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The Blog on Emerging Academic Technologies


February 2011 Archives

Mobile on My Mind

Mobile learning is the topic for the next 20 by 20: An OIT Pecha Kucha Event. Wireless access and a plethora of devices, including tablets and smart phones, provide many opportunities to access information on-the-go and on-demand. That is no small convenience. But beyond that, how might mobile computing enhance teaching and learning?

An exciting development in mobile learning is Purdue University's DoubleTake, an authenticated mobile video system that allows professors and students to shoot, share and critique video using a smart phone or computer. An article in today's Chronicle explains how DoubleTake is being used in some classes at Purdue.

How we learn about technology

This week some of us in OIT's Emerging Academic Technologies group shared our favorite resources for learning about technology. Pat Haggerty, Tatiana Genrich, Nick Rosencrans and I all posted, and there may be a few more posts from others on the way.

What I've learned so far: my colleagues read widely, and we read some of the same blogs. Some delve more deeply into specific subjects, others are more dilettantish. We read news and reports, and sometimes are involved in online communities of interest. And now I know why my colleagues are so knowledgeable: those long lists of resources show that we not only read widely, we are motivated to learn.

How do you learn about technology?

Myths about online learning

Two news articles have led to a discussion within OIT's faculty development team on myths about online learning. The first is a column in the New York Times by Randall Stross, professor of business at San Jose State: "Online Courses, Still Lacking that Third Dimension." While his definition of hybrid learning as "part software, part hovering human" is pretty good, his characterization of a "genuine online course" seems odd: "nothing but the software and would handle all the grading, too. No living, breathing instructor would be needed for oversight." There are online courses during which instructors and students never meet face-to-face, but the instructor certainly is involved in creating course materials, guiding students through learning activities and evaluating students. And I am not aware of any fully automated, for-credit online courses.

Stross worries about quality, while Texas governor Rick Perry's recent statement about online learning is connected to lowering the cost of tuition and improving efficiencies. In his State of the State address, Perry issued a "challenge" to colleges and universities to create bachelor's degrees that cost no more than $10,000, including textbooks:

As families continue to struggle with the cost of higher education, I am renewing my call for a four-year tuition freeze, locking in tuition rates at or below the freshman level for four years.

As leaders like Senator Zaffirini search for more low-cost pathways to a degree, it's time for a bold, Texas-style solution to this challenge, that I'm sure the brightest minds in our universities can devise. Today, I'm challenging our institutions of higher education to develop bachelor's degrees that cost no more than $10,000, including textbooks.

Let's leverage web-based instruction, innovative teaching techniques and aggressive efficiency measures to reach that goal. Imagine the potential impact on affordability and graduation rates, and the number of skilled workers it would send into our economy.

While Stross and Perry do not likely share perspectives on education, they both reinforce some myths about online education. Following are comments from the faculty development team about Perry's speech:

Paul Baepler: Research shows that hybrid learning--not purely online learning--seems to have learning benefits when done properly. Moreover, online learning isn't equally good for all people in all stages of cognitive and affective development.

Lauren Marsh: Good teaching, whether it takes place face-to-face or online, never is simply the transfer of knowledge. The skills, practices and values that professors wish to instill in their students can't simply be downloaded from a website. Effective online learning environments are highly complex to create and facilitate--they should be learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, community centered. Offering online education as a low-cost alternative ignores the complexity of the endeavor and the transformative potential of higher education and transforms education into a fast food experience.
Kim Wilcox: Teaching online isn't any easier or less time-consuming than teaching face-to-face. It's an old myth that instructors can teach many more students online than face-to-face, with the same effort.

Now that the educational technology consultants have weighed in, what are your thoughts on Perry's proposal for higher education? What do you think about Stross' characterizations of and concerns about online learning?

Beat blog editor to beat it

Maybe I'll post one or two more entries in the next week, but my days as Beat Blog editor are numbered in the single digits. I am leaving OIT at the U to manage the online education program at the Loft Literary Center here in Minneapolis. I leave this blog in the capable hands of Cristina Lopez, and of course my other colleagues will continue to post their own entries.

- Kurtis Scaletta

iPad redux

I broke down and bought an iPad. While I am still learning itsc capabilities and shortcomings, I was enchanted with the idea of a mobile writing and drawing tool. A friend on Twitter heard my reasoning and linked me to a cheaper option... A spiral notebook. I appreciated the joke but of course wanted something more cloud oriented so I could tweak works in progress, do minor edits to things, take advantage of moments of inspiration that could be easily shared with myself and with others. I had a mobile web browser in my iPod, but so far the iPad is a huge trade up because it has a serviceable keyboard and can open and edit my documents (using a combination of Dropbox for file storage and Documents to Go for editing. I find it easy to take notes using Penultimate and yes, I play Angry Birds, and I draw. Not sure if it is worth the $750 I laid out for it, and not sure it's magical, but so far the iPad is what I'd hoped for and expected. I am especially pleased with the swirling and editing and even the built in "keyboard," though I don't quite see myself knocking out an entire novel on this thing. Oh, but I did write this post on it and found it pretty easy to do!

Me & My IPad