Archive for January, 2006

Short On Cash? Get College Lectures For Free Through iTunes!

Jan 31st, 2006

Making lectures available through iTunes is nothing new…but who Stanford is now making them available to is.Standford is the first university to offer lectures through iTunes absolutely free to the public. Anyone interested can choose from more than 500 tracks, with no worry about paying the $30,000-plus tuition, or even about signing up for a class.

What do you think? Does making college material available to everyone devalue it for those who pay for the privilege? Or is access to knowledge more important than anything else?

From Forbes:While a number of other universities are now using iTunes to distribute class-specific content to their students, including Duke University, Drexel University's School of Education and the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Stanford is the first to make a substantial amount of recorded university events available to the public at large.

"One of Stanford's primary missions is to educate the public," says Scott Stocker, director of Web communications. Allowing the public to access the content "just felt like the right thing to do," says Cindy Pearson, director of alumni programs.

Stanford has big plans for adding new content going forward. One example is recordings of sports events, says Pearson. November's Stanford versus Berkeley football game, known on campus as "The Big Game," is already videotaped and mailed to alumni clubs overseas. The plan is to use iTunes new video capabilities so folks will be able to watch the game without waiting for the package to come in the mail, says Pearson.

Walking tours of the campus might also be in Stanford on iTunes' future, she says. The public could "tour" Stanford's campus or art collection from home. Or, a visitor to campus could bring an iPod or MP3 player, or borrow one from the school, and set out on a guided audio tour.

It's catching on. Over 130,000 tracks were downloaded from the site in the first two weeks, says Stocker. Through the end of the fall semester in December, on average, more than 15,000 tracks were downloaded per week.(Photo courtesy of The Tyee.)

iPods Allows ‘Close, Personal’ Relationship Between Online Educators and Students

Jan 27th, 2006

So say many professors, who are eagerly employing the 'latest trend' in online education: iPod lectures.

Professors urge their colleagues to change their lecture styles to ensure a more 'intimate' relationship with viewing students. Rather than the normal methods employed to address an entire room full of students, professors are advised to think of each iPod lecture as a one-on-one session with a student.

It is interesting to see how online education advancements are causing changes in traditional lecture methods, though the 'close, personal relationship' is debatable, as it truly only goes one way. The lecture may feel 'intimate,' but only until the student needs to contact the professor, and then finds no bonds of relationship established.

From Mac News:

Jennifer Sparrow, an English professor at CUNY's Medgar Evers College, is creating a museum-tour podcast to complement her teaching of Homer's Odyssey. "Students are so busy and overscheduled that it's just not possible to tell them to meet you at the Met (art museum) for a class," Sparrow said.

George Otte, director of instructional technology for CUNY, said good podcasts should "guide and shape" a study topic.

"Podcasts can offer students an experience where the professor can't be there, but is there," Otte said.

Maurice Matiz, director of Columbia University's Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, said podcasting teachers should imagine they're instructing one student.

"There is a close, personal relationship between the podcaster and the person who is listening," Matiz said.

"People tune out everything [else] with an iPod."

What do you think? Have you taken, or have you taught, an iPod centered course? Do you think it can compare to traditional classroom lectures? Where do you see the future of online classes heading?

Online Education Continues To Break New Ground

Jan 25th, 2006

Blog Abroad will liven up the blogosphere and the quality of online education as it provides live audio broadcasts recorded by four students studying abroad.

The goal is to excite other students about the possibility of foreign study, while the blog format will allow the program to reach students it never could have found with traditional flyers and advertising materials.

Perhaps because of this blog, you could end up in Paris or Sydney or Tokyo next year. Perhaps online technology doesn't always 'create' new educational experiences, but it provides the crucial step of connecting with those who need to know about these experiences.

From e-Media Wire: '" Podcast is the hot buzz term of the year,'" says Mark Shay, president and CEO of, the company behind '" Overseas study is such a vital aspect of today's foreign relations and we hope that combining the study abroad experience with this massively popular technology will entice more students to take the leap and travel out of their comfort zone.'"

StudyAbroad Live is a new '" live at the scenes'" addition to, which is a Web-based reality college study abroad program blog in its third season that consists of interactive Web logs in which students explore the many aspects of their study abroad experiences through online journals complete with pictures. Visitors to the site are able to respond to the stars of this online reality show and ask questions or make comments.

He continues, '" Plus, while being highly entertaining, is a terrific educational tool. It is a way to show firsthand what it is like to study abroad, and we anticipate our new bloggers will take us on amazing and unique adventures, expanding our understanding of the world.'"

Professor Pays Students To Stay Away From Class Lectures

Jan 24th, 2006

Here's a case for online courses if there ever was one.

A professor at the University of Prince Edward Island recently ignited controversy when he offered students a grade of B- to drop his class. Professor David Weale said he did so because his lectures were too crowded, and many of the students didnt want to be there anyway.

20 students out of 100 Accepted the offer.

What do you think about the idea of receiving an grade for doing nothing? Should the professor be forced to rescind his offer? Would you accept this offer, if you weren't very interested in a course you were required to take?

Do you think offering more online courses would solve problems like these?

CBC News reports:

Faculty association president Wayne Peters said such a scheme would not be tolerated at any university in the country.

"I was stunned. I couldn't believe that one member of the faculty association could take such an approach. Such a practice is not acceptable. It certainly is not reflective of the faculty and teachers at UPEI."

Peters said Weale's approach calls into question the integrity of the university and its faculty.

Are Lazy Students Limiting the Opportunities Provided By Online Education?

Jan 23rd, 2006

Online education began as a heralding of convenience, to offer those who could not commute to a university, or attend classes at set hours, a chance to pursue an education.

But researchers and professors have witnessed a trend that alarms them: more and more spots in online courses are being filled by students who do not ' need' them.

It is now feared that ' lazy' students who don't feel like attending class will shut out off-campus students who truly need the convenience of online courses.

What do you think? Should it be first come, first served, or should priority be given to students who can prove a scheduling conflict?

From The Herald:

Still, the trend poses something of a dilemma for universities.

They are reluctant to fill slots intended for distance students with on-campus ones who are just too lazy to get up for class. On the other hand, if they insist the online courses are just as good, it's hard to tell students they can't take them. And with the student population rising and pressing many colleges for space, they may have little choice.

In practice, the policy is often shaded. Florida State University tightened on-campus access to online courses several years ago when it discovered some on-campus students Hacking into the system to register for them. Now it requires students to get an adviser's permission to take an online class.

Many schools, like Washington State and Arizona State, let individual departments and academic units decide who can take an online course. They say students with legitimate academic needs – a conflict with another class, a course they need to graduate that is full – often get permission, though they still must take some key classes in person.

Experts Predict The Future Of Online Education

Jan 22nd, 2006

Is it possible to deny that online education will only get stronger? Still, it's always interesting to see what the experts think.

E-Learning magazine offers predictions for the trend of online education in 2006, and offers opinions on developments. It's an interesting mix of views, proving that the idea of ' virtual' learning will never be far from educators' minds.

Here are a few of the intriguing predictions:

"I do not have any brilliant predictions but I do have some high hopes for 2006: First, that the new year will bring an increase in high-quality research on e-learning; and second, that the design of e-learning environments will be based increasingly on scientific evidence and research-based theory of how people learn."
-Richard E. Mayer, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

"This will be the year that an American Disability Act lawsuit is launched against both a public and a private university system for 'access' discrimination caused by their e-learning offerings being not flexible enough for those with visual and other impairments. We will also see at least three e-learning courses in the sciences and engineering at a prestigious university that use the Xbox and/or Playstation as their courseware platform."
-Michael Schrage, co-director of the MIT Media Lab's E-Markets Initiative, USA

"As instructors and trainers continue to become aware of the power and ease of creation of things such as wikibooks, blogs, Webcasts, and podcasts, 2006 will spur an explosion of media-rich and creative instructional approaches. Audio and video will become more expected in e-learning. For instance, instructors will increasingly add audio books to student reading (i.e., listening) lists. At the same time, knowledge repositories and mobile e-learning will lead to a rise in personally selected learning experiences and even self-labeled degrees. Entire certificate and degree programs will be available from content in handheld devices such as an iPod or MP3 player. This will lead a boom in professional development and training opportunities."
-Curtis J. Bonk, Professor, Indiana University, USA

Agree? Disagree? What are your predictions for 2006?

Businesses Eagerly Searching For Online Degree Holders

Jan 19th, 2006

In continuing with the trend reported in yesterday's entry, not only is respect growing, but some companies prefer students who received online educations.

This article contains an illuminating list of reasons why virtual education should be seen as a plus, rather than a shortcoming.

I'm sure thousands of students who must, or prefer, to earn degrees online will be glad to hear this, and it's nice to see the ' flip side' of the issue.

Online education is entering the mainstream, according to some higher education analysts, and its growing popularity with employers is part of the reason. Increasing the knowledge of their workforce is a prime benefit for employers, and many companies are finding ways to support employees who want to continue their education or earn advanced degrees online.

Employers' efforts are being aided by online degree providers, which are catering to businesses by offering features such as discounted tuition and customized programs designed to fit the needs of specific companies and industries.

What's happening in business corresponds to a surge in online education overall. Eduventures, a Boston-based provider of market research and analysis for the education industry, reported that the number of students in fully online higher education programs grew nearly 34 percent in 2004. In addition, a 2004 study conducted by the Sloan Consortium found online enrollment significantly outpacing higher education enrollment overall.

Increasing employees' satisfaction and retention are some of the most important reasons cited by organizations for using online higher education, according to a March 2005 survey of 151 learning executives by the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), based in Alexandria, Va.

Approximately 29 percent of corporate tuition reimbursements now go to online or blended programs, according to the ASTD survey. About 58 percent of the survey respondents expect the role of online higher education to increase in their organization over the next two or three years.

Online education's appeal in the workplace reflects the fact that it's " a natural extension of today's work environment,&lrquo; says Richard Coffey, director of manufacturing, functional and employee development training for the Boeing Co.'s learning, training and development unit, because " it mimics how we work.&lrquo;

By delivering a flexible means of education that is " needed in today's business world,&lrquo; online education is gaining increasing acceptance from employers, says Rock Primas, director of learning and development for PHH Mortgage in Mount Laurel, N.J. In building a better-educated workforce, online education presents a wealth of benefits.

Will Online Degrees Get Respect?

Jan 18th, 2006

The stigma used to haunt a degree from a community college. Now, it has moved on to online degrees. Regardless of how much work a student puts into the classes, or how good the instruction is, some businesses and academic institutions view online degrees as inferior.

The good news is: that's starting to change. As online education expands rapidly across the world, acceptance and respect are starting to grow.

From Top Tech News:

The number of college students earning online degrees has exploded in the past few years, but the legitimacy of a virtual education is still uncertain in the business world and traditional academia, experts say.

About 5 million college students are taking courses online, according to some estimates. Enrollment in the Colorado's state community-college system's online program, for example, quadrupled from about 4,000 five years ago to almost 16,000 in 2005.

Online-education leaders across the country report a growing acceptance among professors, even those who looked down their noses when mainstream universities began expanding online-degree programs five years ago. They say the courses fill a niche and are as rigorous as traditional ones.

The online experience doesn't compare to traditional education, said Adams, who taught online courses for six years at the University of Massachusetts. "It's not equivalent to the rich experience that you can get by coming to school on campus."

Adams said he tells students it's OK to take one or two electives online, but not core requirements.

Yet recent graduates of online programs in Colorado say the value of their degrees hasn't been questioned. In some cases, employers wouldn't know if a student earned a degree online because many mainstream universities don't differentiate that on transcripts.

What do you think? Should traditional and online degrees be given the same value, or is there a difference in quality?

The iPod Took My Seat

Jan 17th, 2006

The trend is not new: students are depending upon modern conveniences such as iPod lectures, and not bothering to go to class.

What is new is the overwhelming rise in absenteeism thanks to these developments, and the fact that professors are striking back.

The method? Every student's biggest fear: the surprise quiz.

The LA Times reports:Americ Azevedo taught an "Introduction to Computers" class at UC Berkeley last semester that featured some of the hottest options in educational technology.

By visiting the course's websites, the 200 enrolled students could download audio recordings or watch digital videos of the lectures, as well as read the instructor's detailed lecture notes and participate in online discussions.

But there was one big problem: So many of the undergraduates relied on the technology that, at times, only 20 or so actually showed up for class.

"It was demoralizing," Azevedo said. "Getting students out of their media bubble to be here is getting progressively harder."

Skipping classes, particularly big lectures where an absence is likely to go undetected, is a time-honored tradition among college undergraduates who party too late or swap notes with friends. These days, however, some professors are witnessing a spurt in absenteeism as an unintended consequence of adopting technologies that were envisioned as learning aids.

Already, even as many academics embrace the electronic innovations, others are pushing back. To deter no-shows, they are reverting to lower-tech tactics such as giving more surprise quizzes or slashing their online offerings.

"Too much online instruction is a bad thing," said Terre Allen, a communication studies scholar and director of a center that provides teaching advice to professors at Cal State Long Beach.Students: are you missing out on the best of education by depending so much on technology? Professors: what do you think about the irony of using such a low-tech solution to solve a high-tech problem?

Online Education To The Rescue …Again

Jan 13th, 2006

How would you like to attend university in another country …without ever leaving your home?

Online education has broken another barrier: the high cost of native colleges and universities that may keep students from attending.

CRI Online reports:

In a couple of years, UK students shopping around for best-value degrees might apply to study at a Chinese university. The idea is not as far fetched as it sounds. Faced with higher top-up fees, UK school-leavers are already beating a path to the door of US universities, many of which offer attractive bursaries to tempt academic high flyers. So why not study a degree course taught in English at one of China's top universities? Or online?

"Chinese universities are throwing open their doors to attract international students," says Helen Spencer-Oatey of Cambridge University's language centre.

She coordinates a project called e-China, the result of collaboration between the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce), the Joint Information Systems Committee (Jisc) and the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The aim is to develop a common platform for online distance learning and links with Chinese universities that will end centuries of academic isolation. While UK universities see distance learning as a vehicle for widening participation, and making the campus and its many offerings accessible to external and, in some cases, special needs students, in China distance learning is designed to attract students over far greater distances. The Chinese see online courses as mimicking the experience of attending a lecture theatre.

Is it possible to get through a day without discovering at least one fascinating tidbit from the world of online education?