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As High-Tech Teaching Catches On, Students With Disabilities Can Be Left Behind

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Credit to James F Clay

 

In our digital day and age learning is an opportunity granted to almost everyone. The internet has given us a medium of information transfer that can touch millions of people, anyone can learn anything now. These advancements in learning have been adapted to the college classroom in many ways as well–teachers will use videos, PDF documents of texts, as well as devices like Clickers to further their student’s understanding of the topics addressed in class.

But this can prove to be a difficult feat for those who are disabled.

In an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education, by Casey Fabris, the issues of discrimination against those with disabilities in the classroom is examined.

Students who are blind or deaf are having difficulty gaining access to resources that are offered to their other classmates. One instance of this is the flipped classroom model that many classes are adapting, assigning students videos to watch or texts to read outside of class then coming prepared to discuss them. Unfortunately closed captioning on all videos is only just starting to emerge. Many people are making an effort on sites like YouTube to close caption their videos, but sadly most still aren’t. This leaves behind students who have disabilities, and in some cases professors just excuse them from the assignment, leaving them out of a great learning opportunity.

There have been numerous lawsuits against Universities who have failed to supply their students with proper materials to perform their duties in class. Things like PDF documents being incompatible with their reading software, videos without closed captioning, and the lag time between translation of questions and students using clickers have all been issues that people with disabilities have to deal with.

This is an issue that continues to plague many campuses, sadly leaving many students behind. Many universities are fighting back against this, doing everything they can to accommodate those who need help, but the issue still persists. There needs to be more of an effort to include everyone in classroom activities, and one good way to start would be to spread the word of this problem.

For more information on this topic visit the link above.

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.

Two Big Issues with Online Learning

Here at Learning Tech, we’ve blogged a lot in the past few years about potential optimistic outcomes of online learning: how it could be beneficial to student learning, the cost saving aspects, etc. Although there is no doubt that online learning is changing the face of education, it is important to also address the challenges and issues that appear in an online learning environment. A recent article in the New York Times titled The Trouble with Online Learning brought attention to two major issues of online learning that cannot be ignored: student dropout levels and inability to accommodate to struggling students.

_MG_2195Student attrition rates in online courses are nothing to brag about. Research conducted by Columbia University’s Community College Research Center has shown that students who enroll in online courses are more likely to withdraw or fail from the course than students in traditional face-to-face courses. Considering that the idea behind online courses is setting up students for success, these results are frustrating. Larger courses offered on global or national scales have a 90 percent attrition rate. Additionally, students who struggle with online courses will likely
fall behind in their traditional courses (if they are taking them at the same time) as a result.

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Preventing Plagiarism in Online Learning

Now more than ever, it is important to promote and enforce academic integrity. Online learning has opened doors for many and has changed the way people think about education. Although it has also raised the possibility of plagiarism and academic dishonesty, this should not be a deterrent from online teaching or learning. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges has put together a guide called Best Practice Strategies to Promote Academic Integrity in Online Education, which contains tips for institutions, professors and students on how to promote academic integrity in an online learning environment. These tips are categorized under Institutional Context and Commitment, Curriculum and Instruction, Faculty Support, Student Support, and Assessment and Instruction.

Here are some especially helpful tips that we have highlighted from the document:

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Annotated PowerPoint Presentations with a Wacom Tablet and Tegrity

Following up on a previous tutorial, here is another way to enhance PowerPoint Presentation with annotations in conjunction with Tegrity to create a more interactive online course recording for students to view. In this example we use a Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet which lets instructors easily annotate, hand write, and draw in applications such as Photoshop or PowerPoint using a stylus. This is useful for courses that are math-heavy with lots of equations or where natural hand motions present a superior figure to using the mouse such as in an art class.

The video below goes through the basics of using the Wacom Tablet as well as some possible uses for instructors. Before getting started, you will need a Wacom Tablet which is available for checkout in the Learning Tech Studio.