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Friday, January 14, 2011

Interview with Janet Gifford, Linfield College: Profiles of Online Programs Series

Welcome to an interview with Janet Gifford, Linfield College. This interview is the first in a new series at E-Learning Queen which will profile colleges, universities, and other institutions using what they have determined are the elearning approaches and instructional technology appropriate to their institutions in order to respond to the quickly evolving needs of learners, the economy, the labor force, and today's workplace.

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

My name is Janet Gifford and I am the Director of Marketing for the Linfield College Adult Degree Program. Linfield ADP offers adults the opportunity to earn bachelor's degrees and certificates online.

2. What is Linfield's history / mission? What is your philosophy of elearning?

Established in 1858, Linfield is one of the first colleges in the Pacific Northwest, providing an anchor for higher education in the region. Linfield has consistently earned high rankings by such organizations as U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges,” Barron’s Guide and The Princeton Review.

Linfield’s Adult Degree Program works to offer students an opportunity to advance their education and achieve a higher degree mid-career. Students who choose to go back to college often have to balance a number of responsibilities including work, family and now school. We offer online course loads that are flexible, for students that are part time or fulltime, depending on the needs of the student.

Online learning, elearning, is a valuable way for people to advance their education and even earn a fully accredited bachelor’s degree or certificate. eLearning allows flexibility in ones learning that may not be available in other education platforms.

Linfield’s ADP offers tuition that is among the most affordable in the nation. And until February 19, 2011, Linfield is offering free application for adult students interested in beginning the program in the 2011 Spring or Summer semesters.

3. Do you currently use ebooks? What is your philosophy of using ebooks?

Since Linfield’s Adult Degree Program offers courses entirely online, many of the resources have to be made available in an electronic form, including required readings and resources for research. Having books and other reading materials available in an electronic form allows students to access their readings from anywhere they have a computer, which contributes to the flexibility that many of these students require. Providing students their academic content online also allows readings or resources to be delivered immediately, again catering to students who are balancing multiple responsibilities.

4. What kinds of innovative approaches does Linfield currently use?

Linfield’s Adult Degree Program has been offering online classes for more than ten years. Many of the college’s instructors were involved in the early designs of online education. This collective online learning knowledge has helped Linfield to be innovative in the online class formats they offer, as well as continually improve the online learning experience.

Though Linfield’s program offers some classes in a hybrid format, where classes are both online and in the classroom, most adult students choose to take entirely online classes. To support the success of the adult students, Linfield provides a dedicated online academic library with research resources, online tutoring services and online career resources.

Linfield also utilizes chat rooms and online discussion boards to provide a platform for students and instructors to share thoughts, opinions and feedback, similar to what would be offered in a classroom.

One of the programs we are most known for is our online RN to BSN degree for registered nurses. Rather than having tests in the nursing courses, this RN to BSN course of study allows students to take initiative in their learning, utilizing collaboration with colleagues, expressing insight surrounding the nursing profession and putting learned knowledge into practice as a way for instructors to assess their students’ knowledge of course material. The decision to abandon tests is innovative and has proven to be very successful.

Clinical experiences are innovative also, through a self-designed process between the RN and his/her nursing faculty, they may occur in the community where the RN is licensed, or internationally.

5. What do you believe are the most exciting directions in elearning?

Online learning is becoming more and more popular as people look for ways to advance their education or earn a degree mid-career. In September 2010, US News & World Report published data showing that since 2001, enrollment in online college courses has increased by 832 percent to more than two million students in 2009. Colleges offering their degrees online should continue to grow in popularity, as an attractive option for students looking to earn a degree, who are limited, geographically or in terms of available time, to go back to college.

As technology advances, online learning will continue to evolve making it easier for people to access, interact and learn entirely online. One of the biggest concerns or criticisms around online learning is the lack of interaction among both students and instructors. Improvements in technology are improving the abilities for students to interact with other students and instructors through web-conferences, which will improve upon the current, though effective, chat rooms and discussion boards. We wrote a blog article about this topic, how to communicate in an online learning format, that you might find interesting.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Resolution Rewards: Online Health Programs Take Personal Trainer Approach

With tablets, smartphones, and "go everywhere" laptops, interactivity and situated learning opportunities are transforming courses and curricula. For degree programs in social and behaviorial health and courses dealing with personal and community health, it's now more feasible than ever to take a "personal trainer" approach, thanks to robust m-learning. This incorporates situated and experiential learning strategies. The approach is uniquely hands-on, and can include keeping a daily "change planner" that involves diet, exercise, nutrition, addiction recovery, eldercare, community health, volunteerism, and more.

Students assess their own health, or the health of individuals within their community, and they set goals. Accessing instructional materials covering text, video, and audio, together with interactive instructional materials which can include daily logs, quizzes, animations, and experiences in virtual worlds, students develop hands-on knowledge. Since they are applying the educational experience to the real world, they also can receive lasting benefits. In the case of health programs, which involve cognitive strategies and behavior modification, the course can be truly life-changing.

The advantages to the mobile personal trainer approach can be summarized:

*Encourages situated learning
*Engaging and "fun"
*Outcomes are applicable to real life, and they have the potential to have a long-lived impact
*Reading an e-text from the cloud (or downloaded to the tablet or an e-reader) can help reinforce the conceptual underpinnings

The textbooks that are now being incorporated into courses and curricula are being tooled to fit the devices that students use. For example, Dianne Hales's Invitation to Health (published by Cengage Learning) contains an online planner that functions much as a virtual life coach and counselor.

Serious games can often be played on mobile devices, and the experience can lead to an enhanced interaction with the strategies used in recovery. An example is "Guardian Angel," a game for health, focused on addiction recovery, developed by the RETRO Lab at the University of Central Florida's IST with SMEs from UCF College of Medicine & MUSC Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Part of the personal trainer approach involves play, which often stimulates the brain in ways that trigger pleasure centers. Knowing the connection between video game play and pleasure, researchers have looked at interactive games in conjunction with pain management. Further, there are ongoing studies designed to try to understand the best way to make interactive games truly engaging on portable devices.

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