April 2010 Archives

What happens when students unplug

books.jpgWhat if you shut down your computer, turned off your cell phone, hid your TV remote - and just unplugged for a day? A week?

For most people - students in particular - the idea drums up a sense of panic, misery, impossibility, even.

But professors at the U and at colleges and universities around the country are assigning students to do just that, as a lesson in life before technology. One professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication asked students to unplug from all of the above, including Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets, for five days - an assignment met with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success that you can read about in the Star Tribune.

Interestingly, a new study shows that students in these no-media experiments actually show withdrawal symptoms -- anxiety, misery, and being jittery - common in drug and alcohol addicts.

Does that mean we're overusing media? Or that our society can't - and shouldn't - go without it?

Quality Matters at the University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities recently partnered to purchase a license to Quality Matters, a program that offers training for faculty to assess the quality of an online course. Quality Matters was developed from a FIPSE grant at the University of Maryland. The University of Maryland was trying to solve the problem of ensuring the quality of online courses to encourage cross-institutional sharing of courses.

The Quality Matters assessment rubric is based on recent research and best practices in instructional design. It is updated as new research becomes available. The rubric addresses course design, student learning, and assessment and feedback processes. The Quality Matters program is both a tool set and a process. Key elements of the Quality Matters program are:
a) Faculty-driven
b) Collaborative
c) Collegial
d) Continuous improvement
e) Developed from research
f) Centered on student learning

The Quality Matters rubric does not address faculty evaluation, course content, or an assessment of the course management system.

The University of Minnesota has been using Quality Matters since fall 2009. Faculty and departments are using Quality Matters to informally guide course revisions. For more information on the Quality Matters Rubric, download this pdf of the abbreviated standards.

Additional training for faculty, instructors, and instructional designers will be offered in summer 2010 and during the 2010-2011 academic year. Participation is open to all campuses at the University. Please contact Amanda Rondeau if you are interested in participating in Quality Matters or have additional questions (amanda@umn.edu or 612-624-5732).

Community colleges see major distance learning growth

While distance -- primarily online -- education at higher ed institutions grew significantly between 2007 and 2008, it appears it grew even more at community colleges in particular. Between the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 academic years, distance education grew 22 percent at community colleges, compared with a 17 percent growth in all distance education between fall 2007 and fall 2008, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Experts say online classes -- especially those offered through community colleges -- appeal to people looking for work, who may be the victim of the recession and difficult job market. Not only do distance and online classes boost job seekers' skills, but they also offer the flexibility people are looking for when they're uncertain about whether they'll find a job in a week, a month, or a year.

To go green, go online

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One very important thing is missing from many online classes: paper! Perhaps the most obvious environmentally friendly characteristic of online education is the lack of required paper consumption by students, who can see all course content, manage their notes, turn in assignments, and take tests electronically.

But online education is also helping the environment in another important way: energy. And running a traditional campus--its buildings, computers, maintenance--takes a lot of it. Dr. Omer Pamukcu, a department chair and professor at the all-online University of Phoenix, gives some highlights:

• Traditional colleges and universities spend, on average, $2 billion a year on energy.

• Commercial buildings, including those at colleges and universities, produce about half of the carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.--and nearly a third of the energy in commercial buildings is wasted.

• Online learning uses nearly 90 percent less energy and produces 85 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than traditional campus-based courses, according to a study by the Design Innovation Group.

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) is offering free workshops in May and June to help instructors learn to effectively plan and create digital audio and video presentations that further course goals.

New technologies make it easier than ever to create and share digital audio, video and narrated slide shows. However, new opportunities create new challenges: instructors must develop skills and knowledge in to media selection for effective teaching and learning; learn best practices in recording, editing and publishing media; craft thoughtful media assignments for their students, and consider how to assess student media projects.

The lucky instructors who have secured spots in the Digital Teaching Workshop will work through the planning and development of a prototype project over the weeklong (half day) series. As of today, the sessions are full - but if you're interested, you can fill out the registration form to be added to the wait list.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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