Jun 30th, 2008
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Jim Jurica
Using a diploma mill degree in the wrong way could land you in serious trouble. My latest About.com article lists state laws related to the use of substandard degrees.
Here's a blurb:
"Diploma mill degrees are almost always considered dishonest and unacceptable by employers. However, in some states, using a diploma mill degree is actually illegal. In many cases, using such a degree to get a job, promote your business, or enhance your resume is punishable with a fine or even jail time."
To learn which states limit the use of diploma mill degrees, take a look at the full article.
Jun 30th, 2008
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Andres Peiro Palmer
I've always thought that one of the best parts of online learning is the opportunity to take tests in your pajamas. But, apparently, not everyone agrees.
A new facial recognition software program is being tested for possible use in online learning. Wired Campus reports:
"Many professors who teach online complain that they have no way of seeing whether their far-away students are following the lectures – or whether the students have fallen asleep at their desks. But researchers at the University of California at San Diego say they have a solution. They recently tested a system that can detect facial expressions of online students and determine when they find the material difficult, so that cues could be sent to the professors telling them to slow down."
Want to see how it works? Take a look at this YouTube video.
Personally, I'd feel rather self conscious if I had a camera pointed at my face while trying to learn. While facial recognition seems to have some benefits, there must be better ways to estimate a student's understanding.
Jun 30th, 2008
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Sean Locke
If you want remote access to Wikipedia but don't want to shell out for Amazon's Kindle, consider downloading Pocket Wikipedia 1.0.
Here's how Free Soft describes it:
"Pocket Wikipedia, hand-checked selection from Wikipedia which is about the size of a fifteen volume encyclopaedia (24,000 images and 14 million words)
The selection was made by Schools Wikipedia…This application it's a freeware software, works on PocketPC, Windows and Linux."
The version is static and does not update. But, it does contain a massive amount of free information. Plus, you'll have a greater assurance of quality content since everything included has been double-checked.
Jun 30th, 2008
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Kris Vandereycken
Online college programs are especially convenient for students living away from urban areas. People in rural towns and mountain communities have found that taking online courses makes it possible to earn a degree without leaving home.
Vail Daily reports:
"Besides being able to set your own schedule, online learning has a special appeal to people living in mountain towns like Vail, where we're separated by a two-hour drive from major state universities. Without the Internet, a master's degree could mean a long commute – not an appealing prospect considering the high price of gas – or giving up the job and moving to a new town.
"It's more convenient this way. I can get the stuff done on my own time, and I don't have to drive," Sandoval said."
For those in truly remote areas, some programs can still be completed through mail instead of the internet.
Jun 30th, 2008
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Jason Reekie
When used correctly, online class message boards and forums can be a huge asset. Virtual communication allows students to connect with each other, explore the subject in greater depth, and get feedback on their thoughts.
A recent Campus Technology piece explains the importance of discussions in online learning:
"Conversation has always been at the heart of all learning. Print and books, over the past 500 years, made "conversation" extendable in time and space and built the current world. Now, digital capabilities have taken the Quotation marks away from the word conversation. In this Web 2.0 era, past the print-digital tipping point, we don't have to pretend to have an academic conversation any more ("I'll write a book, you write a review, we'll talk at a conference, you pass it on to your students, and then you write a book . . ."), we can actually have a real conversation with our students."
The author suggests that student conversation be graded based on four factors: the cohesion element (the connection between a post and the larger discussion), awareness of audience, purpose, and diction (word choice). I find that grading online conversations sometimes leads students to write rigid book-like posts. However, if students are taught virtual communication skills and put in an engaging environment, this strategy may be successful.
Jun 30th, 2008
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Izvorinka Jankovic
A recent study from Northwestern University found that men are more likely than women to share their creative work on the internet – even though both sexes are engaging in the same rate of creative activity.
Northwestern University NewsCenter reports:
"Because sharing information on the Internet today is a form of participating in public culture and contributing to public discourse, that tells us men's voices are being disproportionately heard," says Eszter Hargittai, assistant professor of communication studies at Northwestern University. Hargittai co-authored the study with Northwestern researcher Gina Walejko.
Overall, almost two-thirds of men reported posting their work online while only half of women reported doing so. When Hargittai and Northwestern's Walejko controlled for self-reported digital Literacy and Web know-how, however, they found that men and women actually posted their material about equally.
"This suggests that the Internet is not an equal playing field for men and women since those with more online abilities – whether perceived or actual – are more likely to contribute online content," says Hargittai."
The solution to this problem may be providing women with more technical training. When they feel comfortable with online technologies, the playing field will be leveled.
Jun 30th, 2008
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Image# 5271774
Copyright laws may encourage innovation, but they also make it difficult for students to access the materials they need. A recent Innovative article explains:
"In the past, copyright and education have evolved together in response to technological advances from the book to the videocassette, and copyright law has been designed to allow educators to use a wide range of media with their students. Stephen Marshall describes how digital communication technologies threaten these accommodations, not as a direct consequence of the technology itself or even of copyright law but rather as a result of the growing prevalence of control technologies aimed at extracting profits from every conceivable use of information. Marshall argues for a rethinking of copyright in the face of Web 2.0 technologies that do not fit into traditional conceptualizations of copyright and suggests that, if educators do not speak up, copyright law will be taken over by corporate forces interested only in profit, to the detriment of educational uses of media."
This can be a touchy subject. But, I believe it is possible to create copyright laws that benefit everyone – including the content creator, the publisher, the teacher, and the student.
Jun 26th, 2008
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Arpad Nagy-Bagoly
A new study shows that half of all college students are now using e-books. Wired Campus reports:
"Of 6,452 students worldwide who responded to the survey, 3,132, or 49 percent, said they never use e-books. The remaining 51 percent use e-books less than one hour to more than 10 hours per week. The survey was conducted by Ebrary, a company that provides electronic content and technology to libraries, publishers, and other businesses."
According to Wired Campus, the survey shows that we have a long way to go. However, I think it also shows that we have come a long way. Only recently have usable, convenient e-book readers been developed. As this technology improves and more textbook providers choose to offer their curriculum virtually, I believe the number of e-book readers will increase.
Jun 25th, 2008
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Image# 5662949
According to one professor, online colleges are not embracing the web 2.0 technology that has made websites such as Facebook and Twitter popular. Ars Technica reports:
"Weller argues that the online communities fostered under the Web 2.0 umbrella perform a largely parallel function, in that they foster groups with common interest and link them to relevant materials. They don't fully replace the university experience, as these communities tend to have experts that are self-appointed, but Weller argues that the parallels between the two can't help but influence the expectations of students that have been raised in a Web 2.0 world.
Those expectations are nowhere close to being met by the education community. Weller notes that the software systems that many universities deploy have strict permissions limits that leave the posting of materials and launching of discussions strictly in the hands of the professors. "Why will they [students] accept standardized, unintuitive, clumsy and out of date tools in formal education they are paying for?" he asks. If the students can't meet their expectations through these systems, the students will just ignore them and start their own Facebook community; Weller paints a picture of university systems with "digital tumbleweed blowing down their forums."
This seemed to hold true in the last online course I took. The students were permitted to post in the message boards, but few chose to participate in this way. Hopefully online colleges will be able to adapt the best aspects of web 2.0 in their future course designs.
Jun 23rd, 2008
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, Chris Schmidt
One aspect to consider when choosing an online college is the school's required testing. Each virtual college has its own test taking policies and procedures. My latest About.com article discusses several types of online college test taking. Here's a blurb:
"Whether you thrive under pressure or prefer to learn in a low-key environment, it's important to find a college that meets your test-taking needs. Some online colleges require students to prove their knowledge by completing timed, high stakes exams. Others allow students to take tests at their own pace or prove their ability through alternative methods."
Check out the full article to learn more about the test taking options available from online colleges.
If you know what to expect ahead of time, you won't be stuck searching for a proctor or booking flights for on-campus exams.