It’s back-to-school (and back-to-CUOL!) season, and to help you turn over a new loose leaf, we rounded up this month’s undertakings—from an anxiety-appeasing app, to a new neuroscience video series, to a peek into the future of online learning with CU President Roseann O’Reilly Runte. Welcome back!
Q & A with Roseann O’Reilly Runte
|Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President, Carleton University|
Carleton’s president discusses the future of online learning at the university.
If anyone knows online learning, it’s Carleton University president Roseann O’Reilly Runte.
She has examined e-classrooms and mused about MOOCs in various publications, and under her direction, Carleton has continued to integrate more and more advanced, user-friendly technology into its curriculum. With a long list of academic credentials and an even longer to-do list when it comes to Carleton U online, she’s only just getting started.
We caught up with Dr. Runte on the university’s online strategy, next steps for CUOL, and how to avoid the “slow death by PowerPoint” (we’ve all been there).
Q: What role will CUOL play within the overall Carleton online learning strategy?
A: Following the report by the inter-faculty committee, online learning has been included both in the Provincial Mandate Submission and the Strategic Plan. We are continuing the process of developing the strategy. Faculty, staff and students will all be involved and our future strategy will certainly build on the expertise already available at the university and emanate from the energy and interest of the community. We will depend on the leadership and support of the CUOL group.
Q: Do you see Carleton as a leader in Canadian online learning?
A: Carleton has long been a leader in this domain and enjoys a fine reputation in the field of television and video production. Carleton professors are exceptionally talented and invariably offer students the means to excel. We have but to look at the awards garnered by students and faculty to confirm that the student satisfaction scores are well-deserved. We possess a strong base on which to build. The future is ours to imagine. With evolving technologies and the introduction of new interdisciplinary fields, we have the opportunity to create new ways to enhance the learning experience of our students.
As a faculty member, I am exploring the possibilities available to provide an enriched learning environment for my students. Using technology to reinforce the messages improving outcomes and to enhance materials presented to the class, requires a conscious re-evaluation of the goal of each lecture, assignment and activity. It necessitates additional advance preparation but it makes possible more individualized attention for each student during the semester and facilitates ongoing assessment designed to support learning.
Q: Do you think students would be eager to engage with these new web-based classroom components?
A: Students have grown up using technology. They are comfortable with digital media and computers.
Thus, they would likely appreciate the potential opportunities of web-based components in class.
Balance is, however, important. Most of us have experienced “slow death by PowerPoint”. (Slow describes the speaker who reads the PowerPoint to you – more slowly than you read yourself.) We can overdo technology but we can also use it to our advantage. We can offer interesting images to support our arguments.
We can connect with scholars around the world in real time, making an international dialogue possible for our students. We can offer them a selection of lectures to listen to as well as books and articles to read as assignments. I believe that students also come to university to meet faculty and fellow students and to engage in live conversations with them. We need to continue to offer a traditional classroom environment. On the other hand, we know that each person absorbs information in a different way: some by listening, others by reading, by writing, by repeating, by responding orally and discussing.
If we present ideas and information in a variety of ways, it is more likely that a greater number of students will retain them. If we use online technology, lectures can be reviewed and if, in our lectures, we combine different media, we have the means to capture the attention and interest of our students, engaging them more fully in learning activities.
Q: Do you think MOOCs will be able to grow and flourish while remaining free/affordable to the public? How do you monetize an education rooted in openness and accessibility to everyone?
A: MOOCs are a subject of passionate debate today because they are seen as putting into question the role of the live lecture and seminar. Some fear they will replace traditional classrooms, thus reducing students’ opportunities to learn.
At university, we welcome students to the community of scholars. We are all learners. I am prepared to learn every day how to communicate better to my students. Learning with and from them is one of the greatest privileges and joys of our profession.
As long as MOOCs are free and non-credit, they pose no threat to anyone. They can be shared around the world with learners on and off campuses. They can be, like journal articles or books, a way of making ideas known. They can be, like books, the subjects of debate or points of reference. As an academic, I am pleased when a student tells me about a lecture, concert, film or on-line discussion he or she has heard, read or in which she has participated.
If MOOCs included evaluation and replaced all classroom interaction, then the process of socialization, which is part of a university education, would be at risk. Students at university meet others from around the world and learn understanding and intercultural communication skills. Students would lose the immediate positive reinforcement and inspiration which can best be communicated by a professor in person. The Platonic dialogue as a teaching method can be replicated in writing and electronically but is always most effective when delivered one-on-one or in small groups.
We should, however, consider that it would be possible to offer a combination of MOOCs and small lectures or individual mentoring sessions. We should be able to offer our students the best of all possible worlds.
Some support MOOCs in the hope that they will reduce costs of education and eliminate the desire for “live,” “on-campus” classes. The need and desire for traditional classes, seminars and meetings with faculty will never disappear. In addition, an excellent MOOC will be costly to produce.
It will require a considerable investment in technology. It will only last a maximum of three years and then have to be redone. It is thus an on-going investment. I believe, however, that it is an investment we should definitely be considering. At Carleton University we are dedicated to excellence in teaching and research. We have access to fine technology. I certainly hope we can take advantage of this winning combination.
If we produced a few MOOCs at Carleton, in areas where we have a unique specialization or where we have faculty prepared to engage enthusiastically with the technology, Carleton could be an international player in a field populated by Stanfords and Harvards. This would not be bad company! If we attracted strong enrolment in a few classes, it would provide balance for smaller classes. If we miss this opportunity, our students could simply avail themselves of courses offered by other institutions and then request transfer credit. Carleton faculty and students have long characterized our university as cutting-edge, innovative and entrepreneurially creative (or creatively entrepreneurial). The technology to offer these courses is now available and initial glitches are being corrected. This is an opportunity for every university to shine and demonstrate its academic prowess. I have no doubt that Carleton is, and will continue to be, an effective, creative, caring leader in using technology in teaching.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
What if you had access to an Ivy League education, online and for free?
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, that’s the thinking behind massive open online courses (commonly known as MOOCs). In a nutshell, it’s education adapted to suit an over-informed world: low-cost and high-quality learning at the fingertips of the masses. With crème de la crème institutions like Harvard, Yale and UC Berkeley hopping on the MOOC bandwagon, top-tier education in everything from astronomy to modern poetry can be made available around the globe, as well as used by teachers to supplement lectures and students to elevate their learning experience. And for those whose 8 a.m. Friday morning classes are trumped by Thirsty Thursdays, the MOOC advantage would allow students to take the course on their own time.
Yes, there is the undeniable glitchiness that comes hand-in-broadband with video-based online courses—system crashes, login failures, and Skype calls that sound like they’ve been transmitted through a broken blender. However, judging by the rate MOOCs have progressed since their inception, these technical difficulties will be short-lived.
The success of MOOC providers like Udacity, edX and Coursera (which now enlists 70,000 new users per week) has piqued the interest of Canadian universities—Carleton being no exception. While they still have some hurdles to overcome (How do you monetize an education rooted in openness and accessibility to everyone? Without a real-time classroom setting, how do we ensure questions are answered and students don’t fall behind? When will they be recognized as credit courses?), it’s widely speculated that blended curriculums with MOOC content are in our foreseeable future.
So, how does a professor ensure these “massive” courses don’t veer into one-size-fits-all territory? With their emphasis on student engagement and reaching those genuinely interested in a given subject, the hope is that an online community of like-minded students is formed through each MOOC. Professors and teachers aids will gain profile for their teaching styles—like Coursera’s calculus lessons taught using animations hand-drawn by University of Pennsylvania professor Robert Ghrist (during which it’s not uncommon to see a zombie arm or two). By adapting the traditional classroom setting to make room for online supplementation, like they’ve done at Harvard with MOOC mentors, open web-based learning could be the future of higher education—it’s all about finding that fine balance.
CUOL Professor Profile—Matthew Holahan
Carleton’s neuroscience department is going public with its food for thought in a new video series.
Associate Professor Matthew Holahan is bringing brain food to the masses with his proposed online series, Neuro Bytes.
The videos would feature discussions with faculty and students, distilling complex neuroscience topics into easy-to-digest, 10-minute “bytes” for public consumption. They’ll tackle topics like how Parkinson’s Disease comes about, the possible ways to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, and updates on speakers’ own research projects.
“They love what they do, so they’re really interested in getting that out to the public,” says Holahan, an associate professor in Carleton’s department of neuroscience.
The idea for Neuro Bytes came about while Holahan, who studies memory, addiction and concussion, was on sabbatical last year teaching a Learning in Retirement course. His senior students were eager to learn more—there was a high demand for additional material on the subjects he was teaching, and they would tell Holahan about friends and family who were also interested.
“I brought in a video camera and started posting the lectures on YouTube,” he says. “I had quite a bit of fun with that class.”
Holahan, a faculty member for the Ottawa Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, says the project will bring cutting-edge research and topical discussions from the Carleton community to the masses. He is currently working through the logistics of hosting the videos on CUOL and making them publicly accessible, but says they could be launched as early as fall 2013.
“At Carleton, we have so much online capability,” says Holahan, who is entering his eighth year teaching at the university. “These little videos would give Carleton good exposure.”
Alongside his memory and addiction research (he spends a lot of time tempting mice with chocolate pellets), Holahan is currently studying how concussions affect athletes’ memories and psychological health through cognitive function testing with a sports medicine physician. He is also hoping to collaborate with CHEO on a research project, delving into how a concussion at an early age can affect a child’s long-term memory.
Learning how the brain functions is a hot topic, and for many students, Holahan’s class is a gamechanger—the kind of course that prompts them to switch majors at the end of the semester.
Now that interest has been gauged and a niche identified, Holahan’s next step may be to establish free online-only courses for the public. He has taken a few similar courses himself and done his homework—with enrollment in the tens of thousands and students eager to learn more about biology, Holahan wants to provide introductory classes to anyone, whether they can afford tuition or not.
Tales from the Field
When University of Ottawa student Shaylyn James couldn’t find the course she was looking for, she switched gears and opted for CUOL.
For Shaylyn James, hers is a tale of two universities.
When the University of Ottawa student double-majoring in psychology and anthropology couldn’t find her required courses online at her alma mater, she crossed over to the dark side and enrolled in Dean Verger’s Statistical Psychology course at Carleton.
Gee gee/Raven rivalries aside, James found that CUOL’s schedule better suited her schedule.
“I figured that it would be easier to make time to watch lectures and do course work rather than have to attend a scheduled course at the school that I knew I would not be able to attend all of the classes for,” says James, who will finish her degree in April 2014. “Unfortunately uOttawa has a limited selection of online courses, next to none of which are psychology.”
James heard about CUOL from a friend studying at Carleton—not surprisingly, she doesn’t know of any other University of Ottawa students who enroll in CUOL courses. She says she’d recommend it to her fellow uOttawans, especially those who work full-time, or have a family to care for or are otherwise on a fixed schedule.
“Being able to watch the lectures from the comfort of your own home, at whatever time suits your needs is really quite useful,” she says. “The online learning is really not that much different [from in-class], at least how it is done through CUOL. You really don’t feel like you’re missing out on any of the information shared during a class.”
The transition from in-class to online learning may have been seamless, but James hit a snag when it came to inter-school enrollment. She recalls being sent back and forth between nine different people, five different buildings, and having to repetitively fill out her personal information on multiple occasions.
“But once all was said and done for application and enrollment, the entire process became significantly less stressful,” says James.
As the summer semester comes to a close, James is about to move onto the last leg of her degree. She’s already plotted out her post-graduate plans, getting her United TESOL certification and teaching abroad for a couple of years before pursuing further education.
And until then, James and her self-professed mathematic challenges (something many social-science majors can undoubtedly relate to!) will be slugging their way through statistics.
“I have to say that for a stats course it’s really not half bad,” she says. “I was expecting it to be much more dry, but Dean Verger does do a good job at keeping you awake during thelecture.”
|Dean Verger – PYSC 2002|
You know what they say—an app a day keeps the doctor away.
If your pre-school jitters have swelled into full-fledged anxiety, or if the thought of exam season alone causes your mouth to dry and heart to palpitate, the MindShift app could be for you.
Created by AnxietyBC and B.C. Mental Health and Addiction Services in an attempt to quell students’ wracked nerves, the app combines anxiety facts and figures with a personalized plan, relaxation techniques, and inspirational quotes and visualization exercises for peak moments. It’s basically a portable coach you can keep in your pocket.
On average, many mental health conditions strike first between the ages of 18 and 24. The litany of stressors that come hand-in-hand with university can provide a breeding ground for students’ anxiety, making it all the more important to start managing and understanding the symptoms. And for many sufferers, finding out their triggers can be half the battle.
That’s where the app’s “Check Yourself” function comes in—users can rate their anxiety on a scale from 1 to 10, check off all applicable symptoms and write notes, allowing them to document patterns and trace each anxiety spell back to the source.
Whether it’s test situations, perfectionism, social fears, performance or everyday anxiety that is affecting your mental health, MindShift helps you create a customized plan based on those struggles to help get to the root of the problem. It’s rated four-plus stars and is available for free on Apple and Android devices in four languages.
Whether you are a new or returning CUOL student, you are bound to need some advice to help keep on track with your university courses. Follow these tips and your online learning experience will be a success!
Prepare your “viewing” environment
Since your classroom is your computer or TV, make your “viewing” area conducive to learning so you can get the most out of your CUOL course. For example, do you require silence? Specific materials? A pot of tea to hand? Make that happen!
Create a “viewing” habit
Schedule a specific time of the day for your “class time”, and view your lecture from start to finish. Make it a regular part of your weekly routine. If you try to view the lectures all at once, chances are that there will never be any time to finish viewing them.
Contact your Instructor or TA
If you have any questions about the course, your Instructor and T.A. can help. You can find contact information for CUOL instructors on cuLearn, on course outlines, and sometimes on the CUOL web site (www.carleton.ca/cuol).
Keep up-to-date with announcements
Not only should you follow your course outline, but watch for upcoming deadlines and important course information as announced on cuLearn, the CUOL website, and/or the CUOL newsletter. We also have a Facebook page (Carleton University OnLine – CUOL) and a Twitter feed (@askcuol)
Enter into cuLearn discussions, ask questions of your fellow students, keep up with readings, clarify points with your Instructors and TAs – it all helps you make the most of the material and the online experience.
Always plan ahead
Make sure you are aware of course assignment deadlines and midterm/final exam periods. Designate specific blocks of time for studying, rather than trying to “cram” right before the exam takes place. If you need a distance exam, make sure you apply by the deadline! https://carleton.ca/cuol/examination-services/
So I’m registered in a CUOL course! What do I do now?
–Determine how you will view your lectures (see CUOL Basics below).
–If you are a distance student and wish to write your exams and midterms off-campus, apply by the deadline
-Test your chosen viewing method: log in to VOD even if your course is not yet posted, tune to Channel 243 on Rogers, try the Webcast, visit the CUOL Student Centre in D299 Loeb…
-Visit your course website for your course information (cuLearn)
-Get your required textbooks (see CuLearn for your course outline, use the Carleton Bookstore or other source to purchase your texts)
-Take note of assignment deadlines and midterm/exam information
-Plan your viewing and coursework schedule – don’t let yourself fall behind!
-Get hints and support on making the most of Online Courses (see Making the Most of CUOL)
How do I watch my lectures?
- Watch the class on Rogers Digital Cable (channel 243 is part of the basic digital package), or
- Watch the course stream online during regular broadcast on the CUOL website (http://carleton.ca/cuol/access-your-courses/), or
- Subscribe to Video On Demand for flexible online access. Once subscribed ($50 per course per term), go to the VOD login page (https://vod.cuol.ca/vod) and use your cuLearn username and password to get to your course list.
- Attend the class if you are registered in the on-campus section (note to CUOL section students: you are welcome to sit in on a class if there are seats available! Look for the on-campus class in Carleton Central for locations and times) or
- View your lectures for free at the VOD kiosks located in the CUOL Student Centre (D299 Loeb)
- Web-only courses – get your lectures and other course materials through cuLearn!
- Use Pay-Per-Lecture (http://carleton.ca/cuol/access-your-courses/pay-lecture/) to rent occasional missed lectures online for one week via the CUOL website using your campus card ($6 per lecture week);
What is Video on Demand (VOD)?
VOD subscribers have online access to CUOL course lectures –anytime, anywhere within the academic term in which the course is being offered. VOD gives students the ability to stream or download individual lectures onto their computer.
I would like to subscribe to VOD. How do I do it?
Add the appropriate Video On Demand section to your registration in Carleton Central. For instance, if you are in the T section, add the TOD section. If you are in the A section, add the AOD (look for the note in the A section to get the CRN). If Carleton Central has closed, go to How to add VOD Registration (https://vod.cuol.ca/registration) and fill out the form at the bottom of the page.
Please note: local CUOL students do not need to register for examination, only if you are a distance student.
Distance (off-campus) Exams:
Eligible students who require distance examinations must ensure that the appropriate examination application is received by the CUOL office before September 19th, 2013, the deadline for Fall 2011 half-credit and full-credit CUOL courses, and January 18th, 2014, the deadline for Winter 2014 half-credit courses. Please go to the CUOL website for more information and to fill out the distance application form (https://carleton.ca/cuol/examination-services/)
You must be in the CUOL (R, T or V) section of the course to qualify for distance exams.
- Per course charge of $60.00 for Fall 2013/Winter 2014 (off-campus in Canada)
- Per course charge of $125.00 for Fall 2013/Winter 2014 (U.S. International)
- Additional costs for overseas exams may incur; CUOL will advise students of courier charges if necessary
- Deferred or make-up examinations are not handled by CUOL; please contact your instructor.
- Please note that the personalized exam times given in Carleton Central do not apply to Distance Students.
- For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Maria Brocklehurst | Patrick Lyons | Nestor Querido | Jeff Cohen