Even my mother is asking about MOOCs!

School Of Open Workshop WMDE / Elly Köpf / CC BY-SA

School Of Open Workshop WMDE / Elly Köpf / CC BY-SA

When my phone rings at 6:30 in the morning, I know it is one of about 4 people – my son, my daughter, EMS, or my mother.  So when the phone rang at 6:30am on October 8 and I looked over to see my mother was calling, I wasn’t too surprised.  What did surprise me, however, was what came next.

“Do you know about these M-O-O-C things?” my mother asked.    Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a morning person.  While I often teach at 8am, I’m not really feeling human until after 9 or 10am.  Starting off the morning correcting my mother’s pronunciation and discussing current educational trends before I’ve introduced caffeine into my system was certainly interesting.  “Good morning, Mom.  It is pronounced “MOOC” with an “oo” sound.  We don’t spell it out.  It stands for Massive Open Online Course, and yes, I’ve done a lot of reading about them and even participated in a couple of them,” I answered her.  “They are in the Journal this morning, and I thought of you,” Mom continued.

A retired educator and life-long learner, my mother reads the Wall Street Journal daily.  If it is important enough to be written about in the Journal, she wants to know about it.  She got interested in online learning a few years ago when I started teaching for MoVIP and Kaplan, and she even taught online for about a year during the second year of MoVIP.  When she told me that the Journal had written a large article about MOOCs, I knew that they were becoming main-stream.

What is a MOOC?  Well, MOOCs are online courses that are designed to have thousands of students in them.  They allow a learner to gain knowledge in a structured way, guided by a university professor, but without the expense of a college or university.  There are even companies that have sprung up, such as Coursera, Udacity and edX, allowing a student to earn credit for a MOOC by paying a fee and proving that they did the work and have the knowledge.  Of course, the cost is quite low, in one instance $150 per class.  Compare that with the $1061.59 that a student will pay to take a three credit class at Missouri S&T this spring!

Some of the concerns about MOOCs are that students often sign up, yet do not finish the course.  In some cases, over 90% of students who enroll in a MOOC may not finish it.  However, if a student enrolls in a MOOC and learns SOMETHING, isn’t that a good thing?

MOOCs can be used in many different ways.  A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Focus on Teaching & Technology conference at UMSL.  The keynote speaker was Amy Collier, Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at Stanford University.  It was very interesting to hear her speak, and one of her topics was MOOCs.  To provide some background info, Stanford is a big name in MOOCs, having started offering them at the very beginning.  Dr. Collier spoke about how a MOOC was used by a university in Puerto Rico, when an instructor was asked to teach a class out of their specialty area.  While researching to prepare for the class, the instructor found that Stanford was going to be offering a MOOC that met the requirements of the class in question.  With permission, the university in Puerto Rico asked all of the students in the class to enroll in the MOOC, where they found the lectures and a number of activities, then participate in class where they participated in additional activities.  This allowed the instructor to offer an enriched class, while using the MOOC as the foundation.

Recently, Georgia Institute of Technology announced that it would offer a MOOC-based master’s degree in computer science.  Working with Udacity and supported by AT&T, Georgia Tech will charge students only $6,600 for the degree program, which will allow the public to interact with degree seeking students.  Those who are fully enrolled will have access to proctored exams, tutoring, online office hours and some support services.  Written about in the New York Times, as well as online tech journals such as Slashdot and Gizmag, the program reportedly had over 19,000 applicants for the 600 available seats.  Information about this project can be found at https://www.udacity.com/georgiatech

What do MOOCs really mean?  For one thing, those who choose to be lifelong learners do not need to be limited to professional journals, but can instead learn by participating in MOOCs that peak our interest.  It means that we can download a few MP4 lectures to watch on our favorite device while on the way to our next conference, knowing that we are using our time to stretch ourselves.  It means that we can enroll in a class outside of our comfort zone, learn something new, and complete the class or not as our own schedule allows.

MOOCs may mean that we can direct a struggling student to find a MOOC on a level that will provide background information to the topic they wish to study.  This might help that student to perform at the level they wish to perform, having filled in a few gaps in their knowledge.  MOOCs may also mean that motivated students may not need to take as many lower level classes, but can instead study a subject at a higher level.

The story that started the phone call from my mother at 6:30am?  That is located at http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303759604579093400834738972

Tegrity Service Restored

Tegrity service has now been restored.  Classes may now be viewed under Tegrity Classes in Blackboard, and any recordings created during the outage should automatically upload to Tegrity’s servers.

If you are an instructor who created a recording during the outage and it has not uploaded by this afternoon, please submit a ticket so that Educational Technology can manually upload your recording.

Thank you for your patience!

Tegrity Service Interruption

Educational Technology became aware of an interruption in Tegrity service at 10:03 this morning.  The vendor has been notified, and is currently working on restoring service.

Until Tegrity service is restored, all Tegrity videos will be unavailable for viewing and starting a new recording through Blackboard will not be possible.

If you are an instructor who needs to record a class, this is still possible by double-clicking the Tegrity tray icon, selecting your course, and starting a recording.


Please be aware that the recorder will take several minutes to start while it attempts to contact the service and the recording will not be uploaded until service is restored.  Your recording will be stored safely on the local hard drive.

More information will be shared as it becomes available.

Bb TIPS AND TRICKS: Organizing Content

Bb-OpenForum-FeedbackSheetEducational Technology recently conducted some open forums (Sep 4 and Oct 2, 2013) with students and faculty regarding how useful Blackboard is as a Learning Management System. These open forums provided EdTech with a great deal of interesting feedback.

Among the feedback we received from students was the idea that Blackboard is difficult to navigate and it’s hard to find content/assignments. Fortunately, this issue can be resolved by adopting some “best practices” in organizing content in Blackboard. EdTech is not pointing fingers at any particular faculty members, but some do take a somewhat “scattered” approach when uploading content to Blackboard. Students then become frustrated because they do not see what they are expecting to see when they enter the course. And the instructor may not provide a sufficient “road map” or guide in navigating the course.

EdTech has some simple, common-sense guidelines when setting up a course. By default, EdTech provides a very basic structure to a course with a “Content” course button and an “Assignments” course button, but instructors should not feel limited to only using these buttons. Instructors are always free to create their own buttons and can customize the course in nearly any way they can imagine. Instructors can also delete existing buttons and totally remake the course menu.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT delete the Tegrity Classes button! If you do, then it is very difficult to add that button back into the course.

[Read more…]

E-Learning Essentials Interactive Guide

I was perusing around the Centers for Disease Control Website over the weekend and I came across a very interesting resource. If you’re not into the whole CDC thing, don’t worry, it has absolutely nothing to do with disease or panic.

The CDC has developed an online tool called the “E-Learning Essentials Interactive Guide” for all course designers and instructors to use. This guide takes you through six steps of course design for online learning. The steps for course design include:

  • Analysis
  • Content Elements
  • Interactivity
  • Product Evaluation
  • Interface and Navigation
  • Learning Assessment

It takes less than an hour to work through all of the pieces of the guide. If you are new to e-learning or wanting to explore how to produce quality online content, this is a great resource. You can find the guide at: http://www.cdc.gov/learning/quality/EssentialsHTML_072413/index.html

Multivariate Calculus at Missouri S&T

Guest Post by:

Associate Teaching Professor Dee Leach – Mathematics and Statistics

DeeLeach-doccamSeveral new resources involving technology aimed at improving student success and course availability have been implemented for the Missouri S&T Math 22 (Multivariate Calculus) course.  These resources were created and implemented in support of the Missouri S&T Strategic Plan and the Calculus course redesign initiative.  One of the resources involves delivery and recording of multivariate calculus classes via the Tegrity application.  The lecture/discussion from one section of Math 22 are delivered and recorded on a daily basis using Tegrity.  These lectures/discussions are used synchronously by some students who are not physically present in the classroom.  Other students use the recordings in an asynchronous manner as review or supplemental material in support of learning the subject matter.  The recordings are made available to all 330+ students enrolled in Math 22 at Missouri S&T.  Initial feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive.  There have been over 200 viewings of the recordings in the first week.  Of equal importance, the students who are in the room while the class is being recorded report no degradation of their classroom experience.

This resource makes use of technology that is both currently-available and well-known on the Missouri S&T campus.  The system has proven to be very stable, “low overhead” and easy to use for students and instructor alike.  The challenge in this implementation has been the necessity of the instructor to use a doc cam rather than a blackboard as the writing medium.  Mathematics classes are not well-suited for pre-fabricated presentations (e.g., PowerPoint).  This is because it is very difficult or impossible to “walk” students through a proof or problem solution that has been written out in advance.  Thus, a large amount of writing on the part of the instructor occurs during these classes to help students to focus on the techniques being used.  Unfortunately, this is independent of the mode of instruction (lecture, discussion) and it a major reason why a lot of mathematics instructors prefer large spaces (blackboards/whiteboards) over an 11×17 piece of paper on which to show proofs, problem-solving methods, and worked examples of problems.  Asking a mathematics instructor to go from using a blackboard (large medium) to a doc cam (little piece of paper) is tantamount to asking that instructor to change her teaching style that she perhaps has spent her entire career honing to a fine art.

I am fortunate in that no one asked me to change anything; I made the decision to try the new approach (doc cam) with the idea that I could always go back to the blackboard if something unacceptable resulted from the change.  As it has turned out, I have found that, personally, I can deliver my lecture/discussion/problem demonstration/recitation using a doc cam and I can do this as effectively as I can do these things with a blackboard/whiteboard.  Surprisingly, it did not take long at all (a couple of days) to adjust from one medium to the other.   One aspect I find uncomfortable with using the doc cam is that I feel “chained” to the podium. My style is to walk back and forth as I write on the board and sometimes walk forward into the classroom seating area to interact with students.  I find that I am generally unable to do this with the doc cam.  One concern I had in the beginning was whether it would take additional time to write things on the small piece of paper because of neatness and readability concerns.  As it has turned out, my recorded lecture covers the same material as my later non-recorded lecture within 2-3 minutes either way.  Another concern I continue to have involves the impact (if any) on the students in the classroom with me during the classes that are recorded.  A promise I made to these students was that their experience would not be degraded or sacrificed in the name of “technology” or “progress”.  To address my own concern, I continually keep these students in the decision-making loop regarding such things as lighting in the room, color and size of pen to use, how fast/slow I’m conducting the class, etc.  I am fortunate in that I typically develop very good rapport with my students who are comfortable with giving me direct feedback on all aspects of the classes I teach and based on their suggestions (and concurrence) I have made modifications more or less “on the fly” as to how I present the material.

The implementation of synchronous delivery and recorded lectures for Math 22 has been relatively painless and trouble-free.  Students were, and continue to be, involved in the decision-making process and I believe that this is absolutely critical to the success of any strategic initiative implementation directed at students.   The transition from blackboard/whiteboard to doc cam for me was not huge as I discovered that many of my concerns quickly became non-issues.  In the future, I believe that the level of success for others in transitioning from one writing medium to another will be highly dependent on the individual instructors,  their preferences, their skills and abilities, and their respective teaching style.

Setting Expectations: Social Media Guidelines

When you use a social medium in your course such as a discussion board or blog, consider starting off with some guidelines. Some aspects of social media are very beneficial to education, while others are best avoided.  Establishing expectations early can stop problems before they start.

Here’s an example set of guidelines to get you started:

1. Only post things that you would want everyone to know.
Ask yourself: Is this something I want everyone to see?

2. Do not share personal information.
Ask yourself: Could someone find me based on this information?

3. Think before you post.
Ask yourself: What could be the consequences of this post?

4. Consider your audience.
Ask yourself: Who is going to look at this, and how are they going to interpret my words?

5. Know how to give constructive feedback.
Ask yourself: Will this post help or hurt others?

6. Stay on topic.
Ask yourself: Does this post contribute to the discussion or distract from it?

7. Always cite media from other sources.
Ask yourself: Who is the original creator of this work?

Adapted from Kim Cofino’s “always learning,”
Cofino, K. (2009, September 6). [Web log message].
Retrieved from http://kimcofino.com/blog/2009/09/06/student-blogging-guidelines/

Call for Presentations: Missouri S&T Teaching and Learning Technology 2014 Conference

TLT-header-02Educational Technology is now accepting presentation proposals for the Seventh Annual Teaching and Learning Technology Conference, scheduled for March 13-14, 2014. Interested presenters can download a copy of the Call for Presentation form at the TLT 2014 website or click one of the links below:

Call for Presentations: Word Document

Call for Presentations: PDF

Call for Presentations: Online (NEW!)

The theme for this year’s conference is Student Engagement. EdTech is looking for presentations that showcase how technology can be used to help engage students in all stages of the learning process. EdTech will review ALL submissions regardless of content.

The opening keynote speaker will be Dr. Rebecca Brent, President of Education Designs, Inc. Dr. Brent has many research interests, as outlined on her website.

As we have done for the last couple of years we will be offering several tracks for presenters and participants:

  • Teaching with Technology – Enhancing the instructional process by including a technology component
  • Blended Learning – Replacing some or all of the face-to-face communication in class with online tools
  • Best Practices in Teaching Strategies – Pedagogical theories on effective teaching (with or without technology)
  • “Hands-on” Activity – Computer labs are available for hands-on presentations or demonstrations
  • K-12 Education – By popular request, we will be offering a few sessions geared towards K-12 instructors. If you would like to present towards this audience, please use the same form available through the links above.

Proposals will be accepted until Friday, November 8, 2013. Decisions regarding acceptance will be made by Friday, November 22, 2013. Accepted presenters will be notified between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you do not hear back from us by then, then feel free to contact us by email (edtech@mst.edu) or by phone (573-341-4131).

AMY’S PONDERINGS: Addressing Failure Rates in Introductory Courses

— Written by Amy Skyles —

With the increase in class sizes and workload for faculty, it’s often difficult to gauge student learning from day to day. Designing a course to include several formative assessments can greatly enhance student success. The Faculty Focus article, “An Approach that Decreases Failure Rates in Introductory Courses” provides several strategies for successfully incorporating formative assessment into any course. Strategies provided in the article include:

  • Socratic lecturing – frequent use of questions
  • Ungraded, active learning exercises – case studies, in class demonstrations and others
  • Clicker questions – answered both before and after discussion
  • Practice exams – given weekly and peer graded
  • Class notes summaries – students re-stated concepts taught in lecture and asked questions about uncertainties
  • Reading quizzes – available online after lecture for a brief time
  • In-class group exercises – group discussion focusing on exam-style questions 

Malcolm Hays adds

One thing Amy doesn’t mention above is the actual results described in the article above, which I highly encourage you to read. Essentially, using some or all of the strategies will result in a marked improvement in student performance.

In reviewing the strategies, it occurred to me that reading quizzes might also be beneficial to students before the lecture as well as after the lecture (at the risk of over-quizzing the students). However, when I asked my co-workers (Amy Skyles and Jeff Jennings), they both seemed to initially agree that giving a reading quiz after lecture would make more sense. After some discussion, I think we arrived at a general consensus that reading quizzes could be given before or after a lecture. The deciding factors would be the context and the purposes of the instructor.

For instance, for an introductory course in biology, where students are required to learn a lot of new vocabulary, a simple reading quiz would help students retain this new information, and then in lecture they could learn about how to apply the new vocabulary. Similarly–using the same course as an example–they could read the material, attend lecture, then take a reading quiz to gauge how well they were able to apply the material they read about to the material covered during lecture. One quiz is focusing on retaining the material, while the other is focusing on the application of the materials. Each aspect (retention and application) is essential to the learning process.

2nd Call for Proposals for the eFellows Program

eFellow_Pin-02-mini.pngThe Office of the Provost, along with Educational Technology (EdTech), is issuing a second call for participation in the 2013 eFellows program. This program is an opportunity for instructors to redesign their courses to incorporate more technology, with the overall goal of improving student performance.

This round of proposals will only be for Tier 2 and Tier 3 projects.

Tier 2 – Stepwise Redesign (up to $2,000) is an intermediate step between Tiers 1 and 3. It is smaller in scope than Tier 1, focusing on one or more aspects of a single course, rather than a full course redesign. A Tier 2 project could eventually lead to a course redesign over time.

Tier 3 – Teaching with Technology (up to $1,000) eFellows projects are about the adoption of technology and the teaching strategies to improve teaching and learning.

Interested participants are strongly encouraged to review the video of the 2013 eFellows Program Participation Workshop from the Teaching and Learning Technology Conference 2012. The presentation can be found at the link below, along with the PowerPoint slides:


EdTech also hosts an eLearning Community of Practice (eCoP) which is a peer learning community that coincides with the eFellows program and is especially helpful for instructors who are interested exploring ideas before attempting a full course redesign. Along with the eFellows, members of the eCoP will be invited to participate in a blended course, CyberEd (inside of Blackboard), that introduces essential concepts and best practices for eLearning.  eCoP participants will receive consultation and assistance from EdTech staff on applying these practices to their courses, in small scale, at their option.

If you would like to request an application packet for the 2013 eFellows Program at the Tier 2 or Tier 3 level, please send a brief letter (email) of intent as described in the brochure linked below to Meg Brady (megbrady@mst.edu).

eFellows Program Brochure-2ndCall

An instructional designer or technologist will be assigned to work with you to complete the application. Alternately, you can schedule an appointment or stop by EdTech U (Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in IDE 105).

Applications are due no later than Friday, October 26, 2012.