Wednesday, August 14, 2013

State Street, Ginos, and the 2013 DTL conference

Another excellent DistanceTeaching and Learning conference took place in Madison earlier this month. And it needed to be to pull conference attendees away from the eclectic mix of shops and restaurants found on State St. Highlights from this year's conference (besides the awesome pizza served up at Gino's Restaurant) include:

A preconference workshop titled Creating and Distributing Content for Mobile Learning introduced MASLO, an open source app development tool developed by Cathrin Weiss and staff at the Academic ADL Co-Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Using an elegantly simple interface, I developed two simple apps in a matter of minutes. Apps can incorporate text, images, audio and mp4 video. Apps can also include quizzes with multiple choice single answer responses and feedback. The presenters suggested Amazon Cloud for storage of completed apps.

Thursday’s keynote by Richard Baraniuk, professor at Rice and founder of Connexions, advocated for the open textbooks and open educational resources. Baraniuk stated that the rise in textbook costs is outpacing even healthcare and that up to 70% of students forego buying texts. His current project is the creation of 25 free college texts that will cover up to 50% of college enrollments. This step alone could save students $160 million dollars in textbook costs per year.

Susan Manning, professor at UW-Stout, did a session on badging and it's incorporation into teaching. A huge takeaway from this session was the overall badging concept. While badges can signify competency, it can also signify a number of other things such as organizational membership, attendance, and program progression. What defines a badge is not the badge itself but the underlying meta-data. When a badge is clicked, the accompanying meta-data should pop up explaining the badge purpose and other key information. An overarching industry concern is the issuance of meaningless badges that may dilute their significance as a symbol of accomplishment. The use of comprehensive and well-defined meta-data will provide much needed context. Locally, the next step is finding a badging engine such as Mozilla Open Badges for the storing, tracking and displaying of badges.

Academic Technology Support Model
Chris Ament, Director for Academic Technology at the University of Minnesota, discussed a new centralized support model for academic technology currently being implemented at UM campuses. The new model integrates all support areas from across the university into one centralized unit. This has reduced duplication of resources and increased awareness while providing better access to support staff. Their approach was to first identify centers of support excellence and to capitalize on these strengths. They then assessed areas of greatest need and emphasized areas that would provide “quick wins” to justify moving ahead. Each academic department provided input on the support skills needed. A key challenge to full implementation of the new model was designing a fair method for prioritizing the multitude of requests from five campuses and multiple colleges. The support process also needs to be transparent to customers. This was one of the best sessions attended and provided key insight as we begin centralizing our own academic support units.