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Free Online Courses: A Positive Experience

Yes, free online courses are now being offered by universities. Karen Harpp, a professor at Colgate University, has opened her course, “The Advent of the Atomic Bomb,” to university alumni and others who make a special request to join. Harpp believed it would be hard for today’s students to imagine living in 1945, experiencing a world war, or for most, serving in the military. With online classes, alumni have the opportunity to share their experiences, which can lead to class discussions getting more interesting.

The first time the online course opened Colgate hoped to enroll 238 students, but it surpassed that goal with 380 alumni. Another course that was offered, “Living Writers”, had 678 alumni enrolled. Ms. Harpp noticed that alumni who had graduated after 2000 were very interested in having access to the course material but less interested in engaging with the students. Older alumni from the Class of 1980 and earlier were most excited to talk with current Colgate students, challenging them on their thoughts and opinions on nuclear warfare. Colgate calls its class and others like it “fusion” courses because there are in-person courses for Colgate students with an additional online component that brings in alumni. The goal of these classes is not just to involve alumni, but to also invite the community to engage with students through online technology.

Now more universities are using free online courses as a form of engaging students with personal experiences that deal with the course content. Harvard University began offering such courses to graduates last year and the University of Wisconsin at Madison plans to offer six courses for their alumni. Now courses are being opened to the community and to various book clubs. With the help of technology and open dialog students receive a new and convenient way to promote “lifelong learning” while incorporating the community.

For more information on this topic visit the link below.

Fabris, Casey. “One Reason to Offer Free Online Courses: Alumni Engagement.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p., 12 Jan. 2015. Web.

Open-Source Learning: Next-Gen Knowledge


In 2006 a man by the name of Richard Baraniuk introduced the idea of open-source learning during a Ted Talk presentation. Baraniuk does not hold sole ownership of the idea, however what he presented was an alternate avenue by which the way we learn could evolve. Open-source learning is defined by Baraniuk as a database in which teachers across the world can share course-materials, lesson plans and data while constantly being peer-reviewed by their professional colleagues. Baraniuk envisioned a world where not only the cost of learning would be greatly reduced but the efficiency of learning and the scope of students learning would be raised substantially.

Fast forward into 2015 and the landscape of learning has changed drastically. Online classes have been integrated into most community colleges and universities, student textbooks can now be found online and information has definitely become more free-flowing between both professors and students alike. With that said Baraniuk’s vision is far from being realized. The idea of open-source learning was built on the premise of being a free route (emphasis on free) to educate and develop philosophies, so that those in underdeveloped regions with limited access to resources could in fact receive a similar education to those in well developed areas. Of course in the U.S. where a capitalistic system reigns, free is never truly free.

Today there are plenty of websites that promote open-source learning, which is a positive increase from where education was in 2006. With that said the system is not without its flaws. Often times an open-source website allows for free use, however in order to access certain features one must pay a certain amount per month, going against the whole idea of “free”. Some websites provide a basic design layout for teachers to use however if not satisfactory to the teacher’s needs then a third party coder or designer would need to be brought in to deliver a new design and regularly update code which can prove costly. These are just a couple of drawbacks open-source learning has come to encounter over the years. As students, educators and people who are overall hungry for knowledge what do you think of open-source learning? Will it improve? Will costs be raised? Lowered? Please leave thoughts or comments as this may very well be where education in the future goes.

For more information on this topic, visit the link below.



Learning on a Cloud



In education, to incite the mind into thinking deeply about a topic is to in fact learn. This has remained unchanged throughout the course of time, yet somewhere along the way educators lost sight of that. The education system began to place an emphasis on exams and regurgitated knowledge, rather than the actual experience of learning. In 2013 educational researcher Sugata Mitra decided to flip that by introducing SOLE within the classroom via Cloud based learning devices.

SOLE stands for “Self-Organized Learning Environment”. Within that, what is necessary for success includes collaboration between students, answerable introspective questions, an Internet connection and an educator’s influence. What entails is a learning environment wherein students not only learn through their spark of curiosity, but also gain insight on posing questions that develop their understanding. For instance, Mitra posed this question to a group of nine and ten year old students “Why do human lungs breathe? What happens to the air we breathe? What followed was an in-depth analysis of the lungs, diaphragm and respiration system developed solely through student research. In connection with the Cloud, these answers and developments would then be added to the pool of research, allowing for access amongst all Cloud-based education systems.

Designing a new future for learning at the elementary and middle school level allows for more advanced topics to be understood at younger ages, thus allowing for students at the university level to focus their learning/career path earlier. The purpose of the Cloud is to gather and hold all of the learning tools (i.e. the big questions, answers, development strategies, etc.), essentially SOLE’s provide the setting or atmosphere within a classroom and the Cloud provides the tools. Mitra’s vision of a cloud-based school took form in 2013 and since then has grown to five different classrooms across the U.K. and India, including an independent location in Korakati, India. The future of eLearning continues with the introduction of the School in the Cloud.

For more information on this topic visit the links below.



Picture Credit: http://edtechreview.in/news/877-world-s-first-school-in-the-cloud-opened

Simplicity for International Teaching


Comprehending a new language can be difficult, but luckily there is a tool that can help anyone pick it up.

The University of Washington Bothell has been building a large and diverse campus over the years and provides hundreds of types of courses to its students. English language classes are even offered to international students as well. But how are these classes being taught? Is there a more effective way?

The answer is yes! And the Voki app is the right tool to use for these situations. Voki allows the teachers and students to make avatars that can be used to help them with their education. Students are able to design their own Avatars to speak the language they are currently trying to learn. A set of instructions can also be provided to help students understand the meaning of the words and guidance on how they are pronounced. That is only the beginning of what Voki is capable of.

Voki is a great program and has multiple purposes, speaking another language is just one of them. The best thing about Voki is that it is great to use in front of a large class, when one on one with a student, or even by one’s self when alone studying. It is definitely a strong tool and can be used to help students everywhere comprehend things in a different and technical way.

To find out more about what Voki can do and how it can be used, click the link at the top of the page and find out something new and amazing you could have missed.

Differences Between Blogs and Journal Entries


In an article on The Chronicle for Higher Education, Casey Fabris takes a look at a study done on the differences between public blogs and private journal entries.

With the current hype about blogging, Drew foster, a doctoral candidate in sociology, decided to try them in his introduction to sociology course. He immediately noticed a higher quality of work than what he had seen when students submitted private journals. He then decided to see what differences there might be between the two formats.

Initially he had expected to find that blogs resulted in more thoughtful reflections, which didn’t seem to be the case. After looking through a large collection of journal and blog entries from the University of Michigan, he discovered that one format wasn’t necessarily better than another, they were just different.

It seemed that when students were writing for a public blog, where fellow students could see and comment, they took more intellectual risks, crafting complex arguments on controversial discussions. While students who where tasked with writing a private journal took more personal risks sharing their own personal experiences.

As an example, Mr. Foster mentions that a student discussing the American dream may use her own family’s socioeconomic status or financial struggles; however, she might hesitate the share something so personal on a public blog.

Ultimately, it comes down to instructors needing to decide what is best for their courses. Mr. Foster goes on to say, “It’s to our benefit as teachers and instructors to try and maximize the type of reflection and the quality of reflection that students are engaging in.”