The LectureTools Blog

Will MOOCs be the End of the College Campus?

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Wed, February 27, 2013

MOOCs allow students to access courses from anywhere
Photo: Ed Yourdon

From Coursera to edX, “MOOC” has become one of the top education buzzwords of 2013, with some of the most powerful brands in higher education like Stanford, MIT, and the University of Michigan offering courses for free. These Massive Open Online Courses have been growing in number over the past year, and with over 2.7 million “students” on Coursera alone, it is easy to see why MOOCs have become the topic de jour.

With courses being taught online for free from the Harvards, Stanfords, and MITs of the world, will there be a place for the physical college campus experience in the future?

MOOCs share some characteristics of disruptive technologies

Wired notes that MOOCs have certain traits that have traditionally been held by disruptive technologies. MOOCs are serving people who aren’t already enrolled in college, making content free and accessible to those who otherwise would miss out. Additionally, with materials online, students have some flexibility with their schedules that students who must be in a brick-and-mortar room at a specific time do not.

MOOCs also are now at the point where their quality is allowing them to be desirable to “upmarket” users as supporting technologies like bandwidth and online sharing have proliferated. While they are not yet sufficient to meet the needs of many college students, they are beginning to approach a more rigorous standard that will increasingly meet the needs of consumers.


Why MOOCs aren’t ready to replace “traditional” colleges just yet

On paper, MOOCs sound like the revolution in education that we have been waiting for. But it isn’t that simple. While the features of MOOCs – captured lectures, the ability to discuss material with fellow students, and practice assignments – parallel or are similar to the traditional classroom, MOOCs have yet to see the same success.

Most importantly, only a small fraction of students who enroll in MOOCs go on to complete the course. This phenomenon is so pronounced that it caused Richard McKenzie, a UC—Irvine professor, to leave his Coursera “Microeconomics for Managers” course because of his 37,000 students, “fewer than 2 percent have been actively engaged in discussions.”

Professor McKenzie viewed uninformed or superfluous responses from students in discussion forums as an impediment to the learning of the students serious about completing the course. In this arena, MOOCs may not meet the standards of the traditional university because students in many cases may not be coming from the same level of commitment as their college-enrolled counterparts. Without tuition to pay or an official transcript, many who register for MOOCs could be enrolling simply out of curiosity – the stakes are low. Unlike the full-time student in a university who could be wasting tens of thousands of dollars in tuition for not devoting their full attention to a course, a Coursera user can leave a course at any time with no real consequences.

Though some MOOCs are beginning to offer certifications for students who want to prove their work in online courses, even the co-founder of Coursera doesn’t think they will reach the value of a traditional degree from one of the MOOC-provider’s partner institutions.


Lessons from MOOCs that can be applied to higher education via blended learning

MOOCs aren’t ready to replace the classroom experience for the majority of students yet. But, there are a few qualities of MOOCs that can be used in a blended learning class (i.e. combining both face-to-face instruction and online elements) to improve student learning and satisfaction.

Among these are providing ways to students to ask questions and get answers digitally. Personal capture (PCAP) and lecture capture videos are also great resources for students to access when studying after class, even if they are on a physical campus. Ultimately, digital tools and practice problem sets can enhance student learning in any course setup because they increase the opportunities for students to engage with material, think critically, and learn in the way that is most effective for them


How Students Consume Complex Concepts with Blended Learning

Attend our free webinar -- Snacking on Substance: Active Learning Cuts Rich Course Content into Bite-Sized Chunk -- to learn how students at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine consume complex concepts with some help from lecture capture and a student engagement system.

Topics: Active Learning, traditional teaching methods, Online Education, MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, emerging technologies in education, Teaching with Technology, Educational Technology, Web Applications

You Don't Need an App for That: Schools Cut Costs with Mobile Web

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Fri, July 01, 2011

mobile web smartphoneMany colleges have iPhone apps that allow students and visitors to easily access campus maps, view campus dining hall menus, check campus bus schedules, and more. A recent article from the Chronicle discussed how some colleges are now turning away from such campus apps. As the smartphone market becomes increasingly segmented, Apple's iPhone no longer stands alone.

Data from the article reports that there are over 25 million smartphone subscribers in the United States with phones that run on Google's Android platform. Blackberry and Apple each have close to 20 million subscribers, and Microsoft's platform has around 5 million users. What this means for mobile developers is that for a given application, a 3 or 4 different versions might need to be designed in order to accommodate students and campus visitors who carry phones with competing software.


Designing for a Segmented Mobile Market

Developing apps for a number of different mobile platforms is costly. So much so that some colleges are beginning instead to focus on developing mobile web sites. Rather than having users install an app for campus information, these schools simply push web traffic to a mobile version of their websites. Unlike an iPhone app, a mobile website is compatible with any device that has a web browser.

Despite the compatibility of mobile websites, many smartphone users prefer installing apps instead of browsing the mobile web. Additionally, apps are more versatile when it comes to taking advantage of new features of smartphones and tablets, such as cameras, sensors, and GPS data. Still, most basic web content should be delivered through the mobile web, rather than by proprietary applications.


Saving Money in Higher Education by Supporting Existing Hardware

Schools shying away from platform-specific apps shed light on a broader issue in education: delivering content to a variety of devices. Universities already provide support for both Mac and Windows laptops. Supporting both platforms ensures that students can come to campus with their existing machines, or shop around for the best deal when it's time for an upgrade.

With tuition prices skyrocketing, instructors are looking for ways to keep costs down for students. One way to do this is to take advantage of educational technologies that use the devices students already own. For students with tablets or eReaders, eTextbooks can already save students money over the price of new textbooks, especially if the book's chapters can be purchased individually.

Another opportunity for cost savings is the arena of classroom response systems. In many cases, students are required to buy dedicated hardware – clickers – to respond to in-class activities and to receive participation or attendance points. If the institution upgrades to a new system or the student loses the clicker, they have to purchase yet another gadget.

Much as mobile websites allow compatibility with any Internet-enabled device, web-based classroom response systems allow students to use whatever gadgets they are already carrying to class, whether that means laptops, cellphones, or even some Wi-Fi enabled portable media players.

The web-based model means students using any platform can use the technology without purchasing new hardware and that institutions need not install proprietary infrastructure for each instructional technology.

For these reasons, supporting the mobile web and other web-based applications increases in importance with each passing year. And with access to information and services on almost any device, it is true what some of these colleges say: you don't need an app for that.


Photo: Johann Larsson


LectureTools Instructor DashboardFind Out How LectureTools Student Response, Note-Taking, and Inquiry Tool Improves Engagement Without Special Hardware

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Topics: emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, Student Response Systems, Laptops in Education, Web Applications

5 Benefits of Using Cloud Computing to Prepare Your Lectures

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Thu, June 02, 2011

Cloud computing is becoming an educational technology buzzword as new web applications like LectureTools allow users to get work done in their web browser and campus cloud usage is on the rise. These applications store data and run on web servers, i.e. "the cloud," rather than your hard drive.

There are distinct benefits for instructors who utilize cloud computing to prepare for lecture, whether they are adding interactivity to their presentations with LectureTools, sharing slide decks on Slideshare, or storing files using Dropbox.

perfect cloudsThese clouds contribute to the scenery, but they would contribute to your classroom if they instead stored your lectures and launched web-based applications.


5 Benefits of Using Cloud Computing to Prepare Your Lectures

1. Access your files from anywhere

College instructors frequently edit and access content for their lectures from many different locations. Instructors often have different computers in their home, office, and classroom. The cloud makes it possible to access files from any device with an Internet connection. Saving files on your hard drive in "My Documents" or "Home" folders means that you are out of luck if you need to access your files from a different computer.

Dropbox allows you to access your files from any web browser or synchronized computer by storing them in the cloud, while applications like Google Docs allow you to edit your documents and spreadsheets through the cloud. LectureTools allows you to prepare and present interactive presentations from any web-enabled device. The cloud allows you to be productive from any computer at any time without having to remember flash drives or other storage mediums.


2. Create a de facto backup for your data

Hard drive failure is not a question of if, but instead a question of when. Eventually, even the most well taken care of computers will experience hard drive or other hardware failures. Without backing up your files on another device, you could lose all of your slide decks, presentation notes, and student assessment data.

Using a cloud computing service keeps your files on a server. Fortunately, credible companies who maintain these servers keep rigorous backups of your data. This gives instructors the added benefit of an "automatic backup." Even if the your laptop experiences a hardware failure minutes before lecture, you can still access, share, and present your files from the cloud. For example, if your presentation rests on the LectureTools servers, you will be able to present on another machine without missing a beat. Dedicated cloud-based backup services like Mozy also offer an alternative to physical media backups.


3. Stop worrying about additional software licenses

Software licenses can be tricky at times, particularly if you typically use several devices. For example, a single-user license of Microsoft Office legally can only be installed on one primary and one portable machine. Instructors who want to use the same local applications on several computers may need to purchase multiple software licenses.

Cloud computing ends this problem through licensing on a per-user, rather than a per-machine, basis. You could own 100 PCs, but because cloud applications are accessible through any web browser, a single subscription allows you to use the application on as many Internet-enabled devices as you like.


4. Share content more easily

Most cloud-based applications make it very easy to share or change file permissions of what you've been working on. Generally you decide whether to keep a file private or whether to share. Since the data is already online, spreading your work to other users is incredibly simple.

Google Docs allows you to share documents with specific people or make them public so anyone can read or edit. With Dropbox, you can share folders, making it easy to collaborate on projects that require each group member to access multiple files. For presentations, LectureTools keeps the instructor's slide deck hidden from students. To share the slides, the instructor simply clicks "Publish Lecture," and all non-hidden slides are available to every student instantly through the cloud.


5. Get things done without software hassles

Instructors who use cloud applications to prepare lectures can add these tools to their existing workflow without much fuss. Unlike software used locally, applications that run from the cloud require no installation and update automatically. Instructors need not waste time or slow down their machines by installing new software. Everything is accessible from the comfort of a web browser.


Have you integrated cloud-based technology into your workflow? If so, let us know in the comments.


Photo credit: MorBCN


interactive presentation dashboardLearn How to Create Interactive Lectures With the Cloud

Request a live demo of LectureTools to learn how our web-based alternative to clickers can improve student engagement and attentiveness. Add interactive activities to your presentation, track comprehension in real-time, and answer student questions.

Topics: emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, Teaching with Technology, Educational Technology, Web Applications, Cloud Computing

7 Ways to Use Technology for Collaborative Learning in Your Classroom

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Fri, May 27, 2011

The benefits of collaborative learning are already well-documented. Here are 7 easy ways to use free Web 2.0 applications for collaborative learning in your classroom:


1. Use Google Docs for collaborative writing

collaborative writing googl

Google's Chromebook could greatly impact education, but the online giant already has a great cloud computing resource for collaborative writing: Google Docs. No longer must one student be burdened as the “recorder” for group assignments.

In Google Docs, everyone can see and make changes to the document in real-time in a web browser. A provided chat room and the ability to comment either on the document as a whole or on specific passages facilitate collaboration. Discussions and comments can be marked “resolved” to indicate group consensus. Google Docs is ideal for most collaborative writing and editing assignments.


2. Use YouTube as a platform for group video projects

youtube logoMany colleges let students check out equipment like microphones and video cameras. Take advantage of these resources and the easy upload process to assign an engaging group YouTube video project.

Without professional training, don’t expect a Ken Burns style documentary, but your students will be able to express creativity and collaborate as a group.


3. Compile course information with a wiki

why wiki for educationWikis are available from a variety of sources. Each student can create new and edit existing pages on the wiki. You can verify the editors on each page and what changes they have made using the page history.

Wikis require quality strategy, but are great for cross-linking relevant concepts. An English class that creates a wiki with pages for each book it reads, can grow with pages for main characters, key locations, and key dates to provide students with an immense understanding and knowledge of class texts.


4. Facilitate collaborative reading with eBooks

kindle annotationsAmazon now sells more eBooks for Kindle than it does hardcopies. Growing popularity of tablets and e-readers allow for a new collaborative learning activity: reading.

The Kindle allows users to share notable passages from books on Twitter and Facebook, leave public notes at specific points in the book, and can display what other readers have commonly highlighted in your book. Similarly, the Inkling application for iPad is designed to make interactive textbooks. Students can create a social “learning” network by following their peers’ notes to ask them questions or highlight important passages.


5. Live blog a major event with CoverItLive

liveblogLarge events become social and interactive with CoveritLive, a moderated chat and live blog application. Moderators can publish comments submitted by users, upload multimedia, embed photos, pose poll questions, and create newsflashes or scoreboards.

Comprehensive coverage of an event encourages viewers to participate and contribute ideas. For example, students from a public policy or education class could log onto a live blog during an educational reform speech by President Obama. Users could highlight key points, strengths, or weaknesses in the speech, but only “approved” comments are published. Moderators also pose anonymous poll questions about key points of the speech or embed relevant multimedia, dramatically engaging students in the event.


6. Center discussion around photos in Flickr

flickr yahoo logoFlickr allows users to upload their photos and share them with the world. Photos can be geo-tagged, added to specific groups, and tagged by keyword. Each photo has a unique comment stream to facilitate discussion.

An architecture class, for example, could have students upload photos of buildings on campus. The photographer could add location data and a short history of the building in the description. Other students could then add tags (like “Gothic,” “Neo-classical,” or “Doric columns”) and discuss the photos in the comments. The same idea applies to any class that analyzes visual elements.


7. Supplement classroom discussion or connect to the
“real world” on Twitter

logo twitterA US News article this week shed some light on innovative uses of Twitter in the classroom.

Students can use Twitter to learn from each other’s tweets, as well as interact in dynamic literary character roles. Business classes can connect with outside professionals through the social network. Regardless of how students are using Twitter, the site forces them to present their ideas in a concise manner and has the power to connect them with a network that stretches worldwide.

Have you used technology to foster collaborative learning in your classes? Tell us how in the comments.


Learn How to Deliver Interactive, Engaging Lectures From the Cloud With LectureTools

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Topics: social media tools in education, interactive classroom technology, Teaching with Technology, Educational Technology, Web Applications, Cloud Computing