E-Learning Story on NPR

NPR ran an interesting story this morning on the growth of e-learning (in this case, pure online classes with no in-person component) in higher education. It focuses on how faculty are adapting to new technologies and centers on the University of Illinois-Springfield.

There’s nothing new here for followers of distance learning. The interesting thing, for me, was the story’s acceptance of this as beneficial and, in any case, inevitable. We’re certainly moving past the point of “is this something we should be doing” to “how can we make this work best.”

One of the points I found intriguing was the following comment from environmental policy faculty member Denise Keele:

In my experience, it takes about twice as long — prep time, putting materials together — to actually deliver the online course than it does to deliver the on-campus course.

Over time this can’t continue to be true or the economics won’t work for the faculty or the universities. Faculty will naturally get more efficient at this, of course. But I do think it is incumbent upon us as designers and developers of online learning platforms to think about the effort involved by faculty (and students) in setting up and teaching online courses.

It’s one thing to go through this effort if you have to because you’re teaching a pure online course. It’s quite another for a faculty member teaching primarily in-person classes.


Sakai Foundation Board Election Results

I’m pleased to announce the results of the recent elections for the Sakai Foundation Board of Directors. The new board members are Lance Speelmon from Indiana University and Josh Baron from Marist College. Jutta Treviranus was also re-elected to another term. Please join me in offering congratulations to all three of them.

Most of you know Lance from his extensive work in the Sakai community at Indiana University, one of the founding (and largest) Sakai institutions. His experience and expertise will certainly be valued by me, the Sakai Foundation staff and the other members of the BOD. Truth be told, we already rely on his insights and advice, and it’s terrific that we’re able to force him to meet with us on a regular basis. Thank you, Lance, for offering to serve the community in yet another capacity.

If you’ve been following the pedagogy discussions, the work to get Sakai running on the IBM stack, or conversations about running Sakai at smaller Liberal Arts schools, then you’ll probably have encountered Josh Baron. Given that most of the current and past board members come from large enrollment and/or research institutions, I know we will value the diversity in perspective that Josh will bring. His focus on teaching and learning also indicates the increasing importance of this voice in community discussions. Welcome, Josh, we all look forward to working more closely with you.

I’m also very pleased to continue to have the advice and counsel of Jutta. Beyond the important contributions she has made as an individual, her reelection underscores the strong relationship between Sakai and the Fluid Project, for which she serves as principal investigator. Welcome back, Jutta!

Finally, I want to thank all the candidates who participated and give special recognition to Carl Jacobson from the University of Delaware who (again) ran the elections process on behalf of the Foundation. We appreciate it, Carl.

Notes from Educause (Part II, Sakai community)

This is part 2 of a summary experiences at Educause last week. This one focuses primarily on individual connections I had with members of the Sakai community. These included:

Pierre et Marie Curie Université (Paris 6) — Yves Epelboin and I had dinner on Monday night. I’m always intimidated taking a Parisian to dinner, but Yves is an amiable and gracious companion and the restaurant did a fine job with some Pacific Northwest specialties. We are exploring the possibility of the Summer 2008 conference in Paris, perhaps partially held at UPMC. They’ve gone into production with Sakai and are Jean-François Leveque seems to be on his way to becoming an active contributor, especially in the area of internationalization.

Georgia Tech — I spent some good time with Clay Fenlason from Georgia Tech. As you may know, Georgia Tech is undertaking a very rapid migration from WebCT to Sakai. This was their first term in production and they were working on some performance tuning of their Sakai installation. I think one of the most exciting things going on is the Conditional Release project, which will allow instructors to create rules for when content should be made available to individual learners. That’s the CMS view of the world, of course, and right now that’s the focus of their effort. One can imagine many uses cases in project sites as well (e.g. allow access to the research data only once a non-disclosure agreement is signed).

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