UH neglects full potential of online resources
Too often, technology is seen as a means to an end. We forget that it is only one of many resources that enables people to do things more efficiently.
In higher education, especially here at the University, new technology is not necessary.
Even though many students are disheartened with Blackboard Learn, it is still the primary Learning Management System at the University.
Velvette Lawrence is the instructional designer at the College of Education. As an instructional designer, she acts as a consultant to instructors who want to incorporate technology into the classroom.
“Depending on what (the students) want to do, I can partner them with the best technology for it,” Lawrence said.
Students and instructors alike find Blackboard Learn problematic, but only because it has yet to be used to its full potential. For example, Blackboard has mash-up tools in its build content area that allow instructors to link pictures from Flickr or embed YouTube videos into assessments if they choose.
Biology senior Charles Daniel said videos, “especially in science, can make concepts come alive, and students would be able to answer five or six questions more effectively.”
There is also an option for instructors to upload “hotspot” photos, on which students can click to point out something that may be missing or out of place. This would be helpful in areas like education or natural sciences where images are heavily used.
These are two simple options, but their potential effect on online assessments is drastic. They have the power to make tests more interactive and expand how students interact with material in order to demonstrate mastery of content.
Supply chain and logistics senior Cody Wen sees the advantage of interactive learning.
“The teacher tested out YouTube videos, and I would rewind the video if I needed to, and it was very informative. I could learn at my own pace,” Wen said.
However, instructors are hesitant to try out different features of Blackboard for fear of complication and also because some UH students don’t push for the inclusion of more technology.
There are other options that can be used instead of Blackboard, but according to Anya Kamenetz’s book “DIY U,” research shows that “hybrid learning beats both online-only and classroom-only approaches.”
A collaboration between the social and technological aspects of learning is paramount to a quality, well-rounded learning experience.
Susie Gronseth, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum at the College of Education, uses Blackboard Learn primarily to communicate with the students in her online classes.
The main challenge Gronseth faces with online courses is that while they are convenient, there is not as much interaction as in a face-to-face classroom. To alleviate this, she uses threaded discussions and voice threads — similar to threaded discussions but with audio as opposed to text posts — on Blackboard as well as Google Hangouts.
However, other free online resources exist for students, such as Voki and Glogster. Voki allows students to upload short audio clips anywhere, and Glogster allows students to create their own Glogs, or graphic blogs.
This technology has been used to help solve certain problems — such as alleviating the lack of social interaction in online courses — but it is not an end-all. It is just another tool instructors can use.
Massive open online courses are also in development by doctoral students in the Learning, Design and Technology graduate program at the College of Education under faculty advisers Sara McNeil and Bernard Robin.
MOOCs are an option for students who don’t learn best from face-to-face lecturing.
According to Rashmi Chhetri, a doctoral student in the Learning, Design, and Technology graduate program at the College of Education, MOOCs don’t teach the student the material explicitly, but instead allow the student to look at problems more conceptually and decide whether the tool is right for them.
Like all of the other technology mentioned beforehand, MOOCs can be used efficiently, but only if students have shown a great need for them. Teachers build their curriculum around students, but without student feedback, they are unsure as to whether the technology is helpful or necessary.
Sometimes students think technology is going to solve all their problems, but they also need to give feedback about the technology.
Still, we shouldn’t forget that interaction is the reason universities were created. If people wanted simply to absorb knowledge, libraries would still be the main source of information.
What higher education does for students is provide them with connections to people, and technology has greatly expedited that.
Students need to take charge of their own learning and let teachers know what they can do to help instead of just relying on the teachers to assume. Learning is a two-way street.
Opinion columnist Julie Nguyen is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]