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With the beginning of the fall semester came an increase in my workload and in the general activity of CAT. That's a good thing, but it's time again to post my bi-weekly blog and I hadn't really thought out in advance what I wanted to say.

Rather than procrastinate, I decided to just look around me for sources of inspiration. I have two new books I've begun to read for our Faculty Book Club and for discussing with the incoming Freshmen. Outside my window, they are putting the finishing touches on the new Costco. My digital photo frame is a slideshow of the summer fun my four-year old nephew had before beginning pre-K 4 at a new school. My office is decorated with trinkets and postcards that my international students have given to me over the years. My inbox has RSS feeds and newsletters from several services to which I subscribe.

What are your sources of inspiration?

What are your sources of inspiration?

Yes, from all of these sources I glean inspiration, positive energy and pleasant memories throughout the day.  The photo of my two grey cats actually gave me an idea for a discussion board topic for my online elementary French course!  At this moment, I am struck by an article from the blog "Technology for Academics" by our CAT Director's friend and colleague, Dr. Sue Frantz. This particular posting discusses how the end of a book written by a surgeon for new doctors, is extremely applicable to higher education.  Here's the first part.  I'll let you read her elaborations since she's wonderfully succinct.

“'So find something new to try, something to change. Count how often you succeed and how often you fail. Write about it. Ask people what they think. See if you can keep the conversation going.'  This is the final paragraph in Atul Gawande’s 2007 book, Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance. While his advice is directed at newly-minted physicians, it’s more broadly applicable. In our case, let’s talk higher education."

So, not only is Dr. Gawande's advice applicable to higher education in general, but the suggestions can be used to help us in distance education as well.  As we move forward with Xavier's online initiatives we are definitely trying something new in our university's history.  Keeping accurate data will allow us to continually improve the online courses for the students.  I'll have more and better topics to write about for the blog and I definitely hope to keep the conversation going by asking you for your thoughts and suggestions.

Couple taking photos.

Many people believe that the "digital divide" is merely generational but studies have shown disparities according to race, ethnicity, socio-economic level and even between the sexes.  Professor Rey Junco, an associate professor at Purdue University and a faculty associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, refers to this as "digital inequality."  "There's an assumption that all students are equally great with technology," said Professor Junco.

As Xavier University is moving to expand the eLearning initiatives across campus, I believe it's important for us to be mindful of this and to not assume that all of our students are proficient, especially with social media.  As we implement more technology in the classroom and especially online, we must remember to provide detailed instructions for the students as well as adequate technical support and training.

To read a little more about the very interesting studies concerning “digital inequality” and the implications for academic success, please check out this link from the Times Higher Education (THE) site and from an earlier CAT food podcast:

I also invite you to share with the community your experiences and findings concerning "digital inequality"  amongst our students.  Perhaps together we can propose suggestions for helping the students increase their proficiency and ultimately, their chances for success here at Xavier.

Photo credit: "Couple Taking Photos" by iofoto via Yay Image Bank

Did you know that over 350 students participated in summer session I online courses? Not one online course had to be canceled this summer due to low enrollment—students enrolled with very minimal on-campus advertising.

Summer online courses give both students and faculty the flexibility and mobility to pursue other projects while still teaching and learning.
If you’re interested in developing and/or teaching an online or hybrid course, we at CAT invite you to:

  1. Discuss your idea with the Distance Education Coordinator (Yours Truly x7692) in CAT who will assist you. Required
  2. Complete the Quality Matters online introductory course. Required
  3. Attend the CAT-sponsored FaCTS Panel presentation on Thursday October 10, 2013 at 12:15pm (lunch included). Recipients of this year’s FaCTS (Mellon foundation) grants will share with you their successes and suggestions for creating and teaching online courses. Optional but recommended
  4. Complete CAT’s Online Faculty Development Course (funded by Mellon FaCTS initiative and available during the fall semester). Optional but recommended
  5. Complete additional Blackboard training offered by CAT. Optional but recommended

Pleaseo contact me for more information—I’m looking forward to meeting and working with Xavier’s excellent faculty and staff!

P.S. "8 Lessons Learned from Teaching Online" is a short video which I hope will give you food for thought.

Greetings from CAT!  I’m Karen Nichols, the new Distance Education Coordinator and I’m so excited to be a part of such a great team and university.  Xavier’s online initiatives these past two summers have been quite successful and I’ve been tasked to assist in making Xavier Online bigger and better.  Fortunately, Xavier has wonderful, creative faculty members who bring a great deal of expertise to the distance education arena.

In addition to the faculty who have already developed and taught online courses, several others have expressed an interest in learning more about hybrid or fully online courses.  So, as my bi-weekly contribution to CAT Food, I’d like to feature an article, video or some bit of news on distance education which I hope will be useful and informative.

For my first entry I recommend a short video about Coursera, Stanford’s MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) project which I find so inspiring.  The sentiments echo my own after being a part of distance education for 22+ years:

Did you watch the video just now?  It always makes me a little misty-eyed.  If you're thinking about teaching online this article from Faculty Focus offers several points to consider.  And even if you're not ready for online teaching, I hope you'll find the "Eight Roles of an Effective Online Teacher" useful in a face to face class as well.

I look forward to meeting and working with more of the faculty here at Xavier so please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll be happy to get together with you to discuss any projects or ideas you may have.  Wishing you a great week!