Another research article on audio feedback

I’m a big fan of using audio feedback for marking of papers and proposals with my Education grad students.  I use Adobe Acrobat to embed usually short audio comments (maybe 20-40 per paper) and a summary comment. I do it because it saves me time and generally my students report really liking it. It allows me to project more positive “teaching presence” and I think I am much better able to express complicated as well as short mechanical issues – QUICKLY!  Too may educational technology based innovations or more general educational innovations  actually cost teachers’ time -even after an almost inevitable time lost surmounting a sometimes steep learning curve.

Thus, I was pleased to see:

Cavanaugh, A., & Song, L. (2014). Audio Feedback versus Written Feedback: Instructors’ and Students’ Perspectives Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2).  http://jolt.merlot.org/vol10no1/

This small scale study looked at postsecondary English teachers using audio (I think monologues using MP3) and not embedded (and IMHO much better Adobe Connect annotations).  One teacher reported taking MORE time- but only because she wrote the comments by hand and then read them into the recorder (sigh…).  Generally students liked the feedback assessed by interviews and a short survey.

This study helps us uncover the different (likely discipline centric) ways in which essays are marked. Teachers reported using and liking the audio for general, global comments, but text feedback for small mechanical issues that are common in English assessment (noting or correcting grammar issues as example).  There are likely other differences amongst style of teaching, learning and assessment across disciplines and perhaps across different educational level and ages.

The article has no earth shattering surprises, but does confirm my earlier thoughts on audio feedback- so I like it.  It also has one of the most extensive lit reviews (for a short paper) that does a good job of reviewing our last decade of use of audio feedback.

The biggest question though, is if audio is faster, is preferred by students and teachers, is very cheap to implement- why aren’t all teachers using.

Terry

 

Where is Higher Education’s Digital Dividend?

One doesn’t need to devour political or economic analysis, listen to experts or even chat with one’s friends to realize that the Internet has changed the way we produce and consume information and the myriad ways in which we communicate. Blogs, wikis and Facebook walls have granted to each of us –a multimedia printing press with global delivery capacity – at VERY low cost. Similarly we can engage in audio, video or text conversations with politicians, relatives, co-workers or “followers” at VERY low cost.

Given that education works by nurturing interactions and communication among and between teachers, students and content, it would seem logical that the costs of education, like its component interactions would also have drastically reduced in cost. However, this is not the case. Despite the possibility of a digital dividend students, in every country, are being met with heavy increases in the cost of education. Continue reading

Reflection on world’s first Online 3 Minute Thesis Contest

Being a huge fan of succinct communications and plain language, I was drawn to the ideas behind the 3 Minute Thesis contests, developed originally (and trademarked??) at the University of Queensland in Australia and now supported international from http://threeminutethesis.org/.  Since their development in 2008 the idea has spread globally with 3 minute thesis contests happening in many countries including Canada.

However, the origional model doesn’t really fit Athabasca University – or other online institutions, as these contests have all taken place on campus and face-to-face. Our students are located mostly in Canada, but we have students enrolled in many locations around the world as well. Thus, last fall I organized a small Online 3 minute Thesis contest using web conferencing for students in our own Master and Doctorate Program at Athabasca.  With that positive experience, I wanted to expand and take advantage of the international scope of the Net, to invite colleagues and students from other online universities to participate (and of course help organize the event).

I recruited colleagues from Open University of Catalonia, Open University United Kingdom and DaVinci University of Mexico.  We established a web site for the event, where we provided links to the rules, details of participation, a WIKI for organizing contestants names and titles of their presentations and provided links from YouTube recordings of other 3MT contests (not online) to serve as models.

Traditionally 3 Minute Thesis contest run at a single university and benefit from a wide variety of interdisciplinary contestants – the English student up against the Physics student. However, we decided to change the format slightly by focusing only on students researching in Education and given the specialized nature of these institutions, this is primarily focused on online learning, educational technology and other issues related to distance education.  We wanted to create possibilities for collaboration and networking among our students, that likely would not have developed in a fully interdisciplinary contest.

How did it go?  Well you might want to check it out yourself by listening to the recording at https://connect.athabascau.ca/p98796822/

Highlights and recommendations: Continue reading

All MOOCs don’t work for all students. Are you surprised?

Both the commercial and the unpaid online blog pundits have been having an armchair quarterback’s field day over MOOC poster boy Sebastin Thrun’s confession that his Udacity MOOC platform doesn’t work.  None of this outcry from the “I told you so” critics is more biting (nor more witty) then the critique by Slate columnist Rebecca Shuman.

Shuman aptly blames Thrun, for blaming the students – they have personal problems, they don’t have access to multiple tablets and they are not Ivy League rich kids – suggesting that the MOOC depends on students who don’t really need them and who can learn under any conditions – as evidenced by their succeeding in crowded lecture halls their whole post secondary career.

But I don’t equate Udacity’s supposed failure with “ordinary” struggling students is evidence for the failure of online learning and Shuman’s contention  that MOOCs can now be dismissed as “neoliberal wet dreams”.  Shuman goes on to claim that distance education (at least in the form of correspondence courses) tells only a sorry tale of failure and that it has “never worked”. She may have trouble convincing the million plus students at the Open University of ChinaAnadola University in Turkey or Indira Gandhi National Open University in India that their education (largely print based ‘correspondence’) doesn’t and has never worked. Truman seems to argue that it is only elite students who can succeed at MOOCs, – discounting the 50+ years of research showing that distance education (including its latest instantiation in online formats) does work for many students- including the second chance, and poverty stricken.  No form of education works for all students -including the ‘tiny, for-credit, in-person seminar”. Doesn’t everyone know of students from campus based schools that have failed to complete their program? Haven’t you ever dropped a course – I certainly have!

But perhaps most appalling is the staggering debt load, the wasted time and energy of both students and teachers and the coddling and cover up of poor teaching that marks much of campus based education today.  That model is as badly broken and just as expensive as MOOCs driverless car ! Continue reading

Accreditation – for Learning Accomplishment or for Presence and Persistence?

Offering degrees and certificates is the currency of higher education. Degree and certificates are very highly valued by students, parents, employers and postsecondary institutions. Despite occasional challenges to the authenticity of this form of learning recognition, attaining this final parchment is seen by both institutions and students as the culminating and arguably the only important manifestation of accomplishment, after years of study in higher education.  The problem is that learning itself, much less wisdom, is not measured very well by these large scale certificates of generalized accomplishment.

One concern is that the degree as a unit of accreditation is much too large- does a four year BA in economics reflect the same amount of learning as a three year BA in classics? Does a BA obtained at a distance equate to the same learning as a BA delivered on a campus? These are very challenging questions to answer. Institutions are clear to set the number of courses required, the degree of specialization and the minimal grade scores for a degree, but these are, at best, very rough indicators of learning.

Efforts by the Mozilla Foundation to support institutional awarding of much smaller credentials (known as badges) certainly addresses part of the problem. The creation of a badge-full portfolio that details a student’s individual skills and knowledge accomplishments potentially provides a much more articulate and public record of accomplishment than a degree. However, these have (to date) been only sporadically adopted by higher education institutions despite student interest (see Santos, C., Almeida, S., Pedro, L., Aresta, M., & Koch-Grunberg, T. (2013).

The credential crisis has been exacerbated by the arrival of vast numbers of open educational resources (OERs) and more recently by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which provide a host of opportunities for learning- but to date only very limited opportunity for credentialing and public acknowledgement of that learning.  MOOCs and OERs allow learners to participate in learning, either alone or in groups, from teachers and institutions around the globe.  After watching an excellent Ted Talk, brushing up on your statistics skills by reviewing a Khan Academy video or enrolling in a 10 week MOOC, there is little doubt that learning can occur. But measuring and accrediting that learning is today, all but impossible. A few pioneering institutions are developing “challenge for credit” or credentialing examinations, but for most institutions this alternate (and potentially competitive) form of accreditation strikes too near to the heart of the current business model for comfortable adoption.

The OERu (http://wikieducator.org/OER_university/), a non profit collaboration of over 35 public universities, colleges and networks from around the globe is attempting to develop a better or at least an alternative model for teaching and credentialing.  Each of the collaborating partners commits to providing a small number of courses, for free and independent study on the open net. Students are free to select and study any of these courses and if they choose to do so, they may apply to the delivering institution to write an examination or to do other work demonstrating accomplishment and in return they receive full course credit for that accomplishment. The content is available free of charge and efforts are made to allow for and encourage students to work cooperatively to locate and help each learn.  The credential process requires examiner time and institutional effort to assess and to register this learning- thus the OERu partners can charge whatever fee for this service that they require. To date, the Open University of Catalonia is the only Spanish institution to join the OERu.

It is yet too early to measure how well this free learning opportunity, but paid for accreditation will be accepted- by students and employers and likely the most challenging, by postsecondary institutions themselves. But it is clear that we need credentials that are meaningful, that reflect real learning accomplishments, and that can be obtained at affordable cost by all students and life-long learners on our globe.

Online 3 Minute Thesis Contest at Athabasca

I’m intrigued by this “speed dating” approach for disseminating and promoting thesis research. A thesis is a LOT of work, and results are usually buried in 150+ page tomes – thus the need for new scholars to be able to present their work succinctly and efficiently.  The 3 minute thesis (originally developed at University of Queensland Australia) seemed like an ideal format for developing communications skills and confidence and be fun for both contestants and the audience.  Other 3 minute thesis contests have been held F2F, however, Athabasca graduate students are located around the globe (literally) and so we needed to use a distributed platform to host the event. Of course, the organization of the event also had to be easy and inexpensive so as to fit into my busy schedule and budget as well.

In this post I detail how this, to my knowledge, world’s first online 3 minute thesis contest worked, with a hope that it inspires similar contests. Continue reading

How much time does it take to teach online?

I’ve long been fascinated by studies on time factors in online learning. The issues of teacher time are especially relevant given the high cost of teachers, the threat to the profession, MOOCs offering much less teacher-intensive education opportunities and my own online equivalency theory.

This study

Mandernach, B., Hudson, S., & Wise, S. (2013). Where has the time gone? Faculty activities and time commitments in the online classroom. Journal of Educators Online, 10(2).  http://www.thejeo.com/Archives/Volume10Number2/MandernachHudsonWise.pdf.

This study was done with 80 FULL TIME online teachers, teaching 4 online courses during the same semester. This is a much less common administrative format for online teaching in that most online teaching is done either by part time adjuncts or by teachers teaching both online and on campus.

Teaching in any context varies a great deal based on personal teaching style, use of synchronous tools, discipline, level and motivation of learners, support and funding for teachers and a host of other contextual factors. Nonetheless aggregate data is very interesting and helps paint the reality as well as vanquish some myths about online teaching. As expected the data confirmed that teachers did spend slightly more time online than literature reports for oncampus. (Averaging 44 hours/week for the 4 courses). But perhaps of greatest interest is the tasks that made up these 44 hours.

Teacher tasks online Continue reading

Two Days, three Museums, two Cathedrals and 576 Kms on the Costa Del Azaharhone

This is my first blog post from my 2 month position as a visiting professor at the open University of Catalonia (UOC). UOC is a 100% distance University (like Athabasca U.) but founded not as a correspondence university, but as an online university in 1997.  There is a large open university (UNAD) in Madrid but UOC was founded with a mission to teach in Catalonian (think Quebec) – though to reach the Latin American market they teach in Spanish and of course, some graduate programs in the lingua franca – English.

My tasks at the University are to meet with grad students about their thesis, meet with various faculty about “hot” research topics of the day -notably MOOCs and do presentations at 4 conferences.  UOC has an E-Learn Research Centre which undertakes and champions elearning research, teaches a Masters and a PhD program in E-learning and is responsible for faculty development at the University. I chair the E-learn Centre’s International Advisory Committee which meets annually (next week) to provide assessment and other collegial advice to the Centre and to the University.  The rest of the time, I chat informally with staff – who are very helpful whenever Sue and I get into problems and thanks to the Internet, keep up my duties at Athabasca – time shifted by 8 hours.

Susan has had six or so sessions by telephone with her counseling clients, but getting to SKYPE video conferencing has been a problem to date from home. Speaking of which, the University rented us a great apartment (our first experience of high rise living) on the 20th floor.  As I write I get a terrific view of the boats anchored off the Barcelona harbour, the old Gothic quarter, the mind blowing Gaudi Sagrada Familie and the Tibidabo mountain that broods over the City. Hopefully tomorrow, we get Internet at home – and I can post this blog!

The title of this blog comes from our most recent trip to Valencia. We have twice rented cars and driven first North – Costa Blanca and last weekend south to Valencia. We began last weekend’s adventure, by me forgetting we had the car for Friday evening and arriving on Saturday morning  to pick up the car, but they were all out of GPS systems. But we had the faithful Iphone (more later) so we ventured forth with and the car rental map and my faithful navigator Sue (when she remembers to put on her reading glasses on) guiding the adventure. Continue reading