Antique Video Camera

Students ask for more video with their learning

A few years back we invested in the streaming video service – Films on Demand. The service integrates with our campus portal and the Lakeland Library to permit faculty the means of integrating educational video into their course materials. Compared with the former system of ordering individual media (VHS, DVD), this has proved to be a very good investment. Nevertheless, the level of adoption has been less than expected.

Fims on Demand - Collections
Films on Demand – Collections

In our recent survey of online learners, students reported that they would like to have more video content in their online courses. Streaming video is becoming an extremely popular way for students to view content as is evidenced by the rate of adoption of such services as iTunes U and Khan Academy.

According to a recent article in Inside Higher Ed reporting on thePearson Higher Ed Survey on Student Mobile usage

“Eight in ten (83%) college students regularly use a smartphone, up significantly from 72% in 2013.  Smartphones are now close to laptops (89%) as the mobile device students are most likely to use on a regular basis.”

Perhaps the increased use of smartphones by students helps to explain the demand for more video content. Although I enjoy reading journal articles and other text-based material on my iPad because of the size and orientation, I am not a big fan of reading text on my iPhone. That being said, the iPhone works great with streaming video – especially with WiFi available both at work and home.

iPhone CC-BY-NC-SA by Alex Bartok on Flickr
CC-BY-NC-SA by Alex Bartok on Flickr

Films on Demand is available to both faculty and students and although we have promoted its use primarily with the faculty – demonstrating how to search for relevant content from among the more than 15,000 titles and 200,000 plus segments – students also may access these materials and find value in searching through the collections themselves.

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Gamification and Student-to-content Interactivity

Learner engagement is considered to be an effective predictor of student success. We can increase learner engagement by focusing on interactivity in course design.

Dice CC-BY-NC-SA by Daniela Hartmann on Flickr
CC-BY-NC-SA by Daniela Hartmann on Flickr

The Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University published a paper on the topic: Predicting Online Student Outcomes from a Measure of Course Quality (Jaggars & Xu.) The purpose of the study was to gather empirical evidence regarding the link between online course quality and student outcomes.

The study looked at four main areas:

  • Course design: organization and navigation
  • Learning objectives and assessment
  • Interpersonal interactions (student-to-instructor & student-to-student)
  • Effective use of technology

Much of what was learned through the research reaffirms what we have shared here before – that there exists a positive correlation between student-to-instructor interactivity and student success.

What the study did not reveal was a correlation between student success and online course design, or for that matter, between student success and the alignment of learning objectives and assessment. That isn’t to say these aren’t essential considerations when designing the online course – they are. But rather, that the study did not provide evidence that these factors are directly related to student achievement.

Another interesting finding was that although student-to-instructor interactions showed a positive correlation to student outcomes, this was not necessarily the case with student-to-student interactions. In fact, students indicated their experience with online discussion and group projects was, to paraphrase, pretty much a time sink.

Initially, the findings appeared to support a relationship between the effective use of technology and course grades, but after controlling for student characteristics the relationship became less apparent. Most quality assurance rubrics and accepted practices in online delivery suggest that educational technologies need to be current or state-of-the-art. However, this study suggests when designing rubrics for online course design…

“…quality ratings for technology may wish to focus on not just the use of “current” technologies but how these technologies are used to support user interaction, confidence, motivation, and learning.”

It occurs to me that interaction, confidence, motivation and learning can all be supported by the introduction of games or gamification in learning design.

The use of games in education has gained momentum in recent years. Games can be very motivating (perhaps even addicting). In a game we interact with the medium, often are given problems to solve or challenges to overcome, make choices, and as we progress in skill we become more confident.

Tools like Respondus StudyMate and Quia can be used to turn objective type quizzes into word games: (matching, hangman, crossword, fill in the blank). This is especially helpful when learning new terminology. After integrating games into her Medical Terminology course a couple of years ago an instructor reported significant improvement in student test scores as students began to spend hours reviewing the content as they played games and tried to improve their scores.

The learning is not necessarily the learner’s primary goal when playing a game, but rather accomplishing a task, mastering a certain level, gaining points or credits, and ultimately to win. Of course learning happens as an outcome in the process. Games are by definition, competitive – we may compete against the computer, chance, ourselves, or others (bringing us back to the earlier discussion about student-to-student interactions).

According to Karl Kapp, “Gamification is using game-based mechanics, aesthetics, and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems.”

“Through the careful application of game elements—such as the freedom to fail, interest curve, storytelling, and feedback—in learning programs, ordinary content can be made more engaging without the development of a full-fledged learning game.” – Karl Kapp

By looking for ways to implement game elements into our courses we may be able to repond to the several questions brought up in the study, including student to student interactions, and effective use of technology (student to content interactions).

For more information about gamification, check out Karl’s article Getting Started with Gamification on ASTD.org.

How colleges leverage social media…

Social Media is essentially about connecting and sharing. Some of the most common ways colleges use social media include marketing, recruitment, and keeping in touch with alumni.

rogerg1flickr
CC-BY-NC-SA by roger g1 on Flickr

Our campus has a Facebook page for students to “like” us and to keep up on whats happening on campus. Facebook continues to be the number one social network for all populations and can be leveraged in a variety of ways to help market the college, its programs, and campus events.

Recruitment is an important function of social media. Marquette University offers a virtual tour of their campus to prospective students and their parents using Instagram.

Whether connecting with friends and family through Facebook, networking with coworkers and colleagues through LinkedIn, following someone on Twitter, or sharing your video on YouTube, social media is increasingly becoming part of the average person’s daily life.

Some 42% of online adults now use multiple social networking sites. In addition, Instagram users are nearly as likely as Facebook users to check in to the site on a daily basis.

Pew Internet: Social Media Update 2013

Social media helps us to expand our professional connections as well as to organize and categorize connections into virtual communities. We can join groups, create our own, or invite others join our communities. By creating or joining existing circles, groups, or communities we can build connections with others around common interests and expand our networks far beyond what would otherwise be possible without social media.

By leveraging social media to create a sense of community, we can actually improve persistence and student success. This becomes especially relevant for the increasing percentage of students enrolling in online learning.

Community development is not simply developing a virtual campus or an online resource portal that includes an infinite number of electronic links to student resources and chat rooms. Online administrators must design meaningful opportunities for students to interact with their peers, faculty, adjuncts, and staff in a supportive and inclusive environment.

– K. Betts (2008), Online Human Touch (OHT), JOLT

By leveraging social media to help students better connect to their program of study we foster community both within and outside the classroom. These connections allow students to  be more than observers, but rather participants in the campus community by contributing to the conversation and the culture of the institution, program, and classroom.

CC-BY by Wolfgang Greller of Flickr

When Online Learning Fails

A recent article in the Instructional Technology Council newsletter shared some of the challenges and frustrations from a student’s perspective when online learning fails.

An high school student tells of her experience enrolling in two online courses during her senior year. While seeking greater flexibility in her summer study schedule, she instead finds the whole experience somewhat frustrating.

Integrating Technology and the Academy

CC-BY by Wolfgang Greller of Flickr
CC-BY by Wolfgang Greller of Flickr

Eight important considerations about online learning to consider from the student perspective…

1) Students need to understand the online course requires at least as much time as the face-to-face alternative. Many online courses require logging into a course site and completing assignments and discussion postings on a regular basis – as much as several times per week.

2) Familiarity with required technology is essential. New-to-online or to a given learning management system (e.g. Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas) will require some orientation. Students and instructors both need to be comfortable with the technology in order that they might focus on the learning.

3) Simply migrating course content and quizzes to the learning management system does not an online course make. In order for deeper learning to be effected students need to actively engage with the content and with one another.

4) Assessments must align with both the content and the learning activities. It can be frustrating when questions on an assessment are not related to the material. Try awarding an extra point to the student who finds an error in either the content or the assessment – and then of course, correct the error as soon as possible.

5) The level of faculty-to-student interaction is arguably the most important factor impacting student retention and academic achievement. Frequent and timely feedback, instructor availability via email / chat / texting, and some type of faculty presence, permit students to better connect with the course through their instructor.

6) Student-to-student interaction creates for the learner, a sense of community – not only for the course at-hand, but to the institution as a whole, and can positively impact both retention and persistence.

7) Support services including online tutoring, technical assistance, self-help tutorials, etc. become all the more critical when the learner is disconnected from the classroom by both time and place.

8) Lastly, Ms. Shriver points out that she prefers “learning in the traditional classroom setting”. Keep in mind that flexibility is the primary reason students enroll in online courses.  Despite the obstacles she fully expects to take more online courses in the future.

Those of us who are responsible for delivering online learning need to be cognizant of the challenges students face and look at what we can do to ensure the learning experience is of the highest quality possible.

Definition of Innovate from Merriam Webster: to do something in a new way : to have new ideas about how something can be done

Innovation, Risk-taking, and Unexpected Results

The very nature of innovation requires risk-taking – meaning sometimes we’re likely to get unexpected results.

Coursera, in collaboration with Georgia Institute of Technology, enrolled 41,000 students in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on The Fundamentals of Online Education, that unfortunately had to be shut down this past week due to technical issues before it had a chance to get fully off the ground. –Inside Higher Ed.

Apparently, the concern had to do with the ability to manage small group discussions using Google Docs, but there were problems.

“If we tell people to just do safe things, we’ll stifle innovation.”
– Richard DeMillo, Georgia Tech

I couldn’t agree more.

Innovation means trying things out – oftentimes for the very first time – and that can be risky business.

In our efforts to foster innovation and experimentation we need to recognize that failure is part of the process. We make a  first attempt, when something unexpected occurs we try something else – and then we ask, what was the difference? Did we get what we expected? We try again – did we get the same or new results?

There will be those going forward who will likely not give MOOCs a try, pointing to this attempt that “didn’t work”. But the fact is, it did work. It worked by failing, and now we learn from it asking what happened, and trying something else. Hopefully the next time it will work better.

Technology Fail
Unexpected results are always a risk when we innovate. No guts – no glory!

Its just a bigger deal when 41,000+ people are looking than when you can’t get the damn projector switched from the laptop to the document camera on the first day of class.

Hyflex: all things to all students?

I recently took an online statistical analysis course. Most people when I tell them that, respond with “why?”. In hindsight I must ask myself the same thing, but that’s beside the point.

Contortionist, CC-BY-NC-SA, Boston Public Library
CC-BY-NC-SA, Boston Public Library

One thing I really liked about the course was the instructor offered students a weekly live web-conferencing session to review the assignments. “Attendance” (logging in to the live session) was optional, which was a good thing since it was scheduled at a time that was not convenient for me to attend. However, the sessions were recorded and posted for review for those who were unable to attend. These recorded sessions were a life saver.

Although it wasn’t a true example of a Hyflex  course, it did include a common feature of the Hyflex format – the option to attend class either synchronously or asynchronously depending on the student’s personal preference or schedule.

The impetus for increasing enrollments in distance education, whether online or blended, mostly has to do with maximum flexibility and convenience in regards to time and place. The Hyflex course is no exception. In fact, Hyflex may be one of the most flexible delivery models to emerge in higher education.

So, what exactly is Hyflex?

Hyflex learning permits students to choose their preference in where and when they participate or access course instructional time.

“HyFlex is a course design model that presents the components of hybrid learning in a flexible course structure that gives students the option of attending sessions in the classroom, participating online, or doing both. Students can change their mode of attendance weekly or by topic, according to need or preference…” – Educause: Seven things you should know about the Hyflex course model.

Some students come to class physically or virtually, synchronously or asynchronously. A common design (e.g. OSU’s Hyflex Model) is to offer students the option of deciding which of  these modalities they intend to participate it on a weekly basis. Students, regardless of the modality they select, need to be engaged in substantive student-to-instructor, student-to-student, and student-to-content course interactivity.

“…the HyFlex instructor is newly challenged to make sure all of her students are engaged in interactive, generative learning activities no matter which participation mode they choose.” –Dr. Brian Beatty, Associate VPAA at San Francisco State University

Certainly design and delivery are fundamental to a quality educational experience for students, but campuses considering the Hyflex option will also need to assess the logistics of course sections, teaching load, technical support for faculty and students before embarking in this highly flexible emerging learning format.

The successful online learner…

Students Need Study Fuel by zsrlibrary
Students Need Study Fuel, Licensed under Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-SA) by zsrlibrary on Flickr.

I was recently asked, “what do students need in order to succeed in an online course?”.

I ran across an article a few years back in the The Journal of Educators Online by Mandernach, B. J., Donelli, E., Dailey-Hebert, A. (2006) that included a fairly extensive literature review. Although their research focused on student success in an accelerated online course, the sum of the literature indicates the successful online student possesses four things: “time, technology, initiative, and competence”.

The successful online learner possesses…

– Time!

Higher education programs offer courses for credit, described in terms of “credit hours”. Typically a 3 credit hour face-to-face course requires at least three hours per week of in-class seat time and as much as two or three times that amount of study time outside of class. The online course is not “self-paced” – in the online course those “seat-time” hours are transferred from the classroom to online. It is not uncommon to spend 9 hours per week and more, for each online class you are enrolled. The online course is as challenging, if not more so, than the face-to-face course. The ability to manage time effectively and to devote sufficient time to being engaged in discussion, research, writing, etc. are critical to success in the online learning environment.

– Technology!

Liberal access to a computer with a high-speed network connection is essential. This means broadband access from home using the student’s own computer – not one that they must share. Most people enroll in online courses for the flexibility and convenience.The successful online learner must be able to log on and complete their work at the times that best fit their schedule. A familiarity with the technology is also required. If the student has not previously completed an online course they will be at a disadvantage. I would suggest instead, enrolling in a face-to-face course which employs similar technology to enhance the classroom experience. This format provides the learner an opportunity to learn how to submit assignments, take assessments, contribute to online discussions, etc., and can help the inexperienced become more comfortable with the technology.

– Initiative!

The online learner must be self-reliant – they will need to be able to solve problems on their own. Most online courses are designed for asynchronous interactivity. The student, their instructor and classmates may not be online all at the same time, so when running into problems with an assignment or use of the technology, help may not be immediately available. There are times when students will have to figure things out for themselves. Online students should be comfortable troubleshooting their own computer network issues and be adept at searching the Internet for solutions, as well as know how and where to look for help when needed.

– Competence!

The most successful online learners are students with a history of academic success prior to enrolling in an online course. The successful online student possesses good study habits, strong reading, writing, and communication skills. If it has been a while since they were in class, the new-to-online student may find the experience somewhat overwhelming. The structure and face-to-face interactions of the traditional classroom may provide the support necessary for the weaker student to become stronger academically before venturing into the virtual classroom. Other support services such as the writing center and tutoring can also help the weaker student prepare for success.

Knowing what to expect before enrolling in an online class for the first time can help students make better informed choices and offer greater opportunity for success.