Use Adobe Connect at UR? Time to update!

Use Adobe Connect at UR? Time to update!

If you teach with Adobe Connect (synchronous live class meetings online), Adobe has informed us that all users need to update the “add-on” that resides on your computer in order to participate in these online meetings. In fact, the update will be required by September 8, so please go ahead and update your software using one of the links below, depending on your computer type:

Windows users:

Mac users:

If you have any questions about this or Adobe Connect, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at or 289-8066.

Conference Takeaway: Restructuring Classes with Learning Science (keynote)

At the recent Emerging Learning Design conference, I attended the keynote presentation by Elliott King, professor of communications and journalism at the University of Maryland-Loyola. He’s also known for his research in best practices of online and hybrid course development and the Internet’s impact on higher education and journalism.

Dr. King provided frank observations of today’s classroom and instructional methods: they aren’t working like they used to.

  • The most depressing moment of the semester for a professor? Grading finals.
  • Why offer 8 AM (or even 7 AM) courses?
  • Night courses don’t work.
  • There’s too much reading assigned (some faculty take pride in assigning massive amounts of reading…why?).
  • Long final exams (research shows they don’t work). Linear structures (no one remembers earlier knowledge).
  • Timed tests (coping with the stress of time)

Why do we continue to teach this way? King notes that tradition (100 years and counting) and the familiarity/comfort of teaching this way are some reasons. It’s fun (sage on the stage). Students have become comfortable as well. King indicates it’s documented that students typically dislike the flipped class method (it’s not comfortable).

How do we break this structure? King provided several proven solutions he has incorporated into his teaching, with promising results. He notes there is a lot of research to back up the idea of using online tools (adaptive technology). He calls it learning in 4D: structure, timing, content and context.

What is the outcome? Tell the students the outcome up front. Pose the “big question”.

Give students the final exam on day 2 of class! King’s final exam is 3 questions (one of which is the big question). When the final is given again, they’ll see how much they’ve learned.

Change the interval: 45 minute classes don’t work (don’t offer early/late classes either). Use short online videos (6-12 minutes each) and don’t try for professional quality. Students can’t pay attention for 45 minutes. There’s a reason sermons are 12 minutes! King’s classes “meet” everyday. It’s a MWF class, but on T/TH the class discusses online. This helps the student think about the class everyday. He has divided the class topics into shorter units. Interleaving (bring back previous concepts/topics in later units, etc.) is also recommended. Iteration is also suggested by King. Keep repeating, scaffolding and building up, perhaps by using a little technology. Wikis can help, although students aren’t huge fans (students would need to read the entire wiki discussion first, then decide where their comment fits; this helps with retention). Lastly, repetition (memorization) is always key. King provides online quizzes based on readings, and students can take them as often as they want in order to get a 100.

One interesting side note: King only allows handwritten note taking in class. He then asks students to type them up after class and post into an online discussion or to him as an assignment. In past, his experience with students typing their notes out in class were vastly inferior to those who wrote by hand.

In summary, King references Socrates, who thought books were the end of education. While that didn’t quite turn out to be the case, some still believe it. The key is to break down “time, space, record” of the traditional educational experience and evolve instruction through restructuring for today’s student.

Conference Takeaway: What is an Instructional Designer?

At the Emerging Learning Design conference I attended last week, one session on “Digital Pedagogies” that attempted to grasp what exactly defines “instructional designer” in this day and age. The room was filled with all sorts, academic/instructional technologists, faculty members, those calling themselves instructional designers, and administrators.

Through discussion, the group came up with quite a bit, and it is more varied than you might think. First and foremost, an instructional designer (ID) is a guide and facilitator/collaborator with faculty. Depending on expertise, this person could also be a course designer, project manager, coach/trainer, researcher, and all-in-all innovator. Other descriptors used included explorers, participants, creators, and community builders (ethics, netiquette). Historically, instructional designers often employed design models and theory in their projects with faculty, often developing new courses, degree programs, or redesigning existing courses. Today’s ID is often titled as an instructional technologist, as instructional designers commonly employ technology in their solutions and designs. The key to being an excellent ID is having enough information from the instructor (subject matter expert) to determine whether technology is beneficial or necessary.

The conference session focused on several case studies, including the design of a course on social entrepreneurship (basic concepts of web identity, pros/cons/best practices for social media and security, etc.) and the fascinating concept of being a templated self (forcing ourselves into online templates like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). The outcome of the case study was one of the importance of communication between instructor and ID, as the work put into the project by the ID was not what the instructor had intended.

In another case study, the interest in implementing “Domains of One’s Own” concept where all students get their own domain name and create their own web identity was the focus (Seton Hall). Our in-state colleagues at Mary Washington pioneered the idea, and it has attracted a lot of attention across the country. Getting buy-in from SGA, faculty/administration, and figuring out curriculum integration in general education was challenging. Time was the primary obstacle (students/faculty needed to learn WordPress, what domain names were and how they are managed, etc.).

One interesting conversation emerged on the topic of “digital fluency” encroaching on “information literacy” that librarians focus on. The discussion seemed to point to the increasing use of technology in librarian’s instruction and programming of information literacy, but most felt that digital fluency that is often a focus of instructional technologists does not encroach on the good work and information provided by librarians. In many cases, it seems a collaboration between librarians and IDs has proven beneficial in ensuring students and faculty develop solid foundations in both info literacy and digital fluency.

Near the end of the session, a question was posed to the group as part of a design thinking activity: should faculty reach out to an ID or should IDs reach out to faculty. While one participant indicated faculty don’t appreciate being chased down, many faculty in the audience voiced up and felt that the ID should kick off the conversation and reach out to faculty. Further, departments need to make the IDs know that they are planning to retool curriculum, or other pedagogical efforts where an ID or instructional technologist would be beneficial.

VR News and Notes

VR News and Notes

CTLT science liaison, Andrew Bell, leads the Center’s efforts in evaluating virtual and augmented reality technologies for teaching, learning and research at UR. Thanks to Andrew’s efforts, there is now a community of practice which includes interested individuals on campus eager to learn more about these emerging technologies. If you’re interested in joining the community, just e-mail Andrew. Latest VR@UR news:

  • Andrew has created an online VR@UR Newsletter that covers the developing landscape and culture surrounding VR/AR technologies. Check it monthly!
  • We have scheduled two VR Open Houses on Feb. 9th & 23rd 1-4pm. Come to our VR-HTC Vive portal in Jepson (next to the C&P lounge) to travel the world with Google Earth VR, paint a virtual masterpiece in Tilt-brush, or navigate through The Body in VR.
  • Register for a Pizza and Pedagogy that focuses on faculty/student discussion about their using VR technologies in the classroom and student research here at UR.
  • Request a demo or project using our VR technologies by sending e-mail to Andrew Bell.
CTLT brings Audrey Watters to UR

CTLT brings Audrey Watters to UR

The CTLT was thrilled to welcome ed tech researcher/scholar/writer Audrey Watters to UR on Thursday, Feb. 2 for a day of discussion, public lecture with Q&A and reflection on topics and concerns related to data collection and education technology under a Trump administration. You can access Audrey’s lecture text on her Hack Education website.

The day started with a discussion group involving staff from UR, and we were excited to have attendees from Virginia Commonwealth University, Mary Washington University and Randolph Macon College as well. The discussion involved an exercise of identifying all the methods, tools, etc. that a university uses that collects data on students and employees. The list was quite staggering. Audrey challenged the group to ask the question “Why?” with regards to reasoning on why we collect such data, and why we keep it for so long (in some cases, indefinitely). Many left the discussion with wheels turning (a good thing)! A lunch discussion with Audrey and students followed, which engaged the questions concerning how much students actually know about what data is collected on them and what is done with it. Audrey’s lecture in the afternoon was steeped in the history of data collection, with an eery look back at IBM’s involvement with Hitler’s regime and its data collection practices. We finished the day with a faculty discussion with Audrey on similar topics and concluded the day with a nice reception.

Many thanks go to our social sciences liaison Ryan Brazell, who originally suggested Audrey’s visit to UR, and who also facilitated the day’s group discussions and lecture Q&A. Thanks also to U’s Catering and Events departments for their help in making the day a success!