edX: Harvard and MIT offer courses online for anyone

Harvard and MIT have teamed up to offer courses online for anyone: http://www.edxonline.org. At this point, they have not stated what courses will be offered. It seems like they are in the very beginning stages of this project.

Details appear to be limited as to how this will really operate. Here is information about the technology used to deliver the courses:

“An open-source online learning platform that will feature teaching designed specifically for the web. Features will include: self-paced learning, online discussion groups, wiki-based collaborative learning, assessment of learning as a student progresses through a course, and online laboratories.”

Now here is one thing I found very interesting:

“The platform will also serve as a laboratory from which data will be gathered to better understand how students learn.”

Essentially what this means: If you sign up and participate in these courses your data CAN be used for research. I assume MIT and Harvard got a grant to develop this and conduct research on it, however, that is not stated from what I saw.

Now here is the most interesting thing in regards to getting credit for taking these courses:

“EdX will be available to anyone in the world with an internet connection, and in general, there will not be an admissions process. For a modest fee, and as determined by the edX board, MIT and Harvard, credentials will be granted only to students who earn them by demonstrating mastery of the material of a subject.

As determined by the edX board, MIT and Harvard, online learners who demonstrate mastery of subjects could earn a certificate of completion, but such certificates would not be issued under the name Harvard or MIT.”

Does that mean the courses are free or will there be a charge? It seems there definitely will be a charge to get the certificate which will not be associated with MIT or Harvard. So I guess the question is, why take these for this certificate? How much will the fee be? What is the value of this certificate (i.e., will anyone recognize it and for what subjects). These questions should seriously be considered by anyone before taking these courses. Even if the courses are offered for free there is still a free for proof that you took it which essentially means these courses are not free.


Why all faculty and teachers should have their own website

I recently wrote a blog post concerning all students having their own website. Well I believe all faculty in higher education and K-12 teachers should have their own as well.

Why is this? Students and parents should know who their teachers and professors are. They should know about all the work we do. They should know how many publications, presentations, and past work experiences we have had. I recently (yesterday) had a student tell me that her mom was asking about her professors and she liked the fact that she could go to my website and see my resume and some information about me. This is a great way for us as faculty to demonstrate just how valuable we are. Many of my colleagues and peers resumes are very impressive and I think its a great idea for us to show that off. It also shows we know a little bit about technology and are not stuck in the stone ages.

Having a website is just one way to accomplish this. Of course many of our schools have a ‘faculty page’ but these are very generic. Having your own website can really show off your skills and is informative to our students. My point – faculty, develop a website for yourself. If you are not tech savvy, ask your instructional technologists, they would be more than willing to help you out!

Why you should not leave college without your own website

I tell all of my undergraduate students that they should not leave college without their own website. I also tell all of my graduate instructional technology students that they MUST have their own website, they are in a technology based field for goodness sake and Learn which UK reseller hosting is right for your brand.

Why have your own website? Well let me ask you to search for yourself on Google, what comes up on the first page? Anything about you? Do other people have your name? Does your facebook page come up? Well guess what, when you graduate and begin to interview your potential employer is going to search for you as well. So if your facebook page is coming up it’s time to make is private. So if you are going to be searched online, why not intentionally point people searching for you to a website that is designed to ‘show off’ your work? That’s right, send them to a site of your choosing on purpose. So, just as an example, search for me, ‘Ray Pastore’ and you will see that this website you are on comes up first. I WANT people to find this site.

Why else do you want a site? You can put it on your resume. Showing a potential employer that you have enough technical skills to build a website can help in almost any career. Plus if they choose to, they can go to the site and this is your chance to show them your portfolio. Show them sample writings, projects, as well as your philosophies toward your field.

Now if I buy and create a site is it automatically number one on search results? NO! You need to make it SEO friendly, with the help of SEO experts from sirlinksalot.co.

So how do you buy a website?

I always recommend Icdsoft.com because that is who I use. In fact, if you go through my link that I give my students, you can own a web address and build a site for $38.50 a year. Here is that link: http://icdsoft.com/promo-code/course359. And I do not get anything if you use that link, so don’t think I am trying to sell you something here. Another company I like is bluehost.com, however, they are more expensive, around $100 a year, which is usually out of a students price range. Godaddy tends to be another popular one however I have only had bad experiences with them, so I do not recommend them.

When you do buy a site, I recommend a .com address. You can choose from .net, .org, .info, etc.

How do I build my site?

Well that is also for another blog post. You can take classes, teach yourself online, etc. I would recommend taking a class though so that you are doing things correctly. Correctly means that your site will show up on all browsers, mobile phones, and be optimized to show up first in search engines.

Hope that helps, let me know if you have any questions:)

UNCW – Master’s of Instructional Technology

For those interested in a Master’s of Instructional Technology or Instructional Design, please check out the video that one of our graduate students at the University of North Carolina Wilmington made which highlights our program:


Instructional Technology and Instructional Design Conferences

Many of my Master’s students ask me which conferences they should be attending so I have made a list to help them out. I have only put a few of the bigger conferences, so remember there are many more. Also I have organized them by career choice as my students go into corporate, higher ed, and K-12 fields.


–ASTD (http://www.astd.org/)
–ISPI (http://www.ispi.org/)
–SALT (http://www.saltconference.com/)


–ISTE (http://www.iste.org/conference/ISTE-2012.aspx)
–SITE (http://site.aace.org/conf/)

Higher Education/Research

–AECT (http://www.aect.org/newsite/)
–AERA (http://www.aera.net/)

And so it begins…first day of classes 2012!

Very excited to kick off this semester. I will be teaching instructional technology for educators (2 sections to undergraduates), Online course design, development, and teaching, Colloquium, and finally graduate student projects.

The course I am most excited about this semester (I am excited about all of them) is my online course design class. In this course I am going to be doing some very exciting things. Besides going over topics like online best teaching practices and such, students will be designing their own courses using Moodle. I will have each student purchase their own web address and teach them how to install/setup their own Moodle course. Additionally, in this course, the students will form groups and each write a topic paper on online learning. I will then take each groups’ topic paper and put it into a free opensource reference guide or book for all to use.

Well here’s to another good semester!

Facebook privacy settings for educators

In my EDN 303 class we discuss privacy issues and social media. One of the issues that comes up quite often is facebook privacy. Here are my recommendations that I give to my students:

– Make your profile private – do this so that only your friends can see your wall, photos, page, status updates, etc.

– Make yourself unsearchable. While it’s ok to be searchable it might just better to make yourself hidden so that your students cannot find you

– Do NOT become friends with your students. Do NOT chat with them on instant messenger, etc. While I will be friends with my students, they are 18 years old. I would never be friends with a student that is a minor. Just do not do it.

– Make a separate profile for work friends. I do this using LinkedIn. That way my colleagues can be my friend but do not have to see all of my personal photos if I choose to post them.

– If you want a page but are a little scared, create one using a fake name and just friend your close family and friends. That way you can see their pages

– The final thing – check the privacy settings at least once a month. Facebook tends to change their settings all the time, so please double check yours to make sure they are correct.

Here is a video that goes through setting your privacy settings:


Future of game and training development for the designer

Games are becoming significantly easier to create. I say this because the most popular games on the market right now like Mass Effect 3 and SWTOR use off the shelf, free, game engines. Normally, games are developed using their own engines, which take a lot of time and money to develop. However, off the shelf engines are becoming just as good. The best part is that many of these off the shelf engines are free and opensource.

Now before I get into ease of development, these engines still require a significant amount of programming and are not really made for the novice. However, there is a trend to make these engines more designer friendly, meaning less programming and more ‘building’. Examples of this can be seen in Google App Inventor (now at MIT), Scratch, Squeak, Gamemaker etc. The reason that game engine designers want engines to entail less programming is that programmers are not game designers, they are programmers but at this point only the programmers can use the engines. They want and need designers to use their engines to build games, which will in turn make their engines more popular.

This trend is happening in training development as well. We are seeing a push to develop with software like Articulate, a program that does not take a lot if any programming experience to develop sound instruction. This makes the instructional designer also now a developer, and more marketable as programmers are not required to develop the instruction. This however, does take time away from the instructional designer thus someone still needs to develop whether it’s the programmer or designer.

Essentially the point of this post is that I see game and training development starting to fall into the hands of the designer more than it is. In fact, I would not be surprised if our field starts focusing on ‘building’ – that is understanding programming logic and constructing games and training, instead of actually having to program at all.

Prepping for another semester

People tend to always ask me what this means…well here is what prep means to me:

– Making preparations for my semester which usually takes at least 1-2 weeks and this does NOT include research time

– Preparing my syllabi – making new ones or modifying old ones

– Preparing the course schedule. What are we going to be doing each week?

– Preparing readings. I usually do NOT use a textbook. I usually find that latest and greatest research articles and have students read them. I also usually include significant pieces from the field.

– Going through my course materials and developing course materials. I need to plan the course and assignments. I generally change my courses at least by 80% each semester so I need to rethink everything.

– Developing materials for the first few classes. I usually only develop my PPT slides (if used) and class activities for the first 2 weeks of class. I find that when I develop them for the whole semester they end up needing to be modified a lot because not every class is the same. Things need to be tailored to my students, in the specific class, which usually takes me a week or two to pick up on.

– Planning assignments. This is the hardest part. What do I want my students to accomplish in my class? This is the product that they will leave with. I want this product to be something that they can add to their portfolio to show employers. I also want this product to be something that will help them when they are working professionals. This usually involves a lot of work thinking through the assignments, how it is due, if its going to be done in groups, etc. I am a big fan of having students create a scenario or working with clients, then developing a project around that. I generally have various parts of the product due throughout the semester so I can give feedback before the final product is completed. I am also a big fan of students peer reviewing each others’ work.

– Prep also involves contacting students, making sure they know how/where to get to class the first day. This is essential in my program since some students may be using webex (virtual classroom software) to attend class.

– Setting up my course website. Whether using blackboard or my own website, I need to make sure all the course materials are posted.

Im sure I am missing a few steps but as you can see it’s a lot of work, planning, and thinking – and my semester has not even begun!