eLearning Forum at UC Berkeley



On Friday, October 24, 2003, eLearning Forum participated in the inaugural meeting of BLT at the University of California at Berkeley.

BLT stands for Berkeley Learning Technology. Its goal is to foster coorperation among the many learning tech projects on the U.C. Campus. BLT is a community of practice.

Alex Gault opened the session, introducing the Forum and calling for the audience to introduce themselves, too.

Every month, a member of eLearning Forum's Board takes on the role of meeting coordinator to oversee the entire production. The buck stops there.

We met in the charming Joseph Wood Krutch Theater on Cal's Clark Kerr Campus.

Jim Slotta organized the event and was master of ceremonies. Jim is director of TELS, a NSF-funded research consortium.

He explained that today's speakers represent three independent areas on campus, a mere sliver of what's going on at U.C. Berkeley in learning technology:

  1. Learning Content Collections
  2. Learning Content Application
  3. Learning Management Systems/Open Source

I've lived in Berkeley for twenty years but I'd never heard of most of the projects the panelists told us about.

Brandon Muramatsu , Digital Libraries Project, www.smete.org (Learning Content Collections)

Teaching and learning resources (e.g. a problem set). K-12 and university. Supports collaboration. May be resources from others, slightly modified in their re-use. SMETE = science, math, engineering, tech, and education. Focus on teaching and learning. Goal is to elevate social aspects of developing ?educational? digital libraries to the same level as technical ones. 9.25 million users. 42,000 online resources. Cooperation with Merlot, Math Forum, BioQUEST, etc., etc., etc.

Awards competition. www.needs.org/premier/ CD-ROMs are the big winners thus far. Challenges include identifying quality resources, integration of external collections, and social aspects. Teachers aren't accustomed to using materials developed by others.

Raymond Yee , interactive university project (Learning Content Collections)

The goal is to use technology to democratize the content and community of the campus by opening UC resources to the public, especially K12. There's a wealth of materials out there: California Digital Library, MIT OpenCourseWare, UT Austin Knowledge Gateway, UC Berkeley Interactive University, art museums, etc.

Better tools are needed. Now have data silos. Need interoperable content.

The goals are worthy but the approach strikes me as strong on content but weak on context. That's okay as long as the users provide the coaching, mentoring, instruction, and support. Wired magazine recently touted the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative, suggesting that students in remote developing countries would be learning the equivalent of an MIT degree by reading lecture notes. What a pipedream!

Mike Clancy , Computer Science Division (Learning Content Application)

Mike has taught programming at UC since '77. Skeptical about how technology can help us ? ?because I've seen a lot of screw-ups.? eLearning must include learning. Their direction has been to decrease lecture (passive learning) while increasing online labs (active learning). UC-WISE (Web-based Inquiry System for Engineering) delivers content, quizzes, etc. Mike poured all content and activities into the UC-WISE environment. Now includes gated collaborations and online note-taking.

Benefits of the ?e?. Convenience (online, tracking), new activities (collaboration, focused discussion), aids to autonomous learning (hints, interactive programming tasks), monitoring (in real time, which enables ?targeted tutoring?), more detailed picture of each student (misconceptions, coping), and convenient course revision. Everyone has to participate, not just the volunteers. There's so much more detail about students' learning; ?I feel like the first chemists to look through electron microscopes.?

This is blended learning. It supplements the traditional student/teacher relationship rather than replacing it.

Note to self: When I rant about university training, I need to remember people like Mike, who are making exactly the right moves. I wonder what the ratio of Mikes to old-time faculty is on campus.

Jim Slotta , Open Web Learning (OWL) (Learning Content Application).

What are the most effective designs for curriculum and assessments? How can instructors adopt innovative tech and pedagogical approaches?

The Web came along as the project began. Lots of great content but no scaffolding to help learners use them. Inquiry maps, cognitive guidance, meta-discussions, visualizations.

WISE on the web: curriculum map in left column. Content includes reference notes.

Theoretical frame: make ideas visible, learn from each other, accessible models, autonomous learners.

TELS is a new research center, funded only last month. TELS = Technology Enhanced Learning in Science.

In theory, this sounds right on the money. I hope TELS is a great success. Of course, as Yogi Berra says, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."

Turadg Aleahmad , technology architect, OWL for UC-WISE, describes ambitious web platform shared among many partner institutions. Open data models. Turadg's bandwidth is too high for note-takers. (Learning Content Application).

Fred Beshears , Education Technology Services (Learning Management Systems/Open Source)

ETS is developing scaleable learning management systems. 15 years ago, tech was a flea on the tail of the eLearning dog. Now tech is perhaps the tail itself.

Fred's the ?Learning Technology Scout.? He brings them back for the wagon masters to choose from. Standards are good, e.g. assembling components beats hand-hewn logs for your cabin.

Mara Hancock , Educational Technology Services (Learning Management Systems/Open Source)

ETS integrates tech and learning campus-wide. It even coordinates the activities of the campus radio station, KALX. Learning systems includes faculty development as well as learning tool development; multimedia services is a new addition.


  • From technology frill to critical teaching tools
  • From faculty do it yourself to a balance of faculty development and professional services
  • Open Source collaboration across institutions

Moving to single-system, open source LMS.

Professor Marcia Linn is a pioneer whose work was the genesis of many of the projects we heard about from the panel. She engaged the audience on three pieces of the learning technology puzzle:

  1. Instructors: Ego issue (tutor vs. performer). Changed role. Sharing content?
  2. Students: Accessibility. Tech can be motivational. Short-attention span theater.
  3. Technology: Fear. Interoperability. Hinders feeling of connectedness.

Our meeting got off to a late start -- a combination of introductions we hadn't planned for and some members getting lost on the way to the Clark Kerr Campus. Sandwiches arrived as we broke into groups to discuss each of the three areas, so discussions continued over lunch.

Neologism alert! WIKISTORM. (Like brainstorm, but on a wiki rather than in person). Coined by Jim Slotta.

Notes from the discussions and from the panelists will appear on the wiki set up for BLT.

Tata Interactive co-sponsored this event. During the break, Santosh Abraham and Veena Adiga showed samples of the simulations Tata has built for University of Phoenix.

Rick Huebsch, eLearning Forum's remote participant champion, brought several dozen people from all over the world into the session.

eLearning Forum is currently using remote meeting technology from Interwise. Participants described this event as flawless.

  If you're not familiar with wikis, you probably should be. Take a look at the Wikistorms from our session.

Posted by Jay Cross at October 25, 2003 10:38 PM | TrackBack

not bad

Posted by: paris und nicky hilton at June 28, 2004 11:42 PM

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