Sarah Stephens facilitated our first themed discussion group on the subject of Learning Technology this past Monday at New West. She provides a detailed summary. Please feel free to comment on what you read here.
DCFA President Dr. Peter Wilkins was there, and you can read his take on the discussion at Faculty Matters.
If you missed this face-to-face discussion on Learning Technology, there will be another opportunity on Wednesday, February 10, 4:15-6pm, at David Lam. RSVP online. --Scott
Learning Technology discussion group summary - Sarah Stephens, Computing Science and Information Systems Instructor
An enthusiastic group of about 20 employees attended the session on Learning Technologies.
The group identified several issues. They are numbered to allow for convenience in responding; this is not intended to imply a ranking.
1. There is a need for a strategic approach to online and hybrid courses. This will require resources to be devoted to it. The group did not come to consensus on the exact nature of those resources—they could include technical and pedagogical support personnel, faculty release time for development, purchase of software, and payment for rights to put material online.
2. Any strategy in this area must be connected to other strategic directions of the College, not only will it compete for resources; it is a means to achieve other goals.
3. There is still some uncertainty about definitions—clarified that fully online courses don’t require students to be on campus; that a “hybrid” reduces face-to-face time by at least 50%, a blended or technology enhanced course uses online resources and tools but is still mainly face-to-face. Our discussion encompassed all these areas but was mostly about online and hybrid.
4. Anything we do in this area should be of a high quality standard, yet we would like to see experimentation more welcome and encouraged, there’s a sense that in the past there has been discouragement of doing anything in a non-standard way. There are many online environments available for free—Google Docs, Delicious, Skype, Sporcle, to name just a few. New ones are invented every day. How does this fit with privacy concerns and the need for quality and the advantages of adhering to standards?
5. A lot of good work has been done in the past. There’s a sense that there hasn’t been sufficient strategic scaffolding on which to build; some efforts have felt random. The past approach to which courses to put online or teach in a hybrid mode has sometimes been based on faculty interest and ability rather than any organized strategies.
6. How do we measure success? Student success should be a measure—yet, in general (not just at DC), completion rates tend to be lower than for face-to-face. Is this something we should recognize and accept?
7. There need to be good reasons to proceed; access for older students, geographically disbursed students and working students were identified as possible reasons; also corporate partners may be more interested if we have online options.
8. It needs to be pedagogically sound; don’t have the technology drive the pedagogy. There are examples of online approaches being pedagogically better, in writing courses, for example.
9. What data does the College have about student/potential student demands and preferences? What data about success rates? What about other stakeholders—faculty, partners, government, employers? There’s a feeling we are losing students to other institutions, can this be quantified?
10. The group wanted to make it clear that we still must meet the needs of students who prefer face-to-face learning
11. Curricula have to be re-thought, can’t just “upload” existing artifacts. This takes time, training, thought, and support.
12. Three areas seem to show the most promise:
a. Niche areas may be best to be targeted; entire programs where local demand is too low but wider area (province, country, world) demand may be high. Better to put the entire program online than just a few courses.
b. Courses with a large number of sections, where there may be a large enough number of students who prefer online to justify one section;
c. If it is pedagogically better.
13. Issues—student privacy, student readiness, student demand, faculty readiness and enthusiasm, copyright, levels of support available for faculty during development and for faculty and students during delivery.
14. Some sense that we may be making too much of the barriers, that we should “just get on with it.” We have been piloting and trying things for about 12 years.
15. How frequently will the content and format need to be updated? Something implemented only a few years ago can feel clunky and out-of-date already.
16. There is still a lot of skepticism about whether we can devote a sufficient amount of resources to do this successfully.
17. Is there a possibility of sharing this effort with other institutions?
18. Two possible models of support for faculty should be considered—decentralized, as is being used in Health Sciences with a Faculty Ed Tech Coordinator; or a centralized model with a faculty member with College-wide responsibility for championing and supporting development and delivery. Or a combination of both.
What do you think? We welcome your comments on the Learning Technology discussion.