This journal was inspired by the numerous articles on portfolios that I read for my fifth University of Phoenix class, Evaluation and Assessment. I decided to chronicle my education at UoPhx by writing an entry for each class.
Since I started this journal after the fifth course, the first five entries are written at about the same time, between the fifth and sixth courses. Following entries will be/have been written following each successive course.
This was the basic, introduction to the program course, only 3 weeks long. A great portion of the course is devoted to the concept of teamwork. Teams, in this specific sense, are autonomous or semi-autonomous groups dedicated to a common goal. Much to my disappointment, I don't, therefore, have teams in my workplace. By the nature of the hierarchical structure, the decision making is always at least one level removed from the implementation level, especially with anything to do with money. So groups are never autonomous. Oh well.
We had lots of team assignments, and will have plenty more, as teamwork is a basic part of UoPhx's theories of learning. Substitute the required teamwork interaction for some of the lost informal interpersonal interaction of a traditional classroom. Seems to work OK, so far.
Another portion of this class was the introduction to the APA format. I've used plenty of different writing formats in the past, though this is the first time I've used much more that the citation styles.
Distance Learning and Training
Interesting how most people forget that formalized distance education has been around for centuries, in the form of correspondence courses. And so many of the articles and texts that we read only mention the U.S. Distance ed in many forms is alive and very, very well in much of the world. China has a vast network of internet courses, Africa includes some very low tech but highly organized correspondence schools that reach out to the most remote villages.
Throughout all the various theories we covered, I am coming more and more to believe that distance education is not a separate field, but an extension of education in general. Distance education techniques for student-student interaction and learner-centeredness can work in a traditional classroom; and the teacher-centered lecture model is much used (over used in my opinion) in all delivery systems.
I like this learner centered model. I fit the profile of a distance ed adult student very well, and I seem to be fitting in well. The technology is not overwhelming to me, though I can see that for someone less familiar with computers it could be very intimidating. I do find it very annoying to have to call tech support just to set my classes up. All I need is the right pieces of info to type in, but the only way to get them seems to be to call tech support. A real waste of resources.
Oooof. APA, APA, and more APA. This professor was very strict on APA formatting. It often seemed she took off more points for APA mistakes than for content. (I hope that is just a faulty impression).
This was essentially a survey course, which is my least favorite type of course. I like getting into the meat of things. It seemed that we had barely touched on a topic than we were off to the next! Adults are different than children. OK. Therefore adult learning is different than children's learning. Well, OK, I'll go along with that. Therefore, adults need learner-centered, less authoritarian styles of instruction. Hmm, I wonder how much of that is cultural. And no one can agree on exactly what any of this means. Well, that I can certainly believe!
Yes, there was more to this course. Lots of detail on the various theories. This is something that I'll probably refer back to in future courses, but not something that I'm prepared to commit to memory. Lucky for me that UoPhx isn't big on standardized exams. There was a lot of overlap with the previous course. Most distance ed students are adults, therefore most distance ed theory is adult ed theory. Surprise (not).
(I don't believe that they changed the server, again. I had to call tech support again to set this class up. Argh!)
Great class, horrible text book. The text was all workplace training based, not academic. My "translation" skills were strained to the max for this course. I needed to translate everything from business-ese to academic-ese, and then into library-ese, since library classes are related to academic coursework but are not the same. Students don't have the same relationship to faculty as employees to supervisors, and students to librarians is different from either. The text was also rather disjointed, as it was patched together from a couple of different books with no editing. (One section ended with a description of the next section, which didn't actually appear for about 100 pages, as something else had been inserted between the two.)
I tried to work on a library course, basic information literacy stuff, for the final project. I should have stuck to staff training or something more similar to the examples. There are a number of basic differences in library classes that were difficult to work into the idea of an instructional design model based on employee training or academic lesson plans. Such as the fact that we librarians have virtually no formal contact with our students before or after class. It makes the whole issue of reinforcement and feedback very hard.
We are actually asking for an Information Literacy/Library Skills course. The plan is to make it mostly online, with little tutorials in WebCT ending in short quizzes. Students would have to come in for a tour and a basic session, and then do a research project, which could be on a subject needed for another class. That would be a one credit course. We might also get included in the Freshman Experience course, in which case we wouldn't include the full research project. We've done the outline and proposal, and are waiting to hear if there is interest and support.
(Yes, indeed, I had to call tech support again for this class. I've had 4 classes on 4 servers. The neato little web link designed to set up Outlook Express for the new class wouldn't work for me. Oh, well.)
Assessment and Evaluation
This course covered course evaluation and student assessment in a variety of situations. We ended on an interesting note: the effect of learning style on assessment. I hadn't thought of it in those terms before, but it is certainly annoying (and bad assessment style) to assess in a different style than the students learn in. This would go along with the old psychological attention standard, that it's best to take a test in the same psychological state that you learned the material in. (Leading to the old joke about taking tests drunk.) Since I am a kinesthetic learner (among the myriad of learning style models), I learn best by doing something with the material I'm trying to master. Therefore, performance assessments should be my thing. I redid my Learning Style Presentation (PPT) from Professional Communications (course #1) for this class.
This was probably the most heavily research oriented course so far. We've been discovering the trials of online research. Many of my classmates complained that they were having trouble finding articles that pertained to our specific subjects. Either too much or not enough. I didn't have too much trouble, but, after all, this is what I do for a living--finding things. I discovered a few tricks that work pretty well in the UoPhx Library, though I will continue to do some of my research via UMES's databases, as in some ways they are set up better for an online researcher. (Odd, that.)
I had the opportunity to exchange email with an librarian at UoPhx during this course. I emailed the main library contact email to ask about the crosslinking. My original searches hadn't turned up anything crosslinked and I wasn't sure if they used this feature in the EBSCO databases. They do, so either I was having bad luck with my searches or I was having some sort of technical difficulty--another problem with online searching, you can't always tell the difference. What they don't do is provide a full-text only search in the indexes--which would only pick up the linked articles. They don't because it would eliminate the EDRS hits--a related database that can be linked to EBSCO but doesn't trigger the full-text option. Now, I've rarely found an available EDRS document for my searches, so it is a shame that the option isn't available, but I can definitely see their point. A "full-text only" search that eliminates some full-text is confusing.
I will be utilizes some of the evaluation and assessment skills right away, as I proposed a Library Knowledge Survey to be given to our incoming freshman this year. We also, of course, will be designing the assessments for the Library Course this year. I hadn't realized it, but the research project we are proposing for the course is similar to a portfolio, with particular pieces, like a thesis statement, keyword lists, sample searches and results, all collected for assessment. The work we did in class on rubrics will be a big help in designing the grading scheme for this project.
(Would you believe...no, I didn't have to call tech support to get into class! I had to call because something went weird with Outlook Express. Sigh. Well maybe next time. At least I didn't change servers this time.)
Research and Ethics
This should be called Statistics with a tiny bit of Research and Ethics. Luckily, I don't suffer from math anxiety, just lack of practice. It's been quite a while since I did any sort of statistics other than basic descriptive "how many books were requested vs. received". Research however is a daily component of my work with graduate students and faculty. I don't do the research, but I do need to know what they are doing so that I can help them the best I can. My time as a Zoology graduate student is invaluable for that.
The Research part of this course covered the basics of research design and analysis. Not enough to do a full research project from scratch, but enough to understand the process. I think the aim is to make us informed consumers of research. Which includes understanding statistics. I've added some useful statistics pages that we found in class to the tips page. I heard recently that some library schools are adding a course in Research and Ethics to their required curriculum. I would guess it would be for the same reason. Most librarians are not going to do research, but we all deal with the products of research, whether it is research on student library use or explaining to our patrons what the difference is between a research study and an op/ed piece!
Ethics covered basic research ethics and copyright. No surprises there. Copyright is always of concern to a librarian, especially in Interlibrary Loan. My experiences on the campus Intellectual Property Policy committee were a big help.
The team experience was interesting because we had teams of 5, the largest yet for me. It was a big help on some of the statistics assignments, just for dividing the work, but communications were a challenge. I don't think we ever got everyone together on any of our synchronous chat attempts. That was also the first time I had used Chatzy, which is a very nice tool for impromptu chats.
I'm not sure that I can say that I'll use the information I learned in this class in any particular way. I knew a lot of it already. For me, this class was more about giving me a structure for the knowledge, and a review.
Back in familiar territory again. I use this stuff every single day. IT is my life! And I don't even program anymore!
This course covered Information Systems in general (I had never thought about the piles on my desk as "sequential files" before), Knowledge Management Systems, E-commerce, and Course Management Systems in particular. We had one very fun assignment to find a virtual tour of an art museum and write about it from an information systems, Internet, and/or IT perspective.
We also designed our own Discussion Questions. Each week our instructor posted one, and two students posted their own questions. Everyone else had to treat it as a normal DQ, but the posting student acted as the instructor, responding and facilitating the discussion that followed. Quite educational! And harder than I had originally thought. Thinking up the question (specific enough to be answerable, but general enough to be interesting) was a challenge, but responding was even more so. The "instructor" response needs to be encouraging, specific, and possibly challenging, at the same time. At least that was my goal. I've never liked the responses of "Good answer" or "Very insightful". I always did find it ironically amusing that the guidelines warn us students against posting plain, unembellished agreements, but that many instructors do it regularly!
This was, in essence, another survey course, but the assignments were specific and interesting, so it wasn't as frustrating as I find most survey courses to be. (As soon as we start getting interesting, we switch topics!)
Internet and Distance Education Delivery
This course started off a little strange, when we discovered that we were using the same text book as in the Foundations course. But, aside from being familiar with the basic material, this is a completely different course. Everything is much more in depth and detailed. We focused on methods of DE delivery, especially courseware of various types. My team took a IP developed in a previous class and came up with a plan to put it on EBoard (http://www.eboard.com/), which is a very nice, small scale course mounting site.
We also experimented with online group and meeting software. My team tried NetMeeting, which was a disaster. We couldn't get the web cams to work properly, and the actual connection via NetMeeting was spotty. However, many of the features of NetMeeting are in the latest version of MSN/Windows Messenger, and most of those worked just fine. The "view and take over the other person's computer" feature is a bit scary, but has some very interesting possibilities for demonstrating web surfing and database searching techniques. One could take over to do a demo, and then view to watch the other person try the same type of search. Of course, there is the problem of how many people would be willing to have their computers taken over by someone they don't know. Librarians seem to generally be trusted, but I'm not sure that would be included!
Having the course span both the Thanksgiving and New Years holidays was confusing. We had one week off at Thanksgiving and two weeks off over the winter holidays. To me, this gave a disrupted and disconnected feeling to the whole class. Luckily we focus more on courseware in future courses.
On to Multimedia and Web Page Design!
Applications of Multimedia and Web Page Design
Whew! This course was a lot of work, but very satisfying (when it was over.) It was very frustrating during the actual work. We started out with an instructional PowerPoint presentation (no problem, I do these all the time), covered the relative merits of audio and video in instructional presentations, and then jumped feet first into web work. I would highly recommend to anyone taking this course to become familiar with a web authoring software as soon as possible. It will save you many headaches. I downloaded a demo of Adobe's GoLive, but was unable to make heads nor tails of it without a training course, so I fell back to FrontPage, which is what I use at work. The actual creation of the web page was not much of a problem for me--more like play. The frustrating part came in getting the course requirements into it.
Possibly from being a librarian (Shush!), I don't think about adding sound to my web pages and presentations. Most of my work has been designed to be viewed on the public computers at a library--no sound cards or speakers available, and they would be turned off if they were available. (We are constantly nagging to keep people from turning up the volume on the laptops in the library. It's almost as bad as the cell phones.) I kept forgetting that sound was to be a part of the assignment. And it was hard to find what I wanted. What I really wanted was anime (Japanese animation) sound clips--short distinctive segments. What I kept finding was entire titles songs, most likely copied without regard to copyright. Not exactly what the copyright contact for an academic library wants to use on her website. I found one that would play without extra software or download errors and attempted to mount it as the background music for one page. It never did play for me on my computer, but several classmates said it played fine for them. That was the sort of thing that happened regularly in the class. Something would look fine on one computer and not on another, or load without a problem and then disappear. Several of my classmates had links reassign themselves (I had this happen at work once--weird and mysterious, and very annoying.) We also had 2 Mac users in this class, so we had the extra challenge of having more than one major class of operating systems. It was an excellent lesson in the need to test, and retest, one's work on multiple platforms.
This was also my first use of the NETg tutorials, PowerPoint and HTML. I'm glad that I didn't actually need them to do my work, since I have still not been able to use the things on my home computer. I'm assuming it has something to do with my firewall and other protections, but I can get absolutely nothing to work. I was in exactly the same situation with the Mac users (NETg is not Mac compatible, though one person did get the tutorials to play, she just couldn't operate them properly without a 2 button mouse.) I was able to get into them at work, I just couldn't spend the necessary time on them there--the first PowerPoint tutorial is estimated at 8 hours.
Not surprisingly, I accumulated a substantial number of links in this class. My own site created in this class is at http://home.earthlink.net/~rhedreen/UOP/. I'll be making a few changes, mostly tightening and tidying things up, and eliminating duplication between that site and this one. I hit the site size limits in this class because of the multimedia, which now are residing on another site. I'm also hoping to get a real feedback form working--this one didn't work out because of a peculiarity of the interaction between FrontPage and Earthlink. I've now got my own copy of Macromedia's Dreamweaver (thanks to JourneyEd.com's educational discounts), so I'm hoping to start using that for my own web pages. I have trouble using FrontPage's hit counters for the same reasons (I think).