eLearning, Web 2.0, Educational Technology, Online/Distance Education, Faculty Development, and more…

Reach the PeakMark your calendar for the 26th Annual eLearning Consortium of Colorado (eLCC) Conference April 15-17, 2015 in Breckenridge, Colorado. Join us or submit a proposal for the conference which focuses on the best tools for faculty and support staff­ to meet the needs of diverse students in online, hybrid,
or any technology-driven courses.

The Conference includes:

  • FREE hands-on computer workshops
  • Keynote presentations from elearning leaders
  • Concurrent sessions featuring the latest elearning strategies
  • Exhibits and demonstrations
  • Excellent networking opportunities
  • eLearning awards for faculty & support staff

Submit Proposal

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I’m very excited that we’ve received so may excellent proposals for the Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium (TLTS). The TLTS is a FREE faculty development event and a great opportunity for you to network with fellow educators throughout Colorado. Faculty and staff at eLCC member institutions are invited totltslogo3 attend the Symposium to be held on October 24th, 2014 at MSU Denver on the Auraria Campus.

The keynote speaker, Charles Dzuiban, is a national leader in online and blended education and we are very excited that he will be joining us for this event. This year’s theme is “The Quest for Quality” and session tracks include the following topics:

– Course Quality
– Multimedia for Learning
– Universal Design for Learning
– Blended Learning
– Social Learning
– Online Learning

Space is limited so register right away if you plan to attend.

http://www.msudenver.edu/tlts/

Over 10 years ago (2003), I finally completed my thesis project entitled “In Your Face in Cyberspace, A new Paradigm for Online Learning.” This project also included the development of a website entitled, “Introduction to Distance Education,” an online course designed to present my research. Even back then, there were many terms for online education including:

  • Distance/Online Learning
  • Online Education/Learning
  • Distance Learning
  • e-Learning
  • Open Education/Learning

I wrote that “the terms “Distance Education” and “Distance Learning” are slowing being abandoned because they no longer adequately describe the range of educational options and delivery methods offered today. For example, is a course delivered primarily on the Web but having three on-campus sessions during the semester a distance education course? Does it make a difference if the students live a long distance from campus or are on-campus students? Distributed, hybrid, and blended education are terms often used to describe courses that meet both face-to-face and at a distance.”

However, in 2014, we are still struggling to find the “perfect term” to categorize online/distance courses. One term that does not accurately represent “traditional” distance or online courses is MOOC. Unfortunately many people who are not familiar with the long history of distance and online education use these terms interchangeably. At the University of Denver, we recently updated our official definition of an online/distance course to:

A course in which all or nearly all of the organized instruction is conducted online or by distance learning methodologies.

I’ve organized some of the differences between a traditional online/distance course in higher education and a MOOC in the table below. I’m sure there may be other differences I’ve missed, but these are a few of the differences that I often think about when contrasting MOOCs with traditional online courses.

Table Mooc vs Online

I learned about Unizin from a colleague at Colorado State University (CSU), CSU is one of the founding members of the Unizin consortium. I still haven’t figured out what the “zin” in Unizin stands for but according to the Unizin website:

“the Unizin Consortium is universities coming together in a strategic way to exert greater control and influence over the digital learning landscape. It enables each institution, its faculty, and students to draw on an evolving set of tools to support digital learning for residential, flipped classroom, online courses/degrees, badged experiences for Alumni, or even MOOCs if desired. Unizin supports the differing missions and strategies of universities.”

In addition to CSU, Indiana University, the University of Florida, and the University of Michigan, are founding members and investors in this membership-based higher education consortium. I’m still not clear about what Unizin is and how they will operate, but here are a few things it is not:

  • LMS – although all members are using a single LMS vendor, Canvas
  • MOOC – it will not offer courses, content or degrees in its own name

Unizin is affiliated with Internet 2 which will serve as Unizin’s financial home. To learn more about the Unizin Consortium, review the links below:

It will be interesting to see where this leads and which institutions will join the consortium.

I discovered a great FREE tool for creating infographics called Piktochart. We used piktochart to create a summary of the 2013 eLearning Consortium of Colorado’s (eLCC) annual report survey.

For some reason, I can’t get it embedded on this site but you can find it on the eLCC’s Annual Report page.

Competency Based Education is a major buzzword in higher education news this year and I was a little confused about how CBE is applied in higher education.  According to Wikipedia, “competency-based learning is an approach to teaching and learning more often used in learning concrete skills than abstract learning. Rather than a course or a module every individual skill/learning outcome, known as a competency, is one single unit. Learners work on one competency at a time, which is likely a small component of a larger learning goal. The student is evaluated on the individual competency, and only once they have mastered it do they move on to others. “ Two higher education institutions often referenced in conversations about CBE are Western Governor’s University (WGU) and the University of Southern New Hampshire.

WCET hosted an excellent webcast recently that really helped me better understand CBE in higher education. View the recording of the “Big Audacious Conversation About Competency-Based Education” below if you would like to learn more about CBE from two CBE experts, Mary Alice McCarthy from the New American Foundation, and Linda Howdyshell from Broward College.

There have been some excellent resources shared on the WCET listserv recently in response to a question about assessment of faculty readiness to teach online. This discussion is very relevant to my university, because like many other “responsible” higher education institutions, we require that our instructors complete an intensive Teaching Online Workshop before they teach an online course.  Below are a few of the resources shared by some of the WCET members that I found very useful:

I love webinars/online conferencing tools and usually participate in at least a few online meetings each week. This week I am scheduled to participate in the following 5 webinars:

  • Goto Webinar Meeting with a Vendor
  • Adobe Connect – Training with a DU Faculty Member who wants to use it for an online meeting
  • Bb Collaborate – Meeting with ECP Directors
  • Bb Collaborate – Sloan C Webinar on Competency-Based Degree Programs and Online Education
  • Adobe Connect – TLT’s schMOOC

Although we’ve been using web conferencing tools for many years, there are still technical glitches that always crop up, especially if you have participants who are new to online meeting tools. If you participate in webinars,  you will probably be able to relate to this funny video.

According to the Teaching, Learning and Technology Group (TLT), a schMOOC is a:

somewhat connectivist, hypothetically Massive Open Online Course. This learning experience is “somewhat” connectivist because it combines structured and non-structured, along with social and individualized, learning options (choose to connect with others — or not), and it’s hypothetically massive because it could attract large numbers of participants in theory (but in practice it won’t).

What I love about about MOOCs and schMOOCs is that they provide a wonderful opportunity to learn, grow and connect with “like-minded” colleagues. I’m currently participating in a schMOOC sponsored by TLT called the “Seven Futures of American Education 2.0 schMOOC: Perspectives, Strategies, Plans.” This FREE course is based on John Sener’s “The Seven Futures of American Education: Improving Learning & Teaching in a Screen-Captured World.” I met John and purchased his book at a Quality Matters conference in October of 2013 and I am very excited to have the opportunity to explore this topic with the author and other learners in this schMOOC.

This course is delivered outside of a traditional LMS environment which takes a little getting used to but it is also a bit refreshing. The course content is primarily “housed” on a google site and we use Adobe Connect for our synchronous sessions and a Google+ community for asynchronous interactions. The course has provided some good examples of effective ways to  leverage online tools like Animoto and PowToon (thanks Beth!) and have inspired me to take some time to explore them further. Today we had a twitter chat which was new to me and several of my fellow schMOOCers. I hope to fully engage in this course but even if I don’t, I feel like I have already benefited from the experience.

So far I’m really enjoying all of the wonderful lifelong learning opportunities offered by MOOCs and schMOOCs and I’ll continue to take advantage of this professional development while these courses are still Free & Open.

I just attended an excellent webinar titled “Online Education: More than MOOCs.”  The free webinar was presented by Inside Higher Ed editors Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman who clearly demonstrated that they have a solid understanding of the history of online education, which goes beyond the recent hype about MOOCs. They do an excellent job of explaining how traditional online courses and MOOCs are not synonymous, and acknowledge that too many pundits and non-experts do a disservice by not differentiating between the two which also drives me crazy.

Doug and Scott also discussed many of the key issues colleges and universities are facing today as well as changing faculty roles in the digital age. Many of their comments were based on data collected from recent surveys, recent articles on the subject, as well as conversations they’ve had with faculty and administrators. I was also very impressed with their responses to some of the questions asked by the people attending the webinar.

You can download a booklet from Inside Higher Ed that includes both news articles and opinion essays on this topic and click here to view a link to the recording of this brief, but very informative webinar.