Saving students money with OER IRL

There are many advantages to incorporating and using OER’s in education, but perhaps one of the most obviously compelling is that using OER’s saves money for students. Today, another reminder of just how substantial those savings can be as David Wiley posted on the first year anniversary of Lumen Learning, showing that the work Lumen is doing has saved post-secondary students $700,000 in textbook costs.

This spring, OpenStax College released some stats from their first year in operation that showed their textbooks have saved students $2.3 million dollars.

Here in BC, we are still early on with regards to adoption so we don’t have the same kind of aggregate numbers that Lumen or OpenStax has. But I do want to give an example of the kind of scale of savings we can achieve in BC by focusing on one adoption.

This fall, Takashi Sato, physics instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, adopted the free OpenStax College Physics textbook to use in his Physics class.  What that press release doesn’t note for some reason, is the savings to students taking Tak’s Physics class. he textbook Tak was using cost students $187 dollars. His class has 60 students. Do the math and you can see that moving to the OpenStax free textbook and Tak has saved students $11,220.

1 class at 1 institution for 1 term. $11,220 savings.

Let’s do a bit of math here. 25 institutions in BC. If all we have is 1 instructor like Tak with a similar class load and expensive textbook adopt an open textbook, it would save students in BC $280, 500 EACH TERM.

Saving students over a quarter of a million dollars each term is significant.

One instructor.


Tools for distributed learning research

Article from The Guardian about new research done on an MA level distance program and how some specific technology tools were incorporated into the program. Specifically, e-readers, Second Life and audio. Interesting that Second Life was being used as an asynchronous resource instead of a synchronous meeting space, which is how I usually read about Second Life being used. I also liked that students enjoyed & appreciated the audio feedback from other students & their tutor and appeared to pay more attention to comments received via audio than text. There is something appealing to me in the linear presentation of audio feedback that might make learners less likely to skim through feedback.

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Research carried out recently among a group of students enrolled on a distance MA Tesol course at Leicester University offers a glimpse into a not-too-distant future when learners distributed around the world but linked via the internet will be able to enhance their learning experience with the use of some simple and low-cost digital tools.

with a simple voice recording program and headphone-and-mic sets it is possible for students to add audio clips to these message board postings
as part of the trial students and teachers were encouraged to post feedback about their work and exchange messages.

“It was incredibly successful,” Witthaus said. “Audio feedback gives the students the sense of their tutor as a real human being.”

She says tutors began to create a more effective, time-saving combination of text and audio. “They found they could write quick little annotations on students’ essays and then elaborate more in the audio feedback.”

The research also revealed that students appeared more willing to listen to feedback via audio than to commit time to reading written comments.

One other interesting result of the research was how communication could still be effective when it was asynchronous, particularly for study groups spread across different times zones.

This was most apparent with the use of Second Life. Instead of attempting to get student to congregate, in their avatar personas, in some part of the vast virtual world at the same time, the teaching staff identified where language learning was going on in SL and instructed students to carry out observations of what was happening in these virtual classrooms.

“The e-readers fitted into their lives. They didn’t necessarily replace print or their laptops or smartphones, it just fitted in. They used them in contexts where it worked for them.”




3 research studies on potential advantages of using Twitter in the classroom

Three academic studies are cited in this article about Twitter, and how it can increase student engagement, enhance social presence, and help develop peer support models among students through the formation of personal learning networks.

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A small but impressive study of students at Lockhaven University in Pennsylvania found that those who used Twitter to continue class discussions and complete assignments were more engaged in their classwork than students who did not.

Four sections (70 students) were given assignments and discussions that incorporated Twitter, such as tweeting about their experiences on a job shadow day or commenting on class readings. Three sections (55 students) did the same assignments and had access to the same information, but didn’t use Twitter.

In addition to showing more than twice the improvement in engagement than the control group, the students who used Twitter also achieved on average a .5 point increase in their overall GPA for the semester.

An earlier study [pdf] by Joanna C. Dunlap and Patrick R. Lowenthal from the University of Colorado at Denver found that Twitter was able to “enhance social presence” and produce other instructional benefits in an online course.

Another experiment into the use of social media at the University of Leicester found that tweeting helps to develop peer support among students and personal learning networks and can be used as a data collection tool. Read a more detailed description of the experiment here. [via Faculty Focus]



On social software & student ownership of their own tools

Two points from this article. First, social software enables learning conversations to occur outside of the classroom, not only between students, but also between students and the larger community. Second, when students taking ownership of their own tools, they are set up to become lifelong learners. My take is that this requires flexibility on the part of educators in that they have to be willing to go where the learners are and let the learner decide where they want these conversations to occur.

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But, most importantly, their learning experiences often involve a conversation, a process, and this conversation can include teachers and others with knowledge in their field. The skills students gain in the process are those they need to join a wider community and succeed in today’s economy.

Colleges and universities need to do more to incorporate social software into their courses and methodologies. I hear from faculty and administrators regularly about transformations of entire programs to the social/conversational/active learning paradigm of today.

This extension of the learning conversation online (with blogs, wikis, e-mail, texting, chat, conferencing systems, portfolios, and so on), helps students develop online literacy skills. Though it is dependent on technology, it represents a return to the roots of human learning. Learning has always involved conversation. In fact, knowledge results from, or increasingly is, consensus-building through conversation.

To the extent that students are engaged in that conversation using their own–literally their own–Web and Internet applications, some of them have a chance to become independent, life-long learners and enjoy a better chance to develop their own expertise




What Do Students Learn Through Discussion?

I went through asynch discussion burnout during my Masters. 5 courses back to back where the main tool of interaction with classmates was an asynchronous discussion board. Some tips that I appreciated as a student – faculty limiting us to postings of no more than 200 words, and breaking us into smaller groups to keep the conversation more manageable. I also appreciated having those groups mixed up during the course to keep it fresh and to introduce new ideas and ways of thinking into our discussion.

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What Do Students Learn Through Discussion?

Using a qualitative design, researchers identified four different ways students reported they were using discussion to promote learning.

  • To challenge ideas – both their own and others with the goal of arriving at a more complete understanding
  • To develop ideas – using the ideas of others to improve their own thinking
  • To acquire ideas – using discussion as a way of collecting ideas
  • To check ideas – making sure that their ideas were the right ones; that they were learning the right things

The researchers identify the first two approaches as deep learning methods and the last two as more typical of surface learning approaches.

The researchers also point out that students don’t always see the potential for learning through discussion—it’s just another one of those things some teachers have them do. You think the reason for having discussions is obvious to students? I’d encourage you to test that assumption. Next time you’ve had a discussion, ask students why you had them discuss the topic rather than simply lecturing on it or have them read about it in the text. If I had to guess, I’d say that question will first be met with silence, followed by some glib answers, “You didn’t have time to prepare a lecture,” followed by other answers, none still very insightful, “It’s a way to keep us awake.”




Hi Tech Cheating – Do Your Kids Do It?

Note: this is a cross post from my Dad blog, but I thought the topic would be of interest to you as well.

Is this cheating?

Does your teenager have a cell phone? If they do, there is a good chance they are using it to cheat at school according to a new report by Common Sense Media.

Key findings from the report say that more than 1/3 of teens with cell phones admit to having used them to cheat at school, while over 1/2 of all teens admitted to using some form of cheating involving the Internet.

According to the report, we parents are living in denial. Not that this practice exists in schools – 76% of us believe that cell phone cheating is happening in school – but only 3% of us believe our kids are doing it.

Hmmmm, 35% of kids admit to doing it, but only 3% of their parents believe they are doing it. That is a big digital denial divide.

But really the question we as parents need to be asking is not whether our kids are cheating or not (although that is a very important question), but rather what is cheating? Perhaps it is time to take a long hard look at what we think cheating is in the digital age. If we do, then we might come to the conclusion that how we define cheating may actually be hurting our kids.

For example, is it cheating for students to collaborate with their peers to find the answer to problems? 1 in 4 of the students in the survey don’t think so and I tend to agree with them. After all, is this not what we “grownups” do in real life? When we need to figure out a problem, what do we do? We tap into our personal networks and fire up the web. Isn’t collaborating to figure out a solution to a problem something we want to foster in our kids?

And is it so wrong for students to use the most game changing educational tool called the Internet to find answers? I mean, why do we ask kids to pretend that this massively useful tool does not exist? Why do we insist that they need to be able to work inside a bubble to solve problems?

What I do have a problem with is a student taking someone else’s work and turning it in as their own. That, to me, is my moral threshold. But collaborating with their peers using technology to solve problems? That is something we should be rewarding, not punishing.

I realize this may seem like an extreme position to take, and it is fraught with a whole can of worms that educators have to deal with (not the least of which is how do teachers really assess learning), but I think we need to take a long hard look at how we define cheating in a digital age. If we do then we might just discover that what we think of as cheating is actually an essential skill our kids are going to need to thrive in a digital world.

Photo: Poor Marc Has No Idea She CHEATS! by Mr_Stein used under Creative Commons license.

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So, just how do you work this thing? Student stymied by textbook

There are shades of the viral video Middle Ages Tech Support in this very funny and impromptu classroom video.  Like all good humour, I suspect there there is more than a bit of truth behind the yuk’s.

In this video, student  Joe tries to interact with his textbook. The video was shot by the student’s teacher, Mr. Chase. I can see using this for more than one or two presentations I have coming up.

From Chris Lehmann’s Practical Theory blog.


"The professor is just another open browser window, 1 of 10"

The wonderful quote in the title comes from a graduate student at the University of North Carolina and was posted over at one of my favorite blogs about parenting and technology parent.thesis.

The quote comes from a post about an issue that many of us in the classroom deal with. How do we capture our students attention when there are so many distractions around? Do we ban it or embrace it?

Well, one strategy is to take this particular prof’s approach and do both. He does a wonderful job at making his point while still managing to capture his students attention.

Just in case you miss it at the end, he introduces his friend to the class. A joke, but an effective one.

The parent.thesis post mentions a PBS Frontline documentary called Growing Up Online that aired a few weeks ago. They’ve posted the whole show online and it has a great segment featuring 2 high school teachers on both sides of the fence. They have posted the entire doc online. And, if you have kids, you may want to check the whole thing out. As the producers of the documentary point out, we might be facing the greatest generation gap since rock ‘n’ roll.


A Vision of Students Today

I am going to EDUCAUSE in Seattle next week and some of the sessions I am most looking forward to are the ones based on student data. What technologies are they actually using? Which do they find beneficial and which are over hyped? Most importantly, which ones do they want us to use?

Today I came across a video called “A Vision of Students Today” (via OUseful). It was created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University. The video is a snapshot of 200 students in a Cultural Anthropology course and;

summarizes some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime.

It’s well done and powerful.

Interesting note that the end of the video seems to hint at something that Scott Leslie recently blogged about regarding the power of live and in person social learning. But the slightly ironic twist here is that the project was done using Google Docs and posted to YouTube, a couple of educational technology poster children applications. The point being that technology is never the end all or be all when it comes to effective teaching and learning. It is simply another tool in an educators arsenal. I look forward to the “…to be continued” piece.