Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mobile Math Apps

If you teach in Math, Accounting, or Engineering fields, you and your students might find the stock calculators that come on today’s smartphones to be too simplistic.  With the addition of a well-chosen app, however, a smartphone can eliminate the need for a separate scientific calculator in many situations. Below are some apps that might fit your needs on each of the most popular current smartphone platforms:
RpnCalc Financial – This is a programmable financial calculator for Android.  This app features special functions for finance and twenty memory slots.  RpnCalcFinancial homepage
RealCalc – This app is a full-blown scientific calculator.  It has a very traditional interface, and if you are already well-accustomed to using a scientific calculator, this highly-rated app should serve you well. RealCalc homepage
The QR codes below will take you to these apps on the Android Market:
RpnCalc QR Code RealCalc QR Code


HP11C – This app is a faithful reproduction of the HP 11C scientific calculator.  Search for SCI-11C Scientific Calculator in the App Store, or use this link to find it in the App Store:
SCI-11C Apple App Store link.

BA II Plus Financial Calculator – This is an app that is a reproduction of the HP 12C financial calculator, which has a good reputation for ease of use. Search for BA II Plus in the App Store, or use the link below to be taken to this calculator in the App Store:  
BA II Plus Financial Calculator

Pocket 10C SE Scientific Calculator – This app is a faithful reproduction of the HP10C scientific calculator.  You can use the link below to be taken to get this app from Blackberry App World:
Pocket 12C SE Financial Calculator – The popular HP financial calculator is reproduced here for the Blackberry platform.  You can use the link below to be taken to get this app from Blackberry App World:

Pocket12C SE – Special version for Blackberry Storm:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Strategies of Creating Social Presence in Online Courses

Posted By Joseph Nyachae

According to Anderson, Garrison and Archer (1999) social presence is the ability for the members of the learning community to interrelate and emotionally convey themselves within the learning community (p. 50). Social presence is an important topic, which must be addressed in distance education, because human beings naturally want to sense that they are needed, they play a role in something and not isolated. Social presence is something, which is sometimes overlooked by many institutions of higher learning when implementing online education in their curriculum. This can be due to financial constraints or time.

Since social presence plays a major function to inspire meaningful learning in online courses, it is imperative to create strategies that can build a awareness of community among the learner. Below are various strategies that can be used achieve social presence in online courses.

Since it is the nature of chat to be in real time, this has the potential for allowing all students to participate with comments and participation in the conversation.

Another tool that has great possibilities in creating social presence in this environment is the use of video. Video can be used to introduce the topic of the course as well as the instructor. Video introduction allows students to develop a greater social sense within the course by knowing who the instructor is.

Student Pictures, Biographies or Portfolios
Related but not the same as video is having students post or upload pictures, biographies, or e portfolios as a means to increase the level of community.

Welcome Message
Online courses need to include a welcoming greeting and an introduction to the material, community, and instructor that present the students a chance to interact with all three before the course begins or very soon after. According to Winograd (2002), the first thing a student should view when they first enter an online course should be a welcome message from the instructor. Just like a face-to-face situation, the first impression is very important and it cannot be easily inverted. This message must be meticulously written because it will set the tone for the rest of the course. "All welcome messages should be warm, friendly and personal, letting the readers know that they are important members of the community and you the moderator are glad they are here" (p. 53).

Since the online learning environment may be new to some of the participants, there is a need for emotional and technical support to keep them encouraged. When students become frustrated, particularly with technical issues, it affects how they participate and interact in the course. It is therefore imperative to provide this support in the learning environment.

Discussion area
As the learners gradually become comfortable with the online environment, there is a need to provide a social area, which they can use to socialize and get to know each other. Working in groups is a central part of an online learning community because it provides the participants an opportunity to collaborate and to socialize. Bradshaw et al. (2002), discuss about the need for a place that can be used for induction and social discussions and where students can “share their thoughts and learning from their module in a more general context.” (p. 6).

Trust is also a very important element when building an online learning community. Rovai (2001) emphasizes that trust “is the feeling that the community can be trusted and feedback will be forthcoming and constructive. Once individuals are accepted as part of a nourishing learning community, they feel safe and trust the community.

Although online courses have the capacity to accommodate a large number of students, the creating of social presence is more expected to come about by limiting the number of students. Based on the research of Rovai (2001) the most appropriate class size is 30 student to 1 instructor, further it is recommended that as the student – teacher ratio is increased the level of social presence is decreased.


Anderson, T., Garrison, D., & Archer, W. (1999). Assessing social presence in asynchronous text-based computer. The Journal of Distance Education , 14(2), 50-71.

Bradshaw, P., Powell, S., & Terrell, I. (2002). Learning, community and technology: Ultralab’s recent experience. APU Learning and Teaching Conference (pp. 1-14). Danbury: Ultralab.

Rovai, A. (2001). Building Sense of Community at a Distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning , 3 (1).

Winograd, D. (2002). Guidelines for moderating online educational computer conferences. TechTrends , 46 (5), 53-57.