Curating Tech Developments in Online Learning

[While this Campus Technology article focuses on online learning for higher education, it’s worth examining for anyone looking for ways to use technology to transform learning. The success stories provide strong evidence how technology can make learning happen in ways not possible otherwise. The projects range from an avatar for nursing students to bring the Great Barrier Reef to students through teleconferencing.]

By David Raths 08/10/16

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

New ways to deploy artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, gamification and robotic telepresence are making their way into classrooms across the globe every day. Two leaders in the field of online learning are building a website called Virtually Inspired to curate examples of what they consider the most promising efforts.

Susan Aldridge, senior vice president for online learning at Drexel University and president of Drexel University Online, and Marci Powell, chair emerita of the U.S. Distance Learning Association, looked at more than 250 projects deploying new technologies in online learning and initially narrowed that number down to approximately 50 they plan to highlight on their website, which is still a work in progress.

Aldridge and Powell want the site to provide one-stop shopping for faculty and administrators looking for innovative approaches to online learning. Increasingly, Aldridge said, students will not sit still for talks in large lecture halls, and still too much of online education involves a talking-head video rather than an engaging experience. As she went looking for new approaches that might be applied to Drexel’s curriculum, she and Powell decided to share those findings with colleagues in higher education, who could pick and choose what might be beneficial for them.

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Student-Source Mobile Apps to Stay Ahead of the Curve

[Crowd-sourcing or “hacking” has become a contemporary way to solve a problem by enlisting a team of programmers to tackle a common problem. In this Edtech article the problem involved Robonaut2, a robotic astronaut assistant. Last year I had a chance to observe from a distance how a colleague with a “crowd” of colleagues developed an app as a byproduct of Startup Weekend EDU.]

RoboAssist

NASA recently occupied the headlines, not for a shuttle launch or moon walk, but for successfully crowdsourcing a test of the Robonaut 2, a robotic astronaut assistant.

NASA was so impressed with the quality of the 3D modeling submitted by the community that the agency has already organized two more challenges — and it’s only the latest group to jump on the crowdsourcing bandwagon. It’s time for higher education to be next.

Of the few pioneer universities that have applied a crowdsourcing — or in this case,student sourcing — model at their institution, all have experienced impressive results.

The model has been especially successful when used to design and implement new mobile applications. Not only is it high time, but it is also a necessity that colleges and universities leverage student sourcing as a means to engage the student body, decrease costs and time, and improve implementation of mobile applications at their institutions.

There are reasons top Fortune 500 companies have begun implementing crowd sourcing: access to a flexible workforce, a variety of creative talent, cost-effectiveness, fast project delivery and reduced time to market. Student sourcing has one key difference from crowd sourcing: a defined network of students.

Students are a university’s consumers. How better to provide consumers with the mobile resources they want than by involving them in the design process? If this student sourcing model is such a success, why not implement it for all university projects?

The key to successful student sourcing is an excited community, eager to volunteer its time. Mobile is the kind of project a student body will get excited about — even the least tech-savvy student dreams of creating the next AngryBirds or Snapchat app.

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Why Should We Build Classes Around Mobile Technology?

[In this Campus Technology article the use of mobile devices becomes the key for higher education students to become digital journalists. Ronald Yaros, a communications professor at the University of Maryland, describes how mobile technology is the key to engagement, student learning, and student success.]

Using an app he created, in classes he has configured around mobile technology, Ronald Yaros is preparing his students for a future that will revolve around their technological skills. “Today’s students are tomorrow’s information producers and consumers,” said Yaros, who is an associate professor at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. “In the past five years, we have seen tectonic changes in how younger people adopt, adapt, and utilize mobile technology for virtually every aspect of their lives. For the next five years, I’m interested in how evolving technology will continue to change the ways in which users interact with information.”

According to Yaros, without a systemic change in how we engage students in and outside of class, technology can be — and often is — viewed as getting in the way of learning.  “While we know that any device can distract from learning, we don’t know how to change the ways a device can be used for sustained engagement and more effective learning. That’s why we need a mindset shift to adapt a tool’s use to class meetings, assignments and activities that require technology.”

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