Shaping the future with online learning

UB buzz

September 22, 2010

Shaping the Future with Online Learning

New ideas and discussions about the challenges of today and in the future for online education were the focus of last week’s conference on “Shaping the Future: New Possibilities for Online Learning.” The one-day event, presented by Post University (Conn.) and sponsored by Blackboard and Pearson Learning Solutions, took place at The Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Conn.

In a session on closing the cyber gap in eLearning to increase motivation, Post’s director of instructional design, Mark P. Fazioli, discussed how instructors could use elements of immediacy and social presence to increase motivation for those taking online courses. People work harder to understand material when they feel they’re in a conversation rather than simply receivers of information, argued.

Fazioli suggested using avatars or photos (for both the instructor and students), discussion threads, video, and audio. With video lectures and clips, instructors can also create immediacy by using words such as “we” and “you” to keep it conversational. And, he stressed, instructors should be conscious of hitting both visual and verbal modalities, such as by having a picture of the instructor nearby when there’s a page of text of including audio notes.

He described the ARCS model of motivating students: Attention (something that students can do or see immediately upon logging on), Relevance (to explain why students need to learn a particular concept, Confidence (building it), and Satisfaction (such as through testing their knowledge).

In another session on the explosion of mobile learning, presenters from Blackboard and Post shared data from Educause that shows how colleges and universities are still in the beginning stages of determining how mobile devices can be used for learning. When asked about having a strategic plan in place related to mobile devices in learning, only 30 percent said they had one. Nearly half do not have one started, and 30 percent are just preparing one now. Yet large numbers of students in online courses are likely using mobile devices to access course material. Add the fact that many of them could well be doing so while at work, and this question is left: Are they actually learning anything?

The presenters left the audience with one more stat to ponder: within one year (also according to Educause research), 45 percent of U.S. higher ed students will own and access the internet from a handheld device. Schools such as Medical College of Georgia have learned that if you promote an iPhone app related to their courses, lots of non-students access it as well as students.

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