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Online/Hybrid Learning

One Reason to Offer Free Online Courses: Alumni Engagement

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Photo Credit to Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography

It is assumed that once you graduate from college you will no longer need to spend time in the classroom. A diploma from a university is a pinnacle moment of your educational career and once that has been obtained there is no use in spending any more time in a classroom. This idea is incorrect.

Casey Fabris examines the benefits of offering free online courses to college alumni in his article on The Chronicle of Higher Education website. This article examines the experiment conducted by Colgate University over the past few years in which they invited back alumni from the school to participate in MOOCs (massive open online courses). The courses offered ranged in subjects from “The Advent of the Atomic Bomb” to “Living Writers”. In a course offered last spring pertaining to atomic bombs they even invited veterans to participate in class discussions online to give the students a better perspective on their experiences with the war, since many of them weren’t even born at that time.

By offering free online courses to alumni from the school they are able to keep them connected with the community of both former and current students. During the first enrollment period Colgate University was able to enroll 380 alumni, when their original goal was only 238. The numbers grew to a whopping 800 online participants as the courses continued. The alumni participating in these courses were asked to share their feedback on the university’s experiment with online learning, and officials behind it considered it a success.

Other universities are now trying to engage their alumni using free online courses, offering former students a way to learn throughout their lives after university. The courses offer ways for alumni to engage each other if they wish and increase their knowledge even after their education has ended.

For more information on this topic visit the article above.

5 Apps for College Students

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Picture by: Nasser Almulhim

Now more than ever is technology part of daily life. The way college students study has changed from carrying stacks of papers, flash cards, and highlighters to carrying an electronic device. The Apple Store notes that there are now more than 20,000 educational apps alone. With finals week around the corner, here are 5 apps that U.S. News Education believes every college student should use:

1. StudyBlue Flashcards: Preparing for a big exam often involves carrying around a pile of flashcards. With StudyBlue Flashcards, you can access millions of flashcards created by other users or make your own. StudyBlue also has a  filter setting that can help week out concepts students have mastered and review questions that have been answered incorrectly. (Available for: iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android, and web browsers; cost: free)

2. Graphing Calculator: This app has to be one of the most money saving apps a student could download. While students can purchase a graphing calculator ranging near the cost of $100 the app store offers apps that can also plot and trace multiple equations on the same graph at the fraction of the cost if not free. The apps are equipped with graph tracing, trigonometry symbols, and much more. (Available for: iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Android; Cost: Free – $1.99)

3. School Helper:  Everyone know life as a college student can be messy, but there are many apps are specifically for daily organization. School Helper helps students stay organized by keeping track of grades, homework assignments, notes, and exams on the home screen. Students can add widgets to the main phone screen as reminders for assignments. Another helpful tool is found under “Marks,” it allows students to keep track of their grades in a particular course by adding assignment or exam counts that go toward the final grade. (Available for: Android; Costs: free)

4. Trello: It’s no surprise that when it comes to group projects someone gets the short end of the stick. Trello is an app designed to help group projects, both big and small, manage who is responsible for what. Group members can also create deadlines, assign, and tasks. Trello also sends group notifications when changes have been made. (Available for: iOS Devices, Android, Windows, and web browsers; Cost: free)

5. Google Drive: Being in group projects can often be a mess, but Google Drive makes collaborating a breeze. With Google Drive students can see when changes are made to files such as presentations or group papers. (Available: iOs Devices, Android, and web browsers; Cost: free)

Lytle, Ryan. “5 Apps College Students Should Use This Year.” US News. U.S.News & World

Sheehy, Kelsey. “5-Must-Download Apps for College Students.” US News. U.S.News & World

Class-Sourcing

In an article on Stanford’s Center for Teaching and Learning website Gleb Tsipursky examines the benefits of teaching using a new set of tools in our digital age, namely those that are available through the great invention of the internet. Today students are able to take advantage of website creation and artifact archiving to demonstrate the new information they have gained through their classroom experience. Tsipursky calls this phenomenon Class-Sourcing.

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Class-Sourcing is the integration of technology into the classroom through the use of website creation, artifact archival, blog writing, video creation, podcast creation, or any other media related design used to express ideas, research, or content they have gained from the class. Class-Sourcing takes advantage of group activities to help promote team building and prompts students to get creative in their expression of information.

Class-Sourcing has many benefits to the students who take advantage of it. They gain skills in digital literacy, data management, digital design, digital communication, collaboration, and public presentation to name a few. Each of these skills proves useful not only in the classroom but outside of it as well. Our age is becoming increasingly tech-oriented and employers are seeking tech-savvy individuals to fill the limited positions available. Students are able to create content they enjoy whilst learning the ins and outs of website creation which will benefit them for years to come.

Here at the University of Washington we have already integrated Class-Sourcing into our classrooms. Through the use of Canvas, Catalyst, Google Sites and much more professors are now able to offer their students an alternative to classic pen and paper school work. Students are able to create their own personal media content that they can upload directly to their teachers. Many professors have abandoned the use of physical papers and have adapted wholly to the online resources available to them. Students can archive all of their work from their college years onto their own personalized website that they can reference for years to come. This proves useful for students who graduate from this University, leaving with a portfolio full of experience to show to potential employers.

 

For more information on Class-Sourcing and its benefits visit the link above.

Two Great Techniques for the Flipped Classroom

In an article on Campus Technology Julie Schell, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Texas at Austin, shares her favorite techniques for the flipped classroom.

One of the techniques that Julie talks about is just-in-time teaching, a technique for getting students to prepare before coming to class. With the students prepared before class, Julie uses the beginning of class to ask the students two “conceptual questions” about the material and one “feedback question.”

Julie uses the conceptual questions as a means to direct the thinking of the students, but says that the “secret sauce” is the feedback questions when she asks questions based on the student’s response to a conceptual question. By using this method Julie is able to get a sense of student misconceptions of the course content.

The other technique that is discussed in the article is peer-instruction. Developed at Harvard, peer-instruction follows a series of steps:

  1. The instructor gives a “mini lecture,” a brief introduction to a topic
  2. Students are asked a question related to the topic that expands their thinking
  3. Each student chooses an answer individually and moves into peer discussion to try to convince a fellow student of the rightness of his or her response
  4. The student responds to the same question again
  5. The correct answer is shared by the faculty member
  6. Students are invited to share why they chose the answer they did — right or wrong
  7. A longer explanation is provided

Julie insists that none of the steps can be skipped. Also, Julie says that students should discuss their answers with another student who disagrees with them. “You want a rich conversation, and to get that you need to create some dissonance.” She also states that students are more likely to come forward when they already know they are wrong, so she shares the correct answers with the students before she asks them to explain their thinking.

With these two techniques in hand, you’re already on your way to flipping your classroom.

Virtual History

When we think about studying history in school, it often involves reading a long boring textbook. However in Marc Perry’s article he highlights a new form of teaching history. Perry interviewed Claudio Saunt, a professor at the University of Georgia, and Stephen Berry, who both founded the U. of Georgia’s Center for Virtual History. Mr. Saunt and Mr. Berry have created websites that show pictures, videos, documentaries, and many more virtual representations from history.

For example, Mr. Saunt’s map, “The Invasion of America,”goes beyond a class lecture or a regular book. The map creates a visual representation of how the United States captured 1.5 billion acres from indigenous people between 1776 and 1887. You can click on the timeline to see the United States slowly change each state’s color representing the captured land. Since the website released, “The Invasion of America” has attracted more than 90,000 viewers on this website alone. A YouTube video about the invasion was created as well and has received over 95,000 views.

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Picture by: Hastiin Tilden

With the mass audience received from ‘The Invasion of America” Mr. Saunt proposed to collaborate with Mr. Berry to create another website called IndianNation. Mr. Saunt refers to it as a historical “Facebook of the dead.” In this website you can click anywhere in the United States and Alaska and it will show you which tribes where and are actively present. You can also search different people by gender and location. When you click on a tribe you can see pictures, videos, and documentaries about them. I clicked on a few tribes located in Eastern Washington, but no pictures or documentaries have been submitted yet. It might be because Mr. Saunt and Mr. Berry want the community of descendants and students to help by having actual tribe members share their stories, photos, and letters documenting the lives of its members.

There are some barriers to teaching and writing in new ways for historians. For example, they are encouraged to publish traditional books and articles. However, with the technology, historians will be able to inform so many more people. The number of viewers show how much of an impact teaching through technology can have, which is something historians and other educators should take into consideration.