The 8th International Online Conference for Teaching and Learning was held from 17-19 March 2010. And it is actually not over yet because the topics can be continued to be discussed in the forums. However, I have not yet ventured into that aspect of the conference as I was still catching up with the presentations and poster sessions. But to back up a little bit:
IOC includes a variety of ways to connect with and learn from colleagues. Each day of the conference features several live online sessions during which you interact with panelists and peers. All sessions are recorded and posted immediately for those who cannot attend live. Asynchronous discussion forums and resource sharing areas — for the collaborative collection of practical teaching ideas, links, handouts and learning objects — are a vital part of this very community-oriented event. The emphasis during IOC is on sharing, networking and generating a universe of ideas that everyone can use immediately in their practice. (Quote from the conference web site)
Altogether there were 25 live sessions of 50 minutes each and 50 poster presentations to choose from. Nancy White kicked off the conference on Wednesday evening with her keynote “Should We Be Using Communities for Learning?” in which she led us on a journey through learning online in various constellations (alone, in a community, and in a network). Dan Porter had taken the job of capturing Nancy’s presentation visually giving it his own angle (when I find out if I can post one of his images, I will do so). As always, Nancy had her audience on their fingertips and engaged the entire time.
Having had to choose from parallel sessions, I was happy that all sessions were recorded so that I could review those that I had missed. Thus, I did not miss any good sessions. 🙂 Besides Nancy’s, I especially enjoyed the following sessions.
The 6 Bad Habits of Online Learners, and How to Address Them Successfully by Pat Wagner. She introduced us to 6 types of learners and discussed in the group how they can be engaged in online learning to draw out their potential so that they also participate in the course to their benefit. The 6 types are:
- the passive learner who wants to be entertained
- the lone-eagle learner who thinks he is the only one doing work
- the pass-the-test learner who only comes to class for the credit and doesn’t care about anything else
- the perfect learner who makes himself crazy by trying to do everything perfectly
- the one-style learner who is stuck in his patterns of learning
- the competitive learner who sees a challenge in everything and wants to win it
Her presentation showed that we are all familiar with these types of learners and have encountered them aplenty. In order to draw these learners out of their usual behavior, they need to be challenged (not necessarily in a competition though ;-)) away from their well-trodden ways to face other ways of learning, to see that learning can be fun and rewarding.
Elluminate, which was this conference’s web conferencing tool of choice, lent itself well for presentations that required the participants input. Pat, for example, had prepared slides in which we could put our suggestions of how to get learners out of their comfortable environment. Although the slides usually got overcrowded very quickly, it was still a better way to capture the answers than to have everybody just type into the chat box. With over 100 participants the chat flew by quickly at times and it would have been very difficult to read and discuss the answers. Additionally, Pat put us into groups so that only a certain number of people put their answers onto the whiteboard for each learner type.
The take-home message from her presentation for me is that there is always a way to address each learner to draw out their potential and to avoid bad habits to take place. However, sometimes it is not so easy to spot the styles, as many are in-betweens. Furthermore, there are not just the one-style learners, but also the one-style teachers. Everybody has a preference for teaching that may not be the most suitable way for the learners. Thus, it is important that we also adapt our teaching style and venture off and try out new things.
Maintaining Academic Integrity in Online Classes by Lori McNabb. As this featured presentation was scheduled very late, I only watched the recording but wished I had been there live. Lori’s presentation about cheating and plagiarism was a tour-de-force in learning about crafty ideas for cheating that none of us would have thought about before she mentioned them. Thank goodness, the recording is password-protected for IOC participants. 😉
She mentioned a study by McCabe, Trevino and Butterfield published in 2001 for which over 50,000 students on 60 campuses were asked about their cheating behavior. The percentage for cut-and-paste plagiarism was at 40%. I am wondering if that percentage is actually not even higher because sometimes students may not be aware that they plagiarize, e.g. because they come from a culture where that is accepted or even the norm or they simply don’t know.
She then brought up three ways of dealing with cheating and plagiarism issues:
- virtue (promotion) approach: appeal to students to not cheat / plagiarize, have them sign the honor code, etc., have guides available that tell them precisely what academic integrity means, e.g. Ryerson University’s The Illustrated Guide to Academic Integrity, Dalhousie University’s Academic Integrity
- prevention approach: aid students in their academic writing and researching; for online tests etc. don’t allow copy-and-paste in a browser or the opening of additional windows
- policing approach: have student papers run through plagiarism detection software
Often, these three approaches may be combined. In the Bachelor in Educational Sciences (BScE) at the University of Luxembourg for example, we use a combination of the virtue and policing approach: students need to submit their papers with a signed honor code for not having plagiarized, and they upload their assignments in Moodle to Ephorus.
Lori also talked about authentication methods that ranged from challenge questions to biometrics all the way to special devices that track noise and movement and switch on a 360° camera if anything is unusual.
Retaining Online Students: Making Connections Outside the Classroom by Anita Crawley. Like in many other presentations, the key message was that students need to be engaged in their learning, but also have the opportunities to meet outside of the classroom which is not always so easily done in an entirely online-based study program. Thus, tools that foster communication – asynchronous and synchronous – are very important. Today’s tools that include blogs, wikis, social networking, instant messaging, web conferencing, virtual reality, and podcasting help facilitators and learners to stay connected.
Educational Social Networking: The Benefits of Social Networking for Education by Steve Hargadon. From his many years of experience as online community initiator and leader, Steve shared his findings with the participants of the usefulness of educational networking and how it can be done successfully. He is, for example, the founder of Classroom 2.0, a network of educators that has been in existence for 3 years (since March 18, 2007) and currently has about 40,000 members. Steve rightly said that “The Internet is becoming a platform for unparalleled initiative, participation, productivity, and creativity.” It is not just about consuming information, but participating and creating your own information and thus gaining knowledge. The tools that are available to us (today) do not have value themselves, but it is always how we use them that will make or break them.
When creating an educational network, Steve advices that you must determine your core goal and fill real needs of the people for whom the network is set up. Furthermore, early adopters need to be supported to get the network off and not have it sitting there without any activity.
Besides attending the live sessions, I checked out a number of poster presentations. These are redefined when produced for online viewing. Most presenters had opted for a PowerPoint presentation with the occasional screencast. Some presenters uploaded a narrated version of their slides that allowed them not to crowd their slides with only text to read, but to give a mini presentation.
Several presentations expounded on the tools that are available for online learning, and it became apparent that Jing by Techsmith is a tool of choice for many when it comes to screen recordings. The basic version allows you to record up to 5 minutes of video while the pro version has many more features. I use Camtasia for Mac for my recordings, also by Techsmith, and love it’s many features to enhance the screencast.
Some final words on the conference organization. Susann Manning, Kevin Johnson, Jonathan Finkelstein, and their team did a wonderful job organizing this online conference and making it a success. Each session had an experienced moderator, they always gave a brief tech introduction to Elluminate which got shorter and shorter with each presentation as most people had already heard it at least once, and they also provided support throughout the sessions where necessary.
The length of the sessions was very adequate with 50 minutes so that it was also easy to keep the schedule in mind. Some sessions had closed-captioning support which I thought was a fantastic way to make these sessions more accessible to people who either can’t hear well, don’t have speakers or can’t turn them on or also for non-native speakers who may have difficulties with English.
Having Dan’s visual input for Nancy White’s as well as Susann Manning and Kevin Johnson’s session at the end was a great experience for me. I just wished I had two screens. It got a little crowded with 4 Elluminate windows (whiteboard, chat, participants, Dan’s application sharing) and Evernote for taking notes, not even to mention the browser that was open in the background. 😉
In my opinion, this year’s International Online Conference (I had not participated in previous ones) can serve as a best practice example of how to organize a conference entirely online and how to support it. A second best practice example is the annual LearnTrends conference, which is not only a conference, but a year-around community.
Thank you very much for this great conference!
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