This year’s Online Education Year-In-Review comes to us via Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois Springfield and long-time thought leader on distance education. I recently spoke with Ray about emerging areas in distance education over the past year, and he provided four that he sees as taking off today.
In winter 2015, I was given the opportunity to design and teach my department’s first fully online course, in calculus. Some design challenges emerged in the process, not least of which was the question of assessing homework. In a face-to-face class, students either turn in handwritten solutions to online problems or present them orally in class. But how can you have students presenting work to each other when they don’t even meet?
A global classroom is an initiative between two partner universities, often in different countries, designed to bring students together through a project or collaboration. These can work in any academic discipline—the objective is to increase cross-cultural awareness while the student learns about the course subject.
Group work is a valuable learning device that teaches teamwork skills which students will use no matter what profession they enter. It is perhaps even more valuable in online classes, as more and more organizations are using distributed employees who need to coordinate their work from a distance.
Animation is an engaging format for delivering online content. We see it used in TED-Ed presentations, educational documentaries, and elsewhere. It is also much easier to make than many people think. Simple and free, or inexpensive, online systems allow anyone to make animated videos in a variety of formats. The creator chooses from a menu of characters, actions, and backgrounds; adds a narration audio track; and then chooses how the elements will move around a scene. These systems only take a few minutes to learn, and while they will not win an Oscar, they are perfectly fine for online teaching.