Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I am up to my eyeballs in evaluation, and the calculation of whether I'll make the deadline (or more likely, with how much time to spare) has started. I managed to get my blended learning class all ready, since it went live yesterday. It makes the deadline question above more difficult.

One inspiration I had was to create a "Sound Off" journal in the class. I named it after the wonderful anonymous call-in forum in the Troy Record, but the in-course variety will not be anonymous. It is a space for me to reflect on the class delivery. Does technology enhance learning or does it get in the way? I've invited students to join me. I will probably post my entries here as well.

This is my first:

During this past academic year, 2012-13, I served on the Online Teaching & Learning Task Force. Since I am an adjunct faculty member, I am not required to perform university service, but the topic interests me a great deal, and I did not want to refuse the invitation from the Provost and CIO.

I am not a big fan of meetings, conferences or task forces. My attitude has been that “I was so done with” spending my time that way when I left SUNY System Administration in 1998. I said arrivederci to keynote speeches accompanied by spring mix salad with mandarin oranges, vinaigrette dressing and chicken a la Marriott.

So I was a touch skeptical when asked to be a member of the OTL Task Force. We were given a short time frame; our first meeting was in November 2012, and after several interim deadlines, the final report was due in April 2013.

I think about educational technology a lot already, and have for a long time. I was an early adopter; I started teaching online in 2000, after taking two experimental classes that relied heavily on new delivery methods as a doctoral student in the mid-1990s. But the OTL Task Force caused me to think about it 24/7, and to discuss it extensively with members of the task force, other faculty, and students.

The response rate to the student survey was 12 percent; this was not as high as we had hoped, but it still is a lot of students, and the comments in particular are a rich data source. Surprisingly, 80 percent of students reported needing no technical support for their fully online, blended and web-enhanced courses. (This contrasts with the wishes of the faculty, who report needing help desk availability on weekends and during the evening.)

Access to grades is something all students want. Undergraduate students want lecture capture, and graduate students want access to the Blackboard site for a class after the semester is over.

The OTL Task Force was a good experience for me. I gained some inspiration and insight that I hope will benefit this class. Of course I’ve already encountered one or two roadblocks (chiefly involving the logistics of recording and uploading video captured during the face-to-face classes).

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