Online Blogucation

Thoughts on the iPad in Education

You might not have to take a look at the search trends to guess that Internet search traffic for the iPad is on par with President Obama and LeBron James. Since the iPad’s launch on April 3rd, over 10,000 apps have been created for the device; that’s nearly 90 apps a day. And you can probably guess that there are already more than a few articles about the iPad in Education. But I have two observations that I think are worth putting out into educational cyberspace.

First, despite all the hullabaloo, the iPad is really not about the device. The beauty of the iPad’s design is that it’s a digital canvas that becomes and facilitates so many things. It’s a book, newspaper, game, compass, menu, recipe, calendar, calculator, communicator, encyclopedia, guitar tuner, sketch pad, research tool, conversion tool, star chart... It is what we want it to be; it is what we make it to be. The mindset is shifting from ‘this-is-what-a-device-can-do-for-you’ to ‘show-what-you-can-do-with-this-device.’ Apologies to JFK, but perhaps the best phase is: “Ask not what the iPad can do for you; ask what you can do with the iPad.”

Second, the iPad meets us where we are. Let’s face it, our lives are hybrid. We’re offline and we’re online and the line between the two has been blurred for a while. We live mobile lives and we don’t think twice about getting and receiving information day or night, no matter where we are. The days are (or soon to be) over when education is tied to location. It first moved from the campus/classroom to the home/library/coffee shop with the personal computer; now it’s moving from the computer’s location to me. Perhaps ironically, I think the iPad is to hardware as Google’s mission statement is to information. It’s a bold move in making the computer readily accessible to more people. It meets the young, the old, the savvy and the novice with ease.

iPad-like devices have just been born; we have definitely not yet seen the best of what they will be or will bring. But, to me, if one of the purposes of education is along the lines of ‘preparing younger generations for the future’, then iPads (and devices like it to come) facilitate the natural next steps from where we are today to education anywhere-anytime.

Luke Cable

Academic Trainer & Consultant

Pearson eCollege


Web 2.0 with a Purpose

Web 2.0 is a ubiquitous topic at conferences, in academic journals, blogs, and in the teacher’s lounge. Everyone is looking to get into the game but technology is often perceived to be a solution instead of a tactic to achieve a learning goal.

On July 4th, The Chronicle of Higher Education posted an interview with Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains and a 2008 article in the Atlantic Is Google Making Us Stupid? Carr has gotten attention for challenging the prevailing notion that the information age is inherently good. Carr’s writing reminds me of the work of Marc Prensky who writes about the differences between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants and suggests that our brain structure might be changing because of the way that we take in and process information.

In the Chronicle’s interview with Carr, his basic premise is that our constant access to technology dilutes our ability to focus and the tendency to multi-task actually reduces learning results. While I wouldn’t dispute most of Carr’s arguments I do believe that educators should challenge themselves to explore pedagogically sound integration of Web 2.0 technology into their classes for several reasons. Most importantly, because allowing students to actively participate in producing course content deepens the learning process and makes it more relevant to their lives. This tends to increase intrinsic motivation for learning because students feel like they own more of the experience.

While leading a conference recently at Virtual Educa 2010 in Santo Domingo I asked participants to self-select into a Web 2.0 app they wanted to explore for potential inclusion in the course they teach for the next academic term. Several participants were struggling to figure out which app group to join so I’d have to ask them about a need they were experiencing in their classrooms. This was an excellent way to get them to think about how technology could help fill a need or gap in the learning experience.

There are well over a thousand Web 2.0 apps that can be used to support a learning goal. Most are free which removes a significant barrier to adoption. Here are a few aggregation sites for review.

App Libraries

Map of the World 2.0

Map of the World 2.0

I challenge my workshop participants to first use an app in their personal lives for a month because we’re not likely to integrate technology into the curriculum if we’re not comfortable with it ourselves first. So go for it! Have some fun with technology this Summer and then try including it in your course this Fall. Let me know how it goes!

Parry, M. (2010). Linked In With: a Writer Who Questions the Wisdom of Teaching With Technology. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Brian McKay Epp | Academic Trainer & Consultant| Pearson eCollege


Teaching digital “natives”

We’ve all heard about the digital native / digital immigrant divide as initially proposed by Marc Prensky. However, we can’t make the assumption that because our students may be digital “natives,” then they must be instantly comfortable with all technology-related tasks we give them. Even when learners “do possess a good degree of computer literacy, they may not have ever used those skills for formal learning” (van Ameslvoort and Shiozaki, 2009, p. 24).

For example, a study by Kennedy and colleagues shows that while it is true that for traditional age college students, there is near universal access to certain tools (mobile phone, computer, email), there is variability in the tasks that students are doing with these tools. For example, over 50% of students responding hadn’t built or maintained a website, used RSS feeds, created a blog or commented on one, contributed to a wiki, or used their mobile phone to access services on the web, or send or receive email (although almost 80% sent text messages daily).

Helpser and Eynon considered different types of internet activities (including shopping, entertainment, fact checking, social networking, finance, and diary) undertaken by internet users of different ages. They discuss that while age / generational differences was a convenient initial idea for Prensky to propose, the reality is more complex than that. One needs to consider gender, education, experience, and breadth of use to explore variability in internet usage by task. It is most helpful to consider a “continuum of engagement instead of being a dichotomous divide between users and non-users” (p. 515).

So what’s an educator to do? A study reported by van Amelsvoort and Shiozaki discuss success factors in helping students become more proficient in the educational use of internet technologies. These factors include: requiring the regular use of the technologies in multiple courses, providing active instructor support and engagement through all stages, and allowing sufficient time for students to do the work. Fortunately, with a little planning these shouldn’t be that hard to carry out. So don’t make any assumptions about the level of technological proficiency your students have, and design your course or curriculum to help develop the skills your students will need to be successful.

– Gail E. Krovitz, Ph.D. –
Director of Academic Training & Consulting

Helpser, EJ and R Eynon. 2010. Digital natives: where is the evidence? British Educational Research Journal 36(3): 503-520.

Kennedy, GE, TS Judd, A Churchward, K Gray, K-L Krause. 2008. First year student’s experiences with technology: are they really digital natives? Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 24(1): 108-122.

van Amelsvoort, M and Y Shiozaki. 2009. Developing digital natives at a junior college in Japan. Proceedings of the Third International Wireless Ready Symposium. Accessed here:


Science and Science Labs in Online Environments

A good advocate of online learning will tell you that all content areas can be taught online; you just need to plan and adjust so that the activities done online are still as rich and compelling as they were face to face (F2F). So if I’m that science instructor wanting to move online with my biology course, where do I start?


Having attended the Sloan-C Blended Learning Conference and Workshop in April, I was able to attend sessions and network with colleagues who have been at that starting point of where do I begin? It seems like a great place to start is a blended or hybrid approach. When planning for a blended course, you decide what will work best F2F and what will work best online. This allows you to examine your content and evaluate each lab and activity to determine what is the best way to learn this concept?


If you are going fully online with your science lab course, you obviously will not have the luxury of deciding which labs you want to do F2F and which you want to do online. So plans need to be made for full online integration. From that perspective I think the best option is collaboration with colleagues. In addition to the contacts I made at the conference above, after further conversations outside of the conference I have a list of other science professors willing to talk to me about what they are doing.


So what if your institution doesn’t have the funds to send you to a variety of conferences (does any institution have the funds right now)? No problem! If you’re scrappy you can find the contacts you need to start the conversations. It is easy to find conference Websites online. Look around for the list of presentations or in the case of the conference above, look for the link to the presentations post conference. If you find someone who might have information you seek, contact that person. I tried it with two people and in addition to their insight, they provided me with names and email addresses of other colleagues as well. So a little digging and you’ll be able to build your own network of colleagues with whom you can collaborate and generate ideas for bringing your science course fully online based on what others have done.


If you are not that adventurous, the other option is to find listservs that focus on teaching science courses. The group of collaborators will already be assembled for you, waiting for you to ask your questions. Some great resources I found are listed below. Just sign up (sometimes the tricky part) and send your questions out or search the archives for previous posts.


Also, any of these resources or tactics will work for any content areas. If you are taking your curriculum online, find others who have gone ahead of you and build on their ideas and experience. You don’t have to do it alone.


ITeach Listservs – resource page for instructors associated with Minnesota State Colleges & Universities. There are a variety quality of sites and listservs for all content areas.

AdjunctNation – a comprehensive resource for adjunct professors of all curriculum areas

 Clemson University Biolab listserv – you have to dig a bit on this one; scroll down to the Visit header and click on BioLab. There are directions for joining the listserv which is described as: a great place to discuss college biology teaching with colleagues.  

Catalist – a fully comprehensive search engine for listservs. You can find a listserv on any topic you can dream up. It led me to the last one:

ISEN-ASTC-L - which links informal science professionals from around the world.

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- Pamela Kachka, M.A.Ed. –
Academic Trainer & Consultant



Will technology save my teaching?

What is the role of technology in online teaching? In other words, is it about teaching or about technology? We very strongly believe that the focus should always be about teaching, no matter how that teaching is being delivered. As we like to say, good teaching is good teaching. You need to apply the same principles whether you’re online or on ground.

I found support for that idea from an interesting source... Jim Collins’ book: Good to Great. Last fall I saw Jim Collins speak at Educause and I was intrigued by his research on what makes a successful company. In reading his book, Good to Great, there’s a chapter on technology and how people expect technology to make them successful. Jim’s argument is that technology alone can’t make you successful, and it is sound practices and “the pioneering application of carefully selected technologies” (Collins, p. 148) that contributes to success. Technology becomes the “accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it” (Collins, p. 152).

Here is his summary about the use of technology as an accelerator for greatness: “Technology Accelerators. Good to great companies think differently about the role of technology. They never use technology as the primary means of igniting a transformation. Yet, paradoxically, they are the pioneers in the application of carefully selected technologies. We learned that technology by itself is never a primary, root cause of either greatness or decline” (Collins, p. 13-14).

The same is true of success in online teaching. Being a successful online teacher is not about finding the newest technology, but it is instead about carefully applying that technology in a way that enhances student learning in the class. Used correctly, technology can help accelerate the momentum of a good teacher… whether online or on ground.

– Gail E. Krovitz, Ph.D. –

Director of Academic Training & Consulting

Collins, J. 2001. Good to Great: Why some companies make the leap… and others don’t. New York: Harper Business.


There must be 50 ways to tell a story

Do you want to get started with Web 2.0 tools or digital storytelling but don’t know where to begin? Maybe it doesn’t matter what tool you start with, as long as you just start somewhere.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s a neat website to introduce you to 50+ Web 2.0 tools to help with digital story telling. Alan Levine created an initial story about his dog Dominoe, and then decided to try telling the same story with a variety of Web 2.0 tools. The site gives a link to the 50+ Dominoe stories (actually up to 64 now) so you can see what the same story looks like when presented with the different tools. Some tools have audio, some don’t, and some aren’t what you’d initially think of for digital storytelling ... like Wayfaring (#36, a map site). The site also gives a short blurb about each tool and lists whether the resulting piece can be linked or embedded in a website (or, hopefully for my ideal purposes, a course management system). The site also lists tools that ended up on the “cutting room floor” in that they didn’t work well for his purposes, or were sites that disappeared, which can definitely happen with Web 2.0 tools. Unfortunately, some of the links don’t work (so it’s possibly time to retire some more to the cutting room floor), but nonetheless it should give you some creative inspiration to get started with some new tools.

– Gail E. Krovitz, Ph.D. –
Director of Academic Training & Consulting

Levine, Alan.

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Do you remember the haunting words sung by Frank Sinatra - "When I was was a very good year..."? As eCollege turned 13, which incidently is 118 in Internet years, a LOT happened. But more happened to set up 2010 than many people may know. Let's look back for a moment as we look ahead.

Do you know the saying, "Measure twice, cut once?" That is exactly what Pearson is getting ready to do with LearningStudio OE (formerly eCollege). For the past year, we've spent tens of thousands of dollars, hired dozens of new employees, and worked overtime to move the current systems into tighter integration so as to be able to measure more than was ever possible before. Measurement of (and subsequently) performance on outcomes has already proven to make online education stronger in some situations than face to face ( But moving forward, and as technology becomes increasingly seamless with life, the measurement that online education brings to the table will change teaching and learning.

For example, we've always had the ability to correlate time on task or clicks in the system to grades, completion rates, retention, etc. In 2009 we helped a number of schools identify hierarchies of outcomes that could be tagged and reported on at any level. Every day we give statistical measures of outcomes, activity, grades, portfolios, etc., to schools so they can better understand their students. Does time in threaded discussions lead to higher completion rates? We know the answer. Does the amount of time a student has to wait for an assignment to be graded lead to program retention? We know that too.

But in the next decade...heck, in the next couple of years, all of the measuring will become much more significant. A much more holistic view of students will be available based on more than formative & summative feedback. It will be based on more than activity or grade data. The LMS is almost to a place where we can both report on and predict behaviors as they lead to learning. This individual learning path that students will be able to take will come with complete measurement by the faculty and the institution.

I'm talking about measuring students on a lot more than tests and project feedback. We're talking about measuring the intensity by which a student acts - the number of clicks, the types of interactions with peers, the amount of time spent with a teacher, the number of hints needed to succeed, etc. We're talking about the measurement of far more than raw scores on tests. We're talking about understanding the p value for a question, the median scores for the class, the confidence by which students answered a question - all much more than the answer itself.

All of this measuring will give teachers and/or schools the ability to set students along a path that pushes them into higher levels of learning, regardless of how much time or how much interaction takes place between the student and the system. We'll measure when learning happens, how learning happens, and we'll give individuals the tools to reshape their learning priorities so as to make it more meaningful.

That is the future of the LMS. That is the decade before us.

Will Apple release a tablet in 2010 that will revolutionize that market? Maybe. Will the iPhone 4G come out in conjunction with Verizon, thereby making it even more prolific in all circles, including education? Probably. And a dozen other cool technologies will change the landscape of how we interact and communicate. But what matters to me as I advise Pearson about education and technology isn't each cool new toy. It's not the fun new widget that Sony or Microsoft or Google brings to the party. (Have you seen Google Wave yet?...)

No, what matters is the big picture. We are heading to a place where technology is simply an extension of ourselves. A place where homework isn't done at home and school work isn't done at school (at least as we know it). Christensen predicted 50% of all K-12 happening online by the end of our new decade. I agree. And if that's the case for K-12, imagine higher ed. We're coming to a place where technology, school, work, life, and everything else just merge together. It's the ultimate mash-up. It's teaching, learning, and living. It' will be what we just call "life". Not virtual life - just life.

So, if you are looking for what's coming in 2010, it's the set up for all the rest of the next decade. It's going to be amazing I think. I hope you think so too.

So here is to 2009. May all of the preparation and activity help us get to that educational dream as fast as possible. And here is to 2010 - where that dream is going to start to be realized. Here is to changing education and, ultimately, to changing lives for the better.


2009 Conference Reflections

Over the past year I’ve attended academic conferences in the U.S., Mexico, Spain, and Bahrain. Here are a few key takeaways I can offer from my perspective as a higher education assessment consultant.
Academics worldwide are debating the scholarship of teaching and learning quite intensely due largely to the disrupting change of the online for-profits, the ubiquitous acceptance of social networking, and the reality of user created content. An article in last week’s The Chronicle of Higher Education nicely summarized the online for profit sector’s impact on challenging all colleges and universities to do a better job not only of creating and tracking student learning outcomes but also for using the data collected to refine curriculum and instruction with an eye toward improving the student learning experience. Most online programs are able to track all activity in a course including page visits, class discussions, assignment uploads, exams, and grades. They are also able to standardize learning outcomes for all sections of a course to ensure comparability of data. This is the point where traditional academics will raise the academic freedom argument, however, I’ve seen traditional faculty agree on a common set of outcomes and even common assessment rubrics even though the assignments they develop to assess student progress may differ by instructor.

I also just returned from the SACS-Commission on Colleges Annual Meeting in Atlanta. I noticed that many universities were talking about course level assessment of student learning outcomes this year which was new. This is an area where I’ve been focusing for the past 18 months so it was nice to see the academy starting to recognize the importance of getting more granular in the assessment of student learning. Previously nearly everyone was satisfied with program level assessment. Program assessment is still important but it should be triangulated with course level assessment data along with indirect measures such as NSSE, CSSE, or Noel Levitz. Many institutions also participate in either the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) or the University and College Accountability Network.

The rise of social networking and user created content is another salient takeaway this year. If Web 2.0 or education gaming was in the session title you could count on a packed room. This was the case worldwide. These technologies are moving beyond the early adaptor stage and more into the mainstream. It is important for digital immigrants (those born before 1995) to recognize that digital natives are used to processing multiple channels at once and having just in time access to information. There are theories circulating that indeed even the structure of a digital native’s brain is different. This means we must adapt our method of teaching to be more of a facilitator as opposed to a lecturer who disseminates knowledge. During a Web 2.0 presentation in Guadalajara, Mexico last week I challenged participants to start using at least one new Web 2.0 application first in their personal lives and then to try to integrate the application into their teaching in the Spring semester. I’d be happy to share my presentation with anyone who’s interested. You can email me at if you’re interested.

It’s truly an exciting time in higher education. The next decade is going to bring about dramatic changes at colleges and universities. I look forward to participating in dialogue with many of you as we do our best to make education more accessible and effective for both learners and employers.

Brian McKay Epp
Academic Trainer and Consultant

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Movie Time!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words....let's see how true that is.  I'd like to present you with about 10,000,000 pictures (including sound!) to see if you think it's worth it. 

Here are a collection of my favorite YouTube videos.  They are educational, entertaining, funny, fascinating, and all around helpful when it comes to teaching & learning.  At least I feel that way.  See what you think of this collection.  (I don't think it will take more than 1 hour to watch them (with the exception of the Randy Pausch lecture...) - great serious game created by FAS & Sony! - interesting physics software / application - Do schools kill creativity?  Ken Robinson explains... - Educational uses of 2nd Life - more Educational uses of 2nd Life - Social bookmarking in Plain English - Social networking in Plain English - Teacher Tube on YouTube! - The Last Lecture: Randy Pausch - A Vision of Students Today - A Vision of K-12 Students TodaySee what you think of these...there are tens of thousands of other GREAT, educational videos on you use it to reach YOUR students yet?

Jeff D Borden, M.A.
Senior DIrector of Teaching & Learning



We try really hard to come up with new and innovative ideas at eCollege.  It's actually even more creative around here since Pearson took over.  We get to flex our academic muscle against technology and financial viability on a regular basis.  We talk about CBL (confidence based learning - basically where competence and confidence meet), we discuss programatic and institutional data mining (correlating, comparing, and contrasting grade data, completion metrics, user activity, etc.), and much, much more. 

A lot of this has gone relatively unnoticed by the general population.  Purdue University recently made a splash on CBS about how they are finding ways to get data across the institution out of the LMS and how it's leading to actionable, data-driven decisions.  We've actually done that for years...

But one area that our academic training & consulting team first talked about at a conference 2 years ago is starting to get some traction.  It's the notion of alternative reality games for education - ARG's for short.

I happen to get Wired magazine - I highly recommend it!  A few years back there was an article about Nine Inch Nails lead singer Trent Reznor and how he created an ARG to market a new album, as well as to try and enlighten folks about the government, global warming, and other things.  Without repeating the whole article, the group essentially had thousands of players engaged in a game that they didn't know they were playing.  It started with a shirt that had bolded letters on it which spelled out a website and ended with people coming to California to get on buses with blacked out windows and head to a "rally" that turned into a N.I.N concert.  But the idea stuck with me.

Why couldn't teachers create games for their students with the students having no idea they were playing?  I started by creating a list of learning objectives in my class.  Each starting letter of the list was a corresponding letter of my personal website.  To my surprise, several students found it, went to my site, and got a small bit of extra credit!  So, I started trying other things.  I placed "hot spots" on my pages - white text that blended into the background - the when rolled over sent students to a YouTube video.  Some students found it.  Meanwhile, other students found a puzzle that I created and, upon solving it, found their way to a wiki.  There were 4 sets of students working the game from different angles and they didn't realize it until they were well into the game.  But here's the cool part...the game was all about the educational stuff I was teaching normally! 

Yep - these same students who complained regularly about not having time to dedicate to my class, became entrenched in a game that forced them to learn specific concepts in order to "unlock" puzzle clues.  By the time they were into my alternative reality of speech communication, they were already learning!  So, my team and I created a game for our user's conference that incorporated many of these same elements.

Fast forward 2 years.  At our last user's conference a teacher explained how he played a game of educational clue with his students.  He was really just testing the theory - replicating the action to see if it worked.  And you know what?  It did.  He said that students got involved immediately.  Students were engaged from start to finish.  And he was able to teach them important concepts through the game. 

The bottom line is that there are several types of games you might play with your students.  But the ramifications are real.  Games work.  Just Google, "Serious games" and see what you find.  You'll find research, data, comprehension statistics, retention numbers, etc., all of which illustrate the power of a game in an educational setting.  So give it a shot.  Try creating a game that students don't know they're playing until they are in it.   You'll be the clever, cool instructor who uses social networks or puzzles or whatever.  They will be the enlightened students who remember the details about the theory.  You both will be winners.

Jeff D Borden, M.A.
Senior Director of Teaching & Learning