April showers will soon bring graduation flowers… for some at least. Good luck with exams everyone!
In this Issue: pdf copy
Learning Behind Bars (pdf copy)
|It’s Professor Nick Milanovic’s second year traveling to Toronto to meet distance students in person. This year, one particular student made an impact.|
It might have seemed like a pretty normal discussion between teacher and student, were it not for the armed guards surrounding the room. The guards were seldom under 6ft 3in, and they were everywhere. But such is the way with jails – and for the time being, that’s where the student lives.
Law professor Nick Milanovic traveled to Toronto last month to visit some of his distance students in person. One of those students – let’s call him John – happens to be incarcerated. When John’s social workers contacted Milanovic about his admission into the course, Milanovic said that he would personally visit the student. They were thrilled.
To meet John, Milanovic had to pass through multiple levels of security that he says make the airport seem like a walk in the park. They met in the prison’s interview room, along with other inmates and their wives and children, and talked for two hours about the upcoming 12,000 word essay.
Because of his situation, John will have to write it out entirely by hand. He’s not allowed access to computers or the Internet.
“It’s like when I was in school,” says Milanovic, except that John can’t even go to the library to get his material – his volunteer social worker has to get it for him. Something that might take the average university student a quick Google search takes John a week. So Milanovic is trying to help him not waste time by guiding him towards the kind of material he should be searching for.
“I was very impressed with the amount of diligence he’s shown,” Milanovic says, adding that he would have thought a student in jail would have all the time in the world to work on coursework. In fact, inmates’ days are largely structured and they get precious little personal time.
To meet deadlines John gets up early, before the rest of the institution awakes and fills with noise. He also stays up late, sneaking in more reading time before the lights turn off.
In the interview room, Milanovic (who had never been inside a jail) recalls, “The din was incredible…. My impressions were that it was a very sad place.”
But John is very determined to do well, Milanovic says. He believes the student, who appeared to be in his early 20s, has at least another few years behind bars.
“All in all, the meeting helped both student and teacher. Milanovic returned to Ottawa feeling like he’d made a difference. “I’ll remember the experience for awhile.”
Nick Milanovic teaches LAWS 2501 & 2502
TechCorner (pdf copy)
This month’s feature: edX
If you’re looking for online education, there’s no shortage of options. Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs, as they’ve been affectionately termed) have exploded across the Internet in the form of various start-ups, offering courses both for a fee and for free to students around the world. While this makes information wonderfully democratized (at least for anyone with a computer and internet connection), few of them award credit for completing the course.
However, edX is one option that does issue certificates of mastery to a few online learners that edX and the university deems worthy. While edX was started by Harvard and MIT and is still composed of largely U.S. schools, the University of Toronto and McGill University are now a part of the consortium, and they’re due to start offering classes through edX in 2014. From fall 2012, those certificates have been free, but there is a plan to charge a modest fee for certificates in the future.
To take one of the courses, all you have to do is sign up. There are courses that look at everything from artificial intelligence to justice to Greek mythology.
In adition, edX institutions have assembled faculty members who will collect and analyze data to research how students learn and how we can best use technology to transform learning both on-campus and off.
Distance education comes to campus (pdf copy)
|From photography exhibits to book slams, Susan Braedley is ensuring her CUOL students don’t think of school as just lectures on a screen.|
When Susan Braedley started teaching a first year CUOL course, she discovered two things about her distance students. The first was that almost all of them lived in Ottawa. The second was that they weren’t very good at staying up to date with their class viewings.
Braedley had changed her class curriculum to involve more assignments that were worth fewer marks, ditching the usual model of fewer assignments worth huge chunks of the students’ grade. To her, it was just better pedagogy.
But a problem arose. The VOD students were falling behind on their class viewings and missing the assignments. Braedley knew many of these students often balanced classes, part time jobs, and social lives out on the town. But one thing that many didn’t seem to be doing, was exploring the many events that were held right on Carleton’s campus.
Braedley devised a plan. She made a list of different events going on around campus that were related to the coursework and invited both in-class and online students to attend on a predetermined day and time. In return for participating, students could get up to four extra grade points – one for each event.
The eight events (all free) varied in time and subject. There was a human library event at the library, a film showing, a photography exhibit at the gallery, and a public lecture, among others. At the end of each event, Braedley says, the group congregates to debrief what they experienced, and chat about how it relates to what they’re studying. Simultaneously, the first years are getting a feel for the campus, and realizing that there’s more to university than just class.
“I’ve seen a huge participation rate from my distance students,” Braedley says. Some bring their children, partners, and friends along.
“It’s fun to meet these students and watch them interact with other students and hear what they have to say,” Braedley says, “It’s been really quite delightful.
Through the course of teaching first years, Braedley realized another thing about her students: few of them read books. They read online, sure. But in general they didn’t go cover-to-cover with full, honest-to-goodness books. To solve that problem, Braedley created her own miniature version of Canada Reads.
One of the class assignments was already an academic book review. But Braedley added the stipulation that students must also give it a rating. On the last day of the course, in-class and online students alike will gather and stage a friendly competition where everyone will commend or condemn (as the case may be) their book. Braedley says her and her TAs envision the event as a mix between Canada Reads and Top Chef (if they were presenting books instead of entrees).
“I was trying to do something creative and a little off-the-wall,” Braedley says, adding, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Tales from the Field (pdf copy)
This student enjoyed her foreign exchange to Australia so much that she decided, by golly, she wasn’t leaving.
She remembers it being really hot, that morning. Kristyna Moravec was living in Australia and had woken up early to watch her CUOL lectures. She went to open the window of the little cottage she was renting in a national park to let in some air. Outside, she found a bunch of kangaroos and cockatoos and emus. It was as if a zoo had broken loose, she recalls.
“I thought it was so crazy that I could be studying Canadian subjects while living in a completely different country,” she says of the experience, which is one of her favourite memories of her two years in Australia. Moravec, now 23, had initially gone there on a foreign exchange, but after falling in love with the place she decided to get a work visa, sign up for a bunch of CUOL classes and stay an extra year. Besides, flying there was expensive and she figured she might as well stay for a while and really get to know the country.
She snagged office jobs in a bank and an engineering firm, and spent her days working, studying, and lying on the beaches in Melbourne.
The law and political science major also traveled through Southeast Asia, where she found inspiration among the doctors there and now plans to one day work towards administering better healthcare systems back home.
She finally did return home, because many of her fourth year seminars weren’t offered via distance. Most people who go on exchange return home with pockets full of stories and backpacks stuffed with memorabilia. Moravec also brought back a boyfriend.
“He’s my souvenir,” she jokes. She’s got a job lined up after graduation but she hopes to eventually return to Australia to do a post-grad in business and medicine.
“I genuinely do think that CUOL is incredible. I got to live in Australia for an extra year because of CUOL,” she says, “It allowed me to live as far abroad as possible from Carleton while still being able to work and study and experience a different culture. I can’t believe that’s even an option now.”
Campus Connection: EMCP 2013 (pdf copy)
Getting a peek at university; high school students prepare for this year’s enrichment mini courses.
From Computer Animation to Vampirology, there are now a variety of offerings ready to go for Carleton’s 2013 Enrichment Mini-Courses Program. All five faculties participated and will be represented in mini-courses, which will give the bright young students (who range from the grade 8 to grade 11 level) a wide sampling of their possible futures, passions and pursuits.
The week-long program runs from May 5 to 10. Carleton will host about 1000 students from eastern Ontario and western Quebec during this time. Outside the classroom, these students will be introduced to Carleton’s beautiful campus, and get a peek at the university student’s life, since the programs will overlap with the beginning of Carleton’s regular early spring classes.
But it will be inside the fifty or so classrooms around campus that the EMCP students will get a glimpse at what post-secondary education has to offer.
Where do you watch YOUR lectures? At a coffeshop? On the couch? In bed? No matter where it is, we want to know. Send in a picture of you in your “CUOL habitat” with a 50-word description of you and your special class viewing spot, and if we publish it in our newsletter, we’ll send you free CUOL memorabilia (a toque, a USB and a pen)!
Maria Brocklehurst | Jeff Cohen
Patrick Lyons | Nestor Querido