CSU, Chico News

Professor Co-Creates Online Learning Course for Higher Ed Faculty

Date: 08-27-2014

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs

A new online course co-created by California State University, Chico English professor Kim Jaxon aims to help higher education faculty leverage the Internet to improve their teaching.

Connected Courses is a web-based curriculum designed by a network of educators from the United States and Britain. The 14-week course launches Sept. 2 with the first in a series of seven sessions based on a variety of e-learning topics. Themes include Web-based learning, e-tools, blogging, diversity and privacy issues.

The course is designed to support faculty in improving their use of online teaching, Web platforms and tools and connected learning practices, Jaxon said.

The project is funded by the MacArthur Foundation through the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, which explores how the Internet and digital media are impacting education, civic engagement and youth.

Jaxon helped develop the course at a weeklong conference in Irvine this summer with colleagues from Stanford, Virginia Tech, Kansas State, UC Irvine and the University of Mary Washington.

“When I got the letter inviting me to participate, it was all I could do not to jump up and down and scream,” Jaxon said. “These are world-renowned educators and experts in their fields, people whose work I had read or was already reading.”

The course is centered on the concept of open learning – using the Web to collaborate, connect and stimulate learning, bypassing the limitations of geography or proximity.

“One of our missions is to support faculty in higher education using freely available Web tools,” Jaxon said. “We happen to be in pretty good shape [at Chico State] – we’re digitally literate.

“The bigger mission is the idea of connected learning, which means we are helping our students connect with others across the country and go beyond the four walls of our classrooms. We’re connecting people doing similar kinds of work all around the world.”

At CSU, Chico, Jaxon regularly incorporates technology and the Web into the courses she teaches on composition theory, first-year writing and English education.

In one class, she said, her students read books and then blog with eighth-graders from Chico Country Day School, gaining real-world teaching experience. In another, her students tweet their teaching ideas and get followed by major children’s book authors.

“They’re communicating with big-time authors, and they realize: This is real!” she said. “It changes their work, and it changes their attitudes toward their work.”

The advantage to Connected Courses, she said, comes in figuring out Web-specific issues like privacy.

“We’re blogging with eighth-graders,” she said. “How do you make sure their stuff is not widely public? Or, some stuff you do want public. [Knowing the difference] is Web literacy.”

In addition to teaching, Jaxon serves as a digital curator for the National Writing Project’s website, Digital Is…, which provides examples and support to educators wanting to incorporate technology into their classrooms.

She is also the recipient of the 2014 Teacher of Excellence – College award from the California Association of Teachers in English.

Jaxon will facilitate the Oct. 13-26 Connected Courses session titled “The Web: Concept, Platform, Culture(s).” Admission is free to anyone, and the course can be accessed at connectedcourses.net.