Technology Enabled Teaching May 18, 2005

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Managing? Teaching? Learning!

By Patricia McGee and Kathy Bennett


Course Management Systems (CMS) have become an essential component of the learning infrastructure at most universities today. By definition and architecture, these systems are course-centric, relying upon a course shell that replicates a traditional brick and mortar classroom, in which content and learners sometimes awkwardly co-exist. While the presence of CMS has grown, wonderful new collaborative communication tools such as blogs, wikis, and RSS feeds have emerged and are often informally and immediately adopted by the “new learner.” The CMS architecture, however, still heavily proprietary, is slow to integrate these rich new tools. Hence, the mismatch between a course- and instructor-centric management system and a new generation of learners demanding more sophisticated, responsive, collaborative learning environments.

Students, researchers in the cognitive sciences, and innovative practitioners are calling for a next-generation CMS, in which the tools have been designed to support a more effective, learning-centric environment. At the moment the most engaging new tools are not being integrated rapidly and efficiently into the large commercial products, in spite of the hype about new features. Most critically, at this time, a university cannot purchase a turnkey solution that facilitates the next-generation learning environment. Universities who wish to achieve both efficiency and learning benefits must carefully examine their current investment and then look to the growing market of plug-ins and building blocks that extend the reach of the traditional CMS.

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News & Product Updates

Undergrad Library D'es Away with Paper and Ink Books

Books printed with ink on paper is so 2004. "Students attending the University of Texas at Austin will find something missing from the undergraduate library this fall," writes Ralph Blumenthal of The New York Times. "Books." The campus library is going digital. (New York Times, registration required)

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Those Without iBooks Need Not Apply

Maine is already big on iBooks, now the University of Maine has announced that incoming freshmen who are working toward teaching certification are required to own an iBook. (MacWorld)

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Netherlands Project Harvests Digital Text, Audio and Video

"The €2m DARE programme--a joint initiative by all the Dutch universities, the National Library of the Netherlands, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research-- harvests all digital available material from local repositories, making it fully searchable. Aside from bibliographical information, the content can be full text, or even audio and video files." (The Register)

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Western Washington University Fee Expands Email and Blackboard Features

The purposes of WWU's technology fee are: "to improve the quality of student education, to improve access to technology, and to enhance the integration of technology into student curriculum." The current fee is $15/quarter. (The Western Front Online)

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Case Study

Real-time Solutions for Online Learning: Using Synchronous Communication Tools for Right-now Learning

By Rebecca Lawson


Today’s students are comfortable with the use of web-based communication tools, such as email and instant messaging, to build social connections. According to the Pew Internet Project 2004, 59% of young Internet users (ages 18-29) are likely to use instant messaging while 91% use email. Nearly 84% of Internet users belong to some kind of online community. More than half of all Internet users feel that the Internet has greatly improved communication with their friends and family.

We have begun to leverage the students’ comfort level with synchronous communication tools to foster collaboration in online learning environments. Lansing Community College (MI) serves nearly 40,000 students annually on its mid-Michigan campus and beyond. As the home of the state’s first entirely online degree program, many of our students reside outside of our six-county district. As part of the “e-Army U” program, we provide online educational opportunities for active-duty military personnel stationed around the world. In addition, we take part along with 25 other community colleges in the Michigan Community College Virtual Learning Collaborative (MCCVLC) serving students anywhere in the state.

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Tech Notes

IMS Reorganizes to Focus More on eLearning Adoption

Participants in the IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS/GLC) announced this week that they have reorganized the international standards organization "to accelerate the adoption of innovative online learning technology and techniques in the education and training industry."

"Following a six-month strategic planning effort that involved meetings with industry leaders and a survey of key decision makers in the IMS membership," the IMS announcement stated that "the Board and staff of the Consortium have realigned the eight-year-old organization. Efforts to consolidate software and content interoperability, develop metrics to validate the economic and social impact of learning technology, and increase overall acceptance of technology-based learning are being added to an industry leading role in developing and maintaining technology standards."

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Reader Response

From the Reader Response Forum

Open System and Open Source LMS

I’d like to offer my perspective on the plusses and minuses of both the open standards/commercial approach and the open source approach. --larvan

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