Building a Sustainable Quality Matters Community of Practice Through Social Network Analysis

ajdeThe growth of distance education has necessitated strong evidence of quality for institutions of higher education, and numerous standards and principles of quality have been developed, such as Quality Matters™ (Quality Matters). These systems are often considered only at the course level to guide design and improve student outcomes, but they can also help to pull the institution together and galvanize advancement in online development. Adopting online quality standards can be a complex process that requires changes to institutional culture. This article describes how the use of the Community of Practice (CoP) framework engaged a campus-wide network of individuals in adoption of the Quality Matters training, rubric, and review process to advance distance education support and online course development. Using Social Network Analysis, researchers were able to identify the strengths and weakness of the CoP during the early adoption phase of Quality Matters to quantitatively measure the connections among members of the community. View article »

Citation

Cowan, J., Richter, S., Miller, T., Rhode, J., Click, A., & Underwood, J. (2017). Building a sustainable Quality MattersTM community of practice through social network analysis. The American Journal of Distance Education, 31(3), 160-172. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2017.1316154

Measuring Digital Professional Development: Analytics for the Use of Web and Social Media

Journal of Applied Research in Higher EducationMy colleagues and I at NIU were recently notified of the publication of our article, Measuring digital professional development: Analytics for the use of web and social media.

Purpose

As faculty professional development increasingly occurs online and through social media, it becomes challenging to assess the quality of learning and effectiveness of programs and resources, yet it is important to evaluate such initiatives. The purpose of this paper is to explore how one faculty development center experimented with using analytics to answer questions about the use and effectiveness of its web and social media resources.

Design/methodology/approach

The case study was based on direct observation of the center’s practice and review of selected data generated by the analytic tools.

Findings

Unfortunately, while some analytics are available from a variety of sources, they are often distributed across tools and services. The center developed an analytics strategy to use data from Google Analytics and social media reporting tools to assess the use of online and social professional development resources. Initial results show that the center’s online and social professional development resources are widely used, both within and outside the university. However, more work is necessary to improve the strength and scope of the available analytics.

Practical implications

As a result of the analysis, the center has streamlined online resources, targeted social media use, and has begun developing methods to allow faculty to report online resource use as professional development for academic personnel purposes.

Originality/value

Many faculty development centers have not explored methods of evaluating online and social media resources. This paper outlines a strategic evaluation plan to measure the usage of online resources as well as engagement and interaction through social media.

Citation

Rhode, J., Richter, S., Gowen, P., & Krishnamurthi, M. (2015). Measuring digital professional development: Analytics for the use of web and social media. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, 7(1), 19-31.

7 Steps for Choosing the Best Technology Tools for Your Teaching


In the decade now that I have spent supporting educators in the endeavors to teach using technology, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked by faculty for advice on how to choose the best technology tools for their teaching. With the seemingly endless selection of technology tools available, how do educators choose the right technology tools to incorporate into their teaching? If you are in the situation of considering a new technology tool in your teaching, here are 7 steps to take as you choose which tool may be best for you:

Step 1: Start with your objectives

It’s important to always start any conversation about technology selection with objectives. What is it that you and/or your students should be able to do? There are some great models available, such as Digital Bloom’s Taxonomy and SAMR, that can offer guidance as your craft and/or revise objectives that will form the basis for any decisions regarding technology decisions. Are you seeking to substitute, augment, modify, or redefine an existing teaching or learning activity? Make sure that it is clear from reviewing your objectives what your intended goals are.

Step 2: Survey your “tech landscape”

Once you have your goals and objectives clearly in mind, the next step is to take an inventory of your current technology use as well as look at your environment for incorporating the new technology. What tools are you and/or your students already using? What are you comfortable with? What is working? Keep in mind the adaage, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” and don’t discard an existing technology if it is the meeting your needs. What tools are already at your fingertips and/or perhaps provided/supported by your institution? What tools are frowned upon and/or blocked at your institution?

Step 3: Set your budget

How much are you and/or your students willing to spend on a tool? Do you need to stick with a free solution? Or, are you able to spend some money? Many tools take a “freemium” approach, meaning that they are available for use on a limited basis for free with additional features available for a fee.

Step 4: Sample available tools

Pick a few (5 or less) available options and try the tools yourself to see which you and/or your students like best, are easiest to use, and meet your needs. What are the pros & cons of each? What support is available? How does each integrate into the existing workflow and/or lesson?

Step 5: Select your tool

Eventually, you finally need to take the plunge and pick a tool to use. Don’t worry..you aren’t stuck using the tool forever 🙂 If you eventually change your mind down the road, you can always change the tool.

Step 6: Set parameters for use

Clarify for yourself and/or your students how the tool will and won’t be used. It’s at this point you may want to revisit your objectives to ensure that your plan for use meets your stated learning objectives. Are you using the right tool for the right problem?

Step 7: Scrutinize your choice

After you’ve thoroughly used the tool for a specified period of time (term, semester, etc.) reflect on your use of the tool? Did it meet your needs? What unexpected issues did you and/or your students encounter? Is it working well enough that you want to stick with it, or is it time to try something else? You’re not locked-in to continuing to use the tool if it isn’t meeting your needs.

There you have it…a seven-step approach to selecting a technology tool for your teaching. Leave a comment if you found these steps helpful or if you perhaps have additional suggestions to share with educators as they choose technology tools.

Getting Started with ePubs: Creating Your Own E-Book Using Apple Pages

While attending a recent Apple Education Seminar, Mobility with iPads at Illinois Institute of Technology, I learned of the relatively easy process for creating an ePub file using Pages on a Mac.

For those who aren’t familiar with ePub, it is a free, open e-book standard that is quickly becoming the universal format for ebooks. ePub is the format that Apple’s iBooks app reads and offers some very interesting capabilities for information distribution in mobile formats beyond the traditional PDF format.

Why ePub instead of PDF for E-books?

ePub documents are fundamentally different from PDFs. Historically, many PDF files have actually been just image scans of text pages (or, with the advent of optical character recognition, text within the scanned page). While the reader views the PDF page in the exact font/style/formatting that the author intended for the print form, the reader is unable to customize the font, size, etc. to personalize the reading experience.

ePubs take drastically different approach in that the formatting is separate from the content and as such can be controlled by the end user. Text, images, and even media within the document is formatted for the end user based on a default style sheet, similar in many ways to how CSS is used to style web sites today. Using an ebook reading app, like iBooks or Calibre, the reader can adjust fonts, fonts sizes, search, and even highlight and annotate within the book. In addition, the ePub format is highly accessible, providing a far superior reading experience for users who rely on screen readers or other assistive technologies. Creating an e-book using the ePub format results is a much more personalized, feature-rich, and mobile friendly e-book.

Why use Pages to create an ePub E-book?

Pages is by far the easiest application I’ve found thus far for creating ePubs. While there are other applications for creating ePubs, such as: Adobe In Design, Open Office, eCub, and Sigli, Pages is the simplest one that I’ve used. Apple provides an “ePub Best Practices” sample Pages document that is very easy to use in setting the formatting and table of contents for an ePub.

My First ePub – Interactive Course Syllabus in E-book Form

To try creating an ePub for myself, I took a look at Apple’s instructions for creating ePub files using Pages. I then downloaded the “ePub Best Practices” sample Pages document and used that as a template to create my ePub.

I decided to take an existing syllabus I had created for a recent online course, Social Networking in Online Learning, and create an interactive ebook version of the syllabus. Here’s a brief tour of the finished ePub file viewed on an iPad and iPhone:

This ePub can be downloaded directly from http://jasonrhode.com/~sn/syllabus.epub

The source Pages document that I used to create the ePub from can be downloaded from http://jasonrhode.com/~sn/syllabus.pages

How to Create an ePub E-book

Here’s a screencast I recorded with more details on how I created my sample ePub.

Share your experience!

If you’ve tried creating an ePub, whether you used Pages or some other tool, leave a comment let me know your experience!