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Blackboard and Distance Learning: Bend Technology to Your Will

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Blackboard and Distance Learning: Bend Technology To Your Will!

Over the years there have been numerous tips, tricks and gimmicks educators have used in an effort to reduce their teaching load. Is there anything that can be done to lessen the scholastic load without sacrificing quality instruction? Yes there is, it's the Internet.

Finally applications such as WebCT ™ and Blackboard™ have merged to create the ideal software support application for distance education. These products provide you - the educator - with the ability to seamlessly integrate your traditional classroom presentation with the virtual capability and extend your scholastic "reach" across the street, or around the world! They were developed or created to make your job easier. It's time you took hold of the reigns and bend technology to your will, rather than be a slave to it!

An e-Learning environment will provide a framework and a set of tools, however, by themselves they are not more likely to facilitate your teaching and the students' learning than the filing cabinet in which you keep your lecture notes.

You can and should make technology work for you - not the other way around. A place to start might be by learning all you can about these online applications, what do the ads promise? What do other educators or like users have to say about it? Imagine, if you could get your students undivided attention for 15 - 30 minutes at a time, what would you want them to learn? Learn the technology and you will become its master.

Overcoming Traditionalists

One common concern I hear from fellow educators is "if I use this online stuff, students will stop showing up for class." At the college level, the struggle for consistent class attendance has always been a struggle. Online presentations can actually "pull" students back in the classroom if they're effective.

Students need a good reason to use an e-Learning environment so if use is optional and there is not real added value then the most you will attract will be a few early-adopters and even they won't hang around too long

Consider this technique; announce to your class that your lecture notes or presentation will be available on Blackboard™ for the upcoming class. Let them know that the lecture notes will aid them in studying and preparing for quizzes, tests or examinations. Now look through your lecture notes and highlight key terms that you want your students to remember and key phrases or ideas that you want them to recognize and understand. Save this copy of your lecture notes in a document file. Now reopen the file and everywhere you previously identified key points or significant information, delete those terms, words and/or phrases. Now upload that to Blackboard™ or whatever scholastic product you're using.

Remember too that a professor whose dominant teaching style is teacher-centered may include assignments or course materials which are more student centered. Even a "purely didactic" approach can be more appealing with interactivity, feedback, and perhaps discussion added

In order for your lecture notes to be complete and in some cases to make any sense to the students, they will need to attend the lecture and fill in the blanks with the missing information.

Some would argue that such a tactic is too simplistic to work, and perhaps given the dynamics of your students, it may be. In that case, you may wish to support your lecture notes with essay questions focused at the material discussed during the lecture. This can also be accomplished online.

Bending technology to your will also suggests you seize the assets made available by major textbook publishers

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