The Federal Government just released: CDC Guidance for Responses to Influenza for Institutions of Higher Education during the 2009-2010 Academic Year. In this report the CDC recommends “Distance learning or web-based learning may help students maintain self-isolation.”
Our VP of Academic Affairs asked me to put together a list of eLearning tools we have available to faculty if we experience a flu outbreak or similar crisis during the 2009-10 school year. This was fairly easy to do as we have a good selection of online learning applications. Here is a quick summary:
- Blackboard: Asynchronous and synchronous discussions, online quizzing, document repository, wiki, blog, plagiarism detection software, gradebook
- Adobe Connect Pro: Synchronous conferencing, chat, audio, video
- Camtasia Relay: Asynchronous content delivery, professor’s voice with whatever is showing on the computer display. Could also be used for student presentations.
- Jing: Screencasting tool for recording short student presentations (under 5 minutes) or by faculty and students to share questions and responses to problems with discipline specific software.
- Skype: Two or multi-way video conferencing for real-time office hours.
- VoiceThread: Asynchronous text, image, audio, video comment/discussion tool. Can be useful when student’s voice/video is preferred over text-only comments.
We also provide scanning and audio/video digitizing services.
These tools and services are already being used by faculty in all schools, which means we have practitioners capable of assisting peers in an emergency. While I hope we don’t find ourselves in a situation where we have to use these tools, the raised awareness may lead new faculty to experiment with some of them and find out that they are great for everyday teaching and learning.
This study compared the test results of students who listened to a lecture in class with students who listened to a podcast of the lecture. Both groups had access to a PowerPoint presentation used by the lecturer. The mean test score of those listening to the podcast were higher. The researchers attribute this to the students’ ability to pause and replay. Also, students who took notes while listening to the podcasts scored significantly higher than their in-class counter-parts.
Does this mean we can replace professors or eliminate face-to-face lectures? No, the study only provides evidence that students may learn declaritive content better when they have the ability to control playback. It doesn’t account for the student-to-professor or student-to-student interaction that may take place during a face-to-face lecture.
The study does help justify the hard work of professors like Ben McFarland who record lectures and make them available to students on Seattle Pacific University’s iTunes U site. Podcasting is a lot of work. Therefore, if we truly believe students benefit from podcasts we need to find ways to make podcasting easier to do. SPU is now using Camtasia Relay to make content-casting easier. Professors can record both audio and what is on the computer display with only a few clicks. Profiles are then used to determine where the content is posted after the lecture is completed.
The Educause ELI initiative does a great job of providing a quick two-page summary of lecture capture technology. They list three important benefits of tools such as Techsmith’s Camtasia Relay: 1) A help for students who have to miss class for excused reasons: 2) An opportunity to review content that may be difficult to understand during a single exposure; and 3) Easy-to-produce online course content.
Here’s a presentation I gave at the 2008 MERLOT conference about Seattle Pacific University’s experience with iTunes U over the last two years. MERLOT 2008: iTunes U – Lessons Learned after 2 Years on the Trail
Note: I don’t start talking until about 20 seconds into the video.