eLearning Technology Blog

LMS evaluation process moves forward

by WSU Online 2. April 2014 09:34

At the start of 2013, the Faculty Senate put together a committee of faculty to examine the efficacy of WSU’s current learning management system, Angel. After conducting a survey, the committee concluded that WSU should explore alternative platforms. The Faculty Senate then expanded the group to include more perspectives, and the committee consulted several groups, including eLearning consultants from the Global Campus, the Enterprise Systems Group, and Information Services.

A second survey was conducted, and the committee has narrowed the list to three alternatives: Blackboard Learn, Instructure Canvas and Desire 2 Learn. Survey results are being compiled into a scoring sheet. There are also plans to bring the vendors to campus for demonstrations. The committee plans to identify viable options this semester, so a new learning management system can be selected and implementation can begin. 

You can find updates on the committee website, including survey results, timelines and contact information.

Transforming the Teaching & Learning Environment

by Susan 17. March 2014 15:23


I sit in a lot of webinars and read numerous newsletters and blogs to garner fresh ideas for the faculty I work with at the Global Campus.

During the past two weeks, I was immersed in a virtual conference sponsored by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), with the theme “transforming the teaching and learning environment.” I participated in 3-5 presentations each day on a variety of topics focused around this goal.

As you might guess, there was a lot of conversation about the most effective ways to engage students, how to encourage active learning, incorporate collaborative activities, flipping classrooms, the benefits of MOOCs, and several other “innovative” teaching practices.

As I watched these many presentations, I was struck by the fact that I didn’t hear anything new; most of the information was already familiar.

It was validating to realize that we are doing a whole lot right here at the Global Campus. But it also made me think about what was missing. Why are we, as an organization, always looking for the answer to “what makes online learning most effective?” What unique or innovative ideas did our associate director hope we’d unearth when she signed us up for this virtual conference? Is there a magic solution, just waiting to be discovered?

A second conclusion I drew from these webinars is that the most powerful learning comes from the student’s self-direction. Now that’s not to say that we don’t need teachers, because we certainly do! But evidence (both empirical and anecdotal) shows that the deepest and longest-lasting learning doesn’t arise from listening to knowledge experts share what they know, but is instead derived from guiding student-driven investigation, exploration, motivation, and doing.

At first, these two points seemed unrelated, but the more I thought about what makes learning effective (online or otherwise), the stronger I grasped the significance of student-centered learning and what we already know to be effective. In a flash, I saw this as the elusive “magic solution.”

Of course, you and I both know that there is no such thing! But I also recognized that if all these educators, who were committed to transforming the teaching and learning environment, kept asserting that students learn best from taking action rather than taking notes, I knew this was worth paying attention to. I realized that the magic was not in the subject matter content but in the role of the teacher.

With technology, mobile devices, the internet, and social media, our students have immediate and instantaneous access to virtually any material at anytime from anywhere. The teacher is no longer required to be the primary resource for imparting content.  A more effective role for the teacher is to provide the context for the learning, guiding students to appreciate and grasp real-world applications to solve problems, develop new ideas, and find solutions. Teachers are valuable, not because of what they know, but because they know how to apply that knowledge in practical ways.

If you’d like to peruse the topics presented in the PASSHE virtual conference, you can access the archives of the recorded sessions with this link:  http://www.passhe.edu/inside/asa/DEConf/Pages/2014-Sessions-by-Date.aspx

For more on transforming education, here’s a playlist of six provocative video segments from TED talks.


Susan Fein


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