Posts I will get around to reading as soon as I have space to breathe…

99%’s Best of 2011 Posts

Also their 10 Books to Gift the Geeky Creative. I might look their for my own Christmas present from eldest son.

Also their How to Adapt to New Job Responsibilities:

Spending more time on these activities could lead to a significant increase in the benefits you receive.

Casting Out 9s Experiments in Digital Grading
He ends with:

So I continue to experiment with digital grading because it has a lot of benefits over old-fashioned paper grading. The one thing I have not figured out is how to make tests digital. We can make assessments on Blackboard that can be taken and graded online, but (1) I don’t like locking in my assessments in to a proprietary format, (2) Blackboard doesn’t do mathematical notation well, and (3) I’m not a fan of CMS’s generally. So for now the tests and final exams are still on paper.

Blogging Your Research is Not a Recipe for Disaster

If we agree that science writing is valuable to society, scientists should share the same responsibility as journalists to provide comment and information in a clear and balanced way. Despite some examples to the contrary, there’s an awful lot of science writing on the web – about established results, preliminary findings or work in progress – that aims to do just that. The widespread coverage of the Opera neutrino results, much of which was excellent, is a great recent example. But it’s important not to ignore the exceptions, and figure out how to deal with them.

The view that scientists who write about their work online are somehow trying to subvert the scientific process is unfairly narrow. The web offers great potential for a rich and vibrant scientific debate reaching beyond the research community. We should work towards maximising that potential rather than rein it in.

Kate Clancy’s The Place of Science Blogging in Academia
Obviously I’m not in science, but I figure at least some of this must apply to us in the Humanities as well.

The Many Problems of Online Education:

Students already have access to great books, complete libraries, masterpieces of art, and classical music online, but for the overwhelming majority technology is used and valued for entertainment and social networking. All the information available at their fingertips is worthless if they lack judgment and the ability to use it appropriately. And there is no evidence that online instruction is changing students’ behavior.

Academhack’s Thoughts on Emerging Media and Higher Education. It’s from back in 2010, but may still be relevant.

Let’s be honest, at any given session you are lucky if you get over 50 people, assuming the panel at which the paper was read was well attended maybe 100 people actually heard the paper given. But, the real influence of Brian’s paper can’t be measured this way. The real influence should be measured by how many people read his paper, who didn’t attend the MLA. According to Brian, views to his blog jumped 200-300% in the two days following his post; even being conservative one could guess that over 2000 people performed more than a cursory glance at his paper (the numbers here are fuzzy and hard to track but I certainly think this is in the neighborhood). And Brian tells me that in total since the convention he is probably close to 5,000 views. 5000 people, that is half the size of the convention.

I’ve been reading and writing about generational poverty in the classroom for years. I grew up in poverty, though my parents had not been in poverty (as generational poverty is defined). So I read Joanne Jacobs’ title with interest: Poverty Isn’t Just About Money

Online Teaching: What is Unique?

Larry C on the Chronicle’s fora said:

1. Retesting or allowing students to take a test multiple times. Especially in classes where I ahve a large bank of questions, I can set up a quiz where students may take the quiz as many times as I will allow them and keep the last grade. The way I implement this is to allow students to take a quiz twice within 3 or 4 days. If they don’t like their grade they may retake, but will get mostly or all new questions. So I tell them there is no point in retaking unless you study some more. And it is almost no effort on my part to set the quizzes up this way.

2. Show and Tell forum. For my field, history, there is so much amazing web content. I set up a forum to allow students to share whatever they have found that ties into the weeks lessons. This includes history in the news. Not everyone participates but many students love this feature.

3. Related to #1, testing and retesting over the course syllabus. I have a 20 question quiz that is basically the top 20 things students miss or find confusing about the course (because they do not read the syllabus). I put it up the first week and students may retake it until they get 100%. They love the free points, and I love teaching a class where every single student has read and understands the syllabus.

4. Rich content. Students lose my lectures but gain web exhibits, primary source databases, popular and academic history articles, podcasts, vidcasts, and blogs relevant to the course. They hardly miss me at all…

flash-thumb-drives-green-brownRelated to number 1, being able to give the “same” quiz to different people at the same time and the answers (and the questions) can still change. I used a bank of 200 questions for a 50 question exam. It made me worry a lot less about cheating on it.

Zuzu had this to say in the same thread:

When I create discussion prompts, I love that I can embed links to online dictionaries of literary terms. For example, I just created a prompt that included the work “episodic.” Now, I am guessing maybe half of the students wouldn’t really know that term, but I am guessing about half would know it.

In a live class discussion, I can a.) not use the word OR b.) take time to define and explain the term.

Online, I can just embed a hyperlink in the word “episodic,” and whoever needs a definition can just quickly pop open a new window.

I wish I could do that with my students’ textbooks. I’m sure that soon that will be possible.

A Texas “U of Phoenix?”

The Chronicle has a blog post that mentions that at least some of the legislature is considering starting Texas’ own University-of-Phoenix equivalent.

“If the University of Phoenix can be successful” providing online programs, “the question needs to be asked: Can the public sector do the same?” said Bernie Francis, a member of the committee of education and business leaders…

I guess they don’t realize that our community colleges are already getting online students. Some of them are taking half their credits needed for an associate’s online.

It doesn’t seem that we want to create an institution that competes with our own colleges.

Forcing Online Education?

The Chronicle has a blog post about the Texas legislature thinking about requiring 10% of classes be taken online.

The proposal is one of several online-learning ideas in a new draft report prepared in response to Gov. Rick Perry’s call for higher-education cost-savings recommendations.

Okay, that makes some sense. Online courses don’t require the same level of overhead that physical facilities do.

BUT I’m wondering about those who are not conversant with technology. What is a student who does not own a computer going to do? Go to the library to take the course? Or, even more likely, go to the campus to take the course online at the computer lab?

That seems a little odd to me.

The article tells of other odd ideas perking in the legislaturists’ heads as well.

Who will make a C or better?

Inside Higher Ed has an interesting article, The New Diagnostics:

Rio Salado uses more than two dozen metrics during that first week to predict how well that student stands to fare over the entire course, but some of the most effective are the most basic: Has the student logged into the course home page during that first week? Did she log in prior to the first day of class? Other predictive metrics, such as whether a student is taking other classes at the same time, whether she has been successful in previous courses, and whether she is retaking the course, are culled from the college’s student information system.

So, they can tell which of my students are going to make it? I can see that as a very useful rubric.

I am also proud of my alma mater,

Purdue University, which has run similar predictive modeling program since 2006, and does keep students in the loop. At an “actionable analytics” symposium last month, John Campbell, the associate vice president of Purdue’s advanced computing center, said the “at-risk” students generally took that information as either a motivational kick in the rear or were prompted to quickly drop the class — and were grateful in any case. A double-blind study conducted during the first two years of the Purdue’s program, called Signals, revealed that 67 percent of students who learned they were in the middle- or high-risk categories were able to improve their grades.

Go read the whole article. It is very good.

Teaching Online for the First Time

line-drawing-computer-studentTeaching online is an adventure.

I decided I wanted to teach online this semester in December. (Bad plan.) I had the training, but I hadn’t really played around with the software. Then the teaching session I was going to go to for two days was canceled. And I had plans for work (scholarship, research, conferences) for the break and didn’t have a lot of time to set up the class.

I did get two days of training, about a week before school was scheduled to start.

And I did get the course mostly set up by the first day.

This week, though, I discovered that on one quiz I put all the questions in one answer. So if they didn’t get 100%, they got a 0%. That wasn’t what I meant to do, so now I have to go grade those manually. (Which reminds me, I need to go see if there are other things I need to grade manually that I haven’t yet.)

Then I decided I should go through and look at what we are doing for the rest of the semester, since I really don’t remember. That is when I realized I didn’t finish the last two weeks of the class.

Oops. So I’ll be grading some forums, grading an essay, and writing the content for the last two weeks of class this weekend.

Saga of Online Teaching 8

Have you ever done something foolish and not realized it?

That’s what I did.

red-computer-keysWhen I set up the introduction to the course I did not set it up to track the viewers. So when I hit reports, there were none.

I worked through Automate to put up reminders that the students should access that course material, but I found that what I wanted to do I couldn’t, so I stopped. However, when I went back to look at the introduction to the course, that’s when I realized I had disabled the Track function.

So I didn’t really know whether they had looked at the material or not.

That’s something to make sure I check for each folder in the future.

By the end of the first week (not the full class week) I had 13 of my 20 registered students log into the course. If the other 7 didn’t log in by the end of the full class week, they would be dropped.

Saga of Online Teaching 7

I became a pioneer.

I was the first participant (from the participant side) in a webinar through my school. Since we have 50,000 students and a very large high-tech capacity, that’s pretty amazing.

It was an online course about how to teach online.

Most of the things they were teaching I already knew and I didn’t get around to asking my questions, but… I learned some and was able to participate in something new.

Through the course I was able to find out that we have online help 12 hours a day 5 days a week for online teaching questions. That was useful.

I also found out that there are tutorials online. (I had looked for them, but in all the wrong places.)

So, I was slowly making progress with my learning and education, as my class unfolded.

One thing was very clear. If there wasn’t a grade attached to it, no one would do it. So my students totally skipped the email etiquette presentation.

At this webinar I did find out how to let them know I had noticed that. That was very useful.

Saga of Online Teaching 6

I finished the class. I had all the folders up. I had all the assignments in the folders up. I even had pictures on some of the assignments and folders. I created a class.

It’s a class I am proud of and one that I think will work out well for my students.

The class started off with a bang. Four women posted the first day, practically the first hour the class was open.

I’ve looked and seen that many people went to the assignment, but few went to the introduction. Maybe I’ll have to give a quiz on that next time.

And it had its glitches. First, I wrote a six paragraph post and it disappeared into thin air. I’m sure that will happen to the students too.

And I still wasn’t sure how to do grades… Plus, there were no classes for teachers scheduled yet for this semester.

I took great solace in the fact that it was up and looked good though. Even if I had to grade everything individually and by hand.

Saga of Online Teaching, 5

The school offered two eight-hour days of online one-on-one teaching. I stayed for six hours the first day and put three weeks’ worth of my class online. Very helpful. There was an amazingly helpful online course creator there.

The second day, I stayed for three hours. I found out how to put up the electronic versions of my exams up. I figured out how to upload my pictures into my course as well.

And I found out that the reason there is no model class is because they created one last year or the year before and the teachers freaked out because they thought it was going to be required to teach it as it was. (I was among the freaking, but I wasn’t very wave-making as an adjunct.)

What I didn’t know how to do yet was use my gradebook.

That’s important, don’t you think?