Last night’s Talkshoe session was a really great experience. It was nice to hear voices and just be able to sit back, listen and really take things in…and take a few notes of course. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I’ve never used Talkshoe, but I found it very similar to CCC Confer, the product used by the California Community College system. I have had the opportunity to use CCC Confer for webinars hosted by the Chancellor’s Office and meetings with our district office and sister college. It has the same functions as Talkshoe but it also allows the moderator to share their computer screen with participants who are logged in at a computer. If you’re employed at a California community college and are interested in using the product, you can get more information about what it can do by following this link and reading, “The Top 10 Ways of Using Confer.”

Dr. Monaghan was an excellent guest speaker. He gave me a lot to think about in terms of what technology is available and how much you should actually use in an online course. His explanation of the course format was helpful to me as a student; it helps me to know how the instructors organize their courses and the thought that must go into what content to use where and how much is too much. The guidelines that are given to faculty when designing a course for CSUSB seems well thought out. One module per week containing different types of content seems manageable. Also, the files included in the modules should be kept relatively small, I’m assuming for easy access and quick download by students.

The information that Dr. Monaghan provided along with the dialog that was occurring in the chat area made me really consider the behind the scenes policies that must go into this type of method of instruction.  I’m wondering how much academic freedom plays a part in the faculty member’s rights to design their course however they want. What parts of course design are guidelines and what are requirements? What about policies for implementing processes for the identification of students? How can we make sure that whoever is submitting the work or taking the test is actually the student? I like the idea of being able to identify students based on their unique keystroke pattern or, “fingerprints.” Brilliant! I came up with so many questions but unfortunately they came after the session ended.

During the session Bruce had asked, “Administrators may evaluate success of online courses same as face-to-face, limiting growth. I’ve read this eval should be different. Your thoughts?” I thought this was an excellent question because they are so different; how can you evaluate them in the same way? How can you ask students in an online class, “Did the faculty member arrive on time and stay for the duration of the class?” It isn’t an effective question. Again, this is policy that has to be agreed upon; evaluations are part of the faculty bargaining agreement and therefore are off limits to changes by administration unless agreed upon by faculty. I think Dr. Monaghan had a great answer for this; for both methods ask the same questions…”were the learning objectives clear and were they met?” One idea to give feedback to the instructor without possibly causing him or her harm would be to survey the students and get their thoughts on the experience. What worked and what didn’t? This would be good information for the instructor for future courses and isn’t a formal evaluation that would become part of their personnel file.

Finally, the discussion regarding the new generation of learners was a good start to really addressing the issue of how to reach younger students. We have all seen the changes over the past years, because of the changes in technology, in how kids learn and communicate. I have seen it first hand in my own house with my two teenage children. The first time I ever really noticed how it was affecting their ability to communicate with others was when my son got his first girlfriend. They would text each other for hours and hours; this went on for weeks before they decided to actually meet up for a date. When they finally did get together and start hanging out they wouldn’t talk to each other…they didn’t know how to interact with each other in person. It was really strange and very unsettling. Eventually they called it quits and he realized you can’t really get to know a person through text messaging; there is so much more to communication.

I’ve noticed in younger generations, and even with my own, that people are becoming more impatient. It’s harder to sit still because we are always in a hurry. Life is moving much faster now than ever before and when we are required to slow down, to read a textbook for example or wait for a video to load, we get completely out sorts. Now, couple that with the fact that the younger generation doesn’t really know a life without advanced technology and you have a more complex issue. All students want to be engaged, interested and motivated; with younger students we might just have to be more creative and forward thinking. There’s an interesting article by Mark Taylor, adjunct faculty at Arkansas State University, entitled “Teaching Generation NeXt: Leveraging Technology with Today’s Digital Learners,” that addresses this issue. You can access the article here.

I think the older generations have built some amazing technology but didn’t realize the consequences it would have on the younger generations. To be fair, maybe now we need to figure out how to use these new tricks to teach old skills. I am not a teacher but would love the opportunity to help the instructors at my school to design their online courses. I would love the challenge of finding or creating content that is meaningful and engaging while finding new ways to help students interact with the content, their instructors and their peers. I’m sure it would be quite difficult but in the end, very gratifying.