From Face-to-Face to the Cloud – Guest Post from Dr. James BrownPosted August 28, 2012 in Guest Post
This week’s guest post comes from Dr. James W. Brown, Associate Professor of Science and Former Dean at Ocean County College. Dr. Brown will be participating in our five week Innovator in Online Learning Series on Face-to-Face, Blended and Online Teaching and Learning. Join Dr. Brown and others for the first webinar on Friday, September 7 – Online Teaching F2F, Blended & Online – Week One: Personal Stories.
My teaching online story began in 1998 at New Jersey City University (NJCU). As a newly hired Assistant Professor the Dean asked me if I would like to try developing and teaching the school’s first online course. I agreed to do so, and then found that there were very few easy-to-use tools available. I used Dreamweaver for the content, but becoming proficient required a great deal of time.
My first online was Managed Health Care for graduate students, and it introduced me to the power of the Internet. Students bonded quickly by introducing themselves and sharing a little bit about their personal lives. At the time, the Patient’s Bill of Rights was going through Congress. I was able to tap Congressman Menendez (now a US Senator) for an online live chat with my students, and he shared up-to-the-minute information about what was happening in Congress during that very week. Although a New Jersey-based course, I had students from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Rhode Island, as well, and they all came to New Jersey for a student party at the end of the semester- that’s how strong a community was built. As an Assistant Dean I then mentored faculty and we continued to develop a number of online courses in many disciplines.
When I moved to Ocean County College on the Jersey Shore I wound up becoming the Dean of Science, Engineering, Health Sciences and Human Performance for a time. We obtained a nearly half million dollar grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create a One Day per Week Nursing Program in which the didactic portion was taught totally online and the students attended clinical sessions only one day per week. This online education model addressed the hospital RN shortage crisis, and has become a national model. Since by definition a “face-to-face” one day clinical session was required this program was technically web-assisted.
Nursing faculty members helped to create the content for the courses but often they were largely outlines without much interactivity. Dr. Felix Rizvonov, a visionary director of learning technologies introduced us to SoftChalk, which any faculty member could master in a few hours. This allowed faculty to add interactive content directly into the online course which engaged the students with lessons that included pop-up text annotations, self-assessment quizzes, and interactive learning games with fun tools such as crossword puzzles, and drag and drop. Both the faculty and students loved these features which made instruction much more interesting.
Our next challenge was to put the prerequisite science courses online such as Anatomy and Physiology and Microbiology. The value of a One Day per Week Nursing Program was still limited if students were required to spend up to three days per week on campus taking science prerequisites. We discovered LabPaqs by Hands-On Labs, Inc. from Englewood, Colorado which provided the missing piece in successfully place these science lab courses totally online. The LabPaq was shipped to the student’s location and contained all of the equipment, specimens and a complete lab manual necessary to run rigorous science experiments from the student’s location. Even deployed student/soldiers were able to complete these courses. In the end, 14 science courses became available online and the demand for them continued to grow. In 2009 I stepped down as Dean to teach full time.
My latest work involves taking online courses into the Cloud! My “Introduction to Public Health” online course began its’ maiden voyage using the SoftChalk Cloud in July. The course is taught at Burlington County College in New Jersey and is the first of its kind using SoftChalk Cloud to deliver all content and allow tracking of student score results outside or inside of the LMS grade book. This course received an Honorable Mention in the SoftChalk 2012 Lesson Challenge.
This effort supports a core goal of the New Jersey Public Health Training Center (NJPHTC), to introduce and expose more students to the field of public health. This course is designed to recruit students into public health directly from the community colleges and NJPHTC anticipates that as many as ten out of the nineteen community colleges will offer the course. (Read the full casestudy here.) Particularly exciting is the capability to change content once (through the SoftChalk Cloud) and have that change occur instantly in all of the community colleges in New Jersey using the technology. My journey on the road to online learning has gone from face-to-face, to hybrid, to online and now into the clouds!
Dr. James W. Brown is an Associate Professor of Science and former Dean of Science, Engineering, Health Sciences and Human Performance at Ocean County College. He is a former Assistant Dean at New Jersey City University, Assistant Commissioner of Health for the State of New Jersey, Director of Microbiology at Roche and a Vice President for a biotech company, Celsis Laboratory Group. He is an award winning pioneer in creating online courses especially in science, health care and public health.