Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another repository of teaching materials

If you have ever used MERLOT, you know how useful a repository of learning materials can be to your teaching. Here's another one you may want to check out (thanks, Diane!): Teacher's Domain. The site links you to digital resources from public broadcasting and other media producers, organized by subject area. It's overtly pitched at a K-12 teacher, but the resources are things like clips from "All Things Considered" and other PBS radio programs, so they're really appropriate for our students as well. The resources also often provide background information, discussion questions, and other activities to help you plan your use of the materials.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Do You Recognize Yourself in This Piece?

I think a lot of us have fallen into the trap of spending more time policing our students than teaching them. What do you think of this article about that tension? How do you keep yourself from being too much police officer and too little teacher? Or do you disagree with the premise and think the police officer role is more important than the author suggests?

Monday, July 13, 2009

More from Obama

President Obama had an op-ed in the Washington Post this morning which included the following statement:

"We believe it's time to reform our community colleges so that they provide Americans of all ages a chance to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to compete for the jobs of the future. Our community colleges can serve as 21st-century job training centers, working with local businesses to help workers learn the skills they need to fill the jobs of the future. We can reallocate funding to help them modernize their facilities, increase the quality of online courses and ultimately meet the goal of graduating 5 million more Americans from community colleges by 2020."

Emphasis mine, of course--but take note! This quality improvement thing is clearly not going anywhere any time soon, and this year, ELI will be continuing to ask you to try new things--as we try new things here on the staff side--to help our students be successful.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Creating free online courses for the Obama administration

In his continued attention to ensuring all Americans have more than a high school education, with particular focus on community colleges, Obama and his administration have been working on an interesting initiative to get community colleges and high schools to create high quality, modular online courses that could be offered free.

I'll be interested to see how the initiative develops, but I must say I share the concern of the first poster--will these courses have active instructors, or will they be free-standing modules students can work through on their own? There is certainly a place for courses/learning modules available online for anyone to work through, but I think most of you will likely agree with me that the role of an instructor in leading the class and facilitating student learning (whether it's helping students stay motivated, answering questions, providing individualized feedback, or whatever) is essential to student success. It seems to me that there's an increasing demand from various quarters for "online education" that means, to the speaker, instructorless education--and in the vast majority of cases, I don't think that's the right direction for us to be headed.

What strikes you about the plan?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Study on Effectiveness of Online Learning

The Department of Education has just released a new report on the effectiveness of online learning. (You can find the whole report here, or read an article about the report and some reader commentary at Inside Higher Ed here.)

The report's basic finding is that online education is more effective in producing student learning than face-to-face education, and that blended learning (what we call hybrids) is the most effective of all. There are some interesting nuances in the report about why this is so, and about what types of online materials matter. For instance, activities like watching videos and taking quizzes online don't produce any greater learning than their comparison classes, but using technologies that allow students to interact, collaborate, and control their learning environment greatly improve student learning. (See? When we keep trying to push all of you to design your courses around student interaction, we really do have a reason! We are not making this stuff up!) Another interesting point in the research is that one reason students seem to be more successful in online and blended courses is that they spend more time on task--and I think all of us who teach online know that our courses do require much more active student engagement with the course materials than our face-to-face classes.

What else do you see of interest in the report?