September 2010 Archives

Learning platform: Great resource tool for online learners

Great technology tool to help students stay organized and keep track of their classes and progress as well as manage their busy schedules. Students can access itunes U, student discussion boards, professor contact information and library materials.

This is a wonderful tool to use especially if you are not on campus. You can access the learning platform from anywhere with an internet connection. In fact, with its rich features, you can access almost every necessary resources you may need as a student without ever having to leave the comfort of your home or coffee shop or where ever else you may be!

Online students use the learning platform all the time to stay in touch with professors, interact with fellow course mates, download course materials and upload assignments and keep track of their academic progress.

Faculty tech selector: how-to and why you should use it.

The Faculty Technology Selector is a tool that makes it easy for instructors to share online and digital resources with students in myU.

Lois Eaton, an instructor in the Kinesiology department shares her experiences with the tech selector. She uploaded videos onto the portal and students can view it at their leisure instead of having to check out the lecture video from the library. Instructors can easily associate websites, electronic media, wiki and class messages with each class they are teaching.

Completely sold on this idea but do not know how to use the technology selector? This video provides a step-by-step guide to use the selector.

Discover myU

Instead of having to click through several links just to pay tuition or have several programs running on your computer at the same time to help you keep track of emails, schedules, deadlines, myU is a one-stop website that helps you manage your busy life as a student.

You can manage all your classes, find exact locations on the map, keep abreast of latest events, search for opportunities to volunteer, keep track of your schedules/calendar, download transcripts, pay tuition fees and manage emails all on 1 website - myU.

myU learning platform also enables students to share information, exchange tips and advice, ask questions and get answers from fellow course mates.

U.S. Military to Scrutinize Online, For-profit Colleges

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The U.S. Defense Department wants to launch a new program to increase scrutiny of online, for-profit colleges that are attracting a growing number of U.S. troops.

Concerns about the quality and cost of online education rise as more military members take advantage of tuition assistance programs from the federal government, according to a Bloomberg article. Many troops are attracted to online education options because of flexible class schedules and it gives them access to college courses even while they are deployed in battle zones.

About 380,000 active-duty service members will get tuition assistance this year, according to Representative Vic Snyder, an Arkansas Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee. About 40 percent of the $580 million in tuition assistance for active-duty service members in fiscal 2010 went to online, for-profit colleges and 70 percent of the total was for all online programs, Snyder said in the Bloomberg article.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows former students at for-profit schools default on student loans about twice as often as those from non-profit schools. "While for-profit schools have profited and prospered thanks to federal dollars, some of their students have not. Far too many for-profit schools are saddling students with debt they cannot afford in exchange for degrees and certificates they cannot use. This is a disservice to students and taxpayers, and undermines the valuable work being done by the for-profit education industry as a whole," U.S Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan said.

In award year 2008-09, students at for-profit schools represented 26 percent of the borrower population and 43 percent of all defaulters, according to a U.S Department of Education report.

Congressman Vic Snyder's subcommittee held a hearing on troops utilizing online education sites in September and hopes to draft a policy in final form as early as December. The policy would require online colleges to undergo the same reviews as ground campuses that operate on U.S. military bases, according to the Undersecretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy.

Online education programs cost about 28 percent more than comparable courses taught on ground campuses in fiscal year 2009, the Director of Force Development for the U.S. Air Force said in the Bloomberg article. He added many online programs charge the maximum per credit hour, $250, that institutions are allowed.

Minnesota U.S Senator Al Franken, a democrat, is on the record defending more scrutiny of for-profit colleges.

"We're studying these for-profit institutions for a reason ... because the numbers are so outlandish, and if we are truly talking about saving money ... we ought to be going after the low hanging fruit and that's what this appears to be.... I think we've located a place where there are (a lot) of bad actors," Franken said in a USA Today article.

The executive officer of the Career College Association, a Washington-based industry group, said, for-profit colleges would welcome quality evaluations for their military programs.

Mixed Reviews for iPads in the Classroom

The iPad's place in the classroom is getting mixed reviews from several colleges participating in programs to distribute Apple's handheld, electronic tablet to students this fall.

Students quoted in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article (9/20/10) were generally encouraging and said they liked the iPad for note taking, web surfing and organizing information. The chief information officer at Oregon's George Fox University said some students still prefer using pens and notebooks because the iPad has limited storage space and the device cannot multitask and print.

A history professor at George Fox was quoted as saying it was difficult to "meld iPads into the curriculum because only a small subset of students has the device."

George Fox University has given laptops to incoming students for more than 20 years. This fall students chose between an iPad and a MacBook and 67 students--10 percent of the freshman class--opted for iPads over MacBooks.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports Duke University gave iPads to students in the school's Global Health Institute to experiment with how the device performs in the field. The University of Maryland gave iPads to students in its Digital Cultures and Creativity Living and Learning Program. The University wants students to learn to develop their own applications.

Indiana University formed a 24-member focus group to evaluate iPad-driven teaching strategies. The group of faculty members began meeting in this September and are due to write a preliminary report by January.

It is still too early to accurately gauge the future of iPads in academic institutions. A recent report from Reuters said, "A walk around the typical college campus turns up a few iPads, but still nothing compared to the number of laptop computers that students carry around the quad."

Reuters outlined how the future of e-textbooks could be the key to the iPad's success in the classroom. According to the Reuter's article, "One common complaint of students who buy e-textbooks is that, in class their professors will say 'turn to page 92' and that anyone using an iPad to read that text will have trouble finding the passage because of the lack of page numbers on digital versions of the textbooks."

University of Minnesota graduate student Michael Reis has owned an iPad for four months and says he's very happy with how it performs in the classroom.

"It's great for taking notes. You don't have to find an outlet like you do for a laptop. The iPad has a long battery life. It is also good for reading PDFs so you don't have to keep printing articles. It has some limitations but it is really easy to carry around on campus," Reis said.

Are we addicted to Facebook?

Ok, that is probably a rhetorical question but if we are, is there real cause for concern?

By now I'm sure most of you would have already heard about the brave attempt by The Harrisburg University of Science and Technology to block access to social networking sites from its campus wireless network for one week, as reported in Inside Higher Ed. The idea behind the one-week ban was not to torture students (though I'm sure many students felt that way) but to jolt students, staff and faculty into critically thinking about the role social media play in their daily lives. If this ban taught us anything, it is that students find it hard to wean themselves from Facebook. Some students reported going to great lengths to access Facebook such as walking several blocks to a nearby hotel lobby just to log into Facebook or hacking into the campus network just to get around the access block.

Why would universities care so much as to block access to social networking sites? After all, isn't Facebook just another mode of communication? Some psychologists would disagree, especially when time spent on Facebook is cutting into the hours that should be spent on class assignments or projects. Rob Bedi, a registered psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Victoria, said there's a difference between procrastination and addiction and some students' Facebook habits are cutting close to the latter. This has led Bedi to conclude that popular social networking site may be hazardous.

According to psychologists like Bedi, you might be a borderline Facebook addict if you exhibit some of the following behaviors - Are personal relationships taking a backseat to Facebook? Do you think about Facebook even when you're offline? Do you use Facebook to escape problems or homework? Do you stay on Facebook longer than intended? Have you ever concealed Facebook use? If you think might be an addict, help is never too far away because there are many websites that provide strategies on how to beat the addiction.

The above articles portray Facebook in a negative light but fail to ask one important question - why are we addicted to Facebook in the first place? Could it be that Facebook has now become an extension of ourselves? It is something we do as an integral part of our daily lives such as maintaining social ties and developing new ones. We are essentially doing the same social things but through a different channel, one with greater convenience, ease and efficiency. Updating your status on Facebook reduces the amount of time and effort needed to maintain real world friendships; organizing an event is so much easier when you can keep track of the number of people who will be attending it; sharing photos on Facebook means more friends can see them without you having to bring your photo album wherever you go. Facebook allows you to remain connected to friends and acquaintances with minimal effort while building stronger relationships with close friends and family.

Perhaps, some of us think of Facebook as an addiction because we are still getting used to the newer channels of communications and it is not unusual to feel nostalgic about the 'good old days' and 'good old ways'. That being said, it is always useful to reflect on the ways newer channels of relationship-building have changed the ways we maintain friendships and communication - Are the newer channels of relationship building (i.e. Facebook) any better or worse than traditional channels or are they just too different to compare?

Cultural resistance to Web 2.0

Have you ever thought cultures can clash over online collaboration, especially when using Web 2.0 tools like Wikis?


According to an interesting report from The Chronicle of Higher Education , Singaporean students tend to show resistance or reluctance to editing things that other people have posted. In an interview, a student said that it is "dangerous" to have the ability to change work that others have done. That is because publicly correcting a peer can cause the corrected one to lose face. Of course, causing someone to lose face is not polite not only in Singapore but also in other Western countries. But its negative impact on people's emotions or self-esteem could be much stronger in Asian countries like Singapore, China, Korea, and Japan.

Therefore, Web 2.0 tools, like Wikis, run up against some Asian cultural norms about how one should treat others in public. Especially if students need to edit work done by seniors or people older than themselves, it will be much more difficult for them because respecting seniors is a of core Asian value (mostly those values come from Confucianism). As another students noted in an interview, "you have to be more aware of others and have a sensitivity to others."

Students also worry about publicly posting their classwork on the Web if instructors ask them to do because it might cause themselves to lose face . According to the report, Michael Netzley, who received his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota and is an assistant professor at Singapore Management University, has also faced hesitancy when asking students to use social-media tools for class projects.

According to Mr. Netzley, few students seemed to freely post to blogs or Twitter. His students set the privacy level high so that only close friends could see their work. Especially when the class project was not finished yet, they showed greater hesitancy to post it. Mr. Netzley said that Singaporean students seem to resist adopting education 2.0 in a deeper fashion.

So instructors who want to incorporate online collaboration into classes should take into consideration cultural differences. As Asian students expose themselves to Western culture, they can get used to Web 2.0 activities including posting their work publicly on the web and correcting or being corrected by others. But until then, those class activities may be difficult ones for Asian students.

Online learning might be a better alternative for some students.

In an experiment that compared the same introductory economics course that was taught online and in a lecture hall, it was discovered that "online learning on average beat face-to-face teaching by a modest but statistically meaningful margin," as reported in a New York Times article.

With the ability to hit pause and rewind the tape to take notes, this gives the students in the online class an advantage over their peers in the classroom who have to pay attention to the lecturer while frantically taking notes. Those who have had to speed-write in a lecture class back in the day would know that listening and taking notes simultaneously is no easy feat!

However, this article also takes a cautionary tone explaining that online learning is not necessarily for everyone despite its benefits and convenience. As the article points out, "certain groups did notably worse online. Hispanic students online fell nearly a full grade lower than Hispanic students that took the course in class. Male students did about a half-grade worse online, as did low-achievers, which had college grade-point averages below the mean for the university." This reinforces the common knowledge that some students are better suited for online learning than others. This is not to say that they are inherently better or wired differently but the profile of successful online learners typically are self-directed, independent, resourceful and highly motivated. Ironically, the very benefits of online learning such as the time-shifting convenience and flexibility might in fact lead to the academic demise of students who are less self-motivated.

However, if you have the right attitude towards learning, online courses might in fact better serve you than classroom teaching, as this experiment has shown. Not sure if online learning is right for you? Why don't you take the online learning assessment and find out?

About this Archive

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

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