Technology-Enabled Teaching April 6, 2005

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Is it time to start sharing the CMS?

By Frank Tansey, Co-Editor


For over a year I have been asking colleagues at universities around the country a simple question: Are you sharing your course management system? After a few puzzled looks, I clarify the question by adding "with the non-instructional areas of the university."

For the most part, the responses indicate that the answer is no. The exceptions are pretty limited. One university offers its required sexual harassment training as an on-line course, but there are no additional on-line offerings for non-instructional staff beyond this single offering. In other cases I have been told the CMS license d'es not permit non-instructional use. This, to me, is a strange limitation. Rarely have I heard of a campus using the course management system across the entire university.

Not sharing the CMS is a missed opportunity to bridge some of the gaps between instruction and administrative areas. Let’s explore a few of the benefits that might accrue from sharing the CMS. There is little doubt that staff training yields significant dividends in terms of staff effectiveness, job satisfaction and better service to campus constituencies—including faculty. Studies have shown that there is up to an eight-fold return for every moment spent on training.

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News & Product Updates

WebCT Joins New Open Source/Commercial eLearning Software Group

WebCT Chief Technology Officer Chris Vento is a founding member and co-chair of the new IMS Global Learning Consortium Tools Interoperability Working Group that intends to make course management systems and associated learning tools interoperate without customization, regardless of whether they are open source or commercial products.

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Berklee College of Music Pioneers Online Guitar Instruction, the online extension school of Berklee College of Music, has added five new online guitar courses and five new college-credit guitar certificate programs to their online curriculum. All online courses are instructor-led and share the same curriculum that is taught on the physical campus.

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GTCO CalComp announces Bluetooth enabled InterWrite SchoolPad

New Bluetooth SchoolPad 400 gives educators the ability to present projected computer lessons on an interactive whiteboard from up to 300 feet away from the computer. The new SchoolPad provides teachers with greater functionality and ease-of-use and is available April 1.

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Case Study

Penn State World Campus Adds Live eLearning to Online Curriculum

By Rick Shearer, Assistant Director for Instructional Design and Delivery, Penn State World Campus


In 1892, The Pennsylvania State University became the first American university to offer correspondence courses in agriculture. This initiative was later used as a model for other academic institutions to provide instruction-by-mail programs in a wide array of subjects. Now one of the nation’s ten largest universities, Penn State is a recognized pioneer in online education, continuing more than a century of innovation and commitment to distance learning.

Ten years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that we would have the ability to interact with people across the country and around the world in a real-time Web-based classroom. Today, our World Campus, which uses the Internet and other new technologies to offer instruction on an “anywhere, anytime” basis, provides distance education programs for more than 23,000 students from all 50 states and 44 countries.

In 2002, the World Campus was challenged with finding a synchronous tool to support our asynchronous, Web-based courses--that enabled students to hold real-time small group discussions and also allowed faculty to conduct interactive tutoring sessions and keep virtual office hours. We also wanted a collaborative environment that would support both PC and Macintosh platforms.

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Tech Notes

Demographer’s Dream: National Education Web Site Launched

Higher education analysts have a powerful new tool at their disposal that might help them understand the demographics of incoming classes of college students.

The National Education Data Partnership, a collaboration of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services, Achieve, Inc., and the CELT Corp., launched, a web-based national education data service that provides in-depth information and analysis about public schools, districts and state education systems. The Partnership is funded by a $45 million investment by The Broad Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The organizations said the service is the largest “searchable collection of education performance data ever assembled,” including student achievement information, financial data and demographic breakdowns, as well as analytical tools from Standard & Poor’s.

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