Friday, June 27, 2008

E-Learning Queen's "Corgi Big Bark Awards" June 2008

This month marks the inauguration of E-Learning Queen's Corgi Big Bark Awards. Created to recognize innovations in e-learning, the awards are a way to encourage people who have a dream and a vision, and whose energy provides very welcome inspiration and affirmation for all involved in e-learning.



The Corgi Big Barks are awarded to products and services that achieve a high score in the following categories:

* meets a need in a new way
* is easy to use
* encourages the user think of new ways to teach and learn
* makes one think of new ways to communicate / share / collaborate
* demonstrates a sense of whimsy, humor, beauty
* is practical and affordable
* promotes social responsibility

Elluminate Publish!
http://www.elluminate.com/
Elluminate consistently innovates in a positive and useful way, and the company updates its webinar and other collaborative tools in response to evolving uses of elearning technologies.
The new product, Publish!, is an authoring tool that streamlines the process of using webinars for instructional material for asynchronous as well as synchronous courses.



Revoluminary
http://revoluminary.com/
Revoluminary is a student-based initiative to encourage grassroots tutoring and mentoring efforts. Revoluminary contains classifications of tutoring offerings, a rating system, whiteboards, and other tools that encourage interaction. The flexibility, ease of use, and profoundly inclusive approach to tutoring and mentoring are to be commended.



Narrator Files: Sparrow Interactive
http://www.sparrowia.com/
Profesional voiceovers and stock photos may not seem like a very big deal until you find yourself spending days upon days trying to generate good audio and multimedia content. Sparrow Interactive has created an approach that will work very well with programs of all scopes and sizes, from training to graduate education.

Instructional Spice
http://www.instructionalspice.com/activityspice/
Custom flash activities. Activity Spice is an online application that builds custom eLearning flash activities to be inserted in whatever eLearning platform is in use. This is a web-based application, meaning that Activity Spice be accessed from anywhere. As a result, it can be used work, at home, or at the client location. In a matter of minutes one can have a flash activity customized and downloaded, ready to insert in a course. What used to take days now takes minutes.

LearnHub
http://www.learnhub.com/
Learnhub is a social learning network that gives individuals the opportunity to use a friendly interface to upload video, audio, pdfs, images and other course content, and then to schedule courses, tutoring sessions, and more.

Learnhub incorporates Web 2.0 applications and philosophy in a very clear and straightforward way, resulting in the empowerment of instructors and students. Individuals can form communities and share content. In addition, learners can charge for courses and tutoring sessions, participate in others' sessions, and rate their experiences.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Knowledge Management: Emerging Ideas On Knowledge Types

The wide popularity and adoption of Web 2.0 applications, with the information sharing, repository development, social bookmarking, community tagging, community-build information bases makes an understanding of information, knowledge, and knowledge development vital. Otherwise, the information and knowledge collected and combined can collapse into chaos. Perhaps the most obvious knowledge management concept when looking at social networks (wikis, bookmarking, etc.) is to look at knowledge as a social construct. However, this may not be the most useful for purposes of classification for retrieval, and for ranking knowledge from the point of view of usefulness or commercial viability.

Podcast: http://www.beyondutopia.net/podcasts/knowledge-management.mp3

So, as a result, several ideas about knowledge and knowledge management have emerged. A brief overview may be helpful, along with a list of useful references for further study. In a recent article, Maria Jakubik (2007) discusses knowledge and knowledge management ideas. Further, her article, which was published in the Journal of Knowledge Management, includes flowcharts that trace the evolution of ideas, as well as a diagram that relates the four emerging ideas to each other.

Jakubik identifies four categories of knowledge management ideas: ontological, epistemological, commodity, and community.

Ontological: The ontological perspective suggests that knowledge is concerned with the nature of reality. Criteria of measurement and evaluation have to do with understanding the nature of the knowledge and the "reality." Is it external? Objective? Ontological views of knowledge look at two subcategories:
a. social
b. individual

Epistemological: The epistemological view looks at knowledge management from a scientific perspective, and seeks to develop systems of classification that incorporate the logic(s) of science, including a "grammar" of science. Is the knowledge explicit? Is it tacit?

Commodity: In this case, knowledge is an asset. As such, its value depends on its utility. In this case, instead of relying on the logic(s) of science, one would look at economics, particularly microeconomics.

Community: Perhaps the most commonly addressed in contemporary discussions of knowledge and knowledge management, this view suggests that knowledge is a function of community interactions. The underpinning concept is the social construction of reality, and the notion that knowledge is socially determined. While this is undoubtedly useful as a knowledge management philosophy, there are limitations, particularly when needing to create classification schemes that respond to an object's usefulness.

Knowledge Management (KM) is a dynamic, quickly evolving field. As collaboration, peer review, sharing, and modification occur in web applications and information manipulation and retrieval, then it will be necessary to develop more schemes and to refine them in an ongoing way.

References

Boisot, M. (1999), Knowledge Assets, Securing Competitive Advantage in the Information Age, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Brewster, C. and O’Hara, K. (2004), Knowledge Representation with Ontologies: The Present and Future, IEEE Computer Society, Washington, DC, pp. 72-81.

Brown, J.S. and Duguid, P. (1991), ‘‘Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation’’, Organization Science, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 40-57.

Brown, J.S. and Duguid, P. (1998), ‘‘Organizing knowledge’’, California Management Review, Vol. 40 No. 3, pp. 90-111.

Burrell, G. and Morgan, G. (2000), Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis, Ashgate Publishing Limited, Aldershot.

Clawson, J.G. (1996), ‘‘Mentoring in the information age’’, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 6-15.

Davenport, T. and Prusak, L. (2000), Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.

Fahey, L. and Prusak, L. (1998), ‘‘The eleven deadliest sins of knowledge management’’, California Management Review, Vol. 40 No. 3, pp. 59-79.

Fuller, S. (2002), Knowledge Management Foundations, Butterworth-Heinemann, Boston, MA.

Garvey, B. and Williamson, B. (2002), Beyond Knowledge Management, Dialogue, Creativity and Corporate Curriculum, Financial Times/Prentice-Hall, Harlow.

Jakubic, M. (2007), "Exploring the knowledge landscape: four emerging views of knowledge" Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 6-19.

Jashapara, A. (2004), Knowledge Management: An Integrated Approach, FT Prentice-Hall, Harlow.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991), Situated Learning – Legitimate Peripherial Participation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Mika, P. (2005), ‘‘Social networks and the semantic web: the next challenge’’, IEEE Intelligent Systems, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 82-5.

Mische, M.A. (2001), Strategic Renewal, Organizational Change for Competitive Advantage, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Nonaka, I. (1994), ‘‘A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation’’, Organization Science, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 14-37.

Nonaka, I. and Konno, N. (1998), ‘‘The concept of ‘Ba’: building foundation for knowledge creation’’, California Management Review, Vol. 40 No. 3, pp. 40-54.

Nonaka, I. and Takeuchi, H. (1995), The Knowledge-Creating Company, How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Orr, J.E. (1990), ‘‘Sharing knowledge, celebrating identity: community memory in a service culture’’, in Middleton, D. and Edwards, D. (Eds), Collective Remembering, Sage, Newbury Park, CA, pp. 169-89.

Pfeffer, J. and Sutton, R.I. (1999), The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Polanyi, M. (1975), ‘‘Personal Knowledge’’, in Polanyi, M. and Prosch, H. (Eds), Meaning, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, pp. 22-45.

Searle, J.R. (1996), The Construction of Social Reality, Penguin, London.

Senge, P., Scharmer, C.O., Jaworski, J. and Flowers, B.S. (2005), Presence, Exploring Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London.

Skyrme, D.J. (2003), Knowledge Networking, Creating the Collaborative Enterprise, Butterworth-Heinemann, Boston, MA.

Smith, M.K. (2003), ‘‘Communities of practice’’, The Encyclopaedia of Informal Education, available at: www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_pratice.htm

Spender, J.-C. (1996a), ‘‘Organizational knowledge, learning, and memory: three concepts in search for a theory’’, Journal of Organizational Change, Vol. 9, pp. 63-78.

Spender, J.-C. (1996b), ‘‘Making knowledge the basis of a dynamic theory of the firm’’, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 17, pp. 45-62.

Spender, J.-C. (1998), ‘‘Pluralist epistemology and the knowledge-based theory of the firm’’, Organization, Vol. 5, pp. 233-56.

Stacey, R.D. (2004), Complex Responsive Processes in Organizations, Learning and Knowledge Creation, Routledge, London.

von Krogh, G., Ichijo, K. and Nonaka, I. (2000a), Enabling Knowledge Creation, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

von Krogh, G., Nonaka, I. and Nishiguchi, T. (2000b), Knowledge Creation: A Source of Value, Macmillan Press, London.

Wenger, E. (1998), Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Wenger, E. (2000), ‘‘Communities of practice and social learning systems’’, Organizations, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 225-46.

Wenger, E. and Snyder, W.M. (2000), ‘‘Communities of practice: the organizational frontier’’, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 78 No. 1, pp. 139-45.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R. and Snyder, W.M. (2002), Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to Use Elluminate's New Program To Fast-Track Branded Online Course Creation

This is an expansion of an earlier post on how to fast-track the creation of online courses using recorded webinars. I’m applying the concepts to Elluminate’s new new product, Publish!, designed to help users do all the things in my May 2008 "wish list" post, and more. In my post, I discussed how archived webinars (using Elluminate, Adobe Connect, Neulio, LearnHub, etc.) can be saved and then used as the core instructional content for web-based courses and/or hybrid courses. Here's the article again, which has been updated to reflect Elluminate's new product, which is called Publish! (http://elluminate.com/publish/).

Recorded and archived webinars can have very high value as instructional material for online, hybrid, and web-enabled face-to-face courses. Further, well-designed and executed webinars can create an outstanding library of useful information.

The key to success is good planning. It is important to make sure that the following items are covered in the webinar:

1.The objectives of the webinar are clearly stated.
A bullet point list of topics, goals, and desired learning outcomes can help guide the participant.

2. The content is organized in a clear sequence, with a logical flow.
Powerpoints should be clear and not distracting. Avoid too many all-text powerpoints, and use engaging and meaningful graphics when possible.

3. Audience participation is encouraged (even when recorded, seeing audience participation is engaging) with use of polls, surveys, and interaction.
Pace the insertion of polls and audience participation so that they are presented in regular intervals.

4. Audio should be spontaneous, conversational, and related to the content.
Avoid reading the powerpoints. Respond to questions from participants in a clear, relevant, and respectful way. Encourage individuals to use their audio. If they text message their question, be sure to read their question aloud in order to record and capture it for the archived webinar.

5. Use high-impact images that reinforce the objectives of the webinar.
In addition to powerpoints, it is possible to incorporate video, maps, graphics, tables, and other high-impact media. Make sure that you are making the connection between the course goals and the presentation.


Discussion of virtual world library resources.


6. Encourage participants to respond, not just with text messages, but also with audio questions.
You may also wish participants to send links to their own sites and to information that others will find helpful.

7. Content is of high quality and relevant to the objectives of the webinar.
It is a good idea to go through an prune material that does not directly bear on the goals and objectives of the webinar. A distraction or a dash off into the wrong direction can be devastatingly time-consuming in a synchronous webinar format. It’s even worse if the webinar is being archived for future use. Editing out the digressions later can be a real headache.

8. Content is aligned with the level and needs of the participants.
Before you start do the webinar, get an idea of the participants. Who are they? What is their background? Why are they attending? Be sure to gather the information and keep it in mind as you prepare the material.

9. Quizzes, questionnaires, and other interactive elements are included.
Again, don’t overwhelm, and pace them well.

10. If the webinar is a part of a series or a sequence, the place in the sequence should be clearly marked.




Screen shot from an Elluminate webinar


A number of webinar providers have targeted the education market and have made their products effective for classroom learning. However, Elluminate is leading the pack at this point with a number of useful attributes:

Attributes of the most Elluminate’s Vrooms include:

1. Interactivity with multiple participants;

2. Interactivity includes polling, questionnaires, surveys, and quick quizzes;

3. Individuals can write, draw, doodle in whiteboard area;

4. Participants can chat with the group;

5. Participants can send messages to other participants;

6. The interface supports audio and video demos;

7. The interface allows the presenter to move graphics and slides at own pace;

8. A log of presenters with contact information can be made available;

9. The interface allows for orderly interactivity (raise hands function, mute, etc.)

10. A moderator / administrator can archive the webinar.

When utilizing the archived webinars, it is very important to not simply create a "wraparound" shell to house the content. Instead, it is important to create a lesson plan that incorporates effective flow, and has learning objectives as well as clear outcomes assessment. Follow the steps outlined above, and you’ll have high-quality instructional material that will form the foundation of an excellent course that is unique to your organization, and which builds your brand.

Elluminate Learning Suite - http://www.elluminate.com/press/learning-suite-2008.jsp

Elluminate Next > Bundle - http://www.elluminate.com/press/elluminate-next-2008.jsp

posted by susan

Useful book that will help you develop effective online and hybrid courses using archived webinars:
http://ccthomas.com/details.cfm?P_ISBN13=9780398077501

just for fun - new book for teens stresses social responsibility:
http://www.gooddeedssociety.com

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Research Paper Sources: Is Your Data Original or Derivative?

Conducting research for a paper or study requires students to be able to determine where and when their sources are reporting information derived from the primary research, which is, in essence a derivative or second-order reporting. Needless to say, this could lead to errors. Here are a few ways to avoid the problems.

Seek the Primary Source of Statistics and Studies:

Using a web-based search engine such as Google, or a database such as Lexis-Nexis that contains a large number of newspaper articles, can yield excellent preliminary results if one is seeking statistics or the results of research to provide evidenciary support for a position made in one’s primary thesis.

However, it could be a bit risky to use the information from the newspaper source, since it could have been slightly distorted or mistyped (scrivener’s errors, etc.). Even worse, the information is often gleaned from a press release, which was created with a definite agenda in mind, resulting in potential skew or bias.

The best approach is to use the newspaper articles as a good first step. After finding who conducted the research, where the results were published, and when, go online to online information repositories and obtain the actual report.

Many times, the report or original publication will be housed on the website of the organization that is publishing the results. This is many times the case with government agencies, not-for-profit organizations and think tanks.

Identify Second-Order Derivatives of Primary Research-Use as Points of Departure:
A reference to a published report or statistics can be thought of as second-order derivatives of primary research. While these are very useful, the information can be a confusing, especially if the article contains a combination of original research and other peoples’ findings.

Sometimes it is not easy to determine that an article is referring to the results of studies contained in other published reports.

While reading the article, it is often useful to develop a diagram that lists the research, the dates, and the names of the primary researchers.

If several studies are being mentioned, it is important to be able to differentiate them. Once the second-order derivatives have been identified, make list and start to construct a brief annotated bibliography. If the results are to be quoted or used in one’s own paper, it is important to obtain a copy of the original report.

Here is a video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2165370213936058620&hl=en


Monday, June 16, 2008

Using Django for Website Development

Ayman Hourieh's book, published by Packt Publishing, is a convenient way to get started developing websites using Django. This book's major virtue is that it provides guidelines to the full process of developing a website with Django. It moves from getting started to actually starting to construct and deploy the framework. Thus, the project-oriented approach is extremely effective. This book is a welcome addition to open-source software resources, and allows users to increase the power and functionality of all solutions.



Django is a framework for Python, a programming language that many consider to be one of the best general purpose languages for developing web applications. Python has a clean and elegant language, but also a huge library of modules and components. It's a stable language, which is appealing to programmers. Further, it works on many web servers, including UNIX/Linux, Windows, Mac. Python is free.

As a framework for Python, Django makes a clean, powerful language even sweeter. While the framework works well as a content manager, especially since it was originally created to manage newsgroups and news-oriented websites, Django also accommodates deadling-driven environments.

The book is very clear. It starts with the basic information one would need to get started (Python, a server, and a database system such as MySQL, Oracle, etc.). It then proceeds with examples, such as a step-by-step description of how to create a social bookmarking application. Django is Web 2.0-friendly, and accommodates tags. It can also be integrated with AJAX, although many would recommend against it since Asynchronous Javascript & XML (AJAX) sounds a lot more useable than it really is.


Learning Website Development with Django



The book emphasizes that with Django, one can create templates, and there is an emphasis on reusability. The problem with the book, though, is that it does not include a link to downloadable templates or code.Thus, the deployment of the solutions is a bit limited.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Art and Social Responsibility in Second Life: AM Radio

The 3D virtual world of Second Life has quickly become a place of interactive art, where artists can display their creations and visitors can interact with them. The result is a "living museum" or "living gallery" experience that invites the viewer to participate in what could be an updated version of a preceptor model. It is also a method to construct a learning community. Some artists also encourage community in a larger sense and encourage contributions to humanitarian endeavors. AM Radio, an artist working in this environment, has created an immersive, interactive gallery that allows visitors to join a community centered around self-expression and social responsibility, as individuals may donate linden bucks to a rural economic development organization, whose mission resonates with AM Radio's own art.

Podcast: http://www.beyondutopia.net/podcasts/amradio.mp3

While galleries and artists can be found throughout Second Life, getting to galleries can be challenging. In Dreamworld, one seems to have landed squarely in the middle of a dry lake bed or salt plain; something reminiscent of Alkali Flats or some other place where one could test experimental vehicles (cars, motorcycles, planes, dirigibles) or investigate the nature and texture of mirages. In any case, it's a place that reminds you of the big dreams that inventors have had, and that sometimes the outcome of a dream is a device (a plane, a spaceship, even a computer) that changes the way we perceive our world.

The island contains antique airplanes, a desk with antique instruments, and other items. The visitor can sit in the planes, and can sit at the desk. They are not for sale, but they can be used in world as prompts for conversations. One is reminded of surrealists, Joan Miro and Salvador Dali, except that the nature of the artwork also brings realism / superrealism to mind.

The antique telescope allows you to touch it and teleport to Dreamworld North. Once in Dreamworld North, FarAway, one becomes acquainted with some really spectacular artwork / background, created by AM Radio. There is a wheat field, a cluster of outbuildings, and a windmill. Although they were modeled after a wheat field in Elgin, Illinois, they could just as easily be from the "Red Carpet Country" expanse of fertile wheat farms in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas. There is something sublime about the backdrops. Clearly others have felt the same. They have been purchased and used in photoshoots, as in the case of Soigne (http://secondsoigne.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/106/)



In terms of echoes of art, one can't help but think of Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World" or Millet's "The Gleaners."

AM Radio's installation, with its wheat field, big big sky, wonderful farmhouse elements, and the old locomotive have inspired many residents to take their pictures and then to post them in their Flickr streams. For example, SL Resident Strawberry Holiday posted her snapshot: http://www.flickr.com/photos/strawberryholiday/2271286513/.

There are other installations, such as a table for two. The vaguely overcast sky gives a magical aura.



Dreamworld North in FarAway is AM Radio's first interactive, immersive gallery in SL, and it has inspired many residents to not only take snapshots, but also to donate Linden dollars to a charity that AM Radio selected to feature there. The Resident can "Support the Heifer" http://www.heifer.org by donating linden dollars. The funds are then used to purchase a cow as a part of an economic development project run by the not-for-profit humanitarian aid organization, Heifer International. You can donate lindens toward the cause -- receive your selection of plots of wheat with prims.



For those who would like to get started with creating their own objects, the NMC (New Media Consortium) offers very helpful tutorials and learning objects in the educator-friendly NMC Orientation Island in SL. Display opportunities also exist at Ars Simulacra, an NMC-sponsored space that allows artists to display their items. Further, the NMC's 2008 Summer Conference, hosted by Princeton University, offers numerous opportunities to learn about how to create art and share it in virtual worlds (http://www.nmc.org).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Trends in Technology and Learning: NMC Summer Conference Plenary Stresses Contextual Constructivism

The opening plenary address of the New Media Consortium (NMC) Summer Conference stressed the importance of community and context when developing educational programs, particularly those using innovative technologies. Delivered by Dr. Diana Oblinger, President of EDUCAUSE, the speech took place on the campus of Princeton University, host for this year's conference. The New Media Consortium (NMC) is a community of hundreds of leading universities, colleges, museums, and research centers. The NMC stimulates and furthers the exploration and use of new media and technologies for learning and creative expression.

In keeping with the goals of the NMC Summer Conference (June 10-14), Oblinger's address focused on where and how Web 2.0 and "Learning 3.0" will bring new opportunities for learners that will accommodate preferences and the need to work in a collaborative dynamic.

Stressing the notion of "contextual constructivism," Oblinger discussed how students now expect to connect with each other and to participate in experiential learning activities. Learning takes place as much in informal settings as in the formal "classroom" (face to face or virtual), in those situations, social networks are of paramount importance.

Learning environments have changed, asserted Oblinger, and models of ideal instruction have followed. For example, instead of passively reading texts, students prefer to work with the information. A culture of participatory knowledge creation has emerged, and amateurs are often accepted as authorities (wikis, etc.), and information is viewed as something to be mashed up and integrated with web applications.

While the new paradigm has truly opened new opportunities for learners, it is dependent upon access, cautioned Oblinger. America needs a broadband policy in order to assure universal access.



The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus - NMC Summer Conference, Princeton, NJ

After Dr. Oblinger finished her presentation, Larry Johnson, CEO of the NMC announced a few special events in addition to the full schedule of workshops and breakout sessions. One event included the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, available for conference participants who wish to learn about some of new trends in multimedia and immersive / collaborative learning.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

National Dialog on Student Retention: Student Engagement and Institutional Involvement

The question of how institutions can do more to address retention in online education programs was addressed at the inaugural National Dialog on Student Retention (NDSR) Conference. Hosted and organized by EducationDynamics (http://www.educationdynamics.com/), the event brought together thought-leaders from colleges and universities, who presented the results of research as well as lessons learned at their institutions.

Podcast: http://www.beyondutopia.net/podcasts/dialog.mp3

The event, which focused on both for-profit and not-for-profit institutions, identified the reasons when and why adult learners stay enrolled in their online programs, and the factors that help them succeed and make satisfactory academic progress.

In order to pinpoint the conditions in which adult students thrive, it is also necessary to take a close look at why and when they do not thrive. Online programs designed for adults will face different challenges than programs that are hybrid, or which address more "traditional" students. The speakers who made presentations at the conference specifically addressed many of those issues.

The program and the presenters are included in the website:
http://www.educationdynamics.com/retention_conference

The site has been updated to include links to the conference presentations.

Video and audio recordings of featured sessions are available for download:
http://www.educationdynamics.com/retention_conference/conference_downloads.htm

For many of the experts, the key to retention is student engagement. Dr. George Kuh presented what he referred to as the "Student Engagement Trinity" in his keynote speech:

Retention has to do with the "Student Engagement Trinity" -

1. What students do – time and energy devoted to educationally purposeful activities;

2. What institutions do – using effective practices to induce students to do the right things; and

3. Educationally effective institutions channel student energy toward the right activities.

More of Dr. Kuh’s comments can be found in an article called "Is Retention Improvement Within Colleges’ Reach?" at http://insidehighered.com/news/2008/06/04/retention.

It is worth noting that the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) http://nsse.iub.edu/index.cfm, has archives of the results of its survey from 1999.

All reports reinforce the reality that student engagement is a powerful factor in retention. The NSSE was conceived in early 1998 and supported by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The NSSE conducted a successful pilot in 1999 that involved more than 75 selected colleges and universities. The last round of the NSSE included more than 300 institutions.

It is useful to note that student engagement is rarely a grassroots kind of endeavor, unless the conditions are such that social networking can be used to establish true collaborative learning. Even then, the most successful attempts to boost student engagement have to do with the pro-active stance of the institution, which must invest a variety of resources. In this endeavor, creative and innovative approaches can yield tremendous payoffs.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Interview with Barbara Lauren, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers

Welcome to an interview with Dr. Barbara Lauren, Associate Director, Compliance and Professional Development for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO).

1. What is your name and your relation to education, especially distance education?

For five years I have supervised and taught in the online continuing education offerings of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO). I work in concert with Don Bunis, American University Registrar (retired), who serves as technical consultant to our online offerings, and who trains and guides our online faculty (including teaching the advanced registrar course himself).



2. Please describe a few of the projects you have been involved in.

We offer four-week courses for our two major constituencies – registrars and admissions officers – at two different levels: one each for registrars or admissions officers who have entered the field within the past three years, and one for people in each field who are managers, or are aiming to be managers.

All four courses are offered asynchronously, on the Blackboard platform. For each course, we provide a three-day orientation, so that everyone learns how to enter the Discussion Board, start a new thread, and otherwise use the technology. Each course consists of four segments, and we post them week by week, to encourage people to think through each segment, rather than “getting through them, all in one fell swoop.” In addition, we have an open forum – the “Cyber Cafe” – available throughout each course. There, people can raise issues of particular interest to them that may not have emerged otherwise. We encourage participants to respond to each other, so that everyone can benefit.
3. The College Admissions Officer’s Guide has just been published and you were the editor. What was the goal of the publication? What was the scope? What were some of the challenges? Please describe how the Guide could be valuable for online programs.

The College Admissions Officer’s Guide (2008) is a companion volume to The Registrar’s Guide (2006). Both are hard-bound volumes of 500-plus pages, and they have been written by our public-spirited members in the field. Both books address a wide number of current issues in their areas. What I wrote in the Introduction to The Registrar’s Guide could stand equally well as a summary of the purpose of the admissions guide, too:

“This book was planned to enhance the skills of the seasoned registrar, while also being written clearly enough to aid the new registrar – or the veteran registrar who is venturing out of his or her comfort zone, by choice or by assignment, into a different part of the field…. These chapters represent the distillation of years of experience of very thoughtful people.”

Already, we are making use of one of the chapters in The College Admissions Officer’s Guide in our online course for admissions managers. One of the segments in the managers’ course concerns, as you would expect, “Best Practices in Recruiting and Marketing.” One of the readings in that segment is a very helpful chapter on “Technology-Enhanced Recruitment Communication,” by Dr. Dean Kahler of Western Kentucky University. This chapter offers a wide-ranging introduction to many of the newest ways of communicating with a high-tech generation.

As to challenges, the greatest challenge in creating and shepherding a book is simply deciding what we need and want to cover, and then recruiting authors to do so. Once you devise the roadmap, everything else follows.

4. Based on your work with AACRAO’s online continuing education programs, what do you see as the top trends in distance education?

I would say that a top trend, and challenge, in online distance education is to emphasize to the learners the importance of their interacting with other participants. We emphasize to those who have signed up that mere passive “listening” will not give them the maximum benefit from the course. We explicitly offer such tips as: Take full advantage of the interactivity of this medium. Participate! Log on to the workshop every day, and take full advantage of the fact that you will get to know your fellow-learners well over the course of the four weeks. Only by involving yourself actively will you gain the most from the course.

5. How can individuals and organizations obtain a copy of The College Admissions Officer’s Guide?

For orders, please call (301) 490-7651 (Eastern Standard Time), or go to http://www.blogger.com/www.aacrao.org/publications. The item number for The College Admissions Officer’s Guide is 0120. If you are interested in The Registrar’s Guide, the item number is 0110.

6. Is there a quotation which inspires you?

I really would like to share with everyone the quotation I chose to lead in to my Introduction to The Registrar’s Guide. The thought is short but wise:

“We are all of us ignorant, but on different subjects.”
Will Rogers, humorist-philosopher

The ability to enlighten people speedily on a variety of subjects is what continuing education, especially online, is all about!


Dr. Lauren can be reached at http://www.blogger.com/laurenb@aacrao.org, or at 202-293-9161, ext. 6502

Thursday, June 05, 2008

LearnHub: Web 2.0 Social Learning Network with Courses, Tutoring, Content Sharing

LearnHub is a fresh approach to online learning that combines social networks and content management to allow users to create, use, and manage online learning (training, tutoring, mini-courses, reviews), all in an easy-to-use platform that encourages multimedia, graphics, and interactivity. What makes Learnhub unique is the fact that it contains an easy-to-use content management system that allows the user to create courses. Despite still being in its rollout phase, individuals and groups are using LearnHub, including such colleges as Athabasca University and several other Canadian, U.S., and global associations and learning organizations.

The flexibility of LearnHub allows an individual to take courses, host content, offer synchronous courses, and to provide synchronous tutoring services. The resources include a whiteboard, chat with threaded discussions, quizzes, downloadable pdfs, audio, and video. Courses can be free, or can have a fee associated with them. They can have fixed start and end dates, rolling start dates, or be completely open.

Tutor offerings are synchronous, live sessions between instructors and students including a whiteboard, video, audio, and document sharing. They can be free or have a fee associated with them. To participate, one should request a session, and the instructor sets up a time.

Upon first glance, the interface does not seem to be too far unremoved from social networking sites such as Bebo (http://www.bebo.com) that offer the opportunity to develop different channels for networks, and which encourage you to create your own content and share it in innovative ways using integrated web applications and other mashups.



The features of LearnHub differentiate it from other portals, start pages, or web application integrators. The focus on learning, the ability to take rate, and comment on content, providers, and learning experiences make it a unique service. Further, with the ability to charge (and collect) fees, the incentives for individuals to put their best possible content, and to take instruction to a level not found in free offerings.



It is important to keep in mind that at this point, LearnHub does not offer a full-fledged learning management solution. It does not have a gradebook, and some of the other features that one might expect with an LMS.

LearnHub allows one to record and archive synchronous sessions (as do web-conferencing programs such as Elluminate or Adobe Connect). This expands the scope of instructional materials. Those who have used archived webinars as building blocks for the instructional content in a course will appreciate this option.

LearnHub's communities and open structure encourage individuals to be creative about the type of ways to use the training and collaboration potential.

The flexibility, social networking, and overall ease of use make LearnHub a compelling option. Not only is it effective for individuals who may wish to offer training, it also encourages colleges and universities to supplement their face-to-face courses with the rich Web 2.0 environment offered by LearnHub. As in the case of the best Web 2.0 applications, LearnHub promotes interaction, collaboration, sharing, peer networking, as well as innovation in multimedia self-expression.

Here is an example of the content that has been placed in a video lesson module in LearnHub (beyondutopia):


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