Posts tagged ‘e-learning’

What Do “New York on $5 a Day” and “Mathematics Made Easy” Have in Common?

The Boston Globe reports that 2 adults sharing a hotel room and eating 3 meals spend, on average, $606 a day in New York City. I go there often for business and have no trouble believing this. There was a book, published in 1964, called New York on $5 a Day. My interest is not inflation or travel costs, but book titles: what a compelling title! And much better than New York on $606 a Day. A search for “New York” books brings up Not for Tourists 2008 Guide to New York City and The Best Things to Do in New York City: 1001 Ideas. Not for tourists – but I am a tourist! – and if this is an insider’s guide then do natives read it? 2008 in the title reminds me that I need the new edition, and, if anything like car models, 2009 will be available well before 2008 ends. 1001 ideas makes me hyperventilate – a few good ones are all I need.

When I was in high school, a friend gave me Mathematics Made Easy, which was one of the most inspirational books I ever read. I saw this book recently in a church bazaar, and thought about the title, which refers to the topic, not the reader. Now the For Dummies series offers numerous math books, as does The Complete Idiot’s Guide. I ended up a math major in college: could Math for Dummies have similarly inspired me? The titles of these new books refer to the reader, not to the topic.

In this age of Oprah’s Book Club determining what sells, I wish we could return to book titles that neither insult nor overwhelm the reader. But then what about course titles? I teach a course, “Online Consumer Health”, previously “Online Health Communities”. My primary motivation for changing the name was that one of my students last fall told me he signed up for the course not knowing what an online health community was.

What if course titles tried to grab you, like book titles, but still remained descriptive? I could rename mine “Online Consumer Health: How to Design and Evaluate Health Web Sites” or “How People without Medical Training Use the Internet for Health Education and Support”. One of my favorite courses in graduate school, “Software Engineering”, could be renamed “Software Engineering: How to be a Systems Architect and Play Office Politics to your Advantage”. Maybe these are a little wordy, but they are certainly descriptive and attention-grabbing.

Online courses, of course, have the same problem but more so, since there may be less context when a student isn’t on campus. A perusal of online course titles showed that titles like “Business Writing 101” are still in vogue. How about renaming it “Business Writing for Clarity and Managerial Praise”? I will say that I have seen a few online courses with intriguing names: Trump University has courses called “The Trump Way to Wealth” and “How to Start a Business on a Shoestring Budget”. These are certainly compelling and descriptive names and also briefer than my examples above.

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May 21, 2008 at 1:22 am 7 comments

Tech Populism and Discotheque Populism: Parallel Revolutions

Tech populism, a term coined by Forrester Research, refers to people bringing the technology they use in their personal lives into the workplace where traditionally tools have been provided to them and their use prescribed. Employees may, for example, have access to online courses they are supposed to take, but they may prefer to search for and use information available on the web instead of utilizing these courses. Another example is when there is a corporate knowledge management initiative but employees find and contact each other through LinkedIn or other social networking services.

Tech populism is revolutionary in that the traditional tight controls on workplace behavior are violated – often to everyone’s benefit. And a revolt can occur when employers attempt to suppress tech populism.

Bona fide revolutions—whether political, cultural, or spiritual —occur infrequently in history” and one is certainly taking place in the workplace today. This revolution parallels what was arguably the biggest revolution in music, dancing, and nightlife: the discotheque.

The American Heritage Magazine article goes on to say that “the discotheque originated as a den of resistance in Nazi-occupied France” and, from the 1960s to the 1980s, impacted all aspects of culture in the US and other countries. “Discotheque dancing followed the 1960s pattern in which teenagers invented pop-culture trends and discarded them soon afterward, at which point they were taken up by adults,” just like Facebook today!

“Saturday Night Fever propelled disco fever to epidemic proportions: By 1978, 40 percent of all the music on Billboard’s Hot 100 was disco. Meanwhile the discofication of America proceeded: There were disco lunch boxes, disco “Snoopy” bed sheets and pillows, disco belt buckles, disco records by old-timers like Frank Sinatra and Ethel Merman, an estimated two hundred all-disco radio stations, disco dance courses, disco proms, books about the proper makeup to wear to discos—and an estimated twenty thousand discotheques nationwide.”

I coined discotheque populism to refer to how this “discofication” still lives in the music, lighting, and dance moves found in any club. Even the clothes, makeup, and hairstyles periodically return to popularity. Tech populism is no different – the Facebook of yesterday is the Twitter of today. Tomorrow will bring new applications that will be adopted (and even created) by teenagers first, become mainstream, and then be abandoned by the original adopters just when managers are developing policies for their use.

April 23, 2008 at 1:52 am 2 comments

Talent, Devotion, and Compensation: Attracting and Retaining Teachers

Sometimes a juxtaposition is more powerful than a mashup. This morning I was at a public high school and later at a private school. While I was at each for different reasons, I was struck by the talent and devotion of the people at both schools. While I don’t know their salaries, compensation to attract and retain teachers and education support professionals is lower in the US than in other countries and lower than comparable professions. Teaching for many, myself included, is a labor of love and a chance to use one’s skills and knowledge to help others. Because of this juxtaposition I find myself wondering what triggers this devotion in people and what causes them to flourish in their profession, albeit in the very different environments I was in today. (The mental mashup here, by the way, was trying to understand the impact of salary after reading a press release about the Economic Policy Institute’s new study.)

Online teachers and adjunct faculty are typically compensated less, and have less prestige, than other teachers. While online teachers may have fewer advising or administrative responsibilities, they work very hard, sometimes harder, than teachers in the classroom because they have to master technologies and be available more hours. I wonder not only what triggers devotion in such teachers but what causes it to whither and even dissipate – and what role compensation plays in this.

April 2, 2008 at 11:27 pm 8 comments

Ten Reasons Why Podcasts Are Inferior to Text

Ten reasons podcasts don’t work for education are:

  1. It is faster to read than to listen to text.
  2. It is difficult to skim a podcast (fast-forward can sometimes be used) while most people skim text and carefully read the parts that interest them.
  3. It is easier and quicker to reread text than to replay part of a podcast.
  4. Interesting passages of text can be highlighted or, if online, copied into notes.
  5. Text can be illustrated.
  6. Most people, when driving, working out, etc., do not have the concentration to stay focused on an educational podcast.
  7. When a podcast is of high quality and slickly produced, it seems like entertainment, especially when it starts with music.
  8. When a podcast is of poor quality, the background noise or pauses and speech fillers are annoying to listen to.
  9. It is easier to get into a flow state when reading text because you are less likely to be multitasking.
  10. Deeper learning, as Don Norman says, “takes time and thought”, and it is harder to have deep thoughts when listening passively or when multitasking.

I developed this list after talking to some of Jared Spool’s students, who sent me an e-learning scenario centered on the use of podcasting. While writing this, I listened to a podcast that Jared made, just to make sure that my list was accurate. Part way through, my son called and I dropped off his cleats and then stopped at the track and ran because it is a sunny day and I had been sitting too long. When I got back, the podcast was still playing. Voice can convey nuances that text does not, and Jared is an entertaining speaker, but I prefer text and am unlikely to ever make podcasts for my students.

March 26, 2008 at 12:17 am 12 comments

Ten Things You Can Do in Ten Minutes To Be a More Successful e-learning Professional

You need a break and, instead of heading to the coffee pot, what can you do in 10 minutes that will refresh and energize you and increase your job satisfaction and career success?

  1. Find an e-learning conference to go to and send an email to your manager giving 10 reasons why this will help you perform better. If travel is a problem, find a local seminar to go to.
  2. Find an e-learning conference to submit to. It is much better to go to a conference as a speaker and the process of figuring out what you want to talk about and writing an abstract will be a valuable reflection process.
  3. Write a short description of what you learned at the last conference or seminar you went to or the last article or book you read and circulate it to your colleagues. They will appreciate it and it will reinforce what you learned. It might also help your chances of getting funding for your next conference (see 1).
  4. Do a search on “e-learning”, “instructional design”, “online degrees”, or another topic related to your job and see what people find. Refine your search and try again. Maybe you’ll find something you want to look at, maybe not. If not, use the rest of your ten minutes and search on something totally different, like “swing dancing”, and see if you like the results better.
  5. Write a note your manager with 10 reasons why you deserve a 10% salary increase. Don’t send it unless you came up with the reasons quickly. If you struggled with the list, rewrite it as the 10 things you need to do to deserve a 10% salary increase. Then act upon it.
  6. Take an online course – or at least part of one- and think about how it is designed rather than the content. What are 10 things you would do to improve it? (What would colleagues say if it was your class they were going through?)
  7. Read 10 current e-learning job descriptions and see how many you are qualified for. Write down 10 ideas for your own professional development just in case you ever want to go job hunting.
  8. Email the e-learning expert you most admire and ask him or her to schedule a 10 minute phone call with you to discuss your three most important questions about e-learning. Write up what you learn (when you have the call) and circulate it to your colleagues (see 3). Also, make sure you introduce yourself to that person at your next conference (see 1).
  9. Do a search on “learning technology trends” or “Web 2.0” and identify at least one new technology you know little about that has the potential to improve what you do. Read one or two articles about it.
  10. Ask a colleague the most exciting e-learning idea he or she has had or read about recently and discuss it why it is exciting. You can do this by phone or email, but over coffee is best. See, you get to go to the coffee pot after all!

Finally, think of your own idea for a 10 minute activity that can renew and improve your e-learning practice and post it as a comment to this article so others can benefit.

Thanks to Mark Notess for suggestions 7-9 and to CIO Magazine for inspiring the idea.

March 10, 2008 at 8:37 pm 27 comments

Donald Trump: Meet Katie Gibbs

Katie Gibbs, also known as Katharine Gibbs School or Gibbs College, is closing in Boston when the current students graduate. The school, founded in 1911, started off as a finishing school for women who were entering the working world. The original focus was on office skills, but other programs such as digital media were added in recent years. Before Katie Gibbs goes away, I have an idea for its resurrection, and there couldn’t be a better savior.

Donald Trump has a blog now, and writes in it about topical issues such as how a man “can get migraines, feel less satisfied with his overall life, and even get clinically depressed” if his wife earns a larger salary. This particular post includes a link to research and advice, including the concluding “if you still can’t deal with it, then go out and get a better job.”

While the blog states that there are other contributors, this particular one was posted by Donald Trump. I have trouble imagining him writing this himself. Does he go through the process of having an idea, jotting down a few notes, running the idea by a colleague, checking for grammatical errors – it’s not that I think he’s lazy, it’s just that I imagine more likely that there is a staff tasked with posting interesting blog entries, possibly based on his initial idea, or, more likely running a few ideas by him and scurrying off to write up the ones he doesn’t grunt at.

But who are these employees? Here’s my idea: Donald Trump could make Katie Gibbs a new school within Trump University. Most universities have multiple schools within them; Harvard University has the Medical School, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, etc. This new online school could teach the skills needed to help CEOs succeed – not teach the CEOs, but teach their assistants, like the original Katie Gibbs did. There would be “Blogging 101” to teach how to write blog posts that make your boss sound like an insightful person, “Inbox Management”, and the other skills necessary to survive today. Since so many involve technology, how perfect that the school will be online.

February 22, 2008 at 8:00 am 3 comments

Is e-learning Safer?

I have been wanting to write a column entitled “Is e-learning Green?” but have not yet located the data to show the differences in energy consumption between taking a course at home or in a classroom. Instead, after just reading an article about personal safety and about how a woman killed two students and herself at Louisiana Technical College, I started to wonder about the differences in safety between home and the classroom.

The personal safety article discusses how to “Be Smart When You Park”, “Drive for Life”, and other ways to stay safe. This resonated with me since I talk on my cell phone while walking at night from the building I teach in to my parking garage. While I have never seen campus violence, an article in response to the Virginia Tech murders says that “fatal mass shootings in our nation’s elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges number just over 250 killed in the past 80 years. While shooting violence is worsening, it does not approach the toll of other violence on our college youth. We all seem unable to assimilate the fact that thousands of college students are dying violently each year.”

I can not find evidence of deaths or violence in online courses, so, domestic violence and natural disasters notwithstanding, being home seems safer. The flip side is the satisfaction of being with other people, which has also been shown to have health benefits. In a WebMD article, Prof. Thomas Glass found that “Social engagement was as strong as anything we found in determining longevity,… stronger than things like blood pressure, cholesterol, or other measures of health.” Marriage also has health benefits, such as lowered incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Are you more likely to meet your spouse on campus or in an online course?

February 11, 2008 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa: lisa.gualtieri@tufts.edu

@lisagualtieri


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