Week Eight Reflection

I think that we get so focused on the technology that we lose sight of the human connection and the role that interpersonal communications plays in the development of a successful online course.  As a high school teacher, I have watched this trend over the years as school districts vie for the latest and the greatest. the technology that we acquired last year, that we didn’t completely learn, is set aside for the new technology that is available this year without giving a second thought to real implementation.

I found this week’s study focus refreshing since inevitable, the connections are key to a successful online experience and no matter what the technology, without that interpersonal communication and the skill set to go with it, success for anyone involved is dramatically reduced.

I am also coming to the understanding of clarity in online directions.  The course directions must be clear and concise, with language that is appropriate to the coursework, inviting and accomodating.  More is not necessarily better, and the creative use of blank space is a plus when designing a course.


Week Eight: Essential Question: What would you require of instructors who taught a course you designed? Why?

The instructor’s role in teaching an online class is not substantially different from that of teaching a traditional face-to-face course.  There is one variable though that can affect the success or failure of the online experience and that is whether or not the instructor has the technical capabilities to troubleshoot technology barriers as they arise, and regardless of the bombproof nature of the course or the platform, technical difficulties will arise and they will come up in the middle of the instruction.  When this occurs it is highly difficult to maintain the flow of the course. “As an online instructor you will need to master the online learning platform in which your course operates. You will be expected to take full advantage of its capabilities. An experienced online instructor will recognize which tools should be used to enhance and advance the students’ learning experience. Moreover, you should share navigational tips and tricks with students to ensure they are prepared to learn in an online classroom. Opportunities for synchronous communication, including live chat or live video sessions, will only help you gain credibility and respect in your students eyes” (Ely, 2011).

How many times have we all seen technology fail at exactly the moment it is most needed?  Of course that is a rhetorical questions, but essentially, the instructor needs to be fluent enough  with the platform to either problem-solve, or have the insight and the preparation to revert to plan B, or C.  Without a backup, the technology will at some point fail, and the instructor does not need to be a tech genius, but he does need to have control of the delivery and be prepared to use another mode if it is required.

Dutton, J. (2016). Best Practices and Expectations for Online Teaching. Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Retrieved from http://facdev.e-education.psu.edu/teach/bestpractices

Ely, S. (2011, October). Five Expectations Students Should Have of an Online Instructor. E-Learn Magazine. Retrieved October 25, 2016, from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=2048939

Moore, M. G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning, 3rd Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved fromhttps://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781133715450/

Week Seven Reflection

Supporting students via online communication adds a layer of potential dysfunction that must be analyzed and prepared for as we set up online courses.  It is easy for a student to lose sight of the goal, lose track of time, and lose the motivation to succeed in an online course.  True partnerships must be incorporated into the equation if the chance for success is going to be optimized and those partnerships can be formally designed as in assigned group structure or they can be informally created which often happens throughout the semester. Ideally, I think a combination of the two would be optimal.  The challenge online students face is the accountability piece which suggests that it is not difficult to let ourselves down, but it is much more difficult to let others down.  If we are accountable to someone other than ourselves, we are much more likely to make the right decision to persevere when we might rather not.

I like Lee’s method of personal contact in pursuit of problem solving.  If she is not hearing form a student or the work is not coming in, she will pursue that student in attempt to problem-solve the situation and help them to get back on track again.  This is a highly effective, proactive strategy to become a partner with students that usurps the traditional teacher / student relationship.

Week Seven -Essential Question: How can we support students in being successful in our online course?

My experience tells me that the challenges faced by online learners are not necessarily different from those in a regular classroom situation.  Students need to connect socially in order to feel that they can be a part of a larger group.  They need to connect with the instructor at some level and be able to navigate the expectations.  They need to find the motivation to move forward with the class and with the learning challenges.  Certainly, online learning demands more from the learner than the standard face-to-face course, simply due to the fact that the online learner relies on internal motivation and the face-to-face learner relies much more so on external motivation (Moore, 2012).

It is vital that students are connected to the instructor, the other students in the course , and with the course work.  ” Students may become disengaged if they feel isolated or if they don’t get to interact with their instructor and peers” (Briggs, 2015).  The course should begin with activities and assignments that compel the students into safe interaction with the technology, the instructor and with each other.

Students should be encouraged to log on to the site at least once per day. “Students who participate consistently report a much higher level of satisfaction with the online learning experience”(Accetta, 2016) which also helps to create a daily habit of access and often leads to an unexpected motivational technique.  There are times when we want to procrastinate since, “procrastination is the number one enemy of distance learning” (Moore, 2012), and the student that falls behind on the first assignment tends to not find success in his online experience.

Inevitably, online learning requires tenacity, focus, discipline and a commitment.  The instructor connecting with the students appears to be the number one factor in whether students fail or succeed.  Chucked lessons also help and realistic deadlines, as well as prompt feedback on submitted work also makes the difference, but the social connection is vital if most students are going to make it.

Accetta, R., Ph.D. (2016). Tips and Strategies for the Successful Online Student. Retrieved October 16, 2016, from http://computerschools.com/resources/tips-and-strategies-for-the-successful-online-student

Briggs, A. (2015, February 11). TEN WAYS TO OVERCOME BARRIERS TO STUDENT ENGAGEMENT ONLINE (ACADEMIC TECHNOLOGY: AT THE COLLEGE OF WILLIAM AND MARY). Retrieved October 16, 2016, from http://onlinelearningconsortium.org/news_item/ten-ways-overcome-barriers-student-engagement-online/

Burns, M. (2011). Distance learning for teacher training: modes, models and methods. Available: http://go.edc.org/07xd

Moore, M. G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning, 3rd Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved fromhttps://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781133715450/

Week Six Reflection

I just had a 74 inch SmartScreen installed in my classroom.  I believe that the total price-tag was just a little north of $5000.00.  Even though it sat in my room in a box for a year because the Borough guys did not want to hang it on the wall (that is another story), I was happy to come back to the school this weekend and find it is hanging and hooked up to my computer.  Here is the problem; the sound is not working.  The touch screen is not working. The VHS that is hooked up to it is not reading.  The remote control is not functional.  I will call IT tomorrow and ask them to send someone over to make it all work, and it will take them two or three trips to Seward which will be more like two or three weeks to make it all better.  In the meantime, I do not have the knowledge or the understanding to troubleshoot the thing myself, which brings me to our conversations this week.  Technology has to be reliable, and it has to be intuitive in order to function effectively.

I will learn to use it and we will get it all fixed, but as I think about building my online class. it is becoming so apparent to me that I need to keep it simple, clear, and the access needs to be reliable.  Those three ideas are going to drive the decision-making, and I think that using technology for the sake of using technology is passe, and now it must function and it must be assistive at some level.  If it is not assistive and is not reliable, then it can’t be used.

Week Six: What assistive or adaptive tools could be helpful as I create my online courses?

As a distance running coach, I clearly and innately understand the requirement for variety in our workouts, in the terrain and also in the environment and scenery.  Running the same route day in and day out certainly becomes comfortable, but for competitive distance runners, it also becomes stagnant, and will almost always suspend growth, both physically and mentally.  I am left wondering if online education reflects some of these same tendencies.  Although, students’ desire for predictability must at some point supersede  the need for variety since in education, we all struggle between the world of grades and the need to push into the discomfort of real learning.

Moore (2012) states that effective  use of a technology depends upon having adequate experience with it in distance-learning applications. Even familiar technologies, such as the Web, print, or television, require special adaptations in distance-learning.”  Therefore, covering familiar technological terrain in a predictable fashion and on a regular basis certainly makes perfect sense.  At some point though, variety needs to be introduced and implemented.

Social Presence like variety is a necessary  component of online teaching and learning.  the Instructor / Student connection is vital if the developers of the online course hope for a valid evaluation of the course.  Building the course is just one component.  Implementation of that course through the Emotional /Social Presence often becomes the most important aspect of that course. “Yet after reviewing the research there is evidence from a variety of sources that suggests emotions play a powerful role in learners’ engagement and achievement, and that the role of emotions in online learning deserves special consideration” (Artino, 2012; Rienties & Rivers, 2014).

Artino, Anthony R. (2012). “Emotions in online learning environments: Introduction to the special issue.” The Internet and Higher Education 15(3): (pp. 137-140).

Moore, M. G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning, 3rd Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781133715450/

Morrison, D. (2016, August 16). A New Twist to Teaching Online: Considering Learners’ Emotions [Web log post]. Retrieved October 11, 2016, from https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/about/


Week Five Reflection

ADDIE is a valuable tool in the development of an online course.  Simply, the process can appear somewhat daunting without the framework or the blueprint, so to speak.  Certainly, a trained teacher has the knowledge to process the development of a lesson.  An experienced teacher not only has the knowledge, but has the wisdom to not only develop a lesson, but to anticipate the shortcomings and the stumbling blocks.  Considering the transference of the knowledge and wisdom to an entirely different format is challenging on its best day and the structural framework  put forth with ADDIE clarifies so much and reduces the anxiety involved with beginning the process.

I think that I would love to be able to work with a talented designer that had an innate knowledge of the tools of the trade.  I can imagine going to the designer and saying something like, “Here is what I want to do.  What do you think.”  She would reply, “well, I have this site and this program and we can take this over here in order to simplify the process for the student and if you just eliminate that…etc.”  I need to learn about the tools so that we can at least speak a common language.  Good material this week!

How do instructional design stages help us understand online teaching?

The framework of ISD is the bones of a solid online design and as with any good online class, gives the designer and the builder the structure to form their creative ideas around and limiting the number of trial and error attempts at building an effective course.  I like the team building approach and would love to have a builder, fluent in the art and craft of web design putting the nuts and bolts were they need to be, so to speak.  “A highly functioning team can produce quality, rigorous courses that are effective for supporting learners in reaching learning objectives” (Morrison,2012).I know that as I design a course, I have the experience to understand the educational pedagogy, but lack the knowledge to implement the vision that I might have for a particular course.  “A course is effective to the degree that it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish.
It is efficient to the degree it accomplishes its purpose with the least motion (Landau, 2001).

If I hope to build a user-friendly course that is efficient and accomplishes the tasks with the least motion, I fully anticipate that with my lack of technological experience, my evaluation and my re-designing process is going to be most important and I cannot be satisfied with an awkward, but functional online course.  Everything needs to point back to solid, well-developed objectives because “it is the statement of learning objectives that enables the development of an evaluation plan that outlines how the course will be assessed and how learning will be measured Moore, 2012).

I can see clearly why “many academics resist the discipline and the supervision implied in working in a systems way. However there is very little doubt that there is a direct relationship between the time and effort put into the Instructional Systems Design and the ultimate quality of the distance education program” (Moore,2012).   Those of us at that stage of our careers more often than not arrived there by driving forward in isolation, living in our own heads and accomplishing much independently from outside forces that either tended to distract us or caused a deviation in our belief systems.

Landau, V. (2001). Developing an Effective Online Course. Retrieved October 4, 2016, from http://defiant.corban.edu/jjohnson/Pages/Teaching/fac_manual.pdf

Moore, M. G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning, 3rd Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781133715450/

Morrison, D. (2013, June 5). How to Apply a Team Based Approach to Online Course Design [Web log post]. Retrieved October 4, 2016, from http://www.citationmachine.net/apa/cite-a-blog/manual

Week Four Reflection

Online Collaborative Learning requires the instructor or facilitator to carefully think through and to front load the mode, the means and the methods by which the students will interact with one another to solve a problem or series of problems in sync with one another and in reliance with one another.  Because there isn’t a set program of instructions or a layout of sorts for an instructor to follow, she must use the very method to build the assignment or the course as she is asking her students to use.  It then becomes a circular form of learning and teaching which at first glance may appear confusing, but from a farther vantage point, makes perfect sense and reflects natural learning.

dialogue among the students, clear expectations, and access to the digital format appear to be the three primary criteria for a successful OCL.  Beyond this, the most important element is clearly going to be trust among the collective and between the students and the instructor.  The question I am left with, is this: If trust is built over time, through basic interpersonal communication, using all of the tools at our disposal in a normal face to face situation, how much more challenging is it going to be to establish this kind of trust in an online situation that would not only encourage member contribution, but would require it?