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August, 2009:

7 Things You Should Know About Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling involves combining narrative with digital content to create a short movie. Digital stories can include interactive movies with highly produced audio and visual effects or presentation slides with narration or music. Some learning theorists believe that as a pedagogical technique, storytelling can be effectively applied to nearly any subject. Constructing a narrative and communicating it effectively require one to think carefully about the topic and the audience’s perspective.

Link: http://www.educause.edu/ELI/7ThingsYouShouldKnowAboutDigit/156824

Top-Ten IT Issues, 2009

Top-Ten IT Issues, 2009
Anne Scrivener Agee, Catherine Yang, and the 2009 EDUCAUSE Current Issues Committee

This article lists the following as the top ten IT issues in 2009: Funding IT; Administrative/ERP Information Systems; Security; Infrastructure/Cyberinfrastructure; Teaching and Learning with Technology; Identity/Access Management; Governance, Organization, and Leadership; Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity; Agility, Adaptability, and Responsiveness; and Learning Management Systems. Out of those, #5 and #10 are related to learning technologies:

Issue #5: Teaching and Learning with Technology
Teaching and Learning with Technology — formerly E-Learning / Distributed Teaching and Learning — ranked #5 this year, moving up from #9 in the 2008 survey. With the increasing availability of technology-based learning tools both internal and external to the institution, the role of the CIO and other IT leaders is expanding to encompass many teaching and learning domains. The trend toward augmenting instruction with technology creates opportunities and substantial challenges for those who must respond to increasingly diverse and fluid instructional environments. CIOs have become crucial to instructional units because they provide leadership in evaluating and supporting the teaching technologies that underlie multiple forms of distributed learning.

A growing proportion of learning takes place outside the traditional boundaries of the classroom, facilitated by applications such as social networks and technologies that support a culture in which everyone creates and shares. In the current economic environment, IT leaders must make decisions about whether or not to accommodate these miscellaneous technologies. Further, they are being asked to provide technological direction for cultural transformations — such as information fluency — that involve library faculty, department faculty, technology specialists, and students as co-creators of knowledge. Finding the proper balance between systemic and ad hoc technologies will be fundamental for IT leaders as they respond to a student generation that prefers less passive and more agile learning. These instructional modalities will foster transformational innovations such as the need for e-portfolios in a reflective, contextual, authentic, and active learning environment.

All of these developments play out in a landscape where IT leaders bear responsibility for systems that support institutional functionality, that protect the privacy and security of faculty members, students, administrators, and staff, that safeguard information and intellectual property, that respond to the data and information needs of the institution, and that provide effective means of communication. This responsibility forces IT leaders to function in a mediated environment — one in which they must manage dwindling resources, increasing demands, and the necessity for a collaborative establishment of effective priorities with administrative and academic constituencies.

Critical questions for Teaching and Learning with Technology include the following:

  • To what extent are IT leaders involved in active communities of practice, sharing ideas that facilitate consensus for information and instructional technology?
  • What mechanisms are used to provide information about the effectiveness and possible reformulation of institutional technology? Are evaluation results shared on an institution-wide basis with opportunities for reflection?
  • How are IT leaders taking an active role in informing key stakeholders about the necessary policy realignments caused by emerging technologies?
  • What mechanisms are in place for faculty development? How are faculty members involved in the process?
  • What system is in place to examine and reevaluate institutional structures for campus technology on a regular basis?

Issue #10: Learning Management Systems
The learning management system (LMS) has become a mission-critical enterprise system for higher education institutions. According to the EDUCAUSE Core Data Service: Fiscal Year 2007 Summary Report, 93 percent of all campuses responding to the survey supported at least one LMS. In fact, only 0.5 percent of respondents did not deploy and had no plans to deploy such a system.6 In Campus Computing 2008, Kenneth C. Green reports that the percentage of college/university courses that use an LMS has risen from 14.7 percent in 2000 to 53.5 percent in 2008.7 Accordingly, the LMS faces challenges and concerns similar to all other enterprise systems: acquisition strategy, local needs, rising costs, data migration, system integrity, integration/interoperability with other campus resources, and expansion to purposes for which it was not initially intended.

Although the commercial LMS providers (e.g., Blackboard/Angel Learning and Desire2Learn) dominate higher education, the percentage of campuses using open-source applications (e.g., Moodle and Sakai) has nearly doubled in the last two years.8 Given the rising cost of the commercial LMS, the current economic climate, and the pattern of consolidations in the commercial LMS market, the open-source LMS may be a viable alternative for some institutions. For those institutions with an already established LMS, however, the human and technical resources needed to migrate to a new system may be a concern.

Over the years, the LMS has evolved from a content (course) management system (CMS)9 to a more all-encompassing system that includes groupware and social networking tools, as well as assessment and e-portfolios to track learning across courses and semesters. Although the LMS needs to continue serving as an enterprise CMS, it also needs to be a student-centered application that gives students greater control over content and learning. Hence, there is continual pressure for the LMS to utilize and integrate with many of the Web 2.0 tools that students already use freely on the Internet and that they expect to find in this kind of system. Some educators even argue that the next requirement is a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) that interoperates with an LMS.10

At the same time, the question remains: is the LMS being used effectively at the institution, by both faculty and students? Institutions need to ensure that there are quality guidelines for the LMS, that both faculty and staff receive training,11 and that assessment is conducted regularly.

Critical questions for Learning Management Systems include the following:

  • What factors at the institution favor buying a commercial LMS or supporting an open-source application?
  • What systems need to be integrated with the LMS: portal? e-portfolio? ERP? library resources? Does the LMS support the integration of these systems?
  • Does the institution have the development and support expertise either to support an open-source LMS or to integrate open-source components into a commercial LMS?
  • Has the institution conducted, or is it planning to conduct, an assessment of how effectively the LMS is being used? What training/support resources are available to help faculty and students make better use of the LMS features?
  • If a change will be made to a new system, what plan is in place to ensure the smooth migration of existing materials to the new system?

Link: http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume44/TopTenITIssues2009/174191

Why Peer Discussion Improves Student Performance on In-Class Concept Questions

Why Peer Discussion Improves Student Performance on In-Class Concept Questions
M. K. Smith, W. B. Wood, W. K. Adams, C. Wieman, J. K. Knight, N. Guild, and T. T. Su

When students answer an in-class conceptual question individually using clickers, discuss it with their neighbors, and then revote on the same question, the percentage of correct answers typically increases. This outcome could result from gains in understanding during discussion, or simply from peer influence of knowledgeable students on their neighbors. To distinguish between these alternatives in an undergraduate genetics course, we followed the above exercise with a second, similar (isomorphic) question on the same concept that students answered individually. Our results indicate that peer discussion enhances understanding, even when none of the students in a discussion group originally knows the correct answer.

Read the full report at the Science magazine link below…

Link: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/323/5910/122

Barriers to Distance Education

Barriers to Distance Education
Arthur Levine and Jeffrey C. Sun

Although technology has broadened the boundaries of higher education, significant barriers to distance learning remain. This paper, the sixth and final monograph in the ACE/EDUCAUSE series Distributed Education: Challenges, Choices, and a New Environment, closely examines these obstacles, including those both inside and outside the academy.

Read the full article at the EDUCAUSE link below…

Link: http://www.educause.edu/Resources/Barriersto…

Master Planners: Faculty Development

Master Planners: Faculty Development
David Starrett and Michael Rodgers

The advent of the World Wide Web stimulated unprecedented technology spending by universities worldwide. Unfortunately, poorly-coordinated combinations of grants, gifts, and politically-motivated government funding led to fragmented technology implementation. Costly hardware and software installations may have provided good feelings and marketing hooks to attract students to “cutting-edge” learning environments, but beneath the high-tech glitter were some ugly realities: the technology was poorly integrated into existing teaching and learning practices, there was little coordination with institutional goals and values, and faculty generally lacked the skills to use the technology effectively.

The fragmentation led to intramural installations of incompatible systems, or multiple systems that required inefficient retraining of students using the systems in different departments on campus. Strategically, fragmented implementations prevented institution-wide realization of Web-based technology’s promise to enhance access to university education, especially at the undergraduate level. To many, technology was a solution looking for a problem.

With expensive but rapidly aging technology in place, some institutions saw the incongruity between lavish technological resources and minimal faculty skills as the chief obstacle to realizing improvements to teaching and learning through technology. Numerous development models were implemented to close the faculty skills gap and ultimately to validate the investment in technology for teaching and learning.

Indicators, such as the number of online courses and programs now being offered, show that the faculty did benefit from the efforts. However, some faculty continue to look askance at technology, citing the lack of agreement on how technology use should count in tenure and promotion decisions, unresolved intellectual property issues, the still-steep learning curve for teaching with technology, and a general lack of faith that online instruction is “as good as” face-to-face instruction. Perhaps the most powerful driver of efforts to assess technology’s impact on teaching and learning is the need to respond to these concerns.

Read the full article at the Campus Technology link below…

Link: http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2003/10/Master-Planners-Faculty-Development.aspx