculty still have some strong reservations when it comes to use in the classroom. Although it appears that both faculty and students see the value of integrating mobile technologies into teaching and learning, both groups are concerned with privacy and prefer to keep their personal separate from their academic lives.

“Concerns about privacy, both for themselves and for their students, and about maintaining the class as a private space for free and open discussion, have been at the top of the list of concerns in all of the reports. Until faculty feel that this issue has been addressed, the wide-scale adoption of commercial social media tools in the classroom will remain limited.”

- Pearson: Social Media for Teaching & Learning

The very nature of Social media is highly interactive and therefore engaging – permitting us to share our stuff – news articles, blogs, videos, photos, etc. – with our connections in practically real-time.

shareThe advantage of social media over LMS tools like the discussion forum is the convenience of sharing directly from the media to our connections – like the difference between email and texting.

“This is cool! I’ll share it. There – I shared it!” …five people liking it and three comments later and we’re engaged in a conversation.

So how do we get around this privacy thing?

The critical thing about social media when it comes to privacy is the social network. Some social networks can be made either open or closed, public or private. For example some Google Plus Communities are made available for anyone to join while others are by permission only.

Our campus uses Gmail for student email, so virtually every student has a Google Plus account whether they know it or not. They just need activate it. As an instructor I can create a private community in Google Plus for my course, email the students in my class and invite them to join. Content shared within a private Google Plus community is visible only to those who are members of the community.

There – we have a private social network. Now what?

The latest ECAR study on undergraduate students and information technology shows that students are willing to use their mobile technologies for educational purposes, they just need some instruction on how to do so.

With a little orientation students can quickly get up to speed.

Students need to know how to manage their networks or “circles” in Google Plus and then how to like (+1)  and to share media when they find it. As the community owners, we need to set some guidelines for our community so students know what is appropriate to share and how to engage in the conversation. We also need to show them the mechanics of the tools.

Categories can be created within the community. By using hashtags (e.g. #edtech) when sharing or posting media, the content and discussions can be organized into various topics and forums. This works great for managing small group discussion and assignments or for topically organizing the media and other content.

Students can share various media (location, photos, video) directly from their phones, tablets, or computers. Hangouts (live chat and video) permit up to ten students to interact remotely in real-time with desktop sharing, audio and video. This is especially helpful with collaboration in small study groups.

The Hangouts on Air feature permits the instructor or guest speakers to join the class from a distance and to stream, as well as record lectures, which are then automatically posted to the community timeline.

The private community is not limited to the classroom but permits the instructor to decide who can join the community. By expanding the network students from multiple sections, upper-classmates, alumni, and experts in the field can engage in classroom discussions.

Google Plus communities permit the faculty and students to share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. anything stored in Google Drive – permitting students to collaborate in the development of class projects or share their portfolios.

Does social media belong in the classroom? I would say yes, depending on what you hope to achieve. There are many ways of engaging students by extending the classroom using social media if you are willing to invest a little time and effort to set up a private network.

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How colleges leverage social media…

Social Media is essentially about connecting and sharing. Some of the most common ways colleges use social media include marketing, recruitment, and keeping in touch with alumni.

rogerg1flickr

CC-BY-NC-SA by roger g1 on Flickr

Our campus has a Facebook page for students to “like” us and to keep up on whats happening on campus. Facebook continues to be the number one social network for all populations and can be leveraged in a variety of ways to help market the college, its programs, and campus events.

Recruitment is an important function of social media. Marquette University offers a virtual tour of their campus to prospective students and their parents using Instagram.

Whether connecting with friends and family through Facebook, networking with coworkers and colleagues through LinkedIn, following someone on Twitter, or sharing your video on YouTube, social media is increasingly becoming part of the average person’s daily life.

Some 42% of online adults now use multiple social networking sites. In addition, Instagram users are nearly as likely as Facebook users to check in to the site on a daily basis.

- Pew Internet: Social Media Update 2013

Social media helps us to expand our professional connections as well as to organize and categorize connections into virtual communities. We can join groups, create our own, or invite others join our communities. By creating or joining existing circles, groups, or communities we can build connections with others around common interests and expand our networks far beyond what would otherwise be possible without social media.

By leveraging social media to create a sense of community, we can actually improve persistence and student success. This becomes especially relevant for the increasing percentage of students enrolling in online learning.

Community development is not simply developing a virtual campus or an online resource portal that includes an infinite number of electronic links to student resources and chat rooms. Online administrators must design meaningful opportunities for students to interact with their peers, faculty, adjuncts, and staff in a supportive and inclusive environment.

- K. Betts (2008), Online Human Touch (OHT), JOLT

By leveraging social media to help students better connect to their program of study we foster community both in and outside the classroom. These connections allow students to  be more than observers, but rather participants in the campus community by contributing to the conversation and the culture of the institution, program, and classroom.

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