TXDLA Conference Highlights

I’d like to reflect on the Texas Distance Learning Association’s (TXDLA) 10th annual conference for a minute. This was my 5th time going and, in my opinion, this is one of the “can’t miss” conferences held each year. This year I think it drew somewhere near a thousand educators. Here are a few observations:

  1. Moodle was everywhere. For whatever reason, I have not paid much attention to this open source LMS in the past. It has my attention now. At one session, that gave a broad overview of Moodle, someone asked, “This does everything that Blackboard does. Why would anyone pay when you can get the same features for free?” Good question. Over the next few months I hope to have some answers for you. In my spare time (cue laugh track) over the next few months, I am going to set up Moodle 1.8 and create a course. I will report back on the pains and pleasures of the experience.
  2. I attended a session on the implementation of a course, “Going Online to Teach Online Faculty About Teaching Online.” Allison Peterson from Texas Woman’s University gave an outstanding presentation on why the course failed. I took away a *lot* of good info from this session. Of equal importance, it was nice to know that I am not the only one who has been a part of a misstep or two. We need more honesty like this to advance our field. Nice job Alli.
  3. The most memorable quote occurred while standing in line for lunch. The gentleman behind me was praising a colleague on his ability to pick up technology. He said, “He is good …really good. He is going to be a Digital Native before long.” I had a flash to the Aflac commercial with Yogi Berra in the barber shop.
  4. The statement that got me thinking the most was made be the Keynote Speaker, Elliott Maise. He said that teleconferencing is on the verge of really taking off. Being more of an asynchronous learning guy, this really hasn’t been on my radar. I worked with teleconferencing at The Medical University of South Carolina a while back, and the experience did not leave a great lasting impression. The technology was expensive, clunky, and it seemed to interfere with learning more than promote it (I often had to baby sit the equipment to make sure it behaved). It should be noted that this was five years ago and the technology is vastly improved. I’ll stay tuned.
  5. People are curious about Second Life. They aren’t sure what to do with it yet, but they are interested.
Darren Crone
Darren is a sarcastic, odd, bald man with a very dry sense of humor. He originally hails from Albany, N.Y., but claims Charleston, S.C. as his hometown.He joined the Air Force soon after graduating high school. This decision was made because a) working as a busboy wasn’t quite cutting it, and b) he had zero desire to ever attend college. While in the Air Force, he traveled the world as a Combat Cameraman, documenting both natural and man made disasters in places such as Thailand, Namibia, Armenia, Germany, Panama, Italy, Croatia, Japan, Singapore, and probably more than a few places that have changed names since you began reading this bio. There are many stories about his travels locked away in a vault somewhere and it is said that Samuel Adams holds the key. While in the Air Force, he was given the opportunity to attend a year-long Video Journalism program at Syracuse University. Much to his amazement, he found that higher education didn’t suck at all. Having been bitten by the education bug, he completed his BS and MA in education and training from Southern Illinois University and Webster University respectively. He then completed his doctorate in instructional technology and distance education form Nova Southeastern University. Darren currently works as an Instructional Designer at The University of Texas at Dallas and enjoys spending time with his wife, children, dogs and fish. His hobbies include weight training, watching the Texas Rangers (yes, really), and trying to appear smarter than he really is.

6 thoughts on “TXDLA Conference Highlights

  1. Matt Crosslin

    ‘It has my attention now’

    Finally! Darren has seen the light! You are right, it was everywhere. It went from having one session last year, to five specific sessions and 10-15 passing mentions in others. Moodle will rule the world someday!

    Teleconferencing has been on the verge of taking off for over 5 years now. I still don’t believe it personally. The technology is still ‘expensive, clunky, and it seemed to interfere with learning more than promote it.’ I also think that the asynchronous nature of online learning has been the key factor in its recent growth, so there really isn’t even a need for videoconferencing (even if it worked fabulously). Also, free VOIP tools like Skype and Google Talk are so easy to use (and easy on the budget), I just don’t see why anyone would invest in videoconferencing equipment.

    I can see video blogging and vodcasting taking off soon, but that’s another subject….

  2. I am going to have to agree with you. It was my 6th TxDLA conference and it was outstanding. I believe that educational technology has greatly improved to a point where there is an over abundance to present. Hence, one heck of a conference! Just wait for 2008!!! Come join us!Texas Distance Learning Association WebSite http://www.txdla.org

  3. On #1 – At the pirate party I heard someone talking about the process of selecting an LMS for the whole school, and they chose a commercial LMS because of all the training and support.

    On #2 – At the last lunch someone else who had been to the same session said she felt a lot better about her course because 1/3 of the professors would finish it. However, professors would come back and take the course again. They might not even finish it the second time–the current record stands at five tries.

    It reminds me of quitting smoking–they say that each time you try and fail, it is more likely that you will succeed the next time!

    My point is that I am not so sure that the presenter of this session actually failed. Except for the group work, those professors enjoyed the class and got a lot out of it.

  4. Matt Crosslin

    Yeah – training and support is a big misconception with Open-Source software. People seem to think that they get it for free when they go commercial. The cost of training and support are all rolled in to the final cost. But there are a large number of organizations that offer training and support for Moodle – all at a price that will still cost less than any commercial product (see Moodle.com for a list). In fact, for what most people pay for Blackboard, you could hire your own in-house support and training department. It’s not that hard to support Moodle – I do it for this site with ease :)

  5. Darren Crone

    Re #1: I totally agree with the training and support issue. I think I heard that for every support person for a commercial CMS, 3 would be required to maintain a similar scale MOODLE setup. We are having a terrible time with WebCT CE6 (technical issues galore) We were essentially forced into upgrading from the perfectly good 4.1 because of a pending discontinuation of support from the company. If we used MOODLE, this would not have been the case.

    Re #2: I should clarify why I used the term ‘failed’. I think I remember the presenter saying the course completion certificate would ‘check the box’ that demonstrates professors are qualified to teach online for SACS accreditation purposes (this may have come from a side conversation with someone else n the audience though). Perhaps failed was too strong a word.

    I am from the school of thought that as long as learning occurs (and it definitely did in this instance), the process is a success. I plan to use many of the ideas presented at this session on a similar project. I just need to figure out the balance between how much information I want to cover and how much time and energy our professors can dedicate to the class. This session illustrated that point (among others) very well.

    -Darren

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