You are heredistance ed
We tend to get our undies in a bundle over learner-learner; learner-content; learner-teacher interactions, but this issue of the learner-institution transaction / interaction deserves a lot more attention. Last night at ODU, we had our new student orientation with doctoral students coming into the program this semester (held on Adobe Connect with participants all over North America and recorded for those who could not attend) and we spent over an hour just going over issues of learner-institution interaction .. what log on do I need to register for classes? who do I contact about financial aid? how do I submit my plan of work to the university? where do I get the software do I need to connect into class? how do I access recordings of sessions of classes I miss? While this is far from the "sexy" side of instruction (if there is one?), it is where the rubber meets the road in formal education. Students tend to love or leave a program based on how fantastic / horrid these learner-institution transactions are handled.
To any teacher out there contemplating assigning your students to a group project where the students must reach consensus on a common "deliverable" ... STOP ... consider all that is sacred about our abilities and rights to think and learn as individuals and DO NOT FORCE YOUR LEARNERS TO WASTE THEIR VALUABLE TIME AND ENERGY so that you can pat yourself on the back and call yourself a constructivist, a connectivist, or any other "ist" that floats your boat. THIS HAS GOT TO STOP! A group (common deliverable) project is a ridiculously inefficient and ineffective "instructional strategy" that does not support the learning of all INDIVIDUALS in the class. While you will end up with fewer papers to grade, you have cheated the few who pulled their hair out trying to get some half-assed watered down "socially negotiated" piece of crap to you and there is NO WAY you can say with confidence the INDIVIDUALS walking out of your class did anything to achieve the grade you are assigning. If you feel students need to build skills in team building, then TEACH A CLASS WITH THAT AS A SUBJECT ... I will be sure not to sign up for it.
... summary of my post buried in BB ...
Here is a bit of "cut and paste" from a post I made on this topic in a class. I think it would be a fun to run a survey of how students store and read digital material in our courses. Some time ago, I decided I would never again print out my digital material. I travel a fair amount and it became impossible to lug around my hard copy binders ... So, I went "big" and made a commitment to all digital / all the time ... here is how I am attempting to manage my digital data:
- Several years ago purchased the full version of Adobe Acrobat (with academic discount comes to around $150-ish, I think) which allowed me to highlight and annotate. There is also a wonderful piece of software I bought last year called Bluebeam PDF which does about the same thing as Adobe Acrobat and the education pricing is around $75 - see http://www.bluebeam.com/web07/us/store/education_store.asp . Bluebeam works GREAT for annotating PDFs on touchscreen laptops ... more on that below. I know there are a bunch of freeware PDF annotation options, but most I found to be junk.
Facilitation of group written projects is a challenge for instructional designers working within a distance learning setting. The following provides suggested practices for facilitating such projects using web based collaborative writing technologies.
This report assesses six issues that are of particular importance to distance educators, including 1) student copyright and privacy protections, 2) tuition and fee structures, 3) library resources and services, 4) copyright and ownership of course material, 5) instructor compensation and support, and 6) Internet access and connection support. This assessment highlights examples of how various institutions address these issues within their formal policy statements and provides an analysis of each policy issue.
This paper provides a brief review of how interaction is considered within current distance education literature since Moore’s 1989 call for clarity. The following summarizes how human and non-human interaction types have been considered within the context of computer mediated distant education and examines both the Student-to-Content Interaction Strategies Taxonomy and the Community of Inquiry Model as frameworks for future examination of computer mediated interaction within a distance education setting.
This paper surveys the distance education system at Athabasca University.