Thursday, February 22, 2007

Virtual Groups in Online Courses

Hey folks, Bev here. Na will be back soon (next week), but left me with a message that she wanted me to post for her in her absence. So, here goes...

Virtual group activities are important tools in the online class, in which students learn in both a constructivist and social approach. In other words, students learn both from their own practice and from the teamwork and communication of the group.

For those who are interested in using virtual groups in your online courses, consider reading the article, Virtual Group Problem Solving in the Basic Communication Course: Lessons for Online Learning. Below is the abstract:

Skepticism about online instruction often erroneously blames the electronic medium for shortcomings in instructional design or technique. This essay discusses the performance expectations for fully online group problem-solving via threaded discussion boards. Four years of administering this assignment in a basic oral communication course yield detailed instructional guidelines that enrich the online learning experience and fulfill general education competency mandates. Experiences with online group problem-solving should encourage educators to adapt to technological innovations in pedagogy.

(Roy Schwartzman. Virtual Group Problem Solving in the Basic Communication Course: Lessons for Online Learning. Journal of Instructional Psychology, March 2006.)

In the appendix, several virtual group activities are suggested. Although the application of virtual groups discussed in this article involves communication courses, the idea can be applied to many other disciplines, too.

Have you used virtual groups in your online course? Do you have any thoughts on using virtual groups? Please share your experiences in the comments area. We will also be hosting more discussion on virtual groups in the future.
[Na Wu, Feb 1, 2007]

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tips for Recording Audio

Ready to start podcasting? Here are some audio recording tips to help you get started. Above anything else, the important thing is to just get started. Your first recordings may not be "Grammy winners" but they will improve with time and experience.

1. Write a script. Make it conversational, not textbook. You don’t have to follow it word-for-word, but it will help guide you and minimize long pauses (while you think about what to say). Create a PDF of the script and include it with your podcast.

2. Use a quality headset with microphone and position the microphone about 3" from your mouth. You don't have to spend a lot of money. I use a Logitech Premium USB 350. Talk in a normal, conversational voice.

3. Record at the highest sampling rate and resolution, e.g., 16-bit and 44.1 kHz. You want the original recording to be high quality. When you export as mp3, the quality will be compressed and file size reduced.

4. Start and end your podcast with a few seconds of music (about 5-10 seconds). Fade the music out as you begin to speak. Fade the music in at the end. Do not use copyrighted, commercial material, e.g., from movies or albums. My favorite site for finding music tracks is PodsafeAudio. Free to use under the Creative Commons license.

5. Edit your recording to remove the pauses, ums, ahs, coughs, squeeky chair, shuffling papers, etc. A very easy-to-use, open source (free) audio recording and editing tool is Audacity. Note: Remember to download and save the LAME Encoder to export your files in the mp3 format.

That’s it. You’re ready to get started. Do you have any other recording tips that you want to share? Let us hear about them in the Comments area.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Good Article on Online Course Design and Faculty Development

Na is on vacation (in China!) and she asked that I post this on her behalf while she is gone.

I would like to recommend the following article, which discusses best practice from Washington State University on the relationships between online course design, faculty development, and effective student engagement.

Brown, G., Meyers, C.B., Roy, S. (2003) Formal course design and the studnet experience, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 7(3), 66-77.

What impact does collaboration between faculty and professional course designers have on the student learning experience? As the use of technologies increases, educational institutions have to find ways of identifying an daddressing expectations about how technologies can best be incorporated into the teaching and learning experiences. This paper reports on efforts at Washington State University to develop and assess the course design and faculty development process and the impact the process has on student learning experiences. Theresults of a comprehensive set of faculty and student surveys from five groups suggest that the systematic coruse design process improves students' opportunities for faculty-student interaction, student-student interaction, and other elements associated with best practice. The implications of this study for faculty development and policy implementation are discussed.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Five Ways to Reduce PowerPoint Overload

It’s happened to everyone at one time or another: you’ve started a new PowerPoint presentation and the first thing you see is the dreaded blank slide. You may not be 100% sure how to start, but you’re pretty sure something should be on it.

A blank slide tends to invite the urge to fill it with as much information as possible, and before you know it things have gotten out of hand. What can you do during the design process to make sure you don’t overload your audience with information? In their article Five Ways to Reduce PowerPoint Overload, Cliff Atkinson and Richard E. Mayer discuss ways of overcoming this common occurrence:

I. Write a clear headline that explains the main idea of every slide. Rather than providing a title for your slides, consider using a more conversational headline.

II. Break your story into digestible bites using the Slide Sorter view. The Slide Sorter view allows you to see your entire presentation at a glance. Look for consistency in the amount of information on each page — you will be able to immediately spot slides that are overcrowded.

III. Reduce visual load by moving text off-screen and narrating the content. Too much text on a slide will force your audience to read everything (whether they comprehend it all or not). Keep text on slides to a minimum, and use the Notes Page view to type out the details in a narrative form. This not only allows you to print out comprehensive handouts, but it allows you to organize your thoughts and reduce dependency on notes during a presentation.

IV. Use visuals with your words, instead of words alone. A slide full of text is not as effective as a slide with text and images.

V. Rigorously remove every element that does not support the main idea. Too much of anything on a slide will overwhelm your audience — keep things as simple as possible, and rely on your own knowledge and narration as the focal point of a presentation or lecture.

You can read the full article here. If you have any information or tips to share regarding this topic please post in the comments area below.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Online Education How-to Guides

Are your students first-time online learners? Are they struggling with group activities? Are they frustrated with the feeling of isolation? …Online Education How-to Guides share useful tips with the students on how to survive and be successful in the online class:

· How to Prepare For Your First Online Course
· How to Set Up a Home Office for Online Learning
· How to Write an “A+” Discussion Posting
· How to Avoid Plagiarism
· How to Effectively Participate in a Live Chat Session
· How to Avoid Isolation in Your Online Class
· How to Survive Virtual Group Work
· How to Do Online Research

Check it out and share with your students!