By Morgan Appel, director of UC San Diego Extension's Education Department
Technology’s aggressive march forward has served as a compelling catalyst for the ways in which we communicate with one another and continues to chip away at teaching and learning. Not so much with a chisel, but with the force of a battering ram. Without question, this proves a bit daunting for those of us who carried mobile telephones more akin to WWII field radios than to silicon wafers — the same generation who believed mastery of Missile Command prepared us to defend the future and who scoff at the idea that 140 characters can capture anything of great import.
Taking things one step further, in offering coursework and certification almost entirely online, there is a unique set of pressures put upon the Education Department to not only make the most use of existing learning management systems, but to embrace those that lie on the cutting edge of accessibility and end-user utility. I suppose that is where status as a semi-neo-Luddite comes in handy — our student populations are diverse insofar as their attitudes and skills where new technologies are concerned. Thus, as one of the lowest common denominators in the group, I am easily able to identify those elements of a platform that will delight early adopters and frighten laggards. Resistance may not be futile, but it is powerful if anxieties are not dealt with appropriately.
In the past months, the Education Department has been privileged to work collaboratively with an innovative learning management system in the form of EmpoweredU. Understanding the need within education for real-time exchange of information; influx of multimedia; want of immediate feedback and heightened levels of meaningful interactivity among faculty and peers, Empowered U has developed a unique learning platform for use with tablets and other mobile devices. The platform is intuitive and user friendly, providing an opportunity for teaching and learning to lead the way over complex technologies. Quite a boon for a person such as yours truly who is on a never-ending search for the ‘clicker’ and still believes in the mysterious and omnipotent power of rabbit ears. Very true on both sides of the virtual desk, and it appears as though below a rather elegant and straightforward façade there is quite a bit of power at one’s disposal. Technologies are transparent and content is paramount.
The Education Department will be piloting an advanced mentorship course using the EmpoweredU platform beginning on September 2, 2014. This proof of concept course, EDUC 31352: Mentorship Clinic for Professional Educators, draws hand-selected mentors from across Education Department programs at UC San Diego — those who have demonstrated an exuberance for working with novice teachers and have earned their stripes academically and in the field. We hypothesize that certain synergies will emerge from immediate access to the course and its multimedia potential. Rather than the instructor providing exemplars and offering students opportunities to respond, students will be required to document their experiences using video captures and audio commentary. In this manner, students learn from one another in the trenches and are able to share stories as they occur, versus waiting to post until a compatible device is available. Finally, we believe that the modular design of the course and the flexibility of the platform open up the experience to those in other disciplines and professions who might benefit from more sophisticated training in mentorship.
EDUC 31352 will undergo rigorous formative and summative evaluations in an attempt to make sense of its comparative benefits to traditional face-to-face learning and other learning management systems. We will share findings from these assessments as they emerge.
For more information about EDUC 31352 or the pilot project more generally, please contact Morgan Appel, Director, Education Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.