Students are back…and many are undecided

The students are back. UNCW admitted 2100 freshmen – Wow that’s a lot. It’s a very exciting time for these students. I don’t usually teach undergraduates and when I do they are juniors/seniors so I never get to see when they are still figuring things out. But for those that new to college and not sure what you want to do my advice is this…

Take a bunch of classes in different subjects to see what you want to do

Figure out which type of jobs each major leads to

Figure out what kind of salaries each major leads to

Figure out what students in the majors are actually doing when they graduate

Talk to faculty about your future goals and steps to get there

Then ask yourself what would you enjoy doing for the rest of your life. Keep in mind that you aren’t getting your dream job out of college (well maybe you will buy many will not) and figure out the path to get there. Meet with faculty and take advantage of what the college has to offer. Too many students pick a major they might not like just because they think it might lead to a good career. A good career comes out of passion and hard work. So choose wisely…you can only change careers so many times…sometimes you can’t.

Understanding Instructional Design

The following graphic is a high level overview of a basic principle in instructional design – choosing your instructional model to guide you through the process. It begins with coming to the conclusion that training is needed. Once it’s been determined that training is needed one must choose the instructional model they are going to use. I call this choosing which version of ADDIE they are going to use. There are many versions of ADDIE. Dick and Carey and Rapid Design are two very popular models. The key is that there are many versions. There is no one way to do ADDIE. In fact, each company I have consulted with usually has their own version – one that is usually modified for each project based on client needs. Sometimes that means using AGILE methods for design/development, working in a linear fashion, or developing in pieces. Again, this will change based on client needs. However, you will always need to do some form of analysis, design, development, implementation, or evaluation regardless of the process selected.

PETE&C 2016

Here is a link to my 2016 pete&c presentation.

Learning as a dependent variable in experimental research

I am reading through a number of peer reviewed studies and noticing that there are pieces missing from each. So if you are conducting an experimental study where learning is a dependent variable you must do the the following (note these are the things I keep seeing that are missing):

  1. Pre test. This is to ensure that differences found in your study are due to the condition and not prior knowledge. Be aware that if you give the same pre test as post test, its a violation of validity but it can still be done (its better than no pre test). Thus I recommend giving a different pre test.
  2. Content Validity. Is the content you are using correct? And is the assessment measuring the objectives from the content? How do you know this? Explain this. Has an expert reviewed it? Have you piloted it?
  3. What is the reliability of the test? Please provide us this information.
  4. Provide the M, SD, and Effect.

I know all of this seems like common sense but I am seeing top tier journals publishing articles that do not contain this basic information.

Are boring discussions taking over your online course?

If your online courses involve online discussion (and they should!), I urge you to consider the types of discussions your students are having. Before I get into that, lets discuss the advantages of online discussion. Online discussion is what separates online courses from traditional distance learning correspondence courses. It gives us that ‘feel’ i.e., social presence, that a face to face course has. So if you want your learners to be happy there needs to be an element of discussion and student/teacher presence in the course. However, what I find is that many online instructors have boring discussions causing a slight decrease in satisfaction when comparing their online vs face to face student satisfaction scores. In fact at the end of my online courses I get many comments from students stating that they were happy they didn’t have boring discussions like other online courses they have taken. Many say they were nervous to take my course due to bad experiences in other online courses.

Why does this happen?

We know the students need to do the discussions as part of the learning process however the students usually see most discussions as busy work – something they are required to do, that is not fun, that they feel they do not get a lot out of. As a result, I have been experimenting with a discussion strategy that I believe works very well in online courses, which promotes learning and makes each discussion very beneficial for the student.

What do I do?

Instead of posing a discussion question that I hope sparks students interest I have students do a project. While we all love discussion questions the issue is that in a 5, 8 or 15 week course where students need to participate each week, there is no way you are going to come up with 1-3 discussion questions each week that students generally care about and thus they lose motivation doing the same thing over and over again. In addition, many discussion questions don’t even spark discussion and students are posting simply to meet the requirements in the course. This is boring! So I create a project for each week of the course that students post to the discussion forum and then discuss. I love this idea because students will get to see how another student viewed the assignment and learn from what they did. What are some example projects/activities that I have students do instead of a weekly discussion question? Some examples include presentations, videos, screencasts, critique articles/videos, charts, collages, short fictional stories, and many others. I try to make each week a different activity that relates to the content covered for the week. This way before my week starts students have done a small project on the topic and they have started discussing it. What I find is that many students go in and look at each students project because they are curious to see what their classmates did. This creates a great learning environment and makes students very comfortable with each other. I find that doing this has increased my end of course review scores, end of course comments, and increased the amount of compliments I get for my online courses. Give it a try and see how it works out for you. And I find this works for both undergraduate and graduate courses!

Putting syllabi, schedules, and other documents into blackboard

When putting your documents into blackboard there are a few tricks that I have found that really help you out as an instructor. I have observed most instructors doing 1 of 2 things when putting their files into blackboard and I choose option number 3.

The first and easiest thing is to simply upload your Word or PDF documents directly into blackboard. This is easy for you. And the students can simply download the files. The disadvantage is that students need to download the files and you cannot make changes to the documents once they have the hard copies. This becomes a chore if you post this in 3 different places and then need to make changes.

The second most common thing is pasting your text into blackboard so that there is nothing to download. This does take longer as you need to reformat it once you do the copy/paste but its easier for your students. The advantage is that you can edit the documents throughout the semester as needed because there is one master copy. The disadvantage is that you cannot easily email it to students unless you also have a Word/PDF version.

As I said, I choose option 3, which is have found is more or less a combination of the two. I provide students with a link from a shared server (ie dropbox) in blackboard. That way, whenever students click the link they are taken to the document via the web browser. Plus, if I want to make changes to the documents I can simply make the change to the actual file without having to navigate in blackboard. This is especially useful if you put your syllabus is 2-3 different places (ie on the main page, then in discussion forums, email to students, etc.). This makes it very easy and you can tell students that whenever they want to see the document to please click the link. Any downloaded version is always old. I also put a modified date at the top so they can match up downloaded version to the latest link.

is college worth it?

I just read this article. It doesn’t really tell you much. I have written about this topic and time and time again. Is college worth it? Well like the student in the article that spent $200k on an undergraduate education on some random private school, then no its not. But that is a terrible example. Essentially they spent 200k on something that could have cost 30-50k. College can be even cheaper than that by going to community for 2 yrs then a state school. College is only expensive if you make it expensive. Otherwise it doesn’t cost more than an SUV. Is college worth it to Goldman and Sachs? Just ask their recruiters who are out trying to get the best and brightest from the nations top colleges this spring. They are not knocking down the door of any high schools or factories. They are going to the top colleges and getting a new batch of analysts/interns. So is college worth it? Well if you are trying to get your foot in the door to a financial company like goldman and sachs, yes its probably the only way unless you have some other ins.