July 2010 Archives

Today, an article in InsideHigher (see: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/28/copyright) discussed how professors will now have an easier time showing videos in class for academic use.

Per the article:

"One change in particular is making waves in academe: an exemption that allows professors in all fields and "film and media studies students" to hack encrypted DVD content and clip "short portions" into documentary films and "non-commercial videos." (The agency does not define "short portions.")

This means that any professors can legally extract movie clips and incorporate them into lectures, as long as they are willing to decrypt them -- a task made relatively easy by widely available programs known as "DVD rippers.""

As far as general video resources go for faculty, here are some options that are popular for classroom use:

http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm

http://www.teachersdomain.org/

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/programs/

http://www.learner.org/index.html



Teaching with Blogs

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In today's InsideHigherEd posting, see: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/07/27/arvan), Lanny Arvan poses very interesting thoughts on the use of blogs as a teaching method. I highly recommend this article for professors who are considering using blogs in their classes. I like the fact that it dovetails with Chickering's and Gamson's Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.

Learning Design Summer Camp 2010 slides

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The presentation slides from the Learning Design Summer Camp are now available in PDF format. I'm working on the first draft of the actual report and I'll be posting a link in the next few weeks where people can go do download that document. 

Some really good questions and ideas were discussed during the session. Many folks were interested in the number of blogs and wikis that are being used for educational vs. other purposes.  Unfortunately, that's not something we can determine from the quantitative data; that will take a good chunk of time for someone to determine a random sample then go out and visit each URL to classify the usage of each space.  We are hoping to get to that, but it won't be any time in the near future. 

A few notes of interest from the presentation:
  • When examining instructor use of both platforms, 'Professor', 'Associate Professor', and 'Assistant Professor' make up nearly 50% of all instructor usage of Wikispaces.  Those three categories of instructors make up ~25% of all instructor usage of Blogs @ PSU. One reason could be the flexibility of Wikispaces to be used for things like project management and research collaboration.  Another reason cited numerous times related to IP; it appears that faculty see Wikispaces as a much more secure space for their intellectual capital (but the Blogs @ PSU platform does allow individuals to create protected blog spaces).
  • When examining blogging characteristics and cumulative GPA of student bloggers, we see a significant difference between students that are infrequent users of the blog platform compared to those that tend to be entry-dominant users (creating several entries across several blogs, and staying active in the blog platform). When we examine pure means of these groups, the infrequent users experience a .01 increase in GPA from the time they first entered the blog platform to their most recent activity, where entry-dominant bloggers experience a .06 increase in GPA.
  • Both these platforms can play an interesting role in elearning at PSU.  Some folks are using Wikispaces as an elearning platform, which is an interesting idea if faculty do not have a design team to help launch an elearning course.  Biology 110 appears to be fully built-out in Wikispaces (PSU authentication required).  In terms of open courseware initiatives, faculty are creating some incredibly powerful online materials in both Wikispaces and Blogs @ PSU that Penn State needs to begin thinking about how these resources might be leveraged to enhance the breadth and depth of education across the system.
Please let me know if the PDF of the slides does not open properly.  For some reason I experienced troubles opening the file, but other colleagues indicate it works fine.
In the July 19, 2020 issue of InsideHigherEd (see http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/16/online) the debate between whether online or face-to-face education contributes equally to learning or not continues. The study that gives online educators the upper hand is now claimed to be flawed. For those who wish to compare online education and on-the-ground education, an attempt to understand the differences in the mechanisms of teaching is warranted.

Digital Textbooks via Blackboard

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July 15, 2010: "In a series of moves that could give a boost to an e-textbook industry that has been treading water for years, Blackboard announced Wednesday that it is partnering with a major publisher and two major e-textbook vendors to make it easy for professors and students to assign and access e-textbooks and other digital materials directly through its popular learning-management system."

"The company, which controlled about 60 percent of the learning-management market as of last year, said it is partnering with McGraw-Hill, a top academic publisher, as well as Follett Higher Education Group and Barnes & Noble, two major distributors that operate a combined 1,500 college bookstores in the United States and Canada."

"But can Blackboard, through these arrangements -- and other learning-management providers such as Desire2Learn, Moodle, and Sakai, through CourseSmart's Faculty Instant Access program -- help publishers move more e-textbooks? Despite substantial buzz, e-textbooks have so far failed to catch on in academe, capturing 3.5 percent of the total textbook market, according to last year's Campus Computing Survey. Recent polling by the Student Monitor reveals that student awareness of e-textbooks this spring was down from the previous spring, to 50 percent from 59."

See the rest of the story at:

Learning Design Summer Camp 2010

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Tomorrow is the third annual Learning Design Summer Camp, bringing together designers, technologists, faculty and other interesting Penn Staters for a day of interesting discussion in the IST Cybertorium.  A few of us here in the Institute have been examining what we call "Penn State's Technology Ecosystem", specifically focusing on Undergraduate Education.  Tomorrow at 1:00, I'll be presenting in room 106 on our initial findings.

In a nutshell, we took data from two Penn State technology platforms: Wikispaces and Blogs@PSU.  This data was then combined with institutional data from Penn State's data warehouse.  Some of the questions I'll be exploring during the session tomorrow afternoon include:
  • What are the profiles of students that tend to use this technology?
  • What faculty are using these platforms? How are they using them?
  • Where are we, as a university, in terms of adoption?
  • What Colleges/Departments are already using these platforms in a pedagogically-sound way? (with examples)
  • What sort of impact are these platforms having on student performance?
After the presentation, I will put the finishing touches on a document outlining our initial findings and post a link here on where  you can download a copy of the report.  Already, we're seeing some very interesting trends with the use of both platforms across the university with a positive impact on student performance! 

Assessing Instructional Development

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I just came across this project, Tracing the Effect of Faculty Development into Student Learning Outcomes, http://serc.carleton.edu/tracer/about_project.html.  What can we learn, borrow, adapt?

Study Abroad bodes well for students

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In InsideHigherEd today, "they've found that students who study abroad have improved academic performance upon returning to their home campus, higher graduation rates, and improved knowledge of cultural practices and context compared to students in control groups. They've also found that studying abroad helps, rather than hinders, academic performance of at-risk students."

See: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/13/abroad

Penn State's Global Programs has many resources to help faculty engage with topics germane to overseas studies -- http://www.global.psu.edu/faculty_staff/faculty_toolkit.cfm

In particular, please refer to the: Embedded Education Abroad Faculty Toolkit

This toolkit has been developed to be used primarily by faculty to aid in the development and implementation of embedded programs. The toolkit complements university administrative and logistical services by offering a portfolio of tested and applicable instructional strategies that leverage the embedded international travel component of these courses to optimize academic learning and the development of global citizenship.


I think that concepts of global citizenship should be incorporated into as many Penn State courses as possible; what do you think?

Part-Time Faculty Handbook

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Part time Faculty Handbook - 2010-11.pdf

The University Handbook for Part-Time Faculty and General Resource Book for All Faculty has been updated for 2010-11.  You may access it (and print out copies as you wish) at http://www.psu.edu/vpaa.  The handbook is also accessible through the Office of Human Resources at http://www.ohr.psu.edu/CurrentEmployees.cfm under the Faculty section.  Since the Handbook has useful information for all faculty, you may want to give a copy to all of your academic appointments.

Men find academe more satisfying than women

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In a recent InsideHigherEd article (see: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/12/coache), entitled " Job Satisfaction and Gender" published July 12, 2010, male professors have been found to be happier with working conditions than female professors, especially in the social sciences.  Says Cathy Trower, research director of COACHE, which is based at Harvard University: "...any university that thinks it has solved problems related to gender just by recruiting a critical mass of women may find otherwise."

Statistically Significant Gaps in Job Satisfaction, With Men Happier

Category Disciplines
Clarity of tenure process Social sciences; medical schools and health professions
Clarity of tenure criteria Social sciences
Clarity of tenure standards Social sciences; education
Clarity of tenure body of evidence Social sciences
Clarity of sense of achieving tenure Humanities; social sciences; agriculture, natural resources and environmental sciences; business; education
Consistent messages about tenure from tenured colleagues Social sciences
Tenure decisions based on performance Social sciences
Upper limit on committee assignments Education
Clarify of tenure expectations as a scholar Social sciences
Clarity of tenure expectations as a teacher Social sciences
Clarity of expectations as a colleague in department Engineering, computer science and mathematics
Reasonableness of expectations as a scholar Social sciences; biological sciences; health and human ecology; agriculture, natural resources and environmental sciences; business; education; medical schools and health professions
Reasonableness of expectations as a teacher Social sciences; education
Reasonableness of expectations as an adviser Education; medical schools and health professions
Way you spend your time as a faculty member Social sciences; engineering, computer science and mathematics; health and human ecology; business; education; medical schools and health professions
Number of hours you work as a faculty member Humanities; social sciences; engineering, computer science and mathematics; health and human ecology; business; education; medical schools and health professions
Quality of facilities Social sciences
Access to teaching assistants, research assistants Social sciences; visual and performing arts; medical schools and health professions
Clerical/administrative services Social sciences; physical sciences; education; medical schools and health professions
Number of courses you teach Biological sciences
Degree of influence over which courses you teach Social sciences; education
Discretion over course content Social sciences; education
Number of students you teach Medical schools and health professions
Upper limit on teaching obligations Education
Amount of time conducting research Humanities; social sciences; physical sciences; biological sciences; engineering, computer science and mathematics; health and human ecology; agriculture, natural resources and environmental sciences; business; education; medical schools and health professions
Expectations for finding external funding Social sciences; health and human ecology; education; medical schools and health professions
Influence over the focus of research Social sciences; health and human ecology
Research services Education
Institution makes having children and tenure track compatible Social sciences; physical sciences; visual and performing arts; education; medical schools and health professions
Institution makes raising children and tenure track compatible Social sciences; physical sciences; biological sciences; visual and performing arts; education; medical schools and health professions
Colleagues make having children and tenure track compatible Social sciences; medical schools and health professions
Colleagues make raising children and tenure track compatible Social sciences; biological sciences; business; medical schools and health professions
Colleagues are respectful of efforts to balance work and home Social sciences; agriculture,natural resources and environmental sciences; education
Ability to balance between professional and personal time Humanities; social sciences; biological sciences; visual and performing arts; engineering, computer science and mathematics; health and human ecology; agriculture, natural resources and environmental sciences; business; education; medical schools and health professions
Fairness of immediate supervisors' evaluations Social sciences
Opportunities to collaborate with tenured faculty Social sciences; physical sciences; health and human ecology; medical schools and health professions
Value faculty in your department place on your work Social sciences
Amount of professional interaction with tenured colleagues Social sciences; physical sciences; medical schools and health professions
Amount of personal interaction with tenured colleagues Physical sciences
Amount of professional interaction with pre-tenure faculty Agriculture, natural resources and environmental sciences
How well you fit Social sciences; business
Institutional collegiality Social sciences
Department as a place to work Social sciences
Would again work at this institution Social sciences
Overall rating of institution Social sciences



Statistically Significant Gaps in Job Satisfaction, With Women Happier

Category Disciplines
Travel funds Engineering, computer science and mathematics
Paid/unpaid research leave Engineering, computer science and mathematics
"Stop the clock" tenure policies Humanities; social sciences; engineering, computer science and mathematics; agriculture, natural resources and environmental sciences
Paid/unpaid personal leave Engineering, computer science and mathematics
Tuition waivers Visual and performing arts


Kiernan Mathews, director of COACHE, says that a "critical mass isn't going to be the silver bullet in female job satisfaction." "The job of our institutions doesn't stop with recruitment", says Matthews. Trower said she hoped that research universities would use the data as a starting point for discussions, discipline by discipline, to see where there are gender differences in job satisfaction (or lower satisfaction overall than is desirable). "This study is set up to start conversations with the faculty," she said.

For women who are starting their careers, and want mentors, that means it can be more difficult to chart a path.


Technology's impact on student learning

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I found an interesting article in the Chronicle today titled "Is Technology Making Your Students Stupid?", a short interview with Nicholas Carr, a Colorado writer.  Overall, it's an interesting read.  Carr has a psychology background, and comes at the topic from the school of thought that the brain is malleable and adaptable through life experiences, something often referred to as neuroplasticity.  Carr sites many observations regarding the use of technology in learning contexts, focusing primarily on studies and anecdotes that found things like multitasking and using laptops in classrooms hurts student learning.  One very interesting finding he mentions is the use of online archives for academic journals.  Carr points out that, in some instances, this is hurting academia, mostly research, as a whole.  The idea is that we, as researchers using online search to find journals, are increasingly led to the same citations based on popularity.

"...we become so dependent on search, and the results from searches are determined by popularity of one sort or another. And the risk of using search for online research is that everybody gets led in the same directions to a smaller number of citations which, as they become ever more popular, become the destination for more and more searches."

The article touches briefly on social media, where Carr simply wants to make sure educators aren't making assumptions that all social media is good for education.  This leads me to some numbers we've uncovered with our research into the use of blogs@PSU. We ran a cluster analysis on the the student blog data, which led to three distinct groups:
  • Infrequent users
  • Comment-dominant users
  • Entry-dominant users
When we begin to examine the GPA of these users, we see that infrequent users average a 3.21, comment-dominated users a 3.38, and entry-dominant users a 3.56.  Now, this isn't saying that blogs lead to better GPAs; rather the reverse.  People with high GPAs tend to post more entries in the blog space.  We took a smaller sample from this data, examining students using the blogs that were admitted to PSU in Fall 07. We then examined when these students began blogging, placed each student into one of the above 3 groups, and examined their GPA curve over time.  We haven't completed the analysis yet, but it does appear that entry-dominant users, from the time they start blogging, start to see positive gains to GPA. 

We're working on a report now that details some of this information as well as data on the use of PSU's wikispaces. Stay tuned for the release of the first draft towards the end of the summer.

Avatars to Teach the Teachers

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http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/07/avatars

In the July 7, 2010 issue of InsideHigherEd linked above, avatars in Second Life are being used to emulate students such that teachers-in-training can learn to instruct and manage their behaviors.

"Dieker and the TeachME team -- which includes members of the university's education, engineering, computer science, mathematics, and theater departments -- believe they have created a virtual classroom so real-seeming that it could drastically improve how prepared novice teachers are by the time they venture into the blackboard jungle as student teachers -- and in so doing, reduce teacher turnover by weeding out likely candidates for burnout."

Designed for preparing public education teachers, this technology may have useful ramifications for college faculty as well. Keep your eyes open! Wouldn't it be cool if teaching and learning centers set up virtual classrooms as part of their "Course in College Teaching"?

..."most importantly, it could limit the students' exposure to underprepared, ineffective teachers. And, the team assumes, improve learning outcomes."

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