Timely All-In-One Event Calendar

I recently contacted Timely (creators of the All-In-One Event Calendar) about its event calendar plugin for WordPress. I had been comparing its features (and add-on plugins) with Modern Tribe’s The Events Calendar and NetWebLogic’s Events Manager as the online calendar for a school district website. I also identified a non-Wordpress option, but my preference was to find something that would integrate within the existing WordPress environment. All three companies offered free and pro (paid) versions; however, Modern Tribe and NetWebLogic offered their pro version for free to non-profit/school organizations. This was one of the reasons I contacted Timely. The next day I received an email response from Bradley Roulston, VP Sales at Timely, and he stated that they did not have a non-profit offering at this time. That said, he worked with me on the pro version, so we should be in good shape to use the AIO Event Calendar for the 2014-15 school year.

We had some fairly unique requirements that Timely was seemingly able to address for us: 1) subscribe to calendar option with mobile devices (not just a snapshot or one-time download) – we needed any changes to be reflected within the calendar(s), 2) accept RSS feed from external calendar – we had two buildings who utilized a third-party site to create its printed handbook/events, and this would prevent them from having to maintain multiple calendars, 3) accept csv file as an import (we could easily have office professionals update a spreadsheet for us to populate events fairly easily/quickly via import), and 4) maintain a parent-children or push-pull relational model with our district and building sites (be able to create an event at the building level and mirror/sync with district site at an aggregate level).

From our initial testing, it appears that Timely’s All-In-One Event Calendar solution is the best WordPress plugin option for the district’s needs.

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Imagine if Steve Jobs had gone to music school

That was the lead in an article I read in yesterday’s USA Today titled, “Tech, music work in harmony in new college programs.” A couple of featured university initiatives included a blend of music production, entrepreneurship, and computer science at the University of Southern California (funded by a $70 million donation by Jimmy Lovine and Dr. Dre) as well as Berklee College of Music’s new master’s program – Music Technology Innovation. The real highlight for me came from Langdon Crawford, an adviser and instructor for the Stenhardt School’s music technology program at New York University. The article illustrated the digital revolution’s impact on the recording industry, particularly the technology necessary to create and distribute music now. As a result, the value of a more traditional music degree has been questioned:

“I’ve taught myself several programs but that doesn’t solve the larger problem,” Crawford says. “It doesn’t teach you what to do and why to do it. To put it in the context of writing, many people think if they learn a tool they can learn music technology. But that’s like learning Microsoft Word and then believing you can write a novel”  (Karambelas, 2013, para. 17).

Great quote. I think it speaks to the sweet spot of academic technology. Students in my ED245 class consume technology and actively use technology tools on a daily basis, but they often struggle when you put those same tools within an academic context. They can view self-help tutorials online, but that doesn’t translate into the “what to do” and “why to do it” in the classroom (cue pedagogy and content knowledge). For that matter, their instructor sometimes doesn’t always have concrete examples to leverage or model for them. That’s okay for me, but it is seemingly an intimidating proposition for first year students. Arguably, though, this “uncomfortable” learning strategy is one way to spur innovation, curiosity, and exploration. It also contributes to the value of a student’s degree.

Reference:

Karambelas, D. (2013, June 4). Tech, music work in harmony in new college programs. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/04/tech-music-college-harmony/2389259/

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Online and hybrid course enrollment and performance in Washington St community and technical colleges (2004-09)

http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=872

Researchers from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) tracked more than 50,000 students in Washington state community and technical colleges from fall 2004 through spring 2009. They found that, in general, students who worked more hours and were more academically prepared were more likely to take an online class. Online courses also were significantly more popular among students who were female, white, fluent in English, transfer-oriented, eligible for financial aid, had never enrolled in remedial education or were older than 25 when they entered college.

The report shows a gap between success rates for online and traditional courses. Face-to-face classes had a success rate of 67 percent – 10 percentage points higher than the rate for distance education courses. ****Update: In a similar study, Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC) has seen successful results from its learner analytics program – Online course completion rates of at-risk students have increased by 9 percent over the past five years: http://bit.ly/oNX27J ****

A survey of more than 9,000 California community college students who had withdrawn from distance education courses indicated that the top reason for dropping was a personal challenge related to their family, health, job or child care. About 30 percent said they couldn’t handle the combination of study and work duties, while another 30 percent said they had fallen behind and it was hard to catch up.

The CCRC report recommends that colleges do more to improve student learning in online formats. For one, the study suggests requiring that before students can sign up for an online class, they take an assessment on whether online learning is a good fit for them. The report said colleges and universities were too “passive” in providing help for students who take all their classes on the internet. Additionally, the researchers urged campus decision makers to be more proactive in providing student and faculty supports. Students who took entirely-online classes often struggled with “technical difficulties” and “a sense of social distance and isolation” as they completed coursework from home. Online students also lacked the academic support traditional students receive on campus, but the researchers added that hybrid classes (combines the two types of learning settings) could be an answer for bridging the completion rate gap.

It is interesting that this study focuses mainly on completion rates of online/hybrid courses (in comparison to traditional courses), especially with the survey for students who had withdrawn from those courses. I agree with the recommendation for an assessment to determine whether online learning is a good fit for students. If you look at the factors for why the online students withdrew, it appears that their circumstances would have likely contributed to withdrawing from traditional classes too, especially given that “students who worked more hours and were more academically prepared were more likely to take an online class” in the first place. Furthermore, it appears that online learning was likely their only option given their profile. It would have been interesting to survey students who completed courses (in addition to those who withdrew) to formulate a baseline to support this latter position.

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