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Back from the 25th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning

Three of us trekked to Madison to attend the conference held at the lovely Monona Terrace.  The drive down was good but the drive back had much rain which slowed us down a lot.  We did stop and stock up on Wisconsin cheese (not myself though).  There were some good sessions and some not so good.  Here’s the highlights from my good sessions:

  • Distance Learning Czar:  It was clear that so many of the schools there were way into distance and online learning.  The idea of someone in charge of distance learning was repeated especially at the session featuring Carlos a fellow Frye ’09 alum!
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization. This technique was explained well at a session on Marketing online programs.  The focus is clearly to capture students when they’re searching for an online program.  Looking forward to getting the powerpoint on this one.
  • Part Time Instructional Design: This session (see ppt) was the winner of Thursday for me.  It laid out a program at Del Mar College where instructional design is done by a team: 2 faculty, 1 instructional technologist, 1 librarian, 1 director.  The 2 faculty positions are 1 course release overloads for a term and are competitive slots — they apply for them.  The team does instructional design with faculty, course reviews, mentoring, development of support materials, general sounding board for online learning.
  • Quality Matters: Again and again places mentioned how they took the base QM rubric and modified it for their school.  Seems like a no-brainer to do so we have a way to assess the quality of our online offerings.  The question is who does the assessing and what is the result?
  • Economics of Online Learning: you can expect 12 – 32% of tuition as revenue (25% typical) for an online program.  I saw a session by someone from Compass Knowledge Group.  They help institutions develop and run online programs.  The data (based on 50 programs of various sizes) was useful in identifying the components and potential cost % of each.  Another one I’m looking forward to the powerpoint for the details.
  • Penn State Resources: faculty self-assessment and quality standards.  From a session that described the complexity that is Penn State, two resources were of note.  A faculty self-assessment allows faculty to test their readiness for online teaching.  And quality standards
    based on quality matters for their online courses.
  • What do online students consider essential to their learning?  Their perspectives match up well with, take a guess, the quality matters rubric.  A study of 202 Penn State World Campus students found pieces what they consider essential to their learning and what pieces not so much — maybe a surprise but they don’t consider games and simulations essential to their learning.  But that doesn’t mean those items don’t support their learning.  The presentation is up at slideshare to see the details.
  • Epson DC-06 Document Camera.  For $299 you get a usb-based document camera that is so easy to use and captures a great picture.  Time to dump our RCA-video based document cameras for a few of these.

Educause Review for July/August is out

The latest Educause Review just came out with several interesting articles.  There was much focus on the economic context higher ed is in right now.

  • Managing in a New Reality by Philip J. Goldstein
    Goldstein points out that working within a tight budget is not new to IT organizations — cuts happened as recently as 2004 in many organizations.  He gives several areas where IT leaders can leverage the current crisis to create a better future for their organizations and institutions.  He also points out several areas where IT leaders can support their institutions in different areas where things will be done differently.
  • Top 10 IT issues for 2009 is out
    Some things did jump out at me.  Both in this article and the one above ERPs and the disconnect between the promise and the value realization comes up.  Many institutions find a lack of buy-in from the administration as to the use of the ERP and process improvement.  Change is difficult and changing the way something has always been done is more difficult.  But as people are asked to more with equal or negative staffing levels the ERP can help.  Governance came up too, something I’ve been interested in.  With budget pressure IT needs transparency in its spending to help other units understand where it spends and why.  I was surprised to see LMS/CMSes bringing up the end of the list.  That is, I was surpised to see them on there at all.
  • Essential versus Strategic IT Investments by James Hilton
    This should sound familiar as he talked to us at Frye about this exact topic.  I can’t  say I’ve listed to the audio of the interview but the excerpt sounds to be just like our session with him.
  • Learning and Technology — “In That Order” by Malcolm Brown
    I was looking forward to this piece since he posted to one of the Educause lists looking for students to participate.  He interviewed 14 students inviting them “to suggest what educators should be thinking about as we plan our learning environments for the next two to four years.” These observations and the specific examples in the article are good reminders with fall approaching.   He found the common messages to be

    • “too much or unfettered technology is bad and directly hinders learning; and
    • the use of technology should not come at the expense of personal interaction both in and outside the classroom.”

    Sakai-based course evaluation system crashes

    U. of Michigan’s Online Teaching-Evaluation System Fails
    Uh-oh. Not good press for Sakai (though it’s not mentioned in the article). UMich is in my annotated bibliography for online course evaluations which is why I know they’re Sakai. The comments on the article unfortunately echo the polarizing reaction to online course evaluations. Maybe I’ll post too….

    The virtual world crossing over to the real world … in music

    I was listening to Weekend Edition today and was spellbound by this story on Video Games Live.  This is a traveling concert experience where a full orchestra plays video game songs with a multimedia show behind.  For one thing it brings young people into concert halls which is great.  But I’ve been thinking about how its another way the virtual life more of us are experiencing is brought into our real life.  There’s of course the World of Warcraft gold farmers that make the news that shows how commerce can crossover between worlds.  That should not be surprising.  If there’s money to be made people will find it.

    But I find it interesting that people are seeking traditional (real) expressions of the experiences they have in virtual worlds.  I know hearing certain video game themes trigger memories of completing a difficult objective and the sense of accomplishment that followed.  This is so interestingly similar to how different pop songs make us think of times of our lives and what we were experiencing then.  This is also a strange generational connection.  Parents of today’s kids played video games, although visually simpler, just like the kids are.  Both can come to this concert and share in a strangely modern experience of virtual meets real.


    Netvibes is the future

    Well, maybe not the future. But it is impressive. The more AJAX-driven Web 2.0 techologies (click on those if I’m making no sense) I see the more I want our academic web services to use them — thinking CMS/moodle here. Netvibes is just a fluid portal that I’d love to have for a campus portal. I’m still just amazed at how in a web browser I click and edit and move objects around — just like a desktop application. There have been some AJAX-based modules developed for moodle.

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