Posts tagged: eLearning/DE/C(L)MS

LDB is a smart cookie

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By , November 19, 2007 10:24 am

One of the keyword sets that has come up quite a bit since I posted about testing the Lock Down Browser has been “cheat lockdown browser”. So I thought one of the ways to do that would be to see if LDB know if it is indeed running inside a virtual machine – some applications are agnostic to the fact, others are aware. And LDB… at least from Respondus is aware of this:

ldb aware

So it seems that the only way to get around this would be to use a second machine – laptop/desktop or mobile to get answers, but then you are still having to waste time getting those answers, and instructors, if you are afraid of cheating. Put in a little bit of time and make your questions the the type that can’t be copied – ones that require a little bit of synthesis.

Lockdown Browsers – Cheating on Demand

By , November 2, 2007 2:10 pm

Today, I was testing the Respondus Lockdown browser for the central eLearning guys and girls and as comments were going back and forth on different issues, something interesting came up… students can still cheat if the are at home by calling a friend, using another computer (just think about the number of computers in the house today) or using a textbook. Thinking about this for a moment, I wondered… ok the call is a bit of a problem, but by the time the two heads decide on the one question, enough of the exam time has gone by that it’s not worth it. The other computer? The student still has to search. But what about texts?

Well, they are almost the same, but to be of any use, the student must know where the information would be found for any given question. So if they don’t know where it is, again they are wasting their time. I remember using open book or “cheat sheet” quizzes and exams when I was teaching and I always found that students did much better – but that they rarely used their aid… why?

I think in trying to know where everything is in the book, or writing out all the answers on the sheet as small as possible, the students have been tricked into studying (ah, hidden curriculum strikes again). So in the end it’s not much of a threat and if I was an instructor thinking about using LDB or something similar  – there are likely as many secure browsers out there as one would care to find – I would assure them that it is a useful tool. To ensure the security, be sure that the questions that are asked are ones that are not really “Googleable”.

Match the locals

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By , October 16, 2007 8:58 am

The old saying “When in Rome… do as the Romans” seems to have borne fruit again – From the current Innovations – Kavita Rao – Distance Learning in Micronesia: Participants’ Experiences in a Virtual Classroom Using Synchronous Technologies:

Researchers also note that instructional design should be based on an understanding of the cultural modes and preferences of indigenous peoples being served by distance learning courses (Berkshire and Smith 2000; McLoughlin and Oliver 2000; Zepke and Leach 2002). Predominant learning styles and communication preferences are important factors for consideration. However, Henderson (2007) cautions designers to avoid superficial and tokenistic inclusion of multicultural perspectives and to be aware of stereotypes about cultural preferences. She provides a multiple cultures theoretical model for e-learning that takes into account the various social and cultural factors within a setting. These include the prevailing academic and training cultures, the majority and minority cultures (including indigenous cultures), and the social epistemologies of class and gender.

In particular, researchers often emphasize the importance of community and collaboration for indigenous learners. For example, Berkshire and Smith (2000) studied a degree program for Alaskan Native students in a rural setting. In the asynchronous portion of the course, students engaged in small group discussions that allowed them to engage local mentors and elders in their communities on the subject matter they were learning. The researchers noted that such a format was culturally appropriate for these students whose predominant learning styles were inductive and application based. Likewise, Zepke and Leach (2002) noted that Maori cultural preferences include working in groups, taking holistic approaches to learning, having face-to-face contact and discussion, and linking learning to real-life tasks. For cultural groups that have a preference for collaborative learning, these researchers suggested using the principle of communities of practice.

I think this is an important point to remember regardless of what population you are trying to address. If you are trying to educate anyone on how to do anything or think anything, you have to use frameworks that are familiar to get through to the majority. There are a small portion that will learn regardless, but those are the exception.

While we are doing this, we must also be careful not to fall into the trap that many social researcher has – stereotyping the population, something that McKenzie has accused Prensky of.

e-ing aka CMC

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By , September 10, 2007 9:38 am

eLearning, mLearning and now eTeaching, all these terms are coming around again and again and to me they are all starting to look like something from my grad studies – Computer Mediated Communication.

What happens on either end of the pipe, and regardless of the technology that the pipe is made of, if there is a chip and a D/A converter, it’s all CMC.

OLD pulled out a story a couple of weeks ago on eTeaching, something that is taking some press in Nigeria and this morning I found a story about how Ericsson, together with the UN Millennial Villages Program and Earth Institute at New York’s Columbia University are getting mobile phone and data access to poor communities in Africa. Together both these stories suggest one thing. That to make e anything effective, there must be an understanding (and use) of the media at either end. The latter story reminds us that voice is still the killer app and that eTeaching is really the flip side of eLearning – both sides must understand what must be done. But in order to get the eTeaching ideas of video conferencing and the like really to take off for the receivers in places like Africa (these poor villages) must first get the basics into their daily life – this is where the phone comes in.

With mobile broadband and voice, connected learning is really going to be something that can be made to happen as eteaching and learning and the like all come together, now if we can only make that happen here (check out why and why not Web2.0 in the class), North Atlantic countries might actually be able to provide a role model for these African villages.

Tool workflow

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By , August 20, 2007 4:08 pm

This is a handy little flowchart to help determine what might be the best tool to use in a computer mediated communication transaction. The title of the blog post is about email, but it routes through all of the common elearning tools.

Learners choose the technology

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By , August 15, 2007 9:43 am

OLDaily is almost always a treasure trove of good bits to add to one’s own personal knowledge set – I wonder how Stephen finds the time to write all that he does every day. But this post hit me today because I’ve been trying to get people in the faculty to understand that we are a learning and professional development unit that uses technology as the means of delivery if all other factors are equal, or if it’s a “best fit”. Technology is a moving target and has been the boon and bust in the field of education, but the basics of good teaching are established and I can’t do much of anything with an instructor who can’t get a word out of their mouth in a lecture if that is the only format that they are able to present in (yes, there are people like that). If they are willing to try other modes of delivery, then we can explore technology as a means of extending what abilities that they have. So with that in mind…

It’s easy to focus on the technology, but what’s important comes before the technology:

  • the learners choose their own technology – whether blogs, discussion boards, audio feeds, or whatever – and the mix of synchronous and asynchronous interaction is up to each individual (nobody is required to join some group from a chat, nor are they excluded from being able to join some group for a chat)
  • the content is not imposed on them, but is rather self-selected, which means that it is available on an as-needed basis (hence the popularity of Google search) and also as a feed or a stream (hence the popularity of RSS and blogs, as well as podcasting)

These are the things that I think are essential.

In a university environment, I fear, the best that can be done is to mitigate the disadvantages. Basically, what this means is throwing a lot of stuff out there and letting people craft their own course out of it.
…paraphrased/hacked list follows from here…

  • Audio lectures are great for people who have commutes or exercise routines.
  • I think online synchronous chat sessions are worthwhile. These should be less like lectures and more like talk radio. MP3 audio recordings should be available.
  • I think a course blog – or something that provides a focal point for resources, discussion, etc. – is essential.
  • there should be a content area for the course. How this is set up can vary widely – it could just be a set of links from the blog posts, it could be a wiki co-authored and organized by the students, it could be a common set of tags – I would discuss this with students and try to find out what would work best for them.
  • there should be some sort of course community. I wouldn’t require that students join some sort of social network like Facebook – students should be free to make (or not make) their own social connections.

The post then finishes with a bit of advice to try to create the design of the course in an almost organic nature – molding it to fit the needs as they arise. In my mind, preplanning a course is “old skool” and will likely cause much more stress than “running along”. In the end, the same amount of time will be spent dealing with the prep of the course either way, but the “just in time” will likely produce better results. OLD suggests thinking of the course as streaming content, I’m more apt to think about the course as prepping to cook a meal. A good chef has a range of components prepped and ready to go to match what the pallet of the patron desires.

Buzzwords Worth Knowing

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By , June 19, 2007 11:42 am

The first preconference session for explore 2007 (5th Annual Canadian E-Learning Conference) is “Buzzwords worth knowing” by Brian Lamb, Emerging Technologies Discoordinator Office of Learning Technology, University of British Columbia. It’s looking to be a good session – I’ll notify it in real time… so this is going to be a different type of post – thank god for auto saving in WP2.2.

Getting through the introductions, Brian brought up an interesting point on the professionalizing of Facebook and the like as the last thing that an instructor needs is to be “eaten by the natives” as they enter the private world of the students. Part of the popularity of these social sites is that students have their own space and violating that with “school or work” can be dangerous. So this is certainly something that fits in with my thinking when we are using the system for cohorts – no “school” only social bits should be put there.

Moving into the second hour, much was made on Delicious with many people being really interested in the RSS abilities. RSS seems to be a real driver for people to come to this session as they want to be able to find ways to compress, filter and send content to their various peoples of interest.

After the break, Brian made the interesting point that blogs and RSS is a way to filter noise and create a network of experts to maintain a cloud of knowledge around you as a means of coping. He also mentioned the one(of many) issues with Facebook – they don’t allow or make it easy to export content from the system.

Overall, fun and interesting – likely there are a fair number of people that got some familiarity with at least the terms of 2.0 and have a slightly larger kernel of interest to start working with.

BB NexGen

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By , June 12, 2007 3:31 pm

Ok, it always seems to be the case that when I mention Blackboard, I get all manner of hits from their office, so here we go again.

I was in a webinar this morning taking a look at the potential new features of the “new LMS product to be named in July”. There was no non disclosure, but I’ll still try to generalize what was talked about. Nothing there was set in stone and in the end, whatever NexGen turns out to be may be nothing like what I’ve written (clipped from an internal email).

Now the potential features:

  • This system will integrate other LMS and function more as an OS than anything else as it will handle login across platforms as well as dealing with content sharing between IMS/SCORM aware applications. This means that if you are on Moodle/Sakai or what have you, BB will handle the login and the student who is taking courses in CS, Anthro and Extension has only one place to log on and get access to their courses. It also means for the instructors – if you build on one system, you can move to the other if there is a feature that you like there as much of your content will carry over.
  • Learning tools are built around the community learning/constructivist model with users being able to select local “networks” (think Facebook or Flickr) to join to gather expert resources. This will be augmented by a world wide Blackboard institution based network as well – so our students will be able to share with students in UBC or other BB/WebCT installs through a common website. This means that if you have research groups set up as a course in the system, you will have the same benefit of community.
  • A system for tracking of every element of learning, research or admin processes – goals, outcomes and curriculum/project plans if they are in the system. This can allow supervisors/advisors to see what their students are doing in terms of completing objectives in their course planning, it will allow researchers to identify goals in the same manner and allow departments to see how curricular objectives are being met. This is the “Cadillac” SIS (Student Information System) that has been built hundreds of times on campus and many times in the faculty to do all manner of reporting.
  • It is mobile friendly – it will work well with mobile web technologies that are becoming increasingly important.
  • Standards based, open APIs to allow for custom applications to be built to extract data or perform other tasks such as integrating with other systems.

Information routers vs reserviors

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By , May 23, 2007 3:39 pm

A while ago, I was thinking in a brain dump about how the ability to effectively retrieve, manage, critically assess and then apply information is what medical learning – and for my two cents, any learning period – should be all about. Part of what brought this conversation on was the U of A Med school’s use of older teaching techniques and their loss of accreditation from the US body that deals with those sorts of things.

Today, I attended a session where the presenter was talking about how the U of A med school is actually going to get out of that “classic” teaching hole. A disclaimer as to what follows, this is not the official line, but as with everything else that comes off a blog, this is my take on what I understood from my experience. The U of A Medical school has actually been a champion of learning communities and technology enhanced communication for quite some time for it’s continuing education programs, but not so for it’s new doc training. So they have decided to roll what they know they are doing well – using communities of practice, together with what they have tried before and found effective – things like their Histoquest system and “what’s hip with students”. In the past this has been using things like PDAs, but now that is using Web2.0 bits like Facebook.

They have done this rolling by using Vividesk (a product of CHE – Centre for Health Evidence) and they have created a slick little system that is part CMS/LMS and part working health professional portal. The system creates an integrated, single sign on environment that allows for university and provincial systems to be presented to the learner and the practitioner in the way that is most relevant to their level of real world experience (job related, not system related). The system can also track the actions of the users in the system, so they can determine what resources are most used (not always the most useful though…) and how learning objectives are being reached (helps in the whole accreditation thing) as well as helps instructors and admins understand how problems are being solved when they are presented to the learner. This enables them to determine how well the learner is able to manage and apply what is being presented. With any luck, this will help them get through all their hurdles and start changing the way that medical instruction is done, focusing more on being able to find content, synthesize an answer and apply the results as opposed to being exposed to a range of situations and practicing (until perfect) what the “best” thing to do is.


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By , May 16, 2007 12:13 pm

One of the things that happens quite a bit in the K-12 world, but not really in the higher ed world of education is teamwork. This is odd as students grow up learning how to work in teams and then when they hit the work world, they will again be required (for the most part) to be team players again. But in the four or five years that they spend as undergrads, they are really only in teams as part of their labs or in specialized programs. In light of the cutthroat nature of undergrads – especially in feeder programs (I can’t swing a bandwagon Sens fan – my jersey is at least five years old – without hitting a Pre-X student), teams seem to be counter intuitive. After all, the students are trying to compete for a limited number of seats in X and they can’t afford to be saddled with S. Slacker and U. Keener who don’t have the same interests or drives.

To change this, not only do courses need to be reworked to think about teamwork as part of the assessment (remember teamwork is not plagerism), but there also needs to be a solid way to evaluate teams, so that students are able to get the experience of team work, but not get their marks unfairly influenced by team members.

Distance or Online or Alternate (do we really need to put the modifier on any more for anything other than to let people know that it’s asynchronous?) education programs on the other hand, teamwork is often integral to the experience and having a solid means of assessing the teamwork can make or break a course or an entire program.

There have been a number of rubrics published over the years that attempt to solve this issue, and they are all good to some degree. But now (and for the past while), Matthew Ohland over at Purdue has been working on CATME, the Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness. For faculty looking to try to use teams in their courses, this system, with it’s online evaluation system might be just what is needed to push the idea over the edge and get it rolling.

I’m going to show it to the faculty here, and if there is any feedback, I’ll be sure to post it.

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