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Monday, 12 November 2012

The trends and how to address them

I currently specialize in teaching accounting to a variety of business students in both face-to-face and online settings. The demographics range from recent high school graduates to those considering midlife career change to international students with English as a second language.  Workplace experience is also diverse as the students' ages: my youngest student is 18 and my oldest is mid-60’s.  The common thread is that workplace opportunities in business are limited for those without an education.  The challenge comes in defining what role I wish to play and the role that I wish technology to play in helping them get the education they strive for.
I can anticipate electronic hardware such as laptops and tablets playing a larger role.  As the ease of note taking and navigating electronic textbooks becomes easier, there may be a preference for electronic editions.  Additional factors include the reduced cost and weight associated with electronic editions.  Similarly, the cost of new laptops and tablets continues to decrease, removing a significant barrier to adoption. 
To embrace this trend, I have made exclusive use of textbooks with online enhancements.  The benefits have been twofold: full access to every question has been made to each student who may require further examples of how to approach specific topics and from an administrative standpoint, it has allowed me to choose certain questions to test for comprehension without the burden of marking 120 assignments.  The immediate feedback given to the students has also been recognized as very helpful, as indicated by end of class evaluations.  It is important to note that all online editions are not created equal and that while they are helpful as a study tool, in-class engagement is still required, particularly when tackling difficult topics that require the human touch.  There is no computer program that can bring back a discouraged student as effectively as a human.
The other trend that has been discussed as part of OER, but not emphasized in the same manner as Wikipedia, is the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.  I will need to do more research into effectively fencing Facebook due to privacy and accessibility concerns – I would need to restrict access to those enrolled in the course and also not need to manage it constantly.  With Twitter, my concern is account and content management – having 120 students tweet about a basic concept might lead to a rash of “me too” comments, which doesn’t necessarily move the discussion forward.
            What I do believe is achievable is making use of a blog that could solicit comments on a current event and tie it back to the theory of the class.  This could theoretically achieve the spontaneity of a Facebook discussion, yet be relatable back to the core course material.  With security protocols, it is possible to limit the participants to those whose input I am looking to assess.  I believe in thinking this through, I may be having an “a-ha” moment…

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