Thursday, April 30, 2015

Andy Gavrin Uses CN to Engage His Students in Physics and Evolving Technology

IUPUI Associate Professor and Physics Department Chair, Andy Gavrin, teaches his physics courses with the help of CourseNetworking.

Andy has been using CN since the fall of 2014 and truly believes that [the CN] "Gives students the opportunity to help teach each other while they are benefiting themselves in the process." Gavrin personally likes to see his students write posts, questions or quizzes about course material because he sees that when they are typing out explanations they're learning the material, while at the same time they are reading and reflecting on their classmates posts.

Professor Andy Gavrin
As an instructor, Andy expressed that using the interface of CN was really easy, "I can see the page feed with my student's posts, and post any handouts or lab documents for the course on the CN." He then mentioned the tools that he utilizes most: posts, polls, quizzes, and the syllabus/resources tab. These tools aid his courses and engage his students to actively participate.

Andy Gavrin used the Anar Seed Reward System as a form of extra credit for those who engaged in discussions and quizzes through posting and reflecting. Gavrin recalled that his students learned to use CourseNetworking very quickly, as he introduced CN in his first class and presented all course work on the course homepage. He said about 3/4 of the students in his course were active participants on the CN.

Student engagement is especially important to Andy and he has seen it evolve as technology has. Throughout his career as an instructor many doors have opened in terms of educational technology. In time, his teaching styles have also evolved. Gavrin describes himself as a 'technology geek' because he is open-minded, always excited and willing to explore and try to new tools in the ED-tech world. This is where he ran into CourseNetworking. Though, he has only used the CN for one year, he sees the potential it has. For this reason, Andy joined the TST group, or (as featured in an earlier blog) the Teaching Scholars Think Tank, which is made up of instructors, just like Andy. The instructors help the CN development team pinpoint the most valuable aspects of thecn.com and provide feedback so the platform can continue to improve. 

When asked what he thought about the evolving technological world and what it might look like in the future, Gavrin responded by saying he expects technology to continue in the same way that the CN has tapped into, "I think aspects of educational technology will continue to grow closer together and continue to merge: mobile friendly learning, integration of educational tools, social networks, clickers; they will all move closer together." He fully expects his teaching styles to continue to evolve as the field and technology does and Andy Gavrin plans to use CourseNetworking for all course work instead of a supplement LMS in the fall of 2015.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

E.C. Moore Symposium CN Workshop: Educators Helping Educators

On Friday, March 5, 2015 CourseNetworking made an appearance at the faculty E.C. Moore Symposium, located in the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Campus Center. A CN Workshop was led by IUPUI’s own Andrew Gavrin- physics professor and Jim Marrs and Kathy Marrs- biology professors.

Presenters: Andy Gavrin, Kathy Marrs, Jim Marrs
How would you define engagement? Andrew Gavrin started by prompting his colleagues with this question, following up with “How would you measure the engagement of your students?” After taking responses from the audience Andy answered with “I know my students are engaged when they start relating the subject to life simultaneously.” The CN Workshop and faculty presenters encouraged instructors in all fields to venture out and utilize the platform to further engage students through social learning. Numerous features were brought to the audience’s attention, as the professors were able to give real world examples and insight into the way they conduct their courses and reward their students on CourseNetworking.

Andy Gavrin shared with fellow educators examples from his own courses. He showcased his physics students and how they have enjoyed CourseNetworking. While demonstrating the task tool, Gavrin reflected on a particular post where the student had applied physics to their everyday life. The student had posted on the physics course page and explained how physics related to gym machinery, and movement because that student enjoyed exercising. Gavrin used this example to relay how CourseNetworking was engaging and inspiring his students to actively learn and share with each other.

Kathy Marrs explained how she is able to use the CN for all of her classroom needs. As a professor of 400+ biology students, Marrs understands how hard it can be to engage students and to encourage them to interact together. CourseNetworking was the answer for her courses and she delightedly expressed how easily her students adjusted to the site and how encouraging they are towards one another through their posts and polls.

Workshop presenter Jim Marrs
explaining the use of CN in his classes.
Biology Professor, Jim Marrs specifically mentioned that he enjoyed the Anar Seed reward system and how it has provided his students- even upper level graduate students, with incentives to come out of their shells and have fun in their courses. Jim explained that having a large lecture class can eliminate student interaction and really getting to know students, however, on the CN he can see which student posts what, their self-made profile and how they are interacting- making for a much more memorable experience. Jim shared tips with his colleagues about getting older students involved through the social learning platform by using the Poll tool, providing Anar Seeds for extra credit or simply having them post an ‘about me’ to their classmates. Jim’s experience in teaching multiple level courses on CN showed the audience how CN can help bridge the gap and keep students of all ages engaged.

Involved audience members receiving
assistance from Jim Marrs.
The CN Workshop covered Tasks, Anar Seeds, GradeBook, global posts, Posts and Polls just to name a few. Participants in the workshop were encouraged to create their own posts onsite and review any tools that may prompt any questions. Faculty presenters, Andrew Gavrin, Kathy Marrs and Jim Marrs showed enthusiasm about CN and what it can offer to instructors and learners worldwide. The CN workshop was a great way to showcase these benefits.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The CN at the William M. Plater Institute Conference

On October 23, 2014 the CN took part in the William M. Plater Institute Conference at the Campus Center of IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis). This program covered many aspects of online learning and the integration of learning with technology. Attendees of the conference were able to listen to speakers who are well versed in online learning, ask questions to a panel of online educators, and have conversations with other participants at the event.

The role the CN took was to host a discussion table where faculty and staff from multiple IU (Indiana University) campuses could come to learn about the CN and the work done by its R&D laboratory, the IUPUI CyberLab. Many that visited the table were excited to hear about the upcoming release of the CN Version 4. Some visitors were already users of the CN and wanted to get familiarized with the new layout and features while others who hadn’t heard of the CN were intrigued by the system and saw very practical uses for classes they were currently teaching. Explaining the anar seed reward system and the possibilities for connecting courses on the cn really excited the listeners as something that would make eLearning simpler and more effective. Overall the William M. Plater Institute Conference was a great opportunity for the CN and the CyberLab to introduce their innovative educational product to IU faculty and staff who were looking for the next best way to engage students online.

“Changing the Way the World Learns”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The CN Release of V4


       The CN is proud to announce that an innovative 
new update will be coming to the CN users!
 A new version of the CN, V4, will be introducing many new features, a modernized look, and higher usability. Additions to the site include social portfolios for users, a calendar tool, hashtag functions, more learning analytics, and full rubric functionality within the DropBox and GradeBook. These additions, along with the changes to the look of the site, were created to become more attractive to the new generation of young learners. The higher education demographic is always changing and the CN is using this update to set the curve for social and educational learning systems.
        The Associate Director of the IUPUI Cyberlab, Alice Zhao, believes the calendar will help the CN users immensely by allowing instructors to effectively organize and announce learning activities, while students will be able to clearly keep track of assignments. She was also excited by the social portfolio and its ability to showcase users’ academic achievements. “The unique personalized user profile will be adding a lot of fun to the system and gives users the opportunity to enrich and expand their academic connections,” said Alice.
        Mien Dee Yong, the Director of Business Development for CourseNetworking, explained that the new release has proved to be attractive to prospective users and institutions. The simplified management of data and the exciting new features are anticipated to help the CN users enjoy their experience more than ever before. Mien Dee further stated, “Everyone loves a system that can be adopted easily and has appealing features that they use frequently. The development and thinking behind the release of V4 has been based on our constant feedback from our users. We believe listening to what our users need is key in ensuring that the CN is used globally and will be successful in changing the way the world learns.”
        Social media sites are grasping the interest of current young learners and Ali Jafari, the Founder and CEO of the CN, explained the need for using systems with a social aspect. There is currently more necessity for systems that can also hold a user’s attention and adapt ideas into a learning environment. These traits are what learning systems need to become to be more successful.  He believes that IT can, and should play a major role in education and hopes that this update will motive students and faculty to use this social learning environment more. Ali is excited to grow the CN by gaining more insight from these updates. Looking into the future beyond this update, Ali had the following to say, “The CN is getting better all the time. It is a system that will continue to grow and adapt to the users, and this makes the CN an excellent way to teach and learn on a global scale.”

The new release is expected to be available 
to all users around the world by end of October

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Teaching Scholars’ Think Tank

On Friday September 12th Course Networking hosted the first group meeting that brought together some of the most influential CN faculty members in the discussion of CN’s continuous development and implementation. The group, entitled the Teaching Scholars’ Think Tank (TST), was formed with a few main purposes: gathering the most active and contributing CN instructors to share best practices of online teaching, exploring research opportunities in innovative pedagogy and educational technology, and receiving direct feedback from CN end users to keep improving the next generation of learning system. This first group discussion included faculty from IUPUI, IU Bloomington, Saint Xavier University, Fort Hays State University, and German International School Indonesia. 
Teaching Scholars’ Think Tank
The TST will further advance the CN site away from more typical Learning Management Systems. The Director of CyberLab and Inventor of the CN, Professor Ali Jafari emphasized the uniqueness of the CN during the meeting. While many other systems scarcely surpass the logistical aspects of a class (i.e. grading, posting a syllabus, emailing class members, and uploading resources),  CN strives to maintain an engaging learning environment by incorporating various academic social interactivities. Therefore, students have the opportunity to casually interact with other educators and learners with similar academic interests in addition to completing coursework goals.
TST conversed about the unique capabilities of CN at length and the potential for growth within these facets of CN. CN owns the source code making it faster to update and this internal management allows for prompt development that has actually led to the creation of an updated version of CN that will be released in this fall.  Two exciting new features in the upcoming CN version were presented to the group. They are the calendar tool and user profile page. The calendar tool will help students actively plan ahead for academic events, class activities and assignment due dates. These events can be shared with classmates across the globe, therefore enabling students to gain a global learning experience with international students who are also using CN. The user profile will act as a social portfolio, where students can showcase their academic experiences and achievements and enrich their social network using the social engagement analytic graphic. All of the TST faculty members are excitedly looking forward to trying out these new features in their classes.
The TST also discussed plans for the 2015 CN Symposium which will be hosted in Malaysia. The potential topic of this symposium is Hybrid Learning and Tourism. The group may hold a panel discussion during the symposium to share their knowledge and experiences in online education and social learning pedagogies. The symposium will also be bringing in leaders from academia and industry to share their expertise and research findings in new learning technology.

TST will be working out many of the details of the future of CN and welcomes input from anyone well versed in the CN system. If you have any questions about the role of the Teaching Scholars’ Think Tank, or if you are interested in requesting membership, please contact CyberLab@iupui.edu.

“Changing the Way the World Learns”