December 2009 Archives

The Baltimore Sun profiled an older, working adult student completing his degree mostly online at the University of Maryland University Campus.

The student, Kerry Brandt, noted something we often hear from students in online classes; namely, that he worked harder and experienced a lot of benefits from the online format, beyond just convenience.

Survey Suggests Campus Technology is Underused

eCampus News

Survey Suggests Campus Technology is Underused
by Dennis Carter, Assistant Editor
12.08.09

Fewer than half of college students responding to a national survey said their professors are using instructional technology, and educators worry that the technology gap between faculty and students might hinder campus learning.

The study also revealed a jump in the percentage of students who use technology to prepare for college classes. Eighty-one percent said they used computers, social networking, and other tools to study, marking an 18-point increase from 2008, according to CDW-G's "21st Century Campus Report," which was released this fall.

The report includes responses from more than 1,000 faculty members, college students, and campus IT staff.

The 2008 survey established a baseline for educational technology on college campuses, and this year's report details how higher-education officials are reacting to students' shifting technology preferences.

Forty-five percent of students said technology was "fully integrated into their curriculum," a 9-percent decrease from last year. Only three out of 10 students and two of 10 faculty members surveyed said colleges and universities were "preparing students to successfully use technology when they enter the workforce."

Russel Stolins, an adjunct faculty member at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico, said fellow faculty are too often amazed during technology workshops, revealing just how little some professors know about classroom technology.

"Most of my faculty colleagues, I don't consider them necessarily front runner when it comes to using technology," said Stolins, who teaches an online writing course.

Use of instructional technology such as video and audio lecture-capturing systems and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is often lacking in community colleges, where many professors are adjuncts who don't have time for lengthy professional development meetings and seminars.

"I think they're interested, but they could be intimated by technology," he said, adding that campuses may find faculty workshops unaffordable while most colleges struggle to maintain viable operating budgets. "I think there is the desire to learn, but I don't think schools have the time or the resources to teach it to faculty."

Students are using far more technology tools than their professors, according to the survey. Thirty-one percent of students said they use an iPod for educational purposes, compared to 12 percent of faculty. And 52 percent of students use open-source tools like Google Apps, a site where students can create study guides from different locations, among other uses. Fourteen percent of faculty said they use open-source tools for educational reasons.

Brian Friedlander, an assistant professor at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J., said that each year, lecture halls are filled with students who expect more technology to be used in everyday lessons. Freshmen today, he said, are far more tech-savvy than first-year students as recently as five years ago.

"Students in our classrooms don't know a time when technology wasn't a major part of their everyday lives," said Friedlander, creator of the DVD, Assistive Technology: Powerful Solutions For Success. "They almost have to downshift now when they enter the classroom."

This year's CDW-G report reflects students' growing expectations. Seventy-six percent of student respondents said it was important for their campus to have a wireless internet network, compared to 50 percent in 2008. More than 60 percent of students said campuses must have computer labs--an 11-percent jump--and 53 percent said their college should have a course management system such as Blackboard, a 22-percent increase from 2008.

Campus IT officials recognize the prevalence of educational technology. More than seven out of 10 IT staff members surveyed said technology was "very important to incoming students." Fifty-eight percent of IT officials agreed with that statement last year.

The survey highlighted divergent views about the devices and strategies that create an effective 21st-century classroom.

While most IT staff and faculty agreed that wireless internet and LCD projectors were keys to a modern classroom, only 41 percent of faculty said interactive whiteboards were an important tool, compared to 73 percent of IT staff members. Six of 10 IT officials said video and voice lecture recordings were critical on campuses, whereas three of 10 faculty members agreed.

K-12 educators said high school teachers get a close-up preview of students' classroom technology expectations. Ignoring online video and web-based interaction with students is no longer an option as teenagers use laptops and mobile devices more in every aspect of their lives, including reviewing, studying, and doing homework, K-12 officials said.

"I believe that educators who become tech-savvy can combine their many years of educational expertise with the new ways kids engage themselves with technology for the best of both worlds," said Michael Smith, superintendent of Oakland Community Unit School District No. 5.

"Many educators don't know what they don't know. They have no idea of the shift that is occurring to the way kids learn through the use of technology."

Learning from Online

Inside Higher Ed

Learning From Online
December 7, 2009

Most professors agree that more work goes into designing an online course than a face-to-face one. But if those professors are interested in improving their teaching skills, it might be worth the extra effort.

So say researchers at Purdue University at Calumet, who believe that learning how to do distance education properly can make professors better at designing and administering their classroom-based courses.

"Most of the professors who teach at the university level have had no experience with pedagogy or instruction in general," says Janet Buckenmeyer, chair of the instructional technology master's program at Calumet. "They're content experts, not teaching experts."

Since most professors have spent their lives holding forth from the front of a lecture hall, many have not had to engineer their lesson plans with the sort of rigor required of a well-designed online course, Buckenmeyer says.

When teaching online, she says, "You have to pay more attention to the navigation of the course, the clarity of the course, the objectives of the course, the reason why you're assigning activities and assessments, [and make] certain everything is perfectly clear to the students. In a face-to-face situation, you can get by with just coming in and not having prepared and winging a class session. You can't do that online."

Or rather, you can't do that online if you expect students to learn well. "You can develop a really bad online course," says Buckenmeyer, without necessarily knowing it. In order to teach well online, she says, professors need guidance.

That was the thesis behind the creation of Calumet's Distance Education Mentoring Project. The project takes faculty who are looking to adapt their classroom courses to the online environment and teams them up with Web-savvy colleagues. Those mentors advise the novices on best practices for online course design and oversee them through the first semester of the online version of the course. (An article detailing the project, authored by Buckenmeyer and two colleagues, is scheduled to appear in the January issue of the International Journal of E-Learning.)

Emily Hixon, an assistant professor of educational psychology at Calumet, is collaborating with Buckenmeyer and others to explore more formally how distance-education mentoring programs might affect professors' teaching principles. While their research is still "in its infancy" -- they are currently waiting on survey results -- they state in a research brief that "there seems to anecdotal evidence that many faculty members experience shifts in pedagogical beliefs after developing and teaching an online course."

The Calumet researchers plan to present their preliminary findings at the annual meeting
of the American Educational Research Association in April.

One of the researchers, Casimir Barczyk, a veteran professor at the Calumet school of
management, is an alumnus of the Distance Education Mentoring Project. He says he was
leery of the program at first, but was won over in the process of adapting a course on
human resources management to the Web, and joined the research team about nine
months later.

Barczyk had been a professor at the management school for more than two decades, including eight years teaching courses online, when he was instructed to undergo mentoring after students habitually dropped out of his online courses, or gave them poor reviews.

"I was skeptical," Barczyk says. "I said, 'What can I possibly learn -- I'm a full professor, I've been doing classroom education for over 20 years, I've been doing online education for about eight years, so what can I possibly learn?' "

What he learned was how to engineer assignments and assessments toward explicit educational objectives. If Barczyk needs students to learn how to think analytically about hiring rubrics, for example, he would not use simple true or false question to evaluate their progress.

After learning the value of objectives-oriented course design in his online courses, he applied the same principles to the classroom courses he had taught for decades. Student performance improved in both, he says.

-- Steve Kolowich

5 Higher Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2010

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Campus Technology

5 Higher Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2010

* By Bridget McCrea
* 12/09/09

There aren't too many corners of higher education that technology hasn't infiltrated. From admissions to financial aid to the classroom and everything in between, nearly all aspects of college are being handled in some way by the applications, hardware, and gadgets that help institutions work more efficiently.

Don't expect much of that to change in 2010 as more technology is developed and introduced to the higher education market. To make your trend-spotting activities easier, we spoke with some higher education technology experts and came up with these five top tech trends to watch in the new year.

1. More Interactive Classrooms
The days when professors lectured to a class of blank, unresponsive faces are long gone. Today, both students and educators are tapping technology to make the classroom environment more interactive and dynamic. Purdue University's Web-based Hotseat application, which allows students to use handheld devices to interact with professors in the classroom environment, is just a taste of what's to come.

"Anything that helps make the classroom more interactive, animated and engaging--be it multimedia, streaming video or some other innovation--will be in demand this year," said Gregory Phelan, chair of the department of chemistry and associate professor at SUNY College at Cortland in New York, which is upgrading its facilities to include streaming video that professors can access via the server while teaching (rather than "carrying" the content with them into class). "We'll be there soon."

2. More Information at Your Fingertips
In an era when information just can't be produced quickly enough, electronic book readers, smart phones, search engines, and other tools will continue to create an educational environment where both students and teachers have everything they need at their fingertips. "This faster access to information is going to change the classroom dynamic," Phelan predicted. "It will impact the way in which lessons are taught, and how students do their work."

Phelan pointed to the colleges that are "handing out" tablet PCs to all freshmen as the frontrunners in the race to equip students with all of the information they need to succeed in school. Whether other universities follow that lead remains to be seen. "I'd really like to see more schools making that move," said Phelan, "and even further integrate technology into the college classroom."

3. Mashed-Up Technologies
Technological equipment and software that serves a single purpose has gone the way of the 8-track tape and will continue to fade in 2010 as more users learn to "mash up" their technologies into more useful packages. "Students are using every communication vector that they can get their hands on right now," said Ron Hutchins, associate vice provost for research technology and CTO at Georgia Institute of Technology's Office of Information Technology. "It just makes sense that they would mash those technologies together and make them more specific and customizable."

Take online maps, for example. Once thought of as standalone applications that help the user get from Point A to Point B in the fastest, most efficient manner, online maps can now be integrated into other applications, such as location-based e-mail programs. "These types of customizable, specific mashups," said Hutchins, "will become even more prevalent in higher education this year."

4. Breaking Out of Technology Isolation
One of the coolest uses of technology that Hutchins has seen lately can be found in Rutgers University's English department, which is equipped with an entire wall of touch-enabled whiteboards. Using precision positioning technology, the wall-mounted boards allow for unprecedented participation and collaboration among students.

"Students walk up to the wall and use their hands to manipulate items," remarked Hutchins. "It's like putting your whole body into a design project." Hutchins said such innovations also go a long way in getting students up out of their seats and interacting with educators, other students and technology in a meaningful way. "Technology can be isolating," he said. "I love the notion of integrating the classroom and making it more social. This is just one way to make that happen."

5. Capabilities That Go Beyond 1:1
Last year saw college students using more devices and technology applications than ever before, and universities scrambling to keep up with those tech-savvy students. Expect the trend to pick up speed in 2010, said Shannon Buerk, education design strategist at Dallas-based consultancy Cambridge Strategic Services. Netbooks, online education, social networking, smart phones and podcasting will continue to play a role in the typical student's life, as will "4:1 computing" as a replacement for the more traditional 1:1 (one device to handle one task).

"The traditional 1:1, standardized computing is too rigid in today's educational environment, where students are tapping into multiple technologies and switching gears quickly between them," said Buerk, who said she sees the university landscape as being ripe for even more technological innovations in 2010. "When it comes to [technology], there are no boundaries in the learning environment."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at bridgetmc@earthlink.net.

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