Distance Learning improving traditional classroom instruction

I thought this article from Inside Higher Ed was particularly good at showing some of the positive gains from teaching distance learning. Many distance learning faculty have experienced it – and have shared how teaching distance learning has made them better classroom-based instructors. As we move in the direction of expanding the use of Blackboard for classroom teaching (as well as e-learning courses), the discussion seems quite timely. What has been your experience?

Learning From Online

December 7, 2009

Most professors agree that more work goes into designing an online course than a face-to-face one. But if those professors are interested in improving their teaching skills, it might be worth the extra effort.

So say researchers at Purdue University at Calumet, who believe that learning how to do distance education properly can make professors better at designing and administering their classroom-based courses.

“Most of the professors who teach at the university level have had no experience with pedagogy or instruction in general,” says Janet Buckenmeyer, chair of the instructional technology master’s program at Calumet. “They’re content experts, not teaching experts.”

Since most professors have spent their lives holding forth from the front of a lecture hall, many have not had to engineer their lesson plans with the sort of rigor required of a well-designed online course, Buckenmeyer says.

When teaching online, she says, “You have to pay more attention to the navigation of the course, the clarity of the course, the objectives of the course, the reason why you’re assigning activities and assessments, [and make] certain everything is perfectly clear to the students. In a face-to-face situation, you can get by with just coming in and not having prepared and winging a class session. You can’t do that online.”

Or rather, you can’t do that online if you expect students to learn well. “You can develop a really bad online course,” says Buckenmeyer, without necessarily knowing it. In order to teach well online, she says, professors need guidance.

Full article available at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/12/07/online

Accessibility Issues with Kindle?

As we continue to explore emerging technologies, we must consider the implications for not only available bandwidth and Internet-enabled computer access, but also the impact on technologies used to support students with disabilities (SWD). SWD often utilize various technologies (e.g., screen readers, JAWS) to access information on websites and in academic courses. E-books are considered an emerging technology – what impact do they have on SWD and their access to academic content?

Finding the Kindle a Poor Device for the Blind, 2 Universities Say They Won’t Buy More

By Simmi Aujla

Two universities say they won’t order large numbers of Amazon Kindles until the company releases devices that are easier for blind students to use.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison and Syracuse University, which have both made Kindles available to their students in pilot programs recently, say they won’t buy more devices until they’re improved. Though most Kindles read text aloud, it’s impossible for a blind person to navigate their basic menus because they aren’t “voiced.”

Full article is available at http://chronicle.com/blogPost/Finding-the-Kindle-a-Poor/8808/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.

Teaching PowerPoint

An interesting article provides an overview of some points to consider when teaching with Powerpoint.

PowerPoint Studies

November 13, 2009

CHICAGO — When Dianna Wynn starting teaching public speaking at North Carolina’s Nash Community College, PowerPoint wasn’t an issue. Nobody used it.

While Wynn said she feels “fairly competent now,” she said that she still has this “feeling tugging at me” that she doesn’t know “how to teach it well.” Judging by the standing room only audience at a session here at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association, Wynn has plenty of company. Fellow communication professors, especially those who teach public speaking, said that they were not satisfied with their lesson plans on the subject or with the way most of their colleagues use the ubiquitous technology.

Full article available at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/11/13/powerpoint

Movement in Grid Computing

The new ‘Open Science Grid” is opening up new doors in the fields of science and information technology.

Computer scientist spearheads $30 million ‘Open Science Grid’

Sept. 25, 2006

by Brian Mattmiller

University of Wisconsin-Madison computer scientists will play a central role in the expansion of a national “Open Science Grid” (OSG), an interconnected computing infrastructure that provides scientists with a massive infusion of computing power and storage capacity to solve large, data-intensive challenges in science.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science announced today that they have joined forces to fund a five-year, $30 million program to operate and expand upon the two-year-old national grid. This project collectively taps into the power of thousands of processors distributed across more than 30 participating universities and federal research laboratories.

Full article available at http://www.news.wisc.edu/12927

Adjuncts Unite!

Today is the day for lots of adjunct news. Here is another article discussing efforts to form an advocacy group for adjuncts.

An Activist Adjunct Shoulders the Weight of a New Advocacy Group

By Audrey Williams June, Akron, Ohio

There was a time when Maria C. Maisto didn’t know much about the struggles of adjunct professors. She didn’t know that teaching six courses could still pay less than $20,000. She didn’t know that adjuncts are likely to be on the outskirts of faculty governance. She didn’t know that adjuncts can’t count on unemployment checks to fill in the gap when they’re not able to teach. But four years after teaching her first English-composition class at the University of Akron, Ms. Maisto knows all of that. In fact, now she thinks about the plight of adjuncts all the time.

Full article is available at http://chronicle.com/article/an-activist-adjunct-shoulders/48348/

Understanding Adjunct Trends

The Professional Adjunct: An Emerging Trend in Online Instruction

Laurie A. Bedford, Ph.D., Capella University, laurie.bedford@faculty.capella.edu

“Expanding enrollment in online programs has concurrently created a demand for qualified faculty to assume the increasing workload.   As full-time faculty have been unable to fill the gap due to workload or resistance, organizations are more frequently turning to adjuncts to meet the needs of their online learners.   As a result, there has been increasing dialogue regarding the nature of the adjunct-university relationship as well as the quality, rigor, and consistency of courses being facilitated by part-time faculty.    Complicating this dialogue are a small but growing number of individuals who do not hold full-time jobs but rely on multiple adjunct positions to fulfill their professional needs.  This qualitative study investigates the motivations and demographics of this emerging phenomenon.”

Full article is available at http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall123/bedford123.html

What will be the impact of K-12 online education at the College level?

The article below highlights some of the changes happening at the secondary (high school) level with regards to the growth in online learning. I suspect that as high schools improve the quality and level of student preparedness for online courses, we will see that translate into students better prepared for college level online learning. Of course, this preparedness should start well before high school…

September 27, 2009

The Next Admissions Challenge: Evaluating Online Education

By Eric Hoover


Colleges pay admissions officials to predict the future, and that future is likely to include a revolution in the way many high-school students learn. As attendees of the National Association for College Admission Counseling heard here last week, online education is spreading rapidly among secondary schools, a trend that raises many questions for admissions officials.

On Friday, Brian Lekander, program manager for Star Schools, a distance-education initiative in the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, described the rise of virtual learning in elementary and secondary schools. Thirty-two states have virtual-school programs, and 70 percent of all school districts offer online and distance-learning programs, according to the Education Department. In 2008, two million secondary students were enrolled in online-learning programs or in “blended” programs, which include face-to-face and online instruction. In 2000, that enrollment was only 50,000 students.

Full article is available at http://chronicle.com/article/The-Next-Admissions-Challenge-/48625/

Are Hybrid courses the answer to the classroom versus distance learning debate?

A short but worthwhile article discussing some research on hybrid courses. Our own institutional data (@ Cuyahoga Community College) also shows a lot of promise relating to student success in hybrid courses.

Sustainable Hybrids

Author: Steve Kolowich

Inside Higher Ed Article

September 22, 2009

The question of whether distance education is as effective as classroom education is hotly debated in academe and largely unanswered by existing studies. However, new research from South Texas College suggests that hybrid courses — those that are offered online but also involve substantial face time — can produce better outcomes than those that are delivered exclusively on the Web or in the classroom.

Researchers at the community college, led by Brenda S. Cole, analyzed the spring 2009 grades of every student enrolled there. The scholars’ basis for assessing outcomes was straightforward: “A,” “B,” or “C” grades qualified as successful outcomes; “D” and “F” grades counted as unsuccessful.

The data showed that, over all, 82 percent of students of hybrid courses were successful, compared to 72 percent of classroom courses and 60 percent of distance courses.

These findings require some qualification, Cole said. When broken down by individual instructor, the data show no difference in the outcomes across the different delivery methods — meaning that the overall figures do not account for the grading habits of particular instructors, which could be a confounding variable. (At the same time, the sample size for the instructor subgroup was too small to render statistically significant findings — South Texas has offered hybrid courses only since 2006, and relatively few professors teach in all three modalities.)

Still, hybrid courses showed outcomes superior to distance and traditional courses when researchers controlled for other factors. Students who took all three types of courses generally performed best in the hybrid ones. And hybrid classes bested the other delivery methods in courses affiliated with the college’s business and technology, health, and liberal arts and social sciences programs. Only in the math and science and bachelor’s degree programs did traditional students do the best — and hybrid-course students outperformed distance-education students in every instance.

Do online students really cheat more than classroom students? Perhaps not.

This study is quite small, so results are not necessarily generalizable, but the results are worthy of discussion and certainly raise some questions that challenge the general assumptions in this area.

Point, Click, and Cheat: Frequency and Type of Academic Dishonesty in the Virtual Classroom

Donna Stuber-McEwen
Friends University

Phillip Wiseley
Friends University

Susan Hoggatt
Friends University


Students who feel disconnected from others may be prone to engage in deceptive behaviors such as academic dishonesty. George and Carlson (1999) contend that as the distance between a student and a physical classroom setting increases, so too would the frequency of online cheating. The distance that exists between faculty and students through the virtual classroom may contribute to the belief that students enrolled in online classes are more likely to cheat than students enrolled in traditional classroom settings. The prevalence of academic misconduct among students enrolled in online classes was explored. Students (N = 225) were given the Student Academic Dishonesty Survey to determine the frequency and type of academic dishonest behaviors. Results indicated that students enrolled in online classes were less likely to cheat than those enrolled in traditional, on ground courses. Aiding and abetting was self-reported as the most frequently used method among students in both online and traditional classroom settings. Results suggest that the amount of academic misconduct among online students may not be as prevalent as believed.

Read full article at http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall123/stuber123.html

How Web-Savvy Edupunks Are Transforming American Higher Education


September 1, 2009

How Web-Savvy Edupunks Are Transforming American Higher Education

Is a college education really like a string quartet? Back in 1966, that was the assertion of economists William Bowen, later president of Princeton, and William Baumol. In a seminal study, Bowen and Baumol used the analogy to show why universities can’t easily improve efficiency.

If you want to perform a proper string quartet, they noted, you can’t cut out the cellist nor can you squeeze in more performances by playing the music faster. But that was then — before MP3s and iPods proved just how freely music could flow. Before Google scanned and digitized 7 million books and Wikipedia users created the world’s largest encyclopedia. Before YouTube Edu and iTunes U made video and audio lectures by the best professors in the country available for free, and before college students built Facebook into the world’s largest social network, changing the way we all share information. Suddenly, it is possible to imagine a new model of education using online resources to serve more students, more cheaply than ever before.

“The Internet disrupts any industry whose core product can be reduced to ones and zeros,” says Jose Ferreira, founder and CEO of education startup Knewton. Education, he says, “is the biggest virgin forest out there.” Ferreira is among a loose-knit band of education 2.0 architects sharpening their saws for that forest. Their first foray was at MIT in 2001, when the school agreed to put coursework online for free. Today, you can find the full syllabi, lecture notes, class exercises, tests, and some video and audio for every course MIT offers, from physics to art history. This trove has been accessed by 56 million current and prospective students, alumni, professors, and armchair enthusiasts around the world. “The advent of the Web brings the ability to disseminate high-quality materials at almost no cost, leveling the playing field,” says Cathy Casserly, a senior partner at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, who in her former role at the Hewlett Foundation provided seed funding for MIT’s project. “We’re changing the culture of how we think about knowledge and how it should be shared and who are the owners of knowledge.”

Read full article at http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/138/who-needs-harvard.html

Cuyahoga Community College