Thursday, June 2, 2011

Copyright Compliance Sloan-C Workshop

I recently took a SLOAN-C course on copyright compliance taught by Linda Enghagen, J.D. She presented copyright decisions for instructors as two main sets of considerations. First, she presents rules regarding use of copyrighted material. These are formulaic in that they are fairly straight forward for determining the legal boundaries of using material. Second she presents considerations based on fair use laws, which are not formulaic. Legal decisions for fair use are based on weighing the evidence across four guidelines and making a judgment about whether copyright has been violated. She also stated an important reminder to instructors that although we have good intentions for helping people and society, such intentions or noble causes are not a legal defense; the law is the law. As usual, ignorance is not an excuse either, as Enghagen said, professors (people who have to be intelligent) may have a tough time convincing a judge that they were not smart enough to know the law.

Enghagen pointed out that copyright protects ideas after they are expressed in tangible form regardless of whether they’ve been registered with the government. Thus, if somebody else made it, you should consider it to be copyrighted unless it is a specific type of unprotected material.

Enghagen did a good job showing how Fair Use and the TEACH act can allow copyrighted material to be used without permission or pay IF it is used for a specific purpose and in a manner consistent with those indicated by the Fair Use or TEACH act. There is a fair amount of information available about Fair Use, so I won’t say more about that here. The TEACH (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization) Act was established in 2002 to bring copyright law in distance education more in line with copyright law for classroom education. It only applies to distance education. It is worth becoming familiar (or refreshing yourself) with the specifics of Fair Use and the TEACH act because they may permit you to do more than you thought you were allowed to do, but they may also have some obligations that you might not have considered. For example, institutions implementing the TEACH act should provide a “notice to students that materials used in connection with the course may be subject to copyright violation.” I will probably start putting this in my syllabi. I also learned from discussions in the course that the copyrighted images I use from the Internet in my Power Point presentations should be covered by Fair Use, but need to cite where I got them.

I also learned from the course discussions some considerations about the type of materials to which you should/shouldn’t link from your course site. “Deep linking” is a concern here, which may be trademark infringement if it confuses users about which site they are at. Deep linking can also be illegal if it allows users to bypass a site’s advertisements or other ways of earning revenue.

The workshop gave me some new knowledge, refreshed my understanding, and gave me some new issues to think about. As I increasingly distribute material via new channels, it will be good for me to stay current in these issues so that I don’t cross lines that I shouldn’t and that I take better advantage of the freedoms I do have.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Facilitating Online Discussions and Collaboration

I recently took a SLOAN-C course from John Thompson, who has been teaching online courses for many years and has published a number of articles on best practices for online collaboration and discussion. I'll post my thoughts on two of them here. You can find more in Thompson's Power Point slides at the following link:

Two strategies to improve engagement in online discussions are building a sense of community and requiring participation. Building a sense of community involves many facets stemming from a sense of presence, involvement, and connection between instructor and students and the students with one another. A few of the benefits of building a community include more motivation for learning, better contributions from students and thus better course content (students learn from one another), and the development of personal learning networks that students can use to continue learning after the course is over.

To implement the strategy of building a community, the instructor can start with an ice-breaker discussion, in which students provide some personal information about themselves. This allows students to get a better sense of who their classmates are, to see them as people who are interesting and who may have common interests or potential for furthering a relationship. Another way to implement the strategy is to keep an active presence as an instructor (Shea et al. 2005). When the instructor shows that the discussion is important or interesting, students may be more likely to do so as well. Also, the instructor is the one person with whom all the students have a relationship for the class. As such, the instructor can bring students together on a topic, or help them feel like they belong. The instructor also sets the tone or culture of the community, so the instructor’s involvement should be strategic in helping the discussion to grow and move in the best direction. Finding the appropriate balance of instructor vs. student participation is important, too.

Building community is effective for improving engagement for a number of reasons. One is that as students feel like they belong to an active group, they will likely have more desire to become part of the action. A second reason is that as students find others with whom they can relate, they may form discussions and learning networks that are relevant to their own interests, and that relevance can encourage more engagement.

The second strategy, requiring participation, is fairly straightforward. As mentioned in the online presentation, all students benefit from extrinsic motivation. A way to implement this is to make discussion participation part of the course grade. State this at the beginning of the course, making clear what the expectations are. There should be a minimum level of participation, and a grading rubric is helpful to show that higher level thought is expected, rather than merely stating opinion. Making the discussion mandatory is effective for improving engagement in a number of ways. For example, it immediately makes the discussion practical and useful for achieving immediate goals (e.g., passing the course). It also can be the little push required to prime the pump of more intrinsic motivation. Once students get into discussions, they may get caught up in defending points, seeing how others will respond, finding out who is right, and so on.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mobile Devices..

Several sessions of the segment were devoted to the use of mobile devices as resources for learning. Without a second thought, this was my favorite part of the conference. In general, participants agreed that mobile devices should be seen as an integral resource for learning. Faculty has a role to sensitize the younger generation to the need of new technologies and, perhaps, use it as a potential hook for the digitally literate to attract the less endowed to engage in the educational process.
All was not fluid when it got to discussions on the use of social networking resources outside of the universities' course management systems. Can professors require students to sign up for facebook accounts, for example, to do some term project? Is it fair to a student who, understandably, has some privacy concerns? Is a penalty for this student justified simply because the professor stated the requirement in the syllabus. Will the student have to drop the class if no compromise is reached. The discussion got very heated with each side sticking its side. Obviously this is something for us to ponder over as we design courses in the future.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Japanese F- LECCS

F-LECCS ... say it after me ... slowly ... Fukui LEarning Community Consortium, consists of 7 Japanese universities, cooperating with one another to build what they call a "virtual university environment" on a computer network, using open source software such as Social Networking Software (SNS), Learning Management System (LMS) and e-Portfolio. This open platform allows all users to access resources across the universties - intercollegiate learning communities. In these days of budget cuts I wonder why universities in the L- & UPs cannot do the same. The results are amazing. They have 6,000 registrants in 303 SNS communities, 114,000 articles (about 175/day). The LMS has 177 courses. Obvious advantages - limited learning resourses in each university are leveraged through sharing. Note that this is not a merger but rather a moderate coalition. None of the universities loses identity, discretion or freedom.

Ten Years of streaming audio and video

Nothing new here. It oulines the experience in the production of audio and video learning contents - technical problems, budget constraints, slow adoption by instructors and other glitches in Georgia Perimemet College. Well, we have those everywhere, and Max Graves has told me a lot from my CTIP workshop. I am headed to this Japanese presentation - F- LECCS - to see what's happening on the international scene.

ELI Day two

Gee! this is a very crowded day - nearly sixty four presentations. Many of the day's presentations are focused on Open Educational Resource and Learning Analytics. Looks like these are major tranformation times for all levels of education. New technologies are emerging to enhance (or disrupt) old systems. Technologies have advanced beyond online deliveries to interractive learning experiences. This early morning general session is on Shapiung the Future of Education. The Hall is full and many are standing. Not surprising. Prof. David Wiley is known to many as an educational revolutionary who preaches about a world in which students listen to lectures online or on all types of mobile devices - all for free. Science laboratories are virtual and digital textbooks are free. He introduced the concept of 4-Rs - reusing, revising, remixing and redistribution of educational materials. Virtual institutions like Western Gorvernors University are already pushing this with "success". Well, success - at least for now - is measured only by the interest shown by it's "students". Wiley believes OER, when combined with Learning Analytics can create new oportunities for continuous quality improvement in education.

Question time lead to the discussion on the the next level embarked on by University of People. Ooops, I am hearing this for the first time. Tuition-free online university? Students learn from peers online or wherever they can get the material from. Yes, the university has course a catalogue no classes are required. Students, when they feel they are ready, take examinations based the required course materials. Uof People, when licensed, can grant degrees to graduation students. I hope my future doctor does not see this.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

EDUCAUSE Social Media

After a full day of information overload starting with a 7:30 breakfast (I am never up by 7:30 am), I nearly gave up this session on the use of social media - Facebook, Twitter, and all the lesser known ones - for teaching. Participants are almost divided about this particularly when it requires a student to open a say, Facebook account. The argument is so heated it is almost getting out of control. I am enjoying this. Privacy concerns, university policies, bla, bla, bla. Thank God this is the last session of the day. The topic has completely moved away from the Educause media itself.