In December, Empire State College hosted the SUNY wide Conversations in the Disciplines at the Center for Distance Learning. This one-day conference focused on metaliteracy and brought together faculty, librarians, and instructional designers from around the SUNY system and beyond (including local colleges and K-12). At Empire State College, our own College Level Learning Goals include several aspects of Metaliteracy, such as the abilities to critically assess, create, and share information in collaborationwith others. We were very happy to host this conversation, especially since our institution has such a strong commitment to access, literacy, and innovation. We now have all of the presentation videos from the event available via ESC-TV: Metaliteracy Conference 2013. I co-presented the morning keynote with Trudi Jacobson from the University at Albany on the conference theme: Developing Metaliterate Learners: Transforming Literacy Across Disciplines. Here’s the video from the recorded session:
This fall SUNY Empire State College launched an entirely new Learning Management System with Moodle/Mahara. Our Curriculum and Instructional Design team at The Center for Distance Learning (CDL) converted over 400 courses from Angel to Moodle. Our faculty have been providing oversight to this process reviewing courses and making necessary changes to each course as needed. In addition, we have been working with the Office of Integrated Technologies (OIT) on the development of training resources. Our team at CDL has been developing instructional resources to complement and enhance the college wide tutorials addressing the needs of various audiences including faculty, professionals, adjuncts, and students. Our new Moodle environment also provides everyone at the college with a space to create an ePortfolio using Mahara. This “Mahoodle” environment is integrated so that we can easily move from the LMS to the ePortfolio. The latest updates regarding Moodle are available here: http://commons.esc.edu/moodleupdate/. This fall we also launched our third connectivist MOOC with Metaliteracy MOOC. Our latest MOOC has been a collaboration with the University Libraries at the University at Albany and is bringing together scholars from around the world interested in open learning, emerging technologies, and this new framework for information literacy, metaliteracy. In the spirit of Open SUNY we posted shared press releases about the MOOC from Empire State College and The University at Albany. We developed our first MOOC Talk as a Prezi presentation:
Last week we celebrated two of our CDL students who received the prestigious Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence. I was honored to be there to hear the inspiring stories from our students in CDL and across the college. Congratulations to Sean Coffman and Travis Kuhns and their mentors Dee Britton and Menoukha Case. Sean and Travis were unable to attend in person so we used Skype to connect them to the luncheon (image above). Each student discussed the importance of their individualized program and the connections they made with their mentors and with the college at a distance. Sean was unable to attend because he is working on flood preparation in Fargo, ND: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/04/04/news/fargo-flooding. The press release for the Chancellor’s Award recipients is available and includes a description of each student: http://www.esc.edu/news/releases/2013/chancellors-award.html, David Caso and Ginger Knight also attended this event on behalf of CDL.
This week at CDL we held our fourth annual Mentor Retreat and the theme this year examined service learning. As part of Thursday’s day-long retreat I presented on “Reflections on Service Learning in Blended and Online Learning Environments.” This provided me with a chance to think about my own teaching with service learning over a span of 15 years. In one of my first teaching experiences at the University at Albany I was introduced to service learning through Project Renaissance, a living and learning environment for first-year students. For my presentation I decided to use Prezi rather than PowerPoint. I must admit that I have been avoiding Prezi for about three years because I did not find it very user-friendly at first, but for this presentation it worked well and I enjoyed this new way of presenting images and video in a more spatial environment that the static slides in PowerPoint.
It has been a busy few months with the CDL Graduation and the international SCOP 2011 conference in June. This week we had the chance to use the new video conferencing equipment at SUNY Empire State College to connect our new faculty who started this week in Saratoga Springs and New York City. We hired four new faculty for our Saratoga location and three new faculty who will be working at our Metro Center in New York City. Our new Tandberg video conferencing equipment now connects all of our centers throughout New York State. Our initial meeting with new faculty took place in Saratoga Springs and New York City and it was so interesting because after the conversation started we were not even thinking about the fact that we were communicating between two places in New York, we were just talking and sharing ideas about new technologies, mentoring, and teaching online. Remember the old days when we had to use video conferencing in the basement? Those days are over. We have portable units that can be used anywhere in our new building and we will soon be connecting via laptops. I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation.
I appreciated the chance to present the keynote address at the Transliteracy conference sponsored by SUNY FACT2 and the SUNY Librarians Association. The conference was excellent and the theme worked well to bring together librarians, faculty, and instructional designers for conversations about emerging technologies and emerging literacy frameworks. This is an edited version of my keynote that examines the primary themes related to transliteracy and metaliteracy in a social media age, including the metaliteracy framework I wrote about with Trudi Jacobson for an article in College & Research Libraries. C & R L is now an open access journal.
One of the many advantages to teaching at SUNY Empire State College is having the chance to develop personalized learning contracts with students for independent study opportunities. As a College, we offer individualized and collaborative approaches to learning that include independent study, group study, and a range of open and online studies (with 500 courses to choose from). This sense of openness and innovation to multiple modes of learning was outlined brilliantly in the 1971 Prospectus for a a New University College to establish a non-residential, degree-granting University College, which of course became Empire State College. This document declared the importance of flexibility and experimentation (which is an ongoing activity) and established the emphasis on individualized learning, distance learning, prior learning assessment, service learning, and international studies.
It is within this framework of innovation and flexibility that allows current students who take online courses, for example, to also pursue independent studies with instructors (either F2F or online). Conversely, students who pursue independent study options in F2F settings can enhance their degree plans with online studies, and/or service learning.
In the fall term I had the chance to work with a student on an Independent Study (iStudy) that illustrates the value of this kind of flexibility. The iStudy emerged from a conversation in an online course I teach in Digital Storytelling. I happened to blog about a course I developed at another institution on the topic Social and Community Informatics. This was an Honors course that met F2F and included an extensive online component. Students completed service learning projects and worked collaboratively to document this work in blogs, wikis, and in-class presentations. I wrote about this experience for a chapter entitled “Developing Blog and Wiki Communities to Link Student Research, Community Service, and Collaborative Discourse in my second book, Using Technology to Teach Information Literacy. For the iStudy version, the biggest challenge was to develop a learning contract for an individualized study based on a collaborative course model. I worked this out with the student who completed the study and it was a highly successful experience. Student feedback on the learning contract and learner-centered observations made throughout the study contributed to the evolution of this project during the term.
Outcomes of this study include a course blog from the student entitled A Time to Help, as well as a multimedia presentation that documents her leadership in managing a community-based food drive for the Regional Foodbank of Northeastern New York.
The learning contract for this course also allowed for a comprehensive field study observation of the service learning location, and the exploration of social and community informatics as an emerging field through writing, reflection, technology exploration, and interaction with members of the community and community partners. All of the projects for this study, and communications between student and instructor were completed entirely online, based on F2F work, and at the local level. Imagine the network of learners we could connect, across the state and around the world, using Social and Community Informatics as a way to engage with diverse communities. In this 40th Anniversary celebration of Empire State College, it is important to note the accomplishments of our learners and to reflect on the openness and flexibility we have to create learning environments that take many forms.
This past week I participated in a press conference at the Jason Morris Judo Center in Glenville New York that was covered by a few local news stations (with brief stories that appeared during the sports segment of each newcast). This might sound a bit unusual but it actually makes a lot of sense. On Wednesday SUNY Empire State College signed an agreement with Jason Morris to provide a pathway to higher education for athletes in training; some of these athletes will be future Olympians. Of course Jason Morris is a four time Olympic athlete who won the silver medal in the 1992 Olympics and was head coach of the 2008 Olympic team. He could have set up his center anywhere in the world but he chose to return to his home town to develop the Jason Morris Judo Center. This partnership with Empire State College is consistent with the strong support we have shown for Olympic athletes in the past. Although we do not have the usual sports teams of our more traditional comprehensive college counterparts, we do have students who are actively engaged in sports, and some are Olympians. I highlighted these athletes in my brief remarks at the press conference and mentioned CDL students Tony Benshoof, who was on the U.S. Olympic Luge team, Tim Burke, a U.S. Olympic Biathlete, and Erin Hamil, also from the U.S. Olympic Luge team. All three athletes were featured in our Connections Magazine in fall 2010. The successful athletes in our program exemplify the positive experiences of all of our students who are designing their degrees with faculty mentors. While actively engaged in busy lives our lifelong learners study in varying modes including blended and online. Olympic athletes and adult learners are highly motivated and disciplined but they need a flexible, open, and learner centered approach to education that supports their demanding schedules while challenging them to take charge of all aspects their learning, including degree planning itself. With open and online learning, studies happen anywhere, anytime, and are structured around the individual needs of each student, while advancing collaboration among peers and between student and instructor. The sports clips are quick (and include ads) but here goes.
From Channel 6: