Final Project

Lesson Topic:
How to Use the New Scheduling Tool

Audience:
School Deans, Department Chairs, Senior Administrative Assistants

Lesson Objective:
Given background information about the new scheduling process and a video tutorial, administrators and staff members will be able to input data into the new scheduling tool correctly.

Background:
Beginning Fall 2014, a new scheduling process will be implemented using Microsoft Excel. Schools will input schedule information into an Excel spreadsheet and submit the schedule to the Office of Instruction for approval. Revisions will be made to the spreadsheet based on mutually agreed upon recommendations. Upon final approval, the Scheduling Analyst will upload the spreadsheet to the Instructional Management System. This process will replace the manual entry of the schedule.

Documents/Links:

Feedback:
Please post all comments and questions to the blog. Open dialog will help work out any problems that might be discovered with our initial run.

******

Creating the Presentation

For this presentation I created a video tutorial using screencast-o-matic (SOM). Prior to recording, I planned my presentation by creating a transcript in notepad. This would allow my audio to be free of distracting hesitations or mistakes and would ensure that I hit all of the major points. Using SOM and my built in microphone, I then recorded my computer screen and my voice while I performed the steps, physically and verbally, of adding a class to the scheduling tool. Once the recording was complete, I reviewed the video to determine the timeframes where I read each of the comments. I then added those timeframes to each of the comment lines in the notepad file and uploaded the file to SOM. SOM converted the file of comments into actual captions that appear on the video during the timeframes I specified. Finally, I uploaded the completed video to YouTube.

I chose to use SOM because it was free, did not require any software downloads, was easy to use, provided tools for captioning and I was able to find many different tutorials on YouTube on how to use the program. I chose to upload the video to YouTube and send a link because of the size of the file.

The video tutorial and related content offers one-way, asynchronous communication; the main intent of the lesson is to provide how-to information. However, the blog allows for feedback which creates an opportunity for two-way communication. The media richness of the lesson is low to medium; the content does not allow for instant feedback but the video does transmit verbal cues and uses natural language. There is also a level of social presence because the content is transferring information, and in the case of the video, the communication is in the trainer’s own voice.

For those with visual disabilities such as color blindness, the blog and documents were typed in high contrasting colors; black font on white background. Also, for those with visual disabilities, the video includes step-by-step audio instructions. For those who are hearing impaired, a typed transcript of the audio is available along with closed captioning on the video screen. These steps were taken to ensure ADA compliance.

Advertisements

Discussions and Final Project Update

1. Identify three different technologies that support discussions in online classes. Describe each technology in terms of its ability to support worthwhile and rewarding discussions.

Two different technologies that support discussions in online classes and are supported by most learning management systems are chats and forums. A third technology that supports discussions in online classes, although not a new or technically advanced approach but effective, is email.

Chats are the only technology out of the three that are synchronous. While synchronous discussions are beneficial because they are real-time, this may also be the biggest downfall of chats; coordinating schedules can be very difficult. However, if strategically implemented, using chats can be very rewarding. For example, for small group work, it can build a sense of community by providing a relaxed and natural flow of communication (Weber & Lieberman, 2000). Lisa Weber and Jennifer Lieberman have provided a number of ways to successfully use chats in an online course in their paper “Strategies for Effective Use of Chat: When, Why and How to Make it Work.” You can access the paper here.

Forums can have a greater ability to support worthwhile discussions because of its asynchronous format. Students have more time to consider the topic, formulate a response and ensure that their writing is clear, accurate and free from spelling or grammar errors. Shy students tend to be more willing to participate in online forums than face-to-face discussions making the dialogue more rich and meaningful. Threaded discussions from forums are also saved so they can be revisited even after the discussion is over.

Finally, email discussions have some real benefits for online students. I am speaking from personal experience with this form of two-way, asynchronous discussions in my own online classes. Most of my undergraduate online classes used email threads as the main form of class discussions. The benefit of this was that I could easily store, find, sort and retrieve specific discussion threads that I wanted to access. Most importantly for me was the sense of community. Many of us were in multiple classes together over multiple semesters and never once met face-to-face but we felt like a group. When graduation came around and I lined up to walk across the stage, the group of us who were clumped together for my major all realized that we all knew each other from our email discussions. It was like walking through the ceremony with long lost friends.

2. Describe an eLearning context (type of class, students, and specific content) where you would advocate the use of an online discussion. Identify the technology you would use to facilitate the discussion.

I would advocate the use of an online discussion in just about any class or group project because of the way it supports critical thinking and thoughtful feedback. If I were teaching an online computer applications course I would use a forum to close weekly lessons and projects.  Following a lesson and assignment regarding creating flyers in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Publisher I would post the following discussion topic: “What software application, Microsoft Publisher or Microsoft Word, did you find more user-friendly when creating your flyers? Give a detailed explanation. Compare and contrast the two application’s abilities to produce a quality flyer.”

3. Describe how you would plan for the discussion described in question 2. For example, how would you prepare students for the discussion, structure associated presentations, plan other activities that students be doing along with the discussion, and how you would ensure that the student workload was balanced and appropriate.

For the lesson, students will be required to read specific pages from their textbook that refers to creating flyers in Microsoft Word and creating flyers in Publisher. Supplemental materials such as instructor notes and examples of flyers will be posted online in the coursesite. Sample flyers would include both good and bad examples with explanations on what makes them good or bad.

Assignments for the lesson will include creating two flyers; one in Microsoft Word and one in Microsoft Publisher; instructions will be posted online. Students will email their completed flyers to the instructor and then post a thread in the discussion. In order to ensure that the student’s workload is balanced, this structure (lesson → assignment → post) will be the format every week and all assignments will be made available at the beginning of the semester so students can plan their schedules accordingly.

4. Develop a set of guidelines or policies that you would give to students to help them engage successfully in the discussion.

There will be 16 discussions throughout the semester; one discussion topic for each week. Weekly threads must be posted by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday evenings. Students can earn up to five participation points for each discussion and must participate in 10 of the 16 discussions for a total of 50 possible points. Students must post one original thread per discussion topic and comment on at least two others.

Comments are to be respectful and should be used to offer praise, suggestions, constructive criticism, and any other types of comments that add depth and meaning to the discussion. Students should show critical thinking skills by including information in their posts and comments that relate back to the textbook, course documents or personal experiences. Information from outside sources should also be used and appropriately cited.

5. Describe and/or develop a system for assessing student participation and learning in the discussion.

The following will be used as a guide for assessing student participation and learning in discussions:

Requirement

Point Value

Posted one original thread before the deadline

1

Commented on at least two other threads

1

Exhibited critical thinking in post and comments

1

Comments were respectful and added to the discussion

1

Located and used outside sources of information

1

Total Points Possible

5

Students who post disrespectful comments will be removed from the discussion and given zero points for the assignment.

6. How would you prepare the instructor for participating in the discussion?

In preparing an instructor for discussion participation I would explain to them what their main objectives should be. According to Shirley Waterhouse (2005), facilitators “must strive to create an environment where students feel comfortable engaging in discussions without close supervision” (p. 132). I would recommend that they plan their level of participation carefully and to make the students aware up front what that level will be.

Students need to feel comfortable enough to contribute so instructors should give enough space to allow this. On the other hand, instructors shouldn’t give too much space; students may choose not to participate if they think or know that the instructor isn’t watching. It is important for the instructor to find balance, to ensure that they are participating at a level where discussions are productive but also at a level where they are not overwhelmed. Discussions are time consuming and demanding and if an instructor attempts to respond to every comment they will not have time for anything else.

It is also important for the instructor to monitor the discussions to ensure that students understand the material and are responding appropriately. In some cases the instructor may need to step in to provide clarification or may even need to revise the original prompt or question. Also, instructors may need to privately approach a student who is posting inappropriate comments or feedback.

References:

Waterhouse, S.A. (2005). The power of elearning: The essential guide for teaching in the digital age. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Weber, L. & Lieberman, J. (2000). Strategies for effective use of chat: When, why, and how to make it work. Paper presented at the TCC Worldwide Online Conference.  Paper retrieved from http://tcc.kcc.hawaii.edu/previous/TCC%202000/paper/paper_weberl.html.

Final Project Update:

Professor Newberry asked the question via my last post, “Are you more likely in the future to need to show that you can create effective eLearning presentations or develop an entire course?”  In my current work situation I believe I would be more likely to create a presentation than an entire course; actually, I know that to be the case. One of the reasons my position was created and why I was hired was to come up with new tools and processes and then teach others how to use them.

Any training materials that I create would be available to my entire campus through our SharePoint website. Most training materials that I have seen on our site have been step-by-step written instructions but because many people are visual and auditory learners, video instructions along with step-by-step instructions would be a better option.

For my project I would like to create video instructions for my co-workers on how to use the new scheduling tool that I have created in Excel. Along with video instructions there would be captioning and a step-by-step instruction sheet. I will use either my blog or the website that I have set up through Teacher Web, instead of SharePoint, to get the information to my classmates.

Final Project – Weighing my Options

For my final project I am considering option 1, creating a presentation and option 2, developing a course outline. I am not interested in option 3, defining my own project, because I would have no idea of what to even suggest as an alternative to options 1 and 2.

I would like to go with option 1 because it sounds like it would be more interesting and honestly, more fun. I am good with technology but I am having a bit of trouble coming up with ideas of what to present and how to present it. I am thinking that some sort of slide show might be good but I need to consider how to put it together where it is media rich and ADA compliant. Is a slide show even good enough? I don’t know. I plan on searching the web and looking for examples just to get what little creative juices that I have, flowing.

For option 2, the course outline, I am a little concerned because I have never actually created an official course outline; I have only created one as a project for another class I took, but that was a quarter long project that was done in pieces.  I could look at that project as an example and convert it from a traditional course to an online course.  Is that considered plagiarism? My other concern is that it has been quite some time since I have been in a classroom so I am a little rusty and it would take quite a bit of imagination to develop an entire class that I don’t even teach.

Obviously I am having a hard time making up my mind with this one but I am leaning towards doing the presentation. I prefer to try out new things I have learned by doing hands-on activities over writing about them. Also, at this point in my life, my plan is not to be in a classroom setting presenting from a lesson plan but more presenting to colleagues during meetings. For this reason I think going with option 1 is the better choice for me. 

Annotated Bibliography

Citation:
Callaghan, N. & Bower, M. (2012). Learning through social networking sites – the critical role of the teacher. Educational Media International, 49(1), 1-17. doi:10.1080/09523987.2012.662621

Summary:
The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not social networking sites can be successfully used as a tool to enhance learning. Ning Network, a social networking site, was employed by the researches for the study. Two classes of tenth grade students were given access to a Ning site that was open to only their class; each of the two classes had their own site however, the two sites were identical in design and content. Students were given five 60 minute lessons over the course of three weeks and were asked to participate in various assignments. These assignments progressed in skill level and were aligned with Blooms Taxonomy.

Students in both classes were given detailed instructions of the assignments through the course site, including which tools they would be required to use for each assignment. Site tools included chats, forums, blogs, eportfolio tools, etc. As the students progressed through the study, the two teachers of the classes observed their own students’ behaviors. One additional teacher was brought in to provide objective observations for both classes and a staff member, an instructional designer, was brought in to make observations about the students’ use of the site.  At the end of the study, students, teachers and the staff member answered several questions about the experience using a likeart scale.

The study found that although the site, content, assignments, tools and instructions were identical between the two classes, the amount of actual work produced was quite different. Class 1 failed to do many of the assignments and did not progress to the more difficult tasks that included the higher levels of Blooms Taxonomy requiring critical thinking. Class 2 was the opposite in that most of the students completed all of the assignments and all of them reached the critical thinking stage. Instructors observed Class 1 not staying on task during the lessons while the students in Class 2 were focused on the assignments. Class 1 stated, on their end-of-study report, that they considered the course site to be more of a social site where Class 2 considered it to be more of a site for learning. The main difference between the two that was observed by the outside observer was that Teacher 2 was much more nurturing with the students and had a much higher presence within the course site.

Review:
I found this article to be very interesting and believe it would help teachers using or interested in using social networking sites to enhance learning. According to this article there seems to be a real correlation between instructor presence and learning course materials through these sites. The observers believed that because Teacher 1 was not present in the course site and was not very involved with the lessons that the students felt the teacher would not know whether or not they were completing the assignments; they therefore chose not to do them. The opposite was true for Class 2 where the teacher was very involved and very present in the site; the students wanted to please and impress the teacher by working hard.

The downside to this study is the fact that the differences were only observed and there is no statistical data that validates the claim that teacher presence and involvement were the reasons why one class was more active in learning in the site than the other class. Regardless, I believe this is a good start to discovering the big picture and there seems to be some truth to the findings.

Citation:
Dempsey, J. V., Fisher, S. F., Wright, D. E., & Anderton, E. K. (2008). Training and support, obstacles, and library impacts on eLearning activities. College Student Journal, 42(2), 630-636. http://libproxy.lib.csusb.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=32544899&site=ehost-live

Summary:
The purpose of this study was to determine the training and support needs, obstacles and challenges, and use of online library resources for faculty of online, traditional and web-enhanced courses as well as the students in the same types of classes. Surveys were administered to 140 faculty members and 707 students via internet and telephone.

There were a total of six surveys administered. Three of those surveys were administered to faculty; one to faculty who teach fully online, one to those who do not teach any online and one to those who teach web-enhanced classes. The other three surveys were administered to students in the same three types of courses. All online students and teachers were given an opportunity to complete the survey while the other teachers and students in traditional classes were randomly selected. Online course instructors were asked how important it was to receive formal training and support and students were asked what computer skills they needed training on. A five point likeart-scale was used.

The study found that formal training and support was very important to faculty and that they tend to look to each other for help first. The biggest obstacles for faculty of online courses were time and technology and it was discovered that online instructors use online library resources less than traditional faculty. The study also found that online students required less technical help but more help with research techniques, time management and learning how to use the online library resources. Traditional students used the online library tools more often than online students.

Review:
This is an interesting article for those organizations that are considering offering online courses, adding web components to traditional courses or simply improving support services for already existing online courses. I would say that the methodology used was appropriate but that future studies should expand outside of just one university. The results were not surprising; online courses take a lot of time for instructors to build and maintain and there are little incentives for them, students are fairly tech savvy, and technical training and support are important to faculty. Overall it was an interesting article but the findings were not exactly earthshattering.

Citation:
Hot for teacher: Using digital music to enhance students’ experience in online courses. (2010). TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 54(4), 58-73. doi:10.1007/s11528-010-0421-4

Summary:
The purpose of this article is to share the benefits of incorporating music into online instructional activities. The authors first discuss the idea that music is important in the lives of individuals and cite different sources for this conclusion. Ultimately it was this idea that spurred them to incorporate music in their learning activities; people like music therefore if music is included in learning, they will like learning. The authors, both professors of instructional design, have used music in online courses for various learning activities and give examples of many of them in the article.  Based on their experiences with this teaching method, it was their findings that music-driven instructional activities can:

  • Humanize, personalize, and energize online courses by enhancing social presence through student-to-student interaction
  • Tap into students’ interests, and elicit positive feelings and associations
  • Involve students in relevant and meaningful student-to-student interaction by engaging them in active knowledge construction

Review:
While the authors of this article give some great examples of how to incorporate music into online learning activities, they do not include any factual evidence. They have tested a theory by putting it into practice but there is no data to back up their claims. Their findings seem to be more based on gut feelings rather than formal evaluation; it doesn’t appear that any surveys were conducted to measure whether or not using music was truly beneficial to the student. 

Citation:
Lee, Y., & Choi, J. (2011). A review of online course dropout research: Implications for practice and future research. Educational Technology Research & Development, 59(5), 593-618. doi:10.1007/s11423-010-9177-y

Summary:
The purpose of this study was to determine significant factors that cause high dropout rates in online courses and to identify strategies to address these factors. The authors gathered existing studies using ERIC, Education Research Complete and PsycINFO databases. They searched on various keywords that would be associated with dropout and retention in online learning. Only studies that met the following criteria were used in this study: 1) Included empirical data, 2) Peer-reviewed, 3) Officially published, 4) Focused on post-secondary online learning, 5) Published between 1999 and 2009. The final count of studies that met their criteria was 35.

Within the 35 studies analyzed, 69 factors that attribute to student dropout were identified. These 69 factors were grouped into 9 categories using the “Constant Comparative Method” and then were narrowed further and grouped into three main categories; Student factors, course/program factors and Environmental factors. Also identified within the 35 studies analyzed were 52 strategies for retention. These 52 factors were put through the same categorization process and were grouped into the same three main categories.

The three main categories were analyzed further and the findings published in the study. Some of the findings include:

  • There is a correlation between SAT scores/GPA and student dropout.
  • New students are more likely to drop than experienced students.
  • Low levels of management and computer skills are an indicator for dropout.
  • Instructors who implemented a design-model that focused on student motivation had improved dropout rates.

Review:
This study has a wealth of information for online instructors and administrators. Online instructors would benefit from the findings when planning their course as it offers insight into what they can do to help their students succeed and lower the dropout rates. Administrators would benefit from knowing what factors may cause a student to dropout so support systems can be implemented to avoid losing students.

The authors also analyzed strategies that were discussed in the 35 studies but admittedly found flaws with many of them. They reported that the main flaw in the strategies was that there was not enough empirical evidence provided to show whether or not they were effective. Because of these findings the authors made recommendations for future research studies. Overall, this article was very useful, as it combines years of research into one well-written document.

Citation:
Teclehaimanot, B., & Hickman, T. (2011). Student-teacher interaction on Facebook: What students find appropriate. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 55(3), 19-30. doi:10.1007/s11528-011-0494-8

Summary:
The purpose of this study was to investigate how students feel about student-teacher interactions on Facebook and what type of interactions they believed to be appropriate. Ultimately, this information would be used to determine how, if at all, Facebook or other social networking sites can be used in education.

A total of 52 students were surveyed using a 47 question test instrument. 27 of the students were graduate students while 25 were undergraduate students. All students based their answers off of their instructor, and all instructor subjects were males above the age of 40. The 47 items were answered on a four point likeart-type scale that included ratings of strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree. 46 of the questions were based on 23 Facebook specific behaviors that were placed into four categories: student/passive, student/active, teacher/passive and teacher/active. The final question asked the students if they agreed that faculty should be allowed to be on Facebook. Finally, students were asked to provide their age, class rank and gender.

Passive behaviors were more acceptable than active behaviors regardless of whether it was a student or a teacher performing the action, and student/passive behaviors were more acceptable than teacher/passive behaviors. Students were least comfortable with “poking” a teacher and/or a teacher “poking” a student. Students were also uncomfortable with teachers and students commenting on each other’s Facebook items. Those who were highly uncomfortable with student-teacher interactions on Facebook, surprisingly, felt strongest that teachers should be allowed on Facebook. Those who were highly comfortable with teacher-student interactions on Facebook felt strongest that they should not be allowed on Facebook. While there were no statistical differences between how undergraduate and graduate students felt or between different ages, men were much more accepting of teacher-student interactions than women.

Review:
This is an interesting study that attempts to determine if and how Facebook or other social networking sites could be used as an educational tool. The authors of the study conclude that the results would be helpful to teachers; they would understand how their students may feel about interacting with them on Facebook before they decide to utilize it in their class. 

The article was interesting and I would recommend it as information to keep in mind if you are an instructor considering using social networking sites in your course. I would also warn that I believe the study to be too narrow in regards to the instructor subjects. The fact that only male teachers over the age of 40 were used as subjects may have been a huge factor in why women in the study weren’t as comfortable with student-teacher interactions.

 

ADA Compliance

1. What are three types of disabilities that students in a course you create might have? Explain the accommodations that you would need to provide for each.

According to Waterhouse (2005), three types of disabilities that students might have are:

  • “Visual disabilities such as blindness, low vision, and color blindness;
  • Hearing disabilities such as deafness and hard of hearing;
  • Mobility disabilities such as the inability to use hands, hand tremors and slow muscular movement” (p. 172).

Examples of accommodations that could be provided for some disabilities include:

  • For blind students, attach alt tags to images so that screen readers can read a description of the image.
  • For students who are deaf, provide captions and transcripts for videos.
  • For color-blind students, use background and font colors that have a high contrast such as black text on a white background.

2. According to the text, what is the percentage of the population that has a visual, auditory or physical limitation? How does that compare to other sources for this information. (Please list at least one other source you found.)

The following information regarding the number of people that have a visual, auditory or physical limitation is found in our text, The Power of eLearning by Shirley Waterhouse (2005):

  • “One in five individuals has a vision, hearing, or physical limitation;
  • Twenty-nine percent of families in the United States have at least one family member with a disability;
  • It is estimated that up to 7.2 percent of students entering higher education have a visual, hearing, cognitive, or motor impairment” (p. 172).

The following statistics are listed on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Trace Center website (2013):

  • There are an estimated 8.6 million people with visual impairments (3.4% of the U.S. population)
  • Approximately 22 million people in the U.S. (8.2%) have hearing impairments
  • The amount of people that have a physical limitation is broken down into specific disabilities. The numbers can be found on the Trace Center website: http://trace.wisc.edu/docs/population/populat.htm

3. Identify three factors other than the actual disabilities that exist in your student population that influence how an institution or a course creator is required to address ADA in an online course.

  • Per section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, all government controlled institutions, which include state-controlled colleges and universities, “must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to access available to others.” (Section 508, n.d.).
  • Institutional Policy may drive requirements to address ADA compliance in an online course.
  • A commitment to student success will influence an institution or course creator to address ADA in an online course.

4. According to the text, what is “assistive technology”? Give some examples.

Assistive technology is any type of hardware or software that assists people with disabilities in viewing web pages. For example, for people who have immobility issues with their hands, a voice activated mouse or voice recognition software may be used. Other examples of assistive technologies include digital magnifiers, screen readers, smart pens and refreshable braille displays (Examples of Assistive Technologies, n.d.).

5. Identify and explain two different ways to check a webpage to ensure that it meets the needs of disabled students.

There are several different websites available to ensure that your webpage meets the needs of disabled students. Two of those sites include WebAIM and the World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C-WAI). In order to check your site’s level of accessibility you simply enter your URL into the tool and the software returns a report. I have run tests on both websites for one of my own web pages. You can access the results of my tests here: http://teacherweb.com/CA/PaloVerdeCollege/LHolmes/apt47.aspx

In my online search I found a great website that allows you to enter your website’s URL in one place and then decide which tests you want to run. It is a one-stop-shop that includes reports from WebAIM and W3C-WAI, checks for speed and also runs a filter to check accessibility for students who are colorblind. You can try it out for yourself here: http://uitest.com/en/check/.

6. Identify two types of presentations used in online courses (for example, podcasts, PowerPoints, Videos, Slide Shows, etc.) that you might use and explain how you can ensure that each is ADA compliant.

Two types of presentations that are used in online courses are podcasts and videos. To ensure ADA compliance, transcripts should be made available for both types of presentations and captioning should be used for videos.

7. Develop a course usability checklist that is appropriate for your anticipated needs. Use the example provided in the text as a starting point and explain your modifications.

I began with the usability checklist provided in the text but modified it just a bit based on tools I might use if I taught a course online, things that I find important as a student, and criteria I have used in past courses to evaluate various websites. This is a simple checklist that I would probably add to as I gain experience. I would not accept anything less than a 90% score for usability but would strive for 100%.

COURSESITE USABILITY CHECKLIST

44 points possible

4

3

2

1

Strongly Agree

Agree

Disagree

Strongly Disagree

The site is easy to navigate

 

 

 

 

Coursesite design is consistent throughout

 

 

 

 

Coursesite design is visually appealing

 

 

 

 

The website is free of spelling and grammar errors

 

 

 

 

Course content is well organized within the coursesite

 

 

 

 

Course content is up-to-date

 

 

 

 

Files formats are universally supported

 

 

 

 

Files download quickly

 

 

 

 

Files are printable

 

 

 

 

Gradebook is easy to use

 

 

 

 

Discussion board is easy to use

 

 

 

 

TOTAL

 

 

References:

Examples of Assistive Technology. (n.d.). Assistive Technology for Education. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from http://assistivetechnologyforeducation.com/examples-of-assistive-technology/

Section 508. (n.d.). Section 508 Laws. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from http://www.section508.gov/section508-laws

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Trace Center. (2013). A Brief Introduction to Disabilities. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from http://trace.wisc.edu/docs/population/populat.htm#physical

Waterhouse, S.A. (2005). The power of elearning: The essential guide for teaching in the digital age. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Grading, Assessment and Evaluation

1. What is the difference between assessment and evaluation?

Assessment is “focused on measuring a performance, work product, or skill” and is “nonjudgmental” (Center for School Success, n.d.). An evaluation uses judgment to determine the quality of the performance, work product, etc. (Center for School Success). The evaluation may take into consideration any assessments that have been done but also uses other factors in the determination. The findings of an evaluation are usually presented and discussed (Newberry, pg. 1).

2. What are the challenges to assessment and evaluation in eLearning?

One of the biggest challenges to assessment and evaluation in eLearning is cheating. How do you setup your assignments so that only the student can login to take a test and not someone they paid? How do you keep students from giving answers to other students? How do you keep students from using notes and textbooks during tests? These are challenges that have been around since the beginning of online learning. During my time as the Instructional Services Manager at a small community college, I was part of a small group that put together a “Standards for Distance Education” document for the college to follow. One of the major obstacles was verifying student identity. We, along with many other colleges, could only really rely on the user’s protected login and password as verification. Unfortunately, this isn’t a great option. The only possible way that we could think of was to make students use a testing center that checks identification upon arrival for any type of test, however, this just isn’t possible or practical for many online students.

3. Explain the possible use of an online portfolio in eLearning.

On online portfolio in eLearning can be used to collect a student’s work from one class or an entire program. The collection of work can easily be graded by the instructor because everything is in one place. The portfolio can also be a collection of certain assignments such as a final paper or select pieces that received high marks. While researching eportfolios on the web I came across Santa Clara University’s eportfolio website. You can view examples of some of their student’s eportfolios at www.scu.edu/eportfolio/students/samples.cfm.

4. Identify at least two ways to measure student participation in an online class and explain how you think these methods can factor into the students’ grade in the course.

According to our text, instructors can “grade students’ contributions to electronic discussions” (Waterhouse, pg. 239) and “reward students for accessing and using materials in the coursesite” (Waterhouse, pg. 240) to measure student participation. These methods can factor into a student’s grade like any other assignment. The instructor would need to decide how much value each assignment has in comparison to others and how much of the overall course grade participation is worth. You can break down the tasks and create a rubric so that scoring is fair and consistent and so students are aware of the expectations. Assigning a numerical value allows the grade to be included in the overall grade of the course.

5. Define peer evaluation and describe its advantages and disadvantages.

Peer evaluation is an evaluation of a student’s work, performance or participation by a fellow student. An advantage of peer evaluations is that the instructor gets another viewpoint of the student’s performance that they would otherwise not get. Disadvantages include biased opinions of the student (the evaluator does or does not like the student being evaluated) and/or fear on the evaluator’s part to be honest. Another disadvantage is that the student being evaluated may not view being graded by a classmate as fair.

6. Describe a possible group assignment for an online class and explain how to evaluate student performance in the group assignment.

One group assignment that I have given to students in the past is to create a PowerPoint slideshow about a specific topic. The topic could be about anything; it was their choice as long as it was appropriate. What I was looking for was their use of the software. They were being graded on design (does the theme match the topic), layout, formatting, and use of objects such as animation and sound. In an online environment I would form groups of four or five, depending on the size of the class. Each group would pick a topic and get approval so that it is age appropriate, depending on the grade level. They would then decide how they should complete the assignment, how they wanted to divvy up the tasks and agree upon timelines for task completion. Upon completion of the project I would have each student complete an evaluation (based on a rubric) on their group member’s performance and participation. I would use this information to help determine grades and I would include it in the assignment rubric so that they are aware of my expectations before they begin.

7. Create an online test.

http://teacherweb.com/CA/PaloVerdeCollege/LHolmes/apt46.aspx

8. Create a rubric or other grading aide for an online assignment.

http://teacherweb.com/CA/PaloVerdeCollege/LHolmes/apt45.aspx

References:

Center for School Success. (n.d.). Center for School Success. Retrieved October 31, 2013, from http://www.centerforschoolsuccess.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=86&Itemid=150

Newberry, B. (2013). Grades, testing and evaluation in eLearning [Class Handout]. Department of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Information, California State University San Bernardino, San Bernardino, CA.

Waterhouse, S.A. (2005). The power of elearning: The essential guide for teaching in the digital age. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

New Media: VoiceThread

New Media: VoiceThread

Website Address: http://voicethread.com/products/highered/

When searching for new media I was really hoping to find a tool that I had never heard of before, that sparked my interest and looked fun and easy to use. I was also looking for something that didn’t just allow for a one-way presentation of information by an instructor but something that offered a chance for feedback and collaboration. I ended up on a Michigan based website called, “21 Things 4 the 21st Century Educator” (http://www.21things4teachers.net/). This website offers information on several different tools for instructors that are using online technology…this information led me to find VoiceThread.

VoiceThread is like a discussion board on steroids. Just like other discussion boards, the initiator of a VoiceThread discussion, such as an instructor, starts a discussion thread creating an original post but in this case the post isn’t just text-based. The original post can be a video, an image or a document. This media file then literally becomes the center of the discussion with all subsequent comments surrounding it.   VoiceThread accepts most of the commonly used file formats including jpeg, wav and doc. You can view the entire list of accepted file formats here:  https://voicethread.com/support/howto/Troubleshooting/File_types_accepted/

In addition to uploading media to initiate a discussion thread, the instructor has the control to set security and privacy settings. Only invited and verified group members are allowed to view and participate in the discussion; the instructor determines the membership. In order to ensure that discussions remain civil and appropriate, the instructor can also choose to moderate all comments before they are posted and shared with the entire group. This is an excellent feature to use in the K-12 system where bullying and harassment is so common.

Once the thread is created, group members can begin to offer feedback through comments. Comments can be made through telephone, webcam, text or file uploads. Members can also draw on the central image (original post) while they are commenting for added effect and clarity and are able to delete, re-record or re-write their own comments at any time.

In terms of effectiveness, VoiceThread is used for two-way, asynchronous communication that offers student-student, student-instructor and student-content interaction. Because group members are allowed to comment using voice and video recordings, I would consider this a very effective communication tool; it has a high level of media richness.  According to an article in Faculty Focus, “richness is operationalized in terms of a medium’s ability to accomplish four goals: sending multiple cues, supporting language variety, providing immediate feedback, and allowing personal nature to be communicated” (Schiefelbein). VoiceThread accomplishes three out of four of these goals; because it is asynchronous in nature it does not allow for immediate feedback but it does allow for delayed feedback.

The level of media richness of VoiceThread is much higher than that of Blackboard, making it much more effective. Blackboard’s discussion board feature allows threaded discussions but it does not allow for any type of response other than text-based comments. There is no ability for participants using Blackboard’s discussion tool to receive visual and language cues from people they are communicating with making it much less personal. VoiceThread is much more interactive and engaging.

Activity:

Using Microsoft Word, students will create a personal resume and cover letter that they will share electronically with members of the class. Each student is then required to offer feedback to at least three other students about their projects. Comments must be constructive; the intent is to offer suggestions on how they could improve, if at all, and offer praise for good work. In addition, by viewing the work of others, students may get ideas on how to improve their own. At the end of the discussion, students can make any revisions they find necessary after receiving feedback and submit the final project to the instructor.

If using Blackboard to perform this activity, you could use the discussion thread. The files would have to be emailed by the individual student to all of their classmates. A discussion thread would then have to be started for each student so others could offer feedback. There are a few problems with using this tool for such an assignment. Student’s emails to each other may be blocked by spam and junk filters. Files may not open correctly. Switching back and forth between numerous files and threads would become confusing. Although this could be a tool to use, it has a somewhat low level of media richness and isn’t the most effective for this type of activity.

Using VoiceThread for this activity is a much better option. As the instructor I would start a thread by uploading a document containing the instructions for the assignment. Each student would then comment on the thread by uploading their file. Students would then make comments on each other’s posts using video, text or audio. VoiceThread keeps all posts in a nicely packaged presentation that is much more interesting, engaging and personal.

References:

Schiefelbein , J. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/media-richness-and-communication-in-online-education/

Aside

Media Theory

1. Our text categorizes electronic information into four types:

Textual Information
Presentation Graphics Slide Show
Spreadsheets and Databases
Multimedia objects

Provide an example or multiple examples of effective use of each type of electronic information for eLearning. Be sure to provide specific information about what makes your indicated use “effective”. Explaining effectiveness in light of one of the media theories as presented in this session (or another media theory you prefer) is expected.

Various course documents including announcements, course outlines, course notes, syllabi and policies, are all examples of textual information. All of these examples can be effective in providing the student with information but don’t necessarily rank high in Media Richness; they don’t allow for instant feedback, they don’t offer cues about things such as body language, the communicator doesn’t typically use their natural language and there isn’t a personal focus. On the other hand, there is a level of Social Presence with textual information because it is a form of communication. The student gets important information, such as the course syllabus, from the instructor and may perceive a level of Social Presence and in turn a higher level of satisfaction.

Microsoft PowerPoint slide shows and Prezi presentations are both examples of effective Presentation Graphics for much the same reasons as textual information. They provide a type of communication from instructor to student therefore a level of Social Presence may be perceived by the student. If a slide show includes embedded multimedia objects, then the level of Media Richness goes up and may be considered even more effective.

Excel spreadsheets can be effective in an eLearning course; interactive charts where students can track their graded assignments and their overall grade can again, offer students a higher level of satisfaction based on a perception of Social Presence. Media Richness is relatively low.

Videos and voice recordings are great examples of the effective use of multimedia objects in eLearning because of their level of Media Richness. Videos offer cues about body language and facial expressions and both allow the communicator to use their natural voice. Both have “the ability to carry information about the message” (Newberry, pg. 1).

2. Our text goes into some very specific detail on the proper formatting of textual information. Explain what you believe to be the most important guidelines for your use of textual information that are provided in the text and then create a sample text document (other than an announcement) that demonstrates the best practices of formatting textual information. Be sure to explain the purpose of the document and who the intended users are if that isn’t obvious from the document itself.

In my opinion, I believe that if a document is visually “clean” it is much easier to follow. I believe that the most important guidelines offered in the textbook are: white space, bulleted lists and text attributes. These formatting guidelines allow for a document to be broken up into sections without sending the reader to different pages or files which can sometimes be confusing. This also allows for a continuous document that is well organized and easily printed if the student prefers to have a hard copy.

Below is a short assignment that I would post on Blackboard for my students:

Lesson Activity

Subject:               Basics of PowerPoint
Lesson Topic:     Inserting & Formatting Text

Student Performance Objectives

By the end of the unit, given a demonstration and guided practice, each student will:

  • Insert text into a slide accurately.
  • Manipulate text within the slide appropriate to the design theme.

Assignment – Continuation of PowerPoint Project

Each of you will continue working on your PowerPoint projects for an employer. Refer to your presentation outlines that you have created in previous lessons to help guide you in what text to enter into which slides and where that text should be placed so that it creates an easy-to-follow layout. You will then format the text that you have entered choosing font styles, colors, size and attributes appropriate to your presentation. It is important to keep in mind your design theme, your topic and your audience when choosing what to write and how to display it. The object is to make your slideshow appropriate to use as a presentation for your department; remember your work represents your employer so strive for quality.

Method of Evaluation

Students will be graded based on the PowerPoint Presentation Rubric located in Course Documents

3. What is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication as it is used in eLearning and how do you choose between the two for a given task?

The major difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication is timing. Synchronous communication is instantaneous; the discussion is occurring in real-time. Asynchronous communication is delayed with those in the discussion contributing at separate times, sometimes days apart. The best way to choose which form is best to use in an eLearning environment is to consider several factors. How many people do you expect to participate? Synchronous communication is better when the number of participants is small. What kind of feedback are you hoping to get from your students? Asynchronous communication is better if you expect lengthy, well thought out and researched responses. Will all of the participants be able to log in or call in at the same time? Many online students find it difficult to work these types of meetings into their busy schedules therefore asynchronous discussions are often best in an eLearning environment.

4. What technologies does your CMS/LMS have to support synchronous communication?

There are two tools available in Blackboard for synchronous communication; the Virtual Classroom and the Chat tool. The Virtual Classroom is typically used for class activities where all students can participate simultaneously. Smaller meetings, for example, the instructor holding office hours to meet with individual students, can be achieved using the Chat tool.

5. What technologies does your CMS/LMS have to support asynchronous communication?

Blackboard offers many more asynchronous communication tools than synchronous. Discussion boards, email, blogs, wikis and journals are all available for delayed communication through the LMS. Students can use blogs and journals for writing their own responses to a topic; other students can comment on blogs but only the instructor can access the journals. Emails typically go back and forth between specified people, not necessarily the entire class. Discussion boards show threads of communication that begin with an original post; these are good for critical thinking exercises. Finally, wikis are used for asynchronous group work where collaboration is necessary.

6. Describe a task or assignment you could use in an online class that would use either asynchronous or synchronous communication. Explain the task or assignment, identify the technology you would use to support the activity and explain why you chose that technology. Explain what you would do to ensure that the activity was successful.

I would like to try using the discussion board to close an assignment. For example, as a Computer Applications instructor I might give my students an assignment such as, “Create a flyer advertising an upcoming Halloween event using Microsoft Publisher and email it to the members of the class.” I would then post questions on the discussion board to get the students talking about the assignment and what they learned. An example of a prompt I might use is: “How did you decide the best layout for your flyer? What about graphics and font? Did you find any of the assignment difficult and if so, what part and how did you find a solution? What other documents could you create outside of school using Microsoft Publisher?”  I would make it mandatory for all students to share their thoughts about their own assignment by starting a thread underneath the questions/topic I created. I would also make it mandatory for students to give feedback on a certain number of the other student’s posts regarding their flyers. If it was a small class I would ask that students post a comment on all of their classmate’s threads so everybody receives some type of feedback on their work.

Institutional Support for eLearning

Last night’s Talkshoe session was a really great experience. It was nice to hear voices and just be able to sit back, listen and really take things in…and take a few notes of course. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I’ve never used Talkshoe, but I found it very similar to CCC Confer, the product used by the California Community College system. I have had the opportunity to use CCC Confer for webinars hosted by the Chancellor’s Office and meetings with our district office and sister college. It has the same functions as Talkshoe but it also allows the moderator to share their computer screen with participants who are logged in at a computer. If you’re employed at a California community college and are interested in using the product, you can get more information about what it can do by following this link http://www.cccconfer.org/about/TopTen1.aspx and reading, “The Top 10 Ways of Using Confer.”

Dr. Monaghan was an excellent guest speaker. He gave me a lot to think about in terms of what technology is available and how much you should actually use in an online course. His explanation of the course format was helpful to me as a student; it helps me to know how the instructors organize their courses and the thought that must go into what content to use where and how much is too much. The guidelines that are given to faculty when designing a course for CSUSB seems well thought out. One module per week containing different types of content seems manageable. Also, the files included in the modules should be kept relatively small, I’m assuming for easy access and quick download by students.

The information that Dr. Monaghan provided along with the dialog that was occurring in the chat area made me really consider the behind the scenes policies that must go into this type of method of instruction.  I’m wondering how much academic freedom plays a part in the faculty member’s rights to design their course however they want. What parts of course design are guidelines and what are requirements? What about policies for implementing processes for the identification of students? How can we make sure that whoever is submitting the work or taking the test is actually the student? I like the idea of being able to identify students based on their unique keystroke pattern or, “fingerprints.” Brilliant! I came up with so many questions but unfortunately they came after the session ended.

During the session Bruce had asked, “Administrators may evaluate success of online courses same as face-to-face, limiting growth. I’ve read this eval should be different. Your thoughts?” I thought this was an excellent question because they are so different; how can you evaluate them in the same way? How can you ask students in an online class, “Did the faculty member arrive on time and stay for the duration of the class?” It isn’t an effective question. Again, this is policy that has to be agreed upon; evaluations are part of the faculty bargaining agreement and therefore are off limits to changes by administration unless agreed upon by faculty. I think Dr. Monaghan had a great answer for this; for both methods ask the same questions…”were the learning objectives clear and were they met?” One idea to give feedback to the instructor without possibly causing him or her harm would be to survey the students and get their thoughts on the experience. What worked and what didn’t? This would be good information for the instructor for future courses and isn’t a formal evaluation that would become part of their personnel file.

Finally, the discussion regarding the new generation of learners was a good start to really addressing the issue of how to reach younger students. We have all seen the changes over the past years, because of the changes in technology, in how kids learn and communicate. I have seen it first hand in my own house with my two teenage children. The first time I ever really noticed how it was affecting their ability to communicate with others was when my son got his first girlfriend. They would text each other for hours and hours; this went on for weeks before they decided to actually meet up for a date. When they finally did get together and start hanging out they wouldn’t talk to each other…they didn’t know how to interact with each other in person. It was really strange and very unsettling. Eventually they called it quits and he realized you can’t really get to know a person through text messaging; there is so much more to communication.

I’ve noticed in younger generations, and even with my own, that people are becoming more impatient. It’s harder to sit still because we are always in a hurry. Life is moving much faster now than ever before and when we are required to slow down, to read a textbook for example or wait for a video to load, we get completely out sorts. Now, couple that with the fact that the younger generation doesn’t really know a life without advanced technology and you have a more complex issue. All students want to be engaged, interested and motivated; with younger students we might just have to be more creative and forward thinking. There’s an interesting article by Mark Taylor, adjunct faculty at Arkansas State University, entitled “Teaching Generation NeXt: Leveraging Technology with Today’s Digital Learners,” that addresses this issue. You can access the article here.

I think the older generations have built some amazing technology but didn’t realize the consequences it would have on the younger generations. To be fair, maybe now we need to figure out how to use these new tricks to teach old skills. I am not a teacher but would love the opportunity to help the instructors at my school to design their online courses. I would love the challenge of finding or creating content that is meaningful and engaging while finding new ways to help students interact with the content, their instructors and their peers. I’m sure it would be quite difficult but in the end, very gratifying.

Focus Questions (Chapters 1 & 4) and CMS/LMS Review

1. Central to our investigation of eLearning Technologies and Methods is gaining an understanding of Learning Management Systems (LMS) sometimes also called Course Management System (CMS) software. Chapter 1 of our text discusses the functionality of typical LMS/CMS, identifying four major categories. What are those categories?

According to our textbook, “The Power of eLearning,” the four major categories of LMS/CMS functionality are (Waterhouse, 2005):

  1. “Distribution of course information;
  2. “Student-instructor and student-student communication;
  3. “Student interaction with course resources; and
  4. “Online testing and grading” (p. 8).

2. Use the Internet to find three different course management systems. Provide the name, a URL and a brief discussion of what you can find out about the similarities and differences between the three that you find.

Below is a list of the three course management systems that I chose to investigate along with links to their websites, followed by a brief description about their differences and similarities:

  1. Sakai CLE (http://www.sakaiproject.org/sakai-cle)
  2. Moodle (https://moodle.org/)
  3. Blackboard Learn (http://www.blackboard.com/)

All three of these course management systems offer, in some form or another, the four major functions of an LMS/CMS. They all have the ability to distribute course information, offer student-instructor and student-student communication tools, allow for students to access resources, and allow instructors to offer and grade tests online.  The biggest differences I see are that some seem to be more simple and flexible and others robust in how they make these things happen.

Blackboard’s website was a little overwhelming; a new instructor might have a difficult time choosing what tools would be best to use in his/her course and may feel a bit overwhelmed as well. They appear to have much more to offer but, after digging deeper, they really offer similar tools to the other systems but they package it better. I would imagine that this is because they have more money for website design and marketing.

Both Moodle and Sakai offer many of the same tools, such as uploading media, testing and evaluation, collaboration opportunities and notifications. They are also both free because they are open-source software and therefore are more flexible than Blackboard. Because the user has full rights they have free reign to make changes; with Blackboard the user has to request that a change be made.

It was hard to get a true read on which system would be better for both students and instructors without really getting in there and playing with them, hands-on. Based on their websites, they offer much of the same tools but ease of use would have to be determined on an individual basis. How much experience does the instructor/student have with technology and how much would they need to use the system?

3. If you were going to create an online class right now, what LMS/CMS software would you use? Explain what you know about your system’s functionality in each of the four areas identified by the book. (If you don’t have access to LMS/CMS software just use Blackboard for your discussion in this area.)

If I were to create an online course right now, based on what I know from my own research and reviews I have read, I would really like to try Moodle. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to Moodle or any other CMS software except for Blackboard, as a student. Because of this I will use Blackboard as my choice for the purpose of completing this assignment.

Blackboard really does seem to have a lot to offer in the four categories that are important to online learning. First, for the distribution of course materials, Blackboard drive and the dashboard are all you would need to get important materials and information to your students. Blackboard drive is a drive installed on your computer that allows you to save and move files; it works with both Windows and Mac Operating Systems. Using this drive allows instructors to edit content right from the web making revisions much quicker. All of the important course information can be deployed to the students in various ways, all of which can show up right on their personalized dashboard. Upon login, students will see announcements, posts, updates, grades and a calendar with important dates. Course documents such as syllabi are easily accessed from here as well.

Student-to-student communication can be done using Blackboard features such as the Blackboard social network, discussion boards, wikis and email. The Blackboard social network also allows students and instructors to communicate with others outside of their own institution who also use the network. Student-to-instructor communication can occur using these same features as well as sending alert notifications through both text and email.

According to the Blackboard website, there are three main types of content that can be easily integrated into a course. Commercial Content is available through various publishers and would include materials that supplement the course textbook and enhance learning such as online lab experiments. Community-generated Content could include articles or materials authored by others outside of the course that may include articles, videos and web links. Finally, Instructor-generated Content would be authored by the course instructor and could include videos, podcasts, text files and slideshows.

Blackboard offers quite a bit in the way of testing and assessment. Instructors can create tests, deploy them and grade them and then offer feedback directly to the student.  There are also features that help identify where students are having difficulties so instructors can make adjustments to their lessons. Instructors also have the ability to align standards to course content so course objectives can not only be taught, but tested and measured.

4. Chapter 1 of our text identifies six steps for getting started with eLearning. Discuss each step and use each step as a springboard for discussing what you want to do with eLearning either now or in the future.

Step 1 – Ask yourself why
Determining why you want to start teaching an online course can determine how successful you will be. How committed will you be to spending time on something that your Department Chair is asking you to do? If I were a teacher I would definitely offer a course online for several reasons. One, it is exciting and it can offer such a richer learning experience to the student. Two, I like computers and think that learning the new technology and using it would be fun. Finally, online education is growing rapidly and isn’t going away any time soon so I might as well embrace it and change with the times. I would begin slowly of course but not at the basics; I have already accomplished some of the suggested goals in the textbook through work assignments such as sending mass emails and posting content on the web for others to access. Interactive course content and electronic communication beyond email would come last as that would take much more time to put together in a way that is student friendly.

Step 2 – Make a commitment
It is important to realize the amount of work that goes into creating an online course before jumping in. It isn’t simply coming up with a new course outline or revamping your syllabus; it’s about finding and/or creating appropriate content, setting up electronic tests and grading systems, and posting EVERYTHING a student could possibly need to be successful since they won’t have the benefit of physically being in the same room as the instructor. In setting up my course I would try to create it as I teach a traditional course so that I can take the time necessary to set it up right. As I give the students an assignment in class I can work on adapting that assignment for the online course and decide how I can, at the same time, make it better so the students get more from the experience.

Step 3 – Develop a new vision for your course and how you teach
I have taught classes in the past but it has been quite some time. I taught computer applications in a traditional setting, which I made very hands-on. I prefer to lecture first and then do in-class assignments. During my lecture I would give handouts with important vocabulary words or visually show them parts of the application on an overhead and ask them what certain icons meant and what they did. I would always start with an example of how I might use a certain type of document in the real world and as a class we would brainstorm other ways it would be beneficial. I could use these same techniques in an online setting if I adapted them. Discussions could include questions on how they would use this in their lives. After reading all of the other posts the student would have a good list of ideas on how it could benefit them; ways they never considered. Quizzes could be used for testing vocabulary. For visual learners, YouTube videos are great for watching how a task is performed.

Step 4 – Determine the resources available to you
As the textbook says, it is important to know what resources you have before creating your course. Since I am at a new school I am not familiar with what would be available to me if I ever have the opportunity to teach online. I know that we use Blackboard and I know that we have a fairly good size Instructional Technology team. The first thing I would do when creating an online class is to talk to other instructors. They are a great resource to find out what works and what doesn’t. What do we have the ability to do? Which IT employee is the one to go to for help with Blackboard? How supportive is the Administration when it comes to expanding our online course offerings?

Step 5 – Acquire new technology skills and develop new instructional methods
As an online instructor you would have to have at least a basic level of computer skills to be able to use the tools available with the CMS software. I have the basic skills necessary to get started with online instruction and as a student that has taken several online courses I have some first-hand knowledge of what works and what doesn’t from a student’s perspective. I would speak to other instructors to receive pointers on what instructional methods they have found to work for them. I would definitely find out if my employer offered any type of courses through Blackboard for new online instructors so that I could become familiar with the tools available. Again, knowing what is available to me before getting started will make the process that much easier and the product that much better.

Step 6 – Plan
When creating a new online course, planning is essential for success. As I said in step 2, I would take my time when creating a course. I want to be able to do a good job and do it right the first time so that my students don’t suffer because of my lack of planning. The most important thing for me as a student in an online class is that it is organized really well. If I can’t easily find things then I will miss something, my grade will suffer and I will become completely frustrated. I have actually dropped an online course the first week of class because the course organization was so bad. That would be my first step in planning. How can I keep my content organized in a way that the students can locate things easily? Second, I would create my course around the course objectives. What content can I use, how can I get my students to interact and understand the content, how should I test their knowledge and skills? Once I gathered all of the necessary content and created all of the materials and information documents, I would look at the organization again and ask myself if anything needs to be changed before the course goes live.

5. Chapter 4 of our text discusses the functionality of specific LMS/CMS tools in terms of being for one-way communication, two-way communication or for organization. Explain the key differences between one-way and two-way communication and identify the tools your LMS/CMS provides for each type of communication.

The main difference between one-way communication and two-way communication is the absence of or the expectation of a response. One-way communication is a communication sent by one and received by another without the expectation of a reply. Two-way communication is communication sent by one and received and responded to by another. Examples of one-way communication could be announcements, course documents, web links and grade books.  Examples of two-way communication can include email, discussion boards, and chat rooms.

Blackboard Learn provides several options for both types of communications.  The course documents file allows the instructor to post course materials such as syllabi, articles, videos, web links, podcasts and slideshows. Supplemental materials from different publishers can also be posted to the course site so students can interact with the course content. Instructors can send announcements, updates and important calendar dates directly to the student, all of which will show on their personalized dashboard. Instructors can also send alert notifications through both text and email and can post grades and feedback directly through the grade book. For two-way communication needs, Blackboard Learn offers features such as a social network, discussion boards, wikis and email.

6. Consider how a CMS/LMS supports the three types of interaction (Student-Content, Student-Instructor, Student-Student) that were discussed in the first session 1 presentation. Specifically, list all of the tools or features that your CMS (as discussed in question 3 above) offers. Then identify each type of interaction that each tool would support. Finally, explain what you know about the strengths and weaknesses of each tool to support the type of interaction you identify for it.

The chart below shows a list of the tools available in Blackboard Learn along with what types of interaction each one supports.

 

Student-Content

Student-Instructor

Student-Student

Alert Notifications

X

Announcements

X

Assessment

X

Blackboard Dashboard

X

X

X

Blogs

X

X

Calendar

X

Collaboration

X

X

Discussion Boards

X

X

Dynamic Content

X

X

Email

X

X

Grade Book

X

Groups

X

X

Journals

X

McGraw-Hill Student Experience

X

Online Testing

X

Posts

X

X

Social Network

X

X

Updates

X

Wikis

X

X

As you can see, the majority of the interaction supported by Blackboard is Student-Instructor communication. One-way communications such as alert notifications, announcements, calendar appointments, posts and updates all push information out to the student and are all accessible in various ways for example, through the dashboard or via email or text messaging. The collaboration tool, blogs, discussion boards, email, groups, the Blackboard social network and wikis all allow two-way communication for both student-instructor interaction and student-student interaction. Online testing, assessment and the grade book all allow for two-way student-instructor interaction. The instructor publishes the test, the student takes the test and submits it back to the instructor, the system and/or instructor grades the test and the grade is given to the student. Journals are available for private, student-instructor communication. Student-Content interaction is available through publisher provided supplemental materials and instructor provided dynamic content. The dynamic content tool also allows for students to post their own materials such as slide shows and videos for the instructor to review. All of this content is easily accessible through the student’s dashboard as well.

All of the abilities listed above would all be considered strengths. It is difficult to say what the weaknesses are without using it first-hand. Gathering information on the product from the Blackboard website is, understandably, one sided…positive. It is also difficult for me to explain from experience what the weaknesses are because many of the tools in Blackboard have never been used in my online classes; I imagine that is because the instructors don’t want the student to have to learn too much technology to be able to take a course. I do know, because of this class, that one of the weaknesses of Blackboard’s collaboration tool is that it doesn’t allow for video conferencing, which is why we have to use Talkshoe.

Based on my research I can honestly say that Blackboard Learn has a lot of really useful tools for all three types of interactions. My assumption is that its biggest weakness is that offers too much for the average student. Sometimes simple is better.