Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Power of Graphics in Learning

Can a picture paint a thousand words? Can a photo impart instruction, procedure or information?

What do you think about this graphical recipe? Food for thought! (Yes, I admit it! Pun intended!)

You can engage learners with their content by using carefully chosen graphics to supplement your reading and viewing assignments, lectures and discussions. There are lots of free images out there that do NOT hold a copyright ... but a copyleft! That's a kind of license that allows you free use of some content! Also, there's the Creative Commons, public domain, and the old-fashioned thrill of designing your own graphics, with or without the help of expert digital media support!

There are lots of libraries to peruse linked in my LORs (Learning Object Repositories) section of links. Check them out!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Personalized Professional Learning: A Google Hang-out Roundtable

I attended this Google Hangout roundtable hosted by Ben Wilkoff just today and can't resist sharing it here!

How are you managing your own professional learning? And how can I help? Check out the Learning Remodeled Web site too!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Grade Change: Sloan-C's 2013 Report on Online Learning in U.S. Higher Ed

Sloan Consortium has released its 2013 annual survey of higher education administrators and is making it available for free download.

This 38-page report is titled Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States, 2013 and surveys administrators specifically in the realm of higher education.

I found this snippet from the summary especially interesting: (bold emphasis is mine in last paragraph)

Are Learning Outcomes in Online Comparable to Face-to-Face?  
Background: The reports in this series have consistently found a growing majority of chief academic officers rate the learning outcomes for online education “as good as
or better” than those for face-to-face instruction.  
The evidence: The 2013 results show a small decrease in the percentage of academic leaders who view the learning outcomes for online instruction as the same of better than face-to-face instruction. 
  • The percent of academic leaders rating the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face instruction had grown from 57 in 2003 to 77 percent in 2012. The upward trend was reversed this year, with a dip to 74 percent.
  • The proportion of academic leaders who believe the learning outcomes for online education are inferior to those of face-to-face instruction increased from 23 percent last year to 26 percent this year. 
  • Academic leaders at institutions with online offerings remain positive about the relative learning outcomes for online courses; all of the decrease can be attributed to leaders at institutions without online offerings becoming more negative
Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What We're Learning from Online Education

"Daphne Koller is enticing top universities to put their most intriguing courses online for free -- not just as a service, but as a way to research how people learn. With Coursera (cofounded by Andrew Ng), each keystroke, quiz, peer-to-peer discussion and self-graded assignment builds an unprecedented pool of data on how knowledge is processed."

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Assessment: Telling Our Stories

I am in the process of preparing a presentation for an assessment conference in June to be held at Alabama A&M University. I am very excited about the opportunities to both attend and present at this annual event.

I am speaking on the subject of MOOCs, and whether they can or should be incorporated into our own curricula. The idea of marrying two seemingly disparate entities (MOOCs and traditional higher education) is not unlike struggling with the relationship of qualitative and quantitative assessment strategies.

And it has me thinking about the nature of assessment. It has me wondering how I can convey to the audience my concern for the over-reliance on data that I observe, without giving the impression that I don't value the data at all. Quite the contrary! I'm a scientist, a mathematician every bit as much as I am an artist and a writer. I just don't think that the data tells the entire story when it comes to the important role of assessment.

What kind of assessment, though? Are we talking institutional assessment? Program assessment? Or the assessment of teaching and learning that occurs within our institutions? So often it seems that teaching and learning are segregated in the planning and assessment processes in ways that make both more difficult to both assess and address.

But I think we're really talking about all forms of assessment here. The assessment design is so critical to the analysis of perceived outcomes that there are have to be standards of compliance on all levels. But establishing those standards doesn't have to abolish the narrative that must necessarily accompany the data.

How many of us want to be assessed on any level based purely on data? As institutions, we don't want our accrediting agencies looking only at our numbers with no consideration of the stories, efforts and the context supporting those numbers. Numbers tell a story, but it's not always the whole or even near truth. We all know that.

So when we think of student learning, we must even-handedly afford them the same opportunity for a narrative. Our numbers don't TELL our story, their merely support and document its narrative. There's no doubt that the data, the grades, the statistics all matter. But without the story, they can lead us astray. Data might make us think that a student has learned something that they really have not learned. Or that they haven't learned something that has in fact taken hold inside of them and begun to transform the way they think and process information for the rest of their lives.

One of the worst grades I ever received was on a written exam from a philosophy professor I had in freshman year. The course was all about logic. We were being taught to think logically in philosophical terms. None of us fared well on paper (luckily, that was just an exercise in compliance and those grades were dismissed in the end), but the impact of the professor's teaching on me was so profound that over 30 years later, I still remembered his name, his face and many of the things he said verbatim from our classes that semester. He was one of two professors that I remember vividly even three decades later who had profound life-long impact on my relationship to the world. Neither ever asked me a multiple choice question; one never even gave a test or quiz. They based our final grades on the conversations that they had held with each of us, the narrative that contextualized our performance data.

I was student teaching one semester. My internship grade was based on how many times I had written in my journal that semester. I don't think it was even read, as I received no feedback on its content. The entries were counted and my grade was finalized. I got a B because I had missed a week in the journal due to illness/stress. I was not allowed to retroactively journal. And all I had to show for that internship was this grade on a transcript that was the only physical record of my college experience. Even though my journal told the story of several personal breakthroughs with at-risk youth in my classes.

I want us all to remember that data without a narrative is, at best, dangerous to the mission and its objectives. At its worst, it leads us in circles or down the entirely wrong roads with our efforts.

The Web, in its infinite power, has the ability to help us deliver  BOTH our data AND our stories in ways that have increasing meaning to—and impact upon—not only the learners we serve, but ourselves as teachers. Teaching and learning can no more easily be separated than the wax and wane of the moon, or high and low tides of the ocean. You cannot measure (or assess, which is not synonymous with measurement!) one without measuring and assessing the other. Because for every measurement, there is a deeper story to tell of connection, engagement, risk, effort and ultimately, outcome.

How will we tell our own stories? How will we tell the stories of our teaching and learning? How will we support our students telling theirs? With a transcript? Or an e-portfolio? A body of work (research, art, etc.) ... ?

Because when they tell their stories, they are telling ours, too.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fun Friday! Time for a Little Levity

Check out this hilarious story of how a learner and instructor engaged through—of all things—a question and response on a written exam!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

TED redesign!

It's true! TED is redesigning its Web site and you can sign up for early access! Track the progress and sign up for updates and a sneak peek here.

If you're not familiar with TED yet, you're missing out! Check out the best and most inspiring talks on technology, entertainment and design at Many of these talks make great content for online courses and they are always inspiring!

Passing Fads: A Retrospective View

I just received an email update from a source that I will refrain from naming out of professional courtesy because of my reaction to it. This update contained a "paper" which made some pretty bold claims about the nature of MOOCs and other "passing fads" like Khan Academy.

The source alleged incorrectly that Khan Academy is a for-profit institution trying to pass itself off as a degree-bearing academy of higher education. Anyone who knows Khan Academy well knows how inherently misled (I'm going to avoid the allegation of it being intentionally misleading and assume that intentions were good, albeit misinformed and hastily formed) the author of that paper was in making the assertion.

What worries me, though, is that there are folks new to e-learning who read this type of assertion and accept it on face value. And who has the time to dig through the background on every issue in every article we read coming through our email inbox?

Gentle reader, please know that whether MOOCs stay in their current form or whether they morph into something we will not recognize over the next decade, their impact on the higher education landscape is both irrefutable and immutable. If you find speculations (or if those speculations find you) that disparage or minimize the value, the impact or the potential of MOOCs, of LORs (Learning Object Repositories) like Khan, or of any other Web-based technological advancement that impacts our teaching and learning culture, please remember and consider this interview from scientist Clifford Stoll, who claimed in 1995 that the Internet is "not that important," "grossly oversold" and had "so little of value" that it would never take hold. Please review this post by the same fellow.

And stay tuned.

Postscript: Interestingly, Clifford Stoll presented this TED talk in 2006 titled The Call to Learn.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Volunteer to Peer Review Exemplary Courses!

It's that time of year again! Blackboard is now soliciting volunteer reviewers for the 2014 exemplary course competition! I participated as a reviewer last year and it was very enlightening! We were each given a rubric by which to evaluate each course on multiple criteria.

Participating as a reviewer afforded me the opportunity to see work developed by faculty from a diversity of academic disciplines at colleges and universities across the nation! I got some great ideas for instructional design as well as reassurances that we are using the Blackboard environment in accordance with best practice in the field of e-learning!

Sign up here to be a volunteer reviewer. And consider entering your exemplary course in this year!