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Online/Hybrid Learning

Why Blogging Is Key to the Future of Higher Ed

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Photo credit to Prasan

At Virginia Commonwealth University, nearly 30,000 students were encouraged to start blogging about their schoolwork. It was a way to incorporate social media, something that almost all college students are fond of, with education.

Gardner Campbell, Vice Provost for learning innovation and student success, said that this “catastrophic success…does not do justice to his real vision for both VCU and higher education.” He wants to change the direction, definition and purpose of concepts like online education and curriculum.

VCU worked with a vendor to set up a WordPress installation that would allow students to communicate with each other and their teachers as well as do their work online. Campbell explains how these blogs can act as an e-Portfolio. Since it is public, any other staff and faculty will be able to access it and view students’ work.

One example of using blogging for coursework was when students were asked to go out and take pictures of plants, post them on their blogs and add tags to them. This helped when biology students were studying botany.

Campbell referred to this as a catastrophic success in spite of the few disadvantages that the web can pose, such as poor connectivity. There can also be a low limit of how many students can sign up for the blog.

Nonetheless, Campbell said that VCU should look past the technological challenges and focus on the potential that this approach can have. This is just a work in progress, and could help advocates understand that a culture of a university should be more about content and course delivery.

For more information on this topic visit the link below.

Source: http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2015/05/27/Why-Blogging-Is-Key-to-the-Future-of-Higher-Ed.aspx?Page=3

Gaming In Education

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Educational video games have become a hot topic for several years now. Barry J. Fishman, a professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, has borrowed elements of gaming to develop GameCraft, a learning-management system that lets instructors organize their courses in a ‘gameful’ way.

GameCraft provides students with many assignments to choose from, so any student who does poorly on one can find plenty of tasks to redeem themselves. GameCraft treats unsuccessful assignments not as failures but as learning experiences.The ‘grade predictor’ helps students figure out what they need to do to reach the classroom goals they set for themselves.

Giving students the freedom to decide which assignments to complete and when to complete them can be difficult for the instructor and students to keep track of. This is why Mr. Fishman created GameCraft to help professors organize their course. GameCraft provides an engaging way to pass the class by allowing students to independently map the course work they want to complete. In order to unlock more assignments, students have to complete certain assignments to move forward, similar to passing levels in video games. Mr. Fishman has noticed that students are more engaged with the course and their work because they have the opportunity to choose the assignments that interest them. 

Currently about 2,000 students in 19 courses in Michigan have used GameCraft. Of course GameCraft can be scary at first for students and creates more work for professors, but nearly all the instructors who experimented with the system want to use it again. Mr. Fishman hopes the system will grow beyond his own institution. Mr. Fisher explains that he doesn’t define what he’s doing as gameification, but as a ‘gameful’ design that brings a positive attribute of gaming systems, like establishing clear goals and giving players multiple routes to success – to the classroom.

For more information on this topic visit the link below.

Fabris, Casey. Want to Make Your Course ‘Gameful’? A Michigan Professor’s Tool Could Help. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 15, May 2015. Web

 

Differences Between Blogs and Journal Entries

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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.”

5 Lecture Hacks

Students often get confused and bored during lectures. With the help of technology instructors can hold students’ attention both inside and outside of the classroom with engaging videos. Here are 5 lecture capture devices that can help make instructors videos more engaging:

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Dynamic Green Screen:

  • Recording a presentation while the professor is standing in front of a whiteboard or projector can make it difficult for students to see the presentation clearly. Chromatte is a dynamic green screen which is made from a ring of LEDs that go around the camera lens. These lights can shine green or blue on the Chromatte to change the color of the background in the video. The different color helps distinguish the presentation material clearly.

Virtual Green Screen:

  • Personify is a software that inserts a video of the instructor into a PowerPoint or other online material. You will need a 3D camera, similar to an ordinary webcam, mounted on the computer. Next, the instructor will record himself with the 3D camera, and Personify automatically filters out the background so the instructor appears in front of the presentation material in the video similar to filming himself in front of a green screen. This is an easy way to insert an instructor into a learning presentation.

Lightboard:

  • Instructors often have to turn their backs on students while writing on the board, blocking the students’ view of the content on the board. The Lightboard is an illuminated 4-by-8-foot sheet of glass, which allows an instructor to write on the glass from behind using fluorescent markers, so the writing “glows” in front of the person. This helps students see what the instructor is talking about while writing rather than seeing somebody’s back write on the board. On camera the writing appears reverse, but can be digitally flipped or recorded with a mirror. The Lightboard itself costs about $2,000 for the glass frame.

Multi-Perspective Video Capture:

  • Mediasite MultiView is a great multi-perspective video capture tool that records both the instructor and the presentation material. While Chromatte, Personify and Lightboard produce a video where the instructor and presentation materials appear in the same view, Mediasite MultiView captures multiple video streams and allows students to view them side-by-side simultaneously or zoom in on one or the other.
    • This is an excellent tool for people with disabilities. For example, a student with disabilities can see an interpreter using sign language in one screen while watching the instructor’s PowerPoint slides displayed on another screen. With the help of technology students with disabilities can even zoom in to the singing to receive a closer look.

Interactive Video:

  • Instructors often don’t know if students actually understood their video lectures or if the students even watched them. With the help of eduCanon instructors can use this free tool to embed questions into online videos to create interactive lessons. As a student watches a video, it pauses wherever the instructor has embedded a question and students can’t continue watching the video until they answer the question. EduCanon helps teachers comprehend if their students understood the lecture.

For more information on this topic click here.

Creating Dual Classrooms. A Positive or a Negative in Higher Education?

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(http://www.hotcoursesabroad.com/india/blog/seven-major-advantages-online-classes/)

In most classrooms, and especially in higher-education, the students of today rely on the flexibility of their work and social life balanced around a school schedule. What’s often seen when that delicate balance is even slightly thrown off is a decline in student performance. This could range from missing classes, not turning in assignments and even dropping classes as a whole (in certain cases). What if universities began to adopt the idea of a flexible course? Meaning that classes offer both online and the in class learning experiences. Obviously this sounds exactly like the traditional “hybrid” course, however the structure for a dual classroom differs in the sense that students are allowed to switch between being in the online course to being in class from week to week, depending on what best fits their schedule. In the scope of learning technologies, this initiative could perhaps accelerate the online learning curve at major universities throughout the U.S. On the other hand it would then require professors to prepare both an online and in class course to maintain this structure. Peirce College decided to try this structure out via a pilot test and what they found was that in the flexible course “absenteeism fell from 10.2 percent to 1.4 percent” (Fabris 1). The drop in absenteeism is major, especially for teachers who rely on participation as a focal point for grading. It also gives students the ability to form school around their life and rather than vice-versa, subsequently creating more focus on the class, regardless of whether the student is in class or learning online.

While the notion of dual classes is interesting and Peirce’s example does shed a positive light on ways to decrease absenteeism, it should be noted that Peirce College is a bit of an outlier. First they specifically cater to working adult students, who typically need the flexibility offered by Peirce. Second, the professors at Peirce already offered both versions of their course online and in class, so the transition into the dual classroom wasn’t as difficult as it would be for a professor who only taught online or in class versions. Overall the purpose of this study was to see if this allowed students more flexibility, while also proving beneficial to classroom focus, and while that was successful it is also imperative to think of how successful this would be at other campuses across the nation.

Source: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/online-or-in-person-one-college-lets-students-switch-back-and-forth/56265