Tag Archives: Innovation

Gamification and Student-to-content Interactivity

Learner engagement is considered to be an effective predictor of student success. We can increase learner engagement by focusing on interactivity in course design.

Dice CC-BY-NC-SA by Daniela Hartmann on Flickr

CC-BY-NC-SA by Daniela Hartmann on Flickr

The Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University published a paper on the topic: Predicting Online Student Outcomes from a Measure of Course Quality (Jaggars & Xu.) The purpose of the study was to gather empirical evidence regarding the link between online course quality and student outcomes.

The study looked at four main areas:

  • Course design: organization and navigation
  • Learning objectives and assessment
  • Interpersonal interactions (student-to-instructor & student-to-student)
  • Effective use of technology

Much of what was learned through the research reaffirms what we have shared here before – that there exists a positive correlation between student-to-instructor interactivity and student success.

What the study did not reveal was a correlation between student success and online course design, or for that matter, between student success and the alignment of learning objectives and assessment. That isn’t to say these aren’t essential considerations when designing the online course – they are. But rather, that the study did not provide evidence that these factors are directly related to student achievement.

Another interesting finding was that although student-to-instructor interactions showed a positive correlation to student outcomes, this was not necessarily the case with student-to-student interactions. In fact, students indicated their experience with online discussion and group projects was, to paraphrase, pretty much a time sink.

Initially, the findings appeared to support a relationship between the effective use of technology and course grades, but after controlling for student characteristics the relationship became less apparent. Most quality assurance rubrics and accepted practices in online delivery suggest that educational technologies need to be current or state-of-the-art. However, this study suggests when designing rubrics for online course design…

“…quality ratings for technology may wish to focus on not just the use of “current” technologies but how these technologies are used to support user interaction, confidence, motivation, and learning.”

It occurs to me that interaction, confidence, motivation and learning can all be supported by the introduction of games or gamification in learning design.

The use of games in education has gained momentum in recent years. Games can be very motivating (perhaps even addicting). In a game we interact with the medium, often are given problems to solve or challenges to overcome, make choices, and as we progress in skill we become more confident.

Tools like Respondus StudyMate and Quia can be used to turn objective type quizzes into word games: (matching, hangman, crossword, fill in the blank). This is especially helpful when learning new terminology. After integrating games into her Medical Terminology course a couple of years ago an instructor reported significant improvement in student test scores as students began to spend hours reviewing the content as they played games and tried to improve their scores.

The learning is not necessarily the learner’s primary goal when playing a game, but rather accomplishing a task, mastering a certain level, gaining points or credits, and ultimately to win. Of course learning happens as an outcome in the process. Games are by definition, competitive – we may compete against the computer, chance, ourselves, or others (bringing us back to the earlier discussion about student-to-student interactions).

According to Karl Kapp, “Gamification is using game-based mechanics, aesthetics, and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems.”

“Through the careful application of game elements—such as the freedom to fail, interest curve, storytelling, and feedback—in learning programs, ordinary content can be made more engaging without the development of a full-fledged learning game.” – Karl Kapp

By looking for ways to implement game elements into our courses we may be able to repond to the several questions brought up in the study, including student to student interactions, and effective use of technology (student to content interactions).

For more information about gamification, check out Karl’s article Getting Started with Gamification on ASTD.org.

Are we speaking the same language?

With the emergence of new technologies that instantly translate languages, are we arriving at a time and place when we can have meaningful discussions without speaking the same language?

CC-BY-NC-SA by Manar Hussain on Flickr

CC-BY-NC-SA by Manar Hussain on Flickr

I am currently enrolled in a MOOC on research methodology through Coursera. The instructors are from the University of London and the participants are from all over the world. One of the challenges with this course is that people responding to one another in English possess varying degrees of fluency.

It seems to me we might be better off with people posting not in English, but in their own language. There has been real improvement in translation technology in the past couple of years and apps such as Google Translate do a pretty good job of translating across a number of languages. So when enrolling in a MOOC, rather than attempting to translate every discussion into English why not just post in your native language? I would post in English, but you would read my post and comment on it in Portuguese – a classmate reads your post in German and responds in German.

By reading and writing in the language we are most comfortable with, we are more likely to express our thoughts with greater clarity and depth (instead of being distracted with how I might translate my words for you). This puts the onus on the receiver for making meaning from what is said, and the reader can ask for clarification as needed.

Google Translate

Google Translate

The technologies of language translation are not limited to text.  Skype Translator will permit real-time language translation via web conferencing, adding the potential for yet another layer of interactivity for online and open course participants.

Apps like Word Lens by Quest Visual (recently purchased by Google) translate visual images in real-time to text using apps on your iPhone or Android smartphone.

How long before Word Lens and other translator apps are integrated into wearable technologies like smart glasses permitting travelers to walk about in foreign cities seeing the sights and signs translated instantly for them into their own language?

By using these tools in MOOCs where various languages are spoken in the same course, we have much greater potential to increase and improve the quality of our interactions and understandings across cultures and languages.

What will the active learning classroom look like in the not-so-distant future?

There are a number of emerging trends in classroom technology that will likely shape the way we teach and learn in the very near future.  These trends include mobile technologies (BYOD), improved wireless connectivity, and an increased demand for flexible learning spaces.

LearnLab @ Holden University Center, Lakeland Community College

Learn::Lab @ Holden University Center, Lakeland Community College

The Learn Lab at the Holden University Center is an example of an active learning classroom. With three interactive projection whiteboards placed strategically around the room, students are able to connect and to share their work using interactive screens and their laptops. The instructor can display content for all students or small groups from anywhere in the room. The direct line-of-sight configuration creates an optimal environment for student-to-student, student-to-instructor, and student-to-content interactions.

When this classroom was built a few years ago it was considered “state-of-the-art”.  With the current configuration tables are outfitted with hubs that are wired into the interactive projection screens. Students plug in with their laptops to collaborate with their group. In the short span of a few years we have seen the rapid adoption of tablets and other hand-held technologies. Students are now bringing their personal technology into the classroom with the expectation of using them in support of their own learning.

We are now at a point when wireless technology permits students and faculty to connect and share their devices: laptops, iPads and other tablets, as well as smartphones. This mobility will change how we interact with classroom technologies. It means no longer having to place tables in a fixed location – resulting in greater flexibility. High definition monitors with build in Wi-Fi (or connected devices such as Apple TV) will likely replace interactive projectors and whiteboards as the preferred projection surface – with content from our apps on our hand-held devices.

The next generation interactive classroom…

1) will support students bringing their smartphones and tablets (BYOD) into the classroom. Students can expect to interact with their peers and the content / media on-the-fly, at the same time, discovering new ways to use classroom and web-based technologies to support their own learning.

2) will be increasingly wireless. Apple TV is already being used in classrooms where students and their teachers share their assignments and class projects on high definition TV screens. Emerging wireless technologies such as 802.11 ac, mean faster connection speeds and improved quality of shared media.

3) will mean classrooms are more configurable around the people using them rather than the fixtures and technology in the room. The use of multiple surfaces fosters collaboration, creativity and design, permitting students and instructors the ability to display, capture and share these interactions.

New learning spaces are emerging as a blend of the formal and informal – with flexibility driving design. I envision the classroom in the not-so-distant future will require multiple screens, myriad writing surfaces, configurable and mobile furniture with high speed Wi-Fi and the ability to connect and project from the student’s device of choice.

Sounds messy.


Can digital 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.


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

Another look at Open Educational Resources (OERs)…

Behold “Learning in the Future”!

Illustration of 19th century classroom - imagine learning in the future

Learning in the Future (Wikipedia Commons)

I love the way they grind the books into some form of “electronic” media! Notice how the students begin getting their information via headphones. Maybe it wasn’t so far off from where things are today in regards to digital educational media.

I am always looking for open educational resources to share with faculty. There are some students who just cannot afford the high cost of textbooks and so they attempt to manage without them. Invariably, they end up either dropping or failing the course.

One of the concerns I hear about open textbooks is they do not provide for many of the ancillary materials frequently made available through publishers texts (e.g. quizzes, videos, animations, simulations, etc.).  Obviously these kinds of resources can be expensive to develop and the costs passed on to the consumer in the form of higher textbook prices.

There is an ever-increasing body of open digital and rich media being made available online. Some of the repositories for these materials have been around for several years: MIT’s OpenCourseWare, Merlot.org, Khan Academy, et. al. Some Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are an outgrowth of these initiatives and may provide additional high quality open content (though not always – you should probably take a closer look to ensure materials are in fact, “openly licensed”).

The Open University offers much of their high quality digital learning materials openly for use by anyone as long as the Creative Commons license is honored. The Beginner’s Spanish: Food and Drink  is an example of ancillary content that may be integrated into an introductory Spanish language course (CC-BY-NC-SA).

Happy OER hunting!

How do you like me now? – Merlot II

Open Educational Resources (OERs), have been around for well over a decade, but the promise of thousands of ready-to-use, high quality learning materials, has yet to reach the level of adoption deserved. A frequent reason for not integrating OERs into courses includes the amount of time it takes to sort through it all – instructors just don’t have the time.

I have to say, the new Merlot II interface and navigation will help a great deal in responding to the old TL;nr argument.