Thursday, July 22, 2010

Campus Technology 2010 – Day 3 – Wrap up

Day 3 started with Stephen Lester, the CIO from Harvard’s Business School stating that New Normal is a world where IT departments are going to have to be nimbler and consultative with their customers to succeed in a world where they have to do more with less. This is quickly becoming true across the board for all learning organizations, and this attitude was exemplified by JoAnn Gonzalez-Major from the University of Alaska-Anchorage as she explained she and her cohort Amanda Albright, senior instructional designers for that school.

Ms Gonzalez-Major and Ms Albright had to support 6 campuses, 6 extension, 1,278 faculty, 1,211 staff and other 20,000 students. Their presentation focused on the instructional design resource center they created to serve the faculty in not only becoming proficient in the tactical use of technology to serve their far flung student base, but also assisting them in determining the best strategic use of the technology to present their courses. They built the entire service on the open-source Moodle learning management system (LMS). They devised a Wiki with short how-to guides and multimedia links to demonstrate the operations.

They also ran virtual book discussions on instructional design books. The faculty would each be assigned a chapter in a book about instructional design to read. They would then present a report at a virtual meeting that would be recorded. These sessions would then be posted to the resource center for later review. Thus learning was not the traditional sage speaking to the crowds, but the crowds speaking to one another. Of course this requires participant buy-in on the topic.

There was also an infrequent need by the faculty – as they developed digital media for their courses – for the specific software (such as Camtasia, Captivate, and Snagit) they required. The school could not afford to provide licenses for this software to all of the professors, but they did buy blocks of licenses and they provided for faculty to check out a license as they needed it.

ransom_note_269[1] The other memorable session, was the final session of the day by Mike Rustici helped reinforce in my mind the current status and use of SCORM. The original concept of SCORM was to create online learning content as blocks that could be used and reused as needed by the learner. It has not, on a broad scale, met that goal just yet because of what Mr. Rustici called the Ransom Note Effect. This effect is the result of different content developers imbuing their content with their own personal vision. If you cobble together customized learning material for a learner the result would look like a ransom note.

So basically SCORM is used today solely at the course level to track learners’ completion rates. He advised that SCORM should only be applied if you want to:

  • Track learner success
  • Buying content and an LMS from different vendors
  • Create a library of reusable objects

Then there was the open period from noon until the 3:00 pm final session when their was lunch, vendor visits and presentations and poster presentations. The vendors of TechSmith did a fascinating short presentation about their tools: Camtasia Studio, Camtasia Relay, and Jing. Jing is a free online application that allows you to capture computer screen content, add narration, and then post it to personal servers or sites such as You Tube or Flickr. It limits presentations to 5 minutes and original content gets posted to TechSmith’s servers.

Also fascinating was their Camtasia Relay which records on screen content and the presenters’ audio, uploads it to TechSmith’s servers where it is converted into streamable video. But the real killer element of this tool is that TechSmith’s servers also scans the audio and turns it into searchable text. Viewers can then search for a specific word or phrase and the video will bounce ahead to that particular term. The idea came from watching college students in a classroom where the professor records and posts his lectures. These students did not bother taking copious notes, rather than recorded “time stamps” of elements of the presentation they wanted to review after the presentation was posted.

The other interesting vendor presentation was more a testimonial from Dr. Grant Warner of Howard University for ConnectYard. ConnectYard provides a centralized social media platform that simplifies and unifies communications across a variety of social technologies including Facebook and YouTube. Dr. Warner, a professor of mechanical engineering at Howard University explained how his school used ConnectYard to ensure that at-risk students could be supported to continue their study within the science fields.

These students were identified and encouraged to sign up for a program that Howard University created called Calculus, Physics, Chemistry Program (CP2). This teamed at-risk students with senior undergraduates to have weekly cohort meetings to tutor them in the various subjects. But the school recognized that this was not enough that to ensure these students stayed in the program they needed to be able to reach them beyond the time they saw them on campus.

The key he explained was to reach into these young peoples’ community without the faculty actually becoming a member of that community. By community he was referring to their presence on Facebook and staying connected to their friends through text messaging. Students do not necessarily want to “friend” their professor on Facebook and the faculty did not need to engage in media they did not want to become involved with.

Their solution is ConnectYard. Students were requested to log into ConnectYard and set up a profile with information about their social networking connection points. ConnectYard  channels emails and text messages from the university’s faculty out to their students’ preferred social networking site. Their responses were channeled back to ConnectYard which created a threaded conversation that all students could follow.

This seems to me like a valuable tool to bridge the gap between instructor and students without having to have the faculty learn multiple different networking tools to stay in touch with their students.

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