Successful Virtual Instruction and Online Education
Episode 2

Successful Virtual Instruction and Online Education

Guest: David Noble, PhD

This episode features Dr. David Noble, Director of the Peter J. Werth Institute. He shares his perspective on the challenges of online education and the socio-economic status impact on online learning. He also discusses his biggest lessons on engaging and supporting online learners. David gives us all low-downs on all things online education. This is an insight-packed conversation you don’t want to miss!

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Episode Notes

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Amit Savkar:
Hello, everybody, this is Amit Savkar, the President and CEO of Stemify. And today we have the great fortune of having Dr. David Noble, who is the Director of the Werth Institute at the University of Connecticut and who wears many different hats and is a director at the Werth's Institute, also the co-founder for the GunClear. And he has been a board member at the Stamford Partnership. So welcome, Dr. Noble, and welcome to the podcast.

David Noble:
Thank you. So I'm excited to be here today. This is, this is gonna be fun.

Amit Savkar:
So at Stemify, we talk about various different things. And today we want to talk about AIM, which is Access, Initiative, and Motivation in online education. So, David, my first question for you is, what is, in your opinion, the biggest challenge, to access, initiative, and motivation in an online education?

David Noble:
I'm going to reframe this a little bit to fit sort of my mindset is what are the biggest obstacles across that spectrum? Right. Because you have inequality of access, which to me is is absolutely, you know, just for those that have access to online education. There's zero problem. It's totally binary, right. And those that have low bandwidth, those that don't have the computer equipment. You know, if we start to think now in post COVID world, think of microphones, high-quality microphones. Think about multiple camera setups, multiple screen setups. There's all, all manner of things. So access to access, it's inequality of of what people are working with. But initiative, it's a big, it's a really big deal. As you mentioned, I've been teaching online on and off for, for a good number of years. And I've found there's a direct correlation to my students success and quality of experience to how much time I am able to devote to them. You know, answering emails really quickly, participating more broadly in discussions today. We can do video or this this type of platform here much more easily. So some of that can be handled that way. But, you know, definitely that and then motivation, you know, it really does. I think that correlation exists because the more I pay attention and the more I treat it like a real educational opportunity, the students are far more motivated to do work. And to driving that growth is is necessary. They need to think I'm engaged for them to engage or they wont do it.

Amit Savkar:
That's that's what he said, David, because I think it is critical for faculty to be engaged. We expect engagement from the students because we have to remember that the student is at the center of what we are trying to see. And as much as we can provide access, initiating and motivation to these students as a faculty, it only helps. So from that perspective, you know with all the things that are going on right now. I'm sure you have heard and have experienced firsthand the role that SES place in all of this socio-economic status. What are your views about how the socio-economic status is playing into the online education.

David Noble:
So, again, it's not these aren't clear linear relationships, right? Social-economic status just drives so much of a person's dedication to their own education. So I work with a student regularly. I meet with him weekly and he is continually taking courses that he would never have had access to 10 years ago. You know, he's say, I took this course at M.I.T. He's a you know, I took this master class and he's going through stuff at a pace and his knowledge is increasing greatly. But many other students, if they don't have the basic access points, right. like the basic bandwidth to get high-quality video in and out, things that you know myself I take for granted, right? You know, I have fiber into my building, my apartment building, and our broadband is in our upload speeds or fast, right? And it's like you ask a student, hey, you know, you got to create a YouTube video. And then for me, it's forty-four seconds to upload that video. For other students, it might be three hours. right?

David Noble:
And it breaks down in the middle of that because they have low stability. So, you know, you really got to think through it. There's some positives to online education, increasing access to things that were not available to those with low income or low social status and allows them to go at a different speed. But also, there's access problems when it's the only form of education available to people, if you don't meet sort of the the basics of broadband, the basics of computer power, the basics of camera and microphone.

Amit Savkar:
So that's again, like you you bought it back, right to access. And that's very true. So how what do you think? Like, how are we as a community helping alleviate those issues? Or is that a way. What communities can do? Because, you know, I have heard students, you know, saying now in particularly in the COVID situation, where they will actually go to a Starbucks coffee or any coffee shop and essentially work from there and use that, you know, bandwidth to do the things. Now, that doesn't exist. So what are we, what can we do as a community to help such miserable hurdles that we can see for our students?

David Noble:
You know that that's a really good question. Again, it's tough when you're sitting here, as fortunate as I am, right.. Like, I have a university-bought computer and laptop that works. You know, when the microphone went out and the speaker went out. I was able to order a really nice Bluetooth headset, right.. And now my video quality is better. My audio quality is better. When you can't just go and order a two hundred dollar headset, you can't just go to Starbucks anymore. You know, it becomes life or death. Right. And maybe not for that student, but for the grandparent that lives right. You know, multigenerational households are particularly at risk in the environment that we're in today. And so you think, oh, well, they can just go to now that, you know, Starbucks is opening. Oh, a student could just go to Starbucks. Well, what if their immigrant students living with their grandparents and their parents and, you know you know, there's a whole set of issues. The communities have to drive this response. You know, historically within Connecticut, but also other areas of the country, we've seen very nice suburban areas with very nice schools and high test scores, etc., very well funded. Those schools were able to make the transition very easily. Then we look at it at school systems like Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Bridgeport, Waterbury. And those school systems can't. And this has to be done at the state level, in my opinion, driven with federal federal funding. And nobody wants to hear that. But that's that's the reality. Otherwise, you're going to have you're going to further that gap instead of increasing access. You're just going to decrease access.

Amit Savkar:
That's that's very true. And you make an excellent point. And that's something that I was going to bring up next, was what can be done to provide and make it more accessible across SES, genders, and communities. I mean, the responsibility that these the next generation shares when there are multiple generations in a single household is incredible. And the pressures that they feel, it's become extremely critical to acknowledge that, you know, while pedagogy is through technology, that technology cannot become a barrier to the pedagogy that we are trying to do here.

David Noble:
The current political environment has negatively skewed most of our policy look at anyone that has immigrated to the US. And these multigenerational households are heavily immigrant. They're heavily, you know, like I talked to my students who said, you know, my my father and mother came to the US, gave everything up at 30 years old and did all of this. And I go to school. I go to college because of that. And they've made every sacrifice for an entire 20 years for this moment. And so, you know, you have to think these are the folks that have grown America successfully. Generation after generation is that exact story. And so for us to turn our backs on that or not to be creative in the solutions. Right. And then I think about products like like what you're doing with Stemify and different products. We have to make these accessible on low bandwidth, right?. We have to keep improving how the network runs. We need to keep driving our communities and our Internet providers to increase capability in the work at Stanford Partnership. We've set up a pilot downtown with free gig Wi-Fi access. Now, traffic's really low today with the COVID cases, but we expect that to start going up, especially when UConn students come back and all of downtown, you can plug in to this free gig Wi-Fi. New York City has a similar program. You know, we need to be thinking like that, right? Where, you know, you can you can access this type of technology through phones. How do we increase the distribution, but also the ability to tie into it through products with better bandwidth?

Amit Savkar:
That's well said, David. That's true. That's very true. So, I mean, I know that, you know, you have been there and done that a lot. So what is one of the biggest lessons that you've learned in your career? And could you share a story with us?

David Noble:
Yeah. So it goes back to that sort of initiative to motivation question. Right. And I've looked at I've examined the online courses during this period that I've run and why they were successful. Now, they told me you cannot teach entrepreneurship online. And I've successfully dispelled that. But I've also failed on my face. And one of the big things that I've thought of and noticed when I when I think back and think how to move forward is my most successful class. I had a graduate assistant working with me that had real experience in entrepreneurship, so that graduate assistant was tasked with the immediate conversational aspects of the class, getting feedback, driving students to rethink what they're doing. And that student was able to really increase the engagement of the student at a very low cost considering. And so whereas an hour of my time, you know, you might put a cost of five hundred seven hundred dollars an hour on that, an hour of his time was much more like 30 to 40 dollars, right? And so so that graduate assistant really facilitated that. But the lessons I learned from that was he had relevancy to the subject matter being discussed. And he had interest in talking to the students. And that became a much bigger thing. Two it felt like we had four teachers in that class with two of us, as opposed to one of me where it feels like you had point three student point three faculty.

Amit Savkar:
That is that is incredible. I mean, I think what you've just said is that reflects on both the interaction that you had wth your graduate student and how he bought into what you had ideological ways of going through that online course must have been to make it successful in terms of its impact.

David Noble:
It was an experiment, right? I mean, you and I didn't really learn from that experiment until I took the time during COVID to say, how am I going to prepare exciting dynamic courses that have digital, you know, digital components or just completely digital? And I realized asking a faculty member who has X number of things to do other than this, as opposed to having someone dedicated to that initiative component that you're talking about in a like it makes sense. And you could leverage a teaching assistant like that across numerous courses, right? Where here's what you do and you find the best teaching assistant that you can for conversations with students. Or maybe, you know, you're looking at an advance Ph. D.student for small group work. Like, we can get on, zoom in. Five students can work through problems together in the math world where that wasn't possible seven years ago. You can't do it on a class size of a couple hundred people. Right. But you can have one day with a T.A. that does it, you know, over and over again. So, yeah, no,

Amit Savkar:
I'm I agree with you. I mean, in fact, in the mathematics department, we have the model of you know, lecture classes and then the recitation of the discussion sections, which are much smaller in a locked in indoor smaller discussion sections, there is a much more automatic interaction between the T.A. and the students. And that helps the students really hone in the material that has been taught in the lot of the lecture courses. That's that's good. David, thank you so much for your thoughts. So just as we wrap this up, please leave us with some closing talks and said the best way for our listeners to connect with you if we want to continue the conversation.

David Noble:
So I'm available on Twitter at class with Noble, Class with Noble, N O B L E. And folks can email me. I'm pretty quite open, David.Nobel at UConn.edu. I think these are the most interesting conversations we have in our entire industry is how do we accelerate learning, not slow it down. Right. I mean, and they were interesting before COVID and now they're just absolutely critical as opposed to, you know, strategic. Now they're existential, I guess. Yeah. So it's a lot of fun to be at the forefront of this new dynamic, as I'm sure you're well aware.

Amit Savkar:
Yeah. And that is such an urgency to this. Yeah. You know, given the situation that we are all in. Thank you so much, David, for joining us for our podcast today. And we hope to have you again sometime soon.

David Noble:
Excellent. I appreciate.

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In this week’s episode

The coronavirus is changing the landscape of education. Online classes now replace in-person classes. Though online learning offers students the convenience and flexibility they need, it comes with its own set of drawbacks. There is a need for conversations to establish the Access, Initiative, and Motivation of online education.

This episode features Dr. David Noble, Director of the Peter J. Werth Institute. He shares his perspective on the challenges of online education and the socio-economic status impact on online learning. He also discusses his biggest lessons on engaging and supporting online learners.

David gives us all low-downs on all things online education. This is an insight-packed conversation you don’t want to miss!


Today’s Guest: Dr. David Noble

Dr. David Noble is the Director of Werth Institute in the University of Connecticut. He is also a co-founder of GunClear and a founding member of Stamford Innovation Week. Prior to his work in UConn, he was the Director of Special Projects and Scouting, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, and several more key roles.

Dr. David completed his Ph.D. from the University of Alabama, and his Master’s from Elon University’s School of Business.

Key Take-Aways:

There’s a direct correlation to student’s success and quality of experience to how much time a professor/instructor is able to devote to answering and helping students.

Social-economic status just drives so much of a person’s dedication to their own education

Technology cannot become a barrier to pedagogy.

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