The Sloan Consortium is probably the top educational group focused on online learning. Its directors recently named several distance education teachers and schools as 2007’s “cream of the crop.”
Art Works Online
The professor that Sloan chose to honor for “excellence in online teaching” is Art History professor Michelle Pacansky-Brock, at Sierra College in California. It’s an indication of how far distance learning has come that the nation’s leading professor teaches art, a subject once considered ill-suited for online courses.
Ms. Pacansky-Brock’s attitude is that online instructors need to rethink the kind of linear delivery of text-based content they’ve always done in class. The key to a successful online class, she says, is getting the students engaged. That means using web 2.0 technologies to get the students to express their ideas to her and to each other.
One smart approach is the “wisdom wall,” a unique forum the professor describes on Sloan-C’s site: “The first week of the class, students enter the Wisdom Wall and read advice and comments from last semester’s online students. The advice from former students prepares incoming students by offering specific strategies for succeeding…This practice is simple and the content is completely user created.”
Talk Amongst Yourselves
Students in Pacansky-Brock’s class get the option of working together on a final project – a video or research paper generally – and all projects are viewed and critiqued by another student. The professor also uses enhanced podcasts and voicethreads that allow her to speak directly to the class an asyncronous manner, but also let students leave comments that anyone in the class can listen to.
Using technology in a smart way has resulted in a high success and retention rate in these courses. According to Sloan – C, students say they have been impressed by the “very exciting learning environment” in Pacansky Brock’s online classes. The honoree is now working to develop a technology training center for faculty at Sierra. For more information, visit www.sierracollege.edu