NAWeb 03
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
  The NAWeb Site of the Year award was won by the Media Awareness Network...

Other Finalists:

Nursing Math Calculations Tutorial

Stephen's Web

The Link

The Learning Commons Web Site

-- Stephen Downes 
Monday, October 20, 2003
  Murry Goldberg (developer of WebCT) - Silicon Chalk

This is a very exciting time to be teaching - more has changed in the last 4 or 7 years than in the previous thousand. This has been enabled mostly by new technology. We are at a turning point, one that will be remembered - 500 years from now people will look back and say this was the point. And while we've seen a lot of change, we're just at the beginning.

Look at the past: learning was charaterized by excellence, fear and reluctance. A lot of things were promised by EdTech - some said it would cure every evil, others said it would cause every evil. There's a Kenny Keener and Donny Dour at every institution. Eg., Donny Dour would warn that technology makes everyone obsolete. But Kenny Keener says we have more PD time instead. The upshot: successful technology makes teachers more visible, able to communicate better.

Other issues... the time new technology takes, the costs of new technology, imappropriate use of technology...

So where are we now? There have been many successes, includinG:

- the proliferaqtion of educational technologies - 10,000,000 students, at 2600+ institutions. In North America, more than 80 percent of institutions use a CMS. And they are beginning to standardize. Faculty have come to rely on these systems. At the U of A - the world's largest online learning implementation - they are still seeing a 50 percent increase in students, year over year. CMS systems are now being seen as mission critical.

- People are talking more and more about technology. 'Integrating technology' has become the top IT issue. As of 2002 there were 22 national publications devoted to educational technology issues. 360 ed. tech conferences, according to T.H.E website. Compare to 1995, when there was one conference.

- We are seeing real results... we've seen the addition of technology improve learning outcomes, increase inclusivity, improve community, improve experience and satisfaction, and improve access.

Look at some of the other technologies. A big one: wireless access. In 2003, 50 percent of all laptops have integrated wireless. There is wireless at 80 percent of all institutions. Another big one: mobile computing. As prices come down, more people are using laptops. As of 2002, about half of all student computer purchases were laptops.

The future, then, will be chatacterized by: little fear, ubiquity, and excitement. You will not distinguish between enhanced courses and non-enhanced courses. There's a ton of possibilities here.

The distance future: telepresence. Eg., you could feel like you were in your class while in your living room (why someone would choose a class of all places, I don't know - SD). Some examples: NIME (5 sided room). TTRG - remote controlled camera demo.

There are many opportu nities. Networks are increasingly used for collaboration. Why can't we apply that to education - why can't we create a targeted community and collaboration? Remote students would be able to follow and be full contributors. The notion of distance vs presence would begin to fade.

What will this mean? IT will be everywhere - it will be ubiquitous. For the first time, students will have access to networked mobile devices. This is going to drive ed tech into a previously impossible direction: into the classroom. We are at a turning point - in the years ahead it will be unthinkable to enter an educational experience without some sort of computer.

For the classroom, this means that the definition changes: it is no longer 4 walls and chairs, it's wherever the interactions occur. Classroom will feature improved presentation, communication, collaboration and feedback mechanisms. They will make complete recordings of themselves. And remote participants will be common.

What is this all about? It's about learning, not technology. It's about how we use these tools to improve learning.

And look at what we now know. We know that technology improves access. It improves learning. And therefore, you will agree, that your efforts with appropriate technology will produce better scientists, doctors, lawyers, tecahers. It will create permanent social changes on a global scale.

-- Stephen Downes
 
  Developing Online From Simplicity toward Complexity - The web is, as numerous commentators have pointed out, non-linear in design. But most courses are taught in a linear manner. This creates an incongruity, but at the same time, suggests the non-linear design of online courses. The theoretical basis behind this kind of course design, argues the author, Renata Phelps, may be found in complexity theory. "Curriculum, he (Iannone) states, should be flexible, open, disruptive, uncertain and unpredictable and should accept tension, anxiety and problem creating as the norm." The second half of the paper described a course designed according to this model. "Students thus had to be more active in ‘picking and choosing’ their learning approaches. They had more choice about what they learnt, but more importantly, how they learnt it. Students would be encouraged to jump from activities to facts or skills as required. Students were encouraged to identify their own goals; goals that were challenging for them personally." Great stuff - and the non-linear PowerPoint presentation used to present the talk at NAWeb was a refreshing change, something I will adopt for future talks.

-- Stephen Downes 
  Connie K. Varnhagen, U of Alberta, did a session on The Great Canadian Psychology Web Site this morning, which I had the pleasure of attending.

This project demonstrates the value of collaboration and how publishers can be brought into an "open source" style project. Thank you to Connie for sharing the story. One question I have, and I hope to ask Connie before the end of the conference, is the importance of a project champion. It appears that this project enjoys the benefits of her energy, creativity, and dedication. Would it be fair to say that any such project requires this kind of champion? If so, then what happens long term, when the champion needs to move along?

Thank you,

Bernadette :-) 
  Howdy!

Bernadette, I don't really know much about leadership and organizations but I totally agree that a champion or promoter is really important in a successful collaboration. In my experience, collaborators tend to fall away if not motivated. We all have a wholeot of other responsibilities and developing, implementing, and evaluating learning resources for our students is not high on anyone's list of priorities -- particulalry since faculty (at research-based universities) don't tend to get much credit for work on teaching. I'm passionate about our work and supporting Alberta Teachers of Psychology (AToP) and that seems to drive our collaboration. We're now a tight network but if someone didn't keep us together, we'd probably fizzle out -- especially once the $ dries up. I don't plan on dropping out yet but I don't want our group to die so I'd be sure to make sure another champion would take over.

What are others' experiences with collaborative projects?

Thanks for attending and your question. This is a good conference and thanks to Stephen for starting the blog.

Connie 
  Connie K. Varnhagen, U of Alberta, did a session on The Great Canadian Psychology Web Site this morning, which I had the pleasure of attending.

This project demonstrates the value of collaboration and how publishers can be brought into an "open source" style project. Thank you to Connie for sharing the story. One question I have, and I hope to ask Connie before the end of the conference, is the importance of a project champion. It appears that this project enjoys the benefits of her energy, creativity, and dedication. Would it be fair to say that any such project requires this kind of champion? If so, then what happens long term, when the champion needs to move along?

Thank you,

Bernadette :-) 
  Connie K. Varnhagen, U of Alberta, did a session on The Great Canadian Psychology Web Site this morning, which I had the pleasure of attending.

This project demonstrates the value of collaboration and how publishers can be brought into an "open source" style project. Thank you to Connie for sharing the story. One question I have, and I hope to ask Connie before the end of the conference, is the importance of a project champion. It appears that this project enjoys the benefits of her energy, creativity, and dedication. Would it be fair to say that any such project requires this kind of champion? If so, then what happens long term, when the champion needs to move along?

Thank you,

Bernadette :-) 
  The Whole Equals Much More than The Sum of Its Parts Nice paper delivered today by Connie K. Varnhagen at NAWeb describing the collaborative process involved in the launch of the Alberta Teachers of Psychology (AToP) and plans for the Great Canadian Psychology Web Site. Though it comes out less in the paper than in the presentation, the project has been successful in enlisting the support of publishers to provide content.

-- Stephen Downes 
  Connie K. Varnhagen, U of Alberta, did a session on The Great Canadian Psychology Web Site this morning, which I had the pleasure of attending.

This project demonstrates the value of collaboration and how publishers can be brought into an "open source" style project. Thank you to Connie for sharing the story. One question I have, and I hope to ask Connie before the end of the conference, is the importance of a project champion. It appears that this project enjoys the benefits of her energy, creativity, and dedication. Would it be fair to say that any such project requires this kind of champion? If so, then what happens long term, when the champion needs to move along?

Thank you,

Bernadette :-) 
  Connie K. Varnhagen, U of Alberta, did a session on The Great Canadian Psychology Web Site this morning, which I had the pleasure of attending.

This project demonstrates the value of collaboration and how publishers can be brought into an "open source" style project. Thank you to Connie for sharing the story. One question I have, and I hope to ask Connie before the end of the conference, is the importance of a project champion. It appears that this project enjoys the benefits of her energy, creativity, and dedication. Would it be fair to say that any such project requires this kind of champion? If so, then what happens long term, when the champion needs to move along?

Thank you,

Bernadette :-) 
Sunday, October 19, 2003
  Howard Strauss - We All Have Our Courses Online, Now What?

Once you get all your courses online, you'll discover... you've just started.

Admin - IT spends too much money, we don't need courses online. Faculty - learning is personal, it worked wekk enough before. Students, though - if it isn't on the web, it doesn't exist (we needed to put a coffee shop in the Library to get people in the building). IT view - we're too busy.

Pressures to get courses online: other universities are doing it. Fear of losing the best students. IT wanted to be on the leading edge. A few faculty became early adopters.

But was it good pedagogy? Some evidence that online content helped, but a lot of it was not. Students were helped, though, when they learned by doing. Learning at your own pace, previewing, reviewing material - all seemed like good outcomes of online content.

Most learning does not occur in a classroom. Most learining occurs when the student leaves the classroom. We give them some tools, and they go away and practice. Learning online needs to do this, to give them 'learning karma' - an intuition, not just recall.

One approach: teach faculty HTML. Faculty view: it's too hard, make it easier. IT view: my dog could code HTML. The real question: is it a good use of faculty time to learn HTML? Even if they do learn, how well are they going to know it? Faculty that did learn it created some good sites, but also "pathologically bad" examples of coding. Dull handouts, it turns out, became dull websites.

Another approach: technology specialists. Cost per course shockingly high - $US 140,000.
- and would take 250 years to do all the courses. So - it doesn't scale. But it creates some supurb examples. So it's worth doing, for at least that. But we had to find another approach for most courses.

Next approach - APL (academic production line). Web-based, very easy to use, specific to courses. It was a disaster - the only way to make it simple to use, you could only generate the simplest of web pages. Faculty beseiged IT to make enhancements. So APL became complicated - and faculty had to be trained. In the long run, this caused us more work.

Next try: course management systems. "You bring this thing in and without any effort, faculty will produce wonderful courses online at the press of a button... and in the beginning, it was even cheap." You'll have quizzes, exams, forums... the portal version will be here any day now.

Several systems were installed, faculty were invitied to try them, and vote, and they selected Blackboard. A marketing campaign ensued and everybody learned about it. Faculty then said, we want 1-on-1 training. But not IT people. IT trained grad students, students taught professors.

Early results: it was a lot harder to add content than we thought. In two years, only 20 percent of courses were online (and we no longer believed the course management salespeople). Worse, many of the 'online courses' were little more than basic syllabi.

So what went wrong? A CMS helps very little with course content - it provides a great communications infrastructure, but not much else. The quizzes and assignments are useful only for self-assessment. And most of all, most faculty will never get started using a CMS.

New CMS plan: put every course online. Capture data from registrar, update everything nightly, only allow faculty to opt out, and archive old courses. Every course would be there - at least for class lists and reading lists. The lesson: don't ask faculty to opt in. This prompted many more people to add documents, etc. But still, only 30 percent did anything, and very little was done overall.

Next try: portals. Turned out to be vaporware at first. Nobody knew what a portal was, but eventually a portal version of Blackboard arrived. Some unexpected results: It turns out portals are not just for courses - organizations start using them. Alums began to adopt Blackboard. And the MIS portal project uses Blackboard communication infrastructure, which is better than their own.

So now what?

Most of what's online on BB is not a course. But that's OK - the things that are courses are not courses either - just course documents. So we're back to: how do we get our courses online? I mean - how do we get good courses online?

So what do we do? We joined a peer-institution distance learning consortium, but we aren't really a distance learning institution, so we quit. We started a video course catalog, and made videos of some lectures. Also, we tried to adopt 'course catridges' - from publishers - but they were "completely inadequate." No simulations, too expensive, and were from only single textbooks.

The challenge: empower faculty. You can't have IT people develop courses. Faculty must be able to build good online course content themselves. IT involvement must be minimal.

HTML is too complex. What are the solutions? Frontpage, Dreamweaver, Flash - don't work. They are too complicated. We cannot ask faculty to learn them. MS-Word could solve the course content problem for text, including images, forms and references to multi-media content. But do faculty know MS Word?

If faculty knew Word, they could build much better web content and become responsible for their own content. But they are still producing text documents - and this is not the best pedagogy. What students need are simulations - and these are not easy to write (even for IT people). Some publishers have simulations - but they tie them to textbook purchases. And you can't modify the simulations. And they are very difficult to integrate.

How about learning objects, such as at MERLOT? Not so good - cannot be tailoired, difficult to use on *your* website, there no support, and there is no quality control. Many people are working on learning object libraries - many people talk about sharing objects, but few objects are ever shared. Learning objects are (in general) plagued by lack of standards and are difficult to modify. In practice - this has never happened.

So - the proposal: a multidisciplinary educational simulation archive. This would be a library of simulatioins built by a consortium of universities. They would have a common API. And they would be designed to be inserted into Word documents and other text processors. Faculty know email, they know browsers, and maybe they know Word - and that's it - we should not expect them to learn anything else.

We can and should build custom Rolls Royces. But we need a way to empower faculty to build the Toyota Camrys - not custom made, but fine, reliable works.

-- Stephen Downes




 
  Hi Stephen,

please accept the warmest greetings from the Dutch participants present ;-)

please use the last 10 minutes for unexpected COOL STUFF

CU, Bob 
  This is an entry being types during my preconference session. 
Saturday, October 18, 2003
  Yes, folks, it's another NAWeb blog! 
Coverage of the NAWeb 03 conference

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10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 /


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