All posts by Christina Royal

How well do you understand your students?

The Beloit College Mindset List is here! Every year, they publish a list helping everyone to understand the incoming class of freshman, by sharing cultural tibits that reveal a lot about tech trends, music, TV, and political happenings – to understand the world in which these freshman have grown up. As a community college, our “freshman” might be traditional aged, but also include folks from every generation.

I’m not sure there is one single type of community college student, but the average age has been declining. So, let’s say the average age is about 29 years old. These students could be best understood by reading the Class of 2003 list. Be sure to look at different years to best understand the multiple community college audiences.

A traditional aged (18 years old) student entering college can be best understood by reading the Class of 2014 list. Some items on the list include:

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

3. “Go West, Young College Grad” has always implied “and don’t stop until you get to Asia…and learn Chinese along the way.”

4. Al Gore has always been animated.

The full 2014 list can be found at

Some history on the creation of the mindset list can be found at

Should online learning be required?

There has been some discussion at the K-12 level about mandating, as a requirement for high school graduation, that students take at least one online course. The rationale, in part, is to better prepare students for the world they will be working in, and online learning has proliforated the workplace in many ways, including online professional development and increases in online graduate degrees for working professionals.

The Wired Campus article below takes this discussion into the realm of post-secondary education, raising the question: Should at least some online learning be a requirement for graduation with a higher ed. degree? Some people might argue that it is inappropriate/unnecessary to require a student to take a course in a specific delivery format, or create another barrier to graduation. Others might argue that the question is outdated, considering the national enrollment trends in online learning. Read below and decide for yourself.

Wired Campus

August 2, 2010, 06:01 PM ET

Texas Students Could Be Required to Seek Off-Campus Learning Options

By Marc Parry

A Texas higher-education panel is recommending that students be required to complete at least 10 percent of their degrees outside the classroom, through options like online courses.

The proposal is one of several online-learning ideas in a new draft report prepared in response to Gov. Rick Perry’s call for higher-education cost-savings recommendations.

The report also recommends that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board be given authority to create a new institution to offer associate’s programs online.

“If the University of Phoenix can be successful” providing online programs, “the question needs to be asked: Can the public sector do the same?” said Bernie Francis, a member of the committee of education and business leaders that the coordinating board established to produce the report. Mr. Francis, chief executive of Business Control Systems, stressed that he was offering his own opinion and not speaking on behalf of the committee.

It would be unusual for a state to mandate that college students take online courses, according to several national distance-learning experts. But there are other state and campus efforts now under way to shift instruction online. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, for example, announced a new push to have 25 percent of all system credits earned through online courses by 2015, nearly triple the 2008 level of 9.2 percent.

Full article available at

Professional Development for Faculty Using Avatars

This is a creative and interesting idea for faculty professional development. It not only provides a vehicle through which to train faculty but also exposes them to emerging technologies.

Avatars to Teach the Teachers

July 7, 2010

Monique, the eager-to-please girl with the chirpy alto, is raising her hand again. But I’m more interested in drawing Maria — who hides in the back row and avoids eye contact — out of her shell.

“She don’t wanna talk to you, man,” says Marcus, confidently flip as usual. “She don’t talk to anybody.”

Vince, the pallid kid with dark hair who sits at Marcus’s left, chuckles — just like he did earlier when Marcus told me he “found” the Mercedes-Benz hood ornament, now draped around his neck, “in the parking lot.”

So I try engaging Francis, the shy but willing young man in camouflage shorts and a T-shirt. I ask him what he wants to learn about. “Uh … music,” says Francis, before launching into a beat-boxing exhibition that he says he learned from YouTube. I compliment him on the routine. Noting this, Monique raises her hand with redoubled urgency.

This is my class.

Well, sort of. I’m not really a middle-school teacher. But then again, the kids are not really middle-school students. They’re not even humans.

They are avatars. Not the blue kind from the James Cameron film, or even the sort of avatar most often used in higher education: the fantastical, flighted characters that professors and student embody when learning in Second Life. To the contrary, the point of these avatars, created by a team at the University of Central Florida, is to be as realistic as possible.

Full article available at

News ways of teaching and learning via augmented reality

Augmented reality is one of the concepts that the 2010 Horizon Report considers to be an emerging trend. Below is an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education that provides a wonderful example of how augmented reality might be applied in a teaching and learning environment.

June 20, 2010

‘Augmented Reality’ on Smartphones Brings Teaching Down to Earth

By Sophia Li

At the University of New Mexico, some students in second-year Spanish classes become detectives. They travel to Los Griegos, an Albuquerque neighborhood 15 minutes northwest of the campus, on a mission: Clear the names of four families accused of conspiring to murder a local resident.

It’s a fictional murder mystery, and instead of guns and badges, the students are armed with iPod Touches, provided by the university. When students enter their location into the wireless handheld devices, a clue might turn up: a bloody machete, for example, or a virtual character who may converse with them—in Spanish—about a suspect.

But Los Griegos and the language skills needed to navigate the locale are no fiction. By integrating mobile computing and actual surroundings, the educational game, Mentira—Spanish for “lie” and a reference to the claim of conspiracy the students are assigned to debunk—helps take teaching to a new place outside the classroom: “augmented reality.”

Video and computer games are commonly criticized for isolating players from reality, but augmented-reality developers who work in higher education see the technology as a way to accomplish just the opposite.

“Real life is pretty high-res,” says David J. Gagnon, a faculty consultant and instructional designer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Augmented-reality games, he says, are a way to help people “get out and see that.”

Full article available at

Who learns best in the online environment?

There is always a lot of debate about “who” is right for the online environment and what skill sets are needed to be successful. Below is a recent article that discusses the pros/cons to enrollment special education secondary (high school) students in online learning courses.

Published Online: June 14, 2010 in Education Week’s Digital Directions
Published in Print: June 16, 2010, as Going Virtual in Spec. Ed.

Educators Weigh Benefits, Drawbacks of Virtual Spec. Ed.

Weighing Benefits vs. Drawbacks.

After watching her son struggle in traditional and alternative public school settings, Ladona Strouse decided to try something new for the 11th grader: cyber schooling.

“To be honest, it was not our first choice,” she says, but Kyle, who struggles with bipolar disorder as well as a brain injury, was disruptive in school and was not getting the support he needed to be successful in a traditional education setting.

“At first, it was horrible, just because we didn’t know what we were doing, and he didn’t know what to expect,” says Strouse, the executive director of the Franklin, Pa.-based Heart 2 Heart, a support network for parents of children with behavioral and mental-health disabilities. “There was no real orientation, and within the first couple of weeks of the school year, I was ready to throw in the towel.”

However, after a few weeks of enrollment in the Agora Cyber Charter School, Kyle was assigned a special education case manager, and both Kyle and his parents began adjusting better to the school. In fact, during his first semester, Kyle received his first A in a course in three years, his mother says.

As online learning for precollegiate students continues to grow, more parents of children with special needs have begun to consider cyber schooling as a viable alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar schools.

Full article available at

Is Khan transforming education, or just modeling good teaching?

This article has sparked some good discussion about Salman Khan’s “Khan Academy” which essentially consists of youtube mini-lectures.

June 6, 2010

A Self-Appointed Teacher Runs a One-Man ‘Academy’ on YouTube

Are his 10-minute lectures the future?

By Jeffrey R. Young, The Chronicle of Higher Education

The most popular educator on YouTube does not have a Ph.D. He has never taught at a college or university. And he delivers all of his lectures from a bedroom closet.

This upstart is Salman Khan, a 33-year-old who quit his job as a financial analyst to spend more time making homemade lecture videos in his home studio. His unusual teaching materials started as a way to tutor his faraway cousins, but his lectures have grown into an online phenomenon—and a kind of protest against what he sees as a flawed educational system.

“My single biggest goal is to try to deliver things the way I wish they were delivered to me,” he told me recently.

The resulting videos don’t look or feel like typical college lectures or any of the lecture videos that traditional colleges put on their Web sites or YouTube channels. For one thing, these lectures are short—about 10 minutes each. And they’re low-tech: Viewers see only the scrawls of equations or bad drawings that Mr. Khan writes on his digital sketchpad software as he narrates.

Full article available at

Maybe books won’t become extinct…

This is a great article/video discussing the use of embedded hyperlinks in printed books. Will books adapt or die? Who knows, but their odds of survival just increased ten-fold with this innovation.

Wired Campus

May 28, 2010, 12:37 PM ET

Purdue Professor Embeds Hyperlinks in Printed Books

By Mary Helen Miller

People who prefer print books over e-books may still want extra digital material to go with them. That’s the idea behind Sorin Matei’s project, Ubimark, which embeds books with two-dimensional codes that work as hyperlinks when photographed.

So far there’s just one book available in English, Around the World in 80 Days, with the bar-like codes. (See a YouTube demo here.) A collection of scholarly essays in Romanian, Mr. Matei’s native language, will be available soon. Mr. Matei, an associate professor of communication at Purdue University, says that the initial book is just “an exercise in pushing the envelope as far as we can,” and that scholarly publications will be available in the future with the embedded feature.

Full article available at

Has Blackboard embraced lessons from their acquisitions?

Once Blackboard (Bb) acquired WebCT, there was a lot of discussion about Bb learning from WebCT’s strengths, such as outstanding customer service. Several years post-acquisition, Bb customers were wondering: Was anything learned from the WebCT merger/acquisition? Bb has recent (last year) acquired Angel, and once again, people are wondering: Is Bb learning from the acquisition of a company that provided outstanding customer service and support, as well as some great LMS features? Read the article below and decide for yourself.

Blackboard’s Ambassador

May 10, 2010

By Steve Kolowich

WASHINGTON — As president of Blackboard Learn, Ray Henderson’s job is to translate evolving customer demands and market landscapes into coherent business strategies for the learning-management giant. As a blogger and unofficial ambassador of Blackboard’s executive circle, his job has been to build confidence in the company and its services.

Henderson, formerly an executive at Angel, which competed with Blackboard before Blackboard bought it out for $75 million exactly one year ago, met with Inside Higher Ed this week at Blackboard’s slick new offices here to chat about the company’s newest version of its widely used learning-management system, the future of social media in teaching and learning, and the small but growing threat from open-source learning-management platforms, which have chipped away at Blackboard’s market share over the last few years.

“There are numerous things we have done to respond to openness,” Henderson says in the podcast interview. “And I would just say baldly that we’re taking inspiration from the open-source movement.” For example, Henderson last June began blogging occasionally about ideas and challenges being discussed inside the company. When Blackboard dropped its patent lawsuit against Desire2Learn in December, Henderson posted an essay detailing his own feelings about the lawsuit (that Blackboard’s patent assertions were not well-founded) and why the company was backing off (the backlash from many in higher education was becoming a problem).

Full article available at

Google Voice for all students? Yea!

It’s so nice when vendors show support for higher education. Google will now be providing Google Voice to any student with a .edu address. Oh, the possibilities for teaching and learning!

Google Gives Away Google Voice Invites to College Students

By Jennifer Van Grove

Students, you can now move to the head of the Google Voice class. Google’s celebrating the end of the school year with priority Google Voice invites for students.

Now anyone with a .edu e-mail address can enter it into the Google Voice for Students page and get an invite within 24 hours.

Google explained, “We’ve heard college students in particular really appreciate getting their voicemail sent to their e-mail, sending free text messages and reading voicemail transcriptions rather than listening to messages (especially handy while in class).”

This blanket invitation to the collegiate crowd seems like a way of appealing to a younger generation of mobile phone owners. Our guess is that Google hopes to convert these students into Android owners. With Android already making big gains in market share, this offer could help the company tap into the all-important youth demographic even more. Smart move, Google.

Article available at