Friday, July 23, 2010


Wow! On the whole, I think this was a very worthy conference. Had a great conversation at the beginning session--"How Do Faculty and Others Use Merlot?"--with a British IT person from Coventry University in England. Shared what we thought worked pedagogically and content-wise for online teaching. Broke to go to another MERLOT workshop regarding OER--a much-needed consideration of access to cheap/cheaper texts electronically. Got a good list of URLs to check out; however the lack of content for courses beyond the foundational level came up again. One online teaching staff person suggested that it was up to the authors to get publishers to make their work electonically available, as if we were the ones calling the shots with publishers. Pretty exciting--one person just got up and walked out! My feeling was that was a naive assumption, but the issue remains--how to go beyond Humanities 101 to courses requiring more critical thinking and more skills? ("Well, why don't you....)

Rather than return to that session I went on to one on "Marginalia," a wonderful way of annotating text online in Moodle: talk about elegant and simple! Wow! They are Canadian but will work with some willing yanks to refine the idea. I have to say, that was very inspiring!

The wrap-up session, Lisa Dawley from Idaho, felt a bit like she was preaching to the choir, though she wisely commented on the overly transparent sales pitch, "re-invent yourself" strategies of some online teaching programs. (Appalling, too, that, according to Dawley, the U.S. now has a 30% high school drop out rate!) Idaho's, I thought, was a far more intelligent approach, geared towards looking out at the wider world (esp. when onine teaching now enables all of us to have students--literally--from all over the globe), supporting rigorous and substantive research, and good standards.

All in all, very stimulating, lots to think about, and though the bandwidth was surprisingly narrow for a fancy conference center and the Fairmont hotel conference food channel went down far too early, the food for thought was more than sufficient. Overwhelmingly worth the effort!


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