Sunday, September 28, 2014

Interview with Andrea Leyden, ExamTime: Focus on Adaptive Learning

Adaptive learning comes in many different forms and for many different users. Welcome to an interview with Andrea Leyden, ExamTime

1.    What is your name and relation to e-learning?
My name is Andrea Leyden and I am  part of the ExamTime team. ExamTime is an elearning platform designed to encompass a variety of areas including social, mobile and adaptive learning to enhance the effectiveness of education.

ExamTime is a web-based learning solution which provides students and teachers with free access to elearning tools to create, share and discover resources including Mind Maps, Flashcards, Quizzes and Notes. The tools on the site encourage engagement and participation in the learning process by developing independent thinking and analytical skills in students.

2.    What is adaptive learning and how does it work?
Adaptive learning is an educational method which uses computers and other technology to adapt the learning experience based on the students' needs and progress.  

3.    What are some of the advantages?
There is a huge benefit from personalizing education by continually assessing student knowledge and skills. Applying this learning method in the classroom means that students have more control over their learning and their individual needs are heard. Education is not an area where æone size fits allÆ.
Not only does adaptive learning help students by identifying knowledge gaps and barriers to assimilation of new information, it also highlights where a studentÆs strengths lie. Identifying and highlighting weaknesses alone will only work towards student isolation and under-achievement. Build confidence by showing your students that their skillset is important and beneficial.

4.    How is ExamTime adaptive?
ExamTime has added new tracking and progress tools meaning students can apply adaptive learning to their own study. Students can analyze their progress based on their completion of resources such as Flashcards and Quizzes within a subject. After creating a comprehensive set of study notes and collecting resources using the pinning option, the new subject analytics feature will highlight the areas which need more work and where weaknesses have arisen. Resources can also be tracked individually to understand and assess key knowledge.

The Quiz feature is particularly helpful in this area. Creating an online quiz demonstrates if there is a gap in studentÆs knowledge of key concepts and ideas in your subject.

Outlined below are some steps that allow students to use ExamTime for adaptive learning:
a.    Create Subjects for each course:

b.    Build a comprehensive set of study resources by creating and pinning with Mind Maps, Flashcards, Quizzes and Notes. Here are some examples:
Mind Maps

c.    Organize resources by categorizing study aids into topics:

d.    Test knowledge by completing Quizzes and Flashcard decks:
e.    Analyze understanding of core concepts based on this testing by using the Analytics feature within each subject. This step in the process is key to using ExamTime for adaptive learning. Using the Subject Analytics feature, students can see their score and progress after they have tested themselves. The graph will highlight areas where study has been focused and show where there is a gap in student knowledge. The related resources section within each subject will provide even more opportunity for students to have access to knowledge in areas they are lacking.

There are future plans to develop this feature even further so students and teachers can analyze progress even more so and adapt their learning needs based on this.

The Quiz feature is particularly helpful in this area. Creating an online quiz demonstrates if there is a gap in student's knowledge of key concepts and ideas in your subject.

6.    What are some of the topics used in ExamTime?
ExamTime supports active learning by encouraging students' creation of resources such as Mind Map, Flashcards, Quizzes and Notes. As a result of this philosophy, users have the ability to create any subject or topic they specialize or are involved in. That being said, the most popular subjects on the site which are already created are Math, English, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History and Geography.

7.    Can you give a few examples of case studies?
Selam Habtemariam, an 8th grade student has been using ExamTime to progress her learning for over a year. She comments that ôin the last school year I started taking high school classes such as Physical Science and Geometry so I had to try a little harder to pass those classes. I tried my hardest studying with ExamTime and sure enough, I ended up getting the highest score in the class. Not only does this show that studying hard and giving it your all is important, it also shows how much ExamTime can help students achieve their study goals.

Rafranz Davis, an established US education blogger and instructional technology specialist, helps teachers to empower students to become autonomous learners using innovative teaching strategies. Davis and her students seek out new ways to approach learning by sharing new discoveries.
Her students flipped their role by teaching her and other teachers how they were using the free online learning platform ExamTime to impact their learning. ôYou canÆt get this kind of work on paperö, Davis comments while her students show her how easy it is to create a Mind Map online.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

eLearnChat Interview: Rick Zanotti and Dawn J. Mahoney

I had a great time on the webshow, eLearnChat, with host Rick Zanotti and fellow elearning expert Dawn J. Mahoney -- they are quite funny when they start riffing and I have to say it was seriously fun. We talked about new trends in training, and how to be effective in a global context when we're looking at very specific topics and areas for training.

A great time was had by all -- I was in lovely Guadalajara, Mexico, where friends, culture, climate, and bandwidth are the best

I'm still smiling. I suspect that the Gizmo the Corgi (aka E-Learning Queen) is not... Things were said... Secrets revealed...

At any rate, I encourage you to kick back and stream...
eLearnChat, with Rick Zanotti and Dawn J. Mahoney

Friday, August 29, 2014

Business Simulations: Improving Applications - Interview with Veijo Kyosti, Cesim - Innovators in E-Learning Series

Business simulations and other types of interactive elearning are more important than ever, especially as the simulations have more connections to real-world applications and problems. Welcome to an interview with Veijo Kyösti of Cesim, a Finnish educational technology company.

1.  What is your name and your relation to elearning?

My name is Veijo Kyösti, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Cesim, a Finland based educational technology company focused on developing business simulation games for higher education institutions and corporations. I have been in the industry for over 15 years and am deeply passionate about closing the gap between business theory and the skills actually needed in the workforce today.

Veijo Kyösti, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Cesim

2.  What do you see as the benefits of simulations?

Simulations are an excellent tool for instructors to illuminate a variety of business concepts in a risk free online environment that is built on the principle of learning by doing. Students gain invaluable teamwork, decision-making and problem solving skills amongst others, and will better understand the interconnectedness of a company’s functional areas. Employers often lament the divide between the knowledge of graduates and the skills needed in the workforce, so by understanding what drives profitability before ever having worked at a real organisation, students will significantly improve their chances of employment after graduation.

You can read more about the benefits of business simulations here.

3.  What are some of the newest developments in simulations?

We are seeing an increased demand for more ways to evaluate the performance of students, so we have recently rolled out the individual results feature which allows instructors to assess students  one by one in addition to the default team performance.

Increased modularity and customization is also something we are trying to improve with every iteration, so that instructors can take our off the shelf products and modify them easily if they want to. This is a great way to keep the simulation content fresh from one semester to another.

4.  What are some of the business simulations you've developed? Please describe a few of them. Please include screen shots.

We have a range of discipline and industry specific simulations  including Cesim Global Challenge (strategy & international business), Cesim SimFirm (general management), Cesim OnService (SME & entrepreneurship), Cesim SimBrand (marketing management), Cesim Hospitality (hotel & restaurant management) and Cesim Bank (banking & finance).

5.  How are your business simulations being used? Where? Who uses them

The simulations are most typically used in graduate and undergraduate business courses by instructors at higher education institutions, as well as in corporate training programs by facilitators. Over 300 institutions around the world have used our business simulations to teach 100k+ participants.

More business simulations success stories can be found on our website.

6. What is the future of business simulations?

Generally speaking the potential of simulations is still unrealized at the majority of organizations so there is plenty of room for further growth. In order to facilitate the educational institutions and industry tapping into the full potential of simulations, vendors need to provide simulations that are easy to use, flexible, cost-effective, and link concretely to the learning objectives. In addition, since the overarching learning trend is towards e-learning and blended learning the simulations must be fully compatible with that development.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Interview with Chris Charuhas, In Pictures: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Computer tutorials are often difficult to follow if they do not have effective graphics.  To correct that gap, In Pictures provides graphics-based instruction for all kinds of learners. These illustration-based computer tutorials that are free for any student or teacher to use, and available at were developed through a research study funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education. There are new tutorials, on Office 365 and Google Drive applications. Considering the rapid adoption of Google Apps in schools, this might be of interest.

Welcome to an interview with Chris Charuhas, founder of In Pictures. 

1.  What is your name and your relation to elearning?

Chris Charuhas. I've been involved in elearning since 2000, when I started a company that provided textbooks in electronic format. That was Visibooks, an early provider of textbooks as bound books, and as PDFs. With In Pictures, we've decided to move the learning materials online. 

With the widespread adoption of larger monitors, online tutorials have become a more attractive proposition. You pull the tutorial off to one side, which leaves room for you to view the program you’re learning. Viewing both simultaneously makes it easier to take a tutorial. 

Chris Charuhas, In Pictures

2. What is your philosophy with respect to elearning? What approach do you see as being most effective?

I conducted a U.S. Dept. of Education-funded research study on what sort of learning materials are most effective: 

The study showed me that simpler is better when it comes to elearning tutorials: fewer words, more pictures, and proceeding step-by-step. It's also why our tutorials employ screenshots instead of video. Screenshots that show how to do things step-by-step are simpler and easier to work along with. 

3.  What do you believe is the best way to present technical training?

Online. In a simple, self-paced tutorial, based on real-world tasks. Each task should build upon what was learned previously. 

When people can feel themselves progressing through a tutorial, performing more complex tasks as they go, it gives them a feeling of confidence and accomplishment. That's very important in learning new things, as all teachers know! 

4.  What are some of the challenges? 

Creating the hundreds of screenshots required by each tutorial. Each screenshot must be taken, processed for size and color, and have the blue "look at this" oval placed on it. This is a time-consuming process. 

Then hundreds of pages must be linked together to comprise a full tutorial. Web coding is tricky--one small mistake can derail an entire tutorial, so each tutorial must be carefully checked and edited. 

5.  Please discuss the training that you've developed.

It's based on the idea that Show is better than Tell in learning technical subjects. What people can see, they find it easier to do. And learn. 

We've gotten kudos from people all over the world, praising this approach. It lends itself well to learners who might not speak English very well. For example, in India, where most people speak Hindi as their first language, over 2000 people have used our tutorials this month. 

6.  What do you have planned in the future? 

Supplemental tutorials for Office 365 applications that are more in-depth, such as creating complex queries in Access, using Excel like a database, and employing multimedia in PowerPoint presentations. 

Also, we plan to create complete tutorials on Google Forms and Sites. Creating an interactive, data-gathering Web site should be as easy to accomplish as creating a Word document. We aim to help make that happen. 

Thank you!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836) by Frederick Marryat: Mini-Lecture - Learning Object

Welcome to a mini-lecture learning object on one of the first sea novels, or "nautical tales," Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836) by Captain Frederick Marryat.  The full text is available at Internet Archive. An audio recording is available via Librivox. To access the interactive learning object, please click the Learning Object Link.

learning object by susan smith nash, ph.d.: mr. midshipman easy
Click the graphic to go to the learning object for Mr. Midshipman Easy, an early novel-length nautical tale  by Captain Frederick Marryat.

Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836) by Captain Frederick Marryat
Mini-Lecture by Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

About the Author:  Frederick Marryat (1792-1848)

Frederick Marryat joined the British Royal Navy as a midshipman at the age of 14, which seems astonishingly young from a 21st century perspective. The son of a very wealthy “merchant prince,” Marryat had more or less completed an education at an English public school, with a grounding in Greek and Roman classics, mathematics, history, and geography, which put him ahead of many of his time. 

Distinguishing himself as a naval officer, and rising to the rank of Captain, Marryat served in a unique time

Like William Dampier, who was the captain of a vessel in the Royal British Navy a century before, Marryat was interested in science and in writing memoirs, many of which became very influential. Dampier inspired Defoe (Robinson Crusoe) and Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels). Marryat is known as the inventor of the “sea story,” and there are echoes of Mr. Midshipman Easy in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836)
This is a very entertaining tale, part picaresque novel, part travel adventure. In tracing the life of Jack Easy, the indulged son of a very wealthy trader-turned-philosophe, and a mild-mannered, apocalyptic leaning mother, the number of adventures experienced at sea by a young midshipman, all before age 15, creates a narrative that contains echoes of Gargantua and Pantagruel (Rabelais), Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), and Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe).

Picaresque Novel: Mr. Midshipman Easy is easily as picaresque as Lazarillo de Tormes (1554) and Voltaire’s Candide (1762) in the sense that it traces the adventures of a young man who must live by his wits and who filters all his experiences through eyes and perspectives muddied by naivete and/or hopelessly idealistic philosophies.

Candide is poisoned by being immersed by Pangloss who adheres to Leibniz’s philosophy of optimism. Jack Easy is similarly blinded by his father, Nicodemus Easy, who, as a self-described philosopher, is a fervent admirer of the French philosophes whose idea of equality and the rights of man lead him to criticize society.

Jack’s father gives a very generous loan to a captain who desires to outfit a privateer, and thus repay the loan with interest and profit based on “prizes” captured in the legalized piracy practiced by nations which could not afford to outfit a navy, and thus incentivized private ships to attack ships of enemy states and disable them (and the countries’ economies) by seizing the ships and their cargo.

The captain (Captain Wilson) is grateful and thus has a paternal regard for the young midshipman, and so Jack’s echoes of his father’s views are comical in context (rather than tragic and/or mutinous as they would probably appear in reality). Jack enjoys a charmed life, and his frequent disquisitions on his philosophy are comical, and also critique the views of the philosophes and revolutionaries.

Criticism of Corruption in the Catholic Church:  Very much like Candide and Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel, Mr. Midshipman Easy contains extremely biting criticism of the Catholic Church, in particular the role of priests and confessors, who practice deception, poisoning, thievery, and all other sorts of misdeeds to obtain wealth, property, and control. Jack encounters scheming, deceitful priests in Sicily, Malta, and in Spain, which are illustrated in encounters that are humorous as well as insightful. While it is also other things, the novel is a satire of society, particularly in its view of religion (the Catholic Church), and certain forms of government and the unpinning philosophies.

Problematizing the “Noble Savage” and Stereotypes of Africans: Travel memoirs were filled with the idea of the “noble savage,” dating back to Bartolome de las Casas Historia de las Incas (1561) and then employed by Montaigne in his essay, “On Cannibals” (1580) and John Dryden during the Restoration (1670s) in The Conquest of Granada. The “noble savage” is viewed as the “other” and the psychological gulf between an indigenous person (whether native American or African) was considered to be almost insuperable – either whether viewed as overly innocent or the embodiment of evil.

Marryat’s character, “Mesty” (short for Mephistopheles Faustus) is an African who was a king in his own tribe, then captured and transported on a slave ship to America, where he was a slave. He escaped, then fled to New York, where he found that attitudes toward blacks were not healthy, even though slavery was outlawed. So, he joined a ship and set for England. He finds employment on the Aurora as a servant. Mesty is the real hero of Mr. Midshipman Easy, and his complex, paradoxical, wise views and actions ground narrative, while at times providing moments of broad comedy as English snobbery, religious hypocrisy, and human nature are exposed.

Life as a Privateer: Quintessence of the Quest for Meaningful Human Employment
The job of the privateer to attack, loot, and plunder is viewed as a form of game and is almost grotesquely sentimentalized, if one is seeking historical verisimilitude. The question remains: in this novel, is being a privateer the quintessence of the quest for meaningful human employment, or, a critique of colonialism? In Mr. Midshipman Easy, dogged adherence to historical fact is not the purpose of this tale, which is more of a romance / adventure. Even the most grotesque elements (the mutinous crew eaten by ground sharks) are comical rather than ghastly or horrific.

Summary: A Sea Tale?
Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836) is a very entertaining tale, part picaresque novel, part travel adventure.

The novel traces the live of young Jack Easy, the indulged son of a very wealthy trader-turned-philosophe and a mild-mannered, cowed-by-the-apocalypse mother.

By incorporating a number of adventures experienced at sea by a young midshipman, all before age 15, Marryat creates a narrative that contains echoes of Gargantua and Pantagruel (Rabelais), Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift) and Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe).

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