Thursday, April 10, 2008

Interview with Valerie Fox, Ph.D., Drexel University

We are delighted to have the opportunity to interview Valerie Fox, who has developed online courses in writing and poetry. In addition to teaching and writing, Valerie has taught in Japan and has edited award-winning literary publications. Her innovative poetry and writing in poetics have been widely published.

What is your name, and what is your involvement with e-learning?
|Valerie Fox. I've been teaching online courses for about five years. I teach writing and poetry at Drexel University, and writing and research for Excelsior College.

Valerie Fox, Ph.D.

How did you get interested in distance education?
I was asked a few years ago to teach and help to develop blended freshman writing courses at Drexel. Our students take a lot of credits, and they appreciate being able to take part in e-learning. The transition to teaching fully online (including distance) courses was a natural one.

What is your favorite new trend in distance education?
This may sound vague...but I just notice a willingness to "go with" the technology and the possibilities--at departmental level, but also higher levels. I can't speak to the institutional (or overall educational) reasons behind this; I suspect they vary considerably, depending on discipline, institution, etc.

What is your favorite technology?
I don't really have a favorite. I like including lots of various audio and video sources as suggested if not required offerings. Specifically, I've had some good success asking small groups to create websites. This isn't anything new--it's really just adding a creative or creative writing element to an assignment. The visual learners, as one would expect, do a terrific job with this. It builds their confidence.

What kinds of instructional materials do you use in elearning?
Creating materials is something I enjoy, so the flexibility of being able to combine various sources and media definitely is a plus. I guess (like everybody) for a while I was using youtube a lot, and I make a point to combine the easily accessible sources/links with those requiring the use of library databases. A librarian recently told me about and I've been using/recommending it a lot.

How do you use textbooks in e-learning?
Having a textbook can help ground the learners that might be new to this, so I think at least one book should usually be required. Teaching English and writing, it isn't hard to work required readings into writings/discussions that can be efficiently read and graded. Blackboard Vista Media Library is an excellent tool also, making it possible to easily add suggested readings, videos etc. to a course. Students can be allowed to add to the Media Libraries and sometimes I give extra credit if students add items of interest.

What are your favorite social networks? How do you view them in e-learning?
I participate in various forums and writing groups. Because I enjoy this, I simply try to recreate what I think are their best features in my course websites. It isn't always possible, but often it is. I hear more and more about students using non-official means to communicate about class work and activity. This helps to replicate the before-and-after-class information sharing that students sometimes miss from a face-to-face class. I acknowledge this but don't interfere with their bonding, with their assisting of each other.

What is your favorite quote? or, what's a book that caught your eye recently?
Recently I read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and thought it was terrific.

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