Online Blogucation
30Nov/110

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 There’s a lot of junk bobbing in those waves as well — information that is outdated, inaccurate, or flat-out false — so the emergence of online educational materials that are both free of charge and carefully vetted is a momentous development.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 "...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."

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

Reference

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): http://ideas.time.com/2011/11/16/salman-kahn-the-new-andrew-carnegie/

13Jul/110

Hallmark #2 – Planning

Fasten your seatbelt and hold on to your hat! This week we are going to talk about planning in regards to the Middle States Accreditation plan. While I say that a bit facetiously it is actually a little piece of the canvas which is part of a bigger more exciting piece of work.  By standardizing accreditation requirements nationwide for higher education online learning programs, those of us firmly planted in online learning programs can take a huge leap forward to demonstrate (with statistics, research and data) that what we are doing is not only catering to a growing market’s demands but doing so because the pedagogy and statistics show that our students are learning and competing and often exceeding their counterparts in fully online programs.

There are 9 hallmarks in the Middle States Accreditation plan and today we look closely at #2-Planning. On a side note, I will give you some background into this series of blogs. After an introduction to the overall Distance Education Programs--Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education (Online Learning) each person on our team (the Academic Consulting team at Pearson eCollege) took a hallmark to focus on and fully explain. In the draw, I drew #2 Planning.

Now, as I plan for this blog (I deliberately chose the word plan in case you missed that) I can see how apropos it is that I have the planning topic. I am a planner to the point of a clinical neurosis some might say. I am the person who, when the seatbelt light goes off on an airplane as we pull into the gate, I get up and find my car keys and my credit card so when I get off the plane and get to the end of the very long walk to my car, I can jump in, start the car and proceed to pay for parking. Downtime is used for reflection and analysis but it is also a moment or two that can be used to take care of details and save time later on. So from the planner’s perspective, let’s look at hallmark #2.

With that statement of credibility (I am qualified to talk about planning because I am a neurotic planner in my day to day life), let us take a look at how EduKan, the consortium of online campuses for 6 Kansas community colleges, leads by example when it comes to these accreditation hallmarks. Some institutions will fret and have to hire consultants to comply when this becomes standard whereas other institutions, such as EduKan, will simply look at the list and say: “we already do that.”

Hallmark #2 reads:
The institution’s plans for developing, sustaining, and, if appropriate, expanding online learning offerings are integrated into its regular planning and evaluation processes (MSCHE Standard 2).

From the guidelines, analysis and evidence of this hallmark will review:

  • Development and ownership of plans for online learning extend beyond the administrators directly responsible for it and the programs directly using it;
  • Planning documents are explicit about any goals to increase numbers of programs provided through online learning courses and programs and/or numbers of students to be enrolled in them;
  • Plans for online learning are linked effectively to budget and technology planning to ensure adequate support for current and future offerings;
  • Plans for expanding online learning demonstrate the institution’s capacity to assure an appropriate level of quality;
  • The institution and its online learning programs have a track record of conducting needs analysis and of supporting programs.

So in asking how EduKan’s director Mark Sarver addresses the topic of planning, he replied that all aspects of the planning guideline are addressed through their Strategic Planning committee. The Strategic Planning committee for EduKan includes representatives from all jobs and roles within the organization. The group includes but is not limited to: academic deans, advisors, instructors, registrars, other administrators et. al. They devise a 3 year strategic plan which is created and agreed upon by all members of the committee. It is all encompassing to include goals, budget planning, technology planning, and indicators of success. The stakeholders on the committee then take the plan back to their respective groups and gain approval from those groups. As the committee meets every three years, they check the indicators of progress, document successes and adjust or re-define goals for the next three year plan. Statistics, reporting and data analysis provide the documentation needed to assure the required appropriate level of quality. The process is ongoing and it includes every role in the EduKan system to gain buy-in from all those with a role in the success of the online program and the consortium as a whole.

EduKan is not unique in this process. All institutions have a similar program or committee that examines, develops, implements and then reviews their overall plan for successfully educating the students who attend their institution and enrolls in their courses. If they have always been a traditionally on ground campus, this will have to expand to include the online goals above. If they already have an online component to their offerings, they will have to be sure they can document that they are addressing the analysis components above. Of the 9 hallmarks soon to be part of the accreditation process for online learning programs, number two might be one that you can check off as already being in place. Good luck!

-Pamela Kachka, M.A.Ed.-
Academic Consultant

20May/100

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.

 

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