SmartClassroom :: Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Viewpoint

Liberating the Learning Environment – Automating Multimodal Content

By Keith Bain, Saint Mary’s University

Like it or not, lecturing is still an integral part of the university learning experience. Even pure eLearning offerings contain elements of lecture. These are often disguised as articles posted in text (html) format or blogs, which may simply be edited and formatted transcriptions of a given lecture topic. In essence, whether one listens to a lecture or reads one, there remains a transmission of ideas, thoughts, and facts from those possessing these ideas, thoughts, and facts (i.e. the “instructor”) to those who don’t (i.e. the “learner”). One challenge, therefore, is to ensure that content is provided in an accessible format. Whether done live during a lecture or via eLearning platforms, this has proven challenging.

Accessibility is a topic rife with legal, cultural, and social complexities, but for our purposes, accessible content can be thought of as providing flexibility to meet different user needs, preferences, and situations. “Users” in this context refers to an increasingly diverse student body, which includes mature and foreign students, students with obvious disabilities, those with aptly named hidden disabilities, and distance learners.

At the individual level, all students have relative strengths and learning preferences. Auditory learners for example, may find it challenging to understand information presented visually and vice versa. To further complicate matters, instructors are usually unaware of these learning preferences. Sometimes the students themselves don’t have a firm grasp of how they learn best, although increasingly instructors are recommending online self-evaluators such as VARK or the Felder-Soloman diagnostic...

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Case Study

ECON 201: A University Economics Course as an Online Computer Game

By Robert M. Brown, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Creating a college course totally as an online computer game seemed feasible when Assistant Dean Nora Reynolds and I first discussed it last year. After all, our team had developed over a hundred online courses and had been creating interactive games as drop-in learning objects in courses for years. We would simply “step up the effort a little.”

Sometimes it helps to underestimate the magnitude of a project, for if my colleagues and I at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro had fully appreciated the enormity of converting a college course into a computer game, we may not have had the courage to tackle the project. In the end, however, our team made a heroic 18-month effort and produced a unique, cutting-edge course in game format – ECON 201, one of the first of its kind. Some of the game features can be viewed at http://econ201.uncg.edu...

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Tech Notes

Institutional Assessment: The Art of Self-Reflection

By Matt Villano

Metaphysically speaking, the idea of self-reflection has been the subject of discussion for thousands of years. There are mentions of it in the Bible. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle spoke of it in Classical Greece. The idea carried human beings through the Renaissance, and an entire movement tied to it sparked a sociopolitical movement called the Enlightenment. In more recent times, thought leaders such as Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud all have opined on the subject of our ability to look inside ourselves and act accordingly. It is, as Kant once wrote, the very thing that makes humans “rational animals.”... (Campus Technology)

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