Social media poses an interesting challenge to online educators. As educators, it is imperative that we understand the potential uses and implications of including social media in our pedagogy, but oftentimes, our own students know more than we do about what’s out there, what’s working, how, and why. Our task, then, has become two-fold: Harness the positive and collaborative aspects of social media in online learning while still effectively teaching and preparing our students for life outside the virtual classroom.
In Dr. John Beckham’s section of the Diversity in the Workplace course, we are piloting the use of Facebook in student discussions. Using their course email, students are asked to “friend” other students taking the course. Providing a live stream in the course via Facebook (below) allows students to communicate with each other while also seamlessly participating in class discussions. Their discussion posts are also sent to their Facebook wall, which effectively acts as an electronic portfolio of their discussion posts.
Integrating the Facebook live stream with course discussion offers several unexpected advantages. Because of its popularity, most students are familiar with the Facebook interface. Students can readily and easily harness the powerful interactivity of the Facebook platform and effortlessly create a virtual e-portfolio of their own discussion participation throughout the course. Another benefit is the mobile accessibility of Facebook accounts, which make it easy for students to access their own profile, and thus, the activity taking place in the course discussions, via their cell phones and/or other mobile devices.
For instructors to maintain a presence and foster a mentoring relationship in their courses, they don’t want to spend the majority of their time trying to learn a new technology. Because the online environment is in a constant state of flux, it might seem like there is always something new to learn about – and that requires an investment of time, which is in short supply for most of us these days. Our new courses at CDL include Instructor Notes, informational materials written specifically for instructors to allow ease with the new teaching tools and resources. Providing this instructional material to instructors may seem redundant at first, but it allows our teachers to spend more time focusing on their students, and less time troubleshooting new technology.
The use of the Mapblog in courses offers a unique example. Because the Mapblog tool has been upgraded over time, it now includes that many more features and can therefore be daunting to new, or even seasoned instructors who are not consistently working with the tool. To address this issue, now included with the upgrade to the new mapblogs, CDL has released interactive instructional material for instructors that quickly review the pedagogical principles of the mapblog, offers tips for grading, and provides instructions for getting started.
Religion remains a powerful force in American political life, despite perspectives that the US is becoming more secular. This Humanities course examines the relationship between religion and politics from a variety of social and philosophical perspectives while establishing a historical framework within which to assess the role of religion in contemporary politics.
The slideshow shown here relies on interactive media to provide a visually-rich approach to the subject matter while giving students freedom to explore a variety of resources and topics at their own pace. While browsing the digital photos and portraits of historic and contemporary political figures, students can read notable quotes and follow links to biographical information.
Screen shots: Students collect data about their location using a handheld GPS and post to the mapblog (left). Then, students calculate the geographic center of everyone in the course (right).
Employing mapblogs with student-created content helps foster class cohesion and collaboration. In GPS and the New Geography as well as several other science courses, the use of Google-based mapblogs provide a visual data platform where students are able to contribute information, images and links related to specific locations. In the GPS course, they find the exact longitude and latitude of their own locale using a handheld GPS, underscoring the importance of accuracy and precision in geographic calculations. Later in the course they calculate the geographic center relative to the location of all students in the course.
According to the National Research Council (NRC), online learning should strengthen science education by providing students with digital content that enables them to gather, analyze, and display data. The mapblog serves this purpose wonderfully and in a hands-on way while adding to the sense of community students experience.
In foreign language courses at CDL, we encourage students to interact with visual content in order to immerse them in the language by providing context and meaning to their learning experiences.
The traditional ‘flash card’ approach to teaching and learning foreign language relies primarily on memorization and subsequent translation. Through the use of visual and dynamic content (shown above), instructors and students can rely on ostensive learning. That is, students are able to manipulate and change visual images in order to learn, define and translate any given vocabulary word or phrase.
The use of visual tools can augment the curriculum of any language course by offering students a chance to interact with the language, and derive meaning through the provision of familiar context.
Above is an Everglades National Park virtual tour. We recommend selecting the full screen feature (found on the tool bar) for the best experience.
Students in the Plant Ecology course must participate in ‘virtual field trips’ to better understand the ecology of several national parks. Previously these exercises would entail visiting a park’s website and providing written labs focused on unique aspects of the park, followed by a class discussion about the findings.
Plant Ecology has undergone an upgrade that includes a redesign of the field trips, which now harness the most current web technology. Students are presented with an interactive visual collage that is integrated within the course. The collage presents students with open questions and a learning space in which to explore aspects of the park though audio, text presentations, hyperlinks, slide shows, video, and live web cams. These immersive presentations bring the national parks to life. Students can listen to the tour guide present information on the Florida panther while watching a video or a slide show of the park.
Through the use of interactive maps, students gain a better understanding of the Francophone world as part of their work in the foreign language course, French 2. This highly interactive learning activity provides a geographic and demographic view of French language and culture throughout the world.
Students select to explore various regions that are highlighted on the map in order to identify historically and culturally significant events, places and people, and examine how they influence and represent the evolution and use of the French language.
Held at 113 West Avenue in Saratoga Springs, the 2010 Curriculum Retreat fostered meaningful conversation and highlighted the ongoing collaboration between Center for Distance Learning (CDL) faculty and Curriculum & Instructional Designers (CIDs). On February 9th , faculty from across the disciplines gathered together for a full day of discussion and contemplation on the current and future state of the curriculum at SUNY Empire State College’s Center for Distance Learning.
New to the retreat this year, members of the Technology in Action Committee took the initiative to demonstrate the flexibility and unique capabilties of the Angel Learning Management System (LMS) currently being used at CDL. Members of the CID group were called upon to present alternative content design approaches using the Angel LMS.
Highlights included presentations on the following content design approaches in Angel:
Dr. Nicola Martinez, then Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design at CDL, also gave a brief overview of processes related to the infusion of creative design elements in courses, and encouraged faculty from all areas of study to continue collaboration with the CID group and promote ongoing innovation in courses offered by CDL.
At CDL, one of our primary curricular goals is to encourage active learning in every course we offer. Often, we achieve this goal by providing students with guided explorations of the many resources available on the web today. Under the instruction of faculty, students are supported in their search for content that fits their style of learning and enhances their experience in the course. The Curriculum & Instructional Design group collaborates with faculty to create and provide exploratory opportunities like these.
Flipbooks are a great way to provide students with a variety of content related to the course – as well as the option to explore it at their own pace. Multiple presentation styles (timelines, lists or maps) are not only visually-rich, but allow students to choose the method of presentation that works best for their own style of learning.
Below is an example of a Flipbook currently being used in the Caribbean History and Culture course at CDL.
In Italian: History and Culture an interactive map creates a simulation of the travel paths of Frances Mayes, author of The Sweet Life in Italy. Developed in collaboration with faculty, curriculum design staff and instructional technologists at CDL, this unique learning map offers detailed information about regions, cities, and the cultural attractions of Italy. The map includes features that allow students to pan, zoom and explore the geographical, cultural and historical background of the area. A dropdown menu offers students the opportunity to target specific zones of interest to them, and uses web links, videos, still images and text descriptions to provide regional information.