Friday, December 12, 2014

Excel 3: Macros and VBA Workshop (December 9)

I attended a 2 hour workshop about Excel, which was organized by DOIT STS. This session is actually a continuation of the two previous sessions, Excel 1 and Excel 2. The specific topics being discussed in this session are using macros and programming using VBA in Excel. I had a decent amount of experience with Excel before attending the session, but I have never tried to program in Excel. What is nice about these sessions is that participants can use an individually designated computer and follow along the steps taken by the facilitator. This enables the participants to experience hands on learning, which I think is really helpful to help retain the skills gained through this training session. The facilitator gives us an opportunity to solve a real life problem. The problem was assigning grades to each of the students in a class based on certain preset criteria. What we need to do was to write a program that can process each individual’s grade components and give out his or her final grade for the course. We started writing the code piece by piece and step by step. I thought the facilitator did a great job in explaining the logic behind each part of the code. After her helpful explanations, I was able to understand the inner-workings of the course grading program. Through this training session, I also learned and applied the most common programming concepts like the while loop and conditional statements. Overall, I was glad to be able to attend this training session and would recommend it to my fellow classmates.    


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

LIS Course Review

When doing an online search for hybrid/blended courses, I came across the UW-Milwaukee website. They described hybrid courses as those that were shying away from face-fo-face communication towards an online base for the class. However, similar to LIS 201, it mentioned that in person class was not fully eliminated. One example of a class on the UW-Milwaukee course is a class on advertising agency and the rising importance of online ads in the world. Similar to LIS 201 once again, the classes' main topic is one that has to do with the ever-growing use of online databases and information technology. The courses in general seem to match with LIS 201, with the online portion serving a vital purpose without taking away the importance of in class lecture and discussion.

As far as our class goes, I felt that the online and in class portions tended to blend well. Using the internet was essential in understanding the main objectives of the course. I actually felt that I was a more effective student in the physical world because I was able to more clearly convey my opinions and thoughts during the in-class discussion as opposed to the online blog and wiki posts. Building on that, aside from reading the online posts from my fellow students describing their backgrounds and lives, I learned more about their viewpoints during discussion. LIS 201 was helpful in guiding me to learn how to use certain online resources such as blogger and wiki, which I will absolutely continue to use in the future. I think that, in the future, UW professors should continue to use the internet in teaching their classes, while also being mindful of the importance of face-to-face interaction.

As a whole, LIS 201 made me do a significant amount of reflecting about my own online experiences and how I go about using the internet in my daily life. I think that using the internet in a course that is based on online interactions and information technology made me change the way I used it during the course. Finally, I think that using the internet in a course not about the online world of information would be less effective than it was in LIS 201.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Course Review - JD Keiles

After doing some research online about other hybrid learning strategies I was more content with this course's strategy. I liked how this course blended many different elements into one holistic learning process. Other courses online seemed to stress group work while the students were present in class. Although a majority of the classes I found were still dominant in face-to-face communications, they did still stress online work too. I found one class at UW-Milwaukee that stressed a lot of simulations for the real world.  Common themes of these hybrid classes were online blogs or discussion boards. I think these are good places to create conversation among students but still not as good as face-to-face communication. One of the differences I found was that our class still had lecture and discussion sections when some other classes had their lectures online or just did all of their discussions online and not in a classroom.
I would like to say that although this course utilized many different platforms, I don't feel like they were all tied together perfectly. The blog posts seemed to be mostly just busy work that was not directly related to what we were talking about in discussions. The readings matched up well with the discussion goals but it didn't seem like the lecture matched up well with the discussion topics. I definitely feel like I am a more productive student in person because I am less distracted by the internet. With fewer distractions it is easier for me to become involved and contribute in discussions. I was also able to learn more about people in discussion than based on their online posts. Who people are becomes more clear when you can see how they are saying things and in what context they're saying them in during the conversation.
I think the UW Professors should continue to utilize the Internet but I'm not sure assigning weekly blog posts with limited content is the best use of the technology. Discussion boards are definitely a good way to allow students to critically think and contribute to conversations. I think this hybrid approach to learning can be good, but I don't think it can apply to all subjects. Something like math or science needs to be done in person. Learning through example problems is a lot less effective when you are alone and doing them through the Internet. Overall, I thought this was a very interesting course. Its topics were relevant and aligned well with how I have been viewing the Internet and the social media obsessed generations that continue to grow. 

Course Review

When I googled hybrid/blended courses the first thing that came up was a list of hybrid courses offered by UW Milwaukee. On the home page for these courses they defined what exactly a hybrid course was, saying "In hybrid classes, a significant amount of the course learning activity has been moved online, making it possible to reduce the amount of time spent in the classroom. Traditional face-to-face instruction is reduced but not eliminated." The site listed several hybrid courses, ranging from nursing to anthropology classes. Similar to LIS 201, many of these courses consist of 2/3 face-to-face participation, and 1/3 online participation. LIS 201 was divided into three parts: lecture and discussion, both of which were face-to-face, and online activities made up the remainder of the course. 

When reflecting back on this course, I felt that I definitely benefited more from the face-to-face portion of the class. While I found the weekly blog posts and online activities to be helpful overall, I find that I personally learn better in a classroom environment where I am physically present with the instructor and my fellow classmates. However, as this class was mainly focused on information technology and the importance of online communities, I think that having an online portion of the class was both important and necessary. 

Overall, this course definitely made me have a new perspective on information technology and the online world that our society has become so consumed by. It was also fascinating to learn about the complexity of the internet and how it has evolved over time. 

Online Experience-Caroline Kreul

Engineering 271 is also a hybrid course, but is substantially different than LIS 201. In that course, students use a web program that mimics a real-life engineering firm, complete with consumers, interdepartmental communication and corporate oversight. Whereas LIS 201 uses various websites in tangent with classroom, lecture-style learning, this class uses an offline entity to gain real-life skills.

In terms of how effective the use of various internet sites was, I was rather unimpressed. I do think that there's value in knowing how to use sites like Blogger, but I felt that there was a lot of confusion, particularly at the beginning of the course, about which mediums we were supposed to be working with. I also felt that there was just such a cluttered amount of tasks to complete each week that it ultimately detracted from gaining knowledge from the course. For example, because we weren't assigned terms until Tuesday's lecture and our discussion meets on Wednesdays, that left a very small window within which to read through and find the terms. It also didn't make sense to read the readings ahead of time as I'd inevitably have to go back through the entire reading again to find the terms. This felt particularly unfair as other sections had two or three nights to study the quiz terms. Towards the middle of the course, I found myself just skimming the readings to find the terms instead of reading them for overall content. In general, the overall feeling that I got from the course was that, because this is a 4-credit class, the professor just tried to cram in a bunch of things to do to make it "hard" (ie. at least two long readings, a weekly quiz, online activities, paper or exam/week, etc.).

I really don't think that the whole hybrid course is the best idea for courses other that those relating to the information society, digital studies, computer science, or journalism. I think that the best learning that I have had, and keeping in mind that the majority of my classes in journalism and digital studies have online components, were those experiences in-person talking to my classmates and TA. There is no substitute for those kind of interpersonal interactions and I think that, particularly for those subject outside of the ones I listed, that in-class learning style is vital.

Hybrid Course Retrospective

I took a look at the approaches to "blended" courses that both Stanford and MIT have taken in recent years. These schools came to mind due to their use of the "Open Course Ware" idea: putting lecture materials, quizzes, homework, projects, and everything else associated with the course online completely for free. These are accessible to anyone, and while there is no one to assess progress or grade papers or exams, it can still be a valuable way to learn. In fact, I actually used content from these schools a few years ago when I was first starting out with computer science, and found them incredibly helpful. 

Both schools publish guidelines for professors to follow when constructing these courses, and a common theme among them definitely seems to be not letting the actual in person interaction fall by the way side. Instead, the idea becomes that students read up on the material before the lectures, and then come in to classes more prepared to engage in interactive activities. This includes things like simulations, group work, case studies, discussion, and so on. Definitely an interesting approach and probably one that can be difficult to effectively construct. There are some other less interesting aspects also enumerated like forums for discussion, wikis, and keeping course announcements online. 

The element of having students interact and engage in the material after having learned about it on their own seems to be mirrored by LIS 201's assigned readings and subsequent discussion sections. This was incidentally the part of the course that I found to be the most effective for learning, and was for me a more interesting way to engage with the material than lecture. 

As I mentioned in the blog post for last week, I feel that I was able to convey my thoughts more clearly online through blog posts, as I had more time to constrict them and more resources at my disposal to reference. In spite of this, I still found the discussion sections to be valuable, as getting those different perspectives and making new connections on the spot were very useful for furthering understanding of a topic. 

I don't think the online components of this course were particularly tied to the content. Sure it's a little weird that these blog posts are public, but beyond that, this is a perfectly valid approach for many classes. In fact, I think most English courses I've taken since high school have had some kind of online forum component, which is effectively the same as this blogger, only private. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

LIS Hybrid Experience-Adam Carney

Through my online search of hybrid classes, I was able to find some very interesting classes that use the internet to compare different assignments. One class at UW-Milwaukee gave students the opportunity to work in groups on projects then post the project into a blog like discussion group. Students then were able to critique one another and give helpful feedback on each other's presentations. It is different from our class in the way that the projects are not individualized, yet they still have a blog to interact with each other on and give constructive criticism.

As for myself, I thought the online portion was a great addition to the class. Allowed for students to express their work in a modern and virtual way. I felt I was more effective in the physical world just because I was able to react to people naturally rather than having time to react online. Also, in class interactions definitely were more beneficial to me in getting to know other students because I truly value face to face contact. I now understand how blogs and online communities work better and it can only help me in the future. The use of online resources should steadily get used more and more. They are incorporated in all of my classes, but too much online interaction might not be beneficial to the student.

Throughout the class, I learned a lot about the development of the information society and how we were so simplistic and have evolved to much greater feats today. I appreciate how quick the internet works and do have an appreciation for its efficiency. Overall, the class was very beneficial and I learned a lot about internet interaction outside of social media such as Facebook, twitter, and many others.