Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Locating and Evaluating Open Educational Resources

This blog feature was originally featured in NSCC Technology Across the Curriculum's annual publication: Mousetales.

Many faculty are looking to open educational resources to provide students with engaging and interactive multimedia resources or offer students low-cost quality content and materials that are alternatives to high-cost textbooks.  Open educational resources are “teaching and learning materials that are available freely for anyone to use” (from the Learn about the Movement page on the OER Commons web site).  These resources can range from individual items such as syllabi, lectures, learning activities, videos, simulations, and lab exercises to complete courses or textbooks.  Even though there are a lot of benefits to using open educational resources, it is often challenging to locate relevant and appropriate quality materials due to the large amount of resources available on the web.  This post aims to provide faculty with some resources that will help them find and evaluate open educational resources. 

Directories or repositories of open educational resources are one of the best places to start when looking for these types of materials.  There are also specific repositories for subject specific open education resources as well as ones for open courses and open textbooks.   Here are a few to start with.

OER Commons
OER Commons is a collection of over 40,000 resources that can be browsed by subject area, grade level or material type.  An advance search is also available to limit a search by a variety of different criteria including subject area, material type, media type, accessibility, and conditions of use.  Many of the resources have been reviewed and rated using the Achieve OER Evaluation Rubric.  And each resource is clearly marked with the conditions of use.  

Connexions is a project of Rice University and is “a place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc.” (from the Connexions web site).  There are over 21,000 reusable modules that can be browsed by subject area or searched by keyword.  Materials found here have a Creative Commons open license that allows for free use.

MERLOT: Multimedia Educational Resource for Teaching and Learning
MERLOT is a “free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy. MERLOT is a leading edge, user-centered, collection of peer reviewed higher education, online learning materials, catalogued by registered members and a set of faculty development support services” (from the About Us page on the MERLOT web site).  There are currently over 40,000 learning materials that can be browsed or searched.  An advanced search is also available to limit a search by keyword, language, material type, audience, resources with peer reviews and comments, resources released under Creative Commons, are not copyrighted or have no cost associated with them.

Open educational resources can also be located through a variety of search engines such as Google.  For example, Google allows you to search for materials that have a Creative Commons license.  This short video demonstrates how easy it is to locate open educational resources that have a Creative Commons license.  Resources that can be freely used can also be found through the Creative Commons search.  This search allows you to easily locate images, music, videos, and other media that can be reused, remixed, and shared. 

The next challenge in using open educational resources is evaluating the resource to determine their usefulness and appropriateness.  The Evaluating OER Rubric is a helpful tool as it provides some basic questions to consider about an open educational resource.    

Here are a few more resources if you would like more information about open educational resources.
If you want to learn more about open educational resources or would like some assistance in incorporating them into your classes, please feel free to contact the Instructional Technology and Design team at itd@northshore.edu.  We would be happy to help.

Are you already using open educational resources in your classes?  If so, how are you using them?  And what resources are you using? 

What concerns do you have over using open educational resources in your classes?

Monday, May 20, 2013

3 Steps to Video Excellence

Over the last few months I've been presenting in several classrooms where faculty were looking to introduce students to instructional technology of some sort, which usually fall into the category of digital or face-to-face presentations.  In preparing and developing for these classes, I let my mind wander a bit on how to do this in a way that balanced the students' need to understand the tools, exciting enough for them to want to use the tools, and manageable for them to actually integrate the tools.  Here is the triangulation that I developed that can be done with using nothing more than your computer (an maybe an external microphone if you don't have an internal one) and little knowledge of basic programs.  In total, this entails creating a presentation that can be engaging and easily moved into a video for later use.

This process requires 3 programs--all of which are web-based (and free).  The only obstacles are that two require registration (Google and Prezi--though if you have a North Shore Community College account that is your Google account and Prezi offers an Educational License that is free when you use your school email account) and the video can be no longer that 15 minutes.  But for videos that are going in an online environment (for either face to face or online teaching), this is good because it helps the instructor or student keep focus on what they need to communicate is a confined time.

Step 1:  Google Slides (Presentation Tool)

We're talking primarily about Google Slides here, but Powerpoint works just as well for this part.  Either way, you'll need to opt to select "Download as a Powerpoint" when you are done with the Google Presentation in order to integrate it into Prezi.   For a good primer on Google Slides, check out their help feature which has really good information.

In Google Slides, you can compose your  specific content and information.  This might include images, videos, and text.  You can think of them as your "scenes" and what you want to convey in each scene.  When completed with the content, this is also a good time to work through the presentation to get a sense of how long it will take you and the flow of it.   

Step 2:  Prezi  (Optional)
Once you have  content settled into scenes in Google Slides, you'll want to download it as a Powerpoint file (pptx).  (If you've been using Powerpoint; you are all set).  Then you'll want to go to Prezi.com and create an account.  Be sure to sign up for an educational license if you are a college student or instructor.   This will provided you with additional benefits.  Like Google, Prezi has great support and guidance for learning the tool and for something like this, you don't need to know much about Prezi beyond the basics.  

Once you have created an account, and started a new Prezi, you'll want to select the "Insert" menu and choose "Powerpoint."  You'll be given the option of how many of your slides you want to import as well as the design you want to use.  Those are aesthetic choices you will need to consider in terms of what the information is you are conveying and how it should look laid out on Prezi.  

When you have sequenced and aligned your scenes in a way that works for you, you'll want to run through the sequence from start to finish at full screen.  This will benefit you in two ways.  The first is that it will make sure everything runs smoothly.  It will also give you another opportunity to pace through it and see how it works in terms of time.  

It should be noted that this is an optional step and one that you might not be ready to tackle with your first video or two.  Prezi can be a little overwhelming if you haven't used it much or are still not comfortable with Web 2.0 tools.  However, if you're just importing your entire Powerpoint and not necessarily manipulating much of the content besides cleaning it up any glitches in the transfer, it can be easy to do in an hour or so (at least the first time).  I've added it as a step here because the moving and fading tool features allow for your Powerpoint to come alive a bit more than just a typical Powerpoint.   We'd also recommend you check out our previous post on Prezi to get a better sense if the tool if you haven't used it before.  

Step 3:  Screencast-o-matic 
 Once you have created an excellent Prezi, now you can get ready to make a video of it with the use of Screencast-O-Matic.   We're big fans here of Screencast-O-Matic as we've mentioned before. Screencast-O-matic is a free tool that only requires a brief and easy installation of a browser applet in order to run.  The program will record what's on your screen (screencast) and whatever sound you create (or you can keep it mute).  

At this point, you'll want to have a tab on your browser to open up the Screencast-O-Matic tool while also having a tab open on your browser with your Prezi that you want to record.  Set your Screencast-O-Matic to capture the full screen and then set your Prezi to full screen.  When you are ready, press the big red button on Screencast-O-Matic and begin recording.  

3 Notes about recording:
  1. Don't expect to get it right the first time.  You'll probably need to restart at least once.
  2. Don't aim for perfection.  Look for a conversational voice and don't worry about a few mistakes.  If you aim for perfection, you will lose your mind and lots of time trying to get it "just right."
  3. Do your best to prepare a script that you work from.  This is useful not just for you to follow along but you can make the script available so that it meets accessibility requirements for your students. 
This is not so much a step but a consideration. Now that you've made a great video, the question is where to put it.  You can certainly store it in your ANGEL course.  However, I find it useful to upload it to my Google Drive and then embed it into an ANGEL page.  This allows me to also share the video out with other people and places as I see fit.  If comfortable, you can also put it on YouTube.  The one challenge if you are going to use YouTube is that you would need to create a separate account since your NSCC account can't be used for Youtube accounts. 

Here is an example of a video (also reiterating much of what's in this blog post). 

Have you tried any of these tools?  How do you like them?  What challenges have you run into?  Have you produced any interesting content that's available to see (share the link below!)?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Massive Open Online Courses: Massive Threat or Open Invitation? Part 2 of 2

This 2-part blog feature comes from Guest Blogger, Michael J. Badolato, Ed.D., Dean of Academic Technology and was originally featured in NSCC Technology Across the Curriculum's annual publication:  Mousetales.  Part 1 of this article can be found here.

In the course of this academic year, two Massachusetts state community colleges have partnered with edX in the delivery of an introductory computer science course on their respective campuses. Mass Bay and Bunker Hill each have integrated edX’s content within different instructional designs. Mass Bay has developed a hybrid, or blended, design incorporating the MOOC as the online component complementing weekly in-class meetings to meet the course’s total credit-hour requirement. Bunker Hill’s rendition is essentially a ‘flipped classroom’ model where the lecture provided by the MOOC is positioned as the assignment component along with a full number of in-class meetings reserved for project-based activities, collaboration and discussion. While MIT will recognize participation with a certificate of completion, course credit will be awarded through the participating community colleges.  The courses are led by the local community college professors while the MOOC portion of the course is a video lecture offering no real interaction with the MIT lecturer. In effect, both schools implement the MOOC as a large-scale reusable learning object in the service of their individual learning outcomes.

What is important to remember about this partnership is that while MIT and Harvard have elite brand recognition, they are relative novices in the world of online learning. Community colleges have the benefit of years of experience in online course design and in accommodating students diverse in their backgrounds and educational goals. Where the community colleges gain yet another strategy in their arsenal, Harvard and MIT gain valuable partners who can share their extensive knowledge of creating challenging learning experiences that benefit students of all levels.

To gain a balanced perspective on MOOCS, it is helpful to view them within the context of an emerging academic infrastructure where both content and process is less centralized and more distributed. This infrastructure embraces sources of content beyond our local development, includes individuals outside of our immediate locale, blends the physical and virtual, and rebalances the teacher-student-peer relationship towards independent learning and collaboration. Aside from MOOCs and open content, a working example can be found in our own Math Redesign Project, which is a flexible convergence model utilizing third-party content within a fixed learning environment facilitated by qualified, experienced faculty.  We have before us a greater continuum of possibilities that will continue to include us and the value we provide, yet challenge us to collaborate and literally think outside the boxes that are our texts, curriculum, classrooms, desks, buildings, and servers.  As the continuum expands, we will in-turn find ourselves moving beyond the writing of singular courses toward strategically building complete learning experiences.  The possibilities have never been greater.

To learn more, please visit:

Have you taken a MOOC?  What are some of your experiences with MOOCs?  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Preparing your ANGEL Courses for the Summer Semester

As you start to think about your summer courses, we wanted to share with you the following important information that will help you prepare your course site in ANGEL.

Please review the “Preparing your ANGEL Course for a New Semester” checklist for directions on getting your course site set up for a new semester.

If you have any questions, please contact us at angel@northshore.edu.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Massive Open Online Courses: Massive Threat or Open Invitation? Part 1 of 2

This 2-part blog feature comes from Guest Blogger, Michael J. Badolato, Ed.D., Dean of Academic Technology and was originally featured in NSCC Technology Across the Curriculum's annual publication:  Mousetales.

When I first encountered the word “MOOCs” a little over a year ago, I envisioned subterranean creatures lying in wait to conquer our world, or perhaps another multi-user online dungeon game.  A recent set of articles (see Laura Pappano's “The Year of the MOOC" and Kevin Carey's “Show Me Your Badge") featured on the cover of the November 2012 New York Times Education Life supplement presented a white rabbit along with the headline “Massive and multiplying, the latest word in online learning: MOOC.”  While the latter image may be far less menacing, it is no less compelling given the seemingly sudden appearance and proliferation of MOOCs across the higher education landscape.  

On the surface, MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are exactly what the term implies: an online course that is massive in terms of sheer enrollment, potentially thousands at any given time, and open, in that anyone can attend regardless of academic background, at no cost and with no official registration required.

Upon closer examination of MOOCs, there is something in them that is familiar in a manner not unlike so many ‘next big things’ we have all encountered.  Yet, their very scale and accessibility suggests implications for altering the structures and relationships of our educational systems as we have come to define them.  It is common experience, if not historical record, that whenever a new technology is first integrated into the educational practice of the day, be it chalkboard or circuit board, some disruption occurs while the innovation gradually settles into the mainstream.   Communities of practice, within a single institution or distributed across the field, establish rubrics, standards, and other structures from which to base development and assess quality.  The innovation is adopted, brought under control and integrated within an agreed upon framework. Final analysis results in acceptance, rejection or revision and the practice moves onward.

In the midst of these processes, technology in education has come to know several forms. Many colleges and universities, NSCC among them, have been developing their online learning practice and capacity for the better part of two decades. Classroom delivery, increasingly influenced by what has been learned through online practice, has also become richer and more complex in its ability to accommodate a greater variety of content and interaction.  The recent influx of mobile and wireless devices promises to take these interactions to a more immediate, untethered and personal level.  Thus, the very infrastructure of our educational delivery system is becoming distributed across an increasing number of channels while pedagogies strive to adapt.  Content for this emerging infrastructure is being prolifically developed as the means for its production and adoption becomes more accessible, less costly and, ironically, less technical.

A recent trend that has been born of these possibilities is the Open Content Movement.  Among the growing number of open content developers and distributers are individual teachers working through collaborative online entities such as the Open Education Resources (OER) Commons, as well as non-profit organizations such as Kahn Academy, a producer of internet video micro-lectures currently in its seventh year of operation. Several renowned institutions have also sponsored open content projects, such as MIT’s Open Courseware and Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative.  Where the products of these initiatives have been adopted, they have supplemented, and in some instances replaced, traditional texts and other materials.  The educational publishing industry, however, has also responded by offering supplemental materials at no additional charge to maintain interest in their inventory.   These resources are not typically organized into whole courses and the interactions that surround them, but are offered in a format known in educational technology jargon as Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs), which are typically digital chunks and snippets of materials and curriculum guides offered in a variety of file types. They can be used as strategic parts of a larger course or curriculum, or as learning experiences that can often stand on their own.

MOOCs are essentially an extension of the open content concept, presented as an entire online course or as a series of related lectures with roots in programs offered at actual higher education institutions. As such, there are currently three recognized major MOOC producers.  The MIT/Harvard collaboration edX is an outgrowth of their Open Courseware Initiative, providing the next level  in open content to enable an experience more akin to a fully functioning online course and if desired, a process for gaininga university-backed certificate, albeit no direct MIT credit. Another university initiative spin-off is Udacity, which began life as a series of free computer science courses offered through Stanford University.  Coursera, a for-profit company founded by Stanford University computer science professors but not affiliated with that institution, was conceived as a hub for MOOCs developed at several participating institutions and as a venue for offering credit and certificates (for a fee) as well as integrated support services. The American Council onEducation recently approved five Coursera courses for college credit.

Khan Academy’s stated mission is “… the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.”  Proponents of MOOCs, and open content in general, laud this very openness as a decentralized and democratic opportunity for access to what they view as a quality higher education experience. Doubters, for much the same reasons, are concerned about the potential disintermediation from the oversight of higher education institutions and their faculty. Both sides of the debate see the potential for alternative credentials outside of the traditional degree sequence, though each side obviously has a different opinion as to the relative merits of such an outcome.

This ends part 1--stay on the lookout for part 2, where Michael address specifically what's being done at community colleges in Massachusetts.