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Category Archives: ADLT 603

The Business of Higher Education

For-profit institutions are a significant force in higher education as they take the well-practiced marketing ideas of selling convenience and service to adult students.  They have taken advantage of the excess demand for post-secondary education that is not being met by traditional colleges and universities.  I can’t fault entrepreneurs for seeking out opportunities to take failing traditional schools and reinventing them as for-profit institutions, but they should take responsibility to set up proper management of these schools, if only to protect their own investment.  High pressure enrollment tactics may produce short-term results of high profits, but if these schools ultimately lose their accreditation, and thus their ability to participate in the federal student loan program, then both students and investors lose.

That regulators now want to impose a “gainfully employed” standard to measure the success of for-profit schools is not surprising given the massive amount of advertising they are undertaking.  Truth in advertising is not a new concept.  The FDA ensures that the health benefits touted by drug manufacturers and sellers are accurate and that there aren’t undisclosed negative consequences.  Banks are scrutinized for their advertising of loan and investment rates.  Why shouldn’t colleges – for-profit or non-profit – be held to a similar standard?

The argument can be made, however, that it’s not as simple as providing the education needed to find a job.  Other factors in the economy can impact one’s ability to become gainfully employed, as I have come to realize all too well this past year.  And yet, I, too, have turned to furthering my education as a way to make myself a better candidate for employment.  While the program I have chosen is not geared for a specific occupation, students who are seeking specific training of specific skills should be able to demonstrate competency at the end of that training.  If they cannot, then the course has failed to meet its objectives.  And if schools are going to be run as businesses, they need to be charged with meeting their goals by delivering on their objectives, just as any company would be.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2010 in ADLT 603

 

This Class Is Our Class

(Credit to Woody Guthrie for the inspiration for this take on his American classic.  This Land Is My Land – instrumental)

This class is your class, this class is my class
From the time you walk in to the closing bell;
From the first assignment to the final paper
This class was made for you and me.

Woody Guthrie’s song was immediately rolling around in my head when I read the quote in Weimer’s (2002) book, “’This is not my class; it is not your class; this is our class, and together we are responsible for what does and doesn’t happen here’” (p. 101).

I’ve often heard teachers say “this is YOUR” class, but never “OUR” class.  That’s an interesting idea to ponder as I walk this thin line between being a student and wanting to become a teacher.  I like the idea of “our” class because it implies that as a teacher, I’ll learn something, too.  Maybe I’ll try to work that into my course objectives so that not only do the students know what they will learn, but they’ll understand what I hope to learn from them and from teaching them, too. 

 Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that information highway;
Nobody living can ever make me stop learning
This class was made for you and me.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2010 in ADLT 603

 

The Long & Windy Road

When it comes to distance learning, I still have a long way to go.

Technology has changed just about every facet of our lives.  The automobile made us a mobile society.  The Internet has made us a virtual society.  You can sit in a Starbucks and send email on your phone.  It probably won’t be long before the transporters from Star Trek become reality, and we’ll be able to beam ourselves just about anywhere!

The classroom has always been a place to embrace technology to assist in learning, and now the classroom as we’ve known it is becoming a victim of that technology.  Distance learning, e-learning, online learning – whatever you call it, it’s here to stay. 

The “traditional” college student (18-22) has grown up with technology, so using it in the classroom is second nature to them.  But many adult students, even if they use technology at work, are unfamiliar with its use in – or as – the classroom.  My first venture back to graduate school came only a few years after I graduated from college, and even in that short period of time, so much had changed.  I remember writing my first paper citing sources found only on the Internet and hoping they were legitimate.  Blackboard seemed like something from the future to me then. 

Fifteen years later, the thought of going to the library to look up a source seems archaic, and checking Blackboard for assignments and announcements is second nature.  From that perspective, I am very comfortable with the role technology plays in my studies.  So why do I still feel a bias toward an in-person, traditional classroom? 

The biggest reason I think I prefer it is for the personal interaction not only with the instructor but also with the other students.  And yet, in my professional career, I have become adept at building relationships via phone and email with co-workers who I often know for months or years before I ever meet them face-to-face. 

Another reason for my hesitation may be the initial impression I had of online classes when they first became popular with the for-profit institutions.  Call it skepticism or snobbery, but they just didn’t seem to carry the same credibility as a “real” class.  Now, though, as top colleges and universities have embraced the idea of distance learning, that credibility gap is closing. 

I guess I just need to see it for myself.  I look forward to having an opportunity not only to learn more about how to design effective distance learning curriculum but also to participate in distance learning as a student.  I haven’t always been on the leading edge of technology personally, but if I am serious about wanting to teach (or train), I need to broaden my technology horizons.  I think I’m ready.  Scotty, beam me up!

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2010 in ADLT 603

 

Me, Myself, and I, I, I, I

Inductive work, Input, Implementation, and Integration – Vella’s “Four Is” – provide a structure to create effective learning opportunities.  This framework strikes me as especially useful with adult learners, particularly the inductive work since adults likely have a broader set of life experiences they bring the classroom vs. younger students. 

Get off to a good start!  By first determining your students’ prior knowledge through the inductive work, you can avoid starting your teaching at the wrong place, by either repeating information already known or skipping the fundamental pieces, and thereby losing your audience right from the start. 

Keep the momentum going.  During the induction phase, you’re already engaging the learners by drawing out what they know about the topic.  When you get to the input phase, content should be presented in an engaging manner and where possible, try to build off things you learned about the students in the inductive work to continue to show the relevance of the information. 

The proverbial truth.  Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  People learn by doing, so the implementation phase is critical to the learning process.  This is the time when students get to “try on” the new information and see how it feels, how it works, and what questions it raises.  Engaging the students with the content deepens their understanding of it.

Save the best for last.  Now that students have had the chance to give the new content a dry run, help them discover how else this information can be useful.  This is Vella’s integration phase.  It’s Fink’s notion of significant learning.  It’s what Weimer is talking about in our text when she says, “we do not want more and better learning at some abstract level” (p. xvi).  It may sound selfish, but in the end, it’s all about what’s in it for me?”  How am I, the learner, going to take this information and use it in ways that are relevant to me? 

I see this integration happening all around me.  While I am not yet actively teaching, I find myself making connections to things we talk about in class with other things in my life – my job search, my volunteer commitments, even with my family and friends.  It’s making me realize that the line between learner and teacher can be blurred, and maybe it should be.  Maybe what makes a good teacher is continuing to be a good learner.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2010 in ADLT 603

 

“I Get My Kicks on Route 66”

The second week of group presentations did not disappoint!  Both the Hands-On Active Learning and the Effective Learning in Groups strategies were well-presented.  While I may still be hesitant to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a complete stranger, I hope that I have some confidence to help if I ever find myself in that situation.  And I thought the choice of the exercise by the Learning in Groups team – where we had to defend our opinions and yet come to a consensus – was a very creative and engaging activity.  A glimpse of things to come for me when I get to ADLT 612 – Learning in Groups & Teams.

But the question of the night was what the heck is the Phillips 66 active learning strategy?

I had to look it up.

Phillips 66 is a strategy where 6 people have 6 minutes to discuss a topic or perform a task.  A brief Google search indicated that this strategy is used more in business settings than academic learning environments, although I didn’t see much about why.  It sounds like a method for quick brainstorming on an issue at work, but I can see it being helpful in an academic environment to break up a lecture and to let the students interact with and reflect on the topic. 

Supposedly the name comes from a combination of the last name (Phillips) of a professor who coined the phrase and the brand of gas, but it seems to me a better name would be the Route 66 learning strategy.  After all, the discussion could be the start of a journey – a learning adventure – that might take you to some interesting places!

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2010 in ADLT 603

 

Group Presentations – Round 1

We gave our group presentation on concept mapping this past week, one of two group presentations that night.  Our intention was to have them concept map their ideas on Adaptive Teaching, except few remembered to read that article, so we had to change our plan on the fly.  Which, ironically, is part of adaptive teaching.  I think the presentation ended up being more fun for the class because we chose the topic of planning a summer vacation for the concept mapping exercise.  It made it more fun for me, too.

Overall, I think our presentation went well and was well-received.  A few people in the class had used the tactic before, and they contributed to the discussion.  Some folks were brand new to the idea.  Even if the class didn’t realize it, I recognized that we were still demonstrating the idea of adaptive teaching – creating the middle ground where the most learners can participate – with the way we structured our presentation.  Concept mapping “newbies” heard from “the pros” about practical ways to use the maps, and the pros said they learned new things they could incorporate into their practice of mapping.  And everyone was able to participate in the mapping exercise since the topic we ended up using was familiar to all.

I recognize that not all teaching or training glitches will work out so well, but at least when it happens again, and I know it will, I will know all is not necessarily lost.

The second group that presented explained how automated classroom response units, or clickers, can be used.  This was my first exposure to the clickers, and I have to admit, the technology is petty slick.  I can see where there is opportunity for misuse or bad use of the clickers, but I really like the idea that the clickers promote independent thinking because you can’t just say, “I agree with what he/she said.”  With the ability to show the range of responses, the system also allows students to assess their own learning against their classmates without any stigma or embarrassment because the answers are anonymous (at least to the class).  I hope to have the occasion to learn more about how to use these devices and to have hands-on experience in future coursework.

Wonder what fun things I’ll learn in the remaining group presentations?

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2010 in ADLT 603

 

Assessment… how did I do?

I recently took the Miller Analogies Test, or MAT, as part of my application package for this Masters program.  The questions are supposed to start out easy and get harder as you go through the 120 analogies that make up the test.  I knew I was in trouble when the first one I had to skip because I didn’t know it was only #16.  By the time I got up into the 80s, I was skipping blocks of questions at a time, not because I couldn’t figure out the analogy, but because I couldn’t figure out most of the words!  I briefly chastised myself for not taking Latin in high school so that I might now have a chance of figuring out what these words meant by determining their root.  Because I took the paper based test versus the online test, I left the room not knowing how I did and knowing it would be two weeks before I’d know. 

The two weeks passed rather quickly, and one day I got the envelope with the Pearson return address.  I couldn’t wait to open it and see how I did!  Unlike most tests, you don’t get a score that says how many you got right or wrong.  With the MAT you get a scaled score which is calculated based on the number you got right, but the exact formula is a mystery (at least to me).  You also get percentiles based on the current norm group for both your intended major and the total group.  So here I am looking at these test scores and wondering what they mean.  Are they good enough for me to be accepted into the program?  I hoped so, but I didn’t really know.

 Assessments are necessary in a learning environment, but what the teacher and learner do with the information in the assessment is what makes the assessment a valuable tool.  The assessment could be used to determine if learning is actually happening, or how much the learners already know if it’s given as a pre-assessment.  If assessment is done periodically, it can be used to re-direct instruction and learning to match better the pace and needs of the students.  But if an assessment is given as an end result and never viewed with an eye toward how it can be used to improve learning or teaching, has there been a bigger opportunity missed?

 If the MAT is a pre-assessment to make sure I have a basis of knowledge acceptable for entrance to the program, how does my score indicate which areas I did well on and whether those are relevant to my adult learning studies?  Knowing how I struggled with many of the analogies, I wonder how one of my classmates whose native language is not English could ever struggle through the MAT.  That brings up another area of concern for testing, and possibly another blog topic – considerations for multi-cultural assessment.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2010 in ADLT 603