Category Archives: Online Learning

Though There is Much To Be Desired, Online Schools Have Come a Long Way

In today’s guest post, Estelle Shumann explores the recent advances made in online education and the steps still needed before online education will be a viable and secure platform.

imageOnline education has taken enormous strides in 2012. If progress continues at this pace, there may soon be a low-cost, high-quality alternative to traditional education widely available to students of every stripe. In fact, free learning may become a possibility for everyone with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and computer or mobile device.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the big milestones reached, as well as the areas that need improvement before learning becomes completely democratized.

Why was 2012 such a groundbreaking year? Firstly, Internet connection speeds have increased, so most people can stream video easily and without interruption. This format allows professors to speak directly to students, even if they are thousands of miles apart.

As studies and experience have shown, there is simply no decent alternative to watching and listening to a real person discuss a topic. Tone of voice, gestures, and demeanor are crucial to the successful transmission of complex ideas. Moreover, recent experiments have demonstrated that classes are more successful when offered in real-time segments. Lectures may be recorded, but are released on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The past decade has allowed institutions to gain experience with online class environments, making them more efficient and effective.

The University of Phoenix and Khan Academy are no longer the only entities trying out new ideas. There are now a vast number of traditional universities experimenting with online education. Stanford University has been a pioneer in this arena offering online classes for over a decade. MIT started offering open courseware in 2011, which gave anyone interested access to video-lectures, assignments, tests, and quizzes. In the fall of 2012, MIT and Harvard will join forces and offer a combined platform, called EdX.

Also in 2012, a team of Stanford professors came together and went live with Coursera, a collaborative approach to online education that allows any university to join and offer free classes through its website. Thus far, 16 universities have joined, including Stanford University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Michigan. Institutions in France, Canada, and the United Kingdom have also joined what is now an international effort. These universities are adding their prestige and pull to Coursera and online education in general.

Despite the advances in online education, there remain some large problems to solve before it will become universally useful to consumers. One major issue involves certification and assessments. Many classes on Coursera, for example, offer certificates signed by professors, but the value of these remains dubious.

The reputation of these certificates is hampered by the possibility of hacking and cheating. It would be impossible for these universities to monitor individual students and ensure fairness. Until there is a secure way to know that students have completed their own work without external help, online classes will not mean very much to prospective employers.

Also problematic is the limitation of single-course offerings. In order to prepare for a profession in the real world, students need to earn some type of certification or degree, which requires a prescribed set of completed classes. Thus, students may still need to attend traditional university programs if they want to significantly improve their earning potential.

Online classes fail to meet the goal of democratizing the education system, but they are progressing rapidly.

Author Bio:

Writing for the education resource OnlineSchools.org, Estelle is familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of both online and traditional schools. Estell’s article builds on a December 2011 post from Bill Mullins’ Weblog, which suggests that online education resources like Khan Academy are proof that the content of online course offerings remains more important than the method of delivery.

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Filed under Connected Devices, Education, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Online Learning

Homework Help – 12 Web Sites That Lend A Hand

Need Homework Help? – Turn To These Terrific Web Sites.

imageParents, it seems, are less equipped than ever to jump in and help out with homework assignments. Statistics from the Canadian Council on Learning seem to indicate – two out of three parents feel incapable of helping their children with homework, or after school assignments.

As a parent what do you do; who do you turn to? As a student, since it’s unlikely you can turn to a parent; what do you do?

According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project study, you both turn to the Internet. The study’s research revealed that the Internet has become an increasingly important feature of the learning environment for teenagers, and is used as an essential study aid outside the classroom.

Students and parents report that the Internet is vital to completing school projects, and has effectively replaced the library for a large number of online students. As many as 71% of students surveyed, report using the Internet as their primary source for researching, and completing major projects.

If you’re a student or, the parent of a student, consider bookmarking the following web sites which will provide comprehensive and reliable educational information that can be used to research school projects, and homework assignments.

Discovery Education

Discovery Education offers free student resources that bring learning to life both inside and outside the classroom. We invite you to take a look at our interactive games, videos, contests, virtual labs and activities designed to help you dive deeper into a topic —and have fun too!

Refdesk 

Since 1995, Refdesk.com, has served as a one-click springboard to many of the Web’s top dictionaries, encyclopedias, calculators, atlases, news headlines, and search engines. The site also includes a handy “homework helper” section that provides help in all subjects for students in every grade.

ipl2 (Internet Public Library)

ipl2 is a public service organization and a learning/teaching environment. To date, thousands of students and volunteer library and information science professionals have been involved in answering reference questions for our Ask an ipl2 Librarian service, and in designing, building, creating and maintaining the ipl2’s collections.

HowStuffWorks

Have you ever wanted to know why an earthquake occurs? How CD burners work? What the sun is made of? These questions and a large number of others related to computers/electronics, automobiles, science, entertainment, and people, are all answered at this award-winning Web site. Simply type a query into the search window or peruse the topics by category. Extras include free newsletters, surveys, and printable versions of all answers.

Novelguide.com

The Web’s answer to those black- and yellow-striped Cliff Notes is Novelguide, a reliable and free source for literary analysis of classic and contemporary books. The site offers character profiles, metaphor and theme analysis, and author biographies.

CliffsNotes

Use these free CliffsNotes literature notes to help with your homework and tests. Browse the list to find the study guide you need.

Math.com

This site provides help in mathematics-related subjects, including basic grade-school math, calculus, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and statistics. Practice exercises are automatically graded, and this free site also features a glossary, calculators, homework tips, math games, and lesson plans for teachers.

Shmoop (Official Honoree of Webby Awards – 2010) is a new learning and teaching resource, lovingly made by Silicon Valley professionals and academics from Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard and other top universities. It is an online study guide for books, literature, essays, poems, US history, and quotes.

Wolfram Mathworld

With more than 12,600 entries this is one of the most extensive mathematics resources on the Internet.

Free Translation

Perfect for language studies, this handy Web site automatically converts text from one language to another. Just type and paste up to 1,800 words into the search window and then select the desired language.

No Fear Shakespeare

No Fear Shakespeare puts Shakespeare’s language side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English—the kind of English people actually speak today.

Science Made Simple

Science classes aren’t as easy for some to grasp as for others. At Science Made Simple, students of all ages can get detailed answers to many of science’s questions, read current news articles related to science, get ideas for school projects, and take advantage of unit conversion tables.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Education, Homework Help Sites, Interconnectivity, Living Life, Online Learning, Parenting Help, Recommended Web Sites, Student Help, Timesaving Tips

Checkout Your True Nature With Devolve Me

Back in the early 1990s, I was enthralled by the early releases of morphing software – most of which were free. I was blown away with my newfound ability to transition myself into a Tiger, for example – or, another person. The transition possibilities, in fact, were virtually limitless.

Britain’s Open University has taken this technology, and in an unusual twist, has developed an online morphing tool kit (Devolve Me), that allows you to take a peek at what you might have looked like at various stages in our evolutionary past.

Australopithecus afarensis – 3.7 million years ago.

Homo habilis – 2.2 million years ago.

Homo erectus – 1.8 million years ago.

Homo heidelbergensis – 500,000 years ago.

The process is fairly simple – starting with you uploading your pic to the site (as I’ve done here) – adjusting the pic’s parameters – then choosing any one of the four programed stages in humankind’s evolutionary development –

Bill 3 for Blog

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This one’s not too far off what I look like some mornings!

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Using the “slide bar” function (as illustrated in the following screen capture), provides an opportunity to view intermediate stage development.

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Where you stand on the issue of Evolution is a personal choice. It’s not my intend to question your personal beliefs. For those of us who are convinced that Evolution is a well established fact, this small tool is an interesting curiosity.

To take a trip into your evolutionary past, go here.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Freeware, Graphic Software, Multimedia Tools, Online Learning, Personal Perspective, Photo Tools, Recommended Web Sites, Software

Need Homework Help? – Turn To These Terrific Web Sites

imageParents, it seems, are less equipped than ever to jump in and help out with homework assignments. So, if you’re a student, who do you turn to for help with your homework? Back in the day (seems like the Dark Ages, looking back), as a last resort, there was always the Library.

So have times changed? You bet. According to a recent Pew Internet and American Life Project study, both parents and students turn to the Internet. The study’s research revealed that the Internet has become an increasingly important feature of the learning environment for students, and is used as an essential study aid outside the classroom.

Students and parents report that the Internet is vital to completing school projects, and has effectively replaced the library. As many as 71% of students surveyed, report using the Internet as their primary source for researching, and completing major projects.

If you’re a student, or the parent of a student, consider bookmark the following web sites which will provide comprehensive and reliable educational information that can be used to research school projects, and homework assignments.

Refdesk

Since 1995, Refdesk.com, has served as a one-click springboard to many of the Web’s top dictionaries, encyclopedias, calculators, atlases, news headlines, and search engines. The site also includes a handy “homework helper” section that provides help in all subjects for students in every grade.

HowStuffWorks

Have you ever wanted to know why an earthquake occurs? How CD burners work? What the sun is made of? These questions and a large number of others related to computers/electronics, automobiles, science, entertainment, and people, are all answered at this award-winning Web site. Simply type a query into the search window or peruse the topics by category. Extras include free newsletters, surveys, and printable versions of all answers.

Novelguide.com

The Web’s answer to those black- and yellow-striped Cliff Notes is Novelguide, a reliable and free source for literary analysis of classic and contemporary books. The site offers character profiles, metaphor and theme analysis, and author biographies.

CliffsNotes

Use these free CliffsNotes literature notes to help with your homework and tests. Browse the list to find the study guide you need.

Math.com

This site provides help in mathematics-related subjects, including basic grade-school math, calculus, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and statistics. Practice exercises are automatically graded, and this free site also features a glossary, calculators, homework tips, math games, and lesson plans for teachers.

Shmoop (Official Honoree of Webby Awards – 2010) is a new learning and teaching resource, lovingly made by Silicon Valley professionals and academics from Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard and other top universities. It is an online study guide for books, literature, essays, poems, US history, and quotes.

Wolfram Mathworld

With more than 12,600 entries this is one of the most extensive mathematics resources on the Internet.

Free Translation

Perfect for language studies, this handy Web site automatically converts text from one language to another. Just type and paste up to 1,800 words into the search window and then select the desired language. Alternatively, you can cut and paste a Web URL to convert the entire site.

No Fear Shakespeare

No Fear Shakespeare puts Shakespeare’s language side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English—the kind of English people actually speak today.

Science Made Simple

Science classes aren’t as easy for some to grasp as for others. At Science Made Simple, students of all ages can get detailed answers to many of science’s questions, read current news articles related to science, get ideas for school projects, and take advantage of unit conversion tables.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

8 Comments

Filed under Homework Help Sites, Interconnectivity, Living Life, Online Learning, Parenting Help, Recommended Web Sites, Student Help, Windows Tips and Tools