Week Twelve – Quality Matters

Eight years ago I took my first online class from a well established and respected guru of online instruction.  The class was asynchronous, and I struggled to the point of frustration with the directions, the format and the process.  I made it through, but not before he and I both were frustrated with my inability to navigate what in the instructor’s mind seemed painfully obvious.  This of course was the tripping point for both of us.  As designers, implementors and instructors of online learning, we cannot assume the receiver of our two-dimensional communication is understanding what we think they ought to be understanding.  In other words, intuitive navigation of the learner is grand, but we need to assume that someone out there is not such and we need to build accordingly.

The Quality Matters Rubric, demands attention to the understanding that all of the small details are covered.  The learning objectives are clear, the instructional materials are relevant, and the technology does not impede the learning process.  The technology should work as the written word does if a good novel is being read.  The focus should not be on the words, the sentences or the structure.  If the novel is written well, the focus will be on the story.  If the focus is on the technology, it is likely that the point of the learning will be lost in transit.

No one wants to spend money on an online course only to discover that frustration with the access and the support inhibits the desire and the will and the confidence to learn and to tackle the course in the first place.  The ultimate goal of online learning is to open doors not to reinforce negative ideas about education.  Quality Matters set the gold standard for high quality, consistent online building and presentation.

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Week Ten Reflection

Educational change is a phrase that has been batted around for the last fifty years.  Has anything changed?  Are we doing business any differently that we did in say, the 1970’s?  I have come to realize that change is happening, but not due to the focus of our educational system but due to the fact that online learning has become a reality and the market has driven the change.  Education has always been a closed system, apparently impenetrable and impervious to real change.  We have the same type of school schedule.  We are teaching, generally using the same methods.  We are picking kids up with the bus and dropping them off with the bus and it is the bus schedule that drives our system.  That is incredible.  Online learning has taken the keys away from the educational kingdom and has opened up the market.  Once a market is free, the quality of the product tends to get better since the free-market concept demands change and improvement, whether the system wants it or not.

Public education has been stale for a long time, and no amount of money was going to breach the walls of tradition and conformity.  Online learning has and is doing it.  Competition breeds quality.  My brick and mortar system is no longer the only show in town.

Week Ten – Essential Question: How can we manage the change that is inherent in our distance learning efforts?

It is difficult to overcome a century of traditional educational behavior.  Teachers, students, parents, school boards, and administrators will talk about, “stepping out of the box” but the minute someone does just that, all of the traditionalists demand conformity and requires that we get right back in.  The establishment is like that.  It likes clichés, names and customs, and talks the talk of visionaries, but the true visionary lives and works outside the structure that has entrenched itself for over a century.

The beauty of online and blended education along with the rapid advancement of the technological age is that real change is happening by and with real visionaries outside the structure.  Education as it has been known, is no longer in charge of, well, the future of education.

Part of this change and transformation is the expectation of those involved. Teachers need to acquire a wider viewpoint. Administrators must release control. Parents and boards will need to understand that the learner of today is not the learner that they may recognize and they will have to move forward with faith.  The student of today must recognize that he has “a greater deal of autonomy” (Brown, 2016),  and he must realize that “the greater autonomy puts more responsibility for learning on the student” (Brown, 2016).

Online as well as “blended learning environments offer students the ability to interact with other students and experts, as well as for students to pursue personalized trajectories for projects”(Brown, 2016).   It is in this offering, the environment and the attitudes must match the goals and the changing structure.  Moore (2012) says that cell phone for example are more often than not banned in the classroom, even though, the personal hand-held device is the computer of the future.  The old adage that with greater freedom comes great responsibility.  Students will need to learn the art of time discipline and management, and these lessons are not going to come to fruition right away, but with time and with the transformation of the learning system from teacher-centered to student-centered, and the when all parties realize that the child is in charge of his learning, then the flexibility to engage in more interactive learning (Brown, 2016)will become a reality.

Brown, S. W., Lawless, K. A., & Riel, J. (2016, August 1). LISTENING TO THE TEACHERS: USING WEEKLY ONLINE TEACHER LOGS FOR ROPD TO IDENTIFY TEACHERS’ PERSISTENT CHALLENGES WHEN IMPLEMENTING A BLENDED LEARNING CURRICULUM. Journal of Online Learning Research, 2(2), 169-200. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from http://www.learntechlib.org/c/JOLR

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

Wagner, E., PHD. (2016, June 27). A Little Online Learning Is A Good Thing [Web log post]. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from http://onlinelearningconsortium.org/read/blog/

 

Week Nine Reflection

This week’s study caused was enlightening in that maybe for the first time it really struck me that education is transforming globally, even as traditionalists have dragged their feet (myself periodically included) as the evolution of teaching and learning has lagged far behind the private sector.  I guess that this week I realized that transformation is taking place right beneath our feet and often within the ranks for educators and organizations and I will say this: The transformation is quiet.  Individuals in schools are part of it, but they are often overlooked because they often are set apart from the regular school day.

They are on the forefront of education and no one know about it.  Now, isnt’ that amazing?  I have often wondered when that change would take place and what would be the impetus for the change since change within any public organization is long, drawn-out, systemically underwhelming and so difficult that the change agents often give up.

The transformation taking place world-wide is taking place with or with out the input of the gate keepers, and I love that!  It is time and the nature of education needs a resurrection.  There is always a painful process with significant change, and public schools, and universities are feeling that right now with budget crunches, but those traditional institutions need to realize that the way things have looked for the last 100 years is not what they are going to look like in the next ten.  visionaries have not been welcome within this traditional system.  Everyone talks of great visions but now on puts foundations under those visions.  It has simply been too hard.  The visionaries are working outside the system and the people are responding.  It is time.

Week Nine:What lessons can we take from Global Distance Learning Efforts?

 

The educational establishment has been notorious in its traditions, and in its structure.  Often the gatekeepers are not just reluctant to change or transform, they are often the holding the reins against any new progressive idea or adjustment.  Online learning has established itself, generally in spite of the barriers of conformity due to the users and the visionaries which tend to be those involved in the private sector and/ or those driving commerce and connectivity.  “The use of technology removes time constraints imposed by traditional education—a key benefit for professionals who cannot afford to take time off work to pursue education” (Senechal, 2016). This in and of itself reminds the educational professional that no longer is the building the absolute structure of the educational establishment.  The options are wider now,  with the Internet, and advances in speed and access, the world is truly at the disposal of the eLearner, and the local school and the state college is no longer the only show in town.

Not only has the options transformed worldwide, but the methods and the outcomes are transforming as well. “Delivering education online now extends beyond coursework and is connecting students to individuals and experiences that can play a first-hand role in professional development” (Senechal, 2016).   We can only imagine what our educational system will look like twenty years from now.  Will public education give up its traditions and conventions and embrace the speed with which learning is transforming.  “Indeed, it is imperative that professional education is able to adapt and evolve to match industry changes. This is particularly true for business education: As global business swiftly changes, the best education must be delivered to effectively meet the challenges that lie ahead” (Senechal, 2016).

Education is no longer just the realm of the government and it  has become one of the fastest growing online businesses worldwide.  ” One of the exciting things about this market is how it allows individuals to create a business out of their expertise. If you look at how Lynda operates – Instructors are paid for their courses on an ongoing basis. I met an individual last week who is earning a healthy living from his Lynda.com earnings” (McCue, 2014).  This is also allowing professionals globally to “access education that previously was restricted to more developed regions” (Senechal, 2016).

“Breaking down these barriers has not only improved convenience for students, it also grants the same high-quality education to anyone, anywhere in the world—creating a new era of truly global education. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Academy, for instance, develops its courses in one central location and distributes them globally—allowing high-quality education to be available all over the world”(Senechal, 2016).

Peter Drucker said in 1997, “universities won’t survive. The future is outside the traditional campus, outside the traditional classroom. Distance learning is coming on fast.”  Apparently, we are there, and universities nationwide are struggling under an imposing budget and students are tapping eLearning opportunities to fill the gap between what the university offers and what they can afford.  It is also true that online learning offers much more flexibility.  We are no longer restricted by space and time.   Money is to be made not only in world-wide sales, but in delivery of educational services online as well. “Sure, you can hunt around on YouTube for free tutorials and there are some good ones, but I think the niche sites and well-organized, curated platforms are going to change how we learn “(McCue, 2014).

What will it look like in twenty years?  “Personally, when I think about the distant future of eLearning, a scene from The Matrix comes to mind. It’s when Neo attaches an array of electrodes on his head and downloads an entire martial arts training program into his brain” (Pappas, 2013).

McCue, T. (2014, August 27). Online Learning Industry Poised for $107 Billion In 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2014/08/27/online-learning-industry-poised-for-107-billion-in-2015/#56c8962366bc

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

Pappas, C. (2013, December 6). Future eLearning Trends and Technologies in the Global eLearning Industry. Retrieved October 31, 2016, from https://elearningindustry.com/future-elearning-trends-and-technologies-in-the-global-elearning-industry

Senechal, T. (2016, June 29). DIGITAL LEARNING PLATFORMS: THE FUTURE OF GLOBAL EDUCATION? Retrieved October 31, 2016, from https://trainingmag.com/digital-learning-platforms-future-global-education

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.