Archive for Web 2.0

Increased Engagement and Communication Through the Use of ConnectYard

I attended the Creating Futures Through Technology at the beginning of March in Biloxi, Mississippi.  This a local conference that is geared towards the use of technology in higher education in Mississippi.  This year, I presented along with my colleague Dr. Cindy Handley on our use of ConnectYard at USM.

Increased Communication and Engagement Through the Use of ConnectYard from ahornton
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Engagement, Persistence, and Retention: How USM use ConnectYard to Successfully Enhance these Key Factors

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the 2012 Blackboard World Conference in New Orleans, LA.  Blackboard World is always a huge conference with a lot of information.  Like years past, there were a lot of useful sessions and time well spent collaborating and meeting new folks from other schools learning about their experiences and key take aways.  There were several things I thought they could have done better, but the big negatives were the food and location.   Considering we were in a city known for their great food, what they provided at the conference was a disappointment.  And, although I love New Orleans, having to shuttle back and forth to the convention center from my hotel was a pain and the few times I had to walk the 2 miles to get to the other end of the convention center wasn’t pleasant, although admittedly the exercise was good for me 🙂 Overall, though I’m glad I was able to attend.

On the first day of the conference, along with my colleagues Sheri Rawls and Cindy Handley, we presented with ConnectYard.  We have been using ConnectYard for about a year to enhance the communication within our online courses.  ConnectYard provides the ability to set up alternate communication channels within Blackboard so students and faculty can self-select how they would like to receive discussion postings and announcements from their courses. They can select channels such as Facebook, Twitter, cell phone text messaging, or e-mail.  Feedback from our students and faculty has been overwhelmingly positive.  They like the customization of the service and that it allows them to access their messages from anywhere on their mobile devices.  We are currently pursuing other use cases for ConnectYard, such as for marketing and recruitment for our online programs and university wide communications among departments and online students.  To view our presentation, see below.

How USM Uses ConnectYard to Successfully Enhance Engagement, Persistence, and Retention Efforts from ahornton

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HandBrake – DVD to MPEG-4 converter

HandBrake is a multi-platform, open-source, multi-threaded DVD to MPEG-4 converter.  It can be used with Mac OS, Windows, and Linux.  It is very user-friendly.  I have been using this software to convert the videos that we make in our Interactive Video Network (IVN) rooms to make them accessible online for instructors and students.  Using this software in no way releases the user of being liable for copyright infringement.  Before using this software to convert a DVD, the user should make sure that doing so will not violate any copyright laws.

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WizIQ

I found a new Web 2.0 tool that is pretty cool.  It is a free virtual classroom called WizIQ.  You must create an account to be able to use the virtual classroom, but it is free.  You can create meeting times and invite other members to attend.  It allows you hold live meetings with audio and video.  It also has a text chat area.  It allows you upload content that will show up in the content area for everyone in the room to see.  It has a great eBoard toolbar with all kinds of visual tools to use to make annotations on top of your content (very impressed by the amount of options on the toolbar).  It has a tabbed content interface to allow you to have multiple content open at the same time.  It has a large set of math symbols to use as well.  When I tested it with a colleague the audio and video worked very well.

The meetings are archived, but I couldn’t figure out how long the archives would be available for me to view.  There are some other things that would be nice to have, such as application sharing, breakout rooms, and a call-in phone number for users that might not have a microphone.  With that said, for a free application, this is a very nice.  There is a premium membership that you can pay $49.95/year for additional features.

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RSS Overload

I have been using RSS feeds for a while now so that information comes to me and I don’t have to always go out looking for it.  I have found that it is a great way to fulfill my quest for learning without having to go out and search all the time.  I subscribe to blogs, news feeds, and podcasts.  When I happen upon a new RSS feed that looks interesting I will add it to my growing list of feeds.  My problem, now, is trying to keep up with all of these sources of information.  I try to read at least a lit bit everday as well as listen to a podcast or two, but my feeds bring in more information daily than I can get to.  I would love to be able to read, listen, and watch everything that comes into my inbox, but I can’t seem to find the time.  I am struggling with where to draw the line because there is so much good information out there I want to learn from.

On the other hand, how amazing it is that we live in a time where there is such a wealth of information available on any subject available right at our fingertips 24/7.

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Social Networking in Higher Education

We are struggling with how to create policy for using social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Ning, etc.) at our institution.  We are concerned about security, that students’ private data will be misused and how our university could be held liable.  Right now, the unofficial policy is to NOT recommend any of these tools to our faculty.  It seems to me that there should be a middle ground, a way to develop reasonable policy to protect the institution, students, and faculty and use these tools to enhance our educational institution.

I would love to hear recommendations from anyone who has addressed this issue or who might be going through the same issues and how they are approaching it.

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Ning

Ning is a social networking tool. The sign-up is free and you are able to create private and public networking sites. A public site is like a Web site where everyone can see what you put up. A private site requires that you invite users to join the site for them to be able to see the content.

I have been using Ning for about 6 months now. I have created 3 Ning sites so far, one for our family that is spread out all over the U.S., Europe, and Africa. I created this one as a private network so that only those I invite can join our network. I also created a private site for our Boy Scout troop. I created one public site for the Scoutreach Division of our local Boy Scouts of America, of which my husband is the director. He uses this site to communicate with parents, volunteers, and others in his district about events and what is going on with scouting in his district.

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