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Online Learning at The Webby Awards


Mashable.com posted a list of the Webby Awards, also referred to as the "Oscars of the Internet," on their site last week and I was surprised to find that this year's winners included resources relevant to learning and education. I only recently discovered the Webbys, but they have been around since 1996 "honoring the best of the web." Two winners are determined in each category – one selected by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, and a second voted on by the public. This year's group of nominees received 1.5 million votes from individuals in more than 200 countries.

Best of the Web – 2012

There are four main categories – websites, interactive advertising, online film and video, and mobile and apps – each with sub-categories that in total cover more than 100 topic areas. Here are just a few of the award winners providing access to resources and services that could be used in online learning environments:

Art: Google Art Project brings together 151 "art partners" including museums and other collections, to offer access to detailed images, narrated guides, maps, interactive features, and more. Check out the education section for activity ideas.

Community: Tumblr is a free blogging site gaining popularity with educators for ease of use and integration of social networking functions. Known for shorter posts and use of images, Tumblr is described by Edudemic's Jeff Dunn as "a step beyond Twitter and Facebook but not quite the same level as WordPress and other larger CMS platforms." I haven't tried this yet, but it's at the top of my list.

Education & Reference: It may not be a surprise to see that the Khan Academy is a Webby recipient this year. This site has evolved to include more than just video tutorials, now featuring more advanced features and capabilities such as profile statistics and digital badges.

Education: TED.com, winning in multiple categories, is a resource that has been featured previously at Inside Online Learning. It continues to expand its resources, especially for use in education, through initiatives and ideas such as TED-Ed's recent guidelines for flipping your classroom with posted videos and lessons.

Events: EducationNation.com "is NBC News' initiative to engage the country in a solutions-focused conversation about the state of education in America." The site, featuring live events, a blog, and discussion forums, encourages all of us to get involved in current issues and events related to K-12 and higher education.

Experimental & Weird: The name of this category really made me want to take a look and I'm glad I did. What I found was The Future of the Book, "a design exploration of digital reading that seeks to identify new opportunities for readers, publishers, and authors to discover, consume, and connect in different formats." This project presents three new ways to approach digital storytelling, reading as a social activity, and presenting critique and commentary.

School/University: Looking for web design ideas for your institution, program, or class? The Chicago Portfolio School's best school/university website is a great place to start. Browse the blog, program details, and "see it through the eyes of" series for a very creative take on information presentation online.

Utilities & Services (Handheld Devices): Evernote wants to help us "remember everything" through searchable notes that we collect, store online, and access with all of our technology devices. This is another tool that's gaining fans among educators, such as David Andrade who describes Evernote as "a digital notebook that allows you to take notes, clip web pages, upload images, and files, and much more."

Some of the awardees are probably already familiar to you, but hopefully this list contains a few new options to explore as well. This is just a small sample of the sites and resources recognized this year.

Inspiration for Your Online Course

With so many new tools to try, first think about your courses, the materials you are already presenting to students, and the learning objectives they are trying to achieve. How could additional Internet resources help you and your students reach your goals?

  • Take a virtual field trip. The concept of an online tour has been around for a while, but some of these new projects and initiatives, such as the Google Art Project, grant us more access than ever before to collections and archives that could augment existing lessons and assist with research for papers and projects.  
  • Create a news feed for your course. Tumblr is just one resource that can help you do this through the creation of a site for your course that allows for brief posts and multimedia presentations. This could be useful for student and instructor communication of course updates, and for adding incoming news from other sites and accounts addressing topics related to your course. 
  • Bring the outside, in. Similar to both virtual field trips and news feeds, resources like TED.com and EducationNation.com help bring the world to your students through engaging speakers and coverage of issues receiving immediate media attention.
  • Expand multimedia options for students. Many online courses still rely on asynchronous discussion forums, paper writing, and presentations for assignments and assessment purposes. These methods have value, but may be enhanced through the use of technology tools and web-based projects as alternative ways for students to demonstrate what they have learned. Consider how digital storytelling techniques, for example, might be useful in your course. 
  • Try something brand new. How often do we turn to the sites and tools we are most familiar with, without going any further? One thing the Webby Awards did for me, was bring an awareness of the variety of resources, approaches, and activities taking place online across industries, including education. Add one new tool or resource to your course next term, and challenge your students to do the same.

This year's Webbys featured a new award for special achievement in "advancing and organizing societies around the world." Could next year's awards include additional categories related to online learning? What new topics would you like to see…best resource for college students, best community for online educators, best online school website?

Mashable.com announced the winners of this year's Webbys last week, but you can watch the live ceremony, billed as "the biggest night celebrating the Internet" streamed online, of course, on May 21st.

May 10th, 2012 written by Staff Writers

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