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I’m working my way through the latest Educause Quarterly. With a cover on e-learning, how could I pass it up?

First, there’s “Laptop Use in University Common Spaces.” At first I thought cynically, “oh, a survey to see if students are using laptops — they are!” But once I read it I saw they were interested in how students are using their laptops in these spaces. Of most interest was the need for power and secure storage. It’s amazing how many leave them unattended. The need for power is easy to miss — batteries don’t run forever!

Next is “E-Learning—A Financial and Strategic Perspective.”  This well-researched article does a good job of hitting the key aspects of e-learning that impact the bottom line: use of adjuncts and overhead costs.  It also hits on the concerns of faculty about the use of adjuncts, course development, and quality.

Following that thread is “Uniting Technology and Pedagogy: The Evolution of an Online Teaching Certification Course.”  This article explains a model of certifying faculty to teach online using an online course — the faculty get to be online students.  I think it provides a good framework for fulfilling this need — assuming you are able to invest in making the course as good as it needs to be.  There are some good examples of the challenges the faculty faced when they were in the role of online student.

And lastly, “Professional Development for IT Leaders” gave me some things to think about along with “CIO Effectiveness in Higher Education.” Of course the former takes place in a large university with many different IT opportunities.  But it makes me think what do I want to do? where do I want to go? do I want to move more into management and more distant from the end-users like faculty?  Those questions won’t be answered today…..


ECAR student study for 2005 out

I just saw that the ECAR Study of Students and Information Technology, 2005: Convenience, Connection, Control, and Learning is out. While the full study weighs in at a hefty 140 pages, the Key Findings is a brisk 10 pages and is a must-read. A few points jumped out at me in the key findings:

  • “Students spend 11-15 hours / week using electronic devices” (not cell phones). That is a lot of time.
  • “Students view technology in the classroom as supplemental to their course experience, not as transformational.” I’m torn on this one. On the one hand as a technologist I want technology to be transformational. But on the other hand I am happy that students want the face-to-face interaction. I know that some faculty worry that all of these technologies are going to ruin education. But it seems clear that students know where knowledge and teaching come from and where learning happens, though they might not realize it.
  • “Most students have used a course management system (CMS), and most have had positive experiences.” This surprises me some as I tend only to hear about the negative experiences in my profession. I generally believe most have at least a neutral experience (not bad) now that we’ve moved to moodle. But a recent article in our student newspaper had a student saying they didn’t like having materials in the CMS because they had to use a computer to get at the materials. I guess there are always exceptions.
  • “According to responding students, IT is improving their learning. Students report that our institutions and our faculty are integrating IT inconsistently into courses.” They found that instructor IT skills had the largest positive impact on student engagement in the course. Here we have the challenge of instructional technologists. How do we help all of the faculty to consistently use IT effectively at some arbitrary level? In all honesty we’ll have plenty of work for the next decade or so. As more faculty come into the fold who have grown up with technology (and more retire), I believe we’ll see a shift in needs. I’m not sure I know what that shift will be. I often wonder if it will be a shift to more support for teaching skills. Learning how to teach isn’t so much part of the graduate experience as it once was. At least that’s my perception based on conversations with senior faculty.


Blog lag

My blogging sure has taken a hit as of late. Things have been busy at work (migration from Blackboard 5.5 to moodle 1.5 — and all of the customizations to moodle, course evaluations online — both a new set of questions and doing it online) and at home (our 2nd story is about to be removed and rebuilt anew).

The online course evaluations have been very interesting. It’s a real intersection of students, faculty and technology. You have the factors of student attitudes to course evaluations — are they anonymous? do the faculty care? does my opinion matter? And then the faculty attitudes towards evaluations — what if only students with negative opinions do them? non-tenured faculty worry about tenure decisions. And then the technology factor of being online adds the new variable of response rate. Doing paper evals during class gives a captive audience — the evals are optional, the faculty member has to leave the room, but the time allotted varies. The handwriting issue also comes into play for anonymity. Doing them online makes it easier to not do them. There hasn’t been extensive research on doing course evaluations online, but there are some articles I’ve found.

First of all, some effective practices are emerging. The TLT Group’s Flashlight Program BeTA Project has some insights to successful online evaluations. What is interesting is that several of the articles I found on the subject echo similar findings. Generally, institutions awkwardly start doing online evaluations. Sometimes things go bad, they try a few things to improve response rates, and then find things that work. These practices match quite closely the BeTA findings above.

What I find interesting is that the institutional culture around evaluations seems to influence their success when taken online. I’ve learned from smarter people than I that the social aspect can overwhelm a technology project. This is why Dr. Pike used Bolman and Terrence’s 4 frames (structural, political, human resource, cultural) when approaching the course evaluation redesign last summer (see our paper for more).

Back to some resources if you’re looking to move your institution to online course evaluations. I’ve tried to link to them all and note the institutions. Some focus on response rates, some are more general. Some have bibliographies that can lead you down more paths.


m-learning again

Things haven’t been too exciting for me in the blogosphere as of late. But from the Online Learning Update, this article on m-learning for ‘hard to reach’ young people is interesting. I could see how the Net Generation (still working on that book, I’ll summarize soon) could take to m-learning. In case you haven’t heard, m-learning is the term coined for mobile learning often with cell phones or PDAs. I don’t think it would work for me. I still have a cautious truce with my cell phone. It’s never glued to my ear nor do I enjoy looking at its little screen. But I am not of the Net Generation.


Printing costs in the news

UPenn has resumed charging for printouts. I’m glad Augsburg has been able to keep printing free. The experiences of institutions similar to ours have generally been negative with print charging. Huge institutions may have less of a sense of community and personal accountability — who cares if you’re printing a book, no one knows who you are. For them, charges and quotas might be the best solution. But for small institutions, there are better options.

First, you have create a system to charge students for printing. That requires new hardware and software and time for linking it up to the accounting systems. There’s a bunch “savings” lost.

Second, charging for printing doesn’t really help change the real problem: student attitudes towards resource conservation. People just need to be less wasteful. Some institutions have seen an increase in printing after implementing a print quota (get 100 free, then pay) because students feel they need to spend their quota or lose it.

We’re moving our high-volume public printers to default to duplex (double-sided) printing. That will drastically reduce the number of pages coming out of it. Also, we’re talking to the student organizations concerned about resource conservation. The most effective way to change student attitudes is to have other students call them on it — not to have IT do something heavy-handed.


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