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.
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 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.
- Screenshot of mapblog. Markers indicate student entries.
Community Health: Context
Community Health explores the health care needs of various ethnic and cultural population groups and the cultural, social, political and economic factors involved in the access and utilization of health care systems by diverse groups of people in the US. Students are required to meet with state and/or local health care contacts in their communities to identify challenges the community is facing and the methods by which area professionals attempt to address these challenges.
There are field assignments threaded through the course in which students must talk with public health officials from their communities. The information they gather through the interviews and their own research helps them develop their culminating project: a strategic health plan for their communities.
Screenshot of a blog entry accessed by clicking one of the markers
One of the benefits of online education is that students often come from diverse geographical locations, and each location comes with unique challenges or unique methods of dealing with common challenges. As students conduct their field assignments, they post information that they’ve gleaned from their contacts and research on the mapblog. The mapblog provides a great way for students to share field results with their classmates, comment on one another’s results, and discuss their communities’ challenges and the attempts to solve them.
Through this activity, students can gain new insights and fresh perspectives that will assist them as they develop a strategic plan for their communty’s health.
Classmates can comment on the posting by clicking the marker:
Screenshot of a classmate's reply to the initial post