Friday, November 07, 2008

Last Day at Sloan-C Conference

Hey Everyone-

I am still looking for the Holy Grail of Educational Gaming, so as a part of that I started the day with a presentation by Harvard Business Publishing on simulations. The presenter had some very good lessons learned -- 1) syllabus space is tight, so develop very small topical sims rather than try to replace the entire class; 2) the administrative hurdle of managing sims is huge (that is both faculty administration and the business side; 3) students expect an engaging interface; 4) beware of the "complexity = reality" trap; your sim must stay "teachable and usable". Harvard Publishing primarily develops sims that can be completed in under 2 hours -- that includes prep, play, and de-brief. They have to support case-based teaching.

Harvard is developing in conjunction with a company called Forio ( because that was the best way they found to solve delivery and payment issues. It sounded like they charge students for the sims via credit card. We would probably have to expand our digital content fee instead, but it is doable now.

The Universal Rental car pricing is a single player sim, the Everest climb is multi-player. They are both interesting. Forio also has free sim development software that probably sucks you into buying the full version. :^)

(As a side note the night before I had dinner with the folks from Lab-Paq, who are thinking of developing a forensics course based on CSI. There is a ot of interest in games!)

I put on my student services hat next and went to a session on developing student community and support via social networking tools such as Twitter, Second Life, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube. I am planning a survey in the not too distance future to find out which web2.0 technologies both you and our students use. We do need to expand and organize our community space, decide which parts belong behind the firewall and which belong outside, decide which tools to use for which purposes.

My last presentation was on designing a First Year Seminar experience for online, adult learners. There is a large body of research showing that traditional first year students benefit significantly from success seminars. While there is not much research on online, adult learners our orientation has ben very popular with students. We also have two program chairs who have been puching for the development of some sort of success seminar for studens for quite some time. Goals of such a seminar would include
  • Examine reasons for attending college,
  • learn strategies for becoming a successful adult learner,
  • build a support system,
  • learn how to manage work, family, school,
  • learn study skills,
  • learn about college support services,
  • and many more.
If any of you have experience with success seminars I'd love to know who you are.

Finally, the closing speaker was Liz Burge (, professor of adult education at the University of New Brunswick. Three general principles from her presentation:
  1. Technology application is a defining, but not a single, attribute of distance education.
  2. Technology should transparently mediate interactions.
  3. Never feel compelled to adopt the new because it is new; that is not the point.
She also commented that she first used audio recordings back in the 80's. They went away for a long time as we concentrated on the visual. Now audio is being looked at seriously again -- so don't forget about older technologies when you are planning your teaching.

Then a long plane ride home where I reverted to a very old technology and knitted. :^)


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