TV’s Top Chefs star in online university

You’ve watched them whip up delectable dishes (and drama) in the Top Chef kitchen. Now, stars of the hit Bravo TV series are ready to school their fans in what could be the beginning of a new trend in online education, reports the Associated Press. TopChefUniversity.com, formally launching this week, is designed to give users the experience of culinary school at their own pace, with 12 courses covering about 60 hours of content. The site was created by Jeff Goldenberg, founder of Post Oaks Productions, a provider of live and virtual consumer training. He approached Bravo with the concept after getting hooked on the show. Instructors were picked with an eye to their time on the show. The program, which costs $25 a month or $200 for yearlong access, begins with the basics—knife skills, pantry stocking—and moves on to stocks, soups, vegetables, proteins, and dessert before finishing up with global cuisine and advanced techniques. Site users are given written tests to see if they’ve absorbed the material and will be able to upload pictures of their finished work and ask questions on class forums. Though no one can verify whether the dishes produced are hits or misses, coursework must be completed before the next level is unlocked. At the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., communications director Stephan Hengst thought the idea was intriguing. However, the online course “doesn’t necessarily stand up to the rigors of a professional culinary education,” he says…

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Parents get help in choosing an online learning program

The guide explains that online learning programs are diverse, and comparing them is often like comparing apples to oranges.
The guide explains that online learning programs are diverse, and comparing them is often like comparing apples to oranges.

A new guide offers parents a roadmap in their quest to find the right online-learning program for their child.

“A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Right Online Program,” written by John Watson and Butch Gemin of the Evergreen Education Group and Marla Coffey, a distance education consultant at the University of Maryland University College, is part of the Promising Practices in Online Learning series from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).

“Thirty states and more than half of the school districts in the U.S. offer online courses and services, and online learning is growing rapidly, at 30 percent annually,” says the guide. “This growth is meeting demand among students, and more than 40 percent of high school and middle schools students have expressed interest in taking an online course.”…Read More

Online learning startup launches with plans to “democratize education”

A new online learning web site called Udemy, which has been in testing for several months and has amassed more than 1,000 active users spread over some 400 courses, launched on May 11, ReadWriteWeb reports. Udemy’s goal is “to democratize online education” by providing tools so that educators can easily create their own online courses. Courses on Udemy allow students to interact with their instructors both synchronously and asynchronously, which is more than offered by educational videos or presentations posted to YouTube. Students subscribe to courses on Udemy so their instructors can communicate with them through blog posts, discussion boards, and virtual conferencing. The site’s Live Virtual Classroom allows instructors to host virtual conferences with students, using live video, a whiteboard, and a chatroom. Courses currently on Udemy range from a Columbia University class on “The Masterpieces of Western Art” to an “Introduction to Poker.” At present, classes on the site are free, but Udemy plans to give teachers the option to charge for the courses they offer. While online learners are certain to benefit from the added interaction and community that Udemy provides, it might be this ability to earn some extra money that brings teachers and tutors to the service…

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Online textbooks let students share notes across the globe

One-third of students surveyed said they were "comfortable" with eBooks.
One-third of students surveyed said they were "comfortable" with eBooks.

Florida State College at Jacksonville faculty have created 20 electronic textbooks that are accessible on a free online platform that lets students take notes in the margins, search for key terms, and share notes with peers and professors through an interactive social-networking feature.

Students don’t need to buy any additional hardware to use the college’s eBook program, officials said. Instead, they simply download an eReader application called CafeScribe, which also brings students together through social networking to form online study groups.

And students who use the CafeScribe eBooks aren’t limited to contact with their professors and fellow students. Any student from any campus in the world can share content and study notes with any other student if they’re using the same web-based textbook, according to an April 21 announcement from Follett Higher Education Group, the Illinois-based used book supplier that makes CafeScribe.…Read More

Virtual Symposium examines worldwide growth of online access

The Virtual Symposium focused on keeping open-source technologies free.
The Virtual Symposium focused on keeping open-source technologies free.

Online learning, open courseware, eBooks, wikis, and many other innovative technologies have forever affected education by connecting any topic in any discipline to any learner in any place. Even individuals in remote communities now can access unlimited information free of charge, if they have an internet connection. This also provides more possibilities for international collaboration, knowledge building, and sharing of best practices.

Drexel University’s School of Education capitalized on these possibilities during its second annual live and online Virtual Symposium, in conjunction with Wainhouse Research and the World Bank Institute’s Global Development Learning Network (GDLN). This year’s Virtual Symposium built upon the theme Education for Everyone: Expanding Access Through Technology.

The symposium highlighted education technology innovations, and it examined challenges to access—for example, among poor and rural communities—and possibilities for overcoming them. A major feature of the symposium was the ability for participants to share experiences among peers in both developing and developed countries.…Read More

Community colleges turn to online classes as enrollments spike

Distance learning enrollment continues to outpace overall college enrollment numbers.
Distance-learning enrollment continues to grow faster than overall college enrollment numbers.

Distance-learning enrollment in American community colleges jumped by 22 percent during the 2008-09 academic year, an increase fueled in part by an influx of nontraditional students who require the flexibility of online courses, according to a survey conducted by the Instructional Technology Council (ITC).

The ITC, which is affiliated with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), collected 226 responses from community colleges in its annual survey, “Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges,” which revealed the 2008-09 increase in online enrollment. Last year’s ITC survey reported an 11-percent uptick in web-based class enrollment at community colleges.

The survey also highlighted the closing gap in course completion rates among online learners, which traditionally has lagged behind that of traditional face-to-face students. Seventy-two percent of web-based community college students completed their class last year, compared with 76 percent of on-campus students.…Read More

Syllabus digitization takes hold on college campuses

Students can see an updated online syllabus seconds after a professor makes an adjustment.
Students can see an updated online syllabus seconds after a professor makes an adjustment.

College students’ online calendars immediately can reflect any changes to their class schedule, test date, or homework due date, thanks to web-based course syllabi that alerts class members any time a professor tweaks a lesson plan.

Online syllabi features have been available for years on popular course management systems such as industry giant Blackboard, but four campuses have turned to an internet syllabus service called Concourse that allows for customization—meaning faculty can make certain parts of the document visible to different sections of the same course. This is a useful tool for faculty who teach courses with undergraduate and graduate students who will have different assignments.

Students can sync Concourse syllabi with web-based calendar applications such as Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar, and faculty members can access course syllabi without building a separate web site for each class.…Read More

New program to recognize Online Teacher of the Year

Online learning is skyrocketing in popularity.
Online learning is skyrocketing in popularity.

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) have teamed up on a new awards program that will recognize an outstanding online teacher for his or her exceptional contributions to virtual K-12 education.

Nominations for the first-ever National Online Teacher of the Year Award are being accepted now, the two groups said in a press release. A superintendent, principal, program director, department chair, or any other supervisor may nominate an online educator in any public school or statewide virtual school for the honor.

One top winner will receive a trophy and an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2010 Virtual School Symposium sponsored by iNACOL, to be held Nov. 14-16 in Glendale, Ariz. The symposium is expected to bring together more than 1,600 participants from national, state, district, private, and other virtual-school programs to explore trends and best practices in eLearning. The winner also will be recognized at the iNACOL Annual Meeting on Nov. 14 in Glendale and will be featured on the SREB and iNACOL web sites.…Read More

Stimulus funding helps expand online leaning in Tennessee

Tennessee Education Commissioner Timothy Webb has announced new funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand the Tennessee Department of Education’s e4TN online learning initiative, reports the Cookeville Times. Building on the success of e4TN, the state education department will expand opportunities for students to enroll and succeed in online courses through the e4000TN program. The program provides support and resources in hopes of enrolling 4,000 students in online courses in 60 school districts across the state. “It’s important that we expand access to these courses for students across our state,” Webb said. “These programs can help our children succeed in many different ways—through credit recovery, advanced coursework, and schedule flexibility.” Through a competitive process, 60 school districts were awarded grants to begin e4000TN programs. The grants provide $10,000 to be used for personnel and equipment, and another $10,000 to access current e4TN e-learning courses…

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National Broadband Plan focuses on e-Rate, online learning

 

The Nationa Broadband Plan suggests that federal programs should be more accessible and ready to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski discusses the National Broadband Plan, unveiled March 16.

 

More students should have access to online learning, and the federal e-Rate program should be more widely deployed and should embrace and encourage innovation, according to the National Broadband Plan, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled on March 16.…Read More