The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Author: cchatell (page 1 of 8)

Users are in control. Find out how to reach them.

First comes product or service, then comes user. Right? Unfortunately, this simple method no longer holds true in our user-driven society. In today’s world, the user always comes first.

In order to create a product or service with staying power, you need to first find out who your user is. Then, you need to find out what they want, how they behave, and their likes and dislikes.  User-Centered Design has become an integral element in the creation of just about any product or service.

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Writing Content That Makes Readers Click

From your phone to your laptop, to your newsfeed, you are constantly receiving hundreds of thousands of pieces of web content. These messages come in various shapes and sizes and provide all types of information. But, only some of these articles, blogs, and posts inspire action. Only a select few cause you to stop, think, or even click.

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The Top 25 Jobs in America for 2016

The Top 25 Jobs in America for 2016

Job-sharing and recruiting website Glassdoor just announced the 25 best jobs in America for the upcoming year. Unsurprisingly, jobs related to data analytics and software engineering dominated the list:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glassdoor based their ranking on the number of available positions, salary, and career opportunities. Many of the part-time, online master’s degrees at Brandeis GPS directly correlate with the fields and industries Glassdoor identified as playing a critical role in the 2016 job market. Follow the links below for more information on these programs.

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Master of Software Engineering

Master of Science in User-Centered Design

Master of Science in Digital Marketing and Design

Master of Science in Project and Program Management

 

Learning Analytics

Data is increasing with the use of learning technologies, and data is being produced at virtually every learning footprint. The next step in the process is to take the data and analyze the connections to improve the entire learning experience.

Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of data about the learners and their contexts for the purpose of understanding and optimizing learning and the environment in which it occurs. [1]

Learning analytics has been around for some time. Its origin can be traced to business intelligence and to predicting consumer behavior. Learning analytics in education has emerged in the last few
decades, and it follows similar analysis and predictive relationships. Learning analytics is growing to keep pace with deciphering patterns from huge data sets to further support and personalize the learning experience.

My interest in learning analytics stems from my research on learning style preferences. The hypothesis was that, if you could determine a user’s learning style preference, then you could optimally display content in a form to best suit the way a learner could interpret it; you could support their success. At that time, most analysis had to be completed prior to the learning, and then you could track users accordingly. Real-time data analysis was in its infancy. The vision then was that, in the future, this could be done via machine learning, with data analysis and dynamically serving up content in a format that learners best understood. Today, those capabilities exist in some learning management systems in the form of learning analytics and adaptive learning.

Currently, most learning management systems are able to track a student’s footprint throughout a course. It can document when a user logs in and logs out, and they can determine the type of content they viewed and for how long. They can also alert students to assignments, assessments and most course requirements, including their status within each course. Some learning systems have dashboards that indicate the students’ progress compared to their expectations and compared to their cohorts’ performance.

 

In my opinion, most learning management systems are good at data reporting, but they fall short in data analysis and in relationships. The challenge is to harness the data and to make reasonable connections, so that meaningful, positive and proactive interventions can be made; ultimately, we hope to improve the instructional process and student success.

Why use learning analytics:

Learning analytics has relevance and usefulness across various groups, including instructors, students, instructional designers and institutions.

Instructors:

Instructors can use learner analytics to gain insight into student progress:

  • Course navigation paths
  • Most popular content
  • Reflection time
  • Problem-solving
  • Measurement of student engagement and participation
  • Assignment and assessment completion

Analytics can also be used as an early warning system for at-risk students; they can trigger appropriate messaging.


Students:

Students can use learner analytics to gain insight into their progress:

  • Seeing their progress and grades
  • Tracking their progress against course requirements
  • Comparing their progress with their cohorts
  • Tracking content and resources

Instructional designers:

As computer technologies develop and more learning components are online, it is essential for learning specialists to evaluate the impact of each emerging technology and to investigate the strengths, weaknesses and appropriate applications for the learners. Sometimes, this is in the form of a retrospective analysis, but increasingly this analysis can be done closer to the time of the event for more agile course adjustments.

Learning analytics can also be used for continuous improvement of the learning design, such as increasing learner engagement, expanding knowledge retention and improving course and program
outcomes.

Institutions:

Learning analytics can be applied at the institutional level for reporting usage trends. In the future, courses could have personality profiles based on course metadata. These items could include tags, such as “projects-based learning,” “discussions,” “hybrid” and “synchronous.” Each metadata tag could also have an associated strength. Each student would also have his or her own evolving learning personality profile.

This data matching would be similar to how Amazon recommends products based on a customer’s purchasing history and behavior. To optimize student success, the recommendation engine architecture could suggest courses that best match the profiles and that mesh with individual learning styles.

Learning analytics—one view but not the whole picture:

It would be short sighted to think that the landscape of learning analytics is only within the confines of an online learning management system. It is increasingly apparent that the majority of learning
occurs outside of the learning management system; it is only the tip of the iceberg. Learning also occurs informally, such as through social media, experiences and discussions. Learning analytics should be inclusive, capturing all learning opportunities. The Experience API (xAPI) has been developed as a mechanism to record and track all types of learning experiences. Ultimately, inclusion of this learning data will broaden analysis and connections. However, in my experience in piloting the xAPI, it is more elusive than reality. It will take time for the experiential footprints to be folded into the mix of the learning data.

Summary:

Learning analytics is not a one-time, one-size-fits-all approach. It is dynamic, as the parts of the system change and grow. Learning analytics is an emerging field that can benefit many; it has the potential of being a significant factor in improving the overall learning experience in educational institutions or in corporate training.

References:

[1] Society for Learning Analytics Research, 2011.

[2] Low, G. (1995). A study of the effects of learning style preference on achievement in a medical computer simulation (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from UMI Dissertation Database (Accession No. ALMA BOSU1 21625699380001161)

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How to stay current in your field in 2016

Technology’s impact on the world around us is undeniable and constant. From content marketing to wearable sensory systems, dabbling in the digital space is no longer optional for the majority of today’s industries. For those of us whose career advancement relies on staying on top of the latest trends and tools, flexible professional development options can be a saving grace.

The following fully online, part-time courses are designed for people who recognize the importance of staying current while balancing personal and professional commitments. There are no required pre-requisites, and students can eventually apply the graduate-level credits they earn toward a master’s degree.

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#1 Wearable Technologies

As the shopping season comes to a close, wearable technologies, like the FitBit, are still at the top of everyone’s list. According to Business Insider, Fitbit’s company “is the fastest-growing meaningful company in the world…” This Wearable Technologies course will explore current trends, like FIT, and considerations needed with designing a wearable sensor system.

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#2 Cloud Security

In today’s high-tech world, data protection is important to both companies and consumers alike. Back in September, IBM announced a way to adopt Cloud Security for better and more secure navigation among users. In this Cloud Security course, you’ll learn about how this and other technologies and security concepts are necessary for meeting the demands of the ever-growing cloud computing industry.

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#3 Writing for Digital Environments

Companies are always seeking ways to be better, faster and stronger to gain an edge over their competition. With developing technologies and growing staff, it’s important to have the skills needed to excel in a digital world. According to the Huffington Post, “by 2018, the U.S is expected to have around 1.5 million managers and analysts who lack sufficient technical and digital skills to stay up to date.”  Writing for Digital Environments is a great course for learning how to excel in the art of content marketing for a digital audience. You’ll also learn to craft copy and messaging for a variety of online formats.

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#4 Cognitive and Social Psychology of User-Centered Design

We all use websites every day,  whether it’s ordering something from a retailer or doing research for an employer. Providing a great user experience online can make or break any business transaction. According to Tech Crunch, “it is the person who designs the environment in which we live in who has the most influence on our decisions.” In this Cognitive and Social Psychology of User-Centered Design course, you will gain a deeper understanding of the social and psychological aspects that influence how users respond to design.

Students interested in eventually pursuing a master’s degree with Brandeis GPS can take up to two courses before applying. Contact our advisors to learn more.

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Meet GPS Student Kara Noonan

Want to hear about the Brandeis GPS student experience straight from a firsthand source? Meet Kara Noonan, a current Brandeis GPS student enrolled in the instructional design and technology master’s program. Kara is currently an Associate Media Producer at Pearson.

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When she decided to get a graduate degree, Kara knew she wanted an online program that combined instructional technology and instructional design.

So why Brandeis GPS?

“After a great deal of intense research, I discovered that the Brandeis program provided the ideal integration of edtech and instructional design that I searched for, “Noonan said.

So far, it seems like her research and final decision to attend Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is paying off. The skills learned from the classroom and fellow classmates have helped Kara enhance her overall career at Pearson.

“I learned how to create a goal or outcome in order for a video to have a lasting effect on a learner. With this in mind, I was able to design videos in a more critical manner and assure that the video met a certain expectation.”

In addition to classwork, online discussions with classmates enabled Kara to gain an overall bigger picture perspective of the instructional design industry as a whole.

“One of my classmates uses a Pearson math lab in their school. Students were able to add their opinions and critiques about the product which provided positives and negatives to a relevant real world device.”

Student interactions like these prove to provide very valuable and eye opening information into real world issues.

Overall, Kara was able to make a smooth transition to the online experience.

“Some aspects are similar to traditional classroom work while others vary greatly. As a quiet student, I find it easier to participate in discussions in an online environment and do not have to deal with the nerves involved with speaking in class.”

 

This seamless adjustment and valuable learning that has already been gained at Brandeis GPS makes Kara quick to recommend this program to her coworkers.

“Having an instructional design background is extremely beneficial. The program provides specialization, helps to shape the way you think about organization, and aids in transitioning into the digital world.”

Not only has Kara felt a deep impact from the Instructional Design & Technology program, but her impact was felt in the classroom as well.

 “Kara is an exceptional instructional design student,” said program chair and instructor Brian Salerno. “She has the unique ability to immediately connect and apply the learning material to her own professional environment, and actively harnesses what she learns in order to continuously improve herself and her organization. Through sharing her insights and observations so generously, Kara promoted a more dynamic and interesting discussion among her classmates.”

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Meet the Brandeis GPS Instructional Designers

At Brandeis GPS, we are always working to improve our online courses to be more interactive and collaborative. Meet two of the reasons we are able to constantly improve. Carol Damm & Jennifer Livengood, our instructional design team!

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Instructional Designer, Jennifer Livengood

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Instructional Designer, Carol Damm

How long have you each been in the instructional design field?

Carol Damm: Before GPS, I was with a  company that developed e-learning for about three years.

Jennifer Livengood: Four years as a full time job, but professionally ten years.

What is your favorite part of your instructional design work?

CD:  It’s hard to narrow it down! I like problem solving.  Instructional design is like being given a blank slate, and for me what’s fun is trying to figure out which is the best approach. So I guess it’s the process of finding out which design works best for a course.

JL: Being creative. It’s in the job title!

What are ways you can use to innovate an online course that you can’t use in an in person course?

CD: Bringing the students a one -on-one interactive experience with a topic.  With an online courses you can actually use tools to help develop students skills and increase collaboration.

JL: You can build things that are individually interactive, so the student gets individual attention. An online classroom is  a place for students to explore through a discussion board. Quiet students can communicate more in a discussion board where they may have been been shy in person. It truly brings out personalities.

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Can you tell me about a great experience you’ve had designing GPS courses?

CD: What I like about it the most are the instructors and working with them. I feel like I am a perpetual student because, for many of the courses, I have no experience in most of the instructors’ fields of expertise. I love connecting with them and advising them on how to engage students with the topics and materials in their courses.InstructionalDesign

JL: Working on the professional communications course with Jennifer Drewry. We both brought our own ideas and between the two of us we were able to revise her course and make it more fun and interactive.

Can you tell me an example of a specific improvement you have made to a course and any feedback you’ve received as a result?

CD:  Lately, I’ve made recommendations on how  an instructor can take their topic and create effective discussion questions that will allow students to bring their own experience and knowledge to the discussion. You want the students to bring their ideas into this more social realm and to be as collaborative as possible not only with instructors but with other students.

JL: At a previous job I made the improvement of having the instructors come in and do a video. They weren’t previously in the course. Having the students come in and see their [professor’s] face, hear their voice. The student feedback said they liked it!

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What is the most creative thing you have ever done for a course?

CD: Working on developing a presentation, a micro-lesson, that will teach some rudimentary SQL (Structured Query Language) coding. What I want to do is make it interactive so that students will have to put in the right code to get to the next lesson. It’s creative and students really respond well to the interactive lessons. In the past I’ve done some videography work as well as editing. I love that, it’s lots of fun, very creative. The two contribute to a lesson and make it more interesting.

JL: Working with two instructors in the language department and creating interactive games for their courses. Really pushing the limit on some of the software. It was unique and fun for the students. Unlike taking a normal multiple choice quiz where it’s a little boring.

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‘What’s Your Why’ Scholarship

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We know going back to school isn’t easy. You have a career and a personal life and countless other things to manage, not to mention the financial strain of going back to school. And yet you still want your master’s. Well, we are here to help!

We are pleased to announce that we will be offering up to $1000 in credit on your student account for the Spring 2016 term.

Five scholarships will be awarded:

  1. 3 lucky students will receive a $1000 credit
  2. 2 runner ups will each receive a $500 credit.

In order to be eligible for the scholarship all you have to do is tell us your why. In 250-500 words tell us your reason for going back to school and address the following questions:

  • Why did you decide/are currently deciding to return to school to obtain a graduate degree at Brandeis GPS?
  • What do you hope to gain, professionally and personally, by earning your degree?

Individuals applying for the scholarship must either be admitted to a Brandeis GPS program or have a completed application submitted by December 1, 2015. New applicants are welcome as are GPS Alumni returning for a sequential degree. Submissions must be completed by December 1, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Recipients will be notified no later than December 15, 2015. Those who receive the award will be virtually interviewed and recorded.

This award has no cash value and cannot be redeemed in any ways besides an account credit. If your employer reimburses your tuition, the discount will be passed on to them. The credit is only valid for the 2016 Spring semester and cannot be transferred; it will be applied after any discounts you are already receiving. Lastly, the credit must be applied to your tuition and cannot be put towards specific classes.

We look forward to hearing your stories and wish you all the best of luck. Applicants can submit their essays here. You are also encouraged to share an optional video via social media using the hashtag #GPSWhatsYourWhy.

Questions? Feel free to contact Lindsay Atkinson at 781-736-8734 or latkinson@brandeis.edu

 

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Are you protected?

by: Scarlett Huck

Have more questions? Want to learn more? Don’t miss our #AskTheExpert event with Cyber Security Strategist and Evangelist at Intel Corporation, Matthew Rosenquist! You can RSVP here.

2015 has certainly not been deprived of threats and successful hackings into cyberspace. With big business companies such as Home Depot, Target, Staples,  and Sony under fire, it is hard to believe that anyone is safe.

Why does this continue to be a growing concern? Who are behind these attacks? Survey says that more than half of reported incidents were staff-related. These breaches included, but were not limited to: “unauthorized access to data, breach of data protection regulations, and misuse or loss of confidential information”. When dealing with staff-related issues, there are certain precautions that can be taken. The first is to make sure employers are informed of the risks and of the data protection laws and the consequences of breaking them. It is also important to make sure employers are not tricked into divulging secure information via over-the-phone scams.

Attacks
But what about the other half of attacks that are not employee based? These are the attacks that tend to be more deliberate and malicious. For example, take the Impact Team. This is a group of hackers who are hacking for what they believe to be ‘good’. In a quote directly from the group they stated they plan to hack “[a]ny companies that make 100s of millions profiting off pain of others, secrets, and lies. Maybe corrupt politicians. If we do, it will be a long time, but it will be total.” The team is currently best known for their hack of the adultery-encouraging website Ashley Madison. The hackers demanded the site be taken down immediately or the personal information of Ashley Madison’s clients would be released in 30 days. When these terms were not met, a list of names and email addresses of the site’s users was released in order to expose them for their infidelity. Situations like this are becoming known as “hacktivism,” or the act of hacking for a politically or socially motivated purpose.

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With attacks occurring every day, it is important to remember to protect yourself. The Department of Homeland Security offers many tips including using proper passwords and privacy settings, thinking before you post on social media and being cautious of what you download. It is also important to be cautious if you run a small business, which are commonly hacked due to lack of security. As far as big business is concerned, larger strides must be taken. Business Insider recommends the steps that must be taken to prevent future attacks, President Obama is currently requesting $14 billion in the 2016 budget proposal in order to tighten government cybersecurity and laws regarding cybersecurity and data protection are becoming stricter. Within the near future, there is hope for the decrease in cyber attacks.

Have more questions? Want to learn more? Don’t miss our #AskTheExpert event with Cyber Security Strategist and Evangelist at Intel Corporation, Matthew Rosenquist! You can RSVP here.

 

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How to Stay Balanced

Written by: Scarlett Huck

Do you find yourself struggling to balance your career and your academics? Maybe you work a full time job and would like to return to school but are unsure of how to do so. Or perhaps you are enrolled in school while also focusing on your career, leaving you in with an overwhelming state of stress. While it may seem impossible, there are ways to balance your life. Take a deep breath and follow these easy steps!

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Communicate. This can help on a number of levels. If you are feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone: a colleague, a friend or a family member. Two brains are always better than one at problem solving! Often, simply talking about your problems reduces your stress level. Communication is also important between you, your job and your education. For instance, if you are working a full time job but are interested in returning to school, meet with your boss. With clear communication, your boss can even see this as beneficial.

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Plan your finances. A large concern about school is the fiscal responsibility. While the price tag may seem intimidating, there are practical ways to pay off the bills. One of the easiest ways is to speak to your employer. Often companies reimburse their employees tuition in order to have well-educated, more qualified workers. You are not limited there, you can also apply for scholarships (often merit-based) or work for the school in your free time. Brandeis GPS also offers employers tuition discounts! This can be very helpful when looking to get an affordable degree.

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Disconnect. Yes, we are all living in the 21st century and this means we are constantly glued to our smartphones, tablets and laptops. This instills a sense of easy accessibility and contributes to the amount of time we spend on our devices. While this ease of access is great for work and school, attempt to minimize their use in your free time. Notifications are not easily ignored, adding a sense of stress to a non-work or school environment. Turn off your devices and enjoy what is happening; emails and texts can wait.

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Stay Healthy. Your body is your friend and you need to take care of it. It is easy to say you are too busy, you don’t have time to exercise or cook a healthy dinner. However, busy people have a tendency to drive their bodies (and therefore their immune systems) into the ground. Waking up early, spending a day stressing, running around, drinking infinite cups of coffee and staying up late just to wake up and do it all over again causes a strain on your body. Make time for a few stress-relieving exercises and stretches, find quick recipes for healthy food in a hurry to keep your body running strong and make getting enough sleep a priority. Pay attention to your health and keep in mind that it is much more difficult to be efficient once you’re sick!

With these tips in mind, you are ready to balance your life! Be sure to check out Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies to see if our online courses could be a good fit for you. We offer rolling admissions and flexible programs to fit your busy schedule!

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