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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

 

Open-Source Learning: Next-Gen Knowledge

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In 2006 a man by the name of Richard Baraniuk introduced the idea of open-source learning during a Ted Talk presentation. Baraniuk does not hold sole ownership of the idea, however what he presented was an alternate avenue by which the way we learn could evolve. Open-source learning is defined by Baraniuk as a database in which teachers across the world can share course-materials, lesson plans and data while constantly being peer-reviewed by their professional colleagues. Baraniuk envisioned a world where not only the cost of learning would be greatly reduced but the efficiency of learning and the scope of students learning would be raised substantially.

Fast forward into 2015 and the landscape of learning has changed drastically. Online classes have been integrated into most community colleges and universities, student textbooks can now be found online and information has definitely become more free-flowing between both professors and students alike. With that said Baraniuk’s vision is far from being realized. The idea of open-source learning was built on the premise of being a free route (emphasis on free) to educate and develop philosophies, so that those in underdeveloped regions with limited access to resources could in fact receive a similar education to those in well developed areas. Of course in the U.S. where a capitalistic system reigns, free is never truly free.

Today there are plenty of websites that promote open-source learning, which is a positive increase from where education was in 2006. With that said the system is not without its flaws. Often times an open-source website allows for free use, however in order to access certain features one must pay a certain amount per month, going against the whole idea of “free”. Some websites provide a basic design layout for teachers to use however if not satisfactory to the teacher’s needs then a third party coder or designer would need to be brought in to deliver a new design and regularly update code which can prove costly. These are just a couple of drawbacks open-source learning has come to encounter over the years. As students, educators and people who are overall hungry for knowledge what do you think of open-source learning? Will it improve? Will costs be raised? Lowered? Please leave thoughts or comments as this may very well be where education in the future goes.

For more information on this topic, visit the link below.

http://www.academyofmine.com/open-source-learning-management-system-lms/

 

Learning on a Cloud

 

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In education, to incite the mind into thinking deeply about a topic is to in fact learn. This has remained unchanged throughout the course of time, yet somewhere along the way educators lost sight of that. The education system began to place an emphasis on exams and regurgitated knowledge, rather than the actual experience of learning. In 2013 educational researcher Sugata Mitra decided to flip that by introducing SOLE within the classroom via Cloud based learning devices.

SOLE stands for “Self-Organized Learning Environment”. Within that, what is necessary for success includes collaboration between students, answerable introspective questions, an Internet connection and an educator’s influence. What entails is a learning environment wherein students not only learn through their spark of curiosity, but also gain insight on posing questions that develop their understanding. For instance, Mitra posed this question to a group of nine and ten year old students “Why do human lungs breathe? What happens to the air we breathe? What followed was an in-depth analysis of the lungs, diaphragm and respiration system developed solely through student research. In connection with the Cloud, these answers and developments would then be added to the pool of research, allowing for access amongst all Cloud-based education systems.

Designing a new future for learning at the elementary and middle school level allows for more advanced topics to be understood at younger ages, thus allowing for students at the university level to focus their learning/career path earlier. The purpose of the Cloud is to gather and hold all of the learning tools (i.e. the big questions, answers, development strategies, etc.), essentially SOLE’s provide the setting or atmosphere within a classroom and the Cloud provides the tools. Mitra’s vision of a cloud-based school took form in 2013 and since then has grown to five different classrooms across the U.K. and India, including an independent location in Korakati, India. The future of eLearning continues with the introduction of the School in the Cloud.

For more information on this topic visit the links below.

http://blog.ted.com/sugata-mitra-opens-first-independent-school-in-the-cloud-in-india/

http://elearningindustry.com/how-can-we-build-a-school-in-the-cloud-sugata-mitra-ted-talk

Picture Credit: http://edtechreview.in/news/877-world-s-first-school-in-the-cloud-opened

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.