Submitted by BNCAdmin on Thu,08/29/2013-08:48

Various forces in academe continue to besiege MOOCs before the new form of learning can establish a solid footing within higher education. The latest assault on MOOCs comes from a similar, yet different type of course: the distributed open collaborative course, or DOCC.

The DOCC shares similar features with the MOOC, including videos and course materials. However, its creators, FemTechNet, insist that the similarities end there.

The website of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education describes the DOCC as “a feminist rethinking of the MOOC.” DOCCs build upon a feminist pedagogical framework that privileges the individual agency of instructors and students in their local environment, while also allowing for voices to chime in globally.

Of course, marketing DOCCs as feminist MOOCs strongly implies that MOOCs have something patriarchal about them.

In her upcoming DOCC, “Dialogues in Feminism and Technology,” Anne Balsamo, the dean of the School of Media Studies at The New School, and her co-facilitator, Alexandra Juhasz, a professor of media studies at Pitzer College, set the tone for each week’s course in brief video segments. They then leave the rest of the instruction to professors.

In a statement made to Inside Higher Ed, Balsamo delivers an acerbic declaration of war against MOOCs:

“The idea of the one best talking head, the best expert in the world, that couldn't be more patriarchal,” Balsamo said. “That displays a hubris that is unthinkable from a feminist perspective.”

Juhasz has high hopes for DOCCs.

She said, “While these structures mirror my own feminist values and approaches, I imagine that most educators will be intrigued by this more democratic and responsive model for technology enhanced learning.”

The FemTechNet militia aims to incite a revolution when Dialogues in Feminism and Technology, the only DOCC thus far, hits classrooms this fall semester. Already, it has garnered support from instructors at a number of institutions. Students at universities including Brown, Penn State, and Rutgers can take the course for credit.

The DOCC isn’t likely to dent MOOCs, with more courses emerging every semester from stalwart forces including Blackboard and Coursera—but it will start a conversation.


Submitted by BNCAdmin on Tue,08/27/2013-14:22

It’s August, which means that for students and staff in higher education, a new school year is about to start. And though it may seem as though summer wasn’t long enough, education and technology companies have been hard at work releasing new products, ideas, and services all ready to help you in the classroom this fall. As faculty, here are the trends, sites, and solutions you absolutely need to know. 

  • Vittle is an increasingly popular app that helps you quickly draw and write your own videos to help you easily share ideas. Made to be used with the iPad, Vittle allows you to create HD videos as easily as if you were drawing on a whiteboard. You can then share these videos in classes, demonstrate an idea during group meetings, or create a visual library for your students to access at any time.
  • For students and faculty who have a hard time listening, taking notes, and participating at the same time, the Sky wifi smartpen may be of interest. It records everything from what you say to what you write, and hold 400 hours of audio from lectures, meetings, notes, and more. It will then wirelessly transfer your recorded notes and audio to an online account for playback on almost any device.
  • Join.me is an online meeting app with the ability to record, view,  and host up to 250 meeting participants (with a paying account), or up to 10 with free accounts. Its ease lies in its simple design, so whether you’re speaking with other classrooms around the world or tuning into a staff meeting, you’ll have an uninterrupted connection.
  • Yes, adults are addicted to social networking sites and online games too. Everyone procrastinates, but there’s not a moment to be wasted at the start of the year. Freedom is an app designed to lock you out of the net for a limited time so you can grade papers, attend meetings, and get work done. You could just force yourself to stop putting work off, but if you can’t avoid online distractions, this is an easy and affordable way to get things done.
  • University Pages is LinkedIn’s new high school-geared networking site. Though it doesn’t debut until next month, it’s causing quite a positive stir. Prospective students can not only interact with those at the school and find out necessary information, but can actually view special data to see where alumni work and live. Though University Pages is not available for every school quite yet, and may not directly affect faculty at the moment, we’re sure this new offshoot of Linked In will quickly become a key player in the higher education world.
  • If you’re already a tech-driven teacher, you may be teaching in a tablet-learning classroom already. But what exactly are your students doing—class work or games? LearnPad is a classroom management tool that allows educators to view and control student tablets.

These are just a few of the tools designed to help faculty, staff, and students alike in the ever-changing world of higher ed technology. It’s easy to feel lost in the constant storm of new products and promises, so we’ll keep trying to help you stay one step ahead of the game. 


Submitted by BNCAdmin on Mon,08/26/2013-10:56

In the foreground, massive open online courses have caused academe to enter into somewhat of an existential crisis. But even the startups that championed the MOOC model are now warming up to adaptive learning as the reception toward their original product turns chilly.

Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Udacity, said, “A medium where only self-motivated, Web-savvy people sign up, and the success rate is 10 percent, doesn't strike me quite yet as a solution to the problems of higher education.”

Adaptive learning ushers technology into the academic experience in a less polarizing way. Students still receive instruction from an instructor in a classroom environment, but they complete coursework and periodic assessments online. The platform adjusts to each student’s individual aptitude, slowing down or skipping past sections as necessary to encourage learning and maximize comprehension.

The practice resonates better with students than static textbook exercises, and the wealth and immediacy of student performance data go a long way for faculty. Adaptive learning can act as the first line of defense against failure by helping instructors pinpoint where each student needs help before the opportunity to cultivate understanding passes.

No one knows adaptive learning better than Knewton. Its intricate data infrastructure platform has elicited partnerships from some of education’s heavy hitters, including Macmillan, Triumph Learning, and Wiley. These alliances have resulted in products such as Pearson’s MyLab & Mastering programs, which alone are used annually by over 11 million students.

Knewton’s founder, Jose Ferreira, is bullish about the future of his company and the digital revolution in which it plays a part.

“Ultimately, all learning materials will be digital and they will all be adaptive,” Ferreira said. “We hope to enable them, and can’t wait to see the amazing things people create.”

Among other universities, Arizona State University and the University of Nevada Las Vegas have reaped the benefits of adaptive math courses, with ASU reporting an 11 percent increase in pass rates from prior semesters and UNLV noticing a 19 percent uptick from traditional pass rates.

Whereas other innovations look to steal the show despite their dubious track records, adaptive learning willingly shares top billing with instructors nationwide in order to bridge the gap between teaching and technology while boosting student success. 


Submitted by BNCAdmin on Wed,08/21/2013-11:38

Digital innovation is causing a ripple effect throughout higher education. Faculty members from presidents down ponder the future of their institutions and their teachings in a world populated by MOOCs, systems burdened by operational costs, and schools beleaguered by inadequate enrollment figures.

William G. Bowen, former president of Princeton University, recently asserted that online learning can reduce costs while keeping educational outcomes buoyant. That is, if faculty and administration will acquiesce to the torrent of advancements rapidly coming their way.

Regarding the decision academics face about whether to involve themselves in new approaches now, Bowen states, “it would be highly desirable if the academic community were seized of this issue and addressed it before ‘outsiders’ dictate their own solutions.”

Perhaps it is too late. A number of institutions have already committed to ready-made fixes from third-party organizations. In 2011, Arizona State University, in partnership with Knewton, furtively introduced computerized math courses for roughly 4,700 of its students.

Jennifer M. Morton, an assistant professor of philosophy at CUNY’s City College, suggests that standardization of education through MOOCs will rob underclass students of the chance to interact with their peers and pick up social cues that will assist them in the world that awaits them after graduation.

Morton portends the likely emergence of a caste system within higher education, saying, “The Ivies are not suggesting that their students rely on MOOCs; San Jose State and CUNY are.”

Inherent in this discussion is a pervasive uncertainty as to who stands at the helm of digital innovation in higher education. Some institutions have asserted definitively that they will arbitrate their own forays into the digital realm, while using offerings from upstarts as stopgaps. But, for the institutions that seem poised to embrace digital resources while overlooking faculty input, perhaps there is a chance to change course toward a manageable balance between instruction and Internet.

Image courtesy Savit Keawtavee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Submitted by BNCAdmin on Tue,08/13/2013-16:34

As they make their way into college, new students look to their professors as well as their technology to guide their experiences. Research into the matter has shown that college students are more likely to own Internet-capable devices and use the Internet than any other segment of the population.

In the past decade, laptops redefined the way students take notes and participate in their courses. Now, with the proliferation of transformational devices such as tablets and smartphones, students have the chance to mediate their studies through the wellspring of apps that have been developed to cater to their needs. Some of these apps allow professors to reach and engage with students, especially in larger classrooms.

Devices such as the iClicker have long been employed by professors in lecture halls to gauge students’ comprehension of course material and to collect other metrics. Now, a new iteration of the iClicker and competitors like Socrative operate on laptops and portable devices, and offer a wider range of functionality. Instead of asking multiple choice questions only, professors can present open-ended questions and gamify the session for an even more interactive course experience.

Thanks to YouTube and apps that allow professors to record lectures that students can view at their leisure, class time can be left open for engaging discussion and activities that advance course comprehension and peer interaction. This phenomenon, called flipping the classroom, removes the professor from the helm and demands much more responsibility and participation from students in order for the course to function smoothly and properly.

Students today maintain a close connection with their devices. With some schools giving away or requiring tablets and laptop computers, faculty now have a great opportunity to meet their students in the middle.


Submitted by BNCAdmin on Wed,08/07/2013-16:19

Prezi is the little-known presentation tool that has been converting PowerPoint users since 2009. While PowerPoint was always the go-to software for anyone giving a talk, educators, students, and businesspeople alike have been making the switch with gusto. Instead of boring listeners with writing, poorly inserted images, and hard-to-understand graphs, Prezi delivers ways to teach, entertain, and make information memorable with its seamlessly designed stream.

When thinking back to the best presentations, few ever believe that PowerPoint really delivered. As one higher ed writer pointed out, the most memorable talks done by TED presenters are not accompanied by a PowerPoint of bulleted lists, but rather photos or other imagery that illustrate a point or make an effect. Given that notion and aimed with creating a more engaging way to show information, the U.S.-based Prezi created a cloud-based software and storytelling tool designed for presenting ideas on a virtual canvas.

Despite millions of users and an ever-growing consumer base, few too faculty and students are aware of this helpful program. But from IT meetings to student presentations, the uses of Prezi in higher ed are nearly limitless. Think of dynamic, easy-to-insert animations that engage viewers while zooming into a visual story. Imagine easily embedding information including YouTube videos, links, photos, and more. Create colorful information streams that help viewers make associations between related concepts instead of seeing black type on a white background. All these and more, combined with an intuitive user interface, means beginners will only have a small learning curve. Easy customizations and flexibility mean that no two presentations need look anything alike. You’ll not only impress your viewers with a visual story, but the meaning behind your embedded presentation will have lasting impact. Prezi users can seamlessly display helpful cues into presentations, so simple reminder lists such as “Poisonous Plants” vs. “Edible Plants” can be printed on red and green traffic light graphics, respectively.

The many teaching and learning uses in higher ed give the Flash-based Prezi enormous potential. It is also web-based, meaning anyone can use it for free (users with a .edu email account get even more features) without worrying about updated version or hardware compatibility. Objects can be embedded and presented on a “canvas” rather than creating just text and pictures on repetitive slides. Users can be as creative as they like, and make presentations as simple or complex as called for. Prezi even has links on its own site with helpful tips on engaging users in the classroom. From preparing young music teachers and visually describing ecosystems to presenting to college boards and teaching online biology lectures, Prezi is the next amazing presentation tool.


Submitted by BNCAdmin on Tue,08/06/2013-09:53

The 21st century has ushered a host of innovation into the halls of colleges and universities across the nation. Students have warmed up to and embraced a number of these advancements, yet they still remain on the fence about virtual classrooms.

Though online courses give students latitude in terms of pacing and time management, nothing can make up for face-to-face interaction with professors and peers. A recent survey revealed that 78% of respondents felt that learning was easier in a classroom. However, this sentiment is unlikely to stop the proliferation of online courses and virtual campuses.

Virtual campuses manifest themselves in a number of ways. Not long ago, universities took “virtual” literally as they sought to recreate the on-campus experience online and use an online space as an answer to overcrowding. Virtual-reality programs such as Second Life are home to a number of institutions, even though the initial fervor has subsided amid disputes with Second Life’s proprietor, Linden Labs.

The potential of technology to address gaps in university resources or students’ attention spans has come into question before. The answer is never the same. Faculty once imagined that Facebook would allow them to connect with their student on a more visceral level. Concerns about impropriety have led most professors to eschew that social medium, with only 33% reporting that they use social media for instructional purposes.

Competition keeps any particular online environment from claiming preeminence, but universities’ widespread support of learning management systems has placed these systems at the forefront of digital education. Learning management systems such as Moodle, Sakai and Blackboard allow students to obtain coursework and interface with their peers and instructors through blogs, message boards and chat rooms.

Additionally, recent revelations such as Blackboard throwing its hat into the ring with MOOCs and competitors like Pearson signing deals to manage online degree programs offered by established universities, show that online learning is becoming more entrenched within and integrated into the higher education experience by the day.

Whether the virtual environments and digital education offerings of today will fall from grace like Second Life is anyone’s guess. The students and professors of tomorrow may yet warm up to the idea of online learning despite the format, especially if the educational quality remains constant even as the overall costs associated with the courses decrease.


Submitted by BNCAdmin on Fri,08/02/2013-11:11

To appeal to a generation of students very much influenced and shaped by games of all kinds, professors are trying out a concept called gamification. According to Knewton, gamification is defined as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts.”

Though the term ‘gamification’ is newly-minted, it describes a practice that has been in place throughout grade schools and many other institutions across the nation for some time now. The application of game elements to the curriculum in higher education has become a more salient proposition, owing to the convergence of technology with a generational inclination toward engaging and rewarding experiences.

Those who employ elements of gamification in their courses claim real benefits. Kaplan University recently announced that a pilot program at its School of Information Technology that integrated game and badge elements yielded higher grades by 9 percent and influenced 60 percent of participants to take on more difficult tasks in order to earn the correlating badges.

Dr. David DeHaven, dean of the School of Information Technology at Kaplan, said, “Our top priority is to provide students with the best learning experience using the latest tools. If the end result is more motivated students while achieving better outcomes, we say, ‘let the games begin.’”

We previously reported on Mozilla Open Badges, a service that allows individuals to earn and display badges for skills they learn online and in real life. That gamification platform fits into a larger framework of related entities. Badgeville is a platform utilized by Kaplan and Coursera, among businesses in various industries. And Veri is an online chat bot that allows users to learn by engaging with automated versions of knowledgeable people like Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The U.S. military effectively uses video games as a recruitment tool, and retail businesses recognize the benefits of rewards programs. Within higher education, researchers have reservations about gamifying the entire student experience. An EDUCAUSE report on gamification found that “gamification can be deceptively difficult to employ effectively,” citing examples such as the trivialization of subject matter and the negative effect of losing on students’ morale.

Despite this, 53 percent of respondents to a recent Pew Internet survey entitled “The Future of Gamification” believe that gamification will be a driving force in many fields by 2020, including education. The upward trend in mobile phone ownership and increasing interest in hybrid and online learning make that prediction a palpable reality.