May 2010 Archives

Online teaching and promotion and tenure

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Yesterday the Institute hosted a panel discussion dealing with "How can the teaching of online courses be evaluated for P & T? A Panel Discussion with Keith Bailey, David DiBiase, Diane Parente and Angela Linse".
 
Many PSU folks joined us, both face-to-face in 315 Rider Building as well as people over polycom from Brandywine, Fayette and Erie.  Dave and the folks from the eDutton Institute created a nice peer review guide for online courses that the college of EMS utilizes. One thing Dave mentioned is that, using this guide, non-online teachers would still be capable of providing a quality review of an online course.  This sparked some interesting debate among both panelists and attendees.  Keith Bailey and Diane Parente offered their methods of online course peer review as well.  Both Dave and Diane encourage faculty members to be 'in' the online environment the teacher is leveraging for the course for at least a month, sometimes for the entire semester. Keith indicated this could be a tough sell for faculty, when they already have a great deal of commitments vying for their time.  Another interesting point was raised from Brandywine, where they mentioned the guideline they established that keeps most tenure-track instructors away from online instruction.  Some of this is due to SRTE ratings typically being 6/10s of a point lower for online instructors vs. resident instructors. 

All in all, a great discussion and you could tell the panelists and some of the participants were passionate about the dialog.  Hopefully we can build off this enthusiasm and continue working towards a consistent, quality-driven method for evaluating the growing number of online courses offered around PSU. 

Penn State Career Services Conference

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Cindy and I presented at the Campus-wide career services conference yesterday in the Career Services building at University Park.  We tried to cover four main areas:
  • Basic Schreyer Institute overview
  • Collaborative opportunities
  • Engaging students (focusing on generational characteristics of millennials)
  • The assertion-evidence model for PowerPoint utilization
The advising folks were great, contributing many ideas and really helping to make the session interactive and giving us some things to think about in the future.  The whole topic of generational differences seems to be coming up more and more lately, with a LOT of varied opinions and viewpoints on the subject.  Yesterday, the big debate was around 'tech savvy' students.  Some of the literature does point to millenials being tech savvy, BUT we often find students are only savvy with email, social websites and mobile devices.  We concluded that we might want to stress continued growth and utilization of basic tools like the MS suite (lots of stories of seniors not being able to format resumes and inability to leverage basic spreadsheets), audio and video tools and image editing software. 

Thanks for everyone who attended!  Feel free to check out the PDF of our presentation.
In a May 13, 2010 Chronicle article, Confessions of a Teacher, Gabriela Montell responds to a blog posting by a college instructor who admits to NOT loving teaching and who claims that one need not love teaching to be good or successful at it. I think many faculty members I have consulted with would probably agree. They care about teaching and strive to do it well, but they did not go into academia and take a job at a doctoral granting institution because their very favorite thing to do is teach. What's interesting to me is the fact that so many people feel ashamed to admit this, even at a place like University Park. I think people who consult with faculty need to reassure them that teaching is a profession, that they don't have to have a "calling" or to feel they were born to teach in order to be successful, and that they can become good teachers over time with practice and regular assessments. Isn't that consistent with the best motivation theories of learning?

Students and technology

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Cindy passed around a recent study conducted by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA).  They asked 200 students at the University of Maryland to go without any technology for 24 hours.  No cell phones, computers, television, iPod, and even radio or newspapers.  The study reports some very interesting comments from students, many focusing on the feeling of isolation, both from friends and also from sources of information related to news or current events. 

The question we are exploring deals with students as employees.  On one hand, some worry that this attachment to technology might hinder attention spans, multi-tasking and productivity.  On the other hand, the companies that successfully integrate both the technologies and the habits of those that use them into organizational workflows will be at a huge advantage and discover new efficiencies.  What do you think about the level of reliance on technology we see in today's student, and how will that transfer to a new employee?
teachvsgrants.doc Someone sent me this Chronicle article from March 3, 2009 arguing that teaching is more important to the bottom line than is research, even at doctoral institutions, because research dollars can't compare to tuition dollars in terms of covering overall costs of operation. This gives all of us who work to enhance student learning--whether we work directly with students or with faculty who are teaching them--a new way of looking at our contribution to the fiscal health of the institution.

Powerpoint: the right tool for the job?

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I recently stumbled onto a great dialog around a New York Times article titled 'We have the met the enemy and he is PowerPoint'.  The articles goes into detail about various uses of PPT, particularly in the military, and how it is often abused.  This sparked Ron Burns, CEO or virtual world platform provider Proton Media, to post some thoughts on leveraging 3-D spaces vs. 2-D PPTs in many situations.  Ron's post then prompted some other industry folks from the likes if Microsoft and Cisco to weigh in on the discussion of PPT vs. 3-D alternatives. 

You can read all the blog posts in the discussion over on Proton Media's blog.

Personally, I do see and agree with a lot of their points.  But the roadblocks for the shift are rather large:
  • Time to develop a similar message in a 3D space is longer, especially for those without experience.
  • The comfort factor of PPT.  People create PPT presentations frequently and (arguably) know the tool.
  • Custom software required for both presenters and audience members, including account creation processes, if using 3D software.
We're still going to see continued growth in the 3D space in business and education, but we have some early hurdles that need addressed for most of our audiences to get past the early adopter phase. 

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