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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Interview with Michael Orey, University of Georgia

Michael Orey, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology at the University of Georgia, responded to interview questions on distance learning. Dr. Orey is a pioneer of online education, having developed multimedia learning materials since the 1980s. His insights and core philosophy of online education are valuable for all educators and administrators interested in motivating students and rehumanizing the online learning space.

What is your name, and what is your involvement with e-learning?
My name is Michael Orey and I am a professor in Instructional Technology. I teach online classes and have done so for about 10 years. I also consult with various companies who are engaged in e-learning in various ways.

BTW, the photo I have provided shows me sitting on the Veranda of the Jekyll Island Inn teaching an online class using Wimba’s live classroom. This was during a Distance Learning Administrator conference and I believe that my photo was taken at least 5 times during my class because attendees at the conference loved seeing e-learning in action!

How did you get interested in distance education?
It was a natural progression of using technology for learning. I have been in the field of Instructional Technology since the early 1980’s. I was originally interested in Intelligent Tutoring Systems, but my interests just keep evolving as new and more interesting technology becomes available. I was never interested in distance learning when the technology available was postal mail, but as the web has grown, so has my interest in distance learning.

What is your favorite new trend in distance education?
I have been involved with technology for learning for years and over those years I have come to believe that teaching and learning is a very human endeavor. I think that the trends in distance education I think are the most interesting are the ones where closer connections are made between students and between students and teachers. Some of those are live classrooms like Wimba and some of those are 3-D virtual environments like Second Life, but more tailored to the support of collaboration.

What is your favorite technology?
I am a big Wimba user. I have been using a live classroom for nearly 10 years dating back to an early version of Placeware which is now Microsoft’s NetMeeting. I am beginning to believe that some sort of hybrid between Wimba and Second Life would be the next great App for learning.

What kinds of instructional materials do you use in elearning?
I have or are in the process of writing/editing three wiki-based books in my field. I use these in my online classes and make them freely available for others to use. I also have developed things like quizzes and assignments in WebCT to support learning. I use Impatica for recording lectures with Powerpoint. I use Captivate to do software demonstrations. I use videos to support learning as well and have begun to put these on YouTube so that they are freely available.

How do you use textbooks in e-learning?
I have already answered this to some extent with my wiki books. However, I also teach classes where I have not written the text. In these classes, most frequently, I use a collection of readings. These readings I scan into PDFs and provide within a password protected site like WebCT to the students in my classes.

What are your favorite social networks? How do you view them in e-learning?
I am in LinkedIn and Facebook, but I am not a “native”. I seem to only go to these sites when someone wants me to link to them, so I do.

Do you have a few favorite mashups or web applications that work together in innovative ways? Please describe them.
Other than those I just described, no. As I learn new and interesting technologies, I try to weave them in. I did a podcast for a class once, but I did not have a great deal of success with it, so I abandoned it. I have used a wiki to run a class once, that was pretty successful.

BTW, the books I edit online are:
Emerging Perspectives on Teaching, Learning and Technology
This is the oldest book I have. It has evolved over the years to include video, animations, images, narrated powerpoints and other media to support the content of the book.

World Almanac of Educational Technologies
This book has as a goal to have a chapter from each country in the world so that we can all learn about how technology is being used everywhere. We only have a handful of chapters so far, but we are still hopeful that others will continue to contribute.

Foundations of Instructional Technology
This book is due to be ready in the fall of 2008. As such, most of the chapters are still just promises.

BTW, the wiki I used for a class can be found at:
This wiki shows some of the ideas I have about Open Resources and Global Issues.

What is your favorite quote? or, what's a book that caught your eye recently?
Unfortunately, my favorite quote is from my favorite author and not someone in the e-learning world. It is from Kurt Vonnegut:
Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.

Would you like to hear an interview with Dr. Orey? click here.

Interviewed by Susan.

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