Tech Trends – Response to Horizon Report

TECH Trends

I focused my attention and work this week on one trend -evolution of online learning – and one closely related solvable challenge -low digital fluency of faculty -mentioned in the 2014 Horizon Report for Higher Education.

The report identified the evolution of online learning as a long-range trend that will continue to drive changes in higher education and will begin to reach full impact in five or more years. Education related start-ups and business models that have cropped up in recent years provide a window into the immediate future of learning that takes advantage of rapidly developing innovations in multimedia, social media, online communication and collaboration, and speed of delivery of broadband Internet services.

While many of these technologies are poised to change the way students and faculty can interact and connect in online courses, digital fluency of faculty is mentioned as a corresponding challenge in the report. They go on to identify a serious gap in the training and support for faculty who are increasingly encouraged or expected to use technology to improve student learning. The Horizon Report also touches on the need for more emphasis on developing deeper exploration and research around the concepts of digital literacy and use of digital media in education. This is in addition to recommendations for providing professional development opportunities that explore methodologies as well as experimenting with particular tools or digital media.

My work as an instructional designer in the college Center for Engagement and Learning is not just focused on course or curriculum design on the academic side. I am also part of the college’s effort to create professional development and training opportunities that help faculty bridge specific skill gaps that were identified in a recent accreditation self-study done by the college. Use of technology in teaching, digital literacy and effective online teaching strategies were among the topics that faculty felt they were lacking in terms of skills and wanted to explore and learn more related to these areas.

As part of my work with faculty who want to teach online or are currently teaching online, I created and currently facilitate a fully online course called Transitioning to Teaching Online. My goal in providing this course is to model an online experience for faculty (who are enrolled as students) that incorporates many techniques and methods that we want our online instructors to consider. These include use of audio and video feedback and mini-lectures, establishing strong online and social presence, encouraging frequent and meaningful communication and using strategies and technologies that encourage virtual collaboration and group activities.

One frustration that I’ve had with facilitating this teaching online course for the past year is getting faculty to experiment with using audio and video tools that are built into the learning management system. Part of the struggle is participants’ lack of digital know-how in use of headset mics and webcams, lack of confidence in use of simple video creation tools, and the general attitude that “they don’t like to see or hear themselves on video” (although they have no problem lecturing for 40-50 minutes in front of 30 students?).

I decided to take on the challenge of designing a fully online screencasting course for faculty who wanted to learn more about this digital medium and practice creating screencasts they could use in their courses. If successful as a pilot course, it could become part of a larger series that offers support and training in creating digital content with more sophisticated tools while also exploring the research and methodologies related to teaching with visual and digital media.

The course is called Screencasting 101 and is designed to last two weeks. All participants are loaned a USB headset microphone and webcam to use during the course. They have three to four “assignments” in the course and must provide links to their screencast creations so everyone in the class can view them and provide feedback.

The course consists of screencasts and tutorials I have created as well as examples from other sources and focuses on use of two free screencasting tools – Screencast -o-matic and Jing. In addition, I’ve tried to include resources that move the focus beyond the use of the tools and into best practices for how to plan and use screencasts for teaching.

As the course develops and I get feedback on what did or didn’t work, I can improve the content and delivery. Additionally, I am hoping that interest in these kinds of courses or workshops will give me evidence that investment in this area – professional development in digital media and digital content creation – is something that the administration should consider as a step in the right direction for addressing part of the issue of digital fluency of our faculty.

My Artifact:

A link to an open demo version of the course I developed is here:

https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/866692

The demo is hosted on the free version of Canvas ( the LMS our college uses). Viewers can access most areas of the course without a login (except discussions and assignments). However, if you would like to see everything in the course:

  1. You can create a free account with Canvas as a teacher here:

https://canvas.instructure.com/register_from_website

  1. Go back to the course using the course link: https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/866692
  2. “Join the Course” using the following join code: ARDL3J

This will give you full access to all areas of the course.