Posts Tagged ‘e-learning’

Many online educators are searching for platforms that are relevant and agile. In the end, agility is maintained via flexible management.  In other words, instructors should be allowed to choose from the tools they prefer in an e-learning ecosystem so that they can configure their own e-learning environment.  Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) may enable educators to have this flexible management in the e-learning environment.

LTI is designed to allow plug-and-play integration of instructional applications within educational platforms, such as LMS.  LTI is an open specification created by IMS Global Learning Consortium.  Before the introduction of LTI, connecting custom learning applications with a learning management system (LMS) was complicated and often expensive.  To accomplish this connection, an organization’s IT department had to assign or hire a developer to integrate each application with the LMS.  This process consumed a great deal of time and had to be revisited with each update of the application or LMS.  Conversely, it is easier to get the tools and platforms to work together (i.e., interoperability) if the LMSs and applications conform to the LTI specifications with their application programming interfaces (APIs).

Currently, most LMSs allow third-party applications to integrate with the platform, but the APIs used by each LMS are different (e.g., Blackboard versus Canvas).  For example, a vendor making an application for video editing would need to develop several APIs for their application so that it could connect with the various LMSs.  By contrast, LTI creates a common API that can be employed by any LMS or application developer.  This common API allows applications to be rapidly deployed within a LMS without hiring experts to make this connection.

More than 100 universities and colleges are actively engaged with LTI, and Western Governor’s University (WGU) is a prime example.  Initially, WGU tried to integrate a variety of learning tools with their LMS, and each tool required separate development.  After standardizing to LTI integration, WGU was able to write a single program to make all of the resources interoperable with their LMS.  The creators of LTI, IMS Global, offer a variety of applications that are certified as being compliant with LTI specifications, including hundreds of tools and 18 platforms.  The applications developed for integration include any tool created to connect to a LMS: library resources, subject-specific tools, authoring tools, etc….

The learning environment becomes more dynamic when learning tools are easily integrated into campus platforms, especially LMS.  Adopting a common approach to interoperability promotes faster integration and lowers the cost.  Ultimately, the LTI approach may allow instructors to build do-it-yourself learning environments that dramatically alter the role of and relationship with IT specialists.  LTI may be the first step toward allowing teachers to create a vibrant and rich ecosystem that is relevant and agile.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2013, August). 7 things you should know about learning tools interoperability. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7099.pdf

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The pedagogical model termed “flipped classrooms” refers to a scenario where homework and lectures are reversed. Typically, students come to class to hear lectures and then go home and complete the application of that lecture (e.g., homework).  In flipped classrooms, students watch a short video before coming to class, and when students come to class, they apply the lessons taught in the short video. This approach allows instructors to use time in class to build skills and for collaboration.

Educators are adopting this model anytime students watch or listen to lectures before coming to class and then do workshops in class. In one approach, teachers may actually set up a series of videos with intermittent quizzes to test knowledge acquisition. A series of videos may help to ensure that students have a certain level of knowledge before coming to class. While potentially helpful in all classes, this approach seems to have a great deal of potential for career and technical classes (CTE).

Career and technical instructors have struggled with e-learning because CTE classes demand that students spend time in workshops and laboratories to ensure they are applying theoretical knowledge. A hybrid approach seems to work well in CTE classes. Further, the flipped classroom is a technique that may help students be efficient and teachers be more effective.

In the traditional classroom, students often focus on transcribing lectures rather than understanding what is being said. A pre-class video format allows students to view the lecture material as many times as they need in order understand the material. Students that need extra time to understand material (i.e., accessibility issues) may find this approach very helpful. In addition, teachers may be able to detect errors more efficiently in this model because more class time is spent on the application of material. Collaboration and informal learning may also be facilitated in flipped classrooms.

The flipped model does require more preparatory work for both the teacher and student. Teachers must be very organized and sequential in this approach. Students must spend time viewing and reflecting on the videos before class. However, students may get frustrated if their technology equipment is slow or incapable of loading the videos (e.g., dial-up internet).

Moving the videos used in flipped classrooms to mobile devices makes this model even more attractive. Students could access lectures anytime, anywhere and just in time for training. Business and industry may actually begin to think about adopting this model for training incumbent workers. Ultimately, this model places more responsibility on students to learn material before class and affords them the opportunity to reflect on and apply this information on their own. Flipped classrooms allow students to master material rather than just being exposed to knowledge.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2010a, January). 7 things you should know about flipped classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7081.pdf

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What is a Screencast?

One of the most efficient ways to explain a computer process or software is through screencasting. The term “screencast” refers to a scenario when the actions on a user’s computer screen are captured. Typically, a screenshot describes a static picture of a computer screen. Similarly, a screencast is a video that captures what happens on a computer screen over a span of time, and audio is usually part of a screencast as well. The audio can take the form of a narrative voiceover from the presenter, background audio or sound from the application being demonstrated.

Screencasts are usually viewed as a stream over the Internet and can be created in a variety of formats. Screencasts provide a video of what is being discussed, and this medium helps to make online content more personal. The distribution of screencasts is easily accomplished through Web pages, email, IM and blogs.

Screencasting in Education

E-learning and distance education has quickly embraced screencasting. Screencasts offer several advantages for e-learning. First, faculty members can present learning resources to students that can be accessed anytime from any location that has access to the Web. Second, students can view screencasts at their own pace, which facilitates self-directed learning. Third, this technology helps promote a sense of engagement between students and teachers.

Screencasts can also help enhance evaluations of student work. Teachers can use a screencast to describe why certain errors are being marked and give suggestions. Faculty members can also use this technology for remediation. For example, if several math students had an issue on a specific problem, then the teacher could demonstrate how to work the problem through a screencast.

How Do You Make a Screencast?

In order to capture the activity on a computer screen, special software is often required, but new Web 2.0 technologies allow screencast to be recorded over the Web. Once software is installed or the Web 2.0 site is accessed, creating a screencast is as easy as selecting the “record” button and speaking in a microphone connected to the computer. Once users select “record,” all the actions taking place on the screen are captured and the audio is synced with these actions.

After a recording session is over, many software applications allow users to edit the resulting video. In addition, some screencasting software permits additional graphics and text to be added during the editing phase. For example, closed captioning could be added to the screencast, which would help with accessibility. Once in the production phase, screencast can usually be saved in a variety of formats (e.g., flv, mpg or mp4).

How Do You Watch a Screencast?

Viewing a screencast is easy. The only requirement is that the appropriate viewer should be installed on a computer to watch the format in question. Because most screencasts are viewed on the Web, basic media players and a Web browser are all that is needed. Windows Media Player, Flash and QuickTime are probably the most popular formats for screencasts. While videos can be streamed over the Web, users can also download videos and watch them at their convenience. For example, users could view a downloaded video on a portable device such as a mobile phone or iTouch.

Example of a Screencasting Technology

There are many free software tools that allow users to create screencasts. Screenr is an example of a Web 2.0 technology that facilitates the screen capture without the need for software, and Jing is an example of a free software that is downloaded to a local machine.

For this assignment, I chose to use Jing to produce a video. Jing is a free software download that is offered by TechSmith, which also owns Camtasia (a more robust screen capture software that cost money). Jing allows users to take a picture of the computer screen, record video of the screen and instantly share the captured content. Once Jing is downloaded and installed a small, transparent icon stays on the perimeter of the screen.

In order to make a capture, users simply select the icon, draw the size of the capture area and select “Capture an Image” or “Capture a Video.” If video is chosen, then users can speak into a microphone connected to the computer while the capture is taking place. The free version of Jing captures video in a flash format (i.e., swf), but for $15 a year users can upgrade to pro, which allows users to record videos in an mp4 format.

Jing can be shared in a variety of ways. When users download Jing, they are automatically given free space on TechSmith’s server, and videos can be stored on this server, which is called screencast.com (this site gives users 2 GB of free storage space). Videos can be uploaded to screencast.com and this link can be sent to friends. Videos can be saved as a file or uploaded to a FTP server to be put on a Website. Jing videos can also be sent to Twitter. Below is a video that I made with Jing on a Web 2.0 technology called Planning Center Online:

Does Screencasting Have Important Implications?

One major implication of screencasting is that students can watch a lesson anytime, anywhere. In addition, students have complete control of the lesson, which means they can repeat material or skip ahead as needed. Teachers have the ability to craft concise and clear lessons because each screencast can be edited. Students can also use screencasting in a variety of ways, from creating an electronic portfolio to offering feedback on assignments.

Disadvantages of Screencasting?

Effective screencasts do require an eye for production and editing does take time. In addition, not all students learn well from video, which stems from their preferred learning style. Perhaps the biggest issue with screencasting is that it is not interactive.

Advantages of Screencasting?

Screencasting offers a great deal of accessibility to students with aural impairments and students that have a hard time traveling. In addition, students that miss class or a lesson could view a lesson via a screencast. Screencast also provide a lesson that is stable and consistent. This might be an important feature for those that routinely train workers on similar computer-based tasks. Screencasts are easy to make, and this tool offers teachers another way to communicate content to students.

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One of the great aspirations of many researchers and academics is to be published, but sometimes this goal can seem elusive. However, document sharing in Web 2.0 is making this elusive desire much more obtainable and changing the rules of publishing. Scribd (ˈskrɪbd) is a Web 2.0 application and represents the biggest social publishing site in existence, even though it is was created in 2007.

Scribd allows users to share and find written documents on the Internet or mobile devices. Users can upload a variety of formats such as Word, PowerPoint or PDF. Scribd then turns each document into a web document, which is posted on iPaper. This final web document can be shared in a variety of ways: Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, email, URL or embed code. The embed code allows users to place the Scribd document in a blog or on a Website. Scribd documents can also be found through search engines (e.g., Google). In addition, users can subscribe to other Scribd accounts as an RSS feed, which automatically sends updates any time a new file is added. The vast and powerful sharing capabilities of Scribd make this tool very valuable for individuals wanting to disseminate knowledge and share research. The video below is a brief description of Scribd:

Scribd is easy to set up, free and user friendly. Signing up for Scribd is quick and painless. As mentioned before, Scribd easily connects with other Web 2.0 tools. For example, those users that have a Facebook account can actually join Scribd through their Facebook account. Users that do not have a Facebook account can also join. In either case, an activation email is sent to the user.

After joining Scribd, uploading a document is easy. Clicking on the “upload” button and selecting a document to upload accomplish this process. Users can also jot down a comment to upload, and all submissions can instantly be sent to Twitter, as illustrated by the “Readcast” option:

As soon as the document completes the upload process, Scribd asks for some basic information. A title for each upload should be given accompanied by a brief description. Each document should be classified under a specific category to aid those searching for documents. Once again, documents can be sent directly to Twitter by clicking the “Share” option, which is demonstrated in the illustration below:

The possibilities of Scribd go well beyond the classroom as evidenced by many professional companies’ use of the application. Users have the ability to view and comment on the documents hosted in Scribd. Social publishing sites are facilitating change in the publishing arena. Not only does Scribd produce and host a quality product, but they also connect users with millions of other subscribers. There have been very few changes in the way documents are published over history. Gutenberg’s printing press was one such event, and the advent of the Internet seems to be ushering in monumental changes in a similar fashion, though the Internet is still in its infancy.

I wanted to have first hand knowledge of this application, so I uploaded several documents to my Scribd account. I tried a PowerPoint file, Word document and PDF file. All three files uploaded quickly and accurately. The PowerPoint file is embedded below:

Scribd is a powerful and exciting Web 2.0 technology. The potential to share presentations and papers is enormous. In addition, Scribd can help store important documents. I will definitely continue to use Scribd in a variety of ways. For example, I am conducting a presentation in Second Life in coming days. I am going to link a couple of the files from Scribd into the Second Life presentation.

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