Online Blogucation

The Future Of Education?

I've been at my job with (Pearson) eCollege for 10 years this October. I've seen trends come and go. I've watched bells and whistles become staples while staples disappear from existence. Some things change while others stay the same. But during my tenure with the company, in addition to the 17 years of teaching in higher education for which I've never stopped, I am also tired.

I'm tired of defending the same points to people who don't really care about the answers. I'm tired of trying to show people what it's like to move a mile, just to get them to move an inch. I'm tired of the assumptions based solely on "gut" feel or (worse yet) on tradition. You know the fallacy - "We've always done it this way, so we should continue..." I actually heard the head of one of the largest eLearning institutions in the world start a keynote address with this: "We all know that face to face is the best option. But when that isn't possible, here are the best ways to use eLearning."

Huh? Forget the studies that show how online is BETTER in some instances than on-ground. Forget the research which shows how online, with greater transparency and accountability is a better method for getting students through outcomes-based assessment. Forget that data, which can transform education into a personalized learning environment allowing exponentially more students to pass, succeed, and thrive, only comes when we digitize content, delivery, and assessment. And by all means forget that online education is changing the paradigm of learning from those who cannot (be accepted, matriculate, complete, etc), to those who can (pass, graduate, accel). Forget all of that. Let's just keep doing what we're doing that is and has been failing for decades...

...or not! Instead, why not focus on what we can accomplish if education embraces technology like almost every other facet of our world. What would happen if we really opened ourselves up to delivering incredible content, authentic assessments, and practical tasks to help students work, live, and thrive. Imagine.

Flying cars painting from the late 1800'sImagine a student sitting on a bus. Maybe a flying bus. (Ok, maybe not - did you know we have pictures of "future" vehicles flying dating back to the 1700's?) But this student is looking at her tablet device. She's a pre-med student going through A&P. So, she clicks on her device, powered by the sun of course, and goes into a lesson on the heart. Immediately a 3-Dimensional heart starts slowly turning above her device. This heart can be turned by her, examined by her, and even sliced open to reveal its contents. Of course, with her ear bud in, she can hear the instructor going through the sections as she views them. Or, she can watch a real heart pumping in a video based on various contexts like during exercise, when in distress, or while sleeping. When her bus arrives, she simply clicks off the tablet and heads to work.

Another group of students is studying statistics. There is a problem that asks them to discern numbers within a given culture. They are in a late night study session in their school's commons area. One of them suggests they step into a room where one wall is made entirely of an HD monitor. A student touches the monitor which switches on. He logs into an account and sends a video conference request to a friend in another country. Immediately the wall is transformed into a window for another classroom 10,000 miles away. Now two student groups on two continents start working the problem together. They share ideas, data, and learning methodologies as they also connect on a personal level. They simply use their fingers to draw facts and figures on the wall - many of which are translated into another language, all of which are dually usable by both groups. The session lasts for 45 minutes when both groups decide to take their new understandings and craft a solution. The wall becomes a wall again.

An instructor begins class. Students login to their devices (mobile, pc, etc) to hear her speaking, but only seeing blackness. Soon though, the blackness becomes gray. Her talking continues as she describes the geothermal tunnels she is walking through. She is trying to research potential problems with the Earth's crust through a research grant, but what better opportunity to illustrate her findings with the next generation of scientist? The entire class experience occurs through the camera attached to her helmet, with the students able to ask direct and poignant questions along the way.

A class of 400 is broken into groups of 15. The instructor begins the simultaneous lecture / webcast, "Welcome to History 215. You have been placed in groups and have been given a packet which includes journal articles, websites, riddles, and puzzles. Your job is to find out who Nymon Lester is and stop him from harming our school. This 55 year old has more power than you can imagine and is using it to destroy something valuable to everyone hearing my voice. You only have 48 hours. GO!" Immediately students scatter as they devise strategies, assign roles and tasks, and establish norms for their immersive group experience. The course will be over in 2 days and only one group will win.

Finally, we find a woman in her early 50's. She has gone back to school after raising a family, but she doesn't remember much. She needs help. So, as she opens her Algebra eBook during the lecture, she watches the instructor start to piece together a problem on the eBoard. Soon, he asks the students to try it on their own. When she tries to do a similar problem, she gets stuck on step 2 and the book pulls in some content from a remedial math course to show her a video, give her a simpler problem, and help her get to a place where she can succeed. By the end of the lesson, she is caught up. Her digital course remembers what she struggled with and will remind her the next time she logs on to cement the learning, but she is not nearly as far behind as she could be.

Do you see it? More importantly, are you preparing for it? Because it's coming. Every technology described here is being worked on somewhere and even a few exist today. Oh, and don't forget the administrator who can call all of it up on her computer, create a report of the institution's teaching and learning efficacy, and email that to three accountability groups for quick perusal.

So my friends, when you get tired of the fight, remember these things. If you hear the fallacious arguments from those in power, just nod and smile. They will retire. Or, when the change is finally too great, they'll simply leave. In the meantime, keep setting up the foundations of education to prepare for this reality. It's coming. And it's going to be more than's going to be transformative.

Good luck and good teaching.

Dr. Jeff D Borden
VP of Instruction & Academic Strategy
Pearson LTG


Let’s Talk About: “What’s Going Well?”

I saw this blog recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education and want to share it with you. It’s short, so rather than trying to summarize, I’ve copied it in its entirety.

What’s Going Well?
March 21, 2012
By Natalie Houston

My training and experience as both a teacher of literature and as a personal productivity coach have shown me time and time again the value of asking simple questions. A good question doesn’t have to be long or complicated. A good question shouldn’t be an argument misleadingly packaged as a query. A good question often opens up other questions.

So here’s today’s question: what’s going well for you right now?

I like this question for several reasons:

Most people don’t spend enough time thinking or talking about what’s going well. At a deep neurological level, our brains are designed to pay more attention to potential danger than to neutral or beneficial things. Learning to pay more attention to the good stuff, even just with simple journaling exercises or breathwork, can help create new, more positive neural pathways.

Most people find it easier to focus on or complain about what’s not going well. I’ve written about this before, in relation to the social scripts that academics often engage in. (Have you heard anyone say, “oh, I didn’t get enough done over spring break” lately?) Rewriting those scripts has the power to shift your energy and that of people around you.

It’s also the case that our intellectual training tends to be organized around critique and competition. It’s much more challenging to sustain a conversation about what you liked and agree with in a text than about what you disagree with (try it with your next graduate seminar and you’ll see what I mean). There’s nothing wrong with intellectual critique – but it’s good to experience appreciation and celebration too, of yourself and others.

We can learn from what’s going well. By exploring what’s going well, you can discover core values and habits that you can extend from one area of your life to another. Do you prefer to be alone or with others? What do you find motivating? What helps you be persistent? Whether it’s writing, exercising, or cleaning the garage that you want to improve, you can apply strategies and ideas from some other area in which you feel more successful.

If we take this article to heart, and think about how we can apply this to our own work in an academic setting, what might be some questions we can pose to our students? I can think of a few examples.

Let’s imagine the beginning of the class period (for face-to-face) or a discussion item in an on-line course immediately following a lengthy reading assignment. We typically ask students if there was anything they found confusing or didn’t understand in the assignment. What if we turn that around and instead we ask our students to name one thing they really understood well and to give us a summary of their understanding of that one thing. This serves a similar purpose, in that we would be getting information about what our students learned from the assignment. It also provides a nice review and can help students who may not have understood the item.

I liked Natalie’s suggestion that using journaling could “help create new more positive neural pathways.” I wonder what the result might be for students if we asked them to keep a journal in which they must identify things that are going well in the course but with a focus on how they personally are doing well in the course. Perhaps by asking our students to focus on their own feelings about themselves as learners and by targeting what’s working and going well, students may come to see themselves in a more positive light and this might improve their confidence. It might also help students to better understand the important role they must play in their learning and thus, take more responsibility over their learning.

I’m sure you can think of many other ways to use this approach with your students. Please add your ideas or experiences with using this approach with your students (or coworkers). Tell us what is going well.

Kimberly Thompson
Assessment Consultant
Academic Training & Consulting
Pearson eCollege


Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Conference attendees sleeping

These people still clapped at the end of the session...

How low is your conference bar set these days?  What does it take to make your experience "worth it" anymore?  Is it 1 good keynote and 1 good session?  Is that enough?  Maybe it's a solid pre-conference workshop and two good sessions.  Or is it even less?

I go to 30-40 conferences (led by educators) each year.  Typically I present a keynote address, a few workshops, or possibly a pre-conference session, but I certainly have plenty of time to see and hear a lot of other presenters.  This also means that I end up eating lunch or an occasional dinner with dozens, if not hundreds of strangers.  So, I've been doing some research around the gambling that takes place at conferences. No, not dice in the back of the kitchen or inviting strangers back to a hotel room...(Those are the tech conferences.)  I'm talking about the conference session roulette that everyone takes part in.  Come on lucky session #4...daddy needs a new educational game!

Some conference attendees "double down" on their bets.  Good move.  I watch as more and more often, session participants sit in the back of the room.  They give the presenter(s) about 3 minutes to "hook" them.  If there is no "hook" then out the door and off to another session they go!  Two for one sessions - nice!  And, most conference presenters are making it hard too.  It seems that the "catchy title" is the order of the day, regardless of whether or not the session will actually provide value.  Sprinkle in Web 2.0, or YouTube, or Serious Game and you've got a session title that will make people do a double take!  Come on Serious Games for YouTube and Facebook via Web 2.0 in the Classroom...Daddy needs a new assessment idea!

In my extremely unscientific research, here is what I looked for.  Great sessions (regardless of the identified mode), meaning keynote addresses, workshops, pre-conference, poster, and panel sessions were all game.  I looked for a few simple indicators to determine a successful presentation.

  1. Great content - this is usually determined by the "buzz" after the session and often corresponds with the number of questioners who stick around to talk.  (My personal research seems to indicate that 3 people will stick around regardless of how good or bad a session is.)  This also includes "buzzing" conversations that follow the session to lunch.
  2. Great presenters - these are definitely harder to find, but my indicator here was pretty simple.  Who, or better, how many (in the audience) was paying attention to the presentation?
  3. Great interaction - this one is tough for me.  A lot of conferences are demanding audience "participation" these days.  My problem?  Often the audience members are not subject matter experts, they are simply professors who enjoy sharing their opinions (which is why we're professors, right?) or worse, they simply want to play devil's advocate throughout the session.  So, in both of those situations, other audience members come away feeling like the session was useless.  However, when interaction with multiple audience members takes place regularly (not simply because an audience member forced a question in), it should be noted.

So, after months of tallying on my iPad or iPhone -I love you Evernote - I have some informal numbers.  This is from 22 conferences, 103 sessions, and includes a lot of conference goers...I have no idea how many.  I should also mention that if I didn't go to the presentation, but simply heard about the presentation after the fact, it was not included here.  (I wonder sometimes if those conversations are's like the guy in high school who was always trying to convince you the swimsuit models showed up to every party JUST after you left...)  Anyway, here you go:

  • 92/103 sessions had poor content, which means 11 sessions had great content.
  • 99/103 sessions had poor presenters, which means 4 sessions had great presenters.
  • 99/103 sessions had no audience interaction, which means 4 session had great interaction.
  • 2 sessions had both a great presenter AND great content (although no interaction).

For those of you scoring at home, that does not even begin to approach an 'F'. Even in aggregate, less than 16% of the presentations I attended were...well, quite frankly they were pretty bad.

Conference attendees paying attention to everything but the speaker

At least I got all of my email answered during this session

Let me give you one fresh example from a conference I attended in December.  There were 75-100 people in the lecture style, tiered room.  I was in the very back, at the top, looking down on the presenters and audience members (I was preparing for my session in that same room, which was next.)  Let me describe for you the middle row of about 25 people.

  • 3 were visibly asleep
  • 4 were checking email on their laptops
  • 6 were checking sports sites - mostly fantasy football on their laptops
  • 10 were using their phones (texting for help perhaps?)
  • 1 was writing on a notepad
  • 2 were passing notes back and forth to each other

It doesn't seem to matter what the topic is, what kind of conference it is, or who the speaker / audience members are, these sessions don't seem to be very helpful.  When I attended my own discipline's Communication conference last year, with people who explain to college students how to effectively communicate a message, there was no difference. When I went to a K-12 conference with teachers who certainly need more energy and enthusiasm to reach younger people, it was no different.  When I went to International conferences, it was no different.  (In fact, it was often worse as many of those conferences are made up of "conference papers" - essentially a person sitting in front of the audience reading a research paper out loud...seriously.), enough of the agonizing landscape.  You get it.  In fact, many of you are probably starting to develop a twitch as I've reminded you of things you would prefer to forget.  But here is my big question.

Why is it a surprise that education is having such trouble reaching students?

Apparently, we (educators) have a difficult time communicating with each other.  How can we possibly expect to communicate effectively with our 1, 2, and sometimes 3 generations younger students?  Why don't we apply what we know to work?  Why don't we use what we know to be helpful?

Tell, Show, Do, Review, and Ask in a multi-modal, multi-nodal way and we'll reach a LOT of people.  Why don't we do that?  Use ethos, pathos, logos, and mythos (if you're dying to think about it old-school) and we'll reach a LOT of people.  Why don't we do that?  Incorporate serious games, focus shifts, multimedia, and interactive strategies and we'll reach a LOT of people.  Why don't we do that?

I truly believe that we are our own enemy here.  I KNOW that there are some really creative, innovative, strategic instructors out there who are doing great things...but when they get to a conference to share it, they get very uptight.  The idea of presenting to peers is quite intimidating for many, so those ideas never really get a chance to shine.

Then, there are the conference submission boards who miss out on great stuff.  They don't seem to read or review survey results from previous conferences, giving preference to people who get super positive comments, having thereby illustrated that they have great content, are a great presenter, or include interaction effectively.  I watched a professor at Online-Educa Berlin present a fantastic workshop on rubrics.  She was poised, dynamic, and her content was top notch.  When I told her that she should give that session at some conferences back in the USA, she explained that she tried over a dozen times and never got accepted.  Something about the presentation just wasn't "sexy" enough for the committees, even though I watched her knock it out of the park in Germany.

So let me finish with this.  Let's change the way conference presentations currently run.  Let's all take a pact.  When we're given the opportunity to share our clever, creative, innovative, effective, or useful ideas from our classes with our colleagues...let's not blow off the performance until the plane rideLet's not forget what goes into a good presentation - effective nonverbals, logical reasoning, and passionate verbals.  Let's include some of the "cool" factor when we can, to illustrate the concept.  Let's not forget the power of storyLet's agree to NEVER, EVER, under ANY circumstances READ our notes or (worse) READ our PowerPoint to the audience again!

We can do this.  It's not like we don't know how audiences respond most effectively.  We know that the lecture is one of the poorest ways we can communicate if we want our audience to retain, comprehend, and be engaged.  We KNOW what it takes.  So, let's just change it.  Yes, that simply, let's change our conference behavior.  Let us never again imply that what we say and what we do are not supposed to be joined at the hip.

Good luck and good teaching...and good conference-going!

(BTW - did anyone notice the ironic metaphor for education here?  Boring lectures, audience members not paying attention, little audience interaction, etc?  Hmmm...I guess that's another blog.)


Philosophy of Teaching Twitter Challenge!

This post could have been titled “What’s Your Teaching Philosophy in 110 Characters or Less?” because we’re asking you to participate in a challenge related to developing and succinctly crafting a version of your philosophy of teaching!

The Challenge*

Please review this this post and the examples provided below about writing a brief teaching philosophy. Then, we challenge our readers here to try it for yourself! We would like to receive your submissions via our Twitter account using a hashtag and to mention our Twitter name in your post. So, how do you do it? When posting your 110 character philosophy of teaching to twitter, please include the following in your post so we can follow your responses: @atcecollege #teachphilosophy

What is a Philosophy of Teaching? Why Should I Write One?

Though many formal teaching philosophy statements run two or more pages, having even a brief framework of your philosophy can be beneficial. According to Chapnick (2009), “creating a philosophy of teaching and learning statement is ultimately both personally and professionally rewarding, and is therefore well worth the effort” (p. 4). Defining our philosophy of teaching helps to provide a framework for our practice as educators.

Do you believe timeliness and access are important, as Stevens III (2009) does in this example of his principles? “The principles I follow are simple: be accessible to students and treat them with respect. Accessibility means being available not just during class and office hours, but at any reasonable time. I encourage them to call me at home, and I promise them a response to email messages within 24 hours” (p. 11). If yes, for example, your philosophy would feature timeliness and access as important to you and in your practice you would work to achieve these principles.

What the philosophy includes might reflect a diverse set of information and depends on the audience. The Teaching Center (2007) offers these as guiding questions: (1) Why do you teach? (2) What do you teach? (3) How do you teach? and (4) How do you measure your effectiveness? Let’s apply that framework here in our challenge!

Can I See an Example?

Of Course! Following the model described above, here are some examples:

Inspiring humanity social science and education engaging and interactive
authentic experience designs @atcecollege #teachphilosophy

Learning experiencing sharing knowing doing frequent engagement
anywhere anytime @atcecollege #teachphilosophy

Lisa Marie Johnson, Ph.D.
Academic Trainer & Consultant
Pearson eCollege


  • Do you want to follow the tweets associated with @atcecollege or the tag #teachphilosophy? You can search without a twitter account by going to the Twitter Search page:
  • Hashtags on Twitter allow for “tagging” a post to twitter (tweet) that makes it easier to search for on twitter.  When you include the Twitter name preceded by the at-symbol - @ - it is a Mention of the account and your post shows up in a list of tweets that refer to that account.
  • If you do not have a Twitter account, but are on Facebook, you could instead post to our ATC eCollege Facebook account in response to the comment about this post:
  • Hashtags on Twitter allow for “tagging” a post to twitter (tweet) that makes it easier to search for on twitter.  When you include the Twitter name preceded by the at-symbol - @ - it is a Mention of the account and your post shows up in a list of tweets that refer to that account.
  • If you do not have a Twitter account, but are on Facebook, you could instead post to our ATC eCollege Facebook account in response to the comment about this post: MindShift.


Chapnick, A. (2009). How to write a philosophy of teaching and learning statement (pp. 4-5). Faculty Focus Special Report - Philosophy of Teaching Statements: Examples and Tips on How to Write a Teaching Philosophy Statement. Magna Publications. Available from

Stevens III, R. S. (2009). Education as becoming: A philosophy of teaching (pp. 11). Faculty Focus Special Report - Philosophy of Teaching Statements: Examples and Tips on How to Write a Teaching Philosophy Statement. Magna Publications. Available from

The Teaching Center (2007). Writing a teaching philosophy statement. Available from the Washington University in St. Louis:


Whom will the data serve? Thoughts on Usefulness and Portals for Education

As noted in the article Salman Khan: The New Andrew Carnegie? -

...knowledge no longer needs to be bound into the paper and cloth of a book but can float free on the wireless waves of the Internet. There’s a lot of junk bobbing in those waves as well — information that is outdated, inaccurate, or flat-out false — so the emergence of online educational materials that are both free of charge and carefully vetted is a momentous development. This phenomenon is all the more significant given the increasing scrutiny directed at for-profit online universities, which have been criticized for burdening students with debt even as they dispense education of questionable usefulness. Websites offering high-quality instruction for free are the Carnegie libraries of the 21st century: portals of opportunity for curious and motivated learners, no matter what their material circumstances (Paul, 2011, para. 6).

I pursue the goal of excelling as an engineer or architect of learning and to be otherwise associated with the proliferation of "portals of opportunity for curious and motivated learners, no matter what their material circumstances" (Paul, 2011, para. 6). In some sense, I am these things already as an Academic Trainer and Consultant with Pearson eCollege. If I had a personal mission statement, it would be worded similarly and my destiny would be to serve in an industry associated with or embedded within the systems of education.

Yet, that’s not the point of this post!

I found it interesting the Paul (2011) article quoted above suggests the phenomenon of high quality online vetted materials " all the more significant given the increasing scrutiny directed at for-profit online universities, which have been criticized for burdening students with debt even as they dispense education of questionable usefulness."

Could not many of us argue that public colleges and universities also "dispense education" of "questionable usefulness"? Actually, many might also debate whether education is dispensed or received or shared or…

Wait, that’s not the point of this post either!

So, what is the point you ask?

The point is to consider critically the reality that all colleges and universities - regardless of profit motive or mission statement - are justifiably susceptible to this questioning of usefulness. Knowledge and skills needed for professions and trades evolve quickly in part due to the globalization of knowledge and virtual removal of barriers to access to information through the internet for a large portion of the world’s population, but certainly not all of that population! Let's question some things...

Could we argue that a nursing or teaching degree in the United States from 1990 is as useful today in the same locale as one from 2010? Does locale matter? How does that impact usefulness?

Does on the job real-world apprenticeship style workflow-learning add value to the formal education received? If yes, how is that measured?

Does a graduate's lack of continued professional or personal development post-graduation to become or remain productive in the workforce as laborer or entrepreneur necessarily reflect negatively on the value of educational portals provided by a college or university?

Yes, that’s the point.

While there is much that can be unpackaged from the messages of the selected quote opening this post, the point of this post is to ask you to think critically about what we are measuring when we refer to educational usefulness, how we are measuring it and defining the variables associated with the measures, and ultimately why we are measuring it – whom will the data serve?

Lisa Marie Johnson, Ph.D.
Academic Trainer & Consultant
Pearson eCollege


Paul, A.M. (2011, November 16). Salman Khan: The new Andrew Carnegie? The emergence of free, high-quality online courses could change learning forever. Retrieved from Times Online MagazineIdeas section (link opens new page):


Collaborate and customize!

As we work with our Educational Partners on implementing their outcome assessment plan, from the macro to the micro level in distinctive academic cultures, a common theme emerged. The focus was on organizing and collecting evidence but there was no formal plan for action steps.

Our Assessment & Analytics team worked closely with several of our Educational Partners to customize templates, devise online faculty discussion forums and offer other technology enhanced solutions to be a catalyst for improving curriculum and instruction. As discussion pursued it became evident that there was no “one way” to accommodate the unique requirements of all colleges and universities but we were providing methods that could be used and customized for most.

The next step for us grew into Assessment Consulting Modules that could be designed around the needs of our Educational Partners. This included a “backwards” planning method to help ensure the multitude of assessment data the academies collect would actually help answer their ultimate questions and lead to evidence driven action plans.

From beginning to end the Assessment Consulting Modules are designed to lead participants through best practices of student learning outcome (SLO) assessment. The series begins by exploring why we engage in assessment and by defining a roadmap to creating a culture of evidence on campuses. Participants will then have opportunities to develop and connect SLOs and rubrics that apply directly to their unique curriculum. Our end goal is to provide specific strategy and design suggestions that translate into meaningful and sustainable assessment plans.

Following is a brief description of a few of the modules:

Curriculum Mapping
This module looks at the relational aspect of student learning outcomes within an academic institution. Intentional and explicit alignment of each outcome from the discrete course level to the increasingly broader, program, department, campus or institutional level is examined. The mapping concept is designed to provide opportunities and evidence of student learning at various stages of the curriculum.

Rubric Design
Measuring and assessing students’ demonstration of learning through the use of rubrics is the focus of this module. Designing an assessment rubric using explicit criteria statements and identification of examples of student performance at varying mastery levels of each outcome is presented. Included are comprehensive and clear rubric exemplars.

SLOs and Impact on Course Design
Quality course SLOs are the foundation for assessing student learning. Quality assessment of student performance requires those SLOs to be purposefully aligned to the learning activities, assessment activities and schedule of the course. In this module participants use a modified card-sort method to analyze the relationship of the course’s design to the SLOs and inform design changes to optimize student learning.

Fostering Faculty Ownership of Campus Assessment Culture
Assessing students’ mastery of learning outcomes falls primarily within the scope of faculty responsibility so it is critical they be an integral stakeholder in the development of campus assessment plans. Faculty engagement is further fostered by focusing on improving the student learning experience. This module provides tangible actions for academic leaders working to integrate faculty into the development of campus assessment culture.

We are no longer living in academic silos and must use web services and other technology enhanced services (along with colleagues) to link information similar to using Lego blocks. The design can be simple or very complex. The creativity is unlimited if we begin by understanding the combination of links within assessment and then proceed connecting until we have designed an application that fits real-time teaching and learning. Collaborate and customize!

Karen R. Owens, Ph.D.
Higher Education Assessment Consultant
Assessment & Analytics Group
Pearson eCollege



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



Humor Helps in Online Classes

In a traditional classroom, one way that faculty presence is achieved is through the use of humor. Humor use in the classroom contributes to a supportive learning environment, and enhances student attention, recall of information, pleasure in learning, and interest in the subject matter (James). Unfortunately, many online instructors do not make the extra planning and effort needed to make humor happen in their courses.

If you want to use humor to increase your instructor presence in your online class and help create a positive learning environment, then help is on the way. There are several good resources for crafting humor for online classes. Shatz and LoSchaivo provide detailed information on locating or creating humor for online classes, as well as guidelines for incorporating humor into online lectures and exams. The authors suggest that visual humor (such as cartoons, illustrations and photographs) and funny quotes, jokes, examples, word-play, forms of exaggeration, top-10 lists, and so on, can easily be incorporated into online courses. Shatz and LoSchaivo also recommend doing an internet search for your topic and “humor” to find humorous material specific to your discipline. Berk gives guidelines for print and non-print humor forms that can be incorporated into online classes, and also gives numerous examples and web resources. His suggested print forms include humorous course components, course disclaimers, announcements, warnings or cautions, lists, word derivations, foreign word expressions, acronyms and emoticons. Non-print forms include visual and sound effects.

If you want to get students involved in your search for new humorous material, Shatz and LoSchaivo suggest an activity called “The Contributing Editor” where students locate course-related humor and then write a report (extra-credit or for-credit) detailing the source of the material and how the topic relates to the course. Alternately, this material could be shared in a discussion area, such as the Class Lounge. Shatz and LoSchaivo stress the importance of giving guidelines for the student so they know what humor is appropriate for the assignment.

The resources and ideas discussed above should hopefully provide a good place to start with your search for relevant pedagogical humor, and it is worth some time with your favorite internet search engine to find what’s out there for your subject matter. My own search for humorous material for my discipline had me laughing out loud, and I hope this material provides me with new ways to connect with students in my own classes.

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

This text is taken from this original article: Krovitz, G.E. (2007) Using humor in online classes. Educator’s Voice 8(3), May 9. Accessed at:


Berk, R.A. (2002). Humor as an Instructional Defibrillator. Stylus: Virginia.

James, D. (2004). A need for humor in online classes. College Teaching 52(3), 93-94.

Shatz, M.A. & LoSchaivo, F.M. (2006). Bringing life to online instruction with humor. Radical Pedagogy. Accessed at:


Teaching to the learning styles of multi-modal learners…a big waste of time?

According to a study commissioned by Psychological Science in the Public Interest titled “Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence,” a recent review of existing research asserts that scientists have failed to show conclusively that students learn better when they are taught according to their preferred modality. The researchers claim that in dozens of studies reporting the success of teaching to different learning styles there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support such claims.

They state that in order to prove that student success depends on learning style specific opportunities, a very specific type of study needs to take place and very specific data needs to be collected. For most of the studies out there, this data or setup did not exist. For those that did, the results “flatly contradict the learning-style theory.” Of course more studies are recommended.

So what does this mean for best practices 30 years or so after the development of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory? What about the learning style inventories that have been conducted since the 1970’s? Should we just ignore them? Teachers at all levels, who have taught in the last 20 years have been encouraged to vary their delivery techniques and assessment methods to include multi-modal techniques to address the needs of all learners. Are we all wrong (as teachers, instructors, and professors)?

A common idea that is asserted over and over is that good teaching is just good teaching and we know it when we see it. It doesn’t matter if that teaching takes place in a brick and mortar classroom or in a fully online course. Instructors, students and administrators know who the good teachers are, seek out their courses, and succeed in their classes. Is that because they vary their delivery methods to address the needs of multi-modal learners? According to this recent study the answer is no.

Looking back on my learning experiences, when I think about my best teachers in life, they were lecturers or worksheet givers. But, if I’m an auditory learner, that may be the method that appeals to me most.

Where does this leave us? I think the article in and of itself starts many different conversations. Time and future research will tell. For now, I think we need to focus on the good teachers that we all know and try to do a little bit of what they are doing. If we do that, then all of us instructors out there are doing the best thing for our students multi-modally or otherwise.

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

Stansbury, Meris. (2010, February). Learning-style research under fire. eSchool News, 1, 36.



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.