Author Archives: James Campbell

About James Campbell

Jim is primarily a project manager for most academic-facing projects at the University of Baltimore. Current and past initiatives include Sakai, VDI, Citrix, Lecture Capture, Streaming Media, Learning Outcomes Management, CRM, and document imaging.

Microsoft Office 2016 Gets Collaborative with Co-Authoring

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Microsoft Office 2016 was released to PC consumers on September 22nd, and it will be available for Higher Education volume licensing customers this month.  The Mac version has been available since the summer.  Those customers with Office 365 E3 Pro Plus software installed on 1-5 computers at home will be upgraded to the latest software in February 2016.

The key marketing point in the latest Office suite is real-time co-authoring of documents.  Watch the two-minute video below to learn how to collaborate more effectively in real-time from your desktop and online versions of Microsoft Office 2016.

 

SharePoint Arrives to UB via Team Sites

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The University of Baltimore’s Office of Technology Services recently released Team Sites, an online document library and collaboration tool that, like UB’s email, is part of the Office 365 suite of tools. Organize, author, share ideas and documents with this tool based on Microsoft’s SharePoint collaborative functions.

Team Sites will enhance work that had previously been done via shared storage on mapped drives or by using a project site in Sakai Learning Management System (both of which will still be available). In Team Sites, individual faculty, staff, or students can be added as Site Administrators, empowering them to manage the granular permissions that drive the Team Sites experience. Links to Team Sites tools like document libraries can be made available in Sakai, leveraging the integrations of both systems.

Some of the great new features of the Team Sites tool are highlighted below.

Team Sites information, FAQ, and policy can be found here.

Document Check-out
Files stored in a Team Site library can be checked out to allow you to complete your edits. Once the file is checked back in, other users may view the latest changes or check it out to make their own.

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Check-out-check-in-or-discard-changes-to-files-in-a-library-7E2C12A9-A874-4393-9511-1378A700F6DE

Real-Time Document Co-authoring
Multiple users can edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents simultaneously using the online versions of those tools in Office 365. These documents can be saved with version control in Team Sites.
https://blogs.office.com/2013/11/06/collaboration-just-got-easier-real-time-co-authoring-now-available-in-office-web-apps/

Document Versioning
Document versioning can be enabled to track both major and minor versions to a file. This includes author auditing and dates, and files can be reverted to a previous version at any time.

https://support.office.com/en-in/article/How-does-versioning-work-in-a-list-or-library-0f6cd105-974f-44a4-aadb-43ac5bdfd247

Document Workflow
Document approval and signature workflows can be added to Team Site libraries. One-to-many users can approve both serial and parallel workflow items, augmenting current pen-and-paper business processes. Workflows can be used to seek director approval for policy changes. Professors could institute workflows for reviewing first edits of an assignment.

http://blogs.technet.com/b/lystavlen/archive/2012/06/16/workflows-in-sharepoint-online.aspx

Naivety of the Digital Native

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The “Digital Native” paradigm has been circulating for the better part of a decade in higher education.  This concept that people are growing up using computer technology as a part of daily life can lead educators and administrators alike to create unrealistic estimations of the digital literacy of incoming students.  Assumptions and anecdotes classifying the “typical” college student’s digital literacy do a disservice to Higher Education, creating an over-generalized archetype for a broadly diverse community of learners.

In Megan O’Neil’s latest blog post in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled Confronting the Myth of the Digital Native, she interviewed Eszter Hargittai, a Sociologist and Management professor from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management regarding the myth of the digital native.  Ms. Hargittai has conducted years of research on millenials and their online skills.  “It is problematic that there are so many assumptions about how just because a young person grew up with digital media, which in fact many have, that they are automatically savvy,” Ms. Hargittai says.  “That is simply not the case.  There are increasing amounts of empirical evidence to suggest the contrary.”  For this very reason, Northwestern and others have put together curriculum to help students manage their online reputations.  While activities like tweeting, posting on Facebook, and pinning party photos on Pinterest might seem like technology magic to some baby boomers, the research conducted by Hargiatti and others is revealing student naivety with respect to fundamental understanding of identity security, understanding of the internet and its accessibility, and even understanding of the security settings offered by many social media programs.

This misunderstanding of the digital literacy and computer abilities of students creates an opportunity for academic institutions to fill these knowledge gaps through infusion of focused content in areas like identity management and internet security.  These lessons could logically compliment courses across a liberal arts curriculum, from classes in Sociology and History to classes in Anthropology and Biology.  For those of us working at the University of Baltimore, I challenge you to think of new and innovative ways to create natives out of the naïve.

UB Blogs: Powered by WordPress

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In September 2013, the University of Baltimore Office of Technology Services (OTS) rolled out the WordPress blogging tool to all students, faculty, and staff and it was appropriately named UB Blogs.  In fact, the UB Office of Academic Innovation’s blog that you are now reading is hosted in this environment.  UB Blogs was delivered in response to multiple student requests for a blogging tool that could be used to track progress of capstone projects.  WordPress was the logical fit as it is the premier free and open source blogging tool in the world.

Many colleges and universities use WordPress as their ePortfolio tool, and while not a stated objective of the WordPress implementation, it will be interesting to see if UB Blogs can be utilized as a venue for students to create and store digital artifacts.  Three of the Catalyst for Learning ePortfolio partner schools ― Virginia Tech, Georgetown, and Salt Lake Community College are all using e-Portfolio platforms powered by WordPress.

Over 170 sites have been created in UB Blogs in the first six full months since go-live, and OTS is now rolling out a series of tutorial videos to help new users get acclimated to blogging at UB.  Here is the overview video to give you a sneak peek at the type of content to come.

Catalyst for Learning: Advancing the ePortfolio Paradigm

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Connect to Learning (C2L) unveiled the much-anticipated Catalyst for Learning website this past week at the Association of American Colleges and University’s (AAC&U) 2014 Annual Meeting.  C2L, which is a network of college and university ePortfolio leaders, has amassed a collection of proven ePortfolio practices and developed a framework for other institutions to follow for their own ePortfolio initiatives.

C2L was funded through a 5 year U.S. Department of Education grant totaling 3.7 million dollars.  Twenty four schools have been involved in the collaboration and preliminary findings of the project, which have just been released.  Three propositions have emerged from the initial findings based on the evidence gathered across programs on these 24 campuses, and this is where Higher Ed. Administrators should be taking notice.  The first proposition states, “ePortfolio practices correlate with higher…course pass rates, GPA, credit accumulation, and retention across semesters.”  That alone should draw some interest from institutional stakeholders that are considering these factors when measuring student success.  Visit their site to learn more about this exciting project, and watch the video below to learn a little bit more.

 

MOOCs to Tackle Advanced Placement Exam Preparation

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Davidson College, a small liberal arts college in Davidson, N.C. recently partnered with edX and College Board to create online lesson content in the areas of calculus, physics, and macroeconomics, cites New York Times writer Tamar Lewin.   They plan to focus content on specific concepts that students have historically struggled with, chunking the content into segments, “7-8 minutes long to get the highest engagement [among high school learners],” states Anant Agarwal, president of edX.  The content is slated to be piloted in the fall of 2014 for local North Carolina public schools and become available to general audiences in 2015.

Davidson is not alone in these efforts to extend the MOOC framework beyond the borders of higher education.  A few K-12 systems in Florida are experimenting with MOOCs after Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a law allowing MOOCs with, “end-of-course exams, including algebra, geometry, and biology,” blogs Kathleen McGrory of the Tampa Bay Times.  Schools piloting the MOOC include G. Holmes Bradock Senior High School in Miami-Dade County, the University of Miami’s Global Academy, St. Petersburg College, and Broward College.  St. Petersburg and Broward are focusing efforts on preparing incoming students in reading in writing, as seen in this introductory video.

MOOCs and Digital Literacy

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been a popular topic in Higher Education.  More and more schools are clamoring to invest resources into this rapidly evolving teaching and learning trend.  While I have no doubts about the digital literacy competence of students attending founding EdX and Coursera colleges like MIT, Stanford, and Harvard, less-endowed schools continue to struggle with the challenges in developing digital literacy in students that are coming from K-12 or even the workforce.   Many come unprepared to really capitalize on any of the trendy teaching and learning technologies like MOOCs, flipped classrooms, and fully-online courses.  A recent article in Campus Technology titled When Students Can’t Compute focuses on technology-based learning challenges in community colleges, and I would argue these same issues plague four-year institutions, especially those serving under-privileged markets.  The article focuses on issues dealing with access to technology, access to broadband services, and even access to appropriate digital literacy curriculum.  Anecdotes are often used when describing the “digital native” generation entering higher education, though the data does not validate many of the assumptions made about students’ readiness for and access for immersion in digital learning.  The aforementioned article stresses access limitations and racial divides with broadband access, with only 64% of black residents and 53% of Hispanic residents having broadband internet access in the US.  The article cites rural learners having similar access issues.

My gut feeling is that many schools are making broad assumptions about student readiness with respect to digital literacies.  I argue that being a consumer of social media is not a key measurable learning objective per se in any digital literacy curriculum.  Taking “academic action” on social media feeds, remixing content, as Dr. Doug Benshaw mentions in his TEDx talk below, might demonstrate mastery of a particular learning objective, but the challenge issued to educators is how to make technology a principle part of active learning.

The buck is always passed in learning− higher education administrators point to deficiencies in high school standards, high schools point to primary schools, and primary schools point to the parents.  What we should concede is a need to properly articulate and address digital literacy as a mandatory component of any curriculum at all levels to prepare our learners for the 21st century workforce.

Are Flipped Classroom Studies Simply a Matter of Success and Failure?

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Ten years ago, students would be lucky to have any supplementary course materials available in a CD packaged in the back of their textbooks.  Going back twenty years, math and science textbooks with informative sidebars showing steps for performing calculations on a graphing calculator were seen as innovative.  This year, much debate is circulating over the effectiveness of “flipping the classroom”, a framework for teaching and learning in which the lectures are made available online before class, providing more opportunities for activity-based learning during traditional class time.  What seems to be missing from some of the analysis is the secondary effect of all these grant-funded pilots− the proliferation of electronic course resources being made available through these initiatives.

USA Today recently quoted professor Nancy Lape from Harvey Mudd College regarding their National Science Foundation Grant research, “People are really gung ho about the (flipped) classroom, but there’s no real results…(The professors’) lives might be easier and their students might be happier if they just do a traditional class.”  Building on the old adage that “nothing is easy”, pedagogical transformation is certainly a challenge, the creation of digital content is time-consuming, and students may spend more time watching content out of class.  But is there a time savings inherently created by developing re-usable offline content?  I would argue so, especially for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) courses, particularly because we are preparing students for the workforce and the National Governor’s Association reports “In 2010, the unemployment rate for STEM workers was 5.3 percent; for all other occupations, it was 10 percent.”  The creation of content that was previously unavailable is a creative process in and of itself. The empowerment of faculty to use software tools that may not have been previously leveraged should also be considered a success, even if statistical analysis reveals little to no improvement in assessment scores.

Regardless of the results we will hear over the next 18 months from Next Generation Learning Challenge (NGLC) grants and other privately funded initiatives to test the flipped classroom model, inertia is at work, and the way students learn will continue to evolve in ways we could not now guess.  The ideas of Sal Kahn, David Cormier, and many other leaders in the online digital education space lend credibility to the notion that there has been a latent demand for student learning from the comfort of home where educational media can be watched (and watched again) at a personal pace, without any social or peer pressures present.