Got a Technology Question? Ask a Librarian

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

When is the last time you went to the library? When is the last time you went to check out a book?

Maybe your library offers e-books you can check out on your Kindle or iPad, so you don’t even really need to go. If you haven’t been in a while, you may be in for a surprise.


Since the advent of personal computers and the growth of the Internet, library services have changed and continue to evolve. If you have been in a library recently, you probably noticed that the day of the spinsterish librarian shushing everyone has pretty much disappeared. Modern libraries have quiet corners for those who want to read or study.  Continue reading

Practical Reasoning – Challenges for Teaching and Assessment

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

In a faculty brown bag lunch, Molly Sutphen, Associate Director of the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence and author of the seminal book Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation, delivered a talk on Practical Reasoning at the School of Government. The talk was a nice follow-up to the Teaching Palooza that our faculty organized last summer. Since the School’s focus is on teaching adult learners, enhancing practical reasoning skills is an important objective of my instructional design work.

Molly Sutphen, Associate Director of the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence

Molly Sutphen, Associate Director and Teaching and Learning Coordinator, UNC Center for Faculty Excellence

Characteristics of Effective Practical Reasoning

  • To be able to draw on knowledge from different areas, courses, or types of knowledge and use it
  • To develop a sense of salience about a situation
  • To realize the stakes of a situation
  • To put boundaries around a problem or question
  • To be able to envision different outcomes
  • To be able to construct a narrative forward and backward

Assessment and Practical Reasoning

With the pressure of constantly demonstrating impact, assessing the short term learning outcomes of practical reasoning is problematic. “Practitioners may learn, but we don’t know it – what you teach, someone will perhaps not use for another five months – or ten years,” said Dr. Sutphen. She recommends taking “a long view” instead.

Instructional Strategy: Unfolding Cases

Dr. Sutphen introduced unfolding cases as an instructional strategy to teach practical reasoning skills. Unfolding cases are underdetermined (no obvious plan or resolution), scaffolded (controlled amount of information), and orchestrated (prompting specific, relevant questioning). In a plenary exercise, she presented a list of questions to help teachers construct unfolding cases.

  • What is this a case of?
  • Where do you want to start and end?
  • How underdetermined do you want the case to be?
  • Who are the actors? At which point will they be revealed?
  • What is the arc of the narrative?
  • What information will you provide or conceal?
  • Will you give boundaries or expect them to be discovered?

Further Reading

Benner, P., Sutphen, M., Leonard, V., & Day, L. (2009). Educating nurses: A call for radical transformation (Vol. 15). John Wiley & Sons.

Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., Sullivan, W. M., & Dolle, J. R. (2011). Rethinking undergraduate business education: Liberal learning for the profession (Vol. 20). John Wiley & Sons.

Schwartz, B., & Sharpe, K. (2010). Practical wisdom: The right way to do the right thing. Penguin.

Gherardi, S. (2012). “Docta ignorantia”: Professional Knowing at the Core and at the Margins of a Practice. Journal of Education and Work, 25(1), 15-38.

Temple’s TECH: A Learning Center That’s a Form of Social Media

John SenerBy John Sener

Recently, my colleague and Assistant Vice Provost Dominique Kliger invited me to Temple University to give a talk about my book. After the presentation, Dominique offered to take me on a tour of Temple’s TECH center. I readily accepted, but to be honest, I was prepared to be underwhelmed in a “been there, seen that” sort of way — what could be so novel and compelling about a tech lab center?

Dominique Kliger, Ph.D. Assistant Vice Provost, Distance Learning and Summer Programs, Director, Temple University

Dominique Kliger, Ph.D., Assistant Vice Provost, Distance Learning and Summer Programs, Temple University

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The tech center was amazing — and not for the reasons you might think.

Temple’s TECH Center has a large, open room area filled with pods of computer workstations, so my first impression was how it resembled Virginia Tech’s Math Emporium, which I had visited three years ago — but we were just getting started. Dominique pointed out a box mounted on a pillar, which had a series of several neon light tubes whose contours collectively suggested the shape of an ear. As she explained to me, this “earbox’s” neon lights indicated the ambient noise in the room; if excessive room noise persisted, an announcement was made requesting students to quiet down.

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This was a neat enough device in its own right, but an even more striking feature of the TECH Center was its variety of study spaces, each clearly designed for its purpose and equipped with appropriate technology. There were areas with normal-size computer screens for independent study, and there were areas for videoconference meetings with screens large enough to accommodate a group of 10 participants. There were open areas for individual study and for small group work and for simply chilling a bit. There were breakout rooms for study groups or group projects, all equipped with a group workstation. There were rooms for graphic design and rooms filled with music keyboards and broadcasting equipment.

Continue reading

Placement Tests and the Unravelling of College Developmental Programs

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

With so many developmental programs in statewide community college systems (SWCCSs) reliant on high-stakes placement exams such as COMPASS and ACCUPLACER, the recent reports out of Columbia University’s Community College Research Center (CCRC) must have come as a shock. For decades, these tests have been impacting students’ academic careers, and now a set of studies has surfaced to question the validity of their use in predicting performance.

At issue is much more than the efficacy of placement tests. Because the scores are the thread that runs through, binds, and defines the entire developmental structure, there’s really no telling what will happen as Judith Scott-Clayton and her colleagues tug, bit by bit, at the loose end that they’ve discovered. Scott-Clayton, an assistant professor of economics and education and senior research associate with CCRC, which is part of Teachers College, is the prominent figure in this effort to take a long hard look at a system that seems to be broken because of a fundamental flaw — placement testing.

In one of the studies, “Development, Discouragement, or Diversion? New Evidence on the Effects of College Remediation” (National Bureau of Economic Research, Aug. 2012), Scott-Clayton and Olga Rodriguez (also Teachers College) cite a finding that “remediation does not develop students’ skills sufficiently to increase their rates of college success” (2). Furthermore, they say that many students “diverted” into developmental courses could have done well had they gone directly into the college-level courses:

First, we find that potentially one-quarter of students diverted from college-level courses in math, and up to 70 percent of those diverted in reading, would have earned a B or better in the relevant college course. Further, our analysis of impacts by prior predicted dropout risk suggests that diversionary effects are largest for the lowest-risk students, and we fail to find positive effects for any risk subgroup. (3)

In fact, these students who weren’t at risk in the first place may be at greater risk of dropping out as a result of this needless diversion.  Continue reading

Update on UNC’s Remote Proctoring Services

By Franklin Hayes
Media Coordinator

[Note: This article was originally received as an email response to ETCJ’s “Remote Proctoring: UNC’s Low-Tech Network Model May Be the Best.” -Editor]

I was skimming through Educational Technology and Change and thoroughly enjoyed the lively discussion about online proctoring. More specifically, I honed in on the article titled “Remote Proctoring: UNC’s Low-Tech Network Model May Be the Best” and was intrigued by not only the subject matter but also for a couple of other reasons.

I agree that online proctoring is the most effective when it replicates the in-classroom experience and can appreciate UNC’s proctor Remote Testing Services for its simplicity.

Additionally, I work for a company called ProctorU that provides online proctoring for over 200 partner institutions, including a handful of those mentioned in the article. Most recently, we signed a major agreement with the University of North Carolina System that integrates ProctorU with their web infrastructure, enabling students to find an online proctor and test without ever having to leave the UNC site. This Application Programming Interface (API) was recently highlighted in a press release by UNC and covered by the publication Campus Technology.

The partnership with UNC represents the first statewide agreement with a single online proctoring company. We also proctor exams for Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), the University of Minnesota, and Northwestern University. For a listing of our partner institutions, please visit Continue reading

Remote Proctoring: UNC’s Low-Tech Network Model May Be the Best

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

[Note: See Franklin Hayes’s “Update on UNC’s Remote Proctoring Services,” 10.9.12. -Editor]

A persistent concern about completely online courses is testing security. Without the physical presence of the professor or teaching assistant at the exam site, the fear is that students will cheat. For some (Adsit, Kimura), security is a non-issue, and the real issue is test design. For others, the issue is the ills of high-stakes testing (Keller). These issues notwithstanding, secure testing remains a critical step in the credentialing process for the vast majority of teachers and educational institutions. Its omission, alone, is enough to ensure that a course cannot be taken for credit, and credits are the universal currency for diplomas and certificates.

The mushrooming popularity of MOOCs has magnified the issue of secure testing for the purpose of certification. Minus the security, MOOCs are relegated to non-credit status. In other words, a terrific learning experience, but it won’t count toward graduation. Thus, as a business model, MOOCs are considered by most to be nonviable.

Consequently, there’s a need – a need for a workable remote proctoring procedure or service. One of the latest to enter this market is the Tegrity Remote Proctoring System. It relies primarily on the webcam built into today’s notebook computers. This type of service is not new. Kryterion‘s “online proctoring solutions accommodate on-board cameras commonly found on today’s laptops.” However, it also uses “more advanced USB cameras that offer wider view of the test taker and surrounding environment.”

Software Secure‘s Remote Proctor Pro is billed as “the gold-standard in remote test integrity.” It claims to address “every area of exam security by authenticating … identity and controlling a student’s computer while watching and listening to the exam environment.” See the video for a demo of its outboard camera setup.

Software Secure’s Remote Proctor Pro

Test proctoring per se, as an onground service, has a relatively long history. Colleges have offered exam proctoring services to students as well as the public for years. The National College Testing Association‘s Consortium of College Testing Centers (CCTC) is a free referral service designed “to facilitate distance learning.” Cal Poly is a member. Its “Testing Services office offers proctoring services for anyone needing to take tests in San Luis Obispo for another school or agency. Students participating in distance learning programs or correspondence degree programs, and professionals needing to be tested in order to receive certification in their field may be able to arrange to have their tests proctored at our facility.” Continue reading