Review of Online Learning Course

This week, I have reviewed Introduction to Databases from the Stanford Engineering Online. The URL of this program is: http://www.db-class.org/course/auth/welcome

An Introduction to Databases is a free version of an online course taught by Professor Widom, Chair of the Computer Science Department at Stanford University. This class is the same as that offered by the Stanford School of Engineering to its students, with some difference in the assessments and that the non-Stanford students will not earn college credit by taking the course.

Does the course appear to be carefully pre-planned and designed for a distance learning environment? If so, how? If not, in what ways?
It would appear that this course was well thought out and most of the needs of the distance learner were taken into consideration. First, the online registration is straightforward and simple to do. Students are given an overview of the course, its objectives, and organization prior to registration so that they have the opportunity to evaluate their fit for the class. This online course offers support to distance students via the Feedback button, which allows users to enter information describing an issue. However, the course does lack other support systems, such as a library, counseling or tutoring (Tait, 1995).
Dynamic content and student interactivity are also key features of a successful online class (Harasim, Teles, & Turoff, 1995). This material does provide interactivity for the student, who must click buttons and links to access the course resources. The student has the option to view the course material or participate in a learning activity, such as the forum, or learning check quizzes (which are not graded). Video lectures also serve to deliver content in an engaging manner. The videos are brief, so they load quickly, showing another aspect of the planning that went into the course.
This course provides a schedule for the students with suggested content and an assessment to go along with the topic for each week. However, the material is always available; following content in a non-liner fashion is not penalized, but the learners must still take the test corresponding to each week. This shows a learner centered approach to the design (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek, 2009) because the learners have “room to learn their own way, but must have evaluations that show that learners have learned the objectives” (Laureate Inc., n.d.). The videos are brief, so users will not have to wait too long for a movie to download.
The syllabus, schedule, course materials and text are all mentioned from the first class so that the student can easily tell what the class entails and what they should learn.
Does the course follow the recommendations for online instruction as listed in your course textbook? Which does it follow? In what ways? Which does it not follow?
I will base this review of the course on this compilation of criteria set forth by Simonson, et al. (2009):

1. Content management – Yes
The Content Management System (CMS) manages all the resources, classes, and activities in a single repertoire. The content is presented well, is easily accessible, and different forms of media can added easily.

2. Course organization – Yes
The student is made aware of the overall organization of the class even prior to registration. The outcomes and objectives are clearly stated on the registration page and then reiterated in Professor Widom’s welcome video. Once a student can login to the course, they will have access to the clearly defined schedule, class calendar, required assignments and materials. They will even be notified of upcoming events and sessions via email.
3. Is content relevant and well designed? – Yes
The content supports the learning objectives by providing instruction on the topic and a brief video to watch on the processes described in each step. Innovative use of picture-in-picture allows the student to see Prof. Widom deliver the lecture while simultaneously watching an animated slide to explain the content. Text captioning adds another dimension to the learner appeal, making this quite an engaging presentation. There are also optional exercises to check understanding of the material.
4. Student interaction – Yes
The course home page serves as a prominent announcement area where the instructor has posted many messages for the students. A Q&A forum also provides a means for the students to interact with each other and the instructor. However, this discussion appears to be user led, and does not seem to have a course related topic thread.
5. Evaluation – Yes
Testing is included in the class format. Assignments are included, however, the drop box is replaced by the submit or save features which will prompt grade notification or closing of the test respectively. Grades are available immediately upon completing the quiz.
6. Material distribution –
Students are supported with easily accessible extra materials, such as sample databases and software guides. These encourage learning even outside of the class.

Did the course designer implement course activities that maximize active learning for the students? If yes, in what ways? If not, how is it deficient?
The optional learning exercises provide the student with a personal inventory of weaker areas of knowledge that they can return to. An instructor led message board or wiki could have been included to provide more directed interaction based on the instructional topic. The course materials page offers information on optional text books that can be used as extra references. A dummy database for users to practice with could have been included with the instruction. Some portable options for attending the class could have been added e.g. creating a podcast to listen to at a later date.

The ID clearly planned out this course thoroughly, and included engaging instruction, relevant content and practice, as well as a means to evaluate learning.

References
Harasim, L., Hiltz, S.R., Teles, L & Turoff, M. (1995). Learning networks: A Field Guide to Teaching and Learning Online. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press

Laureate Inc., (n.d.). Developing Online Courses. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5693697&Survey=1&47=7229053&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Tait, A. (1995). Student support in open and distance learning. In F. Lockwood (Ed.), Open and distance learning today (pp. 232-241). London: Routledge.

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Examples and Use of Technology – EDUC 6135, 09/25/11

Example 1: Collaborative Training Environment

A new automated staff information system was recently purchased by a major corporation and needs to be implemented in six regional offices. Unfortunately, the staff is located throughout all the different offices and cannot meet at the same time or in the same location. As an instructional designer for the corporation, you have been charged with implementing a training workshop for these offices. As part of the training, you were advised how imperative it is that the staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.

I selected this scenario because it most closely resembles situations that I may encounter at work, and researching this example would provide valuable tools for on the job application.
The challenge is that the employees involved in the implementation must collaborate despite being separated by distance and time.
To determine the best technology to use, the outcome of the learning should be examined. The outcome of this training is the successful implementation of the new staff information system across several locations. In other words, it is a “precise behavior to be demonstrated”(Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009, pp115), with the behavior being the implementation of the software. Hence, the instructor and students must have a visual of the software during the training, as well as a means to identify how it interacts with the user and other systems. Since the employees cannot collaborate or train simultaneously, the solution must work asynchronously. With these limitations in mind, I selected the following technologies for this solution –
Initial training – webinar technology supplied by Webex (webex.com)
Method to collaborate and comment on screenshots – Google Docs (google.com)

An additional software solution required for this implementation is Camtasia (techsmith.com).  Although it is not strictly a distance learning tool, it does support and facilitate distance learning. 
Technology Selection and rationale

 
Initial training – webinar by Webex
Webex is a commercial vendor of a “web conferencing software” (Laureate Inc., n.d.). This offers one-way video, and two-way audio is possible if the participants wish to communicate with the presenter. I chose Webex because I am familiar with its capabilities from using at work. With this software, the demonstration can be recorded and powerpoint presentations with embedded multimedia content can be included. Remote staff may attend the live demonstrations, or can view a recorded presentation at their convenience.
Screencapture – Camtasia (techsmith.com)
A requisite to any form of software training is the ability to show screenshots of the actual software. Screen capture software, such as Camtasia, is an excellent resource to record the on screen interaction with the software. Static screen captures can also be taken using the simple Alt-PrtSc button combination and pasting into a document. This recording is saved as a movie and can then be embedded in the powerpoint presentation used during the webex conference.
Collaboration by sharing screencaptures and documents – Google docs
Finally, for asynchronous collaboration and sharing of screens and documents I suggest using googledocs. Employees will capture screen interactions and static images with Camtasia. They will insert these videos and graphics into a google doc presentation and also create google documents. After sharing these items, the rest of the group will be able to collaborate and view the files.  Since the files are kept on Google’s server, the employees will be able to access it wherever they have an Internet connection whenever it is convenient.  In this way, each employee can view the screencaps and comments from their peers and continue the conversation.
In the table below, I compare the features of my selected technologies to some of Chickering and Ehrmann’s (1996) criteria listed for successful distance learning.

Criterion Webex googledocs
Encourage contact between students and faculty. Yes. The initial training webinar will allow those attending to call in to talk to the instructor and chat electronically with the instructor and other students.  
Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students.   Yes. By commenting on slideshows and documents made by colleagues, participants can “ promote collaboration through peer-to-peer mentoring, teamwork, and other strategies” (Beldarrain, 2006, pp 145)
Use active learning techniques   Yes. Active learning refers to methods where the student does more than listen to a lecture (McKinney, 2011). When the employees create their own screencasts to collaborate with peers, they are actively learning how to implement the software.
Give prompt feedback Yes. Participants can call in or chat electronically during the webinar. Yes, collaborators can view edits to the presentation immediately and comments can be shared quickly also.

 

 

 

Examples of Successful Applications Of Technologies

Webex – Fidelity success story, http://www.webex.com/pdf/casestudy_fidelity.pdf

When Fidelity’s training group was reduced from 26 to 5 trainers, an online training solution became imperative due to lack of resources to support F2F instruction. They leveraged the delivery bandwidth of WebEx with the content organization and storage of their own LCMS by integrated the WebEx Training Center and their LCMS. Eventually, video, graphics, and polling were added to create a more blended style learning module. Resseau, the Manager of Learning Technology at Fidelity, was careful to provide all stakeholders – from managers to new employees – with adequate training and introduction on this new technology so that the learning curve of this solution did not interfere with the delivery of the content. Employees appreciated the ability to ask questions during the presentation via the electronic chat without interrupting the session.
The benefits of the implementation were seen financially (ROI increased from $20,000 at initial implementation to $350,000 for the most recent program) and also increased collaboration to resolve issues between employees (WebEx, 2005).

Webex – http://www.excellencegateway.org.uk/page.aspx?o=167800

Webex was adopted by Colchester Institute in 2008, where this technology has “enabled online classes with break-out sessions, voting, testing and application” (JISC, 2008). Colchester Institute provides higher education and training in North Essex, U.K. to over 10,500 students, some of whom live far away from campus and are unable to attend live classes. Once distance learning was decided upon to bridge the gap for students who could not travel to class, the following requirements were created (JISC, 2008):
• Enable remote application sharing
• Allow video-conferencing
• Schedule meetings
WebEx was selected because of its many features such as polling, testing, hands-on labs, and breakout sessions. Of course, it also facilitates online meetings.
The use of WebEx has allowed the Institute to offer more online courses. It has homogenized cross campus interaction since all organizations now use the same tool – WebEx – to collaborate and share. Distance learners who “need to receive a live demonstration of the use of software applications” (JISC, 2008) appreciate the on demand training available using this technology. Finally, the savings in cost and time due to the lack of need to travel from place to place to interact, is also seen as a success of the WebEx implementation.
 
 

Google Docs – http://www.google.com/educators/p_docs.html
Google Docs was implemented in the Acalanes Union High School District to expand “collaborative learning” (Davis, 2007) and provide a means to disseminate PowerPoint projects to a much larger group. Students in AP English and psychology were given specific functions to perform with Google docs in order to share their work. In English, students used Google Docs as peer review tools, while in psychology, students used the solution to share their research papers with fellow classmates. Additionally, “(T)eachers are able to individually assess student participation and content using the revision tab on Google Docs to see how editing is proceeding and to encourage students as they work.” (Davis, 2007). 

Google docs – http://www.edtechvision.org
In Beaverton, Oregon, Colette Cassinelli used the collaborative feature of Google Docs to keep her content relevant and students engaged. Cassinelli asked each student in her to upload their presentation and share it with the class. According to Cassinelli, for the first time ever, 100% of the students engaged in the presentation and discussed it with their peers.

References:
Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2),139–153.
Cassinelli, (n.d.). Resources for teachers. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/educators/p_docs.html
Chickering, A., & Ehrmann, S. E. (1996, October). Implementing the seven principles: Technology
as lever [Electronic version]. American Association for Higher Education, 3–6. Retrieved
from http://www.tltgroup.org/programs/seven.html

Davis, C. (2007). Teachers speak out. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/educators/p_docs.html

JISC. (2008). Colchester Institute: WebEx-cellent distance learning. Retrieved from http://www.excellencegateway.org.uk/page.aspx?o=167800

McKinney, K. (2011). Active learning. Retrieved from http://www.cat.ilstu.edu/additional/tips/newactive.php

WebEx Communications (2005). Fidelity’s training department saves $350,000 on one program
with WebEx Training Center. Retrieved from http://www.webex.com/pdf/casestudy_fidelity.pdf

Distance learning – past and future as I see it

 

Yuna’s Mindmap Displaying Current Understanding of DL and Vision

Please click on the mindmap image above to zoom in

My journey through distance learning

Before starting this class, I had a rather limited view of distance learning.  I envisioned large geographical distances between the instructor and students bridged by teleconferences.  Or perhaps a chronological separation that was overcome with pre-recorded lectures on a VHS tape, or later a DVD.  In fact, the image that popped up in my mind was of Open University courses that my mother took when I was a child.  The instructor would look directly into the camera to deliver the lecture, and occasionally show a diagram or mathematical equation. I certainly did not picture a lot of student-to-student interaction, and quite limited teacher-student interaction.  I imagined assessments to consist of Internet based forms that were completed and send via mail server, much like those used on websites (of that time) to ask for more information.  Additionally, this type of learning could only be accomplished with bulky set-ups such as a television with maybe a VCR or DVD player too, or a desktop computer. 

        Within the first week of our Distance Learning course, most of my preconceived notions about distance learning were rearranged.  You will recall that my definition of distance learning hinged on the physical and chronological separation between student and teacher.  After reviewing our resources, I discovered that the separation could also be pedagogical. Separation can be determined by the student’s familiarity with the online environment and the autonomy they prefer therein (Laureate Inc., n.d.).  To explain this further, we must look at Moore’s theory of Transactional Distance which postulates that the student’s perceived distance from the instruction is indirectly proportional to their level of self-directedness, or autonomy (Moore, 2007).  Hence, the more autonomy the student strives for, the less the perceived distance.   This was quite an eye opener for me, since I had never even considered the actual perception of distance.

 Another reality check came in the variety of options for student/student and student/instructor communication.  I was aware of applications such as Skype and Webex, but had not put much thought into how these could be used as assessment tools.  For example, an instructor can watch a student demonstrate a process via a webcam and a high speed internet connection, or have a conversation with several students simultaneously in a webinar.  Finally, the TV and/or desktop components have been replaced with a broad selection of devices that can display multi-media or even connect to the internet. 

As I think about where distance learning can go from here, it is clear that the importance of collaboration and networking will be highlighted.  The advances in social media are proof that we like to know “what’s going on.”  I believe the next stage of information gathering and collaboration is enhanced data mashing, as seen on Flickr’s site where an image is almost a portal to information related to that image.  I attribute this to the “shrinking” of the world caused by the ease of access of global information via the internet.  So, as we are privy to increased amounts of information, we will seek to link that information with other data, hence the data mashing.   I also think that, as distance learning becomes more commonplace, we will develop better strategies to ensure learning.  For example, we may find that distance learners using mobile devices heavily favor podcasts over visual learning because they are on the go while ingesting the information.  One last note…I think that the phrase “distance learning” will be phased out because it will become so inherent to learn this way, we will not even consider the novelty of being in a different location from our peers and instructor.

My version of the evolution of distance learning

The landscape of instructional design during my early years in this profession was quite different to that of today’s vista.  My first experiences of instructional design included mandatory storyboarding skills and a lot of HTML code.  A small team of instructional and graphic designers was required to create a course.  Then there were only a few Learning Management Systems (LMS) to use to distribute that course.  Flip charts were still quite popular and computer training was by and large delivered via PowerPoint slides. 

Of course, things have changed a lot since then.  Now an instructional designer has the tools to author, publish, and distribute a course from their desktop computer.  Software suites such as Articulate and Rapid Intake have made animations and interactive graphics easy to create, even for the ID who is not an expert in Flash.  Additionally, an increasing number of companies are making off- the-shelf learning management systems (LMS) that facilitate creation of the online classroom. We learned this week in class, that this ability for IDs to be the sole authoring contributors of a course is known as rapid e-learning.    

Rapid elearning has replaced a workflow that used to take weeks to create a training program.  Although this shift is beneficial to companies interested in just-in-time instruction and ever changing content, it does have a negative effect on the process of instructional design itself.  This abbreviated timeline has decreased the time and resources dedicated to pre-analysis and evaluation (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008).  This lack of evaluation robs the training of its strong instructional foundation.  This, in turn, may lead to the decreased effectiveness of online teaching.  Looking at it from a business standpoint, one might think that this would potentially reduce the ROI of training.  However, as we learned in class this week, many companies still measure the ROI of training in terms of the “flashiness” of the program, i.e. the look and complexity of the animations and interactive graphics (Moller et al., 2008) .  This fact has not changed since I first started in this field.  Then, and now, I am asked to create a course with ‘x’ number of interactive graphics and animations, before even analyzing the content or audience!

This was a clumsy application and not at all the elegant communication tool that discussion boards or wikis are today.  Hence, coming into this class my definition of distance was based solely on the geographical separation between the instructor and the students.  Many of the definitions were explored in our text but all of the descriptions have a unified theme: distance learning requires a student with a desire to learn separated either by time or space from a teacher willing to instruct and a method for two way communication between the two parties (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zyacek, 2009).  Today, with the advent of social media and Web 2.0, it is almost inconceivable to sit in front of a computer and not communicate with others taking the same course.  The combination of these depictions is in line with the following general guidelines from Chickering and Gamson (1987) for successful undergraduate education, and can be extended to adult learning also:

  1. encourages contact between students and faculty,
  2. develops reciprocity and cooperation among students,
  3. encourages active learning,
  4. gives prompt feedback,
  5. emphasizes time on task,
  6. communicates high expectations, and
  7. respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

DL can provide all of the conditions listed above, but I agree with Moller et al. in that there is a general lack of identifiable distance learning standards with which to evaluate such curricula (Moller et al., 2008).  However, with continued evolution of technology infrastructure and tools, I predict that distance learning curricula will thrive and in the process, benchmarks and evaluation metrics will be formed.  With the constant virtual conversation occurring today, I envisage collaborative learning taking the forefront of education methods.  Finally, as more students connect this way, the diversity and availability of knowledge will sky rocket and more than ever before the world will be flat (Friedman, 2007) because we will all belong to the same global learning community.

References:

Chickering, A. W., and Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice
in undergraduate education. Retrieved from http://www2.honolulu.hawaii.edu/facdev/guidebk/teachtip/7princip.htm

Friedman, T.L. (2007). The world is flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Laureate Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Theory and distance learning [Video webcast].  Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com.

Moller, L., Foshay, W. R., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 52(3), 70-75. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Moore, M. (2007). Theory of transactional distance. Retrieved from     http://www.c3l.uni oldenburg.de/cde/support/readings/moore93.pdf.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Welcome EDUC 6135 Peers

Hello fellow students of EDUC 6135! Thank you so much to those who have visited, and commented on, my site. I look forward to all our future discussions on the merits and challenges of Distance Learning, all while learning from you and your experiences!

TRIN20 BIOLOGICS – Radiation Training

Technology and Learning

pdf_test I’m currently fascinated with mobi tags and 2d scanning tags.  I’ve decided to experiment by making my own tag.  The end objective is to test the possibility of mobile learning by including a tag to a .pdf document on each page of a learning manual or website.

this is a mobi tag to access the content from the pdf test link above. it will take you to the url where the information is stored 

 

this tag will take you to actual text

Personal Reflection of Lessons Learned in Learning Theories and Instruction Class

This class has been an exciting journey through learning strategies and theories, and also technology and its applications in education.  While on this journey, I have learned a lot from the course readings and fellow classmates that I will apply to future instructional design projects.  I have also learned much about myself. Over the course of this paper I will discuss, among other things, how technology is actually quite human in the educational realm, what type of learner I am, and how all this information will shape my teaching style for courses to come. 

In this class, we learned that there are several learning theories, styles, and intelligences.  What struck me most was, despite the many different ways of understanding and absorbing information, it seems that a need for human interaction is common to most students.  This is evidenced by the social constructivist theory which postulates that social interaction is a necessary catalyst for learning and development (Ormrod, Schunk & Gredler, 2009).  Another theory that supports the desire to feel socially connected, even when learning in a heavily technologically based environment, is connectivism.  This theory indicates that the profusion of information available to an individual can only be processed with the help of a social network (Siemens, 2010).  In addition, when a student’s need for relatedness, or support from classmates, is met, the student’s motivation is heightened (Ormrod et al., 2009).  Hence, it can be seen that social interaction is a positive factor in acquiring knowledge and staying motivated to continue this acquisition.

This class helped me to learn about my own learning process.  Delving deeper into learning theories, I found that I identify with the behaviorist method of learning when I study new material.  This is because I am initially motivated solely by the stimulus of the reward of positive feedback when assessing myself on this material instead of actually learning the material (Standridge, M., 2001).  As I start to apply the information in context, I use more cognitive skills (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989).  Although I knew that my information acquisition went through different phases, I could not have described the shift so clearly or pinpointed when it occurred before taking this class.

Since technology is seeping into every aspect of our lives, it was fitting that we investigated the role of technology in the classroom.  I found it interesting that technology is not replacing the human element in teaching and learning, but supplementing it.  In fact, the goals of successfully integrating technology have been listed as “active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts” (“Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many,” 2008).  The technology available today is so versatile that it can support many different learning styles. It can be used to give immediate feedback and assessment for the behavioral learner through computer based training while advanced 3D or immersive environment simulations can support learning for the kinesthetic learner. The Horizon report predicts that one of the next big technological revolutions in education is mobile data (Johnson, Levine, & Smith 2009).  This marriage of information technology and mobility promotes learning through connectivism (Siemens, 2010) and is indicative of how technology is becoming a viable resource for students today. 

Although I have been an instructional designer for many years, this class still gave me the opportunity to learn new things such as creating a blog.  I also have a better understanding of learning theories that describe how students learn instead of just learning styles which facilitate learning.  I have added to my knowledge of technology applicable in the classroom and this is valuable information that I can pass on to students.  Armed with all this knowledge, I believe I can enhance the quality of my instructional design to keep the student engaged and motivated.

References

Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32–42.

Johnson, L., Levine, A., & Smith, R. (2009). The Horizon Report (2009 ed.). Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved December 27, 2010, from http://wp.nmc.org/horizon2009/

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.

Siemens, G. “Connectivism” [Transcript]. Retrieved November 30, 2010 from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/courses/53036/CRS-CW-4603373/Transcripts/EDUC6115_05_Transcript.doc

Standridge, M. (2001). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved December 27, 2010 from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Behaviorism

Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many. (2008, March 17). Retrieved December 26, 2010, from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction