Category Archives: Online courses/resources

Penn State Open Education Art Course Featured on iTunes U

From ITS News, December 18, 2012:
Art 10: Introduction to Visual Studies, an online Penn State course, has
undergone an extensive redesign to become the first open educational
resource the University will offer through Apple’s iTunes U. The course
will feature a multi-touch book that showcases artists and artwork,
newly redesigned high-definition videos, a variety of art apps, and
engaging creative artwork projects.

Art 10 is an introductory art appreciation course created for individuals without artistic backgrounds, introducing them to various art movements, cultural influences, artistic genres, and artists and their work. The course is taught by Anna Divinsky, instructor of art for Penn State’s School of Visual Arts, and is designed to help students learn about hands-on studio art techniques, while encouraging personal creativity. By the end of the course, participants will compile a portfolio of artwork based on what they have learned. As an online open education
resource offered by Penn State, anyone can take the course free through Apple iTunes’ educational service iTunes U.

The course restructuring was a collaborative project between the e-Learning Institute in the College of Arts and Architecture and Information Technology Services. Along with the new instructional videos and updates, it is now designed for use on a device using Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, specifically the iPad. Art 10 will be featured on the iTunes U landing page from Dec. 18 into January.

To get started taking the course, please the iTunes Preview.

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Free Online Courses

It has been over a year since my first post on OERs. Since then, the choices have continued to grow and I wanted to link that old blog post with a short list of some of the most written about and recent OERs. However, this list has some differences from last year’s list. Last year, the talk was still more about free online educational RESOURCES. This year, the buzz is more about free online COURSES. That’s a big difference!

iTunesU – I’m not sure why it doesn’t appear on the old list, but it certainly has a lot of great resources for learning. From their website: “If you’re an educator at a university, college, or K-12 school, now you have an easy way to design and distribute complete courses featuring
audio, video, books, and other content. And students and lifelong learners can experience your courses for free through a powerful new app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.” (I added the bold emphasis.)
MITx – Although MIT’s OCW has been around for quite awhile, MITx is their newest online learning initiative. Whereas MIT’s opencourseware (OCW) has educational resources from their courses (various pieces and parts), MITx will deliver free courses. Its first course will be Circuits and Electronics, offered in a prototype form from March 5-June 8, 2012. The course is free, and students will have an opportunity to demonstrate their mastery and earn a certificate. For this pilot, it seems that there is no cost associated with the certificate.
Coursera – Started by two Stanford professors, Coursera offers free online courses. From their website: “We are committed to making the best education in the world freely available to any person who seeks it. We envision people throughout the world, in both developed and developing countries, using our platform to get access to world-leading education that has so far been available only to a tiny few. We see them using this education to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.”
UdacitySebastian Thrun, a professor of computer science at Stanford, resigned from his newly tenured position to build this new online educational venture. The first two courses are titled “Building a Search Engine,” and “Programming a Robotic Car” (Thrun worked on Google’s robotic cars). Last year, Thrun opened his “Intro to Artificial Intelligence” course to the world and 160,000 students enrolled of which it’s reported that 20,000 actually stuck with the course through the final exam.
The Floating University – “What if the world’s best thinkers all taught at the same school?” is the message on their website. Although these courses aren’t free, they’re certainly priced low, ranging from $39.99 for “Is Biomedical Research Really Close to Curing Anything” taught by Douglas Melton, a professor at Harvard, to $59.99 for “Who Wants to be a Billionaire?” taught by William Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square Capital.
Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) – From their website: “SEE programming includes one of Stanford’s most popular sequences: the three-course Introduction to Computer Science taken by the majority of Stanford’s undergraduates and seven more advanced courses in artificial intelligence and electrical engineering.” These free courses include lecture videos, reading lists, course handouts, quizzes and tests, and opportunities to communicate with other SEE students.
Open Yale Courses – From their website: “Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.” What these courses provide is access to classroom lectures. I just read an interesting Yale Daily News article briefly describing how the online provision of the classroom lectures changed what happens in the classroom.
Udemy – Some of these courses are free, but not all. You can take a course, or create a course. When I visited their site, the top 3 trending free courses were Foundations of Business Strategy, How to Make iPhone Apps (Lite), and Operations Management. I noticed some course authors were from MIT and Stanford.
Khan Academy – If you haven’t already heard about Khan Academy, then you need to check it out now. From their website: “With a library of over 2,800 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 298 practice exerciseswe’re on a mission to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace.” These are not free courses, but free topics. However, they could certainly supplement learning in your courses. Their most recent news is that Craig Silverstein, Google’s first hire in 1998 (not including the co-founders), is moving to Khan Academy as a developer.
Knowledge@Wharton – This online newsletter also offers articles, interviews, and Q&A’s as podcasts to listen to on your mp3 player, iPod or PC. Check out their podcast archive.
Finally, Open Culture has provided a listing of almost 400 free online courses arranged by discipline and title.

Have you taken any of these free online courses, or viewed a Khan Academy video? I’ve downloaded a few of the iTunesU courses to my iPad and plan to check them out one of these weekends. I’m curious since I design online courses, and wonder what I might learn by investigating this new breed.

Universal Design & Online Education: Ensuring Access & Engagement for all Students

On Friday, a small group of faculty and staff attended this webinar sponsored by Education Technology Services (ETS). The presenters were Kristen Betts and Jenny Dugger, both from Drexel University. While the focus was on students with disabilities, we quickly realized a few things, and wondered about a few others:

  • A high number of disabled students do not self-identify with our Office of Disability Services, but are still in our classes trying to learn.
  • Some barriers to self-identification include the cost of acceptable tests and the mound of paperwork required. The burden is quite great.
  • By proactively designing our courses to be accessible, we could be impacting the learning for many more of our students than we might realize.
  • Are we doing enough to increase students’ awareness of the resources available to them (syllabi, marketing, etc.)?
  • What happens when accommodations are simply a part of our course design, and not something special we need to do differently or retrofit?
  • Does our definition of disability include the barriers WE create?

So, what might Universal Design mean for our work in designing courses (online and face-to-face)? A list of guidelines and best practices culled from Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) was provided that gives us a great starting point.

  1. Text Alternatives: Use text alternatives for any non-text content (i.e., images).
  2. Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways.
  3. Distinguishable: Clearly differentiate between elements (i.e., separate foreground and background – contrast).
  4. Keyboard Accessible: Users should be able to navigate everything from a keyboard.
  5. Enough time: Provide enough time to complete tasks.
  6. Seizures: Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures (i.e., flashing lights).
  7. Readable: Text needs to be readable and understandable.
  8. Predictable: Consistency helps with navigation.
  9. Input Assistance: Be proactive in avoiding and correcting mistakes.
  10. Compatible: Able to use with assistive technologies and other agents.

These are all great reminders for designers, and are guidelines that benefit all learners.

Additional resources:
7 Principles of Universal Design, from Sloan
Dr. Sean Zdenek’s Accessible Rhetoric Blog
National Center for Universal Design for Learning
List of assistive technologies

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Earlier this week I attended a Sloan-C webinar on this topic. Phil Moss, Director of Educational Partnerships & Planning for MERLOT, was the presenter. He described books as “exclusive, rival goods” meaning that if I have it, then you cannot. On the other hand, “open” digitized materials can be available to everyone all the time. “Open” can refer to open source, open educational resources (OER), opencourseware (OCW), open textbooks, and open access journals.

He provided several different definitions and attributes for OER. The OER Commons defines these open resources as teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse, without charge. This free access is included in most of the definitions, as is the concept of use and reuse. One attribute Phil talked about was the order/chaos in OER, and you can read more about that hereDavid Wiley also mentions the 4 Rs of OER as reuse, revise, remix, and redistribution.

While I was already familiar with a number of OER websites, I was surprised to learn of a few that were new to me. I have shared the complete list below. The list is unbelievably long, which I consider a barrier to someone new to OER and considering a search for course resources. So, my suggestion is to start small. To those just beginning, I would recommend MERLOT and Connexions because of their peer-reviewed (MERLOT) and endorsed (Connexions) content. I also like MIT OCW. You must also check out Creative Commons, because that is a site that is also great to share with your students for finding content that has been licensed to be shared. Select one or two and conduct your search. I’d be interested in what you find and decide to use!

Here’s the list:
OER Commons – Begun in 2007 with support from the Hewlett Foundation, it is multidisciplinary and multilevel. Resources are grouped by subject areas and grade levels.
Connexions – This was started at Rice and is licensed under Creative Commons. You can find or create content here, but an account is needed to create.
MERLOT – Begun within the CA State University System, it provides peer-reviewed online teaching and learning materials. You can browse by collection or visit a discipline community.
Curriki – The name is a combination of Curriculum and Wiki, and is focused on K-12.
NSDL –  The National Science Digital Library is funded by NSF. Most of its resources are free, but some are fee-based.
MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) – There are 2000 courses there now, including almost all of MIT’s course content including lecture notes, exams, and videos.
Open Courseware Consortium –  As a consortium, membership includes higher education institutions and other assorted organizations. It has over 4,000 courses, a community, and a toolkit.
The Orange Grove – This is an example of a statewide repository, and is Florida’s digital repository funded through their state legislature. It contains open resources for a closed audience.
Open Course Library – This is an initiative by Washington State that has taken 81 high enrolling courses for which they are sharing and providing common resources.
College Open Textbooks – Funded by the Hewlett Foundation, this site provides peer-reviews of open textbooks.
Affordable Learning Solutions – In a nutshell, this California State University project is designed to help faculty find course content to replace high-priced textbooks and make their students’ education more affordable.
Creative Commons (CC) – No discussion of OER would be complete without mentioning Creative Commons. You can search for digitized content that has been licensed to be shared, and can create your own license for content you want to share.

One more that wasn’t mentioned in the webinar:
National Repository of Online Courses (NROC) – A project of the Monterey Institute that includes multimedia content for online courses.

New one added 3/11/11:
Free Learning Objects – A wiki assembled by Learning Technology Services at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. It focuses primarily on rich media, including photos, videos, animations, and music files.

Blended Learning Focus Session Scheduled

Join us during the afternoons of September 15th and 16th for “Blended Learning: The 21st-Century Learning Environment,” the 2010 Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) Online Fall Focus Session. Hosted inside an Adobe Connect learning environment in Room E306 Olmsted, this virtual event will be much more than your typical online seminar. You’ll exchange ideas and collaborate interactively with the ELI community–all without leaving your campus.

During this two-day online event we will:

  • Revisit the status of blended learning today–what we’ve learned and how this instructional approach continues to evolve to support learning across many disciplines
  • Create a framework for the successful design and deployment of faculty development for blended learning
  • Explore successful implementations of blended learning across different types of institutions
  • Reflect on the potential for blended learning to promote critical thinking, student engagement, and success
  • Consider assessment strategies for blended learning, both at the course and program levels
  • Identify the role learning technologies–synchronous and asynchronous–can play in blended learning
  • Engage in dialogue with a community of professionals focused on how to design and deploy blended learning across the curriculum

Why you should participate:
This online event will bring together a variety of professionals to examine how today’s model of blended learning can help institutions design and deploy successful blended learning offerings at many levels. This session will be valuable to numerous groups:

  • Information technology professionals
  • Learning technologists
  • Faculty members
  • Administrators
  • Librarians
  • Others functioning in related roles

Those who attend will be considered part of a campus team investigating the potential of blended learning for our college. We hope to have many departments and disciplines represented in order to build rapport, solidify plans, and enrich our group effort. By sharing a common focus session experience, participants can reflect on the implications for our campus.

Hosted by the Faculty Center for Teaching & Instructional Technology, at the conclusion of this focus session, their instructional designers will be available to work with departments and/or individual faculty members to redesign courses for a hybrid/blended delivery targeted towards Fall 2011. The full program description is available here: FallFocusSessionProgram82310.pdf

Please RSVP to Pam Crist at

Welcome to the Fall Semester!

The Faculty Center has recently changed to a departmental blog as the platform for our web presence. While it is still in a state of transition, we think that the most important pieces of information and resources are available to visitors. The creation of the departmental blog was a great activity to reflect on what we offer online and how we organize it. This blog space will keep reflection as a continued activity.

Right now the Faculty Center is completing the processing of the Summer SRTEs, preparing them for shipment to University Park by September 8th. The results should be available online 4-6 weeks later at

We are also making final preparations for our online courses to go live in a few days. There is much double- and triple-checking going on to make sure that everything works from the first day on. AM ST 105 is available again through the eLearning Cooperative and has had full enrollment every semester it has been offered. The Homeland Security certificate program  begins its first course this semester. This program is being developed with support from World Campus, and could eventually be part of a master’s program.

There are two special faculty events this week: New Faculty Orientation is tomorrow, and the Adjunct Faculty Workshop is Saturday. These events never fail to get me excited about the start of the new academic year – new ideas, new possibilities! More on these events will be added in a future post.