I’ve been using free educational resources in my presentations for a few years. Several professors have asked me for a list of Open Educational Resources (OER) that I have shared in various workshops. Here is a list of ten of my current favorites:
- EveryStockPhoto.com – Search engine that can be used to find free images on the web. http://www.everystockphoto.com/
- Incompetech is a collection of Creative Commons licensed music. http://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/
- iTunes U is a collection of audio and video content from higher education faculty around the world that can be freely used for educational purposes. http://deimos3.apple.com/indigo/main/main.xml Many SPU professors are freely sharing their work in iTunes U. You can find it at: http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Browsev2/spu-public
- Khan Academy provides 800+ YouTube tutorials covering math, science, and finance problems. http://www.khanacademy.org/index.html
- MERLOT is a peer-reviewed searchable collection of online learning materials. http://merlot.org
- Search by Creative Commons provides a convenient way to access search engines that include CC licensed materials. http://search.creativecommons.org
- Webcast.Berkeley is a collection of podcasts and webcasts from the University of California Berkeley. http://webcast.berkeley.edu/
- Wikimedia Commons is a media repository for public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips). http://commons.wikimedia.org
- YouTube EDU is a collection of videos and channels from higher education institutions http://www.youtube.com/education?b=400
- MIT OpenCourseware is a website that contains almost all content from MIT courses. http://ocw.mit.edu/
I’m co-teaching an educational technology course with Helen Barrett (@eportfolios). Instead of using Blackboard, we’re trying to use all open technologies for the course. We are using Google Sites for the content and Google Groups for class communication (no Google Wave invite yet).
So far, so good except for a few small snags such as what to do about a gradebook. I’ve agreed to find a solution for this. I would like a gradebook that allows students to check scores whenever they want. Students already have a number of applications they need to create logins for so I would like to avoid one more if possible.
I was hoping to be able to use Google Docs Spreadsheet alone for the gradebook for this course. My goal was to make it possible to have one spreadsheet where all scores were entered by the instructors, and students could only see their individual scores. However, it doesn’t look like there is a way to give students access to part of a sheet or even one sheet in a Google Docs Spreadsheet. I could create a spreadsheet for each student but this would require too many clicks when entering scores.
I did some research on the use of a mail merge command in Google Docs. It looks like I would need access to scripts that aren’t available to all users so this idea is out for now. Therefore, I am planning to use the following plan (which breaks our goal of trying to use only open software in this course) unless someone from my Personal Learning Network (you) can provide another way forward:
- Create a single Google Spreadsheet to enter student names, email addresses, and scores.
- Share this spreadsheet with my co-instructor, Helen Barrett.
- Enter scores as assignments are completed.
- Each week, export the spreadsheet as a Microsoft Excel document to a folder on my computer.
- Use Microsoft Word to create a MailMerge and send each student an update on their progress in the course.
- This is technology I am familiar with and know that it will work, possibly saving me time and stress.
- Students will get weekly feedback on their progress.
- Pushing grades to students (emailing) may encourage them to check in on the course as they probably check email more frequently than they access the course.
- This solution uses non-open technologies so university students who want to replicate this technique with their K-12 or adult ed students will need to have Microsoft Office. (All SPU students have Office 2007 or 2008 so maybe this isn’t a disadvantage.)
- Students won’t have real-time access to their grades. They will have to refer to my last email to check on their grades.
- I will have to remember to send out a grade update each week, which is unlikely so I will probably need a prompt from students or my co-instructor.
- Although I’m familiar with this process, it may seem complicated to teachers who want to replicate what I’m doing.
Do you have any suggestions for me? The idea solution would:
- Let students access grades whenever they want.
- Let them use existing login information so they don’t have to create an additional account
- Come at no cost to the students, a small annual fee for the instructor would be acceptable.
- Provide common gradebook features such as the ability to have easily enter data and sort, create reports, and make calculated columns.
Should universities ditch Blackboard in favor of WordPress (or other Web 2.0 tools)? In Part I, I argued against such a move. After watching the interview below I may have changed my mind. Well, not exactly, but I do believe faculty should consider a blended approach where they integrate real-world (still-living-after-the-term-is-over) tools with their university’s LMS.
In the video clip below, Jim Groom explains why he recommends the use of WordPress over Blackboard. From the interview, it is clear that he understands the important role an LMS plays. However, he doesn’t believe a vendor like Blackboard can keep up with constantly changing web. He definitely has a point. I often find myself reaching for tools like Wetpaint rather than using group features within Blackboard or even the LearningObjects wiki (a Bb Building Block). I do this because the tools are more robust and students can use the tools after the term ends.
LMS vendors would be wise to focus on better ways to integrate third party tools such as WordPress and Wetpaint.
Please read the linked article above and then let me know what you see as the advantages and disadvantages of using a blog (WordPress) instead of a learning management system (Blackboard)?
I’ll tell you what I think. First here’s my disclosure statement. I’m a huge fan of WordPress and I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Blackboard during my ten years as a user. (Has it really been that long?) That being said, I don’t see why an institution would choose to use an application designed for reflections (WP) when an application designed to manage courses (Bb) fails. It would make more sense to investigate why Bb is failing or evaluate another LMS like Moodle.
I like the commenting feature in WordPress but it isn’t a threaded discussion board. I like the ability to review blog stats in WordPress but it isn’t a gradebook. I can see how some professors could teach their courses using a blog but it won’t meet the needs of the many.
There are non-LMS alternatives to Blackboard (such as Drupal) but I don’t see WordPress as being one of them. Now if we want to talk about using WordPress as an alternative to an ePortfolio management system I am ready to talk. For now, I’m sticking with Blackboard as my LMS.
Web entrepreneur, Shai Resher is planning a free online university that will utilize open technologies like iTunesU for content. Students will pay a small registration fee based on individual ability to pay. There will be no per-credit cost. I applaud this effort and hope it is successful but I do have my doubts. Many believe that the value of an education is in the content used. People tell me all the time that they think Seattle Pacific University and other open content providers are crazy for “giving it all away.” They question why anyone would come to a university when they can download course content and listen for free. I believe the value of an education is in the teacher-student and student-student relationships. Powerful learning takes place when the instructor, who is an expert in the field, shares her thoughts on a topic and interacts with students, allowing all participants to co-construct knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, students can learn by reading/listening/watching some of the great open content that is available. However, for Resher’s institution to be successful, he will need to recruit highly qualified educators who are passionate about his vision and online teaching. Access to quality content is only a small piece of puzzle.