LiveBlog–CyberEd Course

I will be “liveblogging” the first meeting of our CyberEd participants. Meg Brady and Angie Hammons are the primary facilitators for this course, which is an opportunity for faculty interested in online/blended learning to get their feet wet. I play primarily a support role and will be working with instructors while they design their online/blended courses.

Meg started by introducing the participants in this meeting. It consists of the “eFellows” as well as a “Community of Practice” for e-learning. There is an interesting mix of physics, mechanical engineering, philosophy, computer science, mathematics, psychology, and technical communication.

The “eLearning Initiative” is driven by UM President Gary Forsee. Our goal at S&T is to mesh our own e-learning activities with those occurring at the system-wide level.

“e-learning” is the appropriate integration of technologies into the processes of teaching, learning, research, student services, and academic support. It applies to a very broad range of technologies, not just the web, though many of the technologies used can be delivered through the web or compatible technologies (e.g. smart phones).

“online” is one category of course where 80% or more of content is delivered through an online interface. Web-enabled only has 1-29% of content is delivered online. Blended/hybrid courses falls between web-enabled and fully online (30-79%). These definitions come from the Sloan-C document, Staying the Course, Online Education in the United States (2008).

Angie asked for instructors on their own online experiences. One instructor has used online homework applications. Another is delivering lectures through captures via WebEx. Many instructors overall fit into either the web-enabled or blended learning. I don’t think there are any at this point that could be truly considered “online”.

There are some good questions about the current policies and procedures for distance education, which is different from our e-learning discussion. Currently, distance students must go through the VCC to get access to the course, and the fees associated with distance ed are significantly higher than those for traditional, on-campus courses. We, as an institution, are attempting to resolve some of these issues to increase access to online and blended courses for all students in a way that will satisfy all involved parties.

Who’s Learning Online? According to the SLOAN-C document referenced above, over 3.9 million students were taking an online course in fall 2007. Over 20% of all U.S. higher education students were taking at least one online coures in fall 2007.

Why online learning? Meg is soliciting some feedback from both a student perspective and a faculty perspective on why online learning may be desired. Students seem to like the flexibility. For instance one of our student workers has a scheduling conflict. His professor is giving the student a blended option so that the student can graduate in a timely fashion (without that option, he would need to wait 18 months to graduate due to the schedule conflict). Geography is another reason why students and teachers may want to offer a blended option. One instructor lives in Illinois, but travels to campus to teach class 3 days a week or so.

Students perceive online courses to be easier. This is true in a lot of cases, but is not always true. Another perception is that students want the face time–they place value on that time with an instructor

One instructor believes that a blended option could give her more valuable face time with students. In other words, she feels she would be more motivated to make the most of the time she spends with her students. Another instructor wants to free up some classroom space–a very low resource on this course. Yet another instructor sees the blended course as a time saver in the long run due to reusable content (i.e. lecture captures). Meg said that the interaction with students will shift, but will not necessarily go away.

There is also the possibility to use technologies to bring in guest speakers and otherwise enhance the course by adding more meaningful content for the students.

An important issue at stake is the copyright of the faculty-created content. Plagiarism is a problem even in a traditional classroom setting. Adding an online component adds to the challenge of maintaining the copyright of the faculty as well as making sure students don’t plagiarize papers. The campus Library is a good resource for discussing these issues.

Students who take an online or blended course really need to be made aware of the expectations of the course. We need to not only teach students the content in the course, but also how to become effective online learners. The institution, the faculty, and the students all play a key role in this dynamic.

Angie mentioned that there is a student advisory board. It was formed specifically to address some of the issues of elearning from a student’s perspective. They will be a very valuable resource to the faculty moving forward.

Opportunities for Missouri S&T

  • Improve student learning experience
  • Increase enrollments through new online programs
  • Decrease need for physical classrooms (do the same or more, with less)
  • Meet students’ technology expectations
  • Use technology to facilitate active learning
  • Provide students with options in both online and face-to-face learning experiences

eFellows Program — 2010 Pilot

Objective: Establish a program to provide year-long support for faculty to develop courses that use best practices for blended and online learning. Program establishes faculty cohorts for peer support and development.

Scope: Pilot year begins Spring 2010 for Fall 2010 courses for 4-5 faculty/courses. Develop and conduct CyberEd course for faculty development and provide related support services.

The courses that have been selected by the Provost and the selection committee is for 3 instructors who teach medium to large courses that are well-attended by a diverse group of majors. For instance, IDE 110.

There was considerable interest from department chairs in participating in this program. Many faculty are already engaged in using online/blended components in their courses. Others are very interested in learning more (many of whom attended this meeting). The challenge is to match up the right faculty with the CyberEd course and to get IT involved at an appropriate level to maximize the success of the eFellows (as well as anyone else who opts to participate in the Community of Practice). eFellows are specifically sponsored by the Provost, while the CoP folks are just interested in finding out more and taking small steps. The eFellows must produce a blended course ready to go by Fall 2010.

EdTech serves as a facilitator and mentor to the initial batch of eFellows, guiding them through the CyberEd course and providing technical support, where needed.

At this point (3:00 p.m.), Angie is taking over to discuss specifically the CyberEd course inside of Blackboard. It is available to the eFellows and to the folks who have been invited to the Community of Practice.

It is designed as a blended course, with face-to-face meetings scheduled every three weeks or so (today is the first one).

There are eight modules that the eFellows are required to complete. The CoP can complete any of the modules, though they should only see them at the same time they are available to the eFellows. Because the modules do build on each other, it is important that they are delivered to the course participants in a managed fashion.

The CyberEd course will be based around the Quality Matters rubric, which is an emerging standard for measuring the effectiveness of materials developed for online/blended courses. The QM rubric helps keep high standards for an online course.

The CyberEd course
is designed to be a representation of what an online/blended course can be. We will be using a number of Blackboard building blocks and tools to stimulate discussions and encourage active learning in the course.

At the end of the course, each participant will have a set of deliverables they can leverage into an actual course they are teaching.

Participants are expected to be engaged and active in the material. They should be ready and able to produce a quality product by the end. At the very least, they should have a much better understanding of what is involved in delivering an online/blended course.