Proposals for the 2013 Sloan-C Blended Unconference:

Adult Education, Administration and Blended Learning
The main thing to accomplish is present my prior and current higher education working experience when it comes to adults, blended learning, and online learning. Another area of focus is the administrative issues that institutions sometimes have to overcome when it comes to instructors and instructor expectations, students and student expectations, processes, and communications. It is in these areas that I believe I can lead a good group discussion.

Best Practices in Creating Infographics for Teaching and Learning
The use of visuals as a means of communicating thoughts, ideas, and general knowledge dates back to the cave paintings and maps of ancient civilizations. Today infographics are used regularly on the internet in order to communicate complex research and data in an aesthetically appealing medium. In this unconference session I would like to showcase the tools and resources that are available in order to create effective infographics, as well as discuss the best practices and essential elements involved in the process. I will show how I have implemented infographics in my online courses and will present examples of infographics submitted by students for an assignment in a graduate level psychology course. I would consider this proposal to have elements of Teach, Make, Talk, and for me it is also Play.

Creating Instructional Videos
Some attendees may want to learn more information about what I specifically do to create instructional videos. Along with me showing how I do it, others may want to share what they have learned to the unconference group.

Discussing the Open-Source LMS
The learning management system is the course of any blended learning environment. There are many competitors, and some instructors might want to share ideas about some of these. In particular, Moodle is an interesting LMS because it is free, and it is gaining in capability and acceptance.

eTexts and OERs
In Fall 2013, the UW-Milwaukee Learning Technology Center will be piloting GingkoTree, an interactive, open textbook authoring tool. In light of this pilot project, which addresses an identified need on our campus and in higher education more generally, my colleague (Dylan Barth) and I would like to facilitate a participant-driven discussion on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). We plan to use this forum to explore best practices in the use of OER and to exchange resources for content creation, curation, and collection. We hope that unconference attendees will leave the session with concrete and pedagogically-effective methods and tools to implement OER into their blended courses.

Flexible Learning Environments
I have been given the assignment to develop flexible learning courses and am interested in learning about what others are doing in this area. I am most interested in the University of Wisconsin’s Flexible Option and Western Governor’s Competency-Based Model, but if there are other universities developing flexible credit options, I would be interested in learning about those as well.

Institutional Blending
I want to discuss factors and trends possibly leading to “”institutional blending”" in educational programmes and students portfolios. Backgrounds are for example:

  • ICT making it possible for universities to be active all over the world
  • Blended learning making use both campuses and online environments
  • Universities ongoing specialisation of research areas to become globally visible makes them soon specialized in education offerings as well
  • One aspect of MOOCs: are they also market claims in a future global education market? How can probable scenarios look like?

Reconsidering the Definition of “Blended”
As I begin my dissertation research, I find myself starting at the very beginning, tracing blended learning back to closed circuit televisions and distance education roots. When I discovered Bonk and Graham’s (2006) invaluable, Handbook of Blended Learning and the Four Dimensions of Interaction in Face-to-Face and Distributed Learning Environments, I was inspired to find a straightforward definition of blended learning. I began with the Bonk and Graham definition in its simplest form, and then proceeded to write a 26-page paper on the topic. It was at that time that it became clear to me, Blended Higher Education Defined is not as simple as it sounds. It would be an academic delight to engage in a definitional discussion and debate with fellow students, scholars, and our seminal researchers and authors in the field of blended learning, specifically, exploring the operational, practical, and theoretical permutations of the definition.

Researching MOOCs
This is a proposal for a talk (discussion) session. The driving force behind this proposal is to connect individuals who are interested in research pertaining to MOOCs and open courses. Even though MOOCs and open courses have become wildly popular during the last year, empirical research on these initiatives is largely absent. This is not surprising, as it takes time to conduct an investigation and share the results of the research. In this session, I’d like us to explore opportunities for collaboration on research projects pertaining to open courses (massive or not, blended or not). My personal interest on the human experience pertaining to open courses (e.g., What is it like to take an open course? What does open online learning look like? What are the challenges instructors face when designing open courses?), but I expect the conversation to encompass broader themes. Opportunities for collaboration on research projects may involve a variety of activities including: conducting a research study, seeking funding, developing/designing open courses, etc.

Service-Learning in an Online and Blended Environments
This past year, I have been using my Designers for Learning webcast to explore with others the potential of utilizing service-learning as a means of offering applied learning opportunities to students in online courses. Service-learning is an educational approach that combines community service, academic coursework, and work-based experiential learning. Within an online setting, e-service-learning occurs when either the instruction or service components are conducted virtually. Given the time and geographic separation of online learners from the instructor and the institution, the task of offering authentic experiences to explore the subject matter in online or blended courses is a huge challenge. The objective of this session is to engage participants in a discussion of how service-learning could be (and is being) used in online or blended settings to offer learners the same enriching experiential learning opportunities that have been offered in traditional campus settings for decades.

Student Retention and the LMS
I wish to start a conversation on LMS, learning managing systems such as Blackboard, Angel, etc and their effect on student learning and retention. We have been exploring this issue and as these systems due play significant roles in blended learning and distance learning, I would like to hear what others have as their possible experience.

The Curriculum as “Playlist”
Would love to organize a focus group to learn more about the experience of blended learning educators on our platform, which is still in closed Beta. Activity would be to assemble a course curriculum, including a “playlist” of course materials–on any subject, at any level (but preferably college level).

The LMS and Pre-Nursing Courses
I have studied the role of learning management systems (i.e. Blackboard) and it’s effect on student learning to determine if use of such a system can improve student learning in a pre-nursing course of anatomy and physiology. Pieces of this work have been presented at the Purdue Conference of Technology and the Higher Learning Commission annual meeting. However, new research data have been added that have yet to be presented.

The “Marshmallow Tower Challenge”
I’d like to use the Marshmallow Tower Challenge (http://marshmallowchallenge.com/Welcome.html) to elicit a conversation about learning. I have used this experience successfully in several environments to engage participants by providing a fun experience from which to reflect on what feelings, activities, and skills need to be addressed to engage learners. The activity takes about 20 minutes followed by 3 reflective questions. Conversations ensue from the participants response to these questions. In order to conduct this type of activity participants will need to be groups of 4 or 5 around a table so that they can work together to build their tower. I will bring all of the “”ingredients”" for the tower building. Flip charts would be helpful for participants to share their thoughts but they are not essential.