College Transition to eCOW2: Be Ready

TEL consultant Regina Nelson -- image credit: Regina Nelson What do you want your students to learn? How will you know that they have learned what you want them to learn? These are two questions you'll be hearing often as you answer still another question: How can technology help your students learn? The eCOW2 course management system can be part of the answer. This new tool is ready for full-scale implementation. In fact, students in more than eighty courses used eCOW2 last semester. This article focuses on why you should act now to be ready for your next courses.

Why the rush? As of June 1, the edit features in the old eCOW no longer work. All content in the old eCOW site will remain available for you to import into the new eCOW2. "These zipped archives will remain available for years," writes Rob Kohlhepp here. You can import course materials from your old eCOW archive as well as from an existing eCOW2 course. "Only the Moodle-based new eCOW courses will be available for the Fall 2009 semester," Kohlhepp continues.

TEL consultant Tim Tynan -- image credit: Tim TynanWhy the change? The original eCOW (Engineering Courses on the Web) is nearly 15 years old. It is not secure and does not handle mathematical expressions well. The new eCOW2 is similar to Learn@UW but has several advantages. First, it gives more control to campus users, since it has been developed here in the College of Engineering. Second, it is built on the open-source Moodle system, which means it can easily incorporate changes and improvements from a dedicated community of developers and education experts. Third, it includes a new math editor that will greatly simplify the process of including readable mathematical content in online course materials. Finally, it incorporates a short-answer feature that makes it easy to personalize responses to individual students, even in large-enrollment classes.

How do you get started? First, eCOW2 101: Getting Started and Basic Functions has materials intended to get you up and running as quickly and easily as possible. Paul Oliphant has been instrumental in designing this resource. Greg Moses also created some videos with his signature puppeteer style (see below).

CAE Director Rob Kohlhepp -- image credit: COE PortraitsNext, the eCOW2 Strategies and Tools course has been set up to allow you to play around and learn eCOW2 in the process. It helps you connect teaching goals with e-learning strategies and Moodle tools and lets you experience the tool as you learn about it. Amy Shenot, instructional designer, and Linda Endlach, School of Education partner, have collaboratively designed this course.

Finally, Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) consultants are available to assist you. Under the direction of Kohlhepp, CAE Director, and Sandy Courter, Engineering Learning Center Director, two graduate students with demonstrated skills in instructional design have been hired as TEL lead consultants. Regina Nelson of Biomedical Engineering and Tim Tynan of Life Sciences Communication are available to discuss your course design with you, and one or two undergraduate TEL technology consultants will be able to help you set up the course in eCOW2.

Who - is overseeing this project? In addition to Kohlhepp and Oliphant, an advisory team includes Steve Cramer, Michael Litzkow, Moses, Lil Tong, and Bob Jeanne. This project is part of a TEL Award that is a collaborative venture among Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering (STEM) disciplines. Therefore, the College of Engineering, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the College of Letters and Science are involved. Importantly, Moira LaFayette, Engineering Assessment Director, is overseeing the evaluation of the transition to eCOW2.

eCOW2 video screenshot featuring Greg MosesWhat else should you do to get ready? Take the opportunity to revisit your course design. While you are preparing your courses for next year, try to

  1. identify measurable objectives (learning outcomes),
  2. align your assessments with those objectives,
  3. plan daily activities and assignments, and
  4. identify the technology that will help you to teach and your students to learn.

Note that identifying the appropriate technology is an important step but comes after you have answered these questions: What do you want the students to know? How will you know that the students know what you want them to know?

For more information about eCOW2, email ecow2@engr.wisc.edu or call (608) 265-1178.

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