Friday, March 01, 2013

MOOCs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Last week, my institution, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Coursera announced plans to offer four MOOCs over the next year. (I am not directly involved with this initiative, though many colleagues in my Academic Technology department are in key leadership and support roles.)

We will be offering courses on

I wanted to highlight a few observations from our campus that might be informative to others:
    •    Amount of publicly available information regarding our MOOC initiative
    •    Our rationale for offering MOOCs
    •    MOOC platforms

Our exploration of MOOCs is part of a larger campus effort called Educational Innovation which is a multi-pronged initiative to create new courses and programs and reach new learners.

I commend our campus leadership for posting a lot of information that explains the background for our decision to enter the "moocosphere" (credit +Stephen Downes). We also have created an interesting FAQ.

It is reassuring to hear the rationale our campus leaders have put forth for deciding why and how to offer MOOCs. They have characterized this delivery model as experimental and an opportunity to learn. They have linked MOOCs to the Wisconsin Idea, our century-old core principle of serving our citizens. From our FAQ:
MOOCs provide a number of benefits.  They are an avenue for outreach and public service on a global scale.  By experimenting with MOOCs, we gain enhanced knowledge of assessment techniques, technologies, and learning analytics that may be transferable to our on-campus teaching and learning processes.  MOOCs showcase our talented faculty members and instructional academic staff and provide positive visibility for our campus and degree programs. UW-Madison has a long tradition of supporting outreach through the Wisconsin Idea and supporting pedagogical innovation as evidenced by the Educational Innovation effort.
I am extremely interested in hearing from our (stellar) faculty that will be leading these MOOCs as to their experiences and insights for future online teaching and learning.

Finally, I am also quite curious to learn more about the Coursera platform. If large open courses are part of our future, I cannot envision our current LMSs (Desire2Learn and Moodle) being appropriate for delivery of MOOCs without radical redesign.

Regarding the use of the Coursera platform, this tidbit in our FAQ certainly caught my attention:
Can UW-Madison use the Coursera platform to deliver content for UW-Madison credit courses?
Yes, UW-Madison would have free use of the Coursera platform within UW-Madison for our enrolled students. Current course tools available include video course delivery, online quizzes, auto-grading, and community blogs.
I had not heard of this possibility yet. My assumption - which clearly needs to be tested - is that we'll likely need one platform for traditional course delivery and another for future MOOCs. (If you have thoughts on this, please leave comments...I'd like to learn more.)

Is your campus offering MOOCs? Do you have information to share that can help others? What are your thoughts about future learning platforms?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

3 Proven Learning Techniques for Instructors and Students

In a 2011 NY Times op-ed "The Trouble With Homework", Annie Murphy Paul describes three effective methods for learning that are based on research in the Mind, Brain, and Education (educational neuroscience) field.

Spaced Repetition - Repeated exposure over longer periods of time to information with increasing intervals of time between exposures. Here's a great resource for seeing how this method has been applied for learning languages and winning at Jeopardy!.

Retrieval Practice - Use of frequent tests as reinforcement exercises. Prof. Brad Postle leveraged this technique with dramatic results through the use of frequent online quizzing. Watch Postle explain more in this video.

Interleaving - A method of varying problems (or content) so that the learner constantly reloads his/her retrieval strategies in order to solve the problems (or study the content). Sounds like the muscle confusion principle of exercise programs like P90x. Here's a quick explanation and video of the principle (click the "Interleaving" topic listed lower on the page; the anchor link isn't working properly).

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Sharing my notes from EDUCAUSE 2012 (finally)

One month after an excellent EDUCAUSE 2012 annual conference in Denver, I have found time to post my rough notes from the sessions I attended.

You can access my notes here in a Google Doc:

Feel free to scan, add comments or follow-up with me if anything catches your eye. Warning: these are very unpolished notes, but they do contain links to videos of the sessions if available and to some related resources.

  1. Keynote: Clay Shirkey - IT as a Core Academic Competence
  2. Getting Smart About Educational Analytics
  3. Starting Conversations Across Silos in Time of Change
  4. Openness - EDUCAUSE Constituent Group
  5. Statistically Significant: How Big Data and Data Science Impact Higher Education
  6. Keynote - Blueprint for Change in Era of Rapid Reinvention - Elliot Masie and Christine Flannagan
  7. Introducing WebEx Social - Case Western, Duke
  8. Coalition for Networked Information - Community Update
  9. Summary of Vendor Announcements at EDUCAUSE

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teaching Concepts with Examples and (free) ConceptTutor

I recently came across a quick article, "Six Proven Ways to Use Examples and Non-Examples" by Connie Malamed that describes a variety of techniques for effectively using examples to teach concepts.
You'll want to read the entire article, but here are Malamed's ideas for effectively teaching with examples:

Rule #1: Use examples in which the irrelevant attributes vary widely
Rule #2: Progress from simple to difficult examples 

Rule #3: Present instances of a concept in rapid sequence or allow all instances to be viewed simultaneously
Rule#4: Use matched examples and non-examples for concepts with related attributes

Rule #5: Provide opportunities for learners to generate their own examples of a concept

Rule #6: Expose learners to a wide range of examples and non-examples and allow them to discover the concept

This article reminded me of a wonderfully simple yet powerful tool that can help instructors or instructional designers create learning modules centered on learning conceptual knowledge. ConceptTutor Plus, freely available from the University of Wisconsin's Engage program, is a tool that "promotes effective learning through the use of definitions, examples and non-examples contextual information, and self-check quizzes."
Example content created with ConceptTutor

ConceptTutor creates collections of html files and media that can easily be uploaded to an LMS course site or any web server.

One powerful learning exercise is for students to create their own ConceptTutor modules as a way of demonstrating their own mastery of key concepts.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Test-enhanced learning" in LMS

Is quizzing a more effective learning strategy than studying? In this short video, Univ. of Wisconsin professor Brad Postle explains his dramatic findings and the cognitive process behind this effective teaching strategy.

I wanted to incorporate a newly characterized finding in cognitive psychology research -- "test-enhanced learning" -- into how I teach my 200-student lecture course on Cognitive Psychology. We did this by assigning weekly quizzes that are administered via Learn@UW and, critically, set up to provide immediate feedback in which incorrect answers were followed by an explanation of the principle(s) underlying that question. This innovation was highly successful, resulting in doubling the number of 'A's earned in the course, a dramatic reduction in the number of students who failed the course, and an overall improvement in performance by all the students in between. --Brad Postle

Watch Postle explain this teaching strategy.
Obviously, the LMS (Desire2Learn -- Learn@UW -- in our case), was a critical component in the design, delivery, and reporting of this educational research.

I'm also proud to show off this video as it's part of the excellent work in digital narratives our department has effectively promoted and supported here in DoIT Academic Technology at UW-Madison.