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Why Blogging Is Key to the Future of Higher Ed


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

Tracking and Improving Student Learning

Professors everywhere always want to make sure that the students they are teaching are actually learning. Thanks to this blog and the work of David A. Wood Jr, there is a way to track your work, along with students, to figure out what changes need to be made in order to improve your ways of teaching. What is this magical tool that is being used to do all of this?

The answer is: Microsoft Excel.


Mr. Wood Jr. is a professor and former dean of performance excellence at San Antonio College. He has been using Excel data to “inform his instruction and achieve better learning outcomes for his students.” He was not limited to other tools that could have been used, but he realized that Excel is one of the easiest and best to use for his intentions. By creating his own spreadsheet to manage the data he needs to improve his own learning outcomes for the students in his class.

Woods even stated that the basic approach taken on has increased scores on tests by five to ten points. What is even more important is the types of questions that are being asked by the students in class. The questions suggest their level of understanding and more about the topics being covered. To truly see the formulas and get an understanding of how a single spreadsheet has been able to improve his years worth of work, click on the link above.

The Power of LinkedIn

LinkedIn is well known social media site widely used by colleges and students everywhere. In an article on The Chronicle of Higher Education regarding LinkedIn’s latest big move, people everywhere can get a better idea of how much it has grown and how useful it really is. LinkedIn announced that it would spend $1.5 billion to buy Lynda.com, a provider of consumer-focused online courses. This will be huge step for LinkedIn and can make it even better, but lets not forget what it already provides for its users.


LinkedIn already offers its users college rankings, university pages and multiple tools for all 350 members to crowd source tips and advice on where to go to college or what courses to take. What will happen once LinkedIn makes this purchase? Many say different things, but all are very positive.Some say that this is a sharp reminder to colleges that if they don’t push forward in helping students as well as the alumni with career transitions, there are others, such as LinkedIn, that will be there to help them fill that void.

The fact that people today are starting to think of credentials in a different way helps LinkedIn even more. For example, there’s a move to upgrade academic transcripts to make them a more valuable record for employers. In other words, put them into a machine. Mathew Pittinsky, a founder of both Blackboard and Parchment, even says that the more records that are “machine readable” the better.

LinkedIn happens to be sitting on a “gold mine of data” with a specific set of job skills that are needed for careers in specific cities. So colleges should engage with the company and get their students involved. LinkedIn isn’t here to take over colleges, it is here to work them and the ones under their roof. But to truly get a better understanding of what LinkedIn’s intentions are and what it is capable of, visit the site above and see what the future of LinkedIn has in store.

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


When Actors Replace Instructors as On-Camera Talent

The traditional method for creating online lecture videos is for professors (or Subject Matter Experts) to lecture straight to the camera. However, Purdue University decided to use a different technique by using professional actors to give the lectures instead.

(Photo Credit: Campus Technology)

Students gave feedback regarding this approach and said that they enjoyed the videos with the actors more than the videos with SME. The project management team at Purdue also shortened the videos to under seven minutes since research has shown that adult learners stop learning more information after point. The team could not just use any actor to fill in the position of a lecturer; the actor had to speak in a way that wouldn’t distract the students from learning the content.

According to Vickie Maris, former director of professional development programs, it is easier to update courses with this approach because videos can be inserted and removed when needed. If the video does not seem relevant or useful to most students any more, than they can be replaced with another one. Maris also noted that it is important to not date videos by mentioning the date it was filmed or events that are happening at that moment so that it could last longer.

There are pros and cons for using SME vs Professional Actors for these videos.

SME know the topics well enough to not have to read off a teleprompter or script. Thus, students find them more reliable. However, actors never state that they are the instructor in the videos and just go right to the content to avoid the students feeling like they weren’t getting the “real thing.” Actors are also more comfortable in front of the camera and can capture the students’ attention more effectively.

Cost is a factor for both SME and actors. An actor can charge between $891 – $1056 on the first day, but some professors charge an hourly rate that can end up being more expensive than an actor (Schaffhauser)

After a beta course that used both actors and SME in their lecture videos, students stated that they still preferred the actors more. The team is using this feedback to develop new course series and update videos and other content delivery methods.

For more information on this topic visit the link below:

Source: http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2015/05/13/When-Actors-Replace-Instructors-as-On-Camera-Talent.aspx?Page=1