Online Innovation: Endless Possibilities

endlessImagine you have a blank canvas in front of you and you can create the ideal online class. You can add any Global Web application you choose, include links to existing material, social networks, videos, podcasts, lectures, art, design, color … endless choices.

The canvas would be a work of art, innovation at it’s best, something to long for – right? Well, maybe not. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the online courses are pretty much the same across the country. The learning management systems are hum drum and offer learning via text, email, asynchronous discussion boards or mandatory chat sessions. Marc Parry author of Online Programs: Profits Are There, Innovation is Not, notes the discrepancy between the exciting technology offered at workshops and conferences is missing in the actual platform where classes are offered.

It only takes one university to step outside the box, incorporate global web technology to online classrooms to draw students who are eager to try something new, to feel appreciated and to learn.  Once that happens and students get a taste of what is possible, they will never return to the tired old platform.

A course with color, music, links to social networks, links to experts in the field, links to authors, games that tell stories, stories that teach, existing technology … it’s already there.

Got Guts? Breaking the LMS Mold

ONE would think that online education has been around for hundreds of years by the way colleges and universities roll out dull, boring, standardized classes.  There are  so many free and usable tools that are available that every course has the possibility of offering student information in creative ways.

In an article titled, Unbolting the Chairs: Making Learning Management Systems More Flexible the authors discuss how each physical classroom has a uniqueness about it that makes it stand out from the others. For instance, when you walk into a art class you see color, design  and objects.  A history class might havLMSe maps, posters, quotes, pictures and other related material.   Yet in an online environment, the feel is all the same which robs the student of the tactile/visual experience and excitement of something new.

There are several ways that a LMS can be enhanced using free applications. Google (yes, Google again!) offers mashup maps and several other sites (cited in the article) offer tools that bring learning alive.

In a Travel and Hospitality class I taught at Kaplan, one of the things we did in Week One was to introduce ourselves and share a photo and our location. With that information, I created a Google map that helped us all connect in a way that never happened in other classes. Photos helped us visualize who we were chatting with and the map allowed us to understand time differences and weather issues (tornado season for some, wild fires for others) that we were all dealing with. It helped me as an instructor when I returned to it time and again as a way to connect with these individuals.

The authors write,

“We need to focus on providing faculty and students with a rich array of content-focused learning activities that they can organize to maximum benefit for each student’s learning needs.”

Many times the best way to have a rich array of high protein, high energy learning activities is to invite students to explore existing material, create data using that information and share with each other in an engaging environment.

With an all time low in employment, many people are returning to school to finish or continue their education. If they decide to take online classes, they’ll be plucking down money they received via student loans and will be gritting their teeth, wondering if they made the right choice. Many will have nothing to compare their online experience with and may wonder if it ever gets any better or more exciting.  Their first couple classes will have a similar look and feel which will help them organize and understand the online process.

For those students who want to test the waters of an online education, they can go to any university that offers free classes (See OpenCourseWare: Open YourMindWare) and get a good feel for the courses, material, tests, setting and determine their involvement.

When students begin to drop out and the money dries up, institutions will take a closer look at what they could do to improve.  The online environment is still so new and innovative that as soon as a university decides to be get creative and tap into existing resources with their LSM, others will follow.  Let’s hope that doesn’t take too long!


OpenCourseWare: OpenYourMindware

OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a

“free and open digital publication of high-quality university level educational materials, including syllabi, lecture notes, assignments and exams”  

according to the University of California at Irving website.  

In other words, OCW is educational material available to learners, students and teachers across the globe… for free. 

on the MITOpenCoureseware site, free lecture notes, videos and exams are offered for free with no registration required. They currently have 1900 courses available on the web. 

Check out the Utah State University list of courses and you’ll find a wide range of academic courses as well as extension courses such as landscaping, turf management, irrigation and vegetable gardening.  

What’s the catch? 

You can learn for free. You can educate yourself on your time schedule. You can enjoy the process of learning. You can enrich your mind.  You will not receive a degree; however, you will receive an amazing education. 

To find a course from any OCW institution, go to and enter your selection.

It’s like eating from a buffet table; you get to pick and choose, taste a bit of this and a taste of that.  And once you find the item (or course) that you totally consume and seek out again and again, you’ll be years ahead of the other paying students who are struggling to find out what they want to do once they graduate (besides pay back a huge loan)!

Getting an education before you head off to college may be the best thing you can do. Check out a few courses from several institutions.  Are you engaged? Do you want to learn more?  You decide. At your own pace …

What fun!

Build a Book Online

Here is another great blog I read that links you to an amazing tool where you can build your own book.

This could be a class project, an indiviual assignment, a gift, a dream goal.  Take a look at this site and if you think of other possibilites, let me know.

Here is another example of free technology that can be used as a teaching tool!

Check it out at Stepping Stones: Building a Book Online

Thanks so much!

Treasure Trove of links, sites, resources and mucho mas!


I found some sites today with tons of links to educational resources.

This one: Support Blogging
Support blogging has list of blogs educational blogs.
Included on this page are blogs by:

· Librarians
· Teachers
· Principals
· Psychologists
· Administrators
· Professors
· Parents

Not all the links work but most of the do –time to check it out!

And All Things Web 2.0 is a comprehensive list of 2.0 choices and possibilites on the web. You’ll want to check them out and bookmark them for future reference — good luck!

Baby Face… what will the baby face when’s he’s ready for college?

The student will be the teacher!What will college look like to my grandson? Will he be required to find his building, show up for an 8 am class, try not to yawn, pay $200+ for a dirty, used textbook? Or will he be able to set his alarm for the web conference that he organized and set up as part of a group project? Will his education include hosting classes, taking tours, talking about art found in world famous museums, inviting artists and lectures and reading text that others have written?

Will college degrees still be necessary in the year 2030? What significance will they hold?  What do they hold now? A degree doesn’t equal a job. A degree means (hopefully) that some learning took place and lots of jumping through the hoops. The jobs are going to those who can immediately apply what they learned .. and offer a service we need.  I’ve needed the service of an auto mechanic lately but rarely have I checked the yellow pages for someone with a literature or history degree. This is the beauty of community colleges. They have smaller sized classes where students can learn and apply their learning right away.

At the community college I attended Onondaga Community College (OCC) the first semester was classroom learning and the second semester, I was in the field! My classmate, Peggy, finished at OCC then went to Syracuse University to earn her BA in Human Services. As a junior, those students were just beginning their field work — 5 semesters into their degree. At OCC, we were active in our 2 semester. The beauty behind that was if it wasn’t a good fit, we were able to jump to a different field and continue towards our degree.

My generation will still need the same services that we need now — but will we need to have a degree after it? What if the Gwebbers refuse to buy into the degree ploy? What if they educate themselves on the web and forgo the degree? What if they look at their parents and realize the hole mom and dad dug by getting an education yet, they remained unemployed with a HUGE college loan to repay? In this article, A Virtual Revolution is Brewing for Colleges, the author asks how it will look, what will change?

I think it has already changed. High School students are entering college and EXPECTING their professors to be using technology. Many teachers are struggling to get their classes loaded using the same text and syllabi they use in the classroom — which we all know is a BIG mistake.  Online need to be interactive, concise and up to date. Students already access multiple forms of media simultaneously– cell phones, IM, email, I-pods, and twitter all while they are in a classroom. What magic act can get and hold their attention enough to teach them a new lesson?  Whatever act is used, each time it must be new, fresh and full of sparkle.

When I was a child I played with paper dolls, balls, hide and seek, Chutes and Ladders.  All of the toys my grandson has includes lights and sounds.   The plastic laptop says the alphabet, the cell phone says “Hello Friend”, Winnie the Pooh walks and talks, the farmer and his slow moving wagon sings and each of the 4 animals in the wagon say their sound… “Moo, Arrf, Baaa, Meeow”. To keep him still while I try to change his diaper, I hand him my cell phone. I only need 90 seconds to change him but in that time, his tiny fingers are glued to one number … and my speed dial is in action.

The educational system needs to change and keep pace with the technological revolution. Our kids and grandkids are fine-tuned to learn but in a different context from the classroom and a lecture hall. What are the colleges doing to prepare for the new wave of kids?