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Monday, August 24, 2009

Interview with Mark Luetzelschwab, BrainHoney: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Welcome to an interview with Dr Mark Luetzelschwab, of, a new learning management system that state standards into the entire teaching and learning process, which, in the past, has been a stumbling block as developers attempt to create K-12 courses for learners in different schools, or as colleges develop Advanced Placement courses for individuals in high schools in located in different states. Brainhoney automatically creates a curriculum map template, populates all of a person's state's standards, gradebook, and mastery chart. It is all web-based.

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

My name is Dr. Mark Luetzelschwab, BrainHoney. I have been involved with educational technology for 20+ years in a variety of areas including hands-on microcomputer labs, video analysis, multimedia tutorials, etc. I have focused on eLearning for last 10 years, with an emphasis on practical applications that are available to large audiences. I have also been an executive at a number of elearning startups that have grown to hundreds of thousands of enrollments across the globe. My PhD deals with expert facilitation of asynchronous discussions.

2. Please describe BrainHoney. What makes it unique? What is its structure?

BrainHoney uniquely integrates state standards into the entire teaching and learning process. Teachers track student progress against state standards; this data can be integrated with SISs and other data systems for administrator review. An automatic registration process is followed and then you may drag and drop curriculum mapping to state standards. BrainHoney creates a gradebook from the curriculum map and uses the data and alignment to generate day-by-day reports of student progress against state standards. In effect, the teachers get the same data daily the administrators get annually from state tests - in time to do something about it and provide intelligent intervention.

3. Who will use BrainHoney, and what are the core instructional strategies that it employs? Is it easy to use?

BrainHoney is designed for K-12 teachers. It is so easy and clear, we have even been hugged during demos by a few teachers. The core instructional strategy is that instructional decisions are best made based on available data. BrainHoney makes it practical for teachers to integrate state standards into the day-by-day practice and significantly benefit from that integration by understanding what students know and what concepts need to be revisited before the statewide exams.

BrainHoney can be used in the classroom, online, or both. Teachers can provide supplemental materials online for classroom students, teach online and classroom students simultaneously, and teach completely online.

Teachers who have used online learning systems like Blackboard and Moodle express that BrainHoney "has it figured out" and report savings of upwards of 80% of administrative time (i.e. looking for assignments, grading, responding to discussions)

4. What kinds of collaborative learning strategies does BrainHoney incorporate? Are there elements about BrainHoney that one can't find anywhere else?

While we have some basic asynchronous collaboration tools, we don't dictate the style of instruction. We focus on teachers aligning their activity - whether its a field trip, a collaborative project, or direct instruction - to state standards and providing a tool for measuring and reporting progress.

5. Who is likely to benefit most from BrainHoney's platform?

Ultimately, the students. BrainHoney makes it practical to differentiate instruction, which is one of the most critical aspects of effective instruction. Teachers love that it makes them more efficient, and that it helps them focus on teaching, and NOT on administrivia.

6. Does BrainHoney host the solution?

We host the solution.

BrainHoney's Facebook:

Twitter: @BrainHoneyEd

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Interview with Vikram Savkar, Nature Education: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Welcome to an interview with Vikram Savkar, Nature Education, who has dedicated energy and time to promoting science education that is truly collaborative, and which leverages new technologies and social networking to engage students and to make them comfortable with discovery science. He has led the development and launch of a new product,, which offers online learning, a social network, and a resource base of science.

What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
I’m Vikram Savkar, Senior Vice President & Publishing Director of Nature Education, a division of Nature Publishing Group. We are devoted to creating high quality, broadly accessible science e-learning.

Vikram Savkar

What is Scitable? Who are the users? What is their background (age, etc.)
Scitable, Nature Education’s first product, is a global online classroom for science. It is a combination of journal-quality articles and a social network. Scitable provides a library of free, peer-reviewed learning content to an online community of scientists, teachers, and students. Students not only delve deeply into key topics in science on their own using our content, but also reach out to and connect online with others—teachers, scientists, grad students—for advice, guidance, and insight.

Teachers use Scitable to create private online classroom spaces , combining premium content, discussions, news feeds, and more.

Currently, users come from more than 85 countries and include prominent researchers, teachers, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduate students, high school students, and even a number of non-science-related adults who are interested in learning more about science for personal reasons.

Please provide some examples of Scitable in use. E-Learning? Research?
Faculty in several countries have used Scitable to run their undergraduate classes, using our private classroom spaces and premium content. These classes range from “genetics for non-scientists” to intermediate level genetics classes. Researchers are also using Scitable to create public dialogue around topics of special interest to them. And a pleasant surprise is that a number of parents have come to use the site as a way to learn more about science topics covered in the news (like cloning or evolution), so that they can be in a better position to explain them to their children.

How is Scitable used in social networks? What kinds of social networks do you envision developing around Scitable in the future?
The faculty members who are using Scitable to run their classes form a unique kind of narrowly focused social network within Scitable. They are using the site as a powerful communication tool for their students in order to collaborate and have debates with each other.

Many users from overseas are using the site to build global networks of likeminded people whom they don’t otherwise know. We frequently hear how isolating it can be to be studying science in a country in which there are not very many science students.

In Scitable, these students find a thriving 24/7 global community of people studying the same area. We are planning to do more to capitalize on this potential and envision playing more of a “connector” role by which the site helps people find mentors or study partners from within the site community.

How much does Scitable cost? Are there articles that are free?
Scitable is free, and all of the articles on the site are free as well.

Does Scitable include images, audio podcasts, video podcasts? What kinds of assets do you incorporate?
Scitable contains text, images, podcasts and vodcasts. Please watch for Simply Science, a new online video series that we will launch shortly. It will explain cutting edge research in very simple terms from which any of us can learn. A podcast series on key trends in science education is also in the works. One of our goals is to provide resources that today’s students will enjoy using. Having a range of media assets is a key part of that strategy.

What are your plans for Scitable in the future?
We plan to expand our editorial coverage from genetics— the field in which we’ve created premium content initially—to the other life and physical sciences. Second, we plan to develop a version of Scitable that is accessible by Smartphone. There are numerous places in the world where top quality science resources are greatly needed that don’t have dependable Internet access, but do have strong mobile networks. Third, we’re going to continue to develop features that facilitate networking among our users.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Interview with Michael Platt on Career Colleges: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Career colleges are experiencing dramatic growth, primarily because they connect directly to the workforce, where learners can train to enter new jobs and careers. Their lives are transformed by their education, and their goals. Welcome to an interview with Michael Platt, PlattForm Advertising.

1. What is your name and what is your involvement with e-learning?

Michael Platt. I have been providing admissions support in the form of lead-generation, lead-management and admissions training, for as long as e-learning has been a significant delivery model, having worked with UOP (University of Phoenix) back in the 90’s.

2. What has your involvement been with career colleges?

My company, PlattForm Advertising, is the largest full-service marketing, advertising and public-relations firm in the sector.

3. How would you define "career college"?

Any school that offers programs taught by industry professionals and focused on the practical knowledge necessary to perform in the workplace.

4. What are some of the standards that career colleges are required to follow? For example, what must they do with respect to graduation rates, student success, and job placement?

Career Colleges, unlike other schools, must meet standards of job placement within the field of study, graduation rates, repayment of loan rates and a certain percentage of their revenue must come from cash, not Title IV funds. These are just a few of the many standards that are required by the DOE, States and Accrediting Bodies. While the DOE controls Title IV-based regulations, each state has its own governing board with distinct, state-by-state rules and regulations. Additionally, Regional Accrediting organizations like SACS and WACS in addition to National Accrediting organizations like ACCSCT, ACICS, ABHES, ACCETT and COE, have THEIR own rules and regulations. It is a major roadmap of rules and regulations that Career Colleges must navigate on a daily basis.

5. Please describe the work you have done in the area of education for "green jobs" or green technology and sustainable business?

This is all brand new, but I personally know of at least a dozen school groups currently working on new curriculum in these areas, both for design, development and maintenance.

6. In your opinion, within the realm of "green jobs," where will the highest growth occur?

Deployment and maintenance. There is a lot of focus on design at the traditional university level, but it will be Career Colleges that train those that will produce, install and maintain the equipment.

7. How do you approach e-learning when it is a skills-based, hands-on field? Do you advocate the use of interactive virtual worlds (such as Second Life), simulations, or "serious games"? Do you encourage the development of preceptorships, as are used in nursing?

In addition to externship components, the most successful model I have seen in using e-delivery of traditionally hands-on education, is to include a capstone event to serve as a final, hands-on component and proving ground. Also, many schools use video and asynchronous delivery models to create more of that hands-on or classroom feel for the students.

8. What do you see as the most important foundational skills for e-learners who are thinking about a program at a career college?

It is about the commitment and what to do when doubt sets in. There are terrific programs out there like the Pacific Institute who provides a curriculum, “Thought Patterns for a Successful Career,” that helps students understand how the mind works as it relates to goals, fear, attitude, accountability, and vision.

Note: Free download of pdf of e-Learner Survival Guide.

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