Adventures in Online Education Student Service
Caller (an interpretation of the essence of the conversation): I’m interested in your online program. But I’m out of state. I’ve already filled out your application. But I need to verify that you are federally accredited. But I don’t really know much about that. I just need to make sure you are accredited so I can defer my loans. I already have a bachelor’s degree and a business certificate. But I don’t want to pay my loans so I need them deferred. But I want to take a program I’m interested in. But I need to make sure I’m at least half-time. What is half-time? And is the tuition the same if I’m out of state?
Me: What state do you live in?
Me: Unfortunately we will not be enrolling students from that state in the spring because we are not authorized at this time. That may change but at this time we cannot enroll students resident in [State].
Caller: Oh. Well when I call other schools what should I tell them so I can get enrolled and defer my loans?
Commentary: Honestly, I’ve been really frustrated by the state authorization requirements, believing they infringe on individual rights and access to higher education. However, I was actually grateful I could use state authorization as an excuse to not enroll this student for the spring. I didn’t dig deeply into her genuine interest in the online certificate program she mentioned, but her need to defer her loans was certainly a priority in our short conversation. I did let her know that the authorization status for her state could change and she could call us back to check later. I do hope her needs are met but I don’t think her true need is another educational credential. Now I’m not sure what saddens me more – the state authorization restrictions or the desire to use enrollment in an online program as a means to loan deferral. What do you think?
A great deal of online course content is text but accessible and easy-to-use tools are making it easier to capture video and audio. Are you using capture tools already? Are you interested in learning more about them?
If you’re not already using capture tools, think of that one concept or idea that you try to explain or reinforce using text but students still just “don’t get it”. Now think of how much more effective presenting that idea or concept might be if you can demonstrate something on-screen for your students. With capture tools you can put nearly anything into video/audio format.
- Capture a software program and narrate how to use it
- Display a map on screen and identify key locations by drawing on it
- Work and explain steps of a problem
Here are some of the tools the ICC TLC staff members have worked with:
Screencast-O-Matic: http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/ (free account option, available online)
Snag-It: http://www.techsmith.com/snagit.html (software available in the Teaching and Learning Center, 240A)
There are several free and easy-to-use tools available but also some considerations you need to make when producing and sharing this type of content. If you are interested in creating an enhanced experience for your online students and want to learn more about capturing tools, contact someone in the TLC, firstname.lastname@example.org or 309-694-8908.
This week’s topic is an extremely important one. It’s relevant to teaching in any mode but a real challenge and point of potential weakness in online learning.
How do you verify and know that the work done in your online class is being completed by the student registered for the class?
For several years there has been a federal mandate to authenticate student identity through a specified method. This method for ICC is the process by which our students are given an assigned username and password by the college to log in to Blackboard. As long as we maintain a secure process to issue usernames and passwords, we meet the requirements of the federal mandate. The liability is twofold. The college must maintain the secure process to issue user credentials and the student must maintain the responsibility to keep those user credentials secure and private once he/she has them.
There are a variety of vendors wanting us to buy a commercial “solution” to identity verification. There are video proctoring services where live proctors monitor webcams focused on students taking tests. There are “biometric” solutions for capturing each user’s unique mouse usage. There are fingerprint scanners to unlock content. There are databases that ask security questions much like the ones your bank or credit card company would ask. There are “lock down browsers” which stop a student from accessing content in a different program or browser on one computer.
I have seen the live webcam proctor in action and it seems to work for a testing environment. However, to me it’s not feasible to webcam monitor ALL of the work a student does, therefore at least a portion of the grade could be earned by someone else. The biometric, fingerprint, or security question “locks” can be easily outsmarted. I can unlock the content and then let you do the work! And the lock down browser is fine when I am working on only one device, but a recent survey of ICC students indicated that over 80% of 180 student respondents have 2 or more web-enabled devices. So while you’re locking me down in one computer, I just need my phone, laptop, tablet, or other web-enabled device to look up content in an “unlocked” environment. And the no-print/no-copy code we used to use? It takes only the camera on my cell phone to capture the on-screen content perhaps more efficiently and effectively than printing, anyway.
So all of this may seem like gloom and doom and a reason to stop teaching online. It isn’t. But we have to continue to work on developing high-quality, engaging online classes which defeat the “shadow scholar” (Chronicle article, November 12, 2010: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Shadow-Scholar/125329/).
How do you do this? How do you know the “right” student is completing work in your online class? How do you maintain the integrity of offering an ONLINE class with the needs to KNOW your students individually and authenticate their work? What strategies do you have to share with others? Post your comments to the blog or email me at email@example.com