Summary of EDUC4150 Learning Experience

Challenges and Opportunities of E-learning Video Created for EDUC4150

What have you learned about developing an effective online course?

On EDUC4150, I have examined the tenets of e-learning and learned key points that assist developing an effective online course. First, studying the characteristics related to learning among student cohorts can be useful in understanding our learners, but relying on these traits solely can be misleading when designing an online course. To support learners, educators need to find out more about each one’s learning needs and expectations. Second, educators must be aware of the key challenges they are going face in an e-learning environment as well as these for learners. To improve these challenges, both the educators and learners must clearly understand their new virtual roles and responsibilities as they are transitioning to that environment. Third, developing a purposeful and well-defined online course means devoting the appropriate time to do that (Poe & Stasson, n.d.). Fourth, each of the fourteen best practices provided by Boettcher & Conrad (2016) has emphasized that interactivity is the heart and soul of effective online learning (Hanover Research Council, 2009, July). Fifth, re-visiting constructivism has enabled me to discover its fit to e-learning environment, educators must think critically how to incorporate constructivist principles in the development of lessons intended for online use. Sixth, while developing my e-learning tools wiki project I was introduced to new trending set of educational technology tools that can support my instruction. The most significant for me was the wiki itself, I discovered that the tool is a useful collaborative web platform that can be used to manage virtual teamwork and projects in e-learning setting (Kinsey & Carrozzino, 2011, December 19). Seventh, having quality guidelines is like having planning models for design and instruction (eCampusAlberta, 2017). They give educators the opportunity to synthesize their work against e-learning standards using a systematic approach. Eighth, e-portfolio is an authentic assessment technique that can be utilized in online setting, it combines both product i.e. artifacts and process i.e. reflection, it provides learners ownership and control. The tool has a value-added merit as learners will learn how to articulate their employability skills and “produce a level of work that looks to future application in the workforce rather than just another required assignment” (Scott, 2013, February 13). For educators, e-portfolios can serve as a documentation of teaching accomplishments as well as a mean of sharing knowledge but the most critical benefit for us is that it allows educators to reflect critically on their work and thus enhance our teaching skills.


How does this fit with your experience? What would you like to emulate from your own successful e-learning experiences? What would you like to improve upon so that your own learners have a more positive experience?

In the beginning of this new chapter of my career, I thought that teaching online private sessions will be much easier than traditional classroom setting. It will give me the opportunity to examine the setting gradually before developing asynchronous courses similar to EDUC4150 course. I used the same syllabus that I utilize in traditional courses as I believed that the sessions will simulate the traditional classroom environment. As experience is the best teacher, I shortly realized that assuming that what works in teaching an on-campus class will work in an online course was a mistake. It’s a different medium that requires adapting teaching to the new context as well as a new set of instructional and assessment techniques. Thus, I am in need to a strong foundation to be able to develop effective online course and I joined the certificate for the sake of that.
From this short learning experience, I would emulate, firstly, the clear organizational structure, the course discrete segments organized by topic, and the detailed and conspicuous expectations of each learning unit. Second, using the discussion forum as a social ice-breaking activity in which students introduce themselves and provide personal experience with content i.e. the activity of writing about our e-learning experiences as learners and educators. Third, the variety of topics related to content, for instance, in this learning experience various core teaching aspects were covered, I was exposed to a theoretical aspect i.e. learning theories, planning an online course in terms of what need to be considered or done before developing an online course i.e. the two modules “opportunities and challenges of e-learning” and “quality guidelines”, Assessment /instructional technique in e-portfolios unit , and educational technology/media in which I was asked to create an educational blog and wiki. In all these aspects, as a learner, I was given the opportunity to reflect and find means to personalize this learning experience to become relevant and applicable. Fourth, the well-established protocol for communicating, the educator’s presence and responsiveness, and the quick replies and timely feedback gave me the sense that the instructor is approachable and developed the instructor-learner dialogue (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016). Fourth, the course climate, the written comments and the warm tone of communications are highly supportive and reduced anxiety. Fifth, the different forms of authentic assessments that cover the multiple dimensions of learning that the course can employ. As well as the opportunities for learners to choose the form in which assignments are presented, for instance in “Challenges and Opportunities of eLearning” I was given the choice to write an essay or create a video. Sixth, the detailed guidelines provided to explain each assessment and the clear rubrics help learners including myself to easily accomplish the required tasks and to self-assess the quality of their work.
Within each of the course modules, I was validating my online teaching skills and articulating a to-do list of things that I need to improve in order to develop a robust and interactive online course. My list has three categories planning, developing, and facilitation. For planning, I need to ensure that my courses follow e-learning quality standards. For developing, I should keep the main content of my online courses shorter, simpler, and in various formats accessible for the learners with poor technical skills, in other words, technology shouldn’t constitute a barrier for students’ learning. I need to prepare more descriptive set of guidelines for learners to turn to in case they have a trouble (Poe & Stasson, n.d.). In addition, I should review and redesign my assessments to fit e-learning environment and consider incorporating new techniques that have a “life-changing potential” (Scott, 2013, February 13) such as e-portfolios, this technique can motivate learners and make their learning relevant to their future. Discussions and cooperation are essential components to build a learning community among students. Unfortunately, these instructional components are missing as my sessions are private. I need to try to embed them even if optional for those who desire and are taking the same course at the same time frame. I believe that some periods of my courses are monotonous, thus I need to find means to provide opportunities for external interactions and excitement. For facilitation, I need consider my tone of communication, my responses to students should sound less formal and more welcoming. I should assess if a course is working or not at earlier stages to be able find out learners’ problems and assist them more efficiently (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016).


What new insights do you now have? How has your thinking changed around creating effective online courses after taking EDUC 4150?

My thinking has dramatically changed over the last two months in regards of creating online courses. First, I realized that technology and content aren’t the only drivers of effective online course. An effective online course requires elements of good instruction and active learning such as clarity of expectations, engagement, motivation, feedback, and support. In other words, “good teaching is good teaching” (Ragan 1999) regardless of where or when it is delivered (Ragan 1999). Second, creating a well-developed course requires educators to understand the difference between teaching in face to face classroom and in online environment, consider challenges of this setting for themselves and their learners, and to be equipped with best practices of teaching online, and find means as to how to apply each of these practices to support their learners. Third, in online setting, “students often find the workload in an online course heavier because they must cover course material on their own” (Poe & Stasson, n.d., p.14), thus, well-structured content, proper instructor-learner interaction and strong learning community are essential to support learners and reduce frustration. Fourth, Online learning can be more effective than traditional on-campus learning if educators spent enough time researching and developing e-learning quality standards, they are core for effective instruction design and delivery, educators must aware that these standards aren’t static and hence they should be reviewed and altered occasionally. Fifth, technology can be used to engage and support students in their learning activities, but not as a source of distraction nor a barrier that hinders learning. Educators must be selective what to incorporate and ensure that their selection match their learners’ technical skills and learning outcomes, educator must ensure that they aren’t embedding new educational technology tools just for being trending. Last, e-portfolio should be an integral part of learners overall educational experience (Scott, 2013, February 13), learners need to see the connection between their assessments and attaining their dream jobs (Scott, 2013, February 13).


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

For the implementation of my to-do list in future courses, first, for planning, I will develop my e-learning quality guidelines essential for effective online teaching. In addition, I will review and update my courses’ outlines to be more detailed and concise in term of the amount of time needed for taking an online class, the importance of working independently, the minimum technological requirements, learners’ technical skills and previous knowledge, and ways of contact and communication. For development, I will create a set of material optional for learners to turn to for help, they will serve as general immediate solution when learners are having troubles. The first three guidelines that I will create are “communication guidelines”, “Where to seek online help if you have a syntax error in your code” and “Frequently Asked Questions”. I decided to edit the video I created for “opportunities and challenges of e-learning” and to use it to explain the differences between learning online versus learning in a traditional classroom, it will support learners stepping into an online class for the first time. I will create surveys to assess learners’ technical skills and ask them to articulate their expectations as well as their needs to improve the quality of their learning in order to know my learners in a better way. I will develop practices and content to be more clear and intuitive in order to ensure that learners understand the subject matter. To embed more interactivity and excitement, I will try to invite guests such as programmers and other professionals in the field to facilitate a short synchronous session. The first step that I will take in re-designing my assignments is to break their tasks into chunks same as course content, so the tasks will become multiple minor activities instead one major assignment, this can keep online learners more engaged and reduce their frustration. Realizing the benefits of wikis and e-portfolio as authentic techniques, I will try incorporate them effectively as teaching and assessment strategies, and I will start creating my own e-portfolio. For Facilitation, I will reduce the distance and isolation between myself and the learners as well as that among learners that will imply more humanizing, presence, and dialogue. I will communicate with learners more frequently via e-mails and video calls, deploy effective social ice-breaking activities in discussion forums to connect learners, and I will continually measure the effectiveness of my courses and collect learners’ feedback as early as possible using informal techniques such as minute paper or muddiest point forms. I will follow up on all learners, if a student deviates from course, I will reach to him/her immediately to determine what is causing the difficulty and encourage him/her to pursue in the course.


References

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