Monday, March 30. 2009
This is a repost from http://www.johndbritton.com
Open Everything NYC will take place on Saturday 18 April 2009 at the UNICEF headquarters in the United Nations Plaza, NYC. The event will run the full day,registration will open at 8:00AM and things will be in full swing by 9:00AM.
The event will be 100% free and open to the public on a first come first serve basis, online pre-registration is required. The main hall can hold up to 250 guests.
The event will consist of two keynote presentations (one opening & one closing) each of about 1 hour in duration. In the time between the two keynotes attendees will be in control of the program (Barcamp style). There will be a number of conference rooms available for individuals to hold talks & discussions on topics they see fit.
Open Everything was started by a few people back in the beginning of 2008, and it has grown to include events in cities around the world. New York is going to be the next and we'd be delighted if you would participate.
Sunday, March 29. 2009
Saturday, March 28. 2009
New Jersey Institute of Technology (DISCLAIMER: It is where I work) is not immune from the economic taint that has infected public and private enterprises since the near global collapse last September 18th. Though our undergraduate applications have increased more than any other state school in New Jersey, it is unclear if the prospective incoming students will be able to afford the discounted tuition that is available to in-state residents.
NJIT has a long history of academic excellence. We graduate top-notch engineers, architects, programmers and information management professionals, but because of our narrow geographic recruitment area, many potential students don't even know who we are.
That changed yesterday.
NJIT is taking its fundamental strengths and areas of expertise --excellent academic instruction and distance learning-- and we are offering them to the world.Online.njit.edu was launched, yesterday, as a comprehensive recruiting tool to attract master level and graduate certificate candidates across the country. Available online, this new initiative offers the expertise and excellence of NJIT's graduate programs to students all across the country. From the web site's main page:
"If you’re searching for an online master’s program or a “hot topic” graduate certificate, you should know this about NJIT:the university pioneered distance learning. Working in the late 1970s,two NJIT professors created the software, and the teaching methods, used to support some of the first distance-learning classes. In fact,the phrase, Virtual Classroom® was coined and registered as a trademark at NJIT"Tuition and fees for out-of-staters have historically been a major impediment to cross-country recruiting for any of the NJIT programs, but that is expected to change, too:
"Know, also, that NJIT has affordable tuition. This year, the Princeton Review named NJIT one of the nation’s Best Value Colleges. And this spring, NJIT is introducing an online tuition rate that,pending approval in April by the NJIT Board of Trustees, will help online students who live outside New Jersey save on tuition. So if you’re considering an online master’s program or a graduate certificate, know this: NJIT will give you the skills you’ll need to work successfully in the 21st century global marketplace."The University Vice President and visionary for this new initiative, Dr Gale Tenen Spak, has emphasized programs which lead directly to jobs in the unsettled marketplace:
"We offer short term, graduate level certificate programs and fully accredited, fully online master degree programs that can make you more employable and help you advance your career and give you a leg-up on your competition"The entire thrust of this new initiative is to target areas of study which lead directly to existing, high-paying jobs all across the country. While funding for professional studies has become harder to obtain, the proposed reduced tuition rates will make those training dollars spend further towards an advanced degree. More from the web site:
"The majors that NJIT offers -- majors in engineering and science, technology and management -- are those most sought after by employers. Every year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers publishes a list of majors that attract the highest salaries. And every year the majors offered at NJIT top that list. "Does this mean that the trend in graduate education will pave a new road to advanced degrees and professional excellence? No one wil know the outcome of this initiative until the Fall, 2009 semester begins. Does this impact the undergraduate applicants ability to afford the tuition required to attend NJIT? No, that is a problem to be solved in some other way. But to the swarm of new applicants that hope to attend NJIT as undergraduates in the Fall, the prospect of enrolling in a school in which they can affordably continue their education through their bachelor degree while receiving the excellent support that their graduate studies might require, the innovative environment that the university provides at all levels, is a fundamental reason to enroll.
Friday, March 27. 2009
Via The New York Times, a story about a Brooklyn school that is being described as a kind of hybrid between a high school and a community college.
City Polytechnic High School of Engineering, Architecture and Technology, is a five-year secondary school set to open this fall. Graduates would receive both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.
Students will have a curriculum that both has the courses we associate with a career and technical education and advanced courses that students would encounter in college.
There are already many colleges and high schools that allow high school students to earn college credit before they graduate. Usually, this is done by having students attend classes on a nearby college campus or by bringing in (face-to-face or virtually) college professors.
What is the motivation to create these hybrid schools? It may make the transition to college courses easier. With the proper articulation, it can cut in half the time needed to earn an associate’s degree or supply credits to a 4-year degree. The schools don't always wait until the last two years to begin the process. They can begin college level work in their first year. In theory, the school's high standards, rigorous curriculum, academic support and the enticement of free
college courses encourages students.
This has been done before. In earlier decades, they were often created to make up for the gap in college attendance and college degree rates among low income and minority students. Some people refer to these schools as "early colleges."
Jobs for the Future (JFF), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other groups have supported initiatives to create these schools called early colleges. About a third of these schools receive Title 1 funding (for institutions with a high percentage of low-income students served).
Further Reading Minding the Gap: Why Integrating High School With College Makes Sense and How to Do It calls for a system that integrates secondary and postsecondary education into a system in which a college degree is the goal for all students.
Thursday, March 26. 2009
YouTube EDU (as in http://www.youtube.com/edu - it's not a .edu site, thank goodness) launched today.
It is called on the YouTube blog an educational hub - a “volunteer project sparked by a group of employees who wanted to find a better way to collect and highlight all the great educational content being uploaded to YouTube by colleges and universities.”
Right now, the site is aggregating videos from existing college and university content - lectures, student films, athletic events.
The University of Virginia has made a decision to phase out its public computer labs. Why are they doing it?
There are a number of reasons given and I wonder how many other schools might be considering similar moves for some of the same reasons. Here are some of those reasons and some of my own Passaic County Community College takes on them.
99% of UVA's new students brought their own laptops to the campus, so the labs are redundant. The percentage at PCCC is certainly lower. We would be dealing with a lot more than 1% of our students needing computers. Also, we are a commuter campus. Though I see students with their own laptops, the majority of students don't bring a laptop to campus. It might be because they don't have one, or because they don't want the risk or bother of commuting with it.
The UVA labs are still heavily used (651,900 hour last year) but it is primarily for web surfing and word processing which they could do just as well on their laptops. The PCCC library public lab near my office is always busy (especially the limited print stations) but I make the same observation - they are mostly reading email, watching videos, surfing and using Word.
At UVA, students use the lab computers for their specialized software (such as MatLab, Eclipse, MathCAD), but only for 5% of the time. The university plans to license the software for student laptop use. I don't know that PCCC public labs really offer any "special" software. Then again, for some of our students, having MS Office 2007 might qualify as special.
UVA plans to save money (about $300,000 yearly currently for lab maintenance) by closing labs, though the changes will still incur costs, so the actual savings is unclear.
Many students use the labs to avoid needing a personal printer; the university pays the cost for printers, toner & paper. They may need to still offer printing, scanning and other additional services. PCCC students go through a lot of printer paper and a lot of it is waste. If students needed to pay-to-print, we might go a bit greener.
This is not really a shocking educational technology change. It is certainly connected to larger conversations about changing learning spaces. Even without labs, students need spaces where they can bring their laptops and mobile devices, have network access and do collaborative work.
How are your lab spaces evolving?
Wednesday, March 25. 2009
When the Employme! training program at NJIT officially ended in January, the job search for its graduates began in full swing. Though included in parts of the soft-skills curriculum segments each week during their training, the number of the program's yet-to-be-employed graduates called for a shift into more intense post-skillset instruction in how to find (and actually achieve) full gainful employment.
The employment backgrounds of the students were diverse. Some students were trying to reenter the workforce after catastrophic injuries ended their former occupations. Some students were disabled from birth and had never held down a real paying job. When paid internship opportunities were offered to the remaining unemployed students, a curious pattern began to emerge: students who had been employed were eager to interview for (and get) an internship; students who had never been employed, while at first excited by the prospect of the opportunity, began to express concerns about why they couldn't take one of the intern positions.
One student began to have misgivings about the commute from home to work (he was a student who showed up for classes so often that he was likely to be inhabiting one of our labs on days when class wasn't scheduled). Another student, one who graduated 2 complete programs in the Employme! curriculum, declined an interview --even after he was assured he'd have full access to the adaptive technologies he used in the classroom-- because he thought vision difficulties might make him too slow to do any actual work.
There was more than self-confidence (or its lack) in play, here. When questioned about their general interest in an internship, students disabled from birth listed reasons why the internship wasn't a proper fit; students recovering from disabling injuries listed the reasons why they would be an asset to their potential boss. To those students who had been separated from their jobs due to injury, employment opportunity offered then a chance to climb back in the saddle, again. Those students who had grown up never expecting the possibility of employment, had never even seen the horse. Not participating in the work environment, despite their skills training at NJIT, was something that their life experiences outside the classroom reinforced every day.
The available internships at NJIT are to provide assistance to the instructional designers to support NJIT's course catalog transition from WebCT/Blackboard to Moodle. Interns will be expected to provide support directly to the instructional designers and faculty as course materials are migrated to the new environment. The intern's tasks will include editing course summaries, reformatting existing content and assisting faculty solve incompatibilities between the retiring LMS and Moodle. In order to reconcile the disconnect between students who have general concerns about their abilities to perform the duties of real employment and the needs of the instructional designers to have productive interns complete assigned work, the decision was made to use Moodle to teach Moodle.
I created an instance of Moodle that will solely be used to have students practice support tasks with Moodle. Each student, regardless of their expressed interest in an internship, has been provided an empty practice course in which to learn the basic tasks of course creation and modification. They will be given tasks to perform involving course material editing within their own course to practice the types of tasks a Moodle support person might be required to perform. They will be trained in course resource creation and editing and other tyical tasks that fall within the job description of the internship. The students who are eager to return to the workplace will have a chance to learn marketable skills, the students who are hesitant to pursue the internship opportunity will be directly exposed to the tasks they would be required to perform as if they were already working as an intern.
The challenge the students will face is not so much how to configure Moodle and edit course materials, but it will be to demonstrate to themselves that they can perform in a workplace enviromment as well as anyone and through their accomplishments realize that they can be gainfully employed. Once they recognize the horse, the hope is that they will try and climb into the saddle for the very first time.
Tuesday, March 24. 2009
We had a meeting recently of our college's Online Issues Workgroup to discuss the Higher Education Opportunity Act language that requires authenticating online students. It states that accrediting organizations, like Middle States, must require that institutions offering distance education have processes to establish that the student who registers in a distance education course is the same student who participates in and completes the program and receives the academic credit.
Last summer, I wrote briefly about a WCET briefing paper that considered this issue. The HEOA requires changes that appear to be costly and complex for online programs. The people who run those programs are somewhat fearful and definitely confused. The part that seems to get the most attention focuses on academic integrity and student authentication.
It is not a new concern. It is one that teachers have expressed for years. How do you know that the person at the distant keyboard is the registered student? Maybe someone else is taking the test. Maybe someone else is taking the entire course.
Of course, in a traditional class setting, you don't always know that the paper submitted was written by the student who submitted it. Depending on the testing conditions, you might not even know that the student sitting there taking the exam is the registered student.
What the HEOA actually says is:
"...the agency or association requires an institution that offers distance education or correspondence education to have processes through which the institution establishes that the student who registers in a distance education or correspondence education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the program and receives the academic credit."You can access the full text of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 at ed.gov
The current practices in place at most colleges and universities usually require secure student login credentials, possibly proctored testing for online students and institutional policies concerning student use of network resources and academic honesty. And, for right now, nothing else is probably required. The concern is that there is also an expectation in the HEOA that as technologies get better and more affordable that institutions will take greater steps to insure who is taking your online course.
That expectation is leading schools to explore software/hardware solutions (like Acxiom, Kryterion & SoftwareSecure) that provide authentication using video, fingerprinting, and verification questions (similar to those used by financial institutions to verify your identity before allowing access to information). To some of us, those solutions seem overly expensive and technically overwhelming for students.
No one is quite sure what is expected now and what will be expected in the future. Most of us are monitoring what our accrediting agency (or agencies) might say about the HEOA. For now, institutions should focus on policies, best practices and course design strategies that promote academic integrity in their online courses now. There is a draft document from WCET that is a good starting place for discussions on your campus.
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