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How Student Video Presentations Can Build Community in an Online Course

Robert Talbert, a STEM professor at Grand Valley State University, decided to integrate online student presentations into his online Calculus I class. He mentioned that teaching an online course came with a few challenges including setting up student presentations when the class never actually met face-to-face.

Talbert would give students one week to prepare for their presentations. The main rules were that students had to show their face, voice and own handwriting at all times in the video to ensure that they are in fact the ones doing the work. Students had to pass three video presentations to get an A, in the class and at least one to pass the class.

The professor informed all the students that he would provide any equipment that they would need to make the presentations, but all the students were able to manage on their own. Some students used basic filming tools such as their laptops or phones, while some who didn’t have whiteboards used large sheets of paper and taped them to her wall.

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(Photo credit: Chronicle.com)

These video presentations posed a number of positive impacts to the online class. Students were able to see each other’s work and use the videos to study for tests or see the different approaches to a problem. In addition, it created a slight difference from most online courses as students were able to see who else was in their class, instead of just “entries in a spreadsheet or avatars on a discussion board.”

Talbert says that “these video presentations were one of the biggest successes I’ve had as a teacher”

To view some of the presentations, visit the main article here.

In Sign of the Times for Teaching, More Colleges Set Up Video-Recording Studios


In an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education, Meg Bernhard examines how many colleges are starting studio rooms in order to support experiments in online and hybrid teaching. Harvard University is one example of a college setting up television stations, equipping green screens, multiple cameras, and microphones for students and professors to use. Whereas other universities are setting up low-key quiet rooms with a video camera and proper back-lighting.

This is due to the growth and need for online and hybrid courses. These on-campus resources can help assist both students in learning and professors in teaching online and hybrid courses. This is all due to the growth of the accessibility of technology, such as iPads, tablets, Smart phones, etc.

This equipment is also fairly inexpensive and very accessible to students and professors. Students and professors can simply insert a flash drive and their video is saved and ready to be edited from their own technology. This increase in production rooms is also due to the use of technology in the classroom. Professors can allow students to create higher quality projects because the university is offering a resource that most students would have to pay tons of money to obtain.

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24 Hour Tech Studio

The University of Utah will open a new building in 2016 that will provide a space for college students to connect and collaborate using high-tech tools. Many students commented that they needed a space to connect with students to help better their projects/ideas. Other students simply needed a place that would allow them to work 24 hours on-campus that provided the high tech equipment they need. The university took action to construct a building that would bring all 400 student entrepreneurs together under one roof, which will open in the fall of 2016. A game designer from Utah University stated that the best people to test our new video game idea’s he’s developing are incoming freshman. The new building will provide students with the opportunity to develop their products as well as build a community within their school.

Students will have access to helpful tools such as 3D printers, milling machines and saws, as well as high-tech modeling software. The building will also have open floor plans to give students more opportunities to work together and connect with each other.

Other universities such as the University of Michigan opened the 450-room building in 2010, which includes a residential space and an academic tower. The hall also includes a dining area. The goal of this building is to blur the line between academic life and residential life. Indiana University also has a  building that aims to create a space where students can use all forms of technology. Both technology and building design play a crucial role in creating a space where students can collaborate with their peers and gain new skills.

The University of Utah plans to help foster and build student businesses that will launch from their new tech building. Utah University plans to have a building that will help students use any form of new technology as well as accommodate future innovations.

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Free Online Courses: A Positive Experience

Yes, free online courses are now being offered by universities. Karen Harpp, a professor at Colgate University, has opened her course, “The Advent of the Atomic Bomb,” to university alumni and others who make a special request to join. Harpp believed it would be hard for today’s students to imagine living in 1945, experiencing a world war, or for most, serving in the military. With online classes, alumni have the opportunity to share their experiences, which can lead to class discussions getting more interesting.

The first time the online course opened Colgate hoped to enroll 238 students, but it surpassed that goal with 380 alumni. Another course that was offered, “Living Writers”, had 678 alumni enrolled. Ms. Harpp noticed that alumni who had graduated after 2000 were very interested in having access to the course material but less interested in engaging with the students. Older alumni from the Class of 1980 and earlier were most excited to talk with current Colgate students, challenging them on their thoughts and opinions on nuclear warfare. Colgate calls its class and others like it “fusion” courses because there are in-person courses for Colgate students with an additional online component that brings in alumni. The goal of these classes is not just to involve alumni, but to also invite the community to engage with students through online technology.

Now more universities are using free online courses as a form of engaging students with personal experiences that deal with the course content. Harvard University began offering such courses to graduates last year and the University of Wisconsin at Madison plans to offer six courses for their alumni. Now courses are being opened to the community and to various book clubs. With the help of technology and open dialog students receive a new and convenient way to promote “lifelong learning” while incorporating the community.

For more information on this topic visit the link below.

Fabris, Casey. “One Reason to Offer Free Online Courses: Alumni Engagement.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p., 12 Jan. 2015. Web.

Digital Labs Providing Hands on Learning Experiences


Higher education is being called to provide more real-world training and hands on experiences. Now more universities are providing students with more courses that help students learn about real-world situations with the help of technology.

At A.T. Still University of Health Science is using new software that allows students to turn 2D MRI and CT scans into 3D images to better understand everything they see. The virtual anatomy lab, which features 56 computers with touch-screen monitors, a 3D projector, a 175-inch 3D projection screen and anatomy software costs $350,000 dollars. Higher Ed programs like A.T Still University are now shifting more to hands-on learning, which helps students better understand a possible real-world medical experience. While students examine their cadavers they can also print a 3D version of the possible treatment they would give their future patient.

California State University has also created a system that blends traditional experiments with virtual labs. The university calls their project the Virtual Courseware project, which redesigns courses to take advantage of technology to reduce bottlenecks in class enrollment caused by years of budget cuts. Students learn online and conduct virtual labs, but meet in the class once every two weeks. The program coordinator, Robert Desharnais, found that students not only get better grades when using hybrid courses, but the hybrid approach allows the university to double the number of general education science courses it offers without needing extra faculty or classrooms. Which also saves the university money. CSU’s Virtual Labs offer nonscience majors who need to take an intro class in order to graduate the opportunity to learn more from virtual labs than a traditional lab where they would have to follow step-by-step instructions. Virtual labs give students the freedom to think critically, conduct their own hypothesis, collect data and report results rather than following a textbook.

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