Tag Archive | gamification

Thoughts on Education – 3/9/2012 – Using technology in the classroom

I’m going to try and get back to some of the education issues that have been coming through my Evernote lately.  I’ve got quite a backlog over the last couple of weeks while I have been grading, so I should have plenty to write about over the next week or so.  Today, I want to concentrate in on the general category of technology in the classroom, as I have been accumulating quite a bit on that recently.  Of course, the recent Apple announcements and developments are relevant to this as well.

I’m going to start here, with a general article about what teachers think in general about the use of technology.  As the article itself says, the results are not particularly surprising, but I will put up the general infographic here, as it illustrates what I think is not too far off from what I see, especially among the younger faculty.

I hope that you can click on that to make it bigger, but the basic message here is that the majority of teachers surveyed thought that technology in the classroom would help both the learning of the students and their engagement with the material.  In fact, the two questions that refer back to the older “technology,” namely textbooks, got the lowest Agree responses and the highest Disagree responses.  Again, I don’t think there is anything surprising at all about this, but I wanted to start here.

In a similar vein is this article from The Washington Post, which discusses how textbooks are failing to engage our students and help them learn.  He notes that textbooks are not effective at engaging students because that is not what sells textbooks.  We don’t choose a textbook (me included) because I think it is going to be some sort of magical panacea to solve all of the problems for my students.  Instead, at least in history, we look at them primarily in terms of coverage.  Which textbook covers the material we want to cover is more important than which textbook students will like.  In fact, I have often found that if you talk to a group of instructors about choosing textbooks, the textbook that is most likely to be appealing to students is often dismissed out of hand as not being what works for us as instructors.  So, there is a fundamental disconnect there.  My feeling about this is echoed in the article as well, where one teacher is quoted as saying, “Even when adoption committees include content specialists, these people typically evaluate the accuracy of the content, rather than whether the instructional strategies are effective.”  In fact, the author quotes another educational administrator, who noted, “The educational community was quick to respond to the (legitimate) criticism of textbooks but quicker still to adopt their horrific replacements: excessive use of lecture, worksheets, movies, poster making, and pointless group work.”  We are flailing around as far as I can see.  I feel like that myself, where I am just trying so many different things all the time without ever knowing what I’m doing.  That’s why I’m doing this, so that instead of trying new things at random, I am trying to plan things out.  Anyway, there’s a lot more to this article, and I do recommend it as very interesting reading when we think about how the old technology options are failing us.

And, when I read this article from the Chronicle, I saw myself and how I use technology a lot of times.  Unfortunately, I don’t mean that in a good way.  As it says, in online courses, especially at the community college level, “the professors are relying on static course materials that aren’t likely to motivate students or encourage them to interact with each other.”  While I get a lot of compliments from students about the way my course is organized, I know that I use few real tools, and I certainly do not effectively encourage interaction in my classes.  The article goes on to talk about a study where the results came from.  That study concluded:  “It found that most professors relied on text-based assignments and materials. In the instances when professors did decide to use interactive tools like online video, many of those technologies were not connected to learning objectives, the study found.”  I certainly would say mine fits this completely.  My course, is completely text-based.  There is little to no video or interaction in my own materials.  I have adopted some from McGraw-Hill that I use in conjunction with my textbook, but that is actually in a completely separate classroom from my own in Moodle.  While the article does note that technology is again not a panacea to solve all of these problems, I think that in the online environment, a failure to be innovative in technology will cause the students to treat the course as a chore to get through.  Of course, I may just be thinking some fairy-tale thoughts here that a student could really feel completely engaged by an online course, but I think I could do better.

As we think about the future of technology in the classroom, there are a lot of directions it could go.  I’ve been exploring some of those in this blog as I have gone on here.  I am trying to keep current on what’s going on out there, and trying to see what ideas might work for me.  This article from Mind/Shift talks about the future of technology in the classroom.  The article considers the near, medium, and long term forecast for technology.  In the near term they consider mobile apps and tablet computing as the center piece of where we are going.  We certainly are thinking about that at my community college.  The faculty work group that I’m on has been given iPads to explore and the task of finding apps that can be used in the classroom to enhance learning.  As well, we will be buying classroom sets of iPads to use.  So, nothing new there based on what I have seen.  The mid term is going to be gamification and the use of data to influence education.  I have also been exploring gamification in this blog, so I guess I’m right on top of that topic as well.  As to the use of data, if the big assessment push we all seem to be on is any indication, I think we’re already on this path.  I don’t know how far it will go, but it is certainly a trend that we are involved in.  The longer term is going to include gesture-based computing and increasingly ubiquitous connections to everything.  I certainly agree that those are both technologies that could come into play.  What is interesting about the article though is that the so-called future of technology in education includes little that I’m not already engaged with.  I guess that means that instead of looking to these things to come out in the future, I need to figure out how to use them now and just get on with it.

So, where am I going with this.  Still thinking, but moving along.  I want to incorporate technology, and I want relevant change.  I don’t want change for the sake of change, as I feel like that is what I have been doing for quite a while here.  I think that more is needed, which is why I keep working on this blog.  I need real change that comes with solid thought and evidence behind it.  It will still be an experiment, of course, but I would like it to be an experiment that is directed in a productive manner.  So, I shall keep thinking and planning.  It’s hard to do more in the middle of the semester.  Let me know what you think?  Those of you who teach, what are you thinking of doing?  Are you looking to change something?  Those of you who do not teach, what would you like to see?

Thoughts on Education – 2/12/2012 – Is Technology the Solution?

I haven’t had much time to sit down and think about education since Thursday.  It’s funny how the weekends slip away from you.  I do have a big backlog of articles after having not done them on either Thursday or Friday, so I’m going to stick with more reviews today.  I haven’t quite figured out what’s a good mix here, more of my own stuff or more article reviews.  Of course, even in the article reviews, I am including a lot of my own thoughts as well.  Right now, I’m doing article reviews when I get 4-5 articles I want to look at.  However, I do look at so many places for information through the week, that it is honestly quite hard not to have that many articles to examine.

Using Technology to Learn More Efficiently

OK, so to start, just ignore the large Jessica Simpson lookalike on the page there, as distracting as her stare is there.  I was interested in the article from the title, which is what gets me to save most of them for review later.  So, often as I’m sitting down here to write about them, I am reading them for the first time as well.  Sometimes they are so irrelevant or don’t do what I want that I simply don’t do anything with them at all, such as this one today.  This one almost got a delete as well, but the concept is at least interesting, even if it links up to an older style of learning that I don’t want to encourage in my own classroom — flash cards.  The article profiles a company that is digitizing flash cards and remaking them to encourage better retention and more honest use of flash cards.  The more compelling idea is the creation of a schedule and the push for accountability to the students to complete their work.  As the article notes, this is really an attempt to reduce the unproductive cramming before an exam and open up a broader studying schedule.  However, the ultimate limitation here is the students.  They are the ones who have to make the decision not to cram at the last minute, and I have a feeling that the students who would do this with this program would be the same ones who would be least likely to put off all of their learning to the last minute anyway.  Still, I’m all for accountability, especially if it could be integrated with that idea from yesterday on using Google Docs to gauge student progress.  So, maybe as a tool that an instructor could put together and release to the student, this could work.

The Gamified Classroom (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

“Today, students are expected to pay attention and learn in an environment that is completely foreign to them. In their personal time they are active participants with the information they consume; whether it be video games or working on their Facebook profile, students spend their free time contributing to, and feeling engaged by, a larger system. Yet in the classroom setting, the majority of teachers will still expect students to sit there and listen attentively, occasionally answering a question after quietly raising their hand. Is it any wonder that students don’t feel engaged by their classwork?”

This, again, goes back to the issues I’ve talked about in several other posts, especially the last one.  If we are talking about student engagement, then I think we are failing with the lecture model, especially to the most current generation of students, which is who this article series concerns.  I just have to look out at my own classes on lecture days to see the problems, with maybe 1/3 paying active attention, 1/3 paying occasional attention, and 1/3 completely disengaged from the material.  Of course, is gamification the answer?  Of course not.  But can we learn something from this educational trend?  Very likely.  Perhaps it can bring in greater engagement and even foster creativity rather than rote learning.

The role of technology can both help and hinder learning.  The article refers to a number of ways that technology can help engagement, through having the students involved in project based learning and higher levels of engagement, using both apps and clickers.  What is interesting is what the author sees as one way that technology is reducing that engagement as well, the smartboard.  I’ve not seen that criticism before, as the smartboard is often held up as one of the prime ways to engage students.  “Unfortunately, our classroom is often filled with technology that only exists to better enable old styles of teaching, the biggest culprit being the smartboard. Though it has a veneer of interactivity, smartboards serve only as a conduit for lecture based learning. They sit in front of an entire classroom and allow a teacher to present un-differentiated material to the entire group. Even their “interactive” capabilities serve only the student called upon to represent the class at the board.”  I have been suspicious of smartboards as a save-all, but I had never really been able to figure out why I didn’t like them.  I find this argument compelling.  From my own point of view, they seem to just be a new version of the chalk board, offering nothing more than you can find with the method.

“In schools, our students should be using technology to collaborate together on projects, present their ideas to their peers, research information quickly, or to hone the countless other skills that they will need in the 21st century workplace–regardless of the hardware they will be using in the future. If we’re just using tech to teach them the same old lessons. . . we’re wasting its potential. Students are already using these skills when they blog, post a video to YouTube, or edit a wiki about their favorite video game. They already have these skills; we have to show them how to use them productively and not just for entertainment. This is where Gamification comes in. Games are an important piece of the puzzle–they are how we get students interested in using these tools in the classroom environment.”  I agree.  Ha!  What I always tell my students not to do, present a big quotation and say they agree, but I guess I’ll hold myself to a lower standard than them.  Still, I think this is an insightful look at the problems with just throwing technology at the problem.  You can’t just hand teachers technology and expect them to transform everything.  Technology is not the solution, although effective teaching with effective technology could be part of the solution.

The last two Parts of the series deal with how this might take place in practice.  I’m not going to go through all of that here, as the information is diverse and hard to summarize.  So, check it out if you’re interested.  I think what is most interesting is the push for self-pacing and self-motivation for students.  Tying completion to rewards beyond simple grades and pushing the students to do more.  This is an interesting idea, but I do wonder if our students are ready for this.  That is always the problem with these articles, that they project these things into an ideal world where students are not motivated because we aren’t motivating them.  Yet, the real problem is often much more complex.  Our students are as varied as can be, and the reasons for motivation or lack of motivation are varied in the same way.  How do you motivate students who are working two jobs, taking care of kids, sick, taking care of sick family members, in school only because their parents think they should, in school only because they think the should, and so forth.  In other words, when students aren’t required to be there, such as at college, how does this push differ?  Something to think about.

The loss of solitude in schools

And, I’ll close for today with an opposite view.  Here, the author is warning against the push for project-centered education, one where we emphasize interaction and group work over individual absorption of material.  She makes the case that education is inherently a solitary process, where we engage with and absorb difficult material until we learn it.  As she says, the emphasis on group work and interaction produces students that “become dependent on small-group activity and intolerant of extended presentations, quiet work, or whole-class discussions.”  In other words, they forget how to learn on their own.

She also notes that the push away from the “sage on the stage” can be just as damaging for students.  “Students need their sages; they need teachers who actually teach, and they need something to take in. A teacher who knows the subject and presents it well can give students something to carry in their minds.”  I have never done much with small group work, so I can’t say one way or another how this works.  I have generally done either lecture or discussions.  I don’t know how to evaluate small group work, and so I have not done it.  Perhaps this is short-sighted of me, but I just don’t know how to give a grade for group work that is not just on the end project.  In other words, how do you hold everyone accountable?  I know, from talking with my wife and remembering my own experiences, that group work is inherently unequal and very frustrating for those who want to do a good job, as they generally end up doing most of it.  I don’t want to put students in that position, and have never been much for this idea.  I could be convinced otherwise, but I am skeptical on the idea of small group work.  I know that many of the changes I’m looking at making involve small group work, but I just don’t know what to do with it.

Anyway, enough for today.  Please let me know what you think or if you have any responses to the ideas I’m presenting, as I don’t want to be working in a vacuum on this.

Thoughts on Education – 2/8/2012 – Articles, including a crazy one from 9gag

I’ve saved up a couple of days worth of information on education here.  I can’t say there’s a strong theme here, although several do have to do with games in education, which continues to be something that interests me.  Here are some of the highlights of what I’ve been reading:

Khan Academy: It’s Different This Time

I’ve read a lot about the Khan Academy, and the overall direction of the coverage is generally quite positive.  It is generally talked about as revolutionary to the current state of education.  This is a rare piece that offers criticism.  I have only explored Khan Academy a bit myself, mostly looking at topics covered without really engaging the material.  Thus, I’m really relying mostly on what I have read elsewhere about the Khan Academy more than my personal experience.  Also, as a note, the Khan Academy has a lot more math and science than it does humanities, so it usually gets evaluated in terms of these offerings.  Still, this is a good counterpoint:  “Khan Academy’s style of teaching is identical to what students have seen — and rejected — for generations: do this, then do this, then do this. Today, thousands of American students are performing poorly in math, in large part because they weren’t taught it correctly in the first place.”  From what I have seen, there is definitely a point here.  As the article says, the real problem is that the students are taught that all they need to do is memorize how to complete the task and not understand why completing it is important to know.  The article also goes into a bit on skepticism of “new” breakthroughs that I can take or leave.  It also notes the general positive reviews regarding “engagement” among students and the gamification aspects.  Yet, I think that first critique is the most cogent and relevant.  It is along the lines of what I have been worried about here.  Is it more important in history to memorize what happened or to understand why what happened is important?  I would certainly argue the latter, but I can’t speak for math in general.  I’d love to hear from someone about the math side of things to see if this is a good argument or not.

Despite Focus on Data, Standards for Diploma May Still Lack Rigor

I do have to be honest here that I was linked to this article from another (Reeding and Riting That XPlane Why Stoodents Are Not College Ready), which is obviously a more eye-catching title.  However, it quickly got into minutia about the New York area that seemed irrelevant here.  So, I went to the original article.  It discusses the problems with a single test being presented for all students as what they need to pass.  As the writer argues, “If the standard is set too high, so many will fail — including children with special education needs and students for whom English is a second language — that there will be a public outcry.  But if the standard is set too low, the result is a diploma that has little meaning.”  What this means, in his estimation is that the tests have erred on the latter side, with multiple examples given of passing essays that use barely passable English.  His basic conclusion is that testing-based evaluations have failed to increase the actual abilities of the students and just result in watered down tests to get students through who have not improved.  The relevance for me is that these are the students (in TX rather than NY, of course) that I get.  Somebody made an interesting comment to me two years ago that we are now seeing the students who have been raised through most of their formative years in a testing-focused school environment before college.  I certainly see the limitations and largely agree with the article.  Of course, the problem here is that it offers no actual solutions, outside of stopping doing what we’re doing now.  From my perspective, I need to know how to deal with these students when they get to me.

Are you ready for a revolution in education?

I know, a 9gag link is not exactly scholarly, but then you have to get ideas where they come from, and I do search the linking sites, especially reddit.  I don’t know if I can recommend that people get on reddit, as it has a lot of junk and is mostly amusing.  However, I have found the education, teaching, and higher education sub-reddits to be a great source for articles.  Honestly, I get about 60% of my links from there.  This one is an example of something completely off the wall, namely the reorganization of a class around experience points (XP)  such as you would earn in an actual game.  It sets up a system where students earn XP for completing tasks.  They can then use that XP to level up in the class while also using the points to gain advantages (like extra time on a test).  It’s interesting and got my mind working.  I was halfway through creating a way to use XP in my own classes before I even realized it.  So, the idea is compelling.  Realistic?  I have no idea, but certainly compelling.

Using Role Play Simulations to Promote Active Learning

Along the same lines of gaming came this article.  It talks about bringing in concepts from role-playing to substitute for the traditional lecture and offers three pieces of advice.  The first and last are good, and if you’re interested in role-playing projects, then you should definitely check them out.  The middle one is the one that caught my eye, because it encapsulates one of my biggest fears in making dramatic changes.  The author notes that you have to assure the students that doing something different is ok and that they will be assessed fairly.  Here’s the relevant part:  “Most students are used to their teachers feeding them the information, so this will be a new experience for them.  Addressing student anxieties about this way of learning is particularly important in disciplines or universities where the lecture-essay-exam model is the most common. I’ve found it helps to provide students with examples of work produced by students in previous courses.  You also want to be clear in communicating your expectations. Write out the rules and requirements, and enforce them so the process is predictable. Make sure the teams are small enough that everyone participates and spot check to see that everyone actually does what they are supposed to – the free-rider problem isn’t going to go away. Also, take into account that, depending on their personality or culture of origin, some students may need extra encouragement to participate.”  I will definitely take those ideas in mind when working on recreating my course.

7 Strategies to Make Your Online Teaching Better

  1. Let the technology help you, not hinder you – expect things to go wrong when you do new things.  Don’t get flustered and help the students through the rough parts.  The author recommends making tutorial videos and the like, but I think the biggest thing, which I have found to be true, is expect to be troubleshooting through your first week or two.  This is something I certainly need to remember, as I get frustrated easily and often take it out on students through overly-sarcastic responses.
  2. Anticipate the difficulties – know that online students will be distracted, will get bored, will not spend the time you think is adequate, and all together approach the class in a way that you do not expect.  The author suggests providing much “scaffolding” to keep students from getting lost and keep them moving in the right direction.
  3. Incorporate synchronous opportunities – online office hours and the ability of students to get a hold of you when they are likely to be doing the work and encountering problems.  In other words, not in normal, traditional office hours.
  4. Give extra feedback. Then give more – I was going to write that I think I do this poorly, but then I read the advice here and see that I do all of it.  I guess it’s the nature of online classes, that I always feel like I need to do more since I don’t see them in person.  Yet, I guess I do ok here.  I just always feel that I need to be providing more personal feedback to each student.  But, as I teach 90 students online right now (a little less than half my load), and will have that probably go up even more next year, I’m not sure how realistic extensive individual feedback is.  Still, I do need to think about this one.
  5. Prove you are not a dog – make sure the students know you are a real person with real issues, real problems, real experiences, and such.  Don’t be a robotic responder.  Have some personality, and the students will appreciate it.
  6. Provide support for self-regulation – encourage the students to take charge of their pace of work and requirements each week.  We can only hold their hands so much and must rely on them to get things in on time.  As I see it, you can only be so flexible, again with 90 students, there’s not a ton of leeway on getting things done and providing individual exceptions.
  7. Encourage play – While I have thought of this one, this is well put and something I certainly fail at.  I will leave it with a quotation here:  “Online courses often have a reputation of being dry and boring: lots of reading and lots of lectures.  Adding in other elements can make all the difference in the world: add pictures when you can, consider design principles in your CMS, record your lectures in front of a small, live audience (I once recorded a weekly email from my campsite, replete with kids shouting in the background and a fly buzzing around my head).  The point is, recognize both how you want to teach the information and how it might be received. I try really hard not to be boring.”  I fear my class is boring.  I get compliments organization and the like, but I think it is fundamentally not all that interesting of a course.  This is something I should really work on.

I’m going to close here, as I’m approaching 1750 words.  I have one more article on my list, but this is probably enough for a single post.  Give me any feedback that you have.  I’d love to hear what you have to say, and I’d love to hear what you have to say.


Thoughts on Education – 2/4/12

I haven’t had a lot of time to sit and think about education.  Not because I’ve been doing other important things but because I have exactly not been doing other important things.  I tend to try and take some time off when I get the chance during the week, and the last 24 hours or so was that.  The time off will vanish as I get closer to my first big set of assignments due in about a week and a half, but right now, there’s time to take a break in the week every once in a while.  So, I’m blogging now with regard to the articles that I have saved up over the last couple of days.


“The Admiring Ignorant”

I liked this blog post a lot regarding the tempering of optimism that initially comes from teaching as you realize how difficult it is to retain that feeling that you are going to change the world.  William was warned by a professor of his in grad school that each year “the students seemed lazier, the job of teaching them harder. And much less rewarding.”  He, like so many of us thought that we could make that difference and be different as well, but then, he was confronted with the reality of the situation, captured well in this paragraph:

“The pedagogue in me gently corrects students’ misconceptions. The educated person in me shakes his head and laughs at such fundamental misunderstandings. But sometimes, the part of me who has to grade the papers — the part of me who is conscious of the 14-hour workdays, the amount of effort I’m putting into this job of educating these students — wonders ‘Is this really what I ought to be doing with my life? Is it possible to really make a difference in these lives?'”  I would imagine that any of us in teaching has come across that many, many times.  We get astounded at the ways that students can mess something up, at the base ignorance that is out there.  We share the funny stories with each other, and we shake our heads.  I do it all the time, it seems.  And, as we say, it seems to get worse year by year.

Again to return to the post here, he says, “‘I had so much respect for my own professors,’ I tell myself. ‘Yet these students seem to be mocking my efforts.'”  But then he actually goes back and remembers what he did in classes, skipping, not paying attention, scraping by at the last minute on papers, not really studying for tests, etc. and thinks that maybe we just see it differently because we are in the position of authority and that it was just a situation of us forgetting or willfully ignoring what our fellow students (and us) were really like back then.  I think I was good, but I can remember slacking off and doing things I shouldn’t do in class.  It’s just that those things are obvious in a different way now, with technology, etc.  Back then, if you doodled on your page or something like that, it wasn’t as obvious you were doing things you shouldn’t be doing.  Now, we see a laptop or cell phone and we automatically assume that they are not paying attention.

So, what am I trying to say about the article?  I’m not exactly sure.  I liked reading it and could easily identify with it.  Does it help explain anything?  I don’t know.  I always try to avoid saying the students get worse every year because I fundamentally don’t think that’s true.  In the historical sense, I think that the real issue is that we always have that glow looking back through rose-colored glasses that things were better in the past (even if only last semester!) than they are now, and we willingly forget what things were like when we were in their seats.

I think, also, that we are too willing to blame technology for the problems today.  The methods of slacking and not paying attention and not doing work have changed, but I’m not sure that the amount of those things have changed all that much.  I think that’s the point of the post more than anything else, and I have to say that I agree.  I invite technology in my classroom, with the full expectation that students will use it and abuse it.  I do this because I also think that it can enhance the classroom, although I’m still working on ways to ensure that it does more of the latter than the former.  I just think that outright bans on technology are wrong-headed and punishing in ways that may not be intentional or expected.  My wire, for example, has been using her laptop in class to record her teachers’ lectures so that she can listen to them later.  And she really does listen to them later.  Yet, she has a teacher now that keeps her from doing that by banning technology.  So, here’s a student who not only is going to listen and take notes but will even go back and listen several times more to the material, and she can’t at this point.  Just a single example, but I think blanket bans end up hurting as much as they help.  (And, cue stepping off of the soapbox . . .)


Difference Engine:  Let the Games Begin 

Interactive Textbooks.  OK.  I want to see one.  Where can I find a true interactive textbook?  One designed for college students, whether in my subject area or not?  This is the big promise of iBooks and all of the stuff Apple is doing.  Now I want to see it.  Do I lack patience in this, yes!  I want change and I want it now!

Here’s what The Economist says about it:  “Done properly, interactive textbooks offer not only video tutorials, more personalised instruction, just-in-time hints and homework help, but also instant access to assessment tools, teaching resources and the ability to network socially with students elsewhere. Using tools for highlighting and annotating virtual flash-cards, students can select information within the text and store it for later revision. Searching public databases, direct from within the textbook, is also possible. At school, students can sync with their teachers’ computers, to hand in their quiz results and homework for marking.”  Of course, the question is, will it be “done properly?”  And, if you provide those options, will students use them?  That’s the big question that always comes up with new technology.

So, again, I want an interactive textbook now.  I want one set up for college history.  I’ll run a class test on it tomorrow.  Let’s get this moving, as I think it has a lot of potential, but if we just screw around, that potential will be lost.

By the way, since it is mentioned in this article (and just about everywhere else), has anyone tried using the Khan Academy?  With college students?


What Higher Education Can Learn from Video Games

I like the idea here, but the article is a bit shallow on ideas.  I like the idea of “gamification,” one of those ideas floating around now of including games in the learning process to make students more engaged.  This is probably because I like playing games so much myself.  I like the idea of using something that a lot of people already enjoy doing, playing games, and harnessing that energy to a learning environment.  How this could be done for a more ethereal subject realm like the humanities and social sciences is not all that obvious, and how you would assess learning in a gaming environment is even less obvious, but I am intrigued by the idea.

To me, this is the most interesting reason for it:  “Compared to traditional, lecture approaches learning where students sit passively either in a classroom or training boardroom to learn the workplace procedures by memory without any real-life interaction; game-based learning lets individuals learn the facts by testing (via practice and failure) until we commit it, not only memory, but also understand the howís and whys of our success in a real-life situation.”


5 Foundational Principles for Course Design

Two very interesting ideas out of this one, ironically enough, neither of them is at the center of the article.

First comes from the first paragraph, which grabbed me immediately.  “The big secret amongst many of us who work in online learning is that we are not all that wild about online courses. Sure, we think online courses can be great, and can fill an important need, but what really gets us excited is learning.”  Undoubtedly true.  I did not get started teaching online because I thought it would solve all of the world’s problems or bring a real new and different way to my teaching.  I did it because that’s what was required of my job.  I think I’m pretty decent at teaching online, but I will be the first to admit that there’s a lot I don’t know at all about it.  I always feel like my online courses are experimental, and I am never very satisfied with them.  Of course, I feel that about my regular courses as well, so that’s not a very good comparison.

I then found the end of the article to raise an interesting point along this very line.  The article goes through how you put some principles together as you try to create a new online course.  It advocates 5 principles, as stated in the title of the article.  They’re nothing spectacular and woefully under-explained in the article, but I found the final paragraph to raise an interesting point that I have talked with others about:  “To my knowledge, this sort of detailed course proposal and course delivery review and support methodology is not standard in most of our on-ground classes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could somehow diffuse these resources and methods throughout our curriculum?”  Yes, exactly.  We think all the time about online classes, and we have a whole evaluation setup for them at my community college.  Yet nobody evaluates the content and presentation of our face-to-face classes in the same way.  We see much more scrutiny in online courses, and the question raised about why is one that doesn’t get asked often enough.


Anyway, I think that’s good for today.  I’ll see what crosses my computer in the next day or so to see if I have more articles to talk about or if I will move on to another subject tomorrow.