Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scholarly communication must transform

In light of my last post on Publish or Perish: The Plague of Academia, I ran across a ten part series called "Scholarly Communication Must Transform," written by Gideon Burton, an Assistant Professor in the English department at one of my alma maters, Brigham Young University.  In this series, Gideon discusses his views on the subject.  Very interesting reads.

Here are his topics:

Enjoy!

Monday, February 22, 2010

POI Week 2 Responses

OK, here are the week 2 questions with my responses:


1.  How do you plan to design your online course to encourage free flow ideas and requests for clarification--discussion forums, email, chatrooms, team activities, other?

I generally make use the discussion boards for clarification.  I also generally set up a specific discussion board for clarification, and I will also set up one for general topics or off topics.  I call it the Student Union or Watercooler. I generally let the students handle the topics in there and let it be "their space."  I use synchronous chat for office hours.  I have it open at certain times and students can come in and ask questions as needed.  I use Facebook for the same thing.

2.  What thoughts do you have about timing access to different components of the lesson(s)--one-time dump, progressive access, access tied to specific assignments, allow students to work ahead or go back to catch up, other?

I've done both, and it generally depends on the content.  Some content lends itself to work-at-your-own-pace, and some doesn't.

So there you have it.  Nothing earth-shattering, but my opinions nonetheless.  I'm actually kind of bummed about how this course is going.  Not a whole lot of discussion going on, and everyone is waiting until the last minute to post and that makes it difficult for anyone to respond.

Yeah, you know what I'm talking about . . .

Publish or Perish: The plague of academia



Over the last couple of weeks, there has been some discussion online about the worth of peer review.  Is it valuable, or is it antiquated?  As an Assistant Professor who goes up for tenure next fall, allow me to contribute my two cents.

I guess the real question behind this whole publish or perish (which leads to peer review) comes back to the idea that if a university is going to grant tenure to a faculty member, they want to ensure that the faculty member is actively participating in their field and contributing meaningfully to the field's body of knowledge.

Do we have a problem there? Not me, I'm good.  I look forward to tenure and the security it affords me, so I can see it as a valuable right of passage for a faculty member.

Monday, February 15, 2010

(POI) Week one responses to me

See my previous post to see what my week one response was.

Here is what classmate N. responded:
I completely agree with you and I do not see why grading participation is so important. Obviously the ultimate goal is to teach the topics covered in a course effectively by enforcing critical thinking. As long as a student demonstrates that he/she has learned the topics introduced through his/her performace in exams and assignments why we should force an individual to participate in a discussion by assigning grades to participation.  I think having a forum to exchange ideas is helpful but a lot of people can learn without participating or  by passive participation (by just reading the posts that interests him/her) in a discussion group. My approach would be to provide all the learning tools available to the students and let them choose the most effective method themselves. As instructors our job is to measure the outcome.

To that, classmate J. responded:
I don't see that there are any secrets to the educational process.  Students must interact with certain amounts of information in order to make it their own.  Participation has been proven to improve the levels of comprehension and absorption for the kinds of things most graduate students are expected to learn in their programs.  Yes there are some things that we can learn the first time we see or hear them, but most things take time.  Maybe I miss the point of this discussion but some of this is the reason I think I will always prefer the face to face discussions for some subjects.

Here's what I wrote back:
The real issue is that the educational process is so variable.  We can design, design, design to get effective educational materials and activities for our instruction, but we still can't account for the variability in humans as learners.  We can design multiple entry points into the instruction (audio, video, verbal, etc.), but we'll still never hit all the learners.

As for your comment that "participation has been proven to improve the levels of comprehension and absorption for the kinds of things most graduate students are expected to learn in their programs," I'm gonna disagree with you on that, but it could just be semantics.

When I teach my instructional design courses, I spend an entire day discussing the question "what is the difference between information and instruction?"  Answers are all over the place.  Most instructors think they are providing instructional activities to their students, but in reality they are just disseminating information; they are regurgitating content.  The difference between information and instruction is the ability to practice.  Instruction will involve the ability for the learner to practice and receive feedback. Here is a link to a blog post I wrote on just that topic, with an example of what a grad student response to the question might be (mine from grad school is posted there).

If you take your quote and change it to "PRACTICE has been proven to improve the levels of comprehension and absorption for the kinds of things most graduate students are expected to learn in their programs", then I'd agree (thus my assertion that we just might be disagreeing on semantics.)  Otherwise, I think your comment is an overgeneralization.  Content is too variable.

I do agree with you that some content lends itself better for face to face instruction.  Even as an instructional designer and educational technologist, I don't think everything should be taught online.  It just doesn't work.  Once I was an instructional designer for an online college algebra class.  It was the hardest thing I've ever designed.  The technology we have today wasn't available, and it was a nightmare.  Now, with that said, online components and simulations can ENHANCE face to face instruction (as can be seen with this story about brain surgeons practicing on virtual brains), but I still want my doctors and pilots to have practiced and learned on someone else before I need their services.

So what do y'all think?

(POI) Week one questions

The book we are using is Teaching online: A practical guide, by Ko and Rossen.  Week one had us reading chapters one and two.  We then answered the following questions:


Question #1: How would you implement online discussions in your course?

Question #2: To help students become involved in an online course, what should be included in the syllabus to help guide the students toward active/successful participation?

Here is my (partial) response:
Well, before I get to my answers, I think it may help a little to give you my background so you'll have insight into how I got here.

I feel like a kid here at the university (I'm only 41), but all through grad school all of my research was in online learning.  As a master's student I was selected to design and teach the first fully online course in the state of Utah.  Also while a grad student I helped design the Syllabase online course delivery system (a precursor to products like D2L). I've probably either designed or taught almost 30 different online course during my career (I worked in faculty development at my last school--much like H. and K. here).  My Ph.D. is in instructional design--specifically focused in this area.  So if there is ANY WAY to screw up an online course, I'll be I've done it at least twice . . .. I put all this on the table because I find this stuff VERY interesting.  I'm taking the course here to help myself be better, and to hopefully share some of what I've learned.  So you can take all of this with a grain of salt, but here are my answers . . .

2) As I stated in my response to someone else, "participation" in an online course is a HORRIBLE criteria.  It's extremely difficult to measure effectively, and it's very subjective. Some will think they participated well, and other's simply won't care.  What you have to do is structure the assignments so that you take "participation" out of the equation when it comes to assessment.  Either they did the assignments, or they didn't.  There are plenty of ways to make sure that learners do this.  I'm not a fan of counting posts.  BOOOOO!  There are actually a lot of published rubrics that evaluate the content of a post rather than the number.  Think about it.  Would you rather have a student in your face to face class who talked constantly (online: posts all the time), or would you rather have one who inputs meaningfully into the discussion, even if it is only one comment?  I'll take meaningful discussion anytime.  The trick is not letting your students get away with meaningless posts.  I find when I teach online I spend a lot of time responding to students saying things like: "Do you really mean that?" or "Is that what you really want to say?"  See, students, if they think they can get away without having to back up their comments, will say anything.  In a f2f class, we'll question them and press them for follow up.  It's harder and more time consuming to do in an online format, but I'd argue it's almost MORE important to do.  So long story short (too late!) I never grade "participation" as a criteria.

As for what needs to be in the syllabus? DETAIL, DETAIL, DETAIL.  You have to spell it out, brother!

Preparing Online Instructors (POI)

So I've been feeling the need to get back to blogging.  It's been tough, though, as I go up for tenure this coming fall, and I've been focusing on getting my research published.  Actually, I guess I've been more "micro-blogging" on FaceBook.  But my heart has been here.  I know there is a lot being written about the future of blogs like this, but I'll be honest with you: while it is really inspiring to hear from people who read this blog (even--especially--when they don't agree with me), my intended audience here is me.

As I said, I go up for tenure this coming fall, and that brings with it extra pressure.  And last semester wasn't a good one.  Yes, I got three publications, but my teaching wasn't to the level I'm accustomed to.  And to make matters worse, while I research and design online instruction, they were all online courses, and I definitely didn't practice what I preach.  So I figured I needed to "sharpen my saw."  To do this, I enrolled in a course offered by the faculty development group here at Oklahoma State University. The title of the course? The title of this post: Preparing Online Instructors.

We're one week in, and I'm already feeling weird about taking the class.  There is quite a range in technological expertise amongst the students, and an even broader range about pedagogy.  To be honest, as an instructional designer and when it comes to online instruction, I feel that I'm more experienced than the instructors.  Now that's not a knock on them, I just think I've done more.  So as we've started discussions, I find I write a lot more detail--based on my experience--than the other learners.  I'm afraid I'm going to come off looking like the "know-it-all," and I don't want that.  But if you're going to ask me a question, you had better want my answer, because I'll give it to you.

I thought the course would be a good way to get back to blogging, so here's what I'm going to do.  As I participate in discussions, I'm going to post my responses here.  I don't really know why other than if I'm going to spend that much time writing, I'd like feedback on my ideas and thoughts from those within my field.  So feel free to comment.

One more thing, I'll never identify a classmate by name.  I'll use an initial.

Here we go . . .