Thursday, October 11, 2012

Learning Technology Development Council (LTDC) Meeting

I attended the LTDC/D2L site admin meeting Oct 8-9 in Whitewater. Each University of Wisconsin including colleges and extension nominates a rep and a back up. I'm the UWEC rep. The reps' jobs and titles vary, but all have something to do with learning technology and most are very involved with D2L, which is why the LTDC and D2L meetings were combined.

It was a great experience to network with other learning technology professionals and to learn what is going on at other UWs. I’ve only been to two of these meetings since I’m fairly new to the LTDC and they have been extremely valuable experiences. Here are the highlights of what I learned at this LTDC meeting - apologies for the length (this was initially 7 pages long in Word, so it is a summary!). It may not be relevant to people outside of the UW system.

1. The Wisconsin Collaboratory for Enhanced Learning (WisCEL) is a technology-enhanced active learning program Madison is implementing. Check out the website for more info.

2.   LTDC reps all shared what was going on at their UW. There were tons of awesome things but a few that stuck out to me is that Stout now has 4 instructional designers: one for each college. Also, I didn’t realize that clickers were rentable; River Falls rents them. River Falls does not have a center for teaching and learning. Whitewater has integrated CourseSmart with D2L but is disappointed with their e-book availability. Platteville intends to use iTunesU.

3. Digital media assignments: The Engage program at Madison explored the effective use of digital media assignments (i.e., students producing videos to demonstrate their learning) and came up with some excellent materials about best practices. I took all the extras so we could share them with UWEC faculty. There is also a brochure on the website. It was great to learn that what we are doing in BITS aligns with their findings! A big recommendation was to have an “authentic” audience – create the video with the goal of making it available to the world.

4. UW-Whitewater is awesome! It’s much bigger than I expected – they have more students than UWEC. Their new business building is amazing - lots of active learning spaces that were very purposefully designed for interaction. In hindsight, they would have put in more outlets (power strips need to be used now) and they had to go back and add clocks and pencil sharpeners!

I am incredibly jealous of their video recording areas: they have one room that students can to record video – there’s a built in camera and a mic on the ceiling. They record and are sent a URL via email when done. Easy! They have two areas for faculty to record with nice lights mounted on the ceiling, green screens, etc. They can sync their PowerPoints with the video they are recording. The things I love about this are the ease of use and the fact that they can record on their own, without a camera person. Then they don’t have to feel they are taking up someone’s time and they may be more comfortable by themselves.

They still have computer labs, but have found that if they ask students to bring laptops and have a cart of 10 laptops available for those who don’t have them (various reasons – not always that they don’t own one), that usually covers it.

5. MadisonE-Text Pilot: People involved with this provided more depth than I’ve heard before. They used Courseload. Key points:

  • The majority of student still prefer paper especially if they had not used e-books before.
  • Hardly any students would purchase the e-book over paper if they were the same price, probably because the factor in the price of selling it back. $30 less was the tipping point where students would buy the e-book instead.
  • Mobile availability was the least important factor for these students. Cost was #1, portability was #2 (I assume this means on a laptop since mobile wasn’t a concern?), accessibility without internet was #3, and environmental concerns was #4 (far behind the others).
  • They considered this a baseline study since faculty and students were not given much training (I think that’s really interesting). Some faculty said the book was not a huge focus in their class, so they didn’t want to put a lot of focus on the e-book either. When the students were trained and they used the annotation and highlighting tools, they rated the e-book more favorably.
  • Students liked the potential to interact with their professors through the e-book annotations and highlights, but didn’t really value that interaction with other students (possibly since other students could be wrong).
  • Only about 54% of the students in the pilot used annotations or highlighting.
  • 40% said their professor encouraged them to do it.
  • Students did not read more electronically than they do on paper (I don’t think they determined students read less though). They read about 52% of the assigned text!
  • Some students said that the e-book was hard to read due to resolution. They are basically PDFs at this point; is the current technology a fair test or should we wait until e-books have advantages over paper with increased interaction and multimedia?
  • They are doing another pilot.
  • We briefly discussed the advantages of open content – not even using a book. The U of M project in which faculty were being paid to vet open resources was mentioned. 
6. We had an interactive session that got me thinking about how to integrate/implement new technologies and how to prioritize: critical, necessary, desirable, fun. Most things fall into desirable. What does implement mean? What does support mean? These are questions I’m bringing back to UWEC.
7. Regarding D2L, the upgrade in winterim to version 10.1 will include an overhaul to the content page. Drag and drop will be more common and the HTML editor will change (hopefully for the better!). It will be possible to copy from an existing HTML file when creating a new HTML file. Copy components will be easier to find. The next version of D2L will also have increased reporting capabilities. 

The most controversial change will be that the Dropbox will (might?) be called Assignments. This sort of makes sense because people get it confused with, but Assignments is a little too specific – this isn’t the only place assignments are submitted, nor is it always used for assignments. Many in the group implored with D2L to not change it.

The D2L contract is up in June and it will be renewed but the length has not been determined. A small (~400 students) pilot of Canvas is being done and participants are being recruited. The goal of the pilot is just to keep an eye on the changing LMS landscape.

"My D2L," the product to which students can export their D2L e-portfolios, does, in fact, work and is quite user friendly. Students currently get 2 GB of free storage. D2L claims no rights to the content; students retain ownership. The e-p can be exported multiple times and it remains in the “real” D2L as well.
Intelligent agents: there is an automated way to generate email based on student based “conditions.” For instance, if a student has not logged into D2L for a certain period of time, they would get an email saying something like “Hi Arnold, please note that regular attendance in the course is important to your success. Contact me if you are having problems.” Theoretically, this is nice but a few wrong clicks could result in a bunch of unintended emails being sent. The most important drawback of it is that the students cannot respond to the automated emails. For me, this is a deal breaker. I hope it gets better, because it is a cool idea. 

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