Friday, December 27, 2013

MOOCs, Ipads and Smartphones

Been tinkering with these handheld electronic devices to figure out how I could better design classroom instruction to make use of these.  Agreed, they are great at delivering video.  You could say that they are mini-televisions, and so, you can easily use them to deliver short, important content videos to students in or out of the classroom.  If you want, you can "flip" a class around.

They are less useful for delivering text.  The key is the amount of text.  Tweets, instagrams, posts, short passages of text can be delivered pretty well, but longer, more substantial pieces of text can be problematic.  And since I teach history, that is a problem, since the study of history is so much based on texts.  Even reading digital books doesn't work all that well unless you break up the reading into short segments.

Something that I haven't explored, but it might make sense to use the handheld devices as simple, feedback, assessment tools.  For example, the old "murkiest point" tool, where you have students jot down the thing that they least understand from class today; that might work well in the digital world where they can just text those to you as the instructor.

The Reality of MOOCs

Have now completed three MOOCs.  One actually required some pretty detailed work; two required simply taking some multiple choice quizzes.  As a public lecture medium, or as a marketing device, I think that a MOOC has a lot of potential, but it takes a lot of effort and resources to make great video to tap into that potential.  For colleges, etc. that are already facing difficult budget choices, I wonder whether those resources are going to be available for simply promotional purposes.

The problem, of course, is that teaching and learning involve more than simply a teacher talking and a student listening, which is much of the mechanism of the MOOC.  That reminds me of my freshman chemistry class with the four hundred students in the lecture hall listening to the professor talking and then taking multiple choice tests to prove that we either learned, or didn't learn, the material.  That model, which is the model of the MOOC, has been around in higher education a long time now.  If that is how, you are going to teach, and for some subjects/purposes/etc, that might be appropriate, then the MOOC will work.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Faculty v. Staff in the online world

We've run distance education for decades now, and we've been online for at least a decade, and I've been involved in online ed for a lot of years now.  First, in the last five years we have dramatically expanded our distance enrollment options.  There are many factors that explain that focus from the administration to increase online enrollment:  limited classroom supply; perceived in-expense, need to find more enrollment, etc. 

So we've added a lot of courses and a lot of instructors (many of whom are, quite frankly, not suited to teaching online).  That has lead to a huge growth of staff to make it all work.  Let's just say that maybe we've gone from 12 support staff to 80, and everything has become bureaucratized with staff.  That, of course, means a lot more staff expense, which, means, in turn, that we need a lot more enrollment to support the staff and still grow, and to get more enrollment, we need to offer more courses, but to offer more courses, we need to have more staff.  It is very Kafkaesque--and if you walked through the sea of cubicles where most of our staff are now lodged, you would feel as if you were walking through one of Kafka's settings.

Anyway, the title of the post is fac. v. staff.  What has happened with the great increase in staff, is that almost everything about the online teaching process is now controlled by staff decision-making, and there is almost nothing in the last year or so that has been done with faculty input.  And because staff likes to have uniformity, my impression is that courses slowly begin to resemble one another.  Now someone is going to object to that, but I'm talking impressions here.  Don't all BB courses really resemble one another?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Where Goes Digital History

Just notice that I haven't posted here since last December.  I have been keeping busy.  For example, I did navigate the course creation process at Northern Virginia CC to get approval to add a new course to the history offerings at the college, Introduction to Digital History.  My next chore will be to get that approved as an online offering.  I have also been updating my work as a Chancellor's professor.  Wish I could be doing more, but I have been side-tracked by the realities of the need to coordinate our history schedule both on campus and online and also the need to find and hire new adjuncts.

On the DH front, I am struck by how much talk there is of data, and this is a tough call for a historian to make the realization that the discipline might be going in a data direction instead of just a read and interpret documents.  Over a hundred years ago, Marx tried to put history on a scientific footing with his study of economics.  I wonder if the new crop of digital historians might succeed where he failed.