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The recency and primacy effects—long documented phenomena related to the importance of sequence on information recall—evidence that, in short, “Following a single exposure to learning, recall is better for items at the beginning (primacy) and end (recency) [...] than for middle items.” 
This is relevant to teaching and learning because it’s in that middle period, when many faculty have come to the heart of their lesson, that students may be least likely to be actively learning.
In the book, Student Engagement Techniques,  Elizabeth F. Barkley poses the suggestion that lectures could be shaped around this retention curve by segmenting a class into three parts:
1) Begin the class by diving directly into teaching important content.
2) After 20 minutes or so, have students take a brief break, stand up and stretch, and then conduct the administrative business, i.e., attendance, collection of homework, distribution of graded homework, etc.
3) Finally, transition back into important content for the last part of class. Consider incorporating a “JiTT” activity (Just in Time Teaching Techniques, October 10, 2012) and close the class with a recap of the most important points.
- Primacy Versus Recency in a Quantitative Model: Activity Is the Critical Distinction Anthony J. Greene, Colin Prepscius, and William B. Levy
- A CTL favorite book: Student Engagement Techniques (p.103)
MOOCs are courses that are:
- Massive: designed for large-scale participation by dozens or even thousands of
- Open: freely available with free access to all course materials.
- Online: available through any web browser on any mobile device or computer.
As the MOOC model has gained acceptance it continues to be redefined and changed to suit the needs of learners, teachers, and institutions.
Currently, MOOCs combine the practice of online education with the ideals of open education and open courseware initiatives. They have gathered increasing attention in the past year as the model has been adopted by such well-known universities as MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley . They have even been blamed for the recent controversy surrounding the departure and subsequent return of the President of the University of Virginia. 
Where did MOOCs Come From?
The advent of the web provided new opportunities for proponents of distance education. In addition to the ability to provide course materials and communication opportunities online, the web has allowed for experimentation with new pedagogical approaches. In 1999 the University of Tübingen in Germany made videos of its lectures freely available online. MIT followed suit in 2002 with its publication of course materials through its OpenCourseware initiative . Alongside these initiatives, discussions about Personal Learning Environments, or the more colorfully named Edupunk, combined a reaction against the commercialization of learning with a focus on individually crafting one’s own learning and curriculum. 
Giving away course materials for self-learners was one thing. Giving away access to actual taught courses was another, yet that is exactly what David Wiley of Utah State University did in 2007 when he opened his graduate course on, appropriately enough, open education, to anyone who wished to participate. The term MOOC itself, however, came as a result of a course taught by longtime open education advocates George Siemens , of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University and Stephen Downes , Senior Researcher at The National Research Council (Canada). The course was titled “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” and was offered both to the students at the University of Manitoba who took it for credit and to the over 2,000 students who participated for free. The course content and discussion were made available through a variety of tools such as blogs, threaded discussions using Moodle, virtual encounters in Second Life, and synchronous online meetings. As a result of that course, and with a nod to an older interactive and collaborative technology, the MOO, Dave Cormier, Manager of Web Communication and Innovations at the University of Prince Edward Island, coined the term MOOC in 2008 and created the video that defined it.
Cormier, Downes, and Siemans have continued their experiments with MOOCs, offering a number of courses. In 2011 they brought together over 30 facilitators to offer a 35 week MOOC focused on innovations and directions in online education.  As of the writing of this post they are offering a MOOC titled Current/Future State of Higher Education (#CFHE12) to explore the impact of the MOOC model. 
Who is teaching them? Where are they taught?
There are multiple online courses calling themselves MOOCs. These are currently taking one of two forms, recently labelled by Downes as cMOOCs and xMOOCs. The original MOOC concept envisioned that an instructor would provide information and encourage participants to share their knowledge and experience, connecting with each other in groups and sub-groups based on their particular interests and expertise. They would take the opportunity to peer instruct and even expand upon areas where the instructor may not have extensive knowledge. In other words, much if not most of the learning experience is derived through meaningful interaction with others in the course. This connectivist approach, or cMOOC, makes use of many of the social networking tools now available: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, discussion boards, etc.
xMOOCs, or those served by new start-ups such as EdX, Coursera, Udacity and Udemy  are an effort to formalize the MOOC model. Their service provides the managerial functions necessary for institutions offering MOOCs: account administration, server infrastructure, marketing, etc.
What are the potential benefits of the MOOC model?
- can encourage communication among participants who bring a variety of viewpoints, knowledge, and skills to the course. This serves to create communities of interest along with broadening the scope of the MOOC.
- could inspire people to “try on” subjects that they wouldn’t otherwise pursue or even try on education itself.
- can provide multiple ways to engage with course material, encouraging multimodal learning that can address the needs of learners with a variety of learning styles (i.e. Universal Design for Learning or UDL).
- by developing for multimodal learners, could inspire better teaching and use of technologies in general for face to face courses.
Yet MOOCs are viewed with trepidation and skepticism by some who see them as reinforcing the worst aspects of teaching. Those that are designed to simply provide droning lectures followed by auto-graded multiple choice tests are, in the words of Said Vaidhyanathan “taking the worst aspects of college learning as the favored methods of college learning.”
And then there are the financial questions. While MOOCs have been and might continue to be used for marketing purposes or to claim cultural capital for those institutions that are the early adopters, there is no doubt they can be expensive to run. They are not yet direct revenue generators. Among many educators that lack of commercial viability is seen as a positive trait, especially for public institutions that, ideally, promote the extension of knowledge as a core value. Those who see commercialism as corrupter are understandably leery of institutions that view MOOCs solely in terms of revenue generation through commercial transactions with students.
Administering several large MOOCs simultaneously has infrastructure implications. Alternatively, outsourcing MOOC administration to any of the several MOOC providers that have sprung up must take into account FERPA policies and the privacy of students.
Among the many questions revolving around the formalization of MOOCs are how faculty will be compensated for teaching them and how universities will credential students taking them. Currently, xMOOCs generally make a point of offering some form of assessment but we are a long way for any kind of standardization that would allow for MOOC credit to travel easily from institution to institution. Then again, “long” is a relative term. When speaking of the evolution of MOOCs that day may come much sooner than expected. Indeed, in the past few weeks the University of Texas has negotiated with Coursera to offer courses that may carry college credit. Meanwhile the State of Minnesota Office of Higher Education has declared that Coursera cannot offer any courses to citizens of Minnesota without that government’s consent, an odd proposition given that the courses are free and offer no credit. 
How can you learn more about them?
A quick look through the notes below, or a search through The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wikipedia, or even generally via Google or YouTube will net you more than a little information on MOOCs. A more experiential way to learn about MOOCs is to take one. Visit the xMOOC providers or follow Siemans’ or Downes’ offerings.
1. The Chronicle of Higher Education has compiled a timeline of their articles related to MOOCs at “What You Need to Know About MOOCs.”
2. In the May 2012 article “Harvard and M.I.T. Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses” the New York Times reported that several other universities had jumped on the MOOC bandwagon.
3. While the ouster of President Sullivan was more complex than a simple argument over the adoption of MOOCs, it is interesting to note that almost immediately upon her return to that Office the university signed a deal with Coursera to begin developing MOOCs.
4. Since that time the MIT OpenCourseWare site has continued to be enlarged, reporting 100 million visits by 2010.
5. Educators also see a role for EduPunk and Open Education practices as a counter to the more restrictive and, some would argue, limiting environment of Learning Management Systems like Blackboard, Moodle, etc.
6. This video continues to be the definition of MOOCs as originally conceived, though the term itself is applied to two diverging definitions. In an all too common instance of web irony, and as an example of how quickly the MOOC concept is evolving, this video has been accused of being “inaccurate” by a commenter who apparently did not know Cormier’s role in creating the term.
7. While more formal talks by both George Siemens and David Cormier have been recorded, for a more casual discussion about MOOCs by these founders, see the interview with Martin Weller of the UK’s Open University at http://youtu.be/l1G4SUblnbo.
8. Stephen Downes has been writing and speaking about issues in education for many years. For example, in this 2009 video he describes Open Education. You can also see his brief introduction to the 2011 “Change 2011 MOOC” which provides his take on how that MOOC will work.
11. In an interview with Downes for her July 2012 article (“Massively Open Online Courses Are ‘Here to Stay’“), Tanya Roscorla picked up on his use of the terms xMOOC and cMOOC, so they have now entered the MOOC lexicon. See also the report by Sir John Daniels “Making Sense of MOOCs.”
12. EdX is a joint venture created by MIT and Harvard. Coursera was founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford. Three roboticists, Sebastian Thrun, Mike Sokolsky and David Stavens founded Udacity. Udemy was founded by Gagan Biyani, Eren Bali and Oktay Caglar.
14. As reported in the Washington Post on October 19, 2012 (“Is Minnesota Cracking Down on MOOCs?”). For a recent recap of other general issues surrounding MOOCs, see Katherine Mangan’s “MOOC Mania” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 1, 2012. In addition, feel free to visit my growing collection of MOOC references at http://delicious.com/hopegreenberg/mooc+MOOC?link_view=expanded
“Physical activity has been identified as an important behavior to help prevent the development of overweight/obesity and associated conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. Regular physical activity has also been found to improve dietary intake and patterns. Therefore, interventions targeting physical activity may lead to weight change not only by increasing calories expended each day, but also by influencing the food choices people make.” 1
Or so thought Nutritional Sciences Graduate student Lizzie Pope. So she designed a study to provide new information on the efficacy of using monetary incentives to help college freshmen meet physical activity guidelines, and therefore establish an important health-promoting behavior. It worked like this:
One hundred and seventeen students were randomized to one of three groups: continued-incentive, discontinued-incentive, or control. For 12 weeks during the fall semester both the continued-incentive and discontinued-incentive groups received weekly incentives for using the university fitness center. At the conclusion of fall semester weekly incentive payouts ended for both incentive groups. For 12 weeks during spring semester the discontinued-incentive group received no incentives to use the fitness center while the continued-incentive group received incentives on a variable-interval schedule, averaging one incentive payment each month. During the spring semester the exact schedule for the incentives was not known to participants in this group.
Great. But how was she going to track the students? Well, perhaps she could set up some sort of card swipe system that would record the student ID, date, and entry/exit times for each visit to the fitness center. Great, how do you do that?
Enter the Center for Teaching and Learning. Lizzie enlisted the aid of CTL staffer Wesley Wright. Together, Wesley and Lizzie assembled a Mac Mini computer and magnetic card reader. The Mac recorded each card swipe and entered the data into a central database. The database fed a web site, and the web site was used by the students to track their individual progress, using both tables and graphs. The web site also provided Lizzie with both individual and group statistics and the incentive payment owed to the students.
Results? ”Basically, we were able to increase fitness-center use over the fall semester by paying weekly incentives,” says Lizzie, “however this increased exercise did not translate into weight maintenance for the incentive groups over the fall semester. In the spring semester without incentive payments our discontinued-incentive group no longer met fitness-center use goals. However, with a variable-interval payment schedule our continued-incentive group continued to meet fitness-center use goals. Unfortunately, this increased exercise again did not translate into weight maintenance over the spring semester. It would be interesting to measure body composition and metabolic markers to see if the increased exercise had beneficial effects other than weight control.”
1 “Burn and Earn: Incentivizing Physical Activity in College Freshman – UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT”, n.d. http://www.reeis.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0223043-burn-and-earn-incentivizing-physical-activity-in-college-freshman.html.
What is JiTT?
Just in Time Teaching, or JiTT, is a model first proposed by Novak, Patterson, Gavrin and Christian (1999) that combines web-based resources that help students prepare outside of class with active learning techniques in the classroom. JiTT has recently drawn attention as a part of a “flipped classroom” strategy, in which students do much of the work of absorbing new information outside of the classroom so that faculty can focus their time in the classroom on those content areas and concepts that students need more help understanding. Flipped classroom strategies also use principles of active learning, asking students to apply knowledge or work problems during class time with the professor and with other students.
JiTT Exercises: Student Prep Helps Faculty Prep Too
JiTT exercises are one way to help students prepare appropriately for these in-class activities. Most JiTT exercises are short, web-based assignments students turn in before class that require them to complete the assigned reading or other coursework. While preparing for class, the instructor quickly reviews the student responses to the JiTT exercise and tailors the class to correct misconceptions, practice applying concepts or explore in areas where student work fell short. At least part of class time is spent reviewing a sampling of student JiTT exercises and/or going over pre-class quiz results. When student responses are on target, in-class exercises can offer students opportunities to further demonstrate and deepen their understanding through exercises that link course materials to real world applications or to other material within the course.
Is JiTT really new?
JiTT has been around since the late 1990’s, and a number of studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach. My reaction, on first hearing about JiTT, is that the idea itself is quite a bit older than the web-based medium on which it relies. Faculty in many disciplines have used techniques ranging from reading questions to reaction papers or submission of discussion questions to accomplish the same outcomes: encourage and support students’ preparation for in-class activities, and provide information about their level of preparation and understanding to the instructor prior to the start of class. While JiTT may not be, in fact, “something completely different,” what is different is that JiTT initiatives, particularly in the STEM disciplines, have focused on larger, content-heavy introductory courses which have traditionally emphasized lecture as the main in-class activity. In addition, the submission of the JiTT exercises through a Learning Management System like Blackboard allows students more flexibility in when they prepare and turn in the JiTT exercises, and faculty more flexibility in how they organize and view the responses. For example, faculty at UVM can use the Test, Assignment or even the Survey tool to collect JiTT responses before class.
What do JiTT exercises look like?
JiTT exercises vary depending on the course level, structure, and staffing. Some JiTT techniques require students to produce lengthy responses on which they receive feedback before or after class. These are appropriate for small to medium-sized classes or classes where the instructor has grading assistance. Other techniques require little or no grading on the part of the instructor, such as automatically graded tests, or a brief sentence or two submitted by each student indicating which parts of the material they would like to review further.
This Carleton College website offers a comprehensive explanation of JiTT methods and has a library of exercises developed for the geosciences.
www.jitt.org is run by Gavrin and Novak, two of the original authors of the JiTT model. It has more information on JiTT as well as guidelines for crafting JiTT exercises.
JiTT across Disciplines
While JiTT is widely associated with STEM disciplines, some recent studies have highlighted its value for social science and humanities courses. For example, Pace and Middendorf (2010) discuss the use of JiTT techniques to develop critical thinking and writing skills in an introductory history course. They found that JiTT exercises promoted a feedback loop that improved student writing for the course, and also felt that it improved the quality of class discussion, as students had an opportunity to develop arguments and opinions in the JiTT exercise, and came to class prepared to debate and discuss the points raised in their classmates’ assignments.
Simkins and Maier (2004) tested a JiTT model in an introductory Economics course. While their results show some difference in exam performance between JiTT and non-JiTT courses, they, like many faculty who have tested JiTT techniques, emphasize that students in JiTT courses came to class better prepared and took on more responsibility for their own learning. These factors, as well as the value to faculty of having a better sense of students’ understanding of the material and tailoring their teaching accordingly, are difficult to measure. Ideally, they contribute to long term retention of and engagement with course ideas and materials, and in the near term, can also increase faculty satisfaction with their teaching experience.
JiTT: Key Lessons
For some of you, the strict definition of JiTT sets parameters that are too constraining. Perhaps you do not want to use web-based exercises, or you would like to incorporate the exercises into the face to face class time. Maybe you have considered using a student response system like iClickers in your classroom and expect to use responses to iClicker questions to guide how much time you spend reviewing different parts of the material. These activities may not fit exactly with the JiTT models that have been so rigorously tested, but they do retain the “spirit” of JiTT, which is designed to:
- motivate students to prepare material before class so that they can benefit more from active learning techniques
- gather information on their understanding of the material
- utilize that information to improve student understanding, and where possible, apply that knowledge during face to face class time
If these goals coincide with where you would like to head with your teaching, JiTT exercises may give you a jumping off point for redesigning your course to focus less on lecture, and more on active learning experiences for students.
Want to know more?
CTL is offering a three-part workshop on October 16th from 2:30-5:15. You can sign up for one, two or three of the parts.
All of the events are in 303 Bailey-Howe, starting at 2:30:
- A workshop with Laura Bermingham, a Plant Biology faculty member at UVM, highlighting flipped classroom techniques she uses, including Just in Time Teaching and the Peer Instruction model (2:30-3:30)
- A 1/2 hour video featuring Eric Mazur, a Harvard physicist who is a leader in the flipped classroom movement (3:35-4:15)
- A one-hour workshop with CTL’s Hope Greenberg on using different technologies to enhance flipped classroom design or to just bring in some techniques without flipping your classroom completely. (4:20-5:15)
Faculty are welcome to sign up for one, two or all three of these workshops to find out more about what “flipped classroom” “peer instruction” and “just in time teaching” can do for them. These workshops will be of particular interest to faculty teaching large classes or introductory classes that they would like to redesign to have less lecture, and more active learning by students.
Pace, D. and Middendorf, J. (2010) “Using Just in Time Teaching in History.” In Simkins and Maier, eds Just in Time Teaching: Across the Disciplines, and Across the Academy. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. Pp. 153-162
Novak, G., Patterson, E., Gavrin, A., & Christian,W. (1999). Just-in-time teaching: Blending active learning with web technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Simkins, S. and Maier, M. (2004) Using Just-in-Time Teaching Techniques in the Principles of Economics Course , Social Science Computer Review, 22 (4). Pp. 444-456.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework, based in cognitive neuroscience, that encourages the design of flexible learning environments to accommodate a variety of learning styles and differences. This post focuses on one of the three core principles in UDL: multiple means of representation.
This means moving beyond textual representation by presenting information and conceptual knowledge to students in a variety of formats, e.g., images, video, and audio. Not only does research indicate that this practice can enhance student understanding and retention of course content, it can also be used to engage students and prime discussion. Students responding to an image, song or movie clip can spark reflection and debate.
Effective use of multimedia in your teaching is non-trivial. It takes time to find the right image or clip and prepare it so that is accessible and available to all students. Fortunately, UVM has some resources to help you every step of the way.
Step 1: Finding Multimedia
There are so many sources of multimedia, and so little time. To help you get started, CTL has collected a list of websites where you can find images and videos applicable to many disciplines. Check out this link for information about copyright, fair use, and using multimedia in your courses, as well.
Additionally, Bailey/Howe Library has several new, searchable databases for streaming media that provides access to licensed documentaries with relevance across the curriculum. Features for some of these databases include synchronized, searchable transcripts, editing capabilities to make video clips, and an embeddable video player that can be used in Blackboard courses.
Step 2: Making Multimedia Accessible
Multimedia used in class or on the web needs to be ADA compliant. Video/audio content needs to be captioned. Captioning not only benefits the deaf or hard of hearing student, but can also benefit students for whom English is a second language, and individuals with learning disabilities (hearing and reading at the same time can improve comprehension). For information regarding captioning services on campus, please see the ACCESS offices captioning website.
Images on the web also need to be accessible and take into consideration not only people with blindness, but also those low vision, color-blindness, or cognitive disabilities. For a comprehensive discussion on effective and appropriate use of images to facilitate comprehension, see Creating Accessible Images on the WebAIM website.
Step 3: Making Multimedia Available on the Web
If you want students to access your own audio/video content on the web, or if the content falls within Fair Use copyright guidelines, use the UVM Media Manager tool to upload the files to your UVM server space, also known as your “zoo space.” The Media Manager makes it simple to share your media by broadcasting it, linking to it, or embedding it on a webpage such as a Blackboard course page. See Media Manager directions here.
Another way to add media to your Blackboard (Bb) course is to use the Bb “MashUp” tool. This tool allows you to search YouTube, Flickr, and SlideShare (a site for viewing and sharing PowerPoint-like presentations), select content, and then embed this content directly into your Bb course. While the media content resides on their respective websites, students view the media content without ever leaving the Bb course. View this tutorial on the Bb MashUp tool
Interested in Learning More?
For more information about the Filmmakers Library Online, attend the upcoming CTL Sound (Teaching) Bite on “Teaching with Streaming Media” facilitated by Daisy Benson of the B/H Library, on October 9, 12:00 – 1:00 pm. Visit this page for information and to register.
For more information about the Media Manager, attend the upcoming CTL Sound (Teaching) Bite, “From DVD to Blackboard” on October 3, 12:00- 1:00 pm. Visit this page for information and to register.
We’ve come to expect innovative ideas from CHNM and this week has been no exception. Funded by a grant from the NEH, the One Week/One Tool project’s intent was to bring together twelve practitioners in the digital humanities to decide on, and develop, a useful tool. The project was announced in June 2010 and the event was held in late July. True to the premise, Anthologize was delivered at the end of the One Week. There were several finalists that we hope will be developed in future.
Anthologize is a plugin for the WordPress blog application. It allows one to collect their own blog posts, or import blog posts from others, combine them, and produce a text. Currently the text formats are ePub, PDF, TEI, and RTF. An active community has sprung up around the project, contributing bug reports and feature suggestions. Work will continue on what promises to be a simple but useful tool.
There are several educational uses that immediately spring to mind:
1) Bringing together class blogs from a course
2) Collecting individual student’s blog posts as a ‘takeway’ for students
3) As an assignment or class project, having students search and compile posts on a topic
4) For organizations, an easy way to compile news and updates from the year as a document for use in applying for, or continuing, grant funding
5) Using WordPress as a drafting space, then compiling the results as a TEI document for forther markup and processing (Your WordPress postings do not have to be publically posted: you can build Anthologize documents from drafts)
6) Teaching students the importance of creating their materials digitally, especially using standards like TEI. Digital, done right, means multiple opportunities for repurposing.
7) Pulling together blog postings for a quick ebook that can be downloaded to your ereader device for offline reading.
8) Building course packs or readers of relevant articles
9) Building a CV or portfolio of your own work, or teaching your students to do the same for their own eportfolios
I’m sure we will all be thinking of more as the program develops. Meanwhile, here is a short video of Anthologize in action. It’s done without audio overlay as a way to show how easy it is to use, though I’ve also highlighted some of the current bugs that are already being addressed.
Unnarrated Screencast of Anthologize
If you are at UVM and would like to try it, contact me and I’d be happy to get you started (firstname.lastname@example.org, Center for Teaching and Learning, UVM).
Perspectives on intellectual property in higher ed vary widely and the one expressed by this speaker (15 min. video) favors the open education movement and places the idea of information as personal property to be protected in an historical context that’s both controversial and interesting. I’d be curious to hear thoughts and reactions to it from our community.
The speaker is Dr. David Wiley, Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University, at TEDxNYED, a March 2010 conference on new media and education held in New York City.
Because of some recent trouble with spam filtering, we’ve had to turn the comments feature off, but please feel free to email me (email@example.com) and I’ll post your reply.
The Center for Cultural Pluralism will celebrate its 10 year anniversary on January 29, 2009. The Center has announced their spring programming, which includes guest speakers Dr. Lee Kneflekamp speaking on “MicroAgressions in the Classroom” (Jan. 30) and Dr. Scott Page, “The Science of Complex Systems and Systems Scholarship” (Feb 2009). For a full list of films, workshops and events visit their web site.