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How Design and Implementation of Distance Ed Courses Impact Learning

Students with Laptops in Classroom

In a recently published paper by the University of Minnesota, researchers looked at how different designs and implementations of distance education courses affected student learning and satisfaction in these courses. The study involved identifying three different types of interaction in these courses: Student-Student, Student-Teacher, and Student Contact.

Student-Student (SS) interaction consists of individual students or groups of students working together in both dynamic technologies such as video conferencing or static technologies such as discussion boards.

Student-Teacher (ST) interaction also uses many of the same technologies involved in SS interaction in distance learning. Face-to-face interaction is also observed under both SS and ST.

Student-Content (SC) interaction is defined as “reading informational texts, using study guides,watching videos, interacting with computer-based multimedia, using simulations, or usingcognitive support software (e.g. statistical software), searching for information, completing assignments, and working on projects”.

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Better Student Access To Technology Means Better Student Writers

Why do you use technology in your classroom? To many instructors, it’s because of convenience. Technology allows instructors to go paperless, enhance a lecture with a video, create a blog to supplement the class, and countless other things. But can technology teach students as well? In the case of digital writing…absolutely! In an article published recently by Emerging EdTech, guest poster Neven Jurkovic discusses ways in which 1:1 technology can help students become better writers. The new medium of web-based writing has changed the way we write, view and interact with text. Here are some of the key points he discusses:

  • Writing in digital spaces” – Now that so much writing is done in digital spaces (blogs, web sites, social media), many of us don’t even think twice about how different it is from traditional paper-and-pen writing. As I write this blog post, I have many options for conveying my message to you: I can hyperlink words, embed multimedia, and easily format my text in different ways to add emphasis and voice. It’s very important to have skills in both traditional writing and digital writing, as they are two different formats. By providing students with easy access to technology, we are allowing them to build their digital writing skills. Skills that, for many generations, were not necessarily taught in K-12 education.
  • Writing for real audiences” – When students publish work on the Internet, they are immediately opening access to it that extends beyond the classroom or even an academic setting. This forces students to think critically about how they categorize, tag, and attract readers to read their full post. Academic writing generally doesn’t have to worry about these things, but now that writing on the Internet is usually accessible to anyone in the world, it’s something writers should be aware of.
  • Collaborative writing and peer editing” – Digitally, students can collaborate on papers and projects in ways that were not possible in the past. Google Docs is a prime example in this case, the popular application that allows multiple people to edit a paper online at once. Additionally, instructors can look back and see the paper from start to finish–what revisions were made, who worked on what, how students helped each other, etc. Using collaborative writing tools, Google Docs in particular, allows instructors to see not only the finished product, but the entire writing process.

At the end of the article, Jurkovic argues that digital writing is an essential skill to learn–it involves far more than writing the essay you would on paper. Students need to be taught to be good digital citizens, and can achieve this through learning proper digital writing skills and access to the technology that allows them to learn.

Smart Classroom Strategies: Getting Faculty Involved

UWB ClassroomA recent article published by Campus Technology describes how higher ed institutions nationwide are upgrading to provide faculty with the latest technologies to use for teaching and learning. These technologies include hardware such as clickers, tablets, and video recording equipment along with software and web tools such as Google Apps. However, while many of these initiatives to bring the latest technology in to the classroom are ambitious and designed to enhance learning, what can occur instead is that the technology ends up sitting in a storage closet as faculty who are often willing to try new hardware and software are frustrated with not knowing how to use these tools effectively.

The article outlines five strategies to help faculty use technology tools effectively so that they don’t end up gathering dust:

  1. Create Peer Training Groups – “Instead of equipping classrooms with technology and expecting faculty members to use it, Shackelford said, the university trained a small group of “ambassadors” who help other professors get onboard with the new equipment, software, and applications. Facebook, for example, was introduced not only as a social networking platform for students but also as a communication tool for professors to use with one another and with their students. “
  2. Carve out time for Professional Development – New technology initiatives can be fast and furious as IT departments collaborate with campus academic divisions, network groups, and other entities to meet deployment deadlines. Faculty members can get swept up in the excitement and wind up with classrooms full of technology that they don’t know how to use.
  3. Align IT with academic instructional departments – “We can’t do what we want to do on the development side if we don’t have the IT support,” said Spataro, who often bounces ideas off the IT team.
  4. Create a link between technological innovation and pedagogical effectiveness. If professors know that the time they’re putting into professional development will ultimately help them teach better, then the odds that they will participate and be engaged will be that much higher.
  5. Finally, involve faculty members in the planning process. Getting professors to integrate smart classroom technologies into their lessons, lectures, assignments, and projects can be as simple as opening up the lines of communication early between those instructors and their IT and instructional technology departments.

Read more at Campus Technology: Tactics for the Smart Classroom: Getting Smarter About Faculty Involvement

Student Perspectives: ePortfolios

UW Bothell student and Learning Tech Assistant Avalon Willows gives her perspective on ePortfolios:

As a student who has gone through two portfolio classes already, I have been around my fair share of ePortfolio frustration. Any UWB student will agree with me when I say that the process of compiling a portfolio, while technically easy, is very tedious. On top of that, many students just don’t “get” the ePortfolio; the reason for it is just unclear. This causes many students to have feelings of disdain towards the degree requirement.

This is unfortunate, considering that an ePortfolio can be a very useful tool for students. ePortfolios show things that a college transcript or GPA won’t. They showcase the hard work that goes into individual assignments, they reflect on individual learning styles and processes, and of course, they show what fantastic work you have the ability of producing.

Reflection is a vital part of the education process, and ePortfolios allow students to reflect on progress in the beginning, middle and end of their time in college. This allows room for improvement and perhaps the creation of set goals. Personally, when I was going through past assignments to build my ePortfolio, I came across a lot of work that I enjoyed reflecting on. Some assignments I had turned in in such a hurry that I didn’t even realize what great work I had produced. While reviewing other assignments, I often found things I didn’t like—so, I took note and used it for improvement in my future work.

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Undergraduate Students and Information Technology Study

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008
Educause

This 2008 ECAR research study is a longitudinal extension of the 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 ECAR studies of students and information technology. The study is based on quantitative data from a spring 2008 survey of 27,317 freshmen and seniors at 90 four-year institutions and eight two-year institutions; student focus groups that included input from 75 students at four institutions; and analysis of qualitative data from 5,877 written responses to open-ended questions. In addition to studying student ownership, experience, behaviors, preferences, and skills with respect to information technologies, the 2008 study also includes a special focus on student participation in social networking sites.

Link: http://www.educause.edu/library/ERS0808