Monday, December 20, 2010

Lessons from the SLOAN Online Learning Conference

This is Part 1 - Whats going on in Online Learning
Part 2
- is here - Social Networking etc.

Expectations From the Conference
I work as Technology Integration Specialist at the Foreign Language Center (FLC) at the Ohio State University (OSU). Even before I selected a conference to go to, I wanted to achieve a few goals from the trip/conference. These goals relate to enhancing online learning at the FLC and the various language departments. This hopefully will benefit other folks at OSU too.
These were my primary queries:

  • What are the some of the major hardships in online learning?
  • What are the trends in social networking? New technologies?
  • Audio and video creation/updating and sharing?
  • How are other organizations using videoconferencing?

The Conference
I picked the Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning. This conference fitted my search criteria and covered the topics that I was looking for - blended learning, international applications, open educational resources, social networking, and more. It did also help that it was in sunny Florida in November, which is usually when snow hits Ohio. The venue was the Caribe Royale Hotel and Convention Center, centrally located and nearby to the various theme parks that flood the Orlando region. Sessions Attended
Like most conferences, there were several concurrent sessions almost every hour and it was difficult to pick one over other. Its a good idea to try and come for conferences like these in a group/team so that important sessions can be covered. However I knew from past experiences that there would still be enough good sessions that I could attend.

Learning more about faculty response to online/blended learning was my principal goal. Uttendorfer in “Bringing Face-to-Face Instruction Back into Online Faculty Development” talked of the common problem that we face in online teaching i.e. of having different types of faculty with various skills levels and at various locations. He highlighted how they tried to bring the various faculty in the ‘same page’ by standardizing the methods to capture lecture (with Camtasia) and with the use of webinars (with Elluminate) for collaboration.

Storandt and Dossin also talked of the difficulty for faculty to transfer to online classes in their “Best Practices in Professional Development and Assessment for Online Instruction”. One of the primary reasons for this difficulty is due to the lack of support and training for the faculty. They reviewed the PBS TeacherLine service - a professional development resource for online course instructors. Such a model can certainly be used and/or adapted by other organizations as well.

I also wanted to learn a bit on what students thought of these online courses. According to
studies by Tao, Lim, and Bruder who presented “Why Do Our Online Students Stay?”, online students are significantly more likely to dropout than campus based students. They shared the results of their study and presented factors found to positively help retention. These included: enhancing the
interaction between students and their instructor, offering on-time students support, and maintaining at least one synchronous component among various asynchronous features.

It is evident that moving from a traditional course to an online/hybrid course requires a lot more than just the technology to support it. In their presentation Pyke and DeGodev mentioned that moving to an online or hybrid class is certainly not an easy process and it requires a LOT of planning. They stressed the need for a
shared vision, the implications of having an institutional need for redesign as a major driver, and the value of aligning departmental goals with the project.

Betts, from Drexel University also had very good suggestions for moving to an online course in “Online & Blended Program Sustainability: 10 Questions All Administrators Must Be Able to Answer.” Though online education has been growing at a very past pace, there have been lots of growing pains. It is very important to understand the economic and demographic factors that are changing the higher education landscape. She stressed the need to
engage students and personalize the online educational experience.

Looks like the shift to online classes will continue and we as facilitators have to be prepared and provide the right technology and support.

REFERENCES: PRESENTATIONS (as appearing in this post)
  1. Michael Uttendorfer “Bringing Face-to-Face Instruction Back into Online Faculty Development”.
  2. Barbara Storandt and Lia Dossin “Best Practices in Professional Development and Assessment for Online Instruction”.
  3. Jinyuan Tao, Dan Lim, and Mary Bruder “Why Do Our Online Students Stay?”
  4. J. Garvey Pyke and Concepcion DeGodev “Redesigning Courses Means Redesigning Processes, Programs, and Sometimes Even People”.
  5. Kristen Betts “Online & Blended Program Sustainability: 10 Questions All Administrators Must Be Able to Answer”.
Technologies discussed: Online learning, Blended learning, Webinar, Lecture Capture, Learning Management System

Contact me:
Sujan Manandhar
Technology Integration Specialist,
Foreign Language Center
Ohio State University

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lessons from the SLOAN Online Learning Conference - Part 2

This is Part 2: Social Networking and my poster on videoconferencing at the FLC.
Part 1 is here: Whats going on in Online Learning.

Social networking is certainly a hot topic in education. The conference had several sessions on social networking, web 2.0, and other related topics. I made a point to attend some of these sessions since this was one of my top criteria for attending the conference.

As expected the buzz on social networking was high, though it seemed that many were still not sure how (and why) to use social networking in the classroom. Hilbelink (Kaplan Higher Ed) stated that one of the issues with social networking sites is that they are in a constant state of change. The information can become overwhelming to absorb and difficult to filter and becomes frustrating to stay up-to-date. In her presentation
she mentioned that social networking can add to a personal learning network, supplementing other learning and professional endeavors such as journal reading, conference participation, and association membership.

Though doubt on the use of social networks in classes was high, examples of successful social networking use were many. Stoloff, a professor from Eastern Connecticut State was using ePals to connect with other instructors, and participants made use of international virtual connections to supplement their understandings of education in other nations. In his colloquium, local students developed projects on cultural aspects of one of these nations – culture, music, food, etc. These presentations were posted on a wikispace/blog and the international participants were able to critique the presentations and to correspond with the local students. Through this international/intercultural exchange, undergraduates learned of commonalities and differences between student lives across the global. Connections like these give a better understanding of culture than just textbooks or Internet articles.

Shelly Nice (Berkeley College) agrees that social networking has moved beyond an emerging technology and is very common among students in higher education. In her presentation “Research on Using Social Networking in the Classroom” she stated that it is now possible to integrate Facebook into a traditional course and class material can be shared in various forms and from multiple media outlets: computers, cell phone, etc. The audience (as expected) was very interested in seeing how Facebook and similar social networking mediums could be used in education and had very good questions.

Poster Presentation - Videoconferencing Technology: Reaching Out to Learners All Over the World

The objective of my poster presentation was to share the various ways that the Foreign Language Center (FLC) has used videoconferencing technology to enhance language learning at Ohio State University (OSU). I have noted that in several other organizations videoconferencing (VC) systems get only used for some classes and very little else. At the FLC, we have found numerous ways to use the VC system to benefit the faculty, students, and the university community. Besides language classes the FLC has used videoconferencing for training seminars, different types of conferences, departmental meetings, interviews, dissertation defenses, meetings with various experts to talk to students, and more. The FLC hosted famous French musician Moussu T for a live concert and a Q/A session that was groundbreaking for a video based session. Other interesting events include career seminars, an American Sign Language (ASL) conference, talking to authors in various countries to discuss their books for learners here at OSU, and more. In addition, the FLC is now able to digitally capture these sessions and stream and/or reuse them.
The presentation was well received. Many participants were interested to learn more about how we had done these events. Many were curious about costs and how these connections were made. The entire presentation can be downloaded from here!

REFERENCES: PRESENTATIONS (as appearing in this post)
  • Amy Hilbelink, “Out of Social Networking Sites”
  • David Stoloff, “Web Collaborations for an International, CrossCultural Education Colloquium”
  • Shelly Nice, “Using Social Networking in the Classroom”
Technologies discussed: Online learning, Blended learning, Social Networking, Web 2.0, Facebook, Learning Management System

Contact me:
Sujan Manandhar
Technology Integration Specialist,
Foreign Language Center
Ohio State University