Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Open Academics at the University of Minnesota

The Richardsonian Romanesque Pillsbury Hall (1...
The Richardsonian Romanesque Pillsbury Hall (1889) is one of the oldest buildings on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was really excited this morning to see Stacy Olson's tweet () about the University of Minnesota's Open Textbook Catalog. This is more than a collection of links: their Open Academics site is easy to navigate and encourages faculty to post their reviews of textbooks. This is a great model for institutional support of open textbooks. In the words of the site: "If you are a faculty member from any institution, you can support this project and help your peers evaluate the textbooks in this catalog by writing a review of an open textbook in your field. Only experts like you can determine quality." This has been a perception issue with open education resources in the past - uneven quality. I want to encourage everyone to visit this site and contribute a review. These efforts should be supported because faculty should be vetting textbooks, not corporate education publishers. In a posting I made here earlier (OER: The Myth of Commercial Textbook Reliabilty), I wrote that "Instructors and academic departments should partner to author, revise, adapt, and vet course materials. We should be partnering with other institutions to support these efforts - a textbook should include a network of subject matter experts, expert practitioners in the field, and advanced students." Efforts like these encourage the formation of communities of scholarship around open textbooks. Commercial publishers do not work this way - it all has to be proprietary and in-house to justify the high costs of their "product." Communities of teaching and learning can do better. The University of Minnesota has taken a big step in that direction.
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Saturday, October 27, 2012

MOOCs and Connectivist Instructional Design

george seimens
George Siemens (Photo credit: heloukee)
I am very interested in the instructional design of MOOCs. While I was working at Tacoma Community College, I co-taught a course called "Health Information Management 101." The purpose of the course was to introduce health information management students to all of the technology that they would encounter in the course of getting a certificate or degree in health information management, as well as collaborative technologies that would help them successfully work online (this is where modern HIM is going). The idea was that we would use all of the tools to teach the class that were also part of the curriculum. We taught the course using a "multimodal delivery" method: it was a hybrid online but students could choose at anytime to take the course online or show up for the lab. The whole point of the curriculum was to help students get the idea that they did not have to learn how to use any software program, but that they could gain transportable skills that would enable them to use any technology to meet the needs of any situation. When students are taking HIM classes, they can't be taught the technology of the work place because that technology in HIM changes too quickly. One year, hospitals and insurance companies are using one program, the next they are upgraded to a new system or have moved on to something else. They are as bad as schools and their learning management systems. What we had to teach was the core skills that allowed anyone to adapt to any technology they might find themselves in. We got the students up to speed on texting, messaging, sharing and collaborating using wikis, blogs, Google docs, and even toyed with Second Life. The idea was that if we could create a community online of HIM students, then they could help one another manage the pace of technological change in their field. We wound up succeeding far beyond our expectations. Within a couple of semesters, the network we facilitated, had first semester students, second semester, and students who were working in the profession all talking to one another in twitter. We even had students who were in other fields also talking to our HIM students. Our "classroom" was streamed live from a lab where we assisted students with the different projects. We wanted a space where local students could drop in physically if they wanted to or participate remotely. What we noticed was that students started helping one another as much as we were helping students. One of the reasons for this was that each assignment was basically a detailed guide on how to use a particular tool, and each assignment asked the students to share their work with one another. They wouldn't just sign up for Twitter; they would add the entire class to their account. They wouldn't just sign up for a social bookmarking site; they would share their bookmarks with the class. Creating the community was built into the lessons. This class was not  MOOC but it gave us the experience of letting the community, even the community outside of the classroom, drive the learning.

Around the same time, we ran into George Siemen's essay, "Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age"as well as the work by Stephen Downes on the same topic. We were then so far beyond the ADDIE model of instructional design. There was no model of typical instructional design that could account for what was happening here. Stephen Downes wrote in the Huffington Post "At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks. Knowledge, therefore, is not acquired, as though it were a thing. It is not transmitted, as though it were some type of communication." We were really excited by many of the ideas around connectivism because it is the only learning theory that does not have the justification of the old model of education at its heart (i.e. hierarchical, top down, sage on the stage, medieval lecture halls, exclusivity, etc.). Connectivism accounted for how our students were working, interacting, and collaborating. We could piece together bits of social constructivism and other theories to account for some of it, but none of the other models we looked at were as complete. This isn't to say that we agreed with everything about connectivism. Instructional designers are a very practical bunch. We tend to evaluate a theory based on its usefulness, not its pedigree. And a theory is just that - a theory. Theories do not spring forth whole like Athena from Zeus's forehead - they are postulated, tested, experimented with, and revised. Connectivism isn't wrong just because it does not validate every theory that went before it. The questions that instructional designers ask are like Wittgenstien's answer to the afterlife: "The real question of life after death isn't whether or not it exists, but even if it does, what problem this really solves?" A theory, for instructional design, should be a tool that answers questions that are actually being asked. It should lead to real solutions to instructional problems.

I participated in George Siemen's and Stephen Downe's MOOC, "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2008" (CCK08).  And unlike other education classes I had taken at the graduate level, this one was taught using the method it was teaching. Each week, there were blogging assignments, discussions in Twitter, Facebook, the discussion forum in Moodle, and even in Second Life. There were weekly guest lecturers as well as presentations by the course facilitators. The real heart of the course was the groups of students who would meet virtually, using the collaborative tools of their own choosing, who would discuss the presentations and readings. These groups were self-organized, leaderless, and informal. Yet, there always seemed to be someone in the group who would carry the discussion back into the course to have questions answered by the facilitators. And the facilitators would sometimes participate in the discussions. This experience was highly interactive. There was interaction with the facilitators, the content and between the students. Interestingly enough, the research shows that interaction is one of the primary measures of success and retention in online classes: the higher the degree and opportunity for interaction, the more successful a course will be. This course completely changed how I think of course design. Giving students the opportunity to apply what they are learning to their learning experience, workplace, and previous knowledge is a powerful experience. This should be at the center of our learning design and course outcomes.

Another experience that I think ties the two course models together was my experience in Jim Groom's DS 106 - a digital storytelling MOOC from Mary Washington University. In this course, there are detailed instructions on how to do each assignment, and more importantly, how to create your own assignments. There is also a degree of networking and collaboration that I don't think has ever been attempted before. Students don't just participate in the network - they literally become the network. Each student is asked to create their own domain on the web. Each one becomes acutely aware of their status as a node in the web. This is the way it should be. Students of digital storytelling should know their media as well as any painter who creates their own materials. Again, the network created in DS106 goes far beyond the idea of a classroom. The twitter hashtag #DS106 basically has a life of its own with past and present students, artists, media professionals, and followers from around the world all participating, collaborating and sharing art, video, and projects.

So given these experiences, what should connectivist instructional design look like? Based on the principles of connectivism, learning should:
  • Provide for a diversity of opinions
  • Allow students to create connections between specialized nodes and learning sources
  • Foster their capacity to learn (teach metacognitive learning skills)
  • Increase their ability see connections between fields, concepts, and ideas
  • Teach students to build networks that will allow students to keep current in their field
  • Allow students to choose what to learn and how
Aditionally, in a presentation that George Siemens gave on instructional design for the MOOC "Connectivism and Connective Knowlege 2008" he said that learning should be designed for adaptability, for "patterning, wayfinding, and sensemaking" and focus on "content, context, and connections." He says that it is difficult to take all of this and try to build some mechanistic formula for creating learning experiences. I agree with that - but this is also a teaching philosophy. The best way to help students get this is to model it in our teaching. This is exactly what MOOCs can do that traditional classes can't. In this blog, I will be collecting assignments and activities that model these principles, that have the connectivist principles built into them.

If you have some that you would like to share, as a student or as a teacher, feel free to add to the comments below. 

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Friday, October 26, 2012

16 Resources for Free Images for Educators

Abraham Lincoln with Allan Pinkerton and Major...
Abraham Lincoln with Allan Pinkerton and Major General John Alexander McClernand at the Battle of Antietam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The search for quality images continues...

We have faculty who are creating course materials and in some cases, replacing Fair Use images with public domain, fair use, or Creative Commons licensed images. There are still some holes in our image searches. The links here are my most recent suggestions but I know that some of these are older than others and besides Wikipedia and advanced Google Searches (which are good), there are other sources. This is really just a representative list to get us started.

These are in alphabetical order - not in order of quality or breadth.

  1. Archive.Org. - This is the grand daddy of all public domain archives for images, text, audio, and film. It takes a bit to get used to using the site but once you get the hang of it, it is well worth it. Lots of treasures here.
  2. American Memory - These are history images from the Library of Congress.
  3. Bowdoin Botany Database - These images copyrighted but are free for educators: "Educators and students may use these images as part of their teaching, research, and/or studies, but may not sell or otherwise make a profit on their use."
  4. Burning Well - This is one of numerous archives of public domain images.
  5. Cadyu provides public domain and Creative Commons licensed 3-d images of objects. This would be appropriate for a design class, autocad, etc.
  6. Clipart Etc. - From the University of Florida. A maximum of fifty (50) clipart items may be used in any non-commercial, educational project (report, presentation, display, website, etc.) without special permission.
  7. Creative Commons Search - This combines multiple search engines and gives you the results in one spot based on license chosen.
  8. Environmental Education Station.- These are public domain photos that were funded by an environmental studies grant. These photos are royalty free and may be used without charge for any educational purpose with attribution to David Anderson.
  9. Images in the Public Domain - Many of these are from old encyclopedias. Still useful.
  10. Library of Congress - Most of the images in these holdings are in public domain unless specifically cataloged otherwise.
  11. Public Domain Images - This site collects high quality public domain images.
  12. Public Domain Image links- This is from the University of Wisconsin. Great metasite with links to many public domain resources.
  13. Smithsonian - They encourage educational fair use of all of their images as long as you cite the source. Many of their images are in public domain unless they specify copyright information.
  14. Web Gallery of Art- is intended to be a free resource of art history primarily for students and teachers. It is a private initiative not related to any museums or art institutions, and not supported financially by any state or corporate sponsors.
  15. Wikimedia sometimes works...I found that the best way to search wikimedia is to go to Google and type: "search term" where “search term” equals a single word like “photosynthesis.” Notice that there is only a single space AFTER “org.” Do not put a space after the colon.
  16. U.S. Government Public Domain- The US govt. has made it easier to find images that they have produced that are in the public domain. They are freely available and need no permission.

What are we missing? Is there a source that you use? Which of these are best in your experience? We would really appreciate your comments, experiences or suggestions below!

These are just in from Bosha Struve:

Digital Media
Other Resource Guides

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Effective Online Teaching Techniques

These are the slides and some resources from my workshop on "Effective Online Teaching Techniques." It relies heavily on Chickering and Gamson because I like to emphasize that the same principles that make face-to-face teaching effective are the same principles that make for effective online teaching.

What resources would you suggest for teachers new to online teaching? Feel free to add to the comments below. 

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Promoting an Open Culture with Open Access Week

English: Open Access logo, converted into svg,...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Open Access Week is upon us and this is a very important part of the OER equation. Quality OER is going to have to start with quality open research. There are so many concerns outside of the OER community that Open Access Week can address:
  • Where is the research going to come from for OERs and open text books?
  • How do we determine if OER and open research are "credible"?
  • How do we address publication and tenure issues with OER?
What is Open Access Week? "Open Access Week, a global event now entering its sixth year, is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research."

Open Access in research can ensure the widest dissemination and  use of that research. I would like to see institutions supporting research in such a way that closed options (commercial journals) are less attractive. OERs become "credible" and "reputable" when the materials used to create them come from respected open journals. The default for research should always be open. Our support will make them reputable!

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Friday, October 19, 2012

PowerPoint as an Interactive Teaching Tool

PowerPoint is on every computer in this college and every college I have worked with. Students, faculty, and staff use and abuse it every day. Those of you who know me know that I am not particularly an advocate of commercial technology but it is a tool that is being used for teaching and learning. When I am wearing my instructional designer's cap, I have to think about the best uses of any tool. Here is a presentation I gave on PowerPoint:

Edward Tufte is a personal hero of mine. I think his critiques of PowerPoint are valid. But PowerPoint is just a tool. Tools don't make bad presentations; people with tools do. Here are some more resources from today's presentation:

PowerPoint Resources for Beginners


Hosting Presentations Online
Resources from Workshop
Further Reading
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Closing Open Ed with State Authorization Rules

State seal of Minnesota
State seal of Minnesota (Wikipedia)
The Chronicle of Higher Ed reported on Minnestota's state authorization rules for distance ed that we in the California Community College's Distance Education Coordinator's group have been wrestling with as well. The state of Minnesota has told Coursera that they cannot offer free online classes in their state without authorization. I am glad this has happened because I am hoping that this will bring attention to a very complex problem that is not going to just come from Minnesota. Each state has its own state authorization rules for distance education. Getting authorized in some states can mean merely filing a piece of paper, in some states, it can cost a lot. There are serious questions about this that need to be addressed at the federal level:
  1. Freedom of speech - If someone wants to read and interact with others for free and not for college credit, what business is that of the state's?
  2. Commerce clause - Shouldn't the federal government step up to the plate on this just as they have done with other industries like health insurance?
  3. Selective enforcement issues - Why choose Coursera? Has Minnesota sent cease and desist letters to other other open colleges? What about religious colleges?
The federal government has already taken the step to say that they will not enforce state authorization. They need to go the extra mile create legislation to ensure everyone's access to education.  There should be federal guidelines for distance ed to prevent the capricious nature of these rules.
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Monday, October 15, 2012

From Abelard to Apple with Richard DeMillo

English: A photo of Richard DeMillo
Richard DeMillo (Wikipedia)
Today's presentation in our MOOC, "The Current and Future State of Higher Education" featured Rich DeMillo, according to his introduction, he is "a Distinguished Professor of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the seventh ranked public university in the U.S. He also currently serves as the Director of the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U). He returned to academia in 2002 as the John P. Imlay Jr. Dean of Computing at Georgia Tech, after a career as an executive in industry and government. He was Chief Technology Officer for Hewlett-Packard, where he had worldwide responsibility for technology and technology strategy. Prior to joining HP, he was Vice President and General Manager in charge of Information and Computer Sciences Research at Telcordia Technologies in Morristown, New Jersey, where he oversaw the development of many internet and web-based innovations. He has also directed the Computer and Computation Research Division of the National Science Foundation. During his twenty-year academic career, he has also held academic positions at Purdue University, The University of Wisconsin and the University of Padua (Italy)."

English: Apple II Plus computer.
Apple II Plus computer. (Wikipedia)
He is the author of the book Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities (MIT Press 2011). This is the book description from Amazon: "The vast majority of American college students attend two thousand or so private and public institutions that might be described as the Middle--reputable educational institutions, but not considered equal to the elite and entrenched upper echelon of the Ivy League and other prestigious schools. Richard DeMillo has a warning for these colleges and universities in the Middle: If you do not change, you are heading for irrelevance and marginalization. In Abelard to Apple, DeMillo argues that these institutions, clinging precariously to a centuries-old model of higher education, are ignoring the social, historical, and economic forces at work in today's world. In the age of iTunes, open source software, and for-profit online universities, there are new rules for higher education. DeMillo, who has spent years in both academia andin industry, explains how higher education arrived at its current parlous state and offers a road map for the twenty-first century. He describes the evolving model for higher education, from European universities based on a medieval model to American land-grant colleges to Apple's iTunes U and MIT's OpenCourseWare. He offers ten rules to help colleges reinvent themselves (including "Don't romanticize your weaknesses") and argues for a focus on teaching undergraduates. DeMillo's message--for colleges and universities, students, alumni, parents, employers, and politicians--is that any college or university can change course if it defines a compelling value proposition (one not based in "institutional envy" of Harvard and Berkeley) and imagines an institution that delivers it."

He started out by saying that "Traditional American universities are no longer the gatekeepers." I loved hearing this because most of the hand wringing I hear and read about MOOCs are about getting the model to work in such a way that traditional colleges don't have to change. Or how to redefine MOOCs to preserve the gatekeeper function. "Traditional universities are the incumbents.." He compares where universities are with newspapers. We are still using a 100 year old model of higher education that was created for a different population with different needs.  He says that experiments in higher ed stopped 50 years ago. There has only been one new research university since the turn of the century.

He discussed "Three Tiers" of education institutions - Elite (70 - 75), Middle (1000's), Proprietary (100's). This model has been keeping the costs up for education. Pew found that the current model is non-sustainable. The economic realities include:
  1. Higher education is a multi-sided market (many stake-holders with competing needs, portfolio of services, they are a platform)
  2. Bypass economies (Services are desired by many, affordable by few.)
  3. In a marketplace with many alternatives, the only way to survive is to have
    • Unassailable brand (only the Elites have global brands)
    • Best price (the Middle wastes money)
    • Best value proposition (the Middle has misjudged its value)
He discussed who will succeed over the next 100 years: defining value and architecting form. Architecting means changing your institution to balance faculty and student centrism; create the best technology; cut costs in have; meaningful measures of success; societal success.

How do the Middle colleges waste money?
  • Sponsored research is usually viewed as a way to expand the bottom line. A research university often spends two dollars for every one they get in sponsored research.
  • The way that we view capital plants - spending a million dollars on climbing walls in dorms 
  • Intercollegiate athletics saps the moral and financial strength of the institution.
I think the cost of textbooks should be thrown in here too. 
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Beyond MOOC Hyperbole with Siva Vaidhyanathan

These are my notes on "Beyond MOOC Hyperbole: Why We Should Support MOOC Experimentation...Critically and Carefully." This was a presentation hosted by Dave Cormier and presented by Siva Vaidhyanathan for our MOOC "The Current and Future State of Higher Education 2012." According to the article on Siva Vaidhyanathan in Wikipedia, he "is a cultural historian and media scholar and is currently a professor of Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia. Vaidhyanathan is a frequent contributor on media and cultural issues in various periodicals including The Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times Magazine, The Nation,, and He is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities and the Institute for the Future of the Book. From 2004 through 2008 he maintained a blog, on which he frequently commented on media and technology issues, as well as his love of sports." This was the second CFHE12 discussion. He talked about the place of MOOCs on higher ed. He comes at this as a professor of media studies.

American Palladianism: The Rotunda at the Univ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
He began by saying that "Discussing higher ed as if it were a single entity really clouds the issues" because it covers a wide variety of schools and the role and scope of community colleges or big name Ivy League schools. MOOCs will have different effects and benefits to different kinds of teachers. The real question is "what tools are best for a particular context." He does not think that discussions about "revolutions" and "disruptions" are not very useful (they are ahistorical). There is a lot of talk about MOOCs being the end of the university or the rebirth. We should be suspicious about these claims. He said that there are no simple conclusions that can be made on new tools and pedagogy. He thinks the college is "a temple of empirical reason." Hmmm... The heirs of the monasteries. He has to convince students that he is the "source of wisdom."

The discussion of MOOC mania is in a "faith" realm, not an empirical reasoning realm. He discussed the attempted firing of the president of his college, University of Virginia. Their was talk of MOOCs being one of the issues. They are now working with Coursera to offer courses. There was an email that discussed faculty teaching in MOOCs. There is a lot of panic, therefore, around MOOCs.

He is excited about MOOCs because:
  1. They are pushing interesting ideas and work to "all corners of the world"
  2. Could inspire people to pursue knowledge
  3. We can learn a lot about learning
  4. We could do great marketing for UVA (inspire people to enroll)
We need to encourage people to collaborate around the world - this is how real creativity will happen.  MOOCs could help us break out new technologies and pedagogies. We need to understand that we are doing this as a "public service."

He has serious concerns about MOOCs:
  1. Revenue/Cost savings trump education/academic values
  2. Commercialization of the missions
  3. Reduction of the missions of higher education into a transaction
  4. Student ("user") privacy concerns
  5. Taking the worst aspects of college learning as the favored methods of college learning
  6. Assuming teaching and learning resemble the "hypodermic needle" model
  7. Technofundamentalism
  8. Market fundamentalism
Homer statue at the University of Virginia
Homer statue at UV (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
He is worried about money and commercialization trumping education (Isn't this already happening?) He is concerned about FERPA issues. He says that the current MOOCs are "television shows" - they are a one-way delivery of content. Ironically, this is how this presentation if being delivered. Siva does not seem to be familiar with the connectivist MOOCs where interaction with students was, in my experience, the primary mode of learning.

He is complaining about the lack of public funding for education. I think that the cost should be lowered!

The work that instructors do cannot be reduced to a commercial transaction. I agree with him about concerns about thinking about colleges as a "business model." MOOCs, OERs, and open textbooks are, among other things, a response to the financial issues around education. He spent a lot of time discussing, at the end, the wonders of a brick & mortar education. I think that there are ways to develop high quality education through MOOCs, OER, and open textbooks.
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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Podcasting and the Attention Curve

The logo used by Apple to represent Podcasting
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We were working with one of our brilliant faculty here at College of the Redwoods, Pamela Netzow, who is creating an audio annotation and guide to a very complex accounting textbook. She came in for a meeting today and the conversation turned to student attention span. There is a lot of research out there on this and our multimedia instructional designer, Dan Fiore, sent us a video by Rhona Sharpe that included the statement that "while teachers are lecturing, students are not attending to what is being said about 40% of the time, and this has been shown in numerous studies" and that students' attention spans in "passive tasks" is about 15 minutes.


This really makes breaking up an in-class lecture with activities and discussion very important. It also brings into question the whole idea of putting up entire lectures online via lecture capture software. The best use of lecture capture software, according to this research, would be to record demonstrations, short lectures, and brief presentations.

Pam's efforts also tie into some research that I had read recently about engaging students in content being an important factor in student success and retention rates.With Pam's podcasts, students will learn not only what is important for the class, but I think that this is a great way to teach students how to effectively use a textbook.

Even though podcasting is not exactly new technology, it is fairly new to Humboldt County and our students. It has the advantages of being low-bandwidth and available on a wide variety of phones, mp3 players, and computers. We will certainly report back here the results of our instructors efforts.
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