Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Massive Open Online Course

 A MOOC is a "Massive Open Online Course." The object of a MOOC is to provide an open, collaborative, self-directed learning experience. It is a "peer-to-peer" exchange of knowledge and information. Inge de Waard, in Learning Solutions Magazine, provides a look at MOOCs and shares some benefits and challenges associated with this learning format in an article titled "Explore a New Learning Frontier: MOOCs."

A June, 2011 article in The Chronicle's "Wired Campus" notes that the University of Springfield hosted a MOOC on the topic of online education and the future of e-learning. Content and discussions appear here:

A site called lists a variety of upcoming MOOCs (, including an upcoming MOOC called "Change: Education, Learning, and Technology.

I don't know that I see MOOCs as an alternative to our current efforts in credit-based elearning, but I did see a note about individuals perhaps strengthening their knowledge of a certain topic through a MOOC and then applying that knowledge to earn credit at a "traditional" university.

I believe I will have to explore an upcoming MOOC and see what it's like. Ms. Ward warns that MOOCs can feel chaotic and that digital literacy is a must. I guess I'm used to chaos, so we'll see! More later as I experience one of these.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nothing to do with education or e-learning, really. . .

. . .but you've got to check out this video!

These folks have developed a "copy" machine that will replicate 3D objects with moving parts. In the video, they actually copy a crescent wrench that works. I'll have a Dodge Ram 2500, please! :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cheating Again

The original blog post on cheating has helped generate quite a lot of discussion in the blogosphere on how to design assignments to make plagiarism difficult.  Here's a link to a post with several good ideas:

My favorite:  Presentations. Or maybe Projects. (Discussions are a no-brainer. Of course I think you need to include discussions in your online course.  Where else are you going to discuss the content with your students.  In my mind that is still where a lot of the actual teaching occurs.)  

Today I listened to a presentation on student retention given by Kae Novak of Front Range Community College.  They are using software like Animoto ( and Prezi ( to enliven courses, but are also seeing students begin to use there tools.  How about asking students to use Glogster to develop a poster (  Or discuss connections with Popplet ( Any of these would be difficult to plagiarize. 


Thursday, July 21, 2011


I made a Wordle from my Delicious tags.  Looks like I tag work and knitting, not horses or family things.

Wordle: LisaCS



What to do about student cheating?  It's a challenge for everyone teaching everywhere -- face-to-face and online.  This morning Stephen Downes linked to an article written by a computer scientist teaching in a business school,

He had many comments, but what I found the most useful were his suggestions for assignments that limit plagiarism:
Instead, I plan to use assignments that are inherently not amenable to cheating:

  • Public projects: The database projects that use the NYC Data Mine data (see the projects from 2009 and 2010) is one type of an approach: the projects are public and it would be meaningless to copy a project from a past semester. The risk of public embarrassment is a significant deterrent.
  • Peer reviewing: The other successful project is one in which students research a new technology, and present their findings in class; the only grade they receive is from their peers in the class. The social pressure is so high that most of the presentations are of excellent quality. This year, the student presentation on augmented reality was so amazing that for an MBA class we decided to simply show to the MBA students the recorded presentation.
  • Competitions: In order to teach students how the web works, I ask them to create a web site and get at least 100 unique visitors. The student with the most visitors at the end of the semester gets an award (most often an iPod). I had some great results with this project (e.g., one student created a web site on "How to Kill Nefarian" and got 150,000 visitors over 8 weeks) and some highly entertaining incidents.
I also use standard scaffolding techniques for research papers and other written assignments.  It's still possible to plagiarize, but that makes it a little more difficult.  Requiring current (very current) events topics and data sources also helps.  I'd like to hear from anyone using software such as Voice Thread for online presentations.  My gut says that will help reduce plagiarism and other cheating also, but I don't have any data. 

What do you do to reduce cheating in your classes?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

APUS Webinar Series on Teaching Online in Community Colleges

Mary Dereshiwsky on Keys to Becoming an Effective Online Instructor: Dealing with Challenging Students... and More

Seven Keys to Success
Key 1:  You shouldn't have to be a techie -- find some support.

Key 2:  It's all about continual engagement.  Review the post from her last presentation.

Key 3:  Let them see you mess up -- humanizes you, lessens student fear.

Key 4:  New can be better -- this one might resonate with everyone looking at a change in LMS.  It's a chance to review your course, make some of the changes you have been thinking about.  Stretch is good.

Key 5:  Empathy - walk a mile in their shoes.  Keep being a student, keep taking seminars, keep taking classes.  Be very visible to your students, especially at the beginning of the term.  Respond promptly, post a FAQ, login frequently.  Use a lot of "I" statements.

Key 6:    Be yourself and convey your own personality in your classes.

Key 7:  Get a life!  You need to take one day off each week.  Don't stay online 24/7

Challenging Students

Mary Bart: Dealing with Difficult Online Students,
Trigger #1: Start-up jitters

Your course is different from the last one they took.  Can generate an avalanche of email. Consider reaching out via phone.  Work on humanizing yourself.  Be sure you field questions as quickly as possible - move email to discussion area so everyone can see answers.

If they are "lost" ask them to tell you one thing that is confusing, so you can untangle that one thing. 

Trigger #2: Technology

Ask students to make a back-up plan for getting to class if their computer breaks down (car analogy).  Give them locations of labs, but also help them come up with other alternatives - library, friend, work, etc.  

Make sure students know about extra software early.
Be careful of timezones.

Trigger #3:  Communication Related

Text only causes issues.  Remember you are dealing with a real person.  Bring up hot-buttons early - include a plagiarism discussion.  Share netiquette links.  Walk away if a student slams you and think about it.  Stay polite!  Reach out to the student, use the phone.  Post a reminder to all students. "It's okay to disagree with an idea, but it's not okay to attack a person."

Call on students in the discussion area.  Help them stay active.

Alicia Shepard "A's for Everyone"  at the Washington Post,
Trigger #4:  Challenges of Group Work

Use a group contract. (Developed by the groups.)  It should include an initial plan for conflict resolution.

Trigger #5: PTSD

As many of 31% of the military population who has been deployed my have PTSD.  Many of the 400,000 military students taking classes are taking online classes.  These students may have trouble staying on topic and may have high anxiety.  Habitual flaming may be a signal.  Reach out to them and ask what is bothering them.  Be able to recommend your school's support center.  Call the support center yourself and find out what they recommend.  VA also has resources available online. (APUS is 70% military students, so this is an important topic for them.)


It's not about you.  Keep problems in perspective.  Don't make them personal.  Do some reading and investigation.  Most of the triggers are not about you, they are a part of the student's situation.  Reach out to difficult students in a positive way. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Late Work

The Chronicle has an interesting article on late work, "What it her Grandmother Really DID Die?" by Christopher Hirschler,

The comments are interesting as well.

His solution was to adopt one of the insights of distance learning:  
Rather than saying it is OK to miss a class, for example, professors can adopt strategies of distance learning and independent study to provide alternative assignments that are rigorous and enable students to acquire the requisite knowledge. Such options might be more challenging than the missed class or assignment, thus providing a disincentive to miss class without legitimate, if unexplained, reasons.
Dropped assignments, projects with multiple due dates, built-in "extra" assignments...  all of these strategies enable you to maximize student learning while minimizing the need to assess the relative validity of the variety of student excuses.  This can be critical because sometimes the issue causing a student to be late with an assignment isn't something we would deem important or life-threatening.  It's just the last in a long list of problems and happened to be the one that caused their house of cards to collapse.  Tonight the student skipped your class because their child had a soccer game.  But they didn't get the assignment completed early because their mother was having cancer treatments.  You might have no sympathy for the soccer game, but that might be the excuse you hear.  

Flexible assignments mean the more private students don't have to talk to you about the challenges in their lives.  Online we do hear a lot about our students' lives, but that doesn't mean some of them still aren't living their lives outside of class.  Privacy is a gift we can give to our students.

Here's an interesting attendance policy from an anonymous poster in the comments area:  
Students who are regular attendees 'earn' one 'sick' day per month which they can accumulate and use any way they see fit, including for funerals, though not for cutting out at the last minute on presentations and exams. They simply let me know before class starts (however they can leave a message) that they are taking their 'sick' day. I promise that I will never ask them why they will be absent because, as I say on the first day of class, I want to support their thoughtful making of prudential judgments about multiple goods, i.e., being in class or doing something else. This is a sobering thought for many of them. Treating them as responsible adult decision-makers makes a big difference in attendance rates.
I wish my daughter's high school teachers would try that one!

Life happens -- consider building flexibility into your courses in areas where that is possible.  And where you can't....   well, that is similar to real life also.  Sometimes the deadline is hard.  Sometimes there are multiple ways to meet a learning outcome.


Rules for Photography

From a presentation at D2L's Unconference:

1.  Choose a subject
2.  Get closer
3.  Share

Short, to the point, and very helpful. 

From Steve Feldstein maybe?

Listened to an IT person talk about problem solving -- one comment, "Put critical information in high traffic areas".  That is so obvious and so frequently forgotten.  I think it's why I like the schedule page on the main left hand navigation bar and also why I like to post due date reminders in the announcements.  If you don't then it must not be critical information. 

Barry Dahl's "If I had a beer" presentation used software similar to Prezi.  Interesting, but I'm still not sold - it's pretty rate to see Prezi used in a way that is truly better than ppt. (Other than folks with great graphic designers behind them.)

Kyle set up a PiratePad for discussion -- Still really cool software.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Andragogy versus Pedagogy

Read this interesting post from Donald Clark today on Andragogy versus Pedagogy:  He differentiates the two similarly to the way I do -- under pedagogy the teacher makes all of the learning decisions, under andragogy the student is allowed to make at least some of the decisions.  

Have you done anything in your classes to move them along the spectrum towards andragogy?  Do your students get to make any choices about projects, time lines, readings, etc?  If not, why not?  Is there a way to give them some control and thus responsibility over their learning?