Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I'm signing off for the holiday break. Wishing you all happy holidays, safe travels, and good luck for the new year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Save the Date: Universal Design for Learning Workshop

I'd like to call your attention to an event to be held this spring, organized by our own Laura Franklin and funded through a VCCS grant. It's a presentation by Jim Kain, an expert on universal design for instruction, titled, “Teaching Diverse Learners: Principles of Universal Design for Instruction.” In case you're not familiar with the concept, universal design is an approach to designing instruction so that it is flexible enough to meet the needs of students with many different learning styles. The more we can design our courses this way, the more easily our students will be able to succeed!

The event will be held on Friday, February 13. Save the date now and look for further information when we return to work for the spring semester.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Open Textbook Resources in MERLOT

Our resident MERLOT expert, Laura Franklin, recently alerted me to a new collection of open textbook materials available on MERLOT. All the 134 sites listed are currently under consideration to become part of the Community College Open Textbook Project of the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources. Some of the things posted here are from Wikipedia, and I'm not quite sure why those types of resources are included, but there are also very detailed websites created by individual scholars that you might find useful for your courses. The sites address a wide range of topics, from US History to Oceanography, Calculus to Art History, Engineering to First Aid to Chinese History. If you're looking for new materials, you might want to check it out.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Digital Storytelling and QEPs

If you don’t know what a QEP is, you will very soon, as NOVA is about to launch into our SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools—our accrediting body) reaffirmation process, which includes identifying an area we wish to focus on improving over the coming 10 years at our college. This area of focus, and our plan on how to address it, is our QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan), and we’ll all be asked in the coming spring term to be a part of the process of deciding what NOVA’s QEP should focus on.

I’ve just returned from the SACS annual conference, where many of the sessions were presentations of the results from other colleges’ QEP efforts. The most interesting one I saw was from a North Carolina community college that had chosen to focus on student writing skills for their QEP. They worked to improve student writing skills by creating a Writing Center, using paired courses (like the learning communities we have in place at NOVA for our Achieving the Dream project), and, most interestingly, implementing a digital storytelling component in their English composition courses.

In the selected courses, students were required to complete a final project where they told a personal, cultural, historical, or social narrative in a 3-4 minute digital story (a video with photos, music, and script read by the student). The presenters provided strong preliminary evidence of how much the project increases student engagement, teaches strong writing skills (such as brevity, audience, and the drafting and revision process), improves students’ understanding of citing sources, increases technology skills and critical thinking abilities, and helps students gain self-confidence. It was a pretty impressive project! You might want to read more about their work and how they guide students through the process (maybe you’d even like to get your students working on projects like this!). It’s inspiring, and surely the type of engaging and challenging project we want our students to do.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

American Education in 2025

Apologies for my absence from the blog... I was at the SACS conference learning about the upcoming process of reaffirming our accreditation, and I neglected to set up some entries to post while I was away!

I just saw an interesting piece in Inside Higher Ed about a recent report by the College Board about how we could improve education by 2025 to keep the U.S. competitive. One of the key points was a goal for 55% of Americans aged 25-34 to hold at least an Associate's Degree by 2025. Reaching that goal would require a 1% increase every year--which means we at the community college have got our work cut out for us! It's one thing to bring students in, but it requires different sorts of work, attention, and student services to get that many more students each year to graduate with a credential.

And although the piece does not mention distance learning or other technology-based solutions, they will surely have to play a major role if we're going to meet this goal. Many of these students will be working and will need flexibility while they complete their courses. And, we simply don't have the classroom space to hold enough face-to-face classes for that many more students to complete degrees over the coming 17 years.

As always, it is an exciting and challenging time to be in higher education!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Getting a VERY early start on distance learning

I've posted here before about virtual high schools. Well, how about virtual kindergarten? Do any of you have little ones whose schools have a program like this?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Another Chance to be Certified as a VCCS Online Instructor

Some of you may remember that last summer, we ran a pilot course, along with several other VCCS colleges, to train faculty to be online instructors. The course has now been formalized as an 8-week credit course (EDU 295) which will be offered at NOVA in the second eight-weeks of the spring semester. If you are a relatively new ELI faculty member, this is the perfect way to hone your skills. If you are considering teaching for ELI or teaching online at another college, the course is also a great way to assess whether teaching online is right for you. It's an especially useful experience for any online teacher because as an online course itself, it gives you a taste of what your students experience.

If you're interested, you need to begin the registration process soon so that you can take advantage of free NOVA tuition. Contact Bob Loser (rloser@nvcc.edu), who will be one of the instructors for the course, for more information.