May 31st, 2008
Course management systems such as Blackboard are extremely popular and are used by colleges across the nation. But, not everyone is a fan. A new group of so-called "edu-punk" professors are advocating for alternatives. Wired Campus reports:
"punk rock was a rebellion against the clean, predictable sound of popular music and it also encouraged a do-it-yourself attitude. Edupunk seems to be a reaction against the rise of course-managements systems, which offer cookie-cutter tools that can make every course Web site look the same.
Jim Groom, an instructional-technology specialist and adjunct professor at the University of Mary Washington, coined the term, and this week on his blog he declared himself a poster boy for the movement. He says he is worried that Blackboard's latest release, which attempts to incorporate the latest social-networking tools, will end up presenting a watered-down version of what pioneers of Web 2.0 technologies have done in their experiments."
Standardized course management systems make it easy for teachers to upload curricular content. But, they do tend to be an expensive, bland, and uninspired choice. I say: rock on, edu-punkers.
May 31st, 2008
If you're an online instructor or an administrator involved with distance education, you'll want to take a look at The Theory and Practice of Online Learning. This free, downloadable book contains many worthwhile essays about the creation of quality virtual learning programs. Here's a blurb:
"As with the first edition, this is a collection of works by practitioners and scholars actively working in the field of distance education. The text has been written at a time when the field is undergoing fundamental change. Although not an old discipline by academic standards, distance education practice and theory has evolved through five generations in its 150 years of existence (Taylor, 2001).
For most of this time, distance education was an individual pursuit defined by infrequent postal communication between student and teacher. The last half of the twentieth century has witnessed rapid developments and the emergence of three additional generations, one supported by the mass media of television and radio, another by the synchronous tools of video and audio teleconferencing, and yet another based on computer conferencing."
There are chapters about infrastructure, design and development, Quality control, and more. The work is available through Creative Commons. You can download it in PDF format by visiting the Open Access AU Press website.
May 30th, 2008
© MC Quinn
Since e-learning is relatively new, the quality of these courses tend to vary. There is no standard "best practices" for what makes a good online course.
Several recent studies have investigated the matter. The latest, from the Journal of Online Teaching and Learning, has some notable insights to share:
"Among other things, data suggest that meaningful social interaction and emotions may be important components in powerful learning experiences. In addition, the data suggest that powerful learning can indeed occur in e-learning environments. Results of this study combine with those from three previous studies to point toward practices of instructional designers and educators that may contribute to powerful learning in e-learning environments."
How to online instructors create these "powerful" learning environments? Take a look at the full study to learn more.
May 29th, 2008
If you're struggling with a language course or just want to study a few phrases for your next foreign vacation, take a look at EduFire.com. They connect language learners with dozens of potential tutors. Each tutor lists their qualifications, a photo, and their price per hour of teaching. Prices vary between the instructors and most seem to charge between $10 and $45.
Here's how EduFire creators describe their mission:
"Our goal is to create a platform to allow live learning to take place over the Internet anytime from anywhere.
Most importantly…for anyone. We're the first people (we know) to create something that's totally open and community-driven (rather than closed and transaction-driven).
We're excited to create tools for people to teach and learn what they love in ways they never imagined possible."
If you don't want to shell out for the personal instruction, you may want to check out their language learning videos. They offer hundreds of short videos in languages such as Spanish, French, and Turkish. They seem to be mostly YouTube videos; however, this is an easy way to find subject-specific clips all in one place.
May 28th, 2008
© Pathfinder Linden
Many online colleges have created Second Life learning spaces to help students master material. Although some critics (myself included) tend to prefer more traditional methods of learning, others love the interaction these virtual worlds can provide.
CollegeDegrees.com recently published a list of 50 tips and links to help with the creation of a Second Life learning space. Here's a blurb:
"The educational possibilities through Second Life allow teachers and employers to reach out to students beyond their traditional classrooms and school districts, expose young children to global issues and new friends around the world, design their own avatars and environments for highly customized training sessions and interactive discussions, practice real-world skills and manage real-life situations in a safe environment, and most of all keep students engaged in a technologically-driven society."
If you're interested in creating your own learning community, it's worth a read.
May 27th, 2008
I recently stumbled across a rather incredible resource. The Center for Learning and Performance Technologies offers a list of thousands of online learning tools.
Here's how they describe their collection:
"This Directory contains over 2,300 tools for learning in two main sections
1. for creating, delivering and managing learning and performance support solutions
2. for managing your own learning and productivity, and sharing resources
The tools in this Directory are both freeware/open source and commercial."
They link to tools for teachers and universities as well as tools for individual learners. You'll find 47 tools for your mobile device, 56 note taking tools, and 37 research tools. Free tools have a special marking, so it's easy to try out the no-cost options. The list is certainly worth a look.
May 26th, 2008
A lot of students are surprised when the learn that anyone can take Harvard classes online. Harvard Extension School, a part of Harvard University, offers distance learning courses with an open-enrollment policy. That's right…everyone gets in.
Here's a blurb from my recent review of Harvard Extension School programs:
"Harvard Extension School students can choose from over one hundred online courses taught by Harvard's distinguished faculty. These classes tend to be challenging and require a significant time commitment. The majority of extension school professors are Harvard affiliates, however there are also teachers chosen from other universities and businesses. No special requirements are needed to enroll in the online courses provided through Harvard Extension School; all courses have an open-enrollment policy. Two certificate programs and two academic citations are available completely online."
Take a look at the full article to learn more about Harvard's online programs, tuition costs, and more.
May 22nd, 2008
I've already posted about several types of online high schools including private programs, state-sponsored public schools, and university-affiliated schools. The fourth type to consider is online charter schools. You'll find a wide variety of online charter school programs, which vary between states and school districts. There are programs for gifted students, troubled students, and students needing to catch up on credits.
My latest About.com article, Online Charter Schools, explores these programs in greater depth. Here's a blurb:
"Online charter schools offer no-cost high school diploma programs to minor students living within their boundaries. In most states, online charter schools are controlled by (or "chartered" through) local school districts. Online charter schools receive less government oversight than traditional schools; but they are still controlled by state and local school boards. Many online charter schools offer reputable, accredited programs. However, online charter schools as a whole are known for their instability."
Take a look at the complete article for more information about no-cost, government funded online charter schools.
May 21st, 2008
online criminal justice degrees are becoming more popular with police men and women. While these virtual programs don't provide the physical training that may be required at some jobs, they can help those working at police departments improve their career potential.
eLearners.com recently came out with a new Guide to Online Criminal Justice Degrees. Here's a blurb:
"During National Police Week, Americans celebrate those men and women who have committed themselves to serving their community through law enforcement. The number of those choosing law enforcement is on the rise as populations increase and societies become more security-conscious. Meeting that demand requires the appropriate education. To help people interested in pursuing a degree in law enforcement learn more about varying career opportunities in the industry eLearners.com created the "Mini-Guide" to Online Criminal Justice Degrees
"Many people are attracted to a career in law enforcement because of the challenges and responsibility, however there are high hiring standards, making a criminal justice degree vital in today's competitive work environment," said Terrence Thomas, Chief Marketing Officer for eLearners.com, which connects prospective students with online learning providers. "The good news is that technology has made getting a criminal justice degree more convenient than ever before."
If you're interested in online criminal justice training, take a look.
May 20th, 2008
© Joe Shlabotnik
In the past, critics have contended that online colleges are not comparable to their traditional counterparts. But, public opinion may be changing. At a recent conference one presenter claimed that traditional colleges need to improve their programs to stay competitive with online colleges.
The Wired Campus reports:
"America's leading colleges and universities must "embrace massive experimentation" to stay competitive as more and more educational choices become available thanks to the Internet, said Reed Hundt, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a senior adviser on information industries to McKinsey & Company, during a conference late last week on the future of the Internet.
"What happened to the recording industry is what is happening to the newspaper industry," said Mr. Hundt, referring to the financial troubles of many music labels and newspaper companies now that songs and news stories can be found free online. "And what's happening to the newspaper industry will probably happen to elite universities."
Many online colleges are offering alluring programs tailored to individual student needs. Instead of being assigned two years worth of general education requirements, some online students are able to focus more exclusively on their majors.