Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Where's the Power Point?

First a note about presentations. I am using a "presentation blog" instead of Power Point! This is a great example of the transformations we are going to discuss:


  • Paper-Centric (where did I put that?)
  • Static and singular (difficult to update and distribute after-the-fact)
  • Non-Interactive (Where are the responses, additions, and suggestions?)


  • Web-Native (everyplace, anytime & active hyperlinks to resources)
  • Active Updating (simple, push-button updating online)
  • Interactive (open to input from selected group or worldwide readers)
  • Syndicated worldwide instantly via RSS (see the syndications in right column)

Entering the Second Decade (of the 21st Century)

As we prepare to enter the second decade of this new century, we are confronted with a wholly new world. And, that's not all good. There is a new reality. We are in a deepening recession. No discussion of higher ed or continuing ed can be held without setting the new context which is far different than a couple of years ago.

Linked to the title is a new blog in which I chronicle the emerging environment.

The profile of institutions is changing:
  • State institutions face layoffs, furloughs, cuts in classes
  • Endowments down 30% - enrollments down among private institutions
  • community college enrollment boom - lower budgets

The profile of continuing education students is changing:

Budgets and Student Needs Lead Institutions Online

For continuing higher education, the new profiles mean:

  • Lower the costs - eliminate travel costs, eliminate campus costs, eliminate printing costs (online technologies)
  • Meet students where they are - on their schedule (asynchronous), at home, at the office, on the road (online technologies)
  • Cast a wider net - world-wide rather than local or regional (online)
  • Market and roll out relevant classes, certificates and degrees without delays (online technologies avoid delays in printing and distributing marketing materials, avoid conflicts in classroom scheduling)

Linked to the title is the annual survey of the Sloan Consortium - more than 20% of students took at least one online class in 2007. Note this top stock pick for 2009

University of Illinois at Springfield - One Model

The University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS) is located in a city where the largest employer, by far, is state government. Governor Rod Blagojevich, from the day he took office in January of 2003, declined to reside in the governor's mansion and govern from the capital city; he remained in Chicago. He progressively moved state offices out of the capital to Chicago and elsewhere. This changed the economy and the nature of the prospective student base in the university's catchment region. The online program provided stability as the commuter base weakened.

With the assistance of grants - most notably from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation - the campus increasingly offered online classes as graphically depicted in the hyperlinked chart.

In the 2007-2008 academic year at UIS, 64.2% of all enrolled students took at least one online course during the year - see the animated three-year trend chart linked to the header.
  • 32.6% took only online courses
  • 31.6% mixed online and onground courses
  • 35.8% took only onground courses

Online majors are located in 47 states and a dozen countries. Online classes are the first ones to fill as soon as registration is open. The 17 degrees and 9 certificates are offered online by the on campus faculty.

National Survey of Student Engagement - 2008

In 2008, the highly-regarded NSSE study conducted by Indiana University added a focus on online learning. Comparing first year and senior students in online and on ground classes, they found statistically significant differences between the two. The complete report is linked the header (results on online learners are on pages 15 and 16).

The summary press release notes the results:

Other key findings from the 2008 survey are: Students taking most of their classes online report more deep approaches to learning in their classes, relative to classroom based learners. Furthermore, a larger share of online learners reported very often participating in intellectually challenging course activities.... When courses provided extensive, intellectually challenging writing activities, students engaged in more deep learning activities such as analysis, synthesis, and integration of ideas from various sources, and they grappled more with course ideas both in and out of the classroom. These students also reported greater personal, social, practical, and academic learning and development. McCormick says the findings for online learners are intriguing. “Critics of distance education assume that face to face classes have inherent advantages as learning environments. But these results indicate that those who teach classes online may be making special efforts to engage their students. It may also be the case that online classes appeal to students who are more academically motivated and self-directed.”

Pico Projectors Enable Mobile Computing

The advent of ulta-portable, tiny pico projectors opens the possibility for true mobile learning (m-learning). Combining the bandwidth of the 3-G (and soon 4-G) mobile phone with the portable projector enabled by the TI DLP chip projection, we now have the bandwidth and display needed for effective mobile learning.

Web 2.0: The Web Becomes the Platform - the World Becomes the Classroom

In 2004, Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly media was trying to come up with a title for a conference to bring in some of the disillusioned IT workers who had been turned out of work by the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2001/2002. O'Reilly came up with the title Web 2.0 (as in the second version of software. That term has been applied to a myriad of applications - even non Web - in the intervening years. There have been many definitions that have emerged. But, my favorite is to define Web 2.0 in (an inherently 2.0 technology)the YouTube video by KSU Prof Michael Wesch:

Web 2.0 - Improving, Expanding, Connecting, and Collaborating

Web 2.0 continues to thrive, despite the economic downturn. An ever-growing array of technologies are released. As Tim O'Reilly explained, they are more than just graphical and interactive; they engage the collective wisdom of the Internet. It is the collaborative nature of these technologies that fit especially well into the popular constructivist approach to teaching and learning.

The Humble Blog - Web 2.0 Icon

The blog (WeB LOG = BLOG) was first recognized in 1997. It has become an icon of the simple, interactive, engaging technology that we call Web 2.0. It has also become the cornerstone of many classes and workshops.

The Web never sleeps (nor do our students!). Blogs enable the students to have updates delivered to their desktops via RSS. (see the glowing orange icon on your toolbar above this page?). And blogs enable comments to be posted - opening an asynchronous online conversation. Most blogging software and much of the Web hosting - such as from Google - is free.

If we search for online learning in Google, we get more than 50 million hits. Among the top few returns among those millions is a blog that is published in a tiny town in the cornfields of Illinois. The Online Learning Upate has been published continuously since 2000. Originally, it was a tool I used to "push out" possible articles for seminar critiques to my graduate students. But, a look at the location of those visiting the blog on the web over the past day shows that others are reading this blog as well:

And, yet the number of those visiting the blog directly is dwarfed by those visiting via RSS:

RSS - Building Block of Web 2.0 Syndication

As simple as posting a blog, is RSS. Really Simple Syndication is one way in which we can share our thoughts, perspectives, new ideas, links to research, and many more of the granular components of teaching and learning. Automatically (transparently) generated - RSS is simply a description of an update to a blog, podcast, wiki, or almost any Web page. It enables students to receive auto-updates from the instructor. And, not just when they are formally students - they can continue to subscribe, enabling them to continue to receive upates after the end of the semester on into their careers. And, they can feed back into the class of current students.

For more on this concept, see the proceedings of the Distance Teaching and Learning Conference:

Particularly exciting is that this opens the door to collaborations among students, professionals, and faculty members around the world.

Micro-Blogging - all aTwitter

RSS is a powerful technology. Using services such as you can have your RSS feeds sent to you via email. Or you can configure to have the feeds sent to your phone via sms (text messaging).

Speaking of txt messaging, it seems even the television networks are all atwitter about Twitter (hyperlinked via the header of this posting). Twitter is a free micro-blogging service. It generally limits posts to 140 characters so that they are easily accepted by most cell phone services. (As you know, "texting" is preferred over email by most people under 30)

Educators are using Twitter in a myriad of ways. Reminding students the night before exams; sending out updates of new research; responding to the entire class when asked a relevant question by one of the students; informing students of alternative work to be done on a snow/hurricane/earthquake day. It is the just in time connection service.

Weird and Wonderful Wiki

Wiki Wiki means really quick (in Hawaiian). It is the second most popular free Web 2.0 technology for teaching. The wiki enables online collaborative writing that can be share with the world. Wikipedia, of course, is the largest and best-known wiki.

Perhaps one of the best features of the wiki is that it goes a long way toward solving the age-old group project problem! How many times have you been told that one person did all of the work on a project, or that another person did not contribute. If the work is done in a wiki, every single change is documented in the "history" view. You can tell who contributed what - who made what changes and when.

Wikis also allow for collaborations across institutions, permitting students from different classes to work together on projects.

Wiki on Steroids - Google Docs

Google has taken on the task of replicating the functionality of the Microsoft Office Suite online (for free, of course).

Docs provides compatibility with Word, Excel, and Power Point. Just like a Wiki, it also provides a history list so that all of the changes are documented and a version can later be re-installed at any point in the history. The spreadsheet software allows for a live chat between two distant users who are working simultaneously on the same sheet.

Another great use of this technology is to encourage students working on theses or other substantial projects to share current versions with the instructor or their review committee. We have found that this heads off some otherwise serious problems before a major research project gets off track.

Another great online suite is maintained by

Virtually There - Second Life in Education

Virtual immersive environments have been around for years. Emerging virtual worlds offer opportunities for active learning in a unique way. These "worlds" are populated with avatars. Avatars are those animated characters that can take almost any shape or form and - in many virtual worlds - can talk and interact with other avatars. Second Life and other virtual environments enable a kind of immersion in learning and engagement. See how the avatars interact directly with one another.

The New Media Consortium is among the leaders in the use of Second Life for collaborations.Deb Antoine (aka Vidorah Messmer) has built most of the UIS SL island - she takes us on a quick tour:

An incomplete list of colleges and universities who are using SL:

Second Life is not the only virtual environment:

To be "flip" - the Transformative Mino

Building upon the success of YouTube and online video in general, the Flip video camera emerged two years ago (along with a group of other such tiny, flash-ram, video cameras). The Flip is named after the flip-out USB connector that enables users to point, shoot, flip and plug into most any PC or Mac. Editing software is built-in as is upload software to send the video to YouTube in a matter of seconds.

Starting at ~$120, this tool puts video power into the hands of students and faculty members. This enables the online analog of the class presentation. The flip enables bringing guest speakers into online classes - imagine taking the flip (as my good friend Larry Ragan of PSU does) to major conferences and doing 20-minute interviews with presenters for inclusion as virtual guest speakers in classes. Imagine students using the flip to document local environmental examples, to collect local interviews, to work with other students around the country to put together group projects. Speech classes and clinicals are using the flip to document their work.

Virtual Telekinesis

NeuroSky Inc. has developed a non-invasive, dry, bio-sensor family of products that capture the electrical waves generated by neurological activity and eye movements and translate mental state information into digital signals for simple Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI). The Mindset headset is a brainwave sensing device that is now commercially available. Talk about transparency! Just think and you can control on-screen objects.

Here are a couple of YouTube reports - one showing the Mindset in operation:

And, Stanford University held a seminar to examine the Emotiv Epoc headset:


The technological singularity may be much closer than many realize. The singularity is defined by Ray Kurzweil:

The Singularity is technological change so rapid and so profound that it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. Some would say that we cannot comprehend the Singularity, at least with our current level of understanding, and that it is impossible, therefore, to look past its "event horizon" and make sense of what lies beyond.

It is also defined as the point at which a computer will pass the Turing Test for artificial intelligence in which a third party cannot distinguish between a human and the computer.

Ray Kurzweil (pt1of3) The Singularity Summit at Stanford

Ray Kurzweil - parts two and three are available at YouTube - they explain in greater detail the progress toward the singularity.
IBM is leading a group of researchers to build brain-like computers:

Plans are underway for a university without professors - but, with computers:

Tracking the Technologies on the Horizon

Early each year, EDUCAUSE and the New Media Consortium produce a report on emerging technologies that are on the horizon - one year out; two to three years out; and four to five years out. This report - linked to the header -is a valuable aggregation of new and emerging technologies that promise to impact education in the future.

For daily updates on online learning, educational technology and emerging technologies, I invite you to visit the blogs aggregated in the right column:

Online Learning Update

Educational Technology Blog

Techno-News Blog

Contacting Ray

Ray Schroeder
Professor Emeritus and Director
Center for Online Learning, Research and Service
Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning
University of Illinois at Springfield
Springfield, IL 62703