November 7 - Threshold Concepts: Portals to New Ways of Thinking
“A threshold concept is discipline-specific, focuses on understanding of the subject and … has the ability to transform learners’ views of the content.” (Zepke, p. 98) It’s not the same as a core concept, although that’s a useful place to first put the idea. “A core concept is a conceptual ‘building block’ that progresses understanding of the subject; it has to be understood, but it does not necessarily lead to a qualitative different view of the subject matter.” (Meyer and Land, p. 4)
Difficult conversations are inevitable in any organization. Understanding how they arise and how they play out can help minimize the disruption without avoiding the issue or alienating those involved.
November 5 - What Can We Learn from Accidental Learning?
“I just stumbled onto this. . .” I heard the phrase a couple of times in presentations during the recent Teaching Professor Technology Conference. Faculty presenters used it to describe their discovery of an aspect of instruction that worked well, such as an assignment detail or activity sequence. Since then I’ve been thinking about accidental learning and the role it plays or might play in the instructional growth of teachers.
November 4 - Online Discussion Questions That Work
Most online faculty know that discussion is one of the biggest advantages of online education. The increased think-time afforded by the asynchronous environment, coupled with the absence of public speaking fears, produces far deeper discussion than is usually found in face-to-face courses.
November 3 - The Blessings and Benefits of Using Guest Lecturers
As we face the perpetual challenge of keeping each class session fresh and interactive, I suggest we consider an old idea that never really got stale. Inviting guest lecturers to your classroom has benefits for your learners, for you, and for the guest lecturers. Learners of all ages and experience levels are hungry for variety, and seeing a new face in front of the room can liven up the class; but there are also deeper pedagogical reasons for using guest lecturers. Here are a few to consider.
“Distance learning is here to stay. Educational institutions should have a vision for what type of distance learning programs they will implement and the standards they will hold to. Institutions will master distance learning, or in some cases, distance learning trends and demands will master the school.” This is the conclusion of Joseph McClary of Liberty University in his article, “Factors in High Quality Distance Learning Courses,” appearing in the Summer 2013 issue of the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. In it, he examines the components of a high quality distance learning course and some of the barriers to their development.
“What is one of your pet peeves?” That question is among those I might ask my students at the start of nearly every class session as a way of taking attendance. Asking about pet peeves always elicits a lively, engaged discussion. Faces light up, and everyone wants to share their own personal irritants. This engagement never happens when taking attendance is nothing more than reading names from the roster with an answer of “Here” or “Present.”
October 29 - Watchitoo Rebrands as “newrow_” with Launch of First Online Learning Platform to Power Live Mobile Video Classrooms with 25+ Participants
Today at the 20th annual Online Learning Consortium International Conference, newrow_ (formerly Watchitoo) launched the industry’s first mobile learning platform to allow 25 or more students and instructors to work simultaneously in a live video classroom environment from any mobile device. The newrow_ for education platform seamlessly integrates with top Learning Management Systems (LMS), including Blackboard, Canvas and Brightspace. These systems, which are used by some of the world’s leading educational institutions, can now offer live mobile video classroom environments at scale.
October 29 - A Few Concerns about the Rush to Flip
I have some concerns about flipping courses. Maybe I’m just hung up on the name—flipping is what we do with pancakes. It’s a quick, fluid motion and looks easy to those of us waiting at the breakfast table. I’m not sure those connotations are good when associated with courses and that leads to what centers my concerns. I keep hearing what sounds to me like “flippant” attitudes about what’s involved.
Researchers Daniel Smith and Thomas Valentine begin by making an important point. At two-year colleges “the classroom serves as the epicenter of involvement.” (p. 134) The same could be said for commuter campuses as well. Students who attend two-year colleges often do so part-time and regularly do so combining school with work, family, and a host of other responsibilities. The same can increasingly be said of many students who commute to campus to take classes. At many institutions students now spend considerably less time on campus, and so if they are to be engaged with academic life, that involvement pretty much begins and ends in the classroom. So, are faculty using instructional techniques that do involve students in the classroom?