Journal 2 – Using Quality Guidelines in eLearning – EDUC 4150

What have you learned about the importance of following quality guidelines when developing an online course? What potential exists if you don’t use a set of quality guidelines? How can you ensure that your online course meets the needs of your learners when developing your own quality checklist?

As Online Learning is still relatively new and people are still learning and making developments, it is very important to follow quality guidelines when developing an online course. This helps the new course developer keep in line with the industry standards and it serves as a checklist of reminders for the experienced developers. It also ensures that courses are consistent and of high quality.

Designing an online course is a big project and the guidelines act as a quality assurance check throughout the process. There are a lot of things to keep in mind so it is easier to have set guidelines for course creators to use. If there are different course creators within an institution it will also ensure that courses look the same and reflect more of the institutional brand than the individual course creators. Without the guidelines, course creators might also slip back into teaching methodology that is more suitable for a face to face course or get carried away with the technology tools.

Parker (2004) points out, “at a basic level, the characteristics of quality educational delivery demonstrated in [various quality] frameworks include 1) providing clear statements of educational goals; 2) sustaining the institutional commitment to support learners; and 3) engaging in a collaborative process of discovery which contributes to 4) improving the teaching and learning environment” (p. 386). I would keep these characteristics in mind when developing my own quality checklist as well as look at already established checklists for ideas and common guidelines to use. In order to make sure that the course meets the needs of the learners, I would also do a needs assessment at the beginning of the course. I can use the quality guidelines to build a course with the average learner in mind. But it is only when I ask the individual learners, that I know what their needs are and could then tailor the course for them.

 

How does this fit with your experience? What successes and/or frustrations have you experienced in your eLearning that may have been attributed to following (or not following) quality guidelines?

I did my Master’s in Education completely online through the University of Calgary. I think all the courses I took were in accordance to some sort of quality guidelines as I was successful in all of the courses and they were all very well put together. In doing a bit of digging, I found this website on documenting quality teaching from the Office of Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary. I could not access their specific guidelines on assessing course and program redesign but there are some other resources on the site. It looks like they encourage a teaching dossier/eportfolio, peer review, and mid-term student feedback on teaching as well as the guidelines. It is interesting that this all applies to face-to-face as well as online courses and instructors.

When I was working on my first project developing online learning materials, I was part of a team and we all had different educational backgrounds and different degrees of online learning exposure/experience. We didn’t have a lot of explicit guidelines but the project lead was really good at telling us what we needed to keep in mind as we created components for the course. She was also constantly reminding us that it was an online course and although certain activities seemed really simple and almost too easy, students would be on their own when doing these parts of the course so it should be simple and easy. We did have explicit technical guidelines and some guidelines for content and those guidelines were really useful in keeping me from getting carried away with the excitement of my first online project.

What does this new learning mean to you? What new insights do you now have? How has your thinking changed because of this learning?

I sometimes get carried away with creating the content and materials and forget that what is in my head, might not be obvious to anyone else. I should use the guidelines as a way to be more explicit about what I am doing, why I am doing it, and why it is beneficial to the learner. I also think there are way too many aspects of online course design to NOT use a guideline or checklist. It also keeps the course creator organized and that in turns makes the learning easier.

This learning hasn’t changed my thinking radically because I already knew the importance of having some sort of guideline when creating an online course. What it has done is make me realize that I should really take the guidelines part of online course designing more seriously and invest some more time in coming up with more guidelines as they will frame the course and make it so much better. The resources for this part of the course are also really useful. It never occurred to me to look for guidelines that are already being used by other institutions to get ideas for my own.


How can this new learning be applied in your online course?

I will make sure that before I create my online course I will start with a set of quality guidelines that are appropriate for the context. I will refer to them as I go through the process of putting a course together. I now have some ideas of what real, established guidelines look like and what to keep in mind when choosing guidelines. The Canadian Recommended E-Learning Guidelines (CanREGs) are a good place to start. Their list of the features of their guidelines is that they are consumer-oriented, consensus-based, comprehensive, futuristic, distinctively Canadian, adaptable, and flexible. (Barker, 2002). For the actual guidelines themselves, I prefer the checklist look of the guidelines from the Coulter Faculty Centre eLearning Faculty Fellows Online Course Assessment Tool (OCAT) and Peer Assessment Process. These resources will definitely be referred to when I work on online courses in the future.

References

Barker, Dr. K. (2002). Canadian Recommended E-learning Guidelines (CanREGs). Retrieved from http://www.futured.com/pdf/CanREGs%20Eng.pdf

Parker, N. (2004). The Quality Dilemma in Online Educationl In Theory and Practice of Online Learning (chapter 16). Retrieved from http://cde.athabascau.ca/online_book/ch16.html

Advertisements

Quality Guidelines for Online Courses

1. What does quality mean to me?

  • expectations are clear
  • course is flexible so that all learners can find relevance to their contexts
  • course is well organized, easy to follow, and each step builds on the one before it
  • technology is enhancing rather than impeding learning
  • instructor is facilitating learning and the learners are all engaged and taking an active part of learning and interacting with the materials
  • instructor is present and available to answer questions and support learners through different channels (email, discussion forums, phone or skype meetings)
  • resources and materials are easily accessed and easy to understand
  • learners leave the course with practical takeaways they can immediately use in their practice

2. What does quality mean to others?

Thoughts on ePortfolios

Do you think there is a place in your teaching for eportfolios? Why or why not? I am not teaching at the moment but I definitely think there is a place for eportfolios in most teaching contexts. It shows learners their progress and keeps them accountable for their own learning. It’s great for tracking evidence-based learning developments and is motivating to look through. Learners and instructors can also gain a lot of insight on a learner’s strengths and weaknesses from looking through a portfolio.

ePortfolios are increasingly being used to illustrate personal/professional development and achievements in teaching. What value do you see in creating your own personal teaching eportfolio? What kind of artifacts would you think of including in this portfolio?

I think there is great value in creating a personal eportfolio to illustrate personal and professional development. I just started using LinkedIn recently and adding all of my work experience and projects was really satisfying. It is a quasi eportfolio and seeing the work that I have done laid out like that is a great motivator to keep on doing more. If I were to create a more serious eportfolio, I would probably use this blog and add more projects that I have worked on, teaching materials that I have created for in person and online courses, performance evaluation comments from the various places I have taught and comments from students. I would also include my CV, links to good resources that I have come across, a link to my twitter feed which I use mostly for collecting resources, and a link to my LinkedIn profile page.

Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online

From The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips

1. Be present at the course site.
2. Create a supportive online course community.
3. Develop a set of explicit expectations for your learners and yourself as to how you will communicate and how much time students should be working on the course each week. (According to the book, 6 hours of productive learning time is a good benchmark.)
4. Use a variety of large group, small group, and individual work experiences.
5. Use synchronous and asynchronous activities.
6. Ask for informal feedback early in the term.
7. Prepare discussion posts that invite responses, questions, discussions, and reflections.
8. Search our and use content resources that are available in digital format if possible.
9. Combine core concept learning with customized and personalized learning.
10. Plan a good closing and wrap activity for the course.


Boettcher, J. & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass

Reflections so far…

What are the challenges for you as an online student?
I am a really good procrastinator so not having enough deadlines is really hard for me. I keep on putting things off and am always racing to the finish line. I’m like this in face to face classes as well but it’s so much easier to procrastinate in a self-paced, online class.

How are you going to deal with these challenges?
Well, I have set myself some deadlines and have started putting post-it notes with tasks I need to do on the wall next to my desk. It feels good when I get to take a post-it note down and see my wall clearing up so this is helping me so far.

What has been your most important learning to date?
Well, in the theme of the questions and answers above, the most important thing that I have learned so far is that I really really really enjoy learning about eLearning…once I get around to it.So I really should just get around to it sooner.

I also think that experiential learning is the best way to learn. I have been applying the things I read, or saw in a project that I am currently working on. I was creating Moodle courses for the first time as an administrator (with not much experience or support apart from Google) so I started by using the ‘categories’ on Moodle. I put the ‘course’ in as a category, and then the modules within the course as ‘subcategories’. Apparently, it still creates everything as separate courses so when I looked into enrolling 100+ students to the courses and had 9 different ones, I knew something had to be done. The eLearning course that I am taking now uses a ‘toggleview’ plugin for Moodle so I googled that and it looked like exactly what I was trying to do with all my ‘categories’. So, I got the plugin installed onto our Moodle platform and moved all the content from the ‘categories’ into the ‘toggleview’ courses. I ended up with 3, nicely organized courses. I am also going to try and figure out how to create a crossword puzzle because I just had fun doing one to solidify my own knowledge of the various eLearning terms.

When I was learning how to teach (face to face), I learned so much observing other teachers and subbing for other teachers and looking through their lesson plans. I got a lot of tips and tricks and I think I am doing that here as well. (Thanks Joanne!)

Journal 1 – Different Generations of eLearners – EDUC 4150

What have you learned about working with different generations of learners in an online forum?

When designing online materials, we need to keep in mind that our learners, whether it be in the classroom or workplace might consist of different generations. With this, we must keep in mind some of the characteristics of the generations as they will help guide us in how we design and deliver our content.

I learned that there are different names for the same generation and that the years they fall in differ depending on the source. But I really like Prensky’s (2001) idea of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. This is good to keep in mind when introducing a new online forum. For example, when rolling out a new course on a platform such as Moodle, the Digital Native learner might just go through the course intuitively and figure things out as they go. The Digital Immigrant learner however, might be overwhelmed first, by the new platform that they are experiencing for the first time and then by the different modes of content delivery. For them, it would be useful to have an introduction to Moodle video or some kind of tutorial walking them through the navigational aspects of a course. It is important to think about the platform for the content and delivery as well as the content and delivery itself when working with different generations of learners in an online forum.

How does this fit with your experience? What has your own learning been like related to interacting and learning with different generations?

A few years ago in the school where I was working, we got laptops and SMARTBoards in all of the classrooms. I was beyond excited about this as I knew it would open a whole new world of teaching with technology. I would no longer have to attempt to draw images of words that my students didn’t understand. I would be able to use more online materials in my teaching and play YouTube videos without having to bring in my own laptop and find a TV on a trolley and a VGA cable to connect my laptop to the TV. Some of the teachers I was working with however, did not feel the same joy and excitement that I felt. (I was about 10 years younger than the next youngest teacher at the time.) The other teachers were completely overwhelmed by having to teach a new group of students with these two foreign objects in their classrooms as their main method of sharing and displaying information. We had some professional development around using the SMARTBoards and the interactive tools we could use for teaching. But that training assumed that we were all at the same level of SMARTBoard understanding. I remember that during break time and sometimes during class time, I would find another teacher at my door with tech-related questions. I was always happy to help and glad that I could help but it was really interesting to hear the different questions that they had. A lot of the things they ask about, I had completely taken for granted. It was a great learning experience for me in terms of instructional design as I learned not to assume anything.

What does this new learning mean to you? What new insights do you now have? How has your thinking changed because of this learning?

Although I have been teaching students of varying ages for a while now, this is the first time I’ve thought about it in the frame of generational theory. I think this is because I was teaching English as a Second Language to immigrants and while a lot of my students were of boomer age, they came from countries where the construct of a baby boomer generation might not apply. In relation to the theory of generations, Codrington (2009) points out that, “where people have limited access to media and global influence and/or where people are living with daily struggles for mere survival, most sociological models will fall short” (p. 5). I wonder if this is what I saw with my new immigrant students. As I have mostly been working with ESL students, I have always thought about culture when it comes to designing learning content. However, as I am trying to branch out of the ESL world and into the more corporate side of things, I will definitely be keeping the generational backgrounds of my future learners in mind.

On another note, I also feel that there is a trend in teaching towards everything 2.0. Technology is a great tool for teaching and while the world is certainly moving towards the 2.0, it is good for eLearning designers to remember that some learners might not be there yet.

How can this new learning be applied in your online course?

Prensky (2001) says that “today’s teachers have to learn to communicate in the language and style of their students” (p. 4). I think that this is true in any type of course, whether it be online or in person. In a face-to-face course, we keep the different learning styles of our learners in mind when we plan learning activities and design learning materials. The same needs to be applied to online learning. If my online course was for a class of Generation Y university students, I might refer to Coates (2007) “Tips for Teaching Generation Y” (p. 5) when designing my course. However, in the corporate world, I need to keep in mind that my learners will more than likely be from different generations. In this case, I cannot get too excited about technology and take things for granted. I need to design my online course so that it takes the time to explain the different tools used while being flexible so that those who don’t need it, can skip those parts. Aside from the generational aspect, the learning activities definitely need to be hands-on, relevant to the learners and take full advantage of all of the online resources that learners can had might already be using to direct their own learning.

References

Coates, Julie. (2007). Generational Learning Styles. Available from http://www.docstoc.com/docs/63832024/Generation-Y—The-Millennial-Generation

Codrington, Dr. Graeme (2009). Generations and Culture. Retrived from http://tomorrowtoday.uk.com/articles/article034_generations_culture.htm

Prensky, Marc. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Thoughts on teaching online vs. f2f (face-to-face)

For me, one of the biggest differences between f2f and online learning is the flexibility that online learning can offer. With online learning, students can access their learning and participate at times that work better with their schedule. Everyone has different processing times and ways of absorbing learning content. With face to face, there are more limitations to processing time as classes are on set schedules. Of course, certain subjects also lend themselves better to online learning whereas other subjects really still need the face to face environment. Blended learning is also another option.

I have done some online learning and am seeing a trend towards more and more online learning. I did my whole M.Ed online because I wanted to continue working full time. It was a great experience and I really enjoyed it. We had set online meetings for some of the courses as well as deadlines for assignments and participation but it was doable while working full time. In 2012, I got my first taste of online learning from the teacher’s side in that I was part of a team designing content and activities for Moodle courses for my new immigrant ESL students. It was a lot of fun creating quizzes and activities for students to do which would supplement their in class learning. Language is one of the subjects though, that I feel wouldn’t work if it strictly online. I’m also now working on helping to put together Moodle courses for teacher training.

I’ve been working in the English as a Second Language field for the past 5 years, mostly in the non-profit sector. I am trying to venture out of toe non-profit and ESL worlds as there doesn’t seem to be much stability because we are always dependent on funding. In my recent job hunting, I have been looking more at training jobs or instructional design related jobs and all of the job postings I’ve seen have online learning components. I think this is because it’s easier for people to access from wherever they are working. Logistically, it’s also a lot more convenient and cost efficient as no one needs to travel and everyone already has an Internet connection at work. I’m really looking forward to learning more about how to make online learning more engaging and the different ways people are using it in different contexts.