Peer Review

  1. How to access my module:
  2. Basic information about your project, anything you think they would need as context
    • The purpose of my module is to help first semester freshmen better understand what blended learning is at VCU, and develop methods that will support academic achievement in those learning environments. I recommend navigating to the “Course Information” link first. There you will find information about what to expect for each lesson as well as learning goals, lesson structure, and contact info.  The links at the top of this page will take you to the pages for each lesson.  I also posted an Introduction link just to give students a quick, broad overview of blended learning in college.
  3. Where you are in developing this project (what has been done, what will be done)
    • I have posted the first and third lesson. I have yet to complete the remaining lessons. I am still looking for a good case study for my second lesson to provide greater context for my college freshmen. Many students think they are immune to academic challenges until they find themselves in that situation. The third lesson requires students to complete a 90 day academic challenge and I want them at that point in their learning process to have a good understanding of what their learning needs are and how to identify their goal to focus on for 90 days. I’m open to case study suggestions as well as your thoughts if I’ve provided the appropriate “scaffolding” for this to happen.
  4. What feedback would you like (Which sections should they look at, what questions or doubts do you have about your project)
    • I’m looking for feedback if you think I should add an “About Instructor” section to my blog so I can build teacher presence and connection?
    • I’m also looking for feedback about where or how to insert my icebreaker activity. I blogged earlier this semester that my students will be paired into blog buddies at the beginning of the course. Since they will be commenting on each other’s blogs about relatively sensitive and personal issues, I want to assign an icebreaker activity at the beginning of the course as an opportunity for each student to get to know one another. I originally thought about the Something You Want to Learn activity, but now I’m having second thoughts. I’m open to thoughts on college appropriate icebreaker activities that would help them feel comfortable getting to know one another and then where you think that might fit in? Should I do that in the beginning before they start the module? Should it be its own tab?
    • Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Constructivism

After reading about Daagu and complexity pedagogy, I was reminded of the importance of non-western forms of learning. The Daagu e-learning platform emphasizes the collective learning experience over individualism. For most eastern cultural groups what strikes me as fascinating (and very powerful) is the idea of communal obligation to share knowledge. As Americans, we are so individualistic when it comes to learning that we only focus on our own educational goals. I admire eastern civilizations, like the Afari people, and their ability to focus on their collective learning and engagement with diverse perspectives. Sharing mutual responsibility for learning is definitely something westerners struggle with, and  I enjoyed reading about a new learning theory that highlights eastern cultural practices. Collective communication is particularly important to online, distance learning because online discussion groups are characterized as being discussion-oriented, authentic, inquiry-focused, and collaborative (Huang, 2002). The authors of complexity pedagogy argue that “it is the engagement with diverse perspectives/knowledge that unsettles, complicates, perturbs and calls for further conversation” (Mitchell et al., 2016). Complexity pedagogy moves learners away from the teacher as expert toward “learning collectives of persons” who complicate previous ways of knowing and create new meaning structures.

What resonated with me the most when reading about some of the issues with constructivism is the possibility of social isolation and lack of humanity. I can attest to the fact that after a while communicating through a computer instead of a real person makes me desensitized to human emotion. Perhaps the biggest benefit of face to face instruction and learning is the relationship building. I can quickly pick up on a student’s facial expression, tone, body language which is telling me a whole lot more than just the content of our discussion. Expressing physical emotion makes us human and I think this is what online learning continues to struggle with. I’ll try to add a human element and build social context in my online module through my icebreaker activity. If I can gather important student information like experience or topics of interest, I can use this to lead and facilitate discussions with other students that make it more personal and valuable to them. I will admit though that I struggle with creative ideas on how to supplement online relationship building with face to face instruction. Perhaps this is because I still come from the position that eLearning can’t replace the benefits of face to face interaction.

 

Andragogy

After reading about andragogy this week, I was reminded of Monty’s email to me after I asked about the deadline for our modules. He said “The goal for the learning module is really embedded in the process more than the final product. I know I am pushing back a bit on everyone to really think through the design, but I think this is where the learning really happens. I am not overly concerned with the final product, but more interested in seeing growth during the process.” Emphasizing the process not the outcome is how eLearning designers and facilitators for adults should utilize the principles of andragogy when designing learning experiences. Learner-centered education is organizing curriculum where students “enter problem solving units” (Knowles, 2013). This type of curriculum design puts students in the driver seat. Real learning occurs when students are actively involved and engaged in the design and planning of their own learning activities.

I think I will utilize andragogy principles in my module through the 90 day action challenge. You may have already read in my previous blogs that I’m mostly concerned with the self-development process than I am with students achieving their desired goal. When I did this academic challenge before in an in-class environment, a majority of students  didn’t meet their GPA goal, but they did walk away with great new strategies and resources in place for next semester. They also admitted they walked away with a better understanding about how they work best, when they should/shouldn’t schedule study time, best study environments, a list of tutors for particular classes, etc. While a student is trying to develop a new habit, their level of self-awareness increases. It’s this experience that becomes a resource for learning. College freshmen need to practice and experience diagnosing their learning needs, which can be done through activities like my 90 day action challenge. The problem centered activity provides opportunities for self-reflection. Myself and the students’ peers will provide guidance, support, and suggestions throughout the self-development process.

In a face to face classroom environment, synchronous discussion may not allow for appropriate reflection time necessary for lasting change, but the instructor can send out discussion prompts ahead of time so students can come prepared to class ready to have focused discussion on a particular topic. I also think the icebreaker activities are critical in order to build that sense of collective community. I will also give my students the opportunity to exchange contact information if they wanted to get together in person outside of class. My hope is that maybe the students can create a learning community that lasts throughout their four years in college. Perhaps going through the time management/90 day action challenge together, they can rely on one another for support in other classes.

Online Community

“…. the challenge is to provide access to higher learning, determining what the learner brings to the environment, and what they need in terms of support…Therefore, we must ask questions about the learner’s readiness for online learning, access to and familiarity with the technology required, proficiency in the language of instruction, individual learning style, and educational goals, as well as about how aspects of the individual’s culture can affect learning. These are some of the things that we need to understand about the learners; they are also things that the learners need to know about themselves in order to benefit from the learning experience.”

Judith Hughes’ chapter on online learning captured the necessary exchange of information that needs to happen between the learner, institution, instructor, and advisor – theses individuals all make up a community of learning. Online learning and support services work well if those critical people are constantly communicating with one another. It’s not enough for an advisor to know a student’s learning style and recommend strategies for success, but students need to have a good sense of self-awareness and maturity in order to diagnose learning needs and be in control of the learning process. I was reminded about andragogy principles when reading this chapter. My module is targeting 18/19 year old college freshmen. I would argue that most 18 year olds struggle to diagnose their learning needs. I think part of the issue is the difference between teaching in high school compared to college (which is related to the SRL article last week). Suddenly college freshmen find themselves in an environment where professors often won’t send out study guides, reminders, provide written/verbal feedback, etc. I think creating community is essential and online learning (if done right) is poised to provide critical support, resources, and tools to help individuals learn more about themselves and the institution overall.

In my module, I want to address learner readiness/needs through an online post & pre test. Hughes notes that “This type of online resource assists potential learners to determine if they have the necessary hardware and networking capabilities, and should help them to explore whether this learning environment is comfortable.” The results are discussed only between the instructor and student. However, students will have the opportunity to engage with one another in other lessons. I want students to present helpful information and suggestions as they learn new skills that will assist with hybrid/online learning. I plan to pair my students into blog buddies of 3 or 4. I’ll also facilitate student access by encouraging them to exchange their cell phone numbers & emails at the beginning – this way if they want to have a synchronous, real time discussion about an assignment, they can.  The most important part of my module will be guiding them through self-regulated learning principles necessary for college success. The learning community – myself, students, tech assistance, campus resources – all serve to support the student through the self-discovery process. The module is an individualized learning activity with a community of support.

The feeling of community as it relates to this course is important to me – mainly the instructor feedback to be honest. I blogged about the importance of teacher presence earlier in the semester, and I think the instructors have done an excellent job in providing timely feedback about our assignments and learning processes. I wish I had more time to read and respond to each blog post from my peers, but I don’t. I have actually surprised myself by enjoying the reading of my classmates tweets. Here is where I think a short sentence about a learning experience is faster for me to read, absorb, and comment versus a blog response. I never thought I’d enjoy reading tweets, so I appreciate that part about this class! It’s stretched me in good ways.

Self Regulated Learning

I really enjoyed the readings this week because every aspect of self-regulated learning – self awareness, self motivation, self efficacy – is related to my module and to my job. As an advisor to first year college students, I see the opening scenario a dozen times – a student enters college with no specific learning strategies and vague self-evaluative standards – tries to “cram” the night before a test and fails (Zimmerman, 2002, pg. 1). The outcome is obvious to us, yet I have to treat the individual situation differently every year. I explain all the time to my students that time management is a life skill. You can’t perfect time management skills overnight. By virtue of the name, a skill is a process, not an outcome. I explain to my students that they may have to practice new habits in college that they weren’t exposed to in high school if they want to achieve academic success. In a way, I think self regulated learning is the definition of academic success. Self regulated learning is the social cognitive process of goal setting, self-monitoring, help seeking, and time management. The pinnacle of transformational learning is when a student is in control of their own learning processes.

Self regulated learning is absolutely necessary to online success because of the perceived flexibility and freedom. A major challenge for any new college student is devoting adequate time to do classwork. The challenge becomes even greater when there is no scheduled time to meet to engage in synchronous discussion. Janet Michello from LaGuardia community college writes that “Students need to be prepared to organize their time efficiently in order to comply with online and hybrid course requirements, and be sufficiently interested in the course and motivated to successfully complete it. Students need to be aware that they must contact the instructor if assignments are not clearly laid out or if they do not understand directions, work required, etc.” What Janet describes as a necessary success skill must be taught and does not come naturally to freshmen – this is where my module comes in. If I can get first semester freshmen enrolled in my module, they will not only be familiar with the web-based platforms many VCU professors use, but more importantly they will learn vital self regulated learning techniques through a 90 day academic challenge focused on goal orientation, self-evaluation, and reflection. I want them to get ahead of the game so by the time they enroll in a blended course in their second semester, they will have practiced self-regulated learning techniques.

Breaking down a new goal into small, digestible steps increases success rates. As part of the 90 day challenge, students choose one goal specific to honing their online learning skills (e.g. if they need to work on their time management skills, the goal would be to establish a set schedule for class time to read, write, blog, etc. which would help ensure class participation/preparation and completion of homework assignments). They will then list out the steps to achieve that goal, obstacles, support system, resources, and rewards for meeting weekly to do lists. Students will then be paired into blog buddies and provide feedback on one another’s plan. Students will blog/reflect with one another about their progress throughout the 90 days – perhaps refining their goal or making adjustments to the strategy. Like Monty said, I’m more concerned about the learning process than I am the outcome. When I did this before in a in-class environment, 90% didn’t meet their GPA goal, but they did walk away with great new strategies and resources in place for next semester. That is where the skill set comes in.

Learning Activities

This week’s readings on learning activities supported current ideas for my learning module as well as provided me with new ideas I would like to incorporate in order to increase the level of social and cognitive presence. The following is an outline of the possible activities that I will include in my learning module:

Icebreakers:

My students will be paired into blog buddies at the beginning of the course. Since they will be commenting on each other’s blogs about relatively sensitive and personal issues, I will assign an icebreaker activity at the beginning of the course. Each student will be required to write a blog post about something they already know about the subject, something they want to learn, and something that could happen in this class that would make it possible to learn what they need to learn. (Fitch, 2004). I will also outline expectations of appropriate and quality commenting on one another’s blogs as well as assure them of the privacy settings in rampages so they can feel free to openly and supportively engage in interactive discussion.

Case Studies

In my second lesson I want to provide a case study about a student experience in college hybrid course. I agree with this week’s authors that a case study can bring the topic to life and hopefully foster student engagement. I don’t want to students to fall into typical traps, so a case study of a student who was unsuccessful in a hybrid course could allow students to implement success skills early on.

Blogging/Conversation/Reflective Activities:

Students are required to blog after each lesson. Students will be paired into groups of 3 (blog buddies) for guided peer reflection. Blog buddies will answer specific questions provided by the instructor. Blogging is an excellent medium for social interaction because they are engaging in thoughtful, meaningful dialogue with one another versus synchronous discussion that limits the time needed for critical reflection (COI survey). Blogging also helps improve written communication skills, another valuable and critical success skill.

Project/Skill Building/Learner-Led Activities:

In my third lesson, students will complete a 90 day action plan that will target one goal specific to developing their online learning skills and post it on their blogs. It will be an individual project, but allow for opportunities for students to exchange ideas with their blog buddies, communicate clearly, provide peer feedback, and manage time effectively. These skills and more will all help in improving their college success skills in hybrid and online learning environments. As the instructor, I will provide feedback and guidance, but the student is in charge of leading the discussion on their own developmental goals and experiences.

Reference:

Fitch, Carrie. (2014). Ice Breaker Activities for Use in College Classrooms. Retrieved from https://www.cloud.edu/Assets/PDFs/assessment/Inst.%20Strategy%20_Ice%20Breaker%20Activities.pdf

TPACK2

Module Description: College Success Skills for Hybrid Learning

My module topic will teach college students academic success skills in hybrid courses. First semester freshmen will enroll in this course. Most first year students do not register for hybrid courses until their second semester; therefore, they should enroll in this module in the first semester to better understand what blended learning is at VCU, and develop methods that will support academic achievement in those learning environments. My module will consist of 5 lessons. The first lesson will be an introduction of blended learning. Students will take a pre-test to determine target areas for online learning. The development areas will also serve as goals for the 90 day action challenge. At the end of the semester students will take a post-test to measure growth. In my second lesson, I will make them aware of the online platforms they may use and teach them how to search properly online.  The third lesson will address goals and motivation. Students will complete a 90 action plan for blended learning. Students will share their action plans with the group and regularly blog/journal about their progress. The fourth lesson will focus time management, which will address self-directed/independent learning skills. Students are required to have a planner for this course and maintain a weekly to do list as part of the 90 day challenge. The fifth lesson is the post-test and a virtual presentation of their 90 day academic plan. Students are required to regularly blog after each lesson using rampages, a connected learning community for VCU students. Students will be paired into groups of 3 (blog buddies) for guided peer reflection. Blog buddies will answer specific questions provided by the instructor.

The main Content (C) of this lesson is improving performance in online learning and hybrid college courses.

The main Pedagogy (P) of this lesson is students sharing their thoughts with their peers after each lesson, especially their 90 day action plan, in order to gain constructive feedback and alternative perspectives for academic success.

The main Technology (T) of this lesson is an online asynchronous peer review system that will house the written contributions of the group.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)

The sharing of peers’ thoughts, opinions, and perspectives to assist freshmen in identifying, developing, and implementing the necessary college skills required to be a successful online learner at VCU.

Support:

Group discussion allows students to acquire, check, develop, and improve ideas, which develops social and cognitive presence (COI Survey).

Technological Content Knowledge (TCK)

Asynchronous online discussion allows students to participate in thoughtful group conversation according to their own schedules and availability, and allows students to develop well­ thought, well­ written contributions and responses.

Support:

Online or web-based communication is an excellent medium for social interaction because they are engaging in thoughtful, meaningful dialogue with one another versus synchronous discussion that limits the time needed for critical reflection (COI survey)

Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK)

Students will be able to easily share constructive feedback that may include links to other online resources. More importantly, students new to online discussion may be slow to interact or offer constructive guidance, especially 18 year olds whose cognitive thinking is still maturing. Kevin Wilcoxon (2011) states that “Interaction and collaboration are not intuitive for many adult learners who were educated in a predominantly lecture-based environment. Initially, these students may be more comfortable in a passive role and will need guidance and opportunities to become involved.” The instructor will have to engage learners in the conversation by asking structured yet thoughtful questions and prompts that will help students think about what they want to offer in group discussion. The online discussion through blogging will make it easier to track who has participated in a conversation.

Support:

Students are allowed to get to know one another provides a sense of belonging in the course and accountability to stick to their 90 day action plan. Online discussions help students develop a sense of collaboration. (COI survey)

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)

The content, method, and technology I’ve selected to use in this lesson are an ideal fit because students are learning to use the same online platforms for group discussion they may use for other blended learning courses. Therefore, they will be comfortable in online group discussion when it’s time to enroll in blended learning courses. Students will be honing their academic success skills, like time management, that are necessary for any course, but are of crucial importance to the success of online learning. Students will be equipped with appropriate resources and tactics necessary to reach a goal and be successful. Therefore, their sense of self-efficacy (or belief in themselves) will increase as a result of this lesson. Lastly, students will understand the value in alternative perspectives; through collaborative online dialogue students will develop deeper connections that can last beyond the classroom and apply to a variety of academic and nonacademic situations.

Brainstorming and finding relevant information helps students resolve content related questions (COI survey). Online learning communities are more engaging than traditional instruction (Wilcoxon, 2011). “Developing a schedule that designates specific times to log in to and participate in class and carry out other course-related activities such as reading and doing research promotes a student’s success as an online learner” (Roper, 2007).

References:

Arbaugh, B., Cleveland-Innes M., Diaz, S., Garrison, R., Ice, P., Richardson, J., Shea P.,and Swan, K. (2008). COI Survey. Retrieved 23 June 2016 from https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/coi-survey/

Guess, Andy. (2007). Learning 2.0. InsideHigherEd.com. Retrieved 23 June 2016 from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/11/13/blended

Roper, Alan. (2007). How Students Develop Online Learning Skills. Educause Quarterly (1), 62-65. Retrieved 23 June 2016 from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2007/1/how-students-develop-online-learning-skills.

Wilcoxon, Kevin. (2007). Building an Online Community. Retrieved 23 June 2016 from http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/761/building-an-online-learning-community