[EAS] Enhancing Online Education

Peter J. Kindlmann peter.kindlmann at yale.edu
Tue Feb 14 18:06:13 EST 2012

Dear Colleagues -

I'm forwarding you this (non-Valentine's Day) issue of Tomorrow's 
Professor, about advances in online education.

Attention to "the end of the lecture as we know it" has steadily 
increased recently, e.g.
<http://www.npr.org/2012/01/01/144550920/physicists-seek-to-lose-the-lecture-as-teaching-tool > 

but is by no means that new, e.g. 
In those days at U.Penn., Prof. James J. O'Donnell 
<http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/jod/> (now Provost at Georgetown 
Univ.) was Vice-Provost of Information Technology at U.Penn., the 
first instance known to me of a Provost-level appointment (and of a 
classicist at that!) to evolve educational technology. In 1994 and 
'95 he gave a widely acclaimed Internet course about St. Augustine.

All the best,  --PJK

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Today's Topics:

    1. TP Msg. #1152 Stanford Faculty Collaborate to Improve Online
       Education (Rick Reis)


Message: 1
Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2012 17:05:59 -0800 (PST)
From: Rick Reis <reis at stanford.edu>
To: tomorrows-professor <tomorrows-professor at lists.stanford.edu>
Subject: TP Msg. #1152 Stanford Faculty Collaborate to Improve Online
	<2026811735.4493803.1329181559763.JavaMail.root at zm02.stanford.edu>
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Professors are building new software to simplify lecture recording, 
host course material online, spark discussion among students and 
teachers and share Stanford courses. Others are testing these new 
tools in the classroom.



Archives of all past postings can be found at:

Sponsored by
Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning http://ctl.stanford.edu

Check out the Tomorrow's Professor Blog at:


The posting below looks at some innovative experiments underway at 
Stanford University to enhance online education. It is by Melissae 
Fellet, a science-writing intern at the Stanford News Office and is 
from the June 28, 2011 issue of the Stanford Report. See online 
article at 
for appropriate links. Copyright ? Stanford University. All Rights 
Reserved. Stanford, CA 94305. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis
reis at stanford.edu
UP NEXT: The Power of Mindful Teaching

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

--------------------------------------------------------1,040 words 

Stanford Faculty Collaborate to Improve Online Education
Several Stanford faculty members are working together to improve 
online education at the university by developing new software and 
testing it in the classroom.

The collaboration unites three experimental online education efforts: 
ClassX,[http://classx.stanford.edu/] a video processing platform that 
facilitates lecture recording; 
CourseWare,[https://courseware.stanford.edu/] an online course 
hosting site with social networking features; and Open 
a web platform designed to share Stanford lectures freely with the 

"The researchers are combining the three programs into one. The 
unified system should be available to the Stanford community by the 
fall quarter, said computer science associate professor Andrew 
Ng,[http://ai.stanford.edu/%7Eang/] creator of Open Classroom. The 
software will eventually be available to other universities as well," 
he said.

"We've known for many years what we wanted to do for online 
education," Ng said. "We just needed to build the software to make it 

Traditionally, a professor delivers one long lecture each class 
session. In large classes with hundreds of students, there?s often 
little back-and-forth questioning between students and the teacher.

Online courses increase information availability for students. 
Prerecorded lectures can free up class time for more interaction 
between students and teachers. Students help each other in 
discussions similar to a comment thread on a social networking site. 
And supplemental interactive lessons can help reduce disparity among 
students with different educational backgrounds.

Stanford computer science Professor Daphne Koller 
[http://ai.stanford.edu/%7Ekoller/] tested CourseWare and ClassX 
during a sophomore-level programming class. She posted recorded 
lectures online and used class time to cover problems, host guest 
lecturers from the tech industry and review material her students 
found difficult.

Students watched each lecture in 10- to 15-minute "chunks." A 
multiple-choice question followed each chunk to help reinforce the 
concepts. Koller posted weekly quizzes online as well. The short 
tests require students to think about the material, rather than 
listening passively to a lecture. Studies have shown information 
retrieval enhances learning.

Koller made attendance at scheduled class time optional, but students 
came. She said the audience for these sessions was higher than 
typical televised courses she?s taught, where the lecture was 
presented in one 75-minute video.

After polling her students when the course was over, Koller said 
about two-thirds of them told her they preferred the new format 
compared to a traditional in-person lecture. Nearly all found the 
video quizzes "very helpful."

Recording lectures
Koller recorded her classes by videotaping a lecture or drawing 
on-screen with an LCD tablet while she narrated an explanation.

Software developed by electrical engineering professor Bernd Girod 
[http://www.stanford.edu/%7Ebgirod/] and students simplifies lecture 
recording. A commercial camcorder captures the lecture. The professor 
uploads the video to the ClassX server, which processes the video for 
interactive streaming during playback. The viewer needs only a web 
browser to zoom and pan around the room while watching the video 
online. The ClassX team 
released the code as open source software in April.

Ng developed the tablet-recording program. It displays a slide from a 
presentation. Teachers draw on a graphics tablet, an electronic 
device used by digital artists, and the drawings appear on screen 
immediately as if they were writing on a chalkboard. They narrate the 
lecture using the computer?s microphone. A camera looking at the 
screen over the teacher?s shoulder records the video.

Ng also created some of the software for the interactive quizzes in 
the recorded lectures.

Facilitating discussion online

When Koller presented her idea for a new teaching method to her 
colleagues, computer science professor John Mitchell 
[http://theory.stanford.edu/people/jcm/] realized he had a web 
interface that could help her distribute videos to her class and 
encourage student discussion.

CourseWare is a public website that houses many Stanford courses. 
Professors control the visibility of any material placed on their 
course pages, restricting access to Stanford students or releasing it 
to the world. Many course management systems used at other 
universities limit any access to registered students.

CourseWare allows faculty to upload video and handouts, create 
interactive quizzes and track discussions among students and teachers.

In Koller?s class, students often helped each other when a classmate 
posted a question. The instructor or a teaching assistant confirmed 
or clarified the answers.

Mitchell had seen this student interaction early in the site?s 
development. "This was one of the biggest indications that we were on 
to something," he said.

CourseWare housed 10 courses in spring quarter, including computer 
science, political science, education, biochemistry and psychology.

Mitchell plans to make the site available to other universities over 
the web. He hopes faculty teaching similar courses at different 
universities will use the site to collaborate and share material.

Supplements for introductory courses
Professors around the university are beginning to adopt portions of 
this three-pronged technology in their classrooms, especially 
instructors in large introductory science, engineering and math 

Cammy Huang-DeVoss, course coordinator for the large introductory 
biology courses, is using the tablet recording and interactive quiz 
technology to develop lessons that enhance the lectures. Before a 
lecture on DNA, for example, students will watch an online video 
about the chemical bonds in DNA. It?s a way for the instructors to 
cover extra material, reinforce concepts from other classes and help 
unite students with different science backgrounds.

The biology teachers plan to launch their new online supplements in 
the middle of the fall quarter. "We hope the use of this technology 
can help close the gap between students of different backgrounds, and 
perhaps reduce the dropout rate from these fields, especially for 
under-represented groups," Koller said.

Advantages of online education
Online lectures have some advantages over the traditional in-person 
instruction. They allow students to control the pacing of a lecture ? 
they can speed it up or instantly replay the material.

A large library of online classes could allow students to personalize 
their education, Koller said. Students could combine many different 
lecture chunks to create courses tailored to their interests and 

Analytical programs built into the course-hosting system could allow 
faculty to monitor a course in real time, tracking student progress 
and adjusting their teaching techniques to maximize effectiveness 
throughout the quarter.

Ng has found that his colleagues are receptive to these online 
teaching methods. "We try to deliver a better education. Every 
professor wants to do that," he said.

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