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.
The Global Workplace: Its Impact on Employers, Workers, and Their Organizations
The Global Workplace course examines recent global trends, especially the transformative effects of information technology and the increasing importance of service work on the economy.
Students participate in several class discussions to establish an informed position on some of the issues of the global workplace. Using posts from every discussion, the course instructor creates an image using Wordle, a free wordcloud generator, and posts the link to the wordcloud for students to see each week.
Before the end of each learning module, students are able to visualize those thoughts, ideas, concepts and themes generated through their discussion participation. The word collages therefore become evocative of the most pressing and controversial issues in the global economy today.
Students in the Play, Fantasy and Reality course use Glogster to keep a 15-week reflective journal. In week 15, the final week of the course, they re-read their Glog Journal and create a second Glog to describe their “play” throughout their life. Glogging is a new way to create posters on the web – it’s fun, and free for students.
Glogging allows the expression of opinions, feelings and ideas in a way that isn’t possible with the use of mere words. Students can add background images and themes, graphical representations, photos, titles, audio, links and videos. After a Glog is created, students publish and share theirs with classmates.
UPDATE: Glogster was removed from the course because the company began charging for use. In addition, the application is not ADA compliant.
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.
Developing new and innovative ways to teach foreign language, CDL is incorporating VoiceThread into various courses, including Spanish for the World of Business. VoiceThread is a digital medium for housing, displaying and distributing nearly any type of media (images, documents and videos). VoiceThread allows students taking the Spanish course to collect media files, display them, and comment on them in 5 different ways - by using a microphone, a telephone, using written text, an audio file, or recording a video with a web cam. Students can create and share their media with anyone, anywhere.
Additionally, VoiceThread hosts group conversations, allowing students to practice their Spanish by sharing their thoughts on their media collections – in this case, their most loved and most hated foods.
Students taking this course also use VoiceThread to market a product of their choice, in Spanish. The product can be food, computer software, services, a store, etc. Students write their own advertisement and present it to the class, while the instructor and other students will record and share their own comments, in Spanish.
A photo of a lego car built by a student in the Invention by Design course, as part of an online lab.
Laboratory experiments are often considered the defining characteristic of science courses. Engaging CDL students in active scientific experimentation as part of their distance learning coursework not only fosters scientific cognition, but provides evidence for the effectiveness of the design and delivery of online science courses that include a lab component.
Exploring how experimentation can be integrated with content in distance learning courses for non-science majors, a research team comprised of CDL faculty and instructional design staff is currently analyzing selected activities from three online science courses that have been developed by an interdisciplinary team at the center.
Each of these courses - Invention by Design , Contemporary Environmental Issues, and Energy: the Issues and the Science - are designed to promote scientific literacy and provide students with direct, hands-on experiences with science, all while using an online delivery platform.
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.