Final Reflection

I think I achieved all the learning goals laid out at the beginning of the course. I especially enjoyed applying what I read about in articles when designing my own course. Whenever a course offers the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned, it is the most effective way for learners to actually retain information. I have even started touting my basic rampages skills to my colleagues and feel as though I’ve “bought into” my own module learning goals – I’ve improved my online learning skills. I took the pre-test for my module to see if I was really ready to be a true online learner (Bri sent it to me early on in the summer). I did not score well and remember the advice at the end of the test suggested I rethink online learning. A few months later, I can say that I’m better prepared to enter another online environment because my technology skills, knowledge of online platforms, and ability to connect virtually with people is vastly improved. I also enjoyed reading about the history of eLearning and visions for the future. Even though the technology can get pretty complicated with a new tool coming out every 10 minutes, the basic design and implementation strategies remain the same – communication, connection, and community. The community of inquiry framework survey I will continue to keep in my office on my bulletin board as a constant reference for most any course I design or take.

I think the most effective learning activity was designing our own module – breaking it down piece by piece. At first, I wasn’t comfortable not knowing the structure of the project (i.e. the deadline, how I’d be evaluated, etc.) However, after reading further about the importance of the learning process, it all came together for me.  I cannot think of a least effective learning activity since they were all relevant (perhaps the feedly exercise since I never touched it after I created it). Really the course feedback that I have would be to shorten this down to 6 or 8 weeks in the summer versus 12. I think the course objectives/learning goals could be achieved in that time frame if you combined a few topics together in one week. If it remained 12 weeks, I could see the optional reflective tweet versus a blog post each week. It is much easier for me to see what the whole class thought about each weekly topic than to read a lengthy blog post. Just some thoughts. Overall, I’m a better eLearner and designer as a result of this course. Thank you!

Final Project

What would you like feedback on? What would help you improve your project?

I would like feedback on the design of the course site, lesson structure, content of each completed lesson, and where there could be areas for growth if I decided to lengthen the time of the course. Part of me is thinking if I wanted the module to run the full semester (13-16 weeks), what other lesson topics could be included?

How should we evaluate your project? According to this criteria, how would you evaluate your final project?

I would like for you to evaluate my project on the following criteria:

  • Using the COI survey, did I incorporate elements of teacher, social, and cognitive presence?
  • Do the lesson activities meet the learning goals?
  • Is my course site user friendly?

According to the criteria listed above, I think I incorporated teacher presence in that I clearly communicated important course topics, goals, and activities. I incorporated social presence by requiring and encouraging online discussion and collaboration through blogging. I incorporated elements of cognitive presence through problem-posing learning activities like the pre-test, case study, and 90 day action challenge. Those activities also allowed for brainstorming about possible solutions using relevant information and resources.

I think my lesson activities meet the learning goals except for understanding the campus resources available on campus. I’m not sure if I do a thorough job explaining the available technology resources students can utilize if they encounter problems. I will go back and think about including that in my course module so that I am doing a better job assigning activities that meet learning goals. Nevertheless, I think the module does a solid job helping students develop a goal action plan necessary for success in blending learning environments.

I also think the rampages set up couldn’t have been easier! Plus, I even utilized the ALT lab on campus and the faculty couldn’t have been better to work with. Once they gave me a basic tutorial, I ran with it. I think wordpress is definitely user friendly and my hope is students will feel very comfortable using a platform they will have to use for future courses.

What did you learn in the process of developing this project?

I learned the importance of being adept at using the technology you are trying to teach to your students. I decided to be more intentional about teaching my students how to set up and use rampages as lesson 1 because Monty reminded me that with each new online tool I introduce, I need to be able to teach that to my students. I learned not to be so content drive, but process-drive when it came to teaching. At certain points of the project, I would get caught up in the content of each lesson such as blogging about a particular topic, that I forgot I should probably lay the groundwork and teach my students how to blog first. The course taught me to take a step back and think more deeply about online course design and structure.

 

Virtual Reality

I’ve never been into video games, which is what this virtual reality/avatar-based environment reminds me of.  I was that child who played with barbies (probably longer than I should) rather than figuring out how to control a virtual character on a screen. After watching Cooper McBeth’s video, I couldn’t help but laugh at first when I saw his avatar. To this day, I think most video games look pretty silly and I can’t get into it. I understand the importance of access and providing a variety of learning experiences through SecondLife (and other software programs), but a teacher has to be pretty tech-savvy to “build” these virtual worlds. Plus, I’m wondering if the cost makes VR unaffordable for most public school systems. The main benefit to these virtual worlds is role-playing, simulation activities that allow for skills and strategies to be practiced in a “virtual” reality before it becomes a physical reality. I read a bit on how VR is being used for military purposes and even medicinal practices, which completely makes sense to me. Students who are creating virtual content they can actually apply to their lives offers a lot of learning potential.

I did some further VR research on Google, and read that there is a VR software that allows you to take photos of different sites and “stitch” them together  to create panoramas. I loved this idea for my course. If a student could create a photo documentary of how they are sticking to their 90 day action plans using VR, I’d love to see visuals of their challenges and successes. I think if a student could see another student studying in the library or eating Sweet Frog after getting an A on a test, it could further motivate other students to keep pushing themselves to reach their goals. Perhaps, a student could enter another student’s virtual world and borrow strategies for success they could apply to their own reality. I think the benefits of VR really depends on the software the teacher or the student decides to use and implement. Some look better than others.

Reference: http://www.scienceclarified.com/scitech/Virtual-Reality/The-Virtual-Classroom-Virtual-Reality-in-Training-and-Education.html

Project Status

Thank you to everyone who offered me constructive feedback about my course module. All of your suggestions were very helpful and insightful!

Changes:

  1. I made a static homepage instead of a posts page so students do not have to click “continue reading” to see entire paragraph.
  2. I recreated the sub menu on the Course Information and Lessons page so students aren’t looking at a blank page. I simply copied the format Monty and Bri used by inserting hyperlinks.
  3. I decided to make my “icebreaker” and “rampages set up” the first lesson instead of embedding the icebreaker into my previous first lesson. I decided to use the Something You Want to Learn activity in addition to having the students share some personal info as their introductory blog. Again, I used Monty and Bri’s rampages set up instructions from our course site.
  4. I deleted my previous lesson 4 on time management and re-orded my lessons as follows: Lesson 1: Getting to know rampages and each other; Lesson 2: Am I ready for online learning; Lesson 3: Case study in hybrid learning; Lesson 4: 90 Day Action Challenge; Lesson 5: 90 day action presentation.

I decided against including an icebreaker activity that used twitter or snapchat since I am not a frequent user and I would have to provide detailed instructions on any new technology that I’m introducing. I thought for an introductory module geared toward freshmen I should stick to only one online platform (rampages). I think making the icebreaker/get to know it’s own lesson helps establish social presence early on. I thought the way this course was laid out was super clear and structured, so I borrowed a lot of my course inspiration from this one. Thank you, Monty and Bri! I do not think I will make further changes at this point and am open to further feedback on the changes I just made.

MOOCs

My experience with MOOC’s is limited, which includes reading about, participating in, or enrolling students in massive online courses. The first time I remember hearing about MOOC’s was when our former Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success discussed the topic in 2013. I heard rumblings about it being offered for an intensive writing, research course (UNIV 200), but it never took off. I wonder if VCU was quick to jump on the MOOC bandwagon like many of the other colleges and universities mentioned in the articles without thinking through the instructional design in more depth? Zemsky explains that “The readiness of so many higher education wonks to give serious consideration to this possibility is but further evidence of higher education’s vulnerability to ideas that hold that there is no connective tissue holding together either those who seek or those who provide an undergraduate education.” Zemsky’s argument reminded me of Judith Hughes’ article on supporting the online learner. She argued for the necessary exchange of information that needs to happen between the learner, institution, and instructor. Zemsky’s explanation about higher education and marketplace philosophy was interesting to say the least and led me to thinking about VCU parallels. 

What a MOOC can provide however is that opportunity for collective learning. MOOC’s support complexity pedagogy because they have the ability to move learners away from the teacher as expert toward a more collaborative workspace.  I agree with Macdonald and Ahern that a MOOC can serve as a great resource guide “providing topical information from a field expert” in which learners can discuss the material using a variety of online platforms. I don’t see it as a viable option for true teaching and learner-centered education because MOOC’s are too content-heavy and less process-driven. Baggely writes that “The UID set no longer stresses the need for the teacher to provide the students with feedback and knowledge of results, nor the importance of active, motivated learning, nor the need to accommodate cultural differences in one’s teaching.” After reading the articles, everything about a massive online course leads me running in the other direction, especially if there is little teacher presence involved. The other issue to me would be what I discussed in my constructivism post – social isolation and lack of humanity. I wrote that after a while communicating through a computer instead of a real person has the ability for others to become desensitized to human emotion. Baggely mentions that MOOC’s create a situation in which “data is simply ‘pushed’ into communication channels, while communication itself is not necessarily improved. In large populations particularly, the technology is maximized while human contact is minimized, and isolation and psychological distance are amplified.” 

With that being said, I do not want to turn my module into a MOOC and don’t think it should. The self-development process (90 day challenge) involves a lot of instructor and student feedback, which physically can’t be done with 10,000:1 student-teacher ratio. If I turned my module into a simple resource guide, a MOOC could work great – easy access to a list of readings, resources and pre/post tests open for discussion. 

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!

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.