Boston University is now at the threshold of new opportunities for blending instructional technology into the learning process. eLive is being developed as an alternative to pure distance learning so that programs can be offered on campus or on site (and even abroad) with reduced face-to-face time and ongoing student/faculty collaboration and interaction through various technologies. Metropolitan College has begun to formulate a plan for the emerging infrastructure to support eLive, with the expectation that this can be used to enhance local programs, reach a wider audience (who do not have the time or the proximity to be on campus for the typical 42 contact hours), and develop customized programs at corporate and overseas sites.
Blended programs provide a perfect framework to give students a solid academic foundation and at the same time develop their abilities for independent learning that will have a very positive effect on their professional careers. We are experimenting with several pedagogical approaches and emerging technologies to make programs available to broader regional audiences, and make blended education a model for the future of student-centric education.
eLive works with the Office of Distance Education to exchange technologies and developed course content. But this will be a separate initiative employing a different academic and business model.
On the technology side, we are exploring how to deploy powerful new synchronous and asynchronous video-collaboration technologies in educational processes, and determine when these different video-collaboration vectors (video, audio, online slide presentation, screen/application sharing, elements of social networking, etc.) are most effective to support various learning objectives. We are researching ways to make authoring online content simpler and cost-effective with smaller numbers of students comparing to distance education courses. We achieve this by automating routine functions – by converting complex emerging technologies into intuitive and properly supported teaching appliances, breaking complex and loosely defined processes into structured and documented building blocks, and even involving students in the course development process.
We are also building a technical foundation to support diverse course delivery to accommodate different students’ preferences, lifestyles, and technical skills. Once created, the same content will be available for continuous online access using multimedia streaming, through downloads for later viewing, on mobile devices using podcasting/vodcasting, or even CD/DVDs and printouts.
Our two key considerations in evaluating technology architectures are affordability and accessibility – we focus on developing ad-hoc “anytime, anywhere” flexible standard-based solutions that are affordable in a broad range of educational scenarios and do not require expensive proprietary setups. This evolving, innovative approach is based on a disciplined progression from opportunistic new ideas, through pilots with defined and measurable objectives based on faculty and student feedback.
On the pedagogical side, we capture the experience of front runners and translate that into practical methodologies that could be used by faculty and instructional designers when developing blended, classroom, or online materials. For each course and program, we start with Bloom’s taxonomy to define sophisticated learning objectives, and map these objectives into learning opportunities to determine which activities are most appropriate in a classroom, and which can be better performed independently or in virtual teams before or after classroom sessions. We design group projects and activities to help students to develop core competencies and expertise by applying newly acquired knowledge. We analyze the educational implications of the latest life-changing phenomena like search engines, social networking, blogging, and globalization. We develop recommendations on optimal strategies to evaluate students’ performance, faculty effectiveness, and the utility of technological tools and services. And while working on all these concepts, we constantly remember that all our research can make a difference only through hard work of faculty and staff. Thus, we seek the most effective and efficient adoption strategies that include ongoing educational seminars, planned testing and piloting, proselytizing, summary papers, detailed process and technology documentation.
In the coming year, eLive will focus on taking full academic degree programs into the marketplace – in programs that would benefit by a modified structure that blends some in-class work with ongoing online engagement.
Frequently Asked Questions
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