Monthly Archives: April 2007

Developing online math courses

Somehow, I thought developing an online math course would be easier.  Having taught college level math courses for 9 years now, I’ve begun to understand what it takes and doesn’t take for student to succeed in a college level mathematics course.  Here are the things that I think will be the biggest hindrances in the online version of the college algebra course.

  1. Limited interaction with the instructor during the explanation process.  I love being able to spur students on in their learning process.  For example, I propose certain ideas that are clearly false and allow them to correct these concepts of algebraic operations as a way of helping them learn.  When they go awry, I straighten their course, so to speak.  Also, in explaining, I leave the floor open to any questions along the way.  If I misstep or jump over a step, the students can interact with me.

      In the online version of the course, the students will be watching lecture videos and filling in a lecture notebook.  Interaction is lost until they email me with questions over the lecture or homework.

  2. Students are not forced to write out their homework in a systematic way.  The homework assignments will be assigned and submitted through an online web application provided by the textbook publisher.  One nice feature that is available now is that they do enter in their answer through some sort of equation editor.  This at least forces them to grasp notation which is leaps and bounds better than multiple choice questions.  Nevertheless, I will see very little of their handwritten work.

      As part of the course, I decided to at least check this sort of work twice during the semester.  They are required to take two pencil and paper, proctored exams.  This gives us a check on the fact that they are the ones learning the material and not someone else.  It also gives us a couple verifications that they have grasped the notation and systematic process of doing these types of problems.

  3. I’m worried about the ability of the students to communicate fluently with the instructor through the online medium. There are equation editors in the messaging center in Blackboard but their use is so tedious that fluent communication is difficult.  It is much better than no such tool being available, but I’ll just have to wait and see how well it works for the course.

We’ll probably have a bit of a rocky start with this class the first time it is offered but who doesn’t.  The disclaimer I will put on all my documents at the beginning of the semester is below

  “It is a myth to think that an online version of a course is easier than a traditional class.  College Algebra is the worst case of all.  If you struggled in a traditional math class, you can expect to find this as challenging, if not more.  Student be warned!!”

. . Too harsh or does it need even more “teeth”?

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Technology Advancement at its worst

iCarta iPod Toilet Roll

Now you can Enhance your Experience in any room with your favorite music with the iCarta iPod Toilet Roll.

• 4 Integrated high performance moisture-free speakers deliver exceptional clarity and high quality sound
• Charges your iPod while playing music
• Audio selector allows you to play iPod shuffle or other Audio device
• Integrated Bath tissue holder that can be easily folded as a stereo dock
• Requires AC Power (AC Adapter included)
• Easy to remove from Wall Mount

HT: CastingOutNines

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A Change is Coming

I’ve taken a post-doctoral research position in Bioinformatics at Texas Tech University. I am going into full-time research for a while. I have decided that the next step in my career is to pursue a larger commitment to research. That doesn’t mean I am completely done with education. I have developed an online College Algebra course for Wayland and will teach as an adjunct for its Virtual Campus. I hope to continue this indefinitely but we’ll just have to see how well such a course will work.

I hope to use this blog to document my progress in learning the field of bioinformatics and the issues I have had to address in the transition. Currently, I am learning Perl for the first time. Over the past summer, I did some work for my future boss and in most of the work I did, I utilized C# with its strong set of Regular Expressions tools. Since so many people are still using Perl for Bioinformatics, I feel it is necessary to get a good handle on it. So far, it’s mostly syntax that I have to learn since many of the primary programming language components, I am used to, are all there. I’ve done text processing with C# so that aspect is not entirely new.

Next on the horizon, is to hone my skills in MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server. Down the road, I’ll also have to be introduced to Oracle since we are using a software package from Agilent that uses it. I was asked the other day whether I know R, the open source statistical package. I have not ever used it but I did quick survey of what it can do and realized that a lot, if not most, of what you can use R for, I can already do in MATLAB. So, I’ll be learning it as well along with the Bioconductor package which provides specific tools in R for computational biology.

I’ll also use this blog to put interesting software tools that I come across and use on a regular basis.

Friday Random 10

It’s back after a few weeks on hiatus:

  1. Blind Frail, Jars Of Clay (Jars Of Clay)
  2. Such A Groovy Guy, Weird Al Yankovic (Weird Al Yankovic)
  3. The Ashoken Farewell/The Contradiction, Celtic Woman
  4. How To Save a Life, The Fray (How To Save A Life)
  5. Goin’ Out Of My Head, Little Anthony & the Imperials (The Best Of Little Anthony & The Imperials)
  6. Giving It All Up For Love, Huey Lewis & the News (Picture This)
  7. I’ll Be There For You (Friends), Rembrandts
  8. I Worship You, Above All Worship (2 of 2)
  9. Stand (LP Version), Veggie Tales (Veggie Tunes 2)
  10. Veggie Tales Theme Song, Veggie Tales (Veggie Tunes 4)

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Tragedy at Virginia Tech

I am utterly horrified by the events that unfolded on the campus of Virginia Tech this morning.

There are several folks already starting to point fingers at responsible parties, blaming University officials for mistakes made. It is not time to rush to judgment on what happened. It’s time to pray for the people involved and their families. Even now, there are parents at home with kids at VT who don’t know the full story and haven’t even been able to get answers.

I do hope that in the wake of this event, all schools review lock down procedures and communication lines for emergencies. What would we do at Wayland? I am not sure everyone has the same answers and that may be a problem. Who wants to have to plan for an event like this?

May God comfort those who have suffered and provide officials with wisdom to handle the road ahead.

Cool Tool: JDiskReport

When a software need arises, I have pretty standard (and probably unwise) approach to solving the problem.  Within the last couple of days, the warning popped on my work desktop that told me I was running low on hard drive space.  I am unfortunate enough to have a desktop with mere 40GB of space.  There was a day and time when that last sentence would’ve been utterly ridiculous. Anyways, my procedure is to start with a Google search to try to determine just what the best key words for my problem might be.  Eventually I narrow down on the term and go hunting at places I trust for their recommendations.  A lot of blogs (largely, TechTV alums) are my first targets.  If that fails, I move on to places like or Tucows and start trying software until I find the one I like. Install, Do I like? No? Uninstall. Repeat.

I wanted to find a utility that would map out the size of my directories, so I can determine where the “space hogs” are. In some cases, I’d be able to delete large unnecessary files and in other cases, I’d move them to a larger external hard drive or network drive.

I started with a Google search for “directory size” and realized that was a pretty good start. I found nothing on my chosen blogs so I went to Tucows and found this one that I REALLY like.  I thought I’d recommend it to everyone.

:: JDiskReport ::JDiskReport enables you to understand how much space the files and directories consume on your disk drives, and it helps you find obsolete files and folders.

The tool analyses your disk drives and collects several statistics which you can view as overview charts and details tables.

This is ad-free uncrippled no-charge binary multi-platform software that never expires.

JDiskReport Screenshot

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