Category Archives: League of Innovations 2011

NROC Focus Group

I was invited to be part of a focus group of 12 college educators to view and discuss developmental OER math materials being developed by National Repository of Online Courses. They are an arm of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education.

The Gates Foundation is providing funding to them to develop developmental math materials specifically for disadvantaged students. NROC has received $5 million from Gates and $1 million from William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to develop online and hybrid materials. The goal is to increase number of financially disadvantaged students that pass developmental math. The target group are is those between 18 and 80 (average age 28) who who have failed math at least once. The project approach is to develop new educational interventions for national distribution and sustainability.

According to their website,

NROC content is distributed free-of-charge to students and teachers at public websites including HippoCampus. Institutions wishing to use NROC content are invited to join a fee-based membership organization, the NROC Network. Organizations serving disadvantaged students can become members of the NROC Network at no cost.

Colleges wanting to use the materials in their LMS would need to join the NROC Network. However, we were told the materials will be freely available as standalone modules throught the website.

The materials I saw demoed were in a Moodle environment, but their plan is support a number of platforms. The materials were presented in multimedia and text formats. The videos were in Flash format and plans are to include closed captioning. The latter has now been mandated for all educational videos available in the state of California and likely soon in the rest of the USA. They have also partnered with the which has tens of thousands of video lessons available in YouTube format. The materials ranging from basic arithmetic through statistics will be released later this year and the next.

I came away favourably impressed. However, the missing piece is linkage to an assessment tool in a pre, post and unit test format that helps create ‘learnable’ moments for students. I like the way Pearson’s MathXL can make resources available to learners for each question and each concept. I don’t find the materials Pearson provides particularly helpful. The best of both worlds would be to link these kind of OER materials to an assessment tool like MathXL.

Washington’s Open Course Library

Cable Green led a round table discussion on Washington State’s initiative to lower textbook costs. What is driving this initiative? Textbook debt has surpassed credit card debt in the USA with $12 billion dollars a year spent on textbooks in the USA.

The confluence of Creative Commons licenses and the dropping price of computers is behind this initiative to share resources. There is a need for a cultural shift from ‘not invented here’ to ‘what resources can we collaborate on’. A conversation about a cultural change that encourages sharing is critical. Washington State has begun this process with their highest enrolled courses, the general ones.

All of their materials are ADA compliant, including videos. YouTube has a beta that will automatically do the closed captions that will soon be required by all states.. Anyone who receives state grants for curriculum development has to agree to a Creative Commons Attribution license. It is important to think in modules rather than complete courses.

All of the curriculum content has a Creative Commons Attribution only license and then goes into the Connexions repository hosted by Rice. Connexions is a place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, and so on. Anyone may view or contribute. Authors create and collaborate. Instructors rapidly build and share custom collections.
Learners find and explore content.

More information is available in the Washington State Strategic Technology Plan is the product of an 18-month analysis conducted by the Technology Transformation Task Force of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges for the purpose of creating a roadmap for how our system needs to leverage 21st Century technologies to support student achievement.

See also the and

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The Math Emporium — A Paradigm Shift in Teaching and Learning

This presentation was by folks from Madisonville Community College in Kentucky.

The problem is that performance by students in developmental math has remained unchanged for five years. Over 60% of enrolled new students needed math upgrading. However, what they were doing was not working. They decided to increase the likelihood of success by inverting the teaching and learning paradigm.

In the traditional math classroom you watch the professor do math in class and then go home to practice. Trouble is many students were practicing the wrong approach. The goal here is for the student to become an independent thinkers and not just replicate what the professor has done. In the ’emporium’ approach the students do the homework in class with the professor there to engage with them. The students watch video lectures at home. The goal is achieving and demonstrating mastery.

The schedule can be fixed, flexible or mixed. Most the two year colleges are fixed. The four year colleges are flexible or fixed. They off load faculty prep and grading to the technology so that faculty spend more time with the learner. They use Pearson’s MyMathLab for testing.

This model reminds me of the open lab we used to run in ABE at Interurban, coupled with the MathXL system I have developed and am currently using. Their mastery level is 80% They also recognize that these learners may have trouble completing a course in one term, so thy are awarded an MP or making progress grade. They then reregister for the next term. They can also move on to the next level as soon as they are finished one level.

Soft Chalk is cool

Just came away from a demo of Soft Chalk. What a cool product! It looks like it will facilitate online OER content development and delivery including online testing.

In the demo I saw, it appeared to address all the concerns I have about moving freely available OER content into an online environment. It allows you to copy and paste properly formated text and graphics from your existing Word based curriculum into its enviroment to create a web page or series of web pages you can upload into your LMS or your own website. It also has a quiz tool that can allows you to insert questions in your content or act as a stand alone quiz.

I have a 30 day trial version that I look forward to playing with when I get home.