It's not the technology! It's what you do with it!

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It takes more than course management software to create a successful online program. I'm here to tell you that if you think it's all about the software, you've got your eye on the wrong part of the playing field. The really important
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  It Takes More Than Course Management Software To Create a Successful Online Program OR It's not the technology, It's what you do with it. Keynote Speech By Gail Terry Grimes and Claude Whitmyer Delivered by: Claude Whitmyer At the Web-Course-In-A-Box User Group Meeting May 3, 2000 Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia  Keynote Speech 2000 Web-Course-in-a-Box  Users Group Meeting Page 2 Course management software! It's the reason you came here to Richmond this week. First you thought you were coming because you wanted to get your money's worth out of the software you'd already bought. Then you found out madDuck had merged with Blackboard and so you came to find out whether you should convert to Blackboard's software, and whether the folks at madDuck were going to take good care of you. Well, if that's why you showed up, I'm here to tell you that you came for the wrong reason. Of course madDuck's going to take care of you. You wouldn't have signed on with them in the first  place if you hadn't known in your heart that you were in good hands. These are smart, decent  people with real integrity and a lot of justifiable pride in the products they've created. They're not about to stand by and watch you and all their hard work float down the drain. And the folks at Blackboard are decent too. They've got great products too. And, happily, the two  product lines are going to come together just fine. Even if you decide to switch to some other software or go home and build your own software, it's all going to work out just fine. Because the software is only a small, very small part of this game. I'm here to tell you that if you think it's all about the software, you've got your eye on the wrong  part of the playing field. The really important story in technology-mediated education is not inside your laptops but in your minds. It lives in the process you use to make your decisions. It lives in the choices you make about  pedagogy. It lives in the design you use for instruction. In the training you give your faculty. In the  preparation you provide your students. And in the attitudes of your very top leadership. Of course the software is important. But it's not the real key to success. You have much larger issues, and much harder decisions, to think about when you go back to your own campus. And for the next few minutes I'm going to ask you, with all due respect, to put madDuck and Blackboard aside and turn your attention to the big picture. I'd like to begin by telling you two stories about two very different schools and how they each approached this business of technology-enriched education. Then I'm going to show you a few slides that represent what my colleagues and I at FutureU have identified as the real issues in technology-enriched education. What I hope you'll go away with is a better sense of where your attention really belongs and a greater commitment to look beyond the software to the people and the ideas that are influencing them on your own campus. FAILURE STORY Four years ago, we were approached by a small college that wanted us to help them start delivering course materials, library services, and classroom interactions over the Internet. At first glance, they seemed like the ideal candidate. Their founder had been a famously innovative thinker. Their curriculum was still decidedly progressive. And they had been operating for decades as an  Keynote Speech 2000 Web-Course-in-a-Box  Users Group Meeting Page 3 institution of distance education. Their students were all over the world. They had faculty members who worked out of their homes from Boston to San Francisco. . . all over the place. But the school had not evolved. Assignments were still delivered by snail mail. Students had to rely on their local libraries to send away for the esoteric books and journals they needed for their work. These people were keeping the post office and phone companies in business! Aside from a two-week annual residency, there was no interaction among the students and very little between students and faculty. Oh, professors answered their questions by telephone, but that was all. It was a lonely way to teach. A lonely way to learn. And the school's constituents were getting restless about it. Enrollment was declining as students and instructors started to hear about other schools that could promise them a much richer experience and a much easier time. If ever there was a school that had reason to embrace technology, this was it. But here's what happened. On our first visit, the dean asked us to teach his faculty how to put their courses online. Okay, we said, let's start by finding out how much they already know, so we'll know where to begin. Then we'd like to work with them on pedagogy and the instructional design models that are best suited to the electronic classroom.  No, no, said the dean. They already know all that. And they're all computer literate. They know what they need to do. Just tell us which software to buy and show us how to use it. Well, we should have known better. We talked about firing them as a client before we even had a contract. But this was four years ago, an eternity in the dot.com world, and we were on a mission. We decided to help them. So we recommended a software and prepared to start guiding eight of their professors through the electronic book we use as a text for faculty training. It was a disaster. First day out, one professor sent me an email: "Download?" he asked. "What's this mean, this download?" And so it went. Clearly these people did not have even the most basic computer skills. They certainly didn't have the facilitation skills for text-based group communication. All they could envision was an electronic version of what they were already doing. A kind of digital correspondence school. They wanted to post long, and I mean really long, lectures on web pages and stand aside so their students could learn. And it wasn't just the professors who were thinking this way. It was the school's top leadership. The dean himself told me he thought computers, all computers, were a waste of money and that he seldom bothered to read his own email. He waved away all talk of instructional design as just a way of slowing down the train. He rejected any notion that he and his faculty should spend any time at all talking about what purpose they had in mind for course management software. He dismissed as absurd the idea that the faculty might take more of an interest in the training if they participated in its design.  Keynote Speech 2000 Web-Course-in-a-Box  Users Group Meeting Page 4 So, what happened? Out of that first group of eight professors, six got frustrated and dropped out in the first three months. In the first two years, only two professors ever placed more than their syllabi online. Four years later, this school, which shall forever remain nameless, isn't much further down the road than they were when we arrived at their door. Except that they've spent a pretty sizable amount of money. And alienated their most loyal professors. Only those who were already technologically literate have ever put course materials online. The mainstream faculty is still operating by Pony Express. And even the earliest adopters are still just posting lectures and collecting assignments. They're using Web Course in a Box, but not even remotely to its full potential. They still think their role as teachers is to open a hole in the student's head and pour knowledge into their brains. They're holding very few if any online discussions. It wouldn’t occur to them to break the class into small groups that study and do projects together online. They don't have any idea of the potential for real learning that could come from technology-enriched education. Students are not flocking to this school's few online courses. Enrollment has not gone up. Distant students and faculty are still just as distant from one another. The school has the additional cost of the course management software but, for all practical purposes, little if any additional benefit. They thought it was all about the software. But they were wrong. The moral of this story is this: It Takes More Than Course Management Software To Create a Successful Online Program You can't simply plunk down your software--even the best software--into a barren field and expect a garden to bloom. You've got to till the ground. You've got to plant some seeds. You've got to look  beyond the software. SUCCESS STORY  Now I promised you two stories today and I'll tell you the name of the second school involved: it's Missouri State University, where they have been using both Web Course in a Box and Blackboard. Here they have invested only 20 percent more dollars in our services than the other school did. But what a difference. Eight professors signed up. All of them teach in the university's in-service teacher training program, so they were expected to integrate whatever they learned into that program. We started with an online readiness assessment.  Based on what we learned about the faculty's readiness from that survey, we tailored the first phase of the training to bring everyone onto the same page. We also helped the dean and the early adopters to clarify what they really expected to accomplish and by when. They set an attainable goal that each participating professor would  Keynote Speech 2000 Web-Course-in-a-Box  Users Group Meeting Page 5 implement two or three technological applications into their courses for the winter term. We met with them face to face for six days spread across four months. In between, the group communicated frequently, often daily, in Web Course in a Box online discussion forums , sometimes in a Centra99 real-time meeting space, and, occasionally, by telephone. We introduced them to the skills every student needs in order to make the most of an online course. How to conduct research on the Internet. How to assess the value of what they find. How to submit assignments by email. How to participate effectively in an online group. How to create a safe and efficient computer work station. Then we walked them through the actual process of creating a course for delivery on the Web. They learned how to use course authoring tools. They started placing their lectures and lecture notes online along with assignments, quizzes, syllabi, calendars, the whole gamut. They also learned how to integrate images and hyperlinks into their Web pages. In addition, they learned how to use the software for group interactions and private "office-hour" conferences and they started interacting with one another just as their students later would. Sure we showed them how to use the software. We also gave them hands-on experience with "real-time" meeting software and streaming audio and video. But we also introduced them to the ART of teaching in the unique environment of cyberspace. We dealt a lot with the application to the new media, of adult learning theory and appropriate instructional design models. The participants also learned how to encourage effective participation. In fact they learned how to get students to actually collaborate on their learning. Later they learned how to evaluate what students are learning. And they learned how to identify and overcome a whole range of challenges that traditional instructors never even have to consider. Most significantly, they learned how to make the transition from the traditional role of "teacher-as-expert-lecturer" to the new and far more interesting role of "teacher-as-expert-resource-and-learning-facilitator." The saw the wisdom and accepted the challenge to change from a “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side. ”  All the way along the line, we had the full cooperation and support of the dean, who is not by any means a "techie" but rather a visionary who recognizes the potential of cyberspace for learning and who understands that there's a lot more to success in the new media than just good software. And he had support all the way to top, the President, Vice President, and Board all agree on the importance of enriching existing teaching and learning with appropriate technology tools. And what's happened at Missouri State? Well, six of the eight participating professors have experimented with between 10 and 12 technical applications and the other two have used three or four. In addition, they've all agreed to create technology-enriched courses for the fall of 2000. And remember, they were expected to use no
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