Archives for February 2010

Liveblog — CyberEd Course; 2nd Meeting

On Tuesday, February 9, 2010, EdTech and CERTI hosted the second meeting of the CyberEd course participants. This was not quite as well attended as the last meeting we had. I suspect the weather had a lot to do with attendance, and a couple of folks reported illness so they weren’t able to attend either.

Anyway, to continue the “tradition” of capturing the material through a “liveblog” session, Diane Hagni, the CERTI Coordinator volunteered to take notes:

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Hello!

This blog will recap some of
the topics and discussions from the Cyberlearning face-to-face class on
Feb. 9. I’m sure I’ve missed some of the information, so feel free to
add your thoughts and fill in the gaps.

The majority of the time the
class heard from three S&T students who are involved in the student
advisory group for the e-Learning initiative: Laura Confer, Kelly
Burnett and Angie Gugliano. The other advisory group member, Drew
Skyles, was not able to attend.

(Meg Brady also took a moment
to introduce Barb Wilkins to the group. Barb is currently an adjunct
faculty member in the math department and recently joined Ed
Tech assisting part-time in instructional design projects. Welcome,
Barb!)

I’ve grouped together some of
the ideas presented by the three students, as well as their responses
to the questions from the class, so this material is topical, not
chronological.

Communication with instructors:
This was a huge topic for the students. They wanted regular
communication with their instructors, or access to get help from them
(such as the videos that Jeff Thomas does in his courses and makes
available on his website.) Angie said: “At this university, I can never
get enough of professors seeing if I need help.”

Students who don’t know what’s
going on or are lost usually won’t ask questions, especially younger
students. How can this problem be remedied? The students liked the
ideas of “texting office hours,” or online chat office hours with
faculty setting the parameters about when and how soon they can expect
a response. (Barb uses IM messages when she is on the computer to field
students’ questions; Kellie Grasman uses her iPhone to answer emails.)
Another suggestion was a group site on Facebook.

Students expect an answer
within 5 minutes in a chat session, or 24 hours for an email. There
should be an auto response to the student using a chat tool to let them
know the instructor is not available. It was stressed that there needed
to be clear directions about communication media from the instructor to
the students at the outset of the course.

Jeff said that his online video
resources have cut down questions enormously. When he sees more than a
couple of students having problems with a concept, he makes a “training
video” for them to access whenever they need it.

Students are interested in relevance.
Why buy a textbook if it contains information that can be obtained
elsewhere, such as through instructor lectures or online? In that same
vein, why go to class if the instructor is simply going to rehash the
material from the book?

Students want more online
resources that are easily accessible, and they cited Jeff Thomas’
online videos mentioned above. Because it is posted on his website,
students can go back to it for future reference even after they are
finished with the course.

Students said relevance was
also a big key to motivation. It is motivating for them to know why
they are learning what they are learning. Experiences such as
internships, externships, hands-on activities and field trips to
workplaces were invaluable, they said.

What else motivates students?
Engaging classes that they feel are worth their time. Being able to
work ahead and bookmark where they are in proportion to what needs to
be accomplished in the course.

Benefits to the blended learning environment: The
online discussions will force students to be social and should help
with soft skills for S&T students, who are not always well versed
in these skills, Laura said.

Pushing student questions to
Blackboard (rather than to the instructor) can generate peer-to-peer
instruction, as long as there is an instructor to monitor, add to the
discussion and intervene when necessary.

Students liked the idea of
having the class studying information on their own, before the
face-to-face experiences, and then using that time in the classroom to
interact in small groups with the instructor. Laura described the
face-to-face class as being “like a LEAD session, because you do the
work ahead of time.” She said the faculty-student interaction during
this time would be even more valuable if synchronous class time was at
a premium during the week, so it was important to make it count.

Overall, they felt that the students were excited about the possibility of blended learning on this campus.

Concerns about online learning:
Will students lose communication with faculty? Students said the
faculty interaction with students is a drawing point for S&T so
that needs to be enhanced through blended learning.

Although it would be nice to
have some flexibility as far as attending class (read: they don’t have
to go to lecture 3 times a week every week), the students still wanted
to know that the instructor was there, that this person cared about
them and was interested in their learning.

The students were concerned
about the amount of responsibility blended learning would place on
students accustomed to a lecture format, especially younger students.
Laura was divided about whether incoming freshmen should have this
experience. On one hand, they would get into the habit of learning and
studying in this format; on the other, it may be too much of a change
from what they are accustomed to and they may flounder. Overall,
though, she felt students would eventually adjust to whatever they
needed to because they are pretty adaptable.

Group or collaborative learning:
Students recommended making study groups optional, saying that if they
are forced to participate in groups, they may withdraw. They also
expressed dislike for having to grade other students in their group
for participation. They did like the idea of study groups in live chat
rooms, and Angie asked about the possibility of IM being added to
Blackboard.

Laura warned that every student isn’t savvy with technology so they needed to be educated about its uses.

Laura has found that informal group learning happens at CLCs that specific departments use.

Some comments from the class:
John Hogan liked the idea of making students responsible for exposing
themselves to the materials ahead of time so that more hands-on
learning could take place in the classroom, but was concerned that
there would always be students who didn’t prepare and would put a
damper on the class time.

Jeff felt that the student
input was very helpful, because the end of course evaluations don’t
give him much information about what instructors are doing to help
students and what they need to change.

Barb noted that what some
incoming students have had experience with regarding “online
learning” has been more of a correspondence type environment, where
there has been no collaborative learning or regular instructor
interaction.

Meg said that a UM system-wide
student survey was going to be conducted about students’ experiences
and perceptions about online learning.   

And … Meg said that Module B was now up on Blackboard.