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2012 July – CourseSmart
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Archive for July, 2012

Can It Be? Already?

July 26th, 2012 by CourseSmart

End of Summer

I walked into Target yesterday and was literally bombarded by signs announcing the end of summer. Pencils and backpacks had moved in to the real estate previously occupied by bathing suits, which now hung in sad disarray along a back wall marked “Clearance.”

I am no longer a student, which means that, at least theoretically, August should feel about the same as July: my daily routine will not change, the weather will only continue to get better, and there are no tests looming on the horizon. However, I stood in Target yesterday and mourned. Summer cannot be over, gosh darn it! I have not eaten enough hot dogs! I have not swum in enough pools! I have not found nearly enough excuses to wear my neon blue pants!

We at CourseSmart have been ramping up for the “Back-to-School” season for a while now, but Target has made the announcement official: our care-free sunshine days are numbered. This devastating blow is softened by only one thing: the arrival of pumpkin-flavored everything. Enjoy the rest of summer, readers, and get ready to hit the books!

CourseSmart is at Desire2Learn FUSION!

July 17th, 2012 by CourseSmart

D2L Fusion

I don’t think I have passed out this many stickers since a road trip I took two years ago with three kindergarteners. Desire2Learn is hosting its 9th Annual D2L FUSION Conference, and has set up an elaborate contest involving stickers, prizes, and pins. And lest you think the higher education community is too “mature” for such games, let me assure you that this group is so eager to gain points for their teams that they are literally knocking over tables to get stickers from me. I am frightened.

In all seriousness, though, the show so far has been spectacular. We couldn’t ask for a better setting than San Diego, and the hosts have been nothing but gracious. The keynote speech on Monday was given by Sal Khan, founder of the infamous Khan Academy. The caliber of speakers and sessions set up for the next few days is impressive to say the least.

CourseSmart, not surprisingly, is taking part in the conference. We have a booth in the exhibit hall (complete with not one, not two, but THREE different types of candy), and will be presenting alongside Ray Bertani, Director for the Center of Distributed Education at Chattanooga State Community College. If you happen to read this post before 3pm on July 17, rush to Room L3-308 for what promises to be an engaging and interactive presentation!

Reach and Adoption of Digital Course Materials in the Evolving Higher Education Space

July 9th, 2012 by CourseSmart

The Future of Education
Recently an article (oped) on CNN.com highlighted an education experiment conducted by Sebastian Thrun of Google fame. The experiment was essentially an attempt to provide very high quality higher education at a very low cost to a wide range of participating students. The course was a grad level artificial intelligence class taught at Stanford University that was delivered over the web for free and reached 160,000 ’students’ - including the 200 Stanford attendees. This model now used by Sebastian Thrun’s website Udacity.com, by way of online delivery, while not new (see Khan academy, Coursera, the MITx project, etc.) does underscore the ability to scale higher education to a much wider audience to include students that are unable to attend the institution for a myriad of reasons – such as the cost of enrollment.

Cost considerations are not limited to those that are traditionally required to enroll in a course but also to those that are required to ensure the student is armed with the appropriate materials to help them succeed in their courses – and here is where digital course materials provide value. While open educational resources are available and other online content that may be free is at a students disposal, they don’t always provide the level of quality pedagogy that is found in course content that is developed and put through the rigorous scholarly review and editorial process found in published higher education materials.

The move to digital course materials is also driven by the same attention to cost to the student where the digital versions are much lower cost and can scale to be available to an almost limitless number of users. Marrying the new and creative methods for delivering quality higher education to a much wider pool of students with digital course materials that can greatly (and arguably better) assist the learner in grasping content and promote better learning outcomes is something that definitely has a place in the evolving higher education space and CourseSmart is excited about taking a leadership role in this evolution.

Higher Education Faculty Members: Skeptical Innovators

July 1st, 2012 by CourseSmart

Faculty and Online Education, 2012

Faculty don’t dig online learning. So concludes the recently-published Inside Higher Ed article examining faculty attitudes about the quality of online learning. According to the Babson Survey Research Group, which conducted the surveys summarized in the article, a meager 6% of faculty members consider online learning outcomes to be superior to those achieved through face-to-face instruction.

Given the fact that my career depends almost entirely on faculty adoption of digital course materials, this is a troublesome statistic indeed. I suppose I should throw up my hands and move into a field with a more appreciative audience. However, I happen to quite like my job, so before I jump ship, I would like to reexamine the conclusions drawn by the study.

Maybe 6% isn’t so bad after all. Consider for a moment the history of that little device that we have all come to know and love: the iPad. In March of 2010, the world seemed to be humming along just fine. People toted around their behemoth six-pound personal computers, and waved off marketers’ attempts to interest them in the “tablet” models introduced by Microsoft in 2001. Despite bold predictions for immediate adoption, by 2007, only 1.2% of PC sales were from tablets.

Amusing skepticism dominated the press: Wired magazine quoted a reporter as saying, “My PDA annoys the hell out of me, but it fits in my pocket. I suspect the Tablet will annoy me just as much, and will also annoy me further when I have to lug its bulky butt around town.” And then, on April 3, 2010, Apple launched the iPad, and we all got on board.

Progress happens in fits and starts, and it is difficult to predict when the next revolution will occur. Before online learning becomes a truly accepted method of instruction, technology and training will need to make some serious headway. However, considering that only 1.2% of the population was interested in tablets before the iPad, 6% isn’t such a bad start for online learning, right?