Innovators in Online Learning: Staying “Connected” – Online Content for Offline Use



John.jpgDr. John Boekenoogen currently works for the University of Oklahoma as the Director of Academic Technology for the College of Professional and Continuing Studies. Dr. Boekenoogen is nationally certified as an online educator and has been working with adult learners for over 15 years. Before working at the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Boekenoogen spent 13 years at the University of Florida and three years working for non-profit educational foundations in Washington DC. He is a published author and loves to travel with his wife and children to Walt Disney World in Florida.

In a world driven by technology and constantly being “connected” it’s easy to overlook the needs of those who don’t have internet access or are in a place where being “connected” is not an option. How do you create content and courses for offline use while still maintaining their educational integrity and making sure they’re still engaging for the students?

In this interview John Boekenoogen talks about revising online courses for use by Navy sailors as a part of the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE), how OU became a part of this program and the importance of making educational content available to everyone.

SoftChalk: How did OU become involved with the NCPACE program?

John: The University of Oklahoma has been part of the NCPACE program since its conception some 30 plus years ago. Working with our military men and women has been a long-standing tradition at OU. We expanded our services to help provide an educational opportunity for them while they were at sea.

SoftChalk: When you came to OU and were asked to help with the NCPACE program, how many courses were already available and how many sailors were participating?

John: We had over 23 courses that were available to the sailors with a majority of them in our graduate level courses, particularly our Administrative Leadership and Criminal Justice programs.

SoftChalk: Since that time, how have those numbers grown? (include any completion/graduation stats if you have that information available)

John: Our numbers of enrollment always fluctuates, but over the 30 years many programs come and go, but OU has built a strong name and people always come back to our programs.

SoftChalk: What have been some of the challenges in making content and courses, usually viewed online, just as flexible and engaging for the offline learners?

John: The biggest challenge is that the sailors do not have internet access at sea. So, we have learned over the years to look for different and dynamic ways to engage our students and keep them interested in the content. It is so easy for these kinds of programs to fall back to the correspondence type classes.

SoftChalk: Can you describe the platform and structure of the courses that you settled on?

John: Having used SoftChalk at other educational institutions, I know that we needed to utilize the offline capability of the program to make our courses stand out. By building these courses, like we would with any online course management system, we were able to design and develop a very user-friendly off-line program.

OU-NCPACE image2.png OU-NCPACE image1.png

SoftChalk: Why do you think this structure has been successful?

John: I think it has been successful because it is so different from others. Being able to set up each assignment, reading, personal reflections with images of OU campus and other topic related videos and images has given us a winning formula when it comes to off-line courses.

SoftChalk: How have the sailors responded to the courses you have helped make available to them? Do you receive regular feedback?

John: We have been seeing a lot of positive feedback regarding the new format and the interactions. I think the best feedback we have ever received was from a young sailor who said, “Even though I am hundreds of miles away from OU, I feel like I am right there. I hope someday to go to OU campus and it will feel like home.”

SoftChalk: For programs or individual educators interested in transitioning their online content for use offline, how would you suggest they get started?

John:  The first thing I would suggest is to make sure you know your audience. It is important to know what they need to be successful in your course or program. What works for one does not always work well with other, so keep that in mind. Second, keep your directions clear regarding what exactly you want the stakeholder to do with the course or program. In our case, if that sailor is hundreds of miles from here and cannot pick up the phone and call for clarification, then our directions were not clear enough to complete the task at hand. Finally, I would suggest that you look at the content. Will the student be able to complete multiple assignments with the content you have provided? It becomes a little trickier with this one, but if students can use an article more than once or a book for multiple assignments, it will help cut down their cost and any frustration.

SoftChalk: Why do you feel it is important to make online learning content available for offline use?

John: I think there are certain courses or programs that make sense being offline and by providing this opportunity for students to work in an offline environment, but not lose any of the benefits of an online program, will be beneficial.

SoftChalk: What inspires you?

John: It sounds a little crazy, but I have always been a huge fan of Star Trek. The world that Gene Roddenberry envisioned where humanity has grown beyond hate, anger, and war and looks towards the future with open arms and a vision of equality for all. It inspires me to help build that future. It is one of the reasons why I entered education and teaching. If I can help change the mind or inspire one child to look towards the future and realize that it is a great thing, I have done my job.

Just like John, you too can create engaging, interactive learning content both for online and offline use with SoftChalk Cloud.

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