Bring the World to Your Classroom: Videoconferencing

By Bryan A. Upshaw

My worst grade in high school was in Spanish I. Our teacher was tough, and the pace was blistering. I struggled to learn the vocab, grammar, and odd verb conjugation charts. I found the culture interesting, but the rest of the class was just frustrating and seemingly pointless to my future. Guess what subject I mainly teach now? That’s right – Spanish. What turned my worst grade and most frustrating class into my career?

Getting to see the world outside my little East Tennessee community and building relationships with people who at first seemed so different from me changed the way I saw the world. I was inspired to travel abroad, learn a language, join a local Hispanic church, and live with an undocumented family my last semester of college. Those relationships and experiences made language learning fun and transformed pointless grammar exercises into real-world challenges that unlocked boundaries that separated people.

How can I show them the world when we can’t leave our classroom?

I share my stories with my students and perhaps it inspires some to consider traveling one day, but how can I motivate students right now? How can I show them the world when we can’t leave our classroom? In my opinion, one of the most underused tools in education is videoconferencing. While expensive systems with fancy cameras and monitors can make it seamless, most teachers already have the resources to videoconference. If they have a smartphone, tablet,  or computer, then they probably have everything they need!

As a foreign language teacher, I use videoconferencing in my classroom in many different ways. For example, my friend in Nicaragua, Emanuel, converses with my students. My sister shares stories about her semesters abroad in Nicaragua and Honduras. Another friend, Garret, has talked from Germany about his year abroad in Argentina and how it helped him to learn German and get a job with BMW. My students love hearing stories from guest speakers projected in the front of the classroom. They have fun asking questions and always learn something new. Continue reading

QR Codes — Mystery Solved

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

QR codes have always been a mystery to me. They are in a variety of places, and I know that one is supposed to scan them. I even downloaded a QR app to my iPhone. However, until I read Nik Peachey’s “20 + Things You Can Do with QR Codes in Your School” (9/25/15) on Nik’s Learning Technology Blog, I didn’t have a clear idea of what they were and why I’d want to use them in my personal or professional life.

Example of a QR code.

Example of a QR code.

First, I learned that QR stands for “quick response.” The purpose is “to  transfer various types of digital content onto a mobile device in seconds without having to type any URLs.” Peachey goes on to explain that to use them in the classroom you need two tools, something to create the code and something to read the code. He provides a couple of links for each and a video about how to create QR codes. He assures the reader that they are easy to use and any teacher will find them transformative in the classroom. That’s quite a claim.

What can teachers, students, and schools do with QR codes? Peachy says that, in the classroom, students can download homework assignments, notes, worksheets, etc. all directly onto their mobile devices. The school can use QR codes to link to welcome videos, photos of events, events and schedules, and newsletters to name a few. In the library or a self-access center, students can link to YouTube videos, digital books, and online activities. He also suggests that a QR code can also be useful for marketing. Put one on brochures and promotional materials. “Create a QR code with a link to a Google map showing the location of the school and add this to marketing materials to help people find the school.”

Finally, Peachey writes that while getting familiar and comfortable with QR codes may take staff and students some time, it will pay off in the end. A few of the benefits he lists are:

  • Reduced copying and printing costs
  • Reduced cost of purchasing and storing print materials, as well as cds and dvds
  • Increased engagement with materials
  • Creation of a “21st century mobile friendly learning environment”

I am going to try to pay more attention to QR codes around me and see how transformative I find them. What about you? Do you use them? What do you think about Peachey’s claim?

A Successful Public Health MOOC: Interview with Dr. Satesh Bidaisee

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

One Health, One Medicine: An Ecosystem Approach was a five-week public health MOOC offered by Dr. Satesh Bidaisee1 at St. George’s University, Grenada, in summer 2016. The course attracted 582 students from all over the world and was especially popular with students from the Caribbean, United States, and even Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

Among the 582 who enrolled, participants, or “students who took at least one graded activity in the course,” numbered 98, which is 17% of the total enrolled. Of the 98 participants, 52 completed the course. Completion is defined as achieving “at least a 50% in the course, which required them to get full participation and quiz credit and at least one additional exercise (case or presentation).”

Calculated in this way, the completion rate among participants was 53%, four times the rate in previous years. Of the 50 students who completed the survey, 98% rated their overall experience in the course as good or excellent. To the question “Would you be interested in pursuing a degree from St. Goerge’s University?”, 82% answered yes. Of this number, 30% preferred online courses, 16% preferred on-campus classes, and the remaining 36% had no preference either way.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George's University, Grenada.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George’s University, Grenada.

ETC: How would you explain the high rate of completion for your MOOC?
Bidaisee: The key factors were: (1) A user-friendly online course management system, SGUx, which is built on the EdX platform. (2) Accessible course team. (3) Interactions with students through live seminars, live office hours, discussion blogs, Twitter communication. (3) Case study reviews, peer-review evaluation of student-produced seminars. (4) Focused course topic and content on One Health, One Medicine.  Continue reading

Kadenze, CourseTalk, ECO, MOOC Completion

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

Updated 6/21/15

As MOOCs proliferate, an inevitable byproduct is MOOC review services such as Class Central and CourseTalk.1 The problem, however, is that their results probably have limited generalizability. In an interview a few days ago, Justin Reich2 reminds us that “the people who respond to surveys about their experience are different than people who take the courses broadly.”3

* * *

Kadenze is a new MOOC platform for art courses. Stanford and Princeton are listed among their partners. “According to a company co-founder, Perry R. Cook, an emeritus professor at Princeton, the platform will be ‘multimedia rich’ and allow students to create online portfolios, upload music files and scanned art, watch videos, and participate in discussion forums.”4 The list of features is impressive, but the need for packaged services such as these highlights the glaring weakness of online instruction in general — the lack of media savvy among most professors in the academic disciplines.

In the current best practice model, online courses are divided into two dimensions: content and delivery. The professor provides the content, and the instructional technology department provides the delivery. This approach is a stopgap, and ultimately unsustainable. It’s the equivalent of hiring a professor to produce content for a course and a second professor to deliver it. But it’s even worse considering it involves IT staff and resources. The cost quickly approaches the prohibitive, and the vast majority of cash-strapped colleges will either back off or provide low-maintenance CMS platforms, which guarantee cookie-cutter courses that are uniformly bland and unimaginative.  Continue reading

MOOC Sightings 001: UNC and Cornell

MOOC Sightings2

Despite wholesale announcements by powerful academic leaders throughout the U.S. that MOOCs are dead, sightings continue to pour in from around the country and the rest of the world. For skeptics, the problem is physical evidence. People can offer them and take them, but no one seems to know what a MOOC looks like. Some point to Coursera and edX, but in the opinion of most MOOC experts, who are primarily from Canada and the UK, these are hoaxes.

So, in the interest of determining once and for all whether MOOCs are fo’ real, I’ll be opening Project White Book to publish promising sightings and photos of MOOCs. In this inaugural post, I’m sharing the photo, below, of what appears to be one person’s conception of a MOOC. I recently found it in the ETC spam queue. It was posted anonymously with the header “Da MOOC!” I’ll post photos as I receive them, so if you have one, email it to me (jamess@hawaii.edu) and I’ll publish the most interesting.

Is this a MOOC, a hoax, or just another weather-related phenomenon?

Is this a MOOC, a hoax, or just another weather-related phenomenon?

I’m also sharing promising sightings by Sarah Kaylan Butler, “50,000 Enroll in UNC Online Course” (Daily Tarheel, 2/19/15), and Blaine Friedlander, “Cornell Sinks Teeth into Four New MOOCs” (Cornell Chronicle, 2/19/15).

Butler reports that “almost 50,000 students have enrolled in a massive open online course on positive psychology taught by UNC professor Barbara Fredrickson.” Evidence that this Coursera-based course might be a real MOOC is very strong. It’s six weeks long, a departure from the usual quarter or semester time frame. It’s comfortably aimed at interest rather than college credit. According to Fredrickson, “Most people that are enrolled — 95 percent of them — say that they’re interested out of their own curiosity.” And the professor is on firm MOOC footing, looking for pedagogical guidance from the future rather than the past. She says, “I’ve written a couple of books for general audience and one of the things that’s clear about our changing audience is that people don’t necessarily want to read books, but they like ideas.”

Another promising sighting is from Cornell. Friedlander reports that “Cornell will offer four new [MOOCs] in 2016: shark biodiversity and conservation, the science and politics of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), an introduction to engineering simulations, and how deals get done – mergers and acquisitions principles.” They’re still in the planning stages, so I’ll keep an eye out for more details as they become available.

Are MOOCs fo’ real? In this series, I’ll be looking at the evidence through a lens that’s forged from constructivist and disruptive theory as well as a dash of whimsy. In this process, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Please share them in the discussion below. If you’re logging in from an address that has been previously approved, your reply will be posted automatically. If not, your first reply will be published within 24-48 hours. Subsequent replies from your address will be published immediately.

Free Webinar: ‘Using Technology to Engage Students’ 2/23/15 3pm EST

From Macmillan Higher Education 2/17/15:

Join us on Monday, February 23rd at 3pm EST for a complimentary webinar on “Using Technology to Engage Students” with Solina Lindahl of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo!

The 21st century classroom is getting larger, more tech-laden and full of students weaned on digital devices. How should our teaching change (or NOT change) in light of this? This talk is aimed at showing how iPads, iClickers and more can engage the face-to-face large class. Included are a brief discussion of some of the more innovative (and easy) visual presentation apps, as well as a look at using iPads to do the most old-fashioned of practices: worked problems.

edtech week

To learn more about all of our EdTech Week sessions and our presenters, please visit our EdTech Week website. You can also join our event on Facebook for the latest updates and information! We hope to see you there!

Who Dat? It’s E-Learn 2014! Come, Learn, Share, Connect

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

The 19th annual international conference AACE E-Learn took place from October 27-30 in the sunny, warm and welcoming climate of the city of New Orleans. The conference attracted 670 participants from 60 different countries who enjoyed four days of workshops, keynotes, presentations, symposia, SIG meetings, posters, and, last but not least, informal discussions and networking opportunities during the session breaks.

Conference infographic by Stefanie Panke.

Conference infographic by Stefanie Panke.

AACE E-Learn Conference

What sets AACE conferences apart from other events in the educational technology community is the rigorous peer review process in the selection of presentations. Instead of simply submitting an abstract, AACE requires a full manuscript of 6-10 pages. While writing skills do not always and certainly not necessarily translate into great presentations, the quality off contributions is generally high. This also makes the conference proceedings (available in the AACE digital library EditLib) a really great resource for an up-to-date overview of the current state-of-the-art in educational technology. While access to the proceedings is generally restricted to conference participants and subscribers, several papers that were honored with an outstanding paper award are openly accessible:

The best paper awards mirror the diverse spectrum of the conference. E-Learn is a place where educational technology researchers, developers, and practitioners from higher education, K-12, nonprofit and industry sectors meet – brought together by a joint focus on leveraging technology for achieving instructional goals.

My Conference Experience

This conference report is my personal eclectic account of E-Learn 2014. My schedule was packed this year: Not only did I, in a hyperactive mood, choose to deliver three talks, but I also had a symposium and a special interest group meeting to moderate and an executive committee meeting to attend. Luckily, the overall conference atmosphere, the great discussions during the special interest group meeting, and the thoughtful feedback, ideas, encouragement and contributions by numerous conference participants made all of this fun.  Continue reading