This past Summer, I was able to sit down with a very interesting person from the world of Educational Technology. This Instructional Designer from the University of Missouri-Kansas City described how her school used Blackboard's Analytics tools to assess their teachers after different training methods! After her speech, I caught up with her for a few minutes to hear her thoughts on where Education is going and what role Analytics would play in it.
Matt Sexton: Could you tell me your name and what role you’re in now?
Molly Mead: Sure! Hi, I’m Molly Mead, I’m an instructional designer at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).
MS: You just made a really interesting speech in there. Would you mind giving (our readers) a quick overview about it?
MM: Sure, at my university I’m in a division called UMKC Online. We’re very concerned with the quality of our online teaching and our online courses. And so, to that end, we used Analytics for Learn to examine whether faculty teaching behaviors changed after our
faculty took a certification in online teaching course. And the results of that study were that in every measure that we looked at in terms of faculty teaching behavior in online courses; so that’s number of minutes spent in the course, number of interactions with students, and a variety of other different other measures we looked at. Every single faculty teaching measure stood as statistically, significantly higher after successful completion of the faculty certification course.
MS: That’s really interesting. I know that’s not (always) involved with IT administrators (job responsibilities) nowadays, when they pass along material to teachers. Sounds like very useful research. Speaking about the online certification course, what did you say was covered in that?
MM: We cover everything, and the kitchen sink! So, we deal with issues related to online teaching pedagogies. We talk about course accessibility for students with disabilities. We talk about proper copyright of all the materials that are in their course. We talk about interactivity and all the different tools in Blackboard Learn that you can use to make a course more interactive with students. And there and more. It’s about a 36-hour course for faculty no matter how they take it.
MS: And of those 3 ways you can take it, I believe: self-paced, boot camp, and 3 weeks online, which did you measure to be the most effective? And for a follow up, most conducive to teachers’ careers?
MM: It seems that, as far as our data is showing (thus far) the faculty that take the course via the face to face boot camp which is an intensive one week course, their measures are the highest by far in terms of change between pre and post faculty certification class.
(And) I think that what happens in the face to face boot camp is that faculty really engage with each other as we work through the different exercises in the course. They talk about their teaching and they talk about how they do certain learning activities, and ideas spread and grow and I think the interest in being a better teacher grows exponentially in that environment as well. Not so much in the online asynchronous (course) and I think even less in the self-paced course.
MS: Hm, that’s very interesting.
MM: Yes, we must find ways to fix that!
MS: Yeah, absolutely!
I know you also mentioned in your speech that you really liked to use an LMS for a tool in judging certification effectivity. Do you think that these analytics can be carried over to other elements of education like how accessible a teacher makes its work?
MM: Yes. Yes, I’m a big believer in data and being able to use it as a way to measure whether or not you are being effective or accountable for what you’re saying you’re doing.
MS: Okay and last question. You know, I think that the data is very important going forward as well, but there are obviously a lot of issues with schools having their students release the ability to use their data. Do you see that being circumvented in the future?
MM: I would say that I feel less scared about the data that’s in a system like Blackboard Analytics than I do in (say) your Fitbit, because it’s not openly accessible via Wi-Fi to anyone who’s passing by. I do think it’s an issue that as a culture and as a society we are going to have to deal with at some point because there’s a lot of data floating around out there that’s not secured, that’s potentially very revealing about individuals and I think our students need to be protected a little bit from some of that mayhem.
I guess we’re lucky that we have professionals like Molly to differentiate them! Year in and year out, a US News top 50 school in “Faculty Training” (to teach remotely) and “Technology Services,” Molly and her team continually set the bar for increasing effectivity in online classrooms! If you want to hear more about UMKC’s online department, click on one of the links below!