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May, 2011:

Legal Considerations While Using Web 2.0 Tools

Stephanie Delaney, the director of eLearning at Cascadia Community College, gave a presentation last Wednesday about web 2.0 tools and the legal considerations faculty members should take while using them. The presentation is fantastic and is available in full through Tegrity here. Topics she covers include FERPA, student privacy and faculty responsibility. Here’s a sneak peek at the helpful advice Delaney offers:

  • Students shouldn’t be forced to post personal information on the internet and should be presented with privacy options when using Web 2.0 tools in education. For example, if making a Twitter account is part of a project, students uncomfortable with using their real name should have options like making the account under a pseudonym or opting out of that portion of the project.
  • Faculty and staff should understand that their activity online will be tied to the institution as long as they work there. Exercise caution online and remain professional.
  • Although many institutions don’t include a social networking policy for faculty in their contracts, act as if they do. Many instructors have found themselves in trouble at work because of what they have posted on their private Twitter/Facebook/Blog.
  • Address issues to your students that can come up while using web 2.0 tools, such as cyber bullying and stalking, on the first day of class. If you teach students what this looks like from the start, they are more likely to be responsible online.
  • Keep track of all of the work done on web 2.0 tools that you may, for any reason, need later. Think proof of a student’s grade or a lawsuit.
  • Nothing is private. Things you post on the internet will be there forever.

You must use web 2.0 tools carefully in the academic world, but don’t let this discourage you from using them at all. Web 2.0 tools have potential to make class more interactive, personal, and may help students with their technology and social networking skills in the future. The bottom line for this presentation is that while using web 2.0 tools, be responsible and think before you post anything.

Free Technology for Group Projects

It is not uncommon for college students to dread group projects. Why? Within their first year, students discover that half of the battle in any group project is finding ways to communicate and collaborate. Sometimes in-person collaboration is not an option, so students turn to technology–usually combinations of phone, email, Google Apps, Skype, and various other tools. Although these are all tried and true methods of communication, it may get difficult to keep track of things when using so many different programs.

We have recently come across two (completely free!) tools made specifically for group projects that are worth taking a look at. These tools manage to put most, if not all, of the aspects of group projects into one convenient place:


Wiggio is a very straightforward group tool that allows group members to post comments, links, messages, to-do lists and polls. Every time something new is posted, it shows up on your feed. There is even a built-in calendar to mark important due dates. The site is a great place to compile information and divide up tasks for the members of the group. The layout is so simple and easy to use–a great feature if you don’t have the time to get too acquainted with a new tool. Wiggio even lets you test drive the site without the commitment of registering. Take a look for yourself!

Enter the Group

Enter the Group is a collaborative group management tool that is a bit more in-depth than Wiggio. However, the functions are still similar: chat, messaging, file sharing, calendars, etc. The main distinct feature of Enter the Group is the virtual classrooms, which can be used in place of or in addition to the physical classroom. Once the user registers, they can create new project pages or join already existing ones. The pages are similar to a Facebook profile (see below) and all group members can contribute to them.

Although these tools may work well in a student group project setting, they should not be restricted to them. Faculty may also find some of these tools useful in expanding communication outside of the classroom. The more organized a group project is, the better the final project will be.

ELI 2011 Annual Meeting

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Educause Learning Initiative Annual Meeting is a conference that meets every year to discuss technology, teaching and learning in the upcoming year. The 2011 meeting took place on February 14-16 in both Washington D.C. and around the world online. The focus was heavily on open education–covering topics such as open resources, open textbooks, open curriculum, etc. If you missed out this year, good news: The sessions are currently available online and can be accessed here. If you don’t know where to start, here are some of our favorite sessions from the meeting:

  • Using Technology to Engage Students by Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and Dean of Applied Physics, Harvard University (you can use the slider at the bottom of the screen to move to the presentation which starts at about the 21st minute of the recording). Dr. Mazur talks about using clickers to significantly increase student learning.
  • Blended Learning Designs: A Learning Science Perspective by Barbara Means, Director, Center for Technology in Learning, SRI International. Dr. Means presents some of the most comprehensive research done to date on blended/hybrid learning, and how this mode of learning shows statistically significant enhanced learning outcomes as compared to face-to-face instruction.

Infographic: Open Source Textbooks

Last week, Mashable published an article containing an infographic by onlineschools.org examining open source textbooks. The infographic highlights the advantages of colleges and universities switching to open source textbooks, rough cost estimates as well as what is currently standing in the way of a switch. The graphic below links to the entire infographic and article from Mashable:

Preventing Cheating in Distance Education

For professors, one of the big drawbacks of distance learning is the potential for a student to cheat on or plagiarize assignments for the class. Unfortunately, students sometimes feel as though they have more room to cheat in a hybrid or online course, since their professor cannot always physically see them.

The Faculty Assistance Center for Teaching (FACT) at Utah State University has put together the guide How to Prevent Cheating in Distance Education. Meant for instructors, the guide gives helpful tips on how to plan and organize your distance learning class in a way that prevents cheating and promotes learning. Here are some highlights: