NC3ADL is an educational non-profit organization whose focus is on the advancement of distance learning in North Carolina. Membership is open to all persons interested in supporting and promoting Distance Learning in the North Carolina Community College System. This year’s conference, held 9/29-10/1, featured over 90 presentations and more than 25 vendors, along with breakfasts, two evening social events, and luncheons with special speakers and door prizes! The NC3ADL’s organizational focus is about networking, connecting with peers within the state of North Carolina. It provides its members with several ways to network and learn from each other.
Starting on the first day, the NC3ADL conference in Raleigh was very informative. The sessions began Sunday afternoon and I attended a session titled ‘Exploring Web 2.0 Tools to Build Collaboration” which was led by Bethany Smith from NCSU (Director of METRC: Media and Education Technology Resource Center for the College of Education). She talked about the practice of teachers using technology tools in such a fashion that they seem to disappear during in the process of teaching. One tool Bethany suggested we use was VoiceThread. This tool allows uses to set up their collaboration environment with visual and video uploads. These uploads can be used as a commentary or content for a student group projects. VoiceThread use to have a free account for teachers with a class load of 50. Currently, there is still a free account, however the number of students you can have in a class is has gone down to a limit of five.
Of course, every conference has vendors and so did the NC3ADL. One vendor that stood out of the crowd was Mindjet. Mindjet is a is a virtual whiteboard, collaboration & project management suite for everyone on your team. I envisioned this software as a resourceful tool that could be used for teaching students how to map their trail of thoughts. What I am talking about is called mind mapping. This method is not new to education but recently has been rediscovered by some teachers on our campus. Mindjet does a great job of creating a map of thinking paths. It also links, related artifacts at each sector or though junctures and related objects such as images, video and text. How we manage our thinking process is very important when it comes to achieving deeper learning. This software can be made to illustrate how you think naturally and it creates a visual document that organizes your thoughts more efficiently. I made the comment to the Mindjet speaker and vendor, Sean Mitton, that “the program creates the image of what you are thinking.” However, you get to rearrange and create better internal markers and it confirms with the external visualization of thoughts you see mapped. This set of thinking tasks makes information organization and cognitive searching faster.” When you research the net about this product you will find that Mindjet has merged with Spigit a company that is a leader in Social Innovation. The company’s focus helps organizations to unleash the creativity of employees, customers and partners to find trans-formative ideas that drive growth
I also attended another exciting session led by Tonya Riney, instructional designer from Gilford Tech. She introduced ‘TitanEval’ an online course assessment tool. This tool is simple and makes the process of online course evaluation easy. The TitanEval process has several layers of assessment: 1) Self-assessment, 2) Peer-assessment and 3) Administrator assessment. Each layer provides metrics to assist with tooling or retooling an online course to work more effectively. The self-assessments layer offers a clear view of what the instructor thinks about their own best practices in contrast to what the minimum school standards for a successful online course. The Peer assessment layer provides peer to peer feedback. Finally, the Administrator assessment layer provides level setting and clarity for the entire evaluation process. It also provides clear final directives regarding the improvement of an instructor’s online course. This tool takes away any personalization and provides anonymity for evaluators. It also leaves enough creative room to encourage course individuality without sacrificing course outcomes. I was left with the impression that the school did not want to ‘rubber stamp’ or make their online courses all alike. There were so many good sessions to attend. I look forward to next year’s conference.