What is Digital Citizenship?




Many teaching and learning conversations include notions of developing and fostering citizenship for our teachers and our learners in our respective disciplines and fields and in society.   Citizenship can be such broad territory. One way to focus it further is to discuss Digital Citizenship. If you’re still stumped, let me point you to a useful set of Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship appearing on a web site dedicated to this topic. Here, among other things, you’ll find types of norms that characterize appropriate and response technology use.

The distinctions between digital literacy, digital communication, digital etiquette, and digital rights and responsibilities strike me as most informative. When we exchange information electronically with others, we are engaging in digital communication.   When we are in the process of learning about technology and how to use technology to learn, we are becoming digitally literate. When we adhere to standards of conduct or procedures in our use of technology, we are upholding digital etiquette. When we accept our rights to privacy and free speech as well as our responsibility to use technology appropriately, we are recognizing digital rights and responsibilities.

Given recent concerns over offensive behavior on Facebook by a group of Canadian university students, additional digital citizenship notions of protecting confidential communication from being breached (digital security or self-protection) and taking responsibility of actions and deeds (digital law) also bring insight.

If you’re like me, looking for some clarifying definitions to assist your role and the roles of others in digital citizenship, you’ll find this useful too. Check out the rest of the website and learn more about Mike Ribble.

Flexibility is Key When Teaching Online




As the new year and new term kick off, I’m facing a great deal of time in front of a computer for the next few months. I’m co-teaching Introduction to Learning Technologies for the GMCTE, which includes a blended face-to-face and online component for on-campus registrants and a purely online open course for everyone else. At the same time I’m taking an online course in qualitative methods for my PhD and taking the four-week long online workshop through BCcampus on adopting open textbooks, which directly connects to both my work at the GMCTE as well as my PhD. That’s a lot of screen time, even for me.

I’m trying a balancing act around all of this, plus the rest of my work at the GMCTE, a reading course for my PhD and family life, while trying to carve out just a little bit of “me” time to keep my sanity. I’m not unique and I’m not asking for pity. I’m simply giving you an example of what an online learner may look like.

SturmanWorkshop-024-130302Whenever I speak with instructors about teaching online I stress the importance of flexibility. Frequently students taking online courses, especially at the graduate level, are working full-time jobs. They may need to do their course work in the evenings or on weekends. They may live in different time zones that may put them an hour off of your schedule, or maybe 12 hours off. They may work shift work. They may only have access to the course from a work computer or a library. English may not be their first language so it might take them longer to complete readings and post to the discussion forums, or the time for reflection that online courses can offer compared to face-to-face may make it easier for them to communicate with others. This is also true of any students who may be reticent for one reason or another to speak up in face-to-face classes.

It’s important to remember, as an instructor of an online course that you need to take care of yourself as well. If you have a large class or even a lively small class, discussion forums can become daunting. Students often have expectations that you are always connected, something that face-to-face students seem to expect more and more these days as well. Make it clear in your syllabus as to when you’re likely to reply to students emails, discussion posts and even phone messages. Some instructors will reply at almost any time, while others keep stricter online “office hours”. Pick what’s going to work for you, but keep the needs of your learners in mind.

The GMCTE offers a four-week online course on teaching online that covers these topics and provides practical solutions to many of the concerns that instructors teaching online may have. The instructional designers at the GMCTE are also well versed in teaching online and would be happy to meet with you one-on-one to discuss a course you’re teaching or are considering teaching.

College of Education Adopts Use of ePortfolios



By Tim Molnar, Assistant Professor, College of Education

The College of Education recently implemented an electronic portfolio system (ePort) called Mahara™. This open source ePort emerged from a collaborative venture funded by several post secondary institutions and government bodies in New Zealand. In Maori mahara means “to think, thinking, or thought.”

Mahara_logoOur intentions with implementing Mahara™ are to enhance teacher candidates’ learning by offering a place for the collection of evidence, analysis, representation and sharing relating to their experience as developing educators. Instructors and cooperating teachers have the opportunity to examine, assess and provide feedback to teacher candidates on their efforts and progress. Using Mahara™ also offers an opportunity for a teacher candidate to address the new Saskatchewan Teacher Certification Competencies (STCCs) being established by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education and demonstrates our College commitment to meeting those competencies through our program. Instructors identify which of the STCC’s align with their course outcomes and so allow teacher candidates opportunities to address the teaching competencies directly and through out their course of studies.

Using Mahara™ since 2008, with both undergraduate and graduate students, my first impressions of this software remain. Mahara™ is a flexible and adaptive environment that is highly configurable affording a wide variety of media (evidence) to be incorporated, made sense of, and shared with instructors, colleagues, potential employers and others. The drag and drop features of Mahara™ allow a user to quickly and efficiently develop a page or series of pages around a topic that include typical features such as text boxes, images, image galleries, PDF files and other embedded media. A journaling feature is available as well as the ability to call upon various Google Apps such as calendars, documents, books and maps integrated directly into a page. External media such as TeacherTube, Youtube, Prezi, Vimeo, Google Video, Slideshare and other media can be configured and integrated directly into the page one is crafting. If a user is inclined they can further craft their page or pages with HTML. A useful feature is the ability to create groups, which allow instructors or students to create places for sharing work (within course and program work but also publically). There exist also a resume tool that allows a user to develop a professional presence that can call upon the work that has been created in the portfolio. While no technology meets all demands it is intended to address, Mahara™ is a helpful and useful environment for meaning making and sharing.

I am looking forward to examining and acting on the challenges and benefits to our students, instructors and involved others as as we move forward with the use of Mahara™.

Twitter As A Catalyst for Science



By Jorden Cummings, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

In May I had the pleasure of participating in a symposium at the annual Association for Psychological Science (APS) conference entitled Social Media as a Catalyst for Psychological Science. (The organizer of that symposium, Cedar Riener, wrote a great summary of our symposium  – including the slides from our talks). My own contribution was specifically about using Twitter as a psychological scientist. In fact, the very reason I was invited to participate in the symposium is because I follow Cedar Riener on Twitter, and responded to his tweet looking for someone to fill in for a symposium speaker who could no longer make the conference.https://g.twimg.com/Twitter_logo_blue.png

I started using Twitter more actively in my teaching (which is primarily online) a little over a year ago, as a way to connect with other researchers, and to disseminate the research activities my lab participates in. Even though not many of my colleagues follow me on Twitter, I get asked a lot about it: How does Twitter work? (I’m happy to show anyone). Does it take up a lot of time? (Not really, personally). Is it worth it? (For me, yes). Why should I use it? (More on that in a minute).

I also encourage my graduate students to utilize it as a means of self-promotion, to stay up to date on the research literature as it develops, and to connect with other scientists. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to convince many of them. (For great reasons on why graduate students should be part of Twitter, you should check out this blog post on the Thesis Whisperer).

For me, Twitter is a means of engaging in conversations with other scientists and “meeting” interesting people – many of whom I have since met face to face. Unexpectedly, my Twitter engagement has led to several research opportunities: the conference talk at APS in May, a research study currently under review (which was conducted entirely via Twitter), another manuscript in preparation, and an invitation to speak at A.I. Dupont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware later this month.

Approximately 1 in 40 researchers is active on Twitter (Priem et al., 2012). Moreover, Twitter provides increased speed and breadth compared to traditional networking (e.g., local colleagues, conferences, and email; Darling et al., 2013). In fact, Darling and colleagues reported that, on average, a scientist’s Twitter following was 7 times larger than his or her home department. Furthermore, top cited articles can be, according to some data, predicted from tweeting frequency about the article (Eysenbach, 2011).

Why should you, as a researcher, use Twitter? For that I direct you to this excellent post by Hope Jahren: “What I Say When My Colleagues Ask Me If They Should Be On Twitter” as well as the article by Darling and colleagues (full text available online) that outlines how Twitter works and the advantages/disadvantages to using Twitter as a scientist. Twitter doesn’t work for everyone, but I encourage my students and colleagues to at least give it a try. For me, it has opened the door to multiple research opportunities in only a year. But more importantly, it has also offered me a large, personalized, and positive support network – which is well worth the (small) effort, regardless of what Twitter allows me to add to my CV.

 

Darling, E., Shiffman, D., Côté, I., & Drew, J. (2013). The role of Twitter in the life cycle of a scientific publication. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution, 6. 32-43

Eysenbach, G. (2011). Can tweets predict citations? Metrics of social impact based on Twitter and correlation with traditional metrics of scientific impact. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 13, e123.

Priem, J., Piwowar, H. A., & Hemminger, B. M. (2012). Almetrics in the wild: Using social media to explore scholarly impact. arXiV preprint arXiV:1203.4745.

 

 

 

 

GMCTE to Offer Intro to Learning Technologies Course Through Canvas




In the fall of 2013 I was preparing to offer a new course through the GMCTE on learning technologies for instructors at the U of S.  The cap on the course registration, given that it was a blended online and face-to-face course, was set at 15. Since we are advocates of open education at the GMCTE we decided to open up all of the resources on a WordPress site. We further decided that we would allow people to “register” for the open course to receive weekly emails and they could list their blogs to make sure that I or someone else in the GMCTE would read their weekly posts related to the course. Jim Greer dubbed our course a TOOC for Truly Open Online Course because all of the resources carry Creative Commons licenses allowing reuse and the resources remain open almost a year later on the WordPress site.

There were ten people who completed the 13-week blended version of the course while we had a total of 328 people register for the TOOC when it was first offered last January. Throughout the course, only about twenty of those people asked to be removed from the course mailing list. A program evaluation of the TOOC was completed and you can read it here.

Currently, Ryan Banow and I are revising this course to re-offer it again this coming January. While we will be teaching it again to an on-campus blended cohort, we are also offering the TOOC, this time through the Canvas open course network. Both courses will run for ten weeks and the TOOC will include discussion boards instead of blogs and, while we had three guests come in via Google Hangouts in the last offering, we are planning to have a Google Hangout for at least nine of the ten weeks this time around.

If you are a member of the faculty, staff or are a graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan you are allowed to register for the blended course or the TOOC through Canvas. If you are not any of these, you may register for the TOOC, which is free and open to anyone.

It’s Course Design Not Entertainment: A visit from John Boyer




On October 7, we had the pleasure at the University of Saskatchewan of welcoming John Boyer from the Geography Department at Virginia Tech to speak with us about his innovative and increasingly acclaimed approaches to teaching large classes and his approaches for motivating learning and designing assessment.  Recordings of his talks are available at these links, and are embedded at the end of this post.

1. Assessment Innovations that Reduce Cheating and Enhance Learning
2. Teaching (Really) Large Classes (Very) Well

There is some repetition between them since there were slightly different audiences in attendance at both sessions and John therefore needed to describe the format of his course each time.

I got to hang out with John all day long and it was truly inspiring and thought provoking.

A few things that stand out to me about John and his messages:

  • John was intensely and passionately clear about why he wanted students to learn about the world (he teaches an intro to World Regions).  He constantly referred to his vision and not because he was trying to persuade us of anything, but to explain why he chooses to teaches the way he does.  This guy knows his true teaching philosophy and lives by it and thrives as a teacher as a result, I’d say.
  • John has many of the same frustrations with present day student approaches and attitudes that many others report.   He’s decided, because he’s so clear on what he wants them to learn, to set high standards for their engagement and learning and then to let the students decide what to do with respect to both.  Students respond and learn as a result.
  • John faces criticism from a small number of vocal colleagues about his approach.   He says voices of detractors might have stopped him in his tracks, had they started their criticism earlier in his teaching career.  A key to his success, according to John, is that he was being innovative in teaching under the radar of his colleagues and the institution.   It wasn’t until a particular tipping point of the 2,760 person class taught in a blended format with political and arts leaders visiting or skyping in to talk with his students that he started to gain notoriety at his institution and in higher education.  By then, John knew what he was doing and had the deserved confidence and positive outcomes to face the critics.  I’m happy it worked out this way for John, but am concerned about other innovators getting “put back in their places” by group norms and power structures in academia.
  • John embodies a highly entertaining persona.  This  energy and quirkiness must surely enhance the course—but only to a point, and only for some.  I have popped on to his web site  and find his appearances and podcasts much more low key and not necessarily infused with high energy.  Make no mistake, Educatus readers, it is the design of his course that has students engaged.  He provides choice, relevance, community, and fun.  John’s personality is ultimately separate from the design and content of this course.  Let me say it again, it’s the design of this course that leads to the high levels of engagement and learning.  The design.

We’re keen at the Gwenna Moss Centre to have more discussions about some of the innovative and provocative notions brought forward by John.  Let us know what you think.

USask Professor Adopting Open Textbook



By Eric Micheels, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics

The following post was written by Eric Micheels of the University of Saskatchewan and was originally published on his blog on October 6, 2014, under the title, The Economic of Economics Textbooks. It is reprinted here with his permission.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of having a meeting with Heather Ross, an instructional design specialist at the University of Saskatchewan, where we discussed open-access textbooks. The meeting came about after a conversation on twitter where I mentioned that I was considering adopting an open-access text for AGRC 113, a course that has a heavy micro-economics base but tends to drift into more practical applications and current issues in the agri-food industry. In the past three years, I have gone through the gauntlet of texts. I started with an agricultural economics text (Drummond and Goodwin), then changed to the more popular microeconomics texts. In years 2 and 3, I used McConnell, Brue, Flynn, and Barbiero and Mankiw, Kneebone and McKenzie. I decided to go away from the agricultural economics texts as 1) I think it helps agricultural students to see the broader picture, and 2) these texts were the ones used by ECON 111, the main prerequisite for my course.

However, not all students take my course immediately after they take ECON 111 (for whatever reason). Therefore they get stung with the pain of selling their text back to the bookstore after ECON 111 only to have to buy a newer version at a higher price point a couple semesters later. The Economist had a recent post that discussed the steep increase in textbook prices (which is in itself an economics lesson in captive markets and inelastic demand). This led me to a search for a better option for these students while also not causing undue financial strain on students who are taking the course in the recommended sequence.

Through BC Open Campus, I was able to review a completely open-access text authored by Timothy Taylor of Macalester College that I think rivals those of McConnell and Mankiw. In terms of economic material, the Taylor text covers the same material as the McConnell and Mankiw texts, while also providing more detailed coverage on information, risk and insurance, and financial markets. These two topics are pretty important in agricultural systems, so I view their inclusion as a real advantage. The chapters give adequate detail of economic concepts while also including text boxes that show how the concepts can be applied to current issues in the world. The Taylor text also provides a variety of self-review questions at the end of each chapter that allows students to see which concepts are clear and which require further study. For instructors, the publisher provides access to all the normal accoutrements (solutions manual, PowerPoint slides, test bank) that other non-open-access texts also provide.

In terms of benefit cost, I think that the Taylor text is a clear winner. It provides the a strong foundation in the core concepts of microeconomics (scarcity, consumer choice, supply and demand, market structure, externalities, and trade) while also providing detailed material on two other important topics: risk and information and financial markets. It does this at a cost much below those of McConnell and Mankiw. One negative of the Taylor text is that it is written for undergraduate students attending U.S. colleges and universities. While this may be an issue for some students and will require a bit of legwork on my part to bring in Canadian examples, I still feel the benefits of the open-access text far outweigh the costs.

John Boyer touches Down on Tuesday at the U of S




Sometimes, the time is right to reach into the past for a “re-post”. Now is such a time to look again at the February 24, 2014 post by Susan Bens since we are in the wonderful position to be hosting John Boyer at the U of S on Tuesday, October 7.   He’ll be speaking from 2:30 – 3:30 in the GSA Commons on the very structure of assessment he uses in his huge, blended course on World Regions.

Check out this event, and other events appearing under the Academic Integrity Awareness Week Banner.

 

What? A Menu of Assessment Options?

By Susan Bens
I have recently come upon a few interesting ideas about the conditions we create for assessment in higher education, especially with respect to deterring academic dishonesty. Standing out to me right now is a 2013 book I’ve been reading by James Lang titled “Cheating Lessons.” This book provides inspiration, encouragement, and practical advice to teachers in higher education. Lang’s premise is that cheating is an inappropriate response by students to environments that convey an emphasis on performance within the context of extremely high stakes and where extrinsic motivators overpower the “intrinsic joy or utility of the task itself” (p. 30).Slide of a Weird Grading System

Lang points his readers to an innovative assessment practice I found quite intriguing. Professor John Boyer, in his apparently infamous World Regions class of 2,670 (!) students at Virginia Tech, affords students maximum flexibility in assessment. He structures a multi-choice assessment system that pushes students away from performance orientation and instead puts the responsibility on students to choose ways of demonstrating their learning via a point system. I highly recommend a visit to Boyer’s web page for more information on his innovative approach at http://www.thejohnboyer.com/new-education/.

Open Textbooks Easily Available Through BC Project




There has been a growing amount of talk around the U of S, and higher education in general about open textbooks. These are digital textbooks that are freely available to learners and customizable for instructors.

Open Textbook ProjectTextbooks are expensive, something particularly clear to first year university students. This fact has had a shift toward open textbooks a priority of University of Saskatchewan Student Union President Max FineDay’s since his first term. The provincial government has also this issue on its radar as evidenced by the Saskatchewan government signing a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the creation of open educational resources with Alberta and British Columbia.

There are several commons concerns expressed about the adoption of open textbooks. In terms of adoption there are concerns about quality and a loss to access of resources frequently provided by publishers when traditional textbooks are adopted.

BC has been leading, at least Western Canada in the area of open textbooks through the BCcampus Open Textbook Project. There are currently more than 60 open textbooks listed on the OpenEd Website from twenty-four disciplines including Accounting, Biology, Chemistry, English, Math, and Psychology. Textbooks listed there can be used by anyone free-of-charge (digital versions) and instructors are free to make any modifications they wish to the text, as long as they attribute the source and, in turn, make available the revised work with an open license. Students in BC do have an option to buy printed versions of the books at a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks.

Texts available through the site go through a peer review process (the criteria can be found here) and, for several of the books you can read the reviews of instructors in those disciplines. The Website lists ten books that have received review scores of four or five out of five from these reviewers. Ancillary materials including instructor slides are available for some of the texts as well.

Some of the texts were created in BC, while many listed on the OpenEd site were chosen from other other open repositories including OpenStax

BCcampus is actively looking for authors, reviewers and open textbook adopters. If you are interested in adopting, creating, or contributing to an open textbook, or you simply want to know more about this option, please contact us at the GMCTE.

How Do We Define Success in an Open Course




A version of this post was originally published on Heather Ross’s blog on June 24, 2014.

ToqueIn June I attended the Society for Teaching and Learning In Higher Education (STLHE) conference in Kingston, Ontario. As part of the conference I presented, along with Nancy Turner and Jaymie Koroluk (University of Ontario Institute of Technology), a poster about the Introduction to Learning Technologies (ILT) open course that the GMCTE offered earlier this year. During discussions around our poster as well as in other sessions related to open courses, I had a number of conversations with colleagues about just what is “success” in an open course.

Completion rates are often used as measures of success by administrators and the media, but is that really a fair measurement? Open courses, whether we call them MOOCs  (Massive Open Online Courses) or the TOOCs (Truly Open Online Courses) that we’re advocating at the GMCTE, aren’t like traditional face-to–face or distance courses in that students don’t pay tuition, there are no prerequisites for entry into the courses and no formal credit is given to students. Why do we try to measure success in open courses using the same metrics that we use for traditional courses when they are so different (of course the argument can absolutely be made that rates of attrition in traditional courses shouldn’t be measures of success either)?

While I was at the conference, an article appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education about a new paper out from a study conducted jointly by researchers at Cornell University and Stanford University looking at types of engagement in “Massive Online Courses”. The authors of the study argue that there are five types of participants in open courses including Viewers (watch the videos), Solvers (complete assignments without watching videos or reading lecture notes), All-Rounders (do at least some of both), Collectors (download for viewing materials later) and Bystanders (they registered, but there’s no evidence that they did anything in the course). I think that these categories have merit and provide a more nuanced picture of participants, taking us beyond simply grouping everyone into those who complete and those who don’t.

Very few people completed all of the assignments in ILT, so if we looked at completion rates as the measure of success, then this course was a failure. If, however, we look at different metrics another picture emerges. After the course ended (it’s a truly open course so all of the materials are still open) we sent a survey to the 300 participants and 15 percent completed the surveys (yes, I know it’s a very low response rate, but it’s an open course and most people may have been ignoring my emails by the end). Of those who completed the survey, 81.3% said that they applied what they had learned for their own professional development and 69.6 percent said that they shared what they learned with colleagues and / or students.

Learning technologies are constantly changing and as such, I saw it as important that there should bean increase in participant comfort and skill in using a variety of types of tools rather than developing expertise in use of specific ones. A key success of the course for me was therefore the response to the survey question regarding the effect the course had on their comfort level with learning technologies; 55.3 percent reported a moderate increase and 21.3 percent said they experienced a considerable increase.

Of course the low rate of response does mean we have to interpret these results with caution, but the data does add to the argument that success for these courses shouldn’t be measured by how many students do all of the work. I’m currently completing an overall program review of the course for one of my Ph.D. courses and will then be revising the course for another offering next January (watch for details about the course dates and registration to appear on Educatus in the Fall). We’re also working with Ken Coates, the Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy and the Director of the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development on an open course that he’ll be teaching early in 2015. Both courses will provide us with valuable information on what students actually do in an open course, as well as how they define success for themselves.