Sher Downing: One of the things that we do is have all tenured full-time faculty teach our online classes. So you get the same award-winning faculty online that you would get if you came in to take a course. We have surveyed the students and monitored the course just to see what the students enjoy. Over the last two years, we’ve seen an increase in the use of mobile devices. People want the ability to access things easily through mobile devices. We have made an effort to offer online lectures that they can also download as an MP3 or MP4. What we have found from student feedback is that many times they listen to it on a first run while they’re commuting. Then, they go home and watch the video a second time -particularly if it’s a type of application that has to show them steps on how to do something.
They’re already in the mindset of that subject matter. They’re already in the mindset of thinking through the process. Watching the video then becomes secondary for them to solidify that they’ve learned things in the correct manner. We’ve seen that people want to be able to utilize their iPads and tablets much more. We try to create an environment where things show up well in the mobile sector. Things are downloadable in PDF format so they can get to them easily. We really try to make it as flexible as possible for them.
On the engagement side, we started offering virtual office hours every week. We have worked with faculty to offer virtual review sessions. You can dial in if you’re particularly concerned about the exam that’s coming up or a project that’s due. We do have teams that meet among each other to work through their projects but we also have a time when faculty meets online with teams. Students have the option of using a camera if they want to see others or they can just use audio if they prefer to dial in. It gives them that opportunity to talk as a group and talk with the faculty member to run through their ideas and really get a feel on how their project is going to end.
Sramana Mitra: What is the collaboration platform that you’re using?
Sher Downing: We use Adobe Connect. The flipside of that is we have tried to engage our projects so that they also provide engagement as groups are watching them. We have had teams that build PowerPoint together. We have worked out systems where teammates have each worked on their section and then put it all together in one piece. They place that in DropBox so that the entire class can watch the presentation. They can then do peer evaluation on those as needed and work through all of those types of synergies that you would do in a typical ground cluster.
This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Sher Downing, Executive Director of Online Academic Services at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University
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