Exploring Open Education

Members of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Task Force are participating in David Wiley’s Openness in Education course to learn more about open licensing, open content, open access and other facets of open education. In the current course, which began in January, participants explore each topic together and then blog about their discoveries, observations and experiences. Visit the Open Education site to learn more about the course, who’s participating and what they are saying on their blogs.

Detail from OER poster at All College 2012

Detail from OER Task Force poster at All College

The OER Task Force membership includes Ellen Murphy, Kathleen Stone, Michele Ogle, Robert Kester, Hui-ya Chuang, Katarina Pisutova, Claire Miller, Joyce McKnight, Suzanne Hayes, Rebecca Bonanno, Xenia Coulter, and Debbi Staulters. The group shared some of its findings with the Empire State College community in a poster session at the All College Conference on March 28th. If you missed that opportunity, more presentations are coming up.

At the CDL Conference there will be a panel presentation entitled Lessons Learned: An Experience in Open Education, in which group members will provide feedback on their experience taking an open education course.  (Saturday, April 28th at 9:45am).

In May there will be a presentation at the annual Conference on Instruction and Technology (CIT) called Birds of a Feather, so named to attract an audience of others interested in open education. CIT 2012 takes place at SUNY Stony Brook. (Presentation May 31, 8:30am).

Lastly, on Monday June 4th, Kathleen Stone and Michele Ogle will present at the Capital District Educational Technology Group (CDETG) Conference on their experiences with open education related to Science, Math, and Technology. This year’s CDETG Conference is hosted by SUNY Empire State College, Center for Distance Learning in Saratoga Springs.

Stay tuned for more open education updates!

Online Courses Moving to Moodle

screen shot of Moodle page

Example of Moodle course page

In anticipation of Empire State College’s adoption of the open-source learning management platform Moodle 2, Ellen Marie Murphy, Director of Online Curriculum at CDL, gave a demonstration of the software on September 22nd. Well attended by CDL faculty and staff, the presentation provided an overview of the platform’s capabilities and offered a snapshot of what a course might look like in Moodle. The system is versatile, user-friendly and offers countless options for collaboration and incorporating media. The date of course conversion from ANGEL to Moodle has not yet been announced, but expectations are for fall of 2012. For those who were not able to participate on the 22nd, the presentation is available via Elluminate here. Approximate length: 30 minutes. (Actual presentation begins about 5 minutes in, due to audio adjustments).

NOTE: Murphy demonstrated her own Moodle2 examples. The Empire State College version may differ somewhat, but not significantly.

Shared Learning in a Wiki-mediated Environment

At CDL, we strive to offer our online students opportunites to work openly and collaboratively whenever possible. To promote a community of inquiry for student team projects, a wiki-mediated learning environment model was designed and it has worked successfully in learning activities across several disciplines. The wiki activities from four individual courses can be explored below. In these examples students contributed content and shared knowledge by co-creating artifacts and writing collaboratively, while the instructor served as co-collaborator, facilitator, and content expert.

Student satisfaction was high and outcomes demonstrated enhanced quality, creativity and participation when compared to outcomes of similar activities conducted in more traditional environments. A class discussion board provided a format for formative and summative peer review and feedback, which was a motivating factor. Each wiki-mediated learning activity let students demonstrate how they worked together to present a unified project with clear meaning and the use of multimedia. A bonus for instructors: the transparency of the wiki environment charted student growth and development over time.

screen shot from Information Systems wiki

Exploring the Disciplines: Information Systems – Developer: Jianhao Chen

Introduction to College Studies

Introduction to College Studies – Developers: Craig Lamb and Alice Lai

Advanced Health Assessment

Advanced Health Assessment – Developer: Teresa Smith

Communications for Professionals

Communications for Professionals – Developer: Susan Oaks

 

Personalizing Learning: Providing Meaning & Relevance to Student Work

Successful courses are those designed to work in collaboration with learners. Underlying the design of CDL course learning activities is the understanding that our students are adult students, and that it is essential that the activities engage them in meaningful ways. Following current research in the field of adult learning, (Wlodkowski, R. J. 1993), our activities are designed for adult learners who need to:

  • know why the learning is required;
  • direct their own pace/style of learning;
  • contribute their personal/professional/life experiences to the learning environment;
  • apply what they have learned to solve real-world problems, and
  • feel competent and experience success throughout the learning process.

For example, the Global Climate Change course engages students in a self-directed project called the “CO2 Calculator”. This activity requires students to directly observe their own daily routines, and then to assess how they might contribute to CO2 reduction by changing their daily behavior. This hands-on activity invites students to contribute to global energy conservation while also developing an individualized and very personal understanding of the effects of climate change.

How to ‘Chunk’ a Course: Organizing & Coordinating Content

Ever wonder why it is more difficult to remember long strings of information than shorter bits? For over 50 years, studies have suggested that our ability to accurately recall information is capped at about seven numbers or items (Miller, 1956) If we break up the information into little packets, or chunks, we are  more capable of remembering greater amounts of information (Simon, 1974).  For example, remembering a number such as 5138675309 is much easier when broken into chunks, i.e. 513-867-5309. More current research suggest that our limits may be closer to four chunks of information (Cohen, 2001).

When developing courses at CDL, the Curriculum and Instructional Design team strives to organize information to allow learners to easily access the information in a way that enables them to recall it better. Key to our course models, like the Hassenger and the Humanities Model, is organizing information in amounts that are easy to recall.  For example, a quick overview to a given chapter or course module can act as a roadmap for students, and serve to reinforce their learning experience throughout.

Implicit within our courses is  this type of underlying structure, or template, which encourages course organization into four to seven course modules, or chunks. This makes the content easier to access and recall and can assist or even improve learning. The Humanities course model also offers various modalities of presentation, so the learner can choose which presentation of the material best fits his or her learning style.

Real Time Collaboration: Google Docs & Class Participation

In the Women in Business course at CDL, students use a shared document to compile data related to their research on female CEOs from around the world. Each student is asked to provide authentic biographical data for a female CEO in business today, and to add it to a shared form in Google Docs in preparation for a class discussion and later in the course, a research paper.

The data each student enters on the Google Doc serves as an abbreviated research paper thesis, and because other students can view the entries of their peers, they not only learn a bit about other CEOs they may not have chosen themselves, but they also learn to recognize a growing number of influential businesswomen in today’s market.

The Google doc provides a real-time save/edit feature that provides students with the most current, up-to-date information recently added to the form by their peers or the instructor.  It is important to note that students do not need gmail accounts to participate; the document is set up to allow anyone with the link to view and add data.

Because the Google Suite (Apps, Docs, Mail) doesn’t yet communicate with certain screen reader technology, students with visual impairments have the  option to contact the instructor and receive a downloaded version of the document that they can add their data to and resubmit.

The Power of Peer Critique!

Throughout the Digital Art and Design course, students are asked to publicly share their art design work via the use of blogs. Peers use discussion threads to critique their peer’s art designs while the instructor monitors to ensure that communication is respectful, relevant, and useful. Peer critique is an interactive, formative and dynamic process that inspires enhanced performance in an authentic setting.

For peer feedback to be an effective instructional strategy, the instructor should supply clear deadlines, a rubric/guidelines, a sample critique, and course credit or incentives for peer reviewers. If peer feedback and critique are embedded throughout the course, it is not viewed as an activity but as a necessary step in the process of creating quality work.

Peer feedback allows for gaining insight from multiple perspectives, while the public posting allows for self reflection;  Students see the differences in their quality of work, which in turns helps them calibrate superior performance in the class and model top performance.

Using Technology to Foster Authentic Learning

In the Communications for Professionals course, a professional, collaborative online environment is created to challenge students to  tap into their existing  knowledge and experiences, and incorporate newly learned skills when presenting themselves in a professional venue. It is intended to build self-confidence and professionalism into their communications.
This activity is designed to encourage participatory learning. The course instructor is charged with channeling the students interests and aptitudes into a more professional focus. By molding online and collaborative abilities and interests into academic pursuits, an authentic learning environment is created. While focusing on discipline-specific learning goals, the instructor scaffolds the learners through a series of activities that increase in complexity, thus shepherding the development of higher-order thinking skills.

Scaffolding activities: A series of role-play introductions to specific work environments, where each work environment is introduced by a first -and report from current employees and business owners (via video).

Collaborative social environment: A course blog was created specifically for the course, while also being open to the academic community. By placing the students in a collaborative social environment like a blog and scaffolding the activities, the students can role-play authentic learning activities.

It’s Easier to Learn What You Already Know: Using Facebook in Class Discussions

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.

A Screenshot of the Facebook Live Stream Box

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.

Ready, Set, Go! Next Gen Learning Goes Mobile

T-Mobile HTC G2 (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)In response to the growing use of mobile technology, CDL has several projects underway that focus on increasing mobile accessibility to our online courses. Discovering Math Across Generations, a course in which math partners work together on learning activities, utilizes available mobile math applications and podcasts to increase convenience and flexibility of course content delivery. In addition, revised activities will incorporate use of popular mobile devices, such as iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Androids.

Our new course, American Popular Music of the 20th Century (first offered this fall), will feature integrated mobile technology applications that allow students to access course content and participate in online discussions while on the go. The ability to instantly upload audio, video and images to the course will expand students’ learning environment and allow them to connect with their classmates from almost anywhere!

e-Reader (AP Media)Other projects include exploring the potential benefits of e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle, in literature studies. In particular, students could take advantage of pre-1923 titles, thousands of which are available in digital format from Project Gutenberg, Open Library and others.

But we understand mobile technology’s practical and logistical value as well, and consistently strive to make our adult students’ lives a little more manageable. Currently, those enrolled in GPS and the New Geography are able to access their course schedule via smart phone, to keep up with assignments and due dates.

The Mobile Learning Task Force, a collaborative committee with members from the CDL faculty, Curriculum & Instructional Group and the Office of Academic Technology. The committee will participate in a panel discussion at the 2011 Empire State All-College Conference (March 23-25) and the CDL Conference (April 29-30). Stay tuned!