View Michael's Online Learning Blog responses to readings

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Dorothy Leonard & Brian DeLacey (2002). Designing Hybrid Online/In-Class Learning Programs for Adults. http://www.hbs.edu/research/facpubs/workingpapers/papers2/0203/03-036.pdf

I really liked reading this article. I think the authors really highlight some important key elements about learning in general and that they apply to e-learning as well.
Having taught a few courses here at IU, I can see the real need for learning to be topical and therefore related to students’ interests, interactive—students really do learn best by doing—and fun. There is nothing more disengaging than be expected to learn in a format that does not require a students’ active participation.
The strategies listed in this article reflect my own goals for teaching. The days of lecturing are over. Students want to be involved and have fun while doing it. This is the strategy for success in my opinion for any teacher who wants to make a difference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

HoDE Book (2003). Chapter 23 Curt Bonk & Vanessa Dennen, Frameworks for Research, Design, Benchmarks, Training, and Pedagogy in Web-Based Distance Education

This chapter touched on a number of ideas and issues related to e-learning at the university level. The article commented on there being a gap in e-learning research. I would agree that there is a big gap mostly because it is a relatively new and uncharted educational forum.
I like the comments on suggested strategies and tools for e-learning. While there is a growing number of resources, I think many have yet to be connected to e-learning. Radio and television, for example, have all of the means to create many short segments that could be related to e-learning topics.
Whose Line is it Anyway?, is one example. Here is a short and to the point drama/dialogue that can be easily adapted to almost any topic: history, educational concepts, etc. could be easily filmed and digitally recorded so as to supplement almost any online activity.
Much has yet to be done in e-learning. Research, instructor training, etc. are all needed to make e-learning the best it can be.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Brian DeLacey & Dorothy Leonard (2002). Case study on technology and distance in education at the Harvard Business School. Educational Technology & Society 5 (2). http://ifets.ieee.org/periodical/vol_2_2002/delacey.html

This article discussed the process of implementing online courses at the Harvard Business School through the use of case studies. There were two quotes that I liked in particular in this article:

The essential premise underlying HBS pedagogy is that management and leadership skills require more than the acquisition of facts: expertise is built through practice and experience.

I really agree with this. Learning facts and figures may have their uses, but it is when a student gets to apply knowledge or a skill that meaning comes to life. Students in the distance-education course that I am currently teaching find this aspect to be one of the most advantageous.

No one knows how long a group takes to build a level of trust and understanding. One senior HBS professor believes that “an intense four- to five-day period” may be enough to enable members “to know how to interpret what is said by email.” Citing the importance of this to subsequent virtual meetings, he noted: “I will never be responsible for a distance-learning experience where I can’t get people face-to-face first.”

This is another aspect of distance education that I think is really important. There is no substitute for face-to-face dialogue and rapport building. Students in the class I teach really appreciated my visit at the beginning of the course so that they could meet me, and I them. This has facilitated a lot more meaningful dialogue via Oncourse and email.

In conclusion, the article commented on the need for a supportive environment. The foundations for success in e-learning cannot be achieved in any other way. Instructors need the expertise and resources in order to make the online experience a positive one.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

How do you make learning explicit? What are the signals? Why make learning explicit? Do certain learning styles appreciate it? Explain perhaps. How does this differ from inferential learning? What does Gunawardena say?

Thursday, October 23, 2003

HoDE Book (2003). Chapter 51 Charlotte Gunawardena, Penne Wilson, & Ana Nolia, Culture and Online Education

Having had the experience of participating in a French Immersion program, I can appreciate how challenging it would be to take a course offered in a variety of countries and in a format where seeing the person to understand the visual aspects of language is not possible—at least not yet, generally speaking, for synchronous dialogue. Video cams for computers do exist, but many people still do not have one.
I think this article brought up a number of good points about cross-cultural learning. I think the impact of culture on the learning process itself is important. To create an expectation for students to challenge others’ ideas—especially the instructors’—is a “foreign” concept to some cultures.
Another issue raised was inferential and explicit meaning in dialogue and text. The more explicit one makes learning, the more understandable learning tasks are. I have found this in my own teaching. However, never having inferential activities can render the learning process to monotony. So, one needs a balance. The issue in cross-cultural e-learning is accommodating that balance.
Finally, I appreciate the authors’ comments about more research being needed in terms of a qualitative study to get students’ opinions and perspectives. I think this would be interesting to do and view the results. Hopefully, it would provide a means to construct solutions to the issues raised in cross-cultural e-learning.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

HoDE Book (2003). Chapter 41 Kathy Perdue, Web-Based Continuing Professional Education: Uses, Motivations, and Deterrents to Participation

This article discusses a number of issues related to professionals desire to use e-learning as a method of professional development and fulfilling continuous licensing requirements. I would agree with many of the points made in the article about issues of access. Students will not be inclined to use the e-learning method if they do not have adequate equipment, internet access speeds, familiarity with the technology, etc.

On the other hand, this article correctly, in my opinion, points out that higher education will have to change in both its provision and manner in which it provides e-learning activities. The world is becoming a more and more global environment. If universities demand these skills as students complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees, then their comfort level, computer skills, and probably equipment too will make e-learning in their professional lives more appealing.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Alfred Rovai (2002, April). Building Sense of Community at a Distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning http://www.irrodl.org/content/v3.1/rovai.html

This article raises some important issues about online learning--and learning in general for that matter. The following are two quotes and my comments about them:

It is course design and pedagogy that matter the most.

I think that these two elements are really important; but, it is difficult to name any particular elements of a course as that which matter the most. Great class activities are great, but if the course design is confusing, the class activities will appear disjointed. Good pedagogy is really important too, but even good pedagogy cannot replace a class' sense of community and common purpose. All elements of class teaching and learning work together to make the experience a success.

Eight to ten students appear to be a reasonable estimate for the minimum critical mass needed to promote good interactions. At the opposite end of this continuum, 20-30 students seem to be the most learners that a single online instructor can reasonably handle in a single class if it contains active discussions.

Ah, class size. This is one important issue in today's educational context. I think that if online learning will move in the direction of large student numbers relative to one instructor, its success will be compromised. Small class size is imperative even in an online environment in order for there to be ample opportunity for student/student and student/teacher interaction to complement each other.
Balancing the Learning Equation: Exploring Effective Mixtures of Technology, Teaching, and Learning
by Bonnie B. Mullinix and David McCurry

I think that this article reflects a lot of my own thinking about online learning and teaching. Instructors need to collaborate in order to make sustained progress and improvement as teachers in the online environment. Instructors need the opportunity to try new tools and have mentors in their local environment who can assist them with these activities.

I think the other positive attribute and potential for online learning and computer use is the creation of 3-D activities which take students into the learning context and help them experience what a given activity is like. I would love to be able to do this with special education undergraduate students.

In conclusion, I would agree that online learning must never lose sight of the fundamentals of teaching which have withstood the test of time. People still need to have contact with those who have personal experience and those who are experiencing this learning with them. The human touch cannot be replaced.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Martin Oliver & Graham Shaw (2003, February). Asynchronous Discussion in Support of Medical Education. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1). http://www.aln.org/publications/jaln/v7n1/v7n1_oliver.asp

The conclusions of this report as described below do not surprise me:

The use of assessment to encourage student discourse appears to be only a superficial success. The findings here that students perform to criteria without necessarily engaging in worthwhile dialogue are supported by others [12]. Thus unless more sophisticated assessment criteria can be developed, it seems likely that giving credit for postings will change behavior without necessarily improving learning. (http://www.aln.org/publications/jaln/ v7n1/v7n1_oliver.asp )

Students (undergraduate students, anyway) do only what they get marks for. I find that a definite number have either a phobia or disinterest in technology. This is surprising given their being in the digital age. Perhaps some of them come from families who could not afford a computer or they have not had any real experience with the medium? I don’t know.
I do know that some people can get very frustrated with internet tasks. This is a concern for the students of these future teachers. Are we perpetuating inability? My answer to having students use the technology if that is what you think is important is to attach lost of marks to the task; then, they will do it—perfectly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Avigail Oren, David Mioduser, & Rafi Nachmias (2002, April). The Development of Social Climate in Virtual Learning Discussion Groups, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. http://www.irrodl.org/content/v3.1/mioduser.html

What I found interesting in this article was the comment about how students felt more interested in having online discussions and chats when the moderator/instructor was not “present”. I think that this would be an interesting question to research. One would think that having a moderator/instructor to dialogue with would be a means to have one’s questions answered. In all the classes I have taught, there seems to be no shortage of questions about assignments, due dates, clarifying things, etc.
Does this attitude have something to do with the current student generation? Do they feel that they know all the answers and course content—or think that they do—and therefore would rather have this online time amongst themselves.
I do appreciate that there is a heightened level of stress when the instructor is nearby listening; one does feel the need to perform or make sure that any comment made is coherent and relevant. I just think that these attitudes would be fascinating to explore more in-depth with students.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Jon Baggaley (2003, July/August). Blogging as a Course Management Tool, The Technology Source http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=2011

I think that blogging has a lot of potential in the educational environment. I recently attended a conference on student writing. One of the topics covered was student attitudes towards the traditional model of school work and how detached it can be from the real world. I think that blogging provides teachers and students one means of having their prose published in an online format which allows others to see one’s writing.
Another interesting aspect of blogging is how professors can modify the blogging site and features in one easy step. They can make a change and within minutes, students’ sites have been modified and updated—no re-photocopying anything!
DEFINE E-LEARNING? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS… http://teleeducation.nb.ca/newsletter/english/reality_check/

This article’s discussion about people’s understanding and appreciation of e-learning and how to define it reminds me the concept of students with exceptionalities. Teachers know they exist but too often do not seem to have the interest or energy to come to understand them and their needs. This amazes me given the ever-increasing number of students with exceptionalities. Yet, many teachers would rather ignore them and continue in some routine of past experience.
E-learning is another concept that many teachers do not give much priority. Perhaps it is because of their own perceived lack of technological ability or comfort level with the traditional teaching method? I’m not sure, but I do know that e-learning is a teaching format that is here to stay and educators need to improve their abilities in using it.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

HoDE Book (2003). Chapter 12 Daniel Granger & Maureen Bowman, Constructing Knowledge at a Distance: The Learner in Context

The concept of distributed learning where technology can facilitate student learning on the terms of students’ scheduling and learning needs is a real positive aspect of the e-learning concept. People who live in remote locations or lead busy lives have more options for their own education.
I also appreciated Granger and Bowman’s comments about individual learners and how they: 1) each learn in different ways; 2) learn experientially; 3) learning must be lifelong. Being a special education teacher, I really appreciate the first; for too long, schools have emphasized auditory learning at the expense of others. In my own college-level teaching, I have found that students learn best through doing. Because change has become such a constant element of our lives, we must continue to learn throughout our lives.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

HoDE Book (2003). Chapter 11 Randy Garrison, Self-Directed Learning in Distance Education

The idea of giving the learner to control (or at least have say in) the goals and activities of the learning process is very important, in my opinion. I have found in my own college-level teaching experiences that students are less motivated when they do not have the opportunity to pay an active part in their own education. I would even venture to say that this would be even more true in a distance education course. Being the recipient of factual information on a continual basis can lend itself to disinterest.
Another comment in this chapter that I really liked was that distance education must be capable of transforming itself if it is to remain viable, relevant and a leader in the educational environment. I completely agree with this as I think that distance learning has a great potential as long as its focus is not always on cheap costs and one-minute solutions. Education must meet the needs of learners and their learning styles.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

HoDE Book (2003). Chapter 10 Chere Gibson, Learners and Learning: The Need for Theory

Last fall, I attended a discussion forum with Yvonna Lincoln, a past graduate of Indiana University and one of the founders of qualitative research design. She focused her beginning comments on university education about distance learning and questioning its long-term effectiveness for students and those would be the recipients of the students’ learning. She felt, as do the author of this article, that there is a vastly insufficient amount of evidence of its effectiveness; yet, it is increasing in prevalence more and more.
For one of my other classes, I have been reading a reaction to the National Reading Panel’s report on language instruction. There are comments made in the report about how governments are feeding into a cookie-cutter type of methodology for the teaching of reading because that is what the corporate system wants, understands, and funds. Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida, apparently is buying into the university-for-profit/e-learning agenda because the commentators of this report say that he too has bought into the learning outcomes-based methodology of education. Who needs process, it’s the outcomes that count!
As Gibson contends and Yvonna Lincoln emphatically stated at her discussion forum, we have a long ways to go to research the success of e-learning. Are we racing down a road without a map? What do we say to those who would like to participate but cannot afford to? To those who are technologically inclined? What are the gender issues? How do we address them? Much need to be done if e-learning is to result in true success.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Virgil Varvel Jr., Michael Lindeman, & Iris Stovall (2003, July). The Illinois Online Network is Making the Virtual Classroom a Reality: Study of an Exemplary Faculty Development Program. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(2). http://www.aln.org/publications/jaln/v7n2/v7n2_varvel.asp (see also http://www.mvcr.org/about/Evaluations/2001/default.asp)
One of the demoralizing aspects of being a teacher is to attend professional development sessions which are lecture-based. They tend not to present new or useful information but rather simply increase your workload. What I appreciated in this article was its interactive nature; students could use the technology and contribute to e-learning activities as a means of gaining more experience. Certainly, the students in the courses were very pleased with the experience.
Another aspect of this program I like is the blended format of face-to-face workshops and online learning. Students get the opportunity to use the intended format themselves yet have the opportunity to discuss issues and topics face-to-face.
My only concern would be students of actual university courses having access to the technology that would be required to do the activities. I appreciate that the professors would have access to this given their connection to the university. It is the students who take the courses that need to have the equipment to attain access. Hopefully, they do given that they register for an online course; however, many take e-learning courses out of necessity due to remote locations, time schedules, etc. Having the technology may not be something they first think about.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

HoDE Book (2003). Chapter 27 Morris Sammons, Exploring the New Conception of Teaching and Learning in Distance Education

This article discusses four types of learner-centered activities for facilitating collaboration. I am currently teaching a distance-education course, and I am finding the first of the four elements, technology, to be a frustrating element of the process—imagine how the students having difficulty must feel. I think that taking a distance education course presupposes a level of computer expertise that many people still do not have whether it be due to a lack of money to afford the equipment to begin with, insufficient time, or simply disinterest. I have asked myself the question: why would someone not interested or knowledgeable about technology take a distance-education course? Probably because it is convenient and fulfills a university-program requirement. We are in week five of the course and some students have yet to get on Oncourse.
As the article mentions, a moderator should be responsive. I have tried very hard to be responsive to the many, many emails I have received. I know the students appreciate that, but it does not change the fact that distance-education courses have the necessary hurdle of technology to overcome. I hope that this has been my “human touch of attentiveness” as I have helped them succeed through the technology aspect of the course.

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