What have you learned about developing an effective online course?
Today classrooms have a very different look, gone are the days of writing notes, with a pen and paper. There is a new generation called the Digital Native who have grown up using technology, they do not remember ever not having a computer in the house. Prensk, 2001 stated that Digital Natives have “…spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers…” (p. 1) and that the college graduates today have spent less than 5,000 hours reading, but more than 10.000 hours playing video games and up to 20,000 hours watching TV. The learners who remember learning without a computer, having to take notes in a classroom and spending hours in a library looking up articles, Prensky, (2001) called them Digital Immigrants. Digital Immigrants have accepted and learned how to use technology later in life, but are not as proficient as the Digital Native. With both Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants in the classroom, the challenge will be for the instructor to create a course that will keep all learners engaged and not overwhelmed or bored by using technology.
In a face to face classroom the instructor controls the pace in which the class moves through the course, in an online course learners start and stop times, assignment due dates, as well at the pace in which the learner is working through the course will be different. Having learners move through the course at different paces brings challenges to both the learner and the instructor. Some of these challenges for the learners could be how to use the technology, how to contact the instructor, how to schedule themselves so that they are able to finish the course on time; instructors may find themselves overwhelmed by learners being on different timelines and/ or different time zones. The solution for these and other challenges is to apply the Best Practices for Teaching Online: Ten Plus Four found in the Online Teaching Survival Guide (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016, p. 43).
Over many years there have been and continue to be studies on how learners learn, but until the last few years most of these studies have been about the face to face classroom. With online learning growing so rapidly it is believed that “…there is no single learning theory to follow, one can use a combination of theories to develop online learning materials.” (Ally, 2004, p. 6). Instructors and developers of online courses need to be knowledgeable about the learning theories so that as the course is being created the learner activities align with goals and objectives of the course and the learner is able to carry forward the learning.
Online eLearning tools are a way for the instructor to stay organized. Many of the tools such as word puzzles, games or flash cards are interactive and help the learner stay engaged, are free or are supplied by the organization. It is important that the instructor becomes familiar with these tools and it is suggested that “the first time you teach in any new environment or with a new set of learner, it is wise to keep it simple…” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016, p 63). Communication from the learners and instructors about what is going well and what can be improved upon is key with online courses, and will help to alleviate stress in both the learner and instructor.
An ePortfolio is way to keep your learning organized while taking a course and will be useful throughout your professional career, ePortfolios may contain learning goals and objectives, resumes, journals and awards received. This online tool is used by instructors when “…assessing student achievement and development” (Pelliccione & Dixon, 2008, p. 1). Learners have used them when applying for jobs or for a request for project funding. The American Nurse Today article talks about how ePortfolios are a benefit to everyone, health organizations, instructors, mentors and education programs, they have the “…ability to quickly and accurately demonstrate life-long learning and continuing professional competence” (Dion, 2008, p. 1). ePortfolios are easily created online and accessible anywhere there is an internet connection.
The creating of an online course and all the components requires a team approach. Items such as technology being used, alignment with course goals and objectives, creating learner activities that are interactive, knowing how assessments are to be provided, all have to be considered. Using guidelines such as Canadian Recommended E-learning Guidelines (CanREGS) that were “…intended to help those who want to design, deliver, evaluate and purchase quality e-learning products and services for students…” (Barker, 2002, p. 1) will make creating quality online courses easier.
Reflective: How does this fit with your experience? What would you like to emulate from your own successful eLearning experiences? What would you like to improve upon so that your own learners have a more positive experience?
My experience with online courses is limited, I have only taken the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) online, but I enjoyed this course. Having the online instructions in both video and written formats, having teleconferences with other learners and the instructor’s comments kept the courses engaging. Knowing when and how to contact the instructors if I had any questions and using forums to ask other learners questions and to share stories about each other helped to keep me motivated to continue. I felt like I had a friend in the class when I would see someone that had taken previous course with me. When I create my own classroom, I would like to see learners that are making connections with each other, feel supported in their learning, this would create a positive learning experience and they will want to continue with their learning. When I could see how my learning was relevant to my workplace this made me want to continue learning and to share the learning with my co-workers, I would like to create this experience with my learners.
Interpretive Questions: What new insights do you now have? How has your thinking changed around creating effective online courses after taking EDUC 4150?
While working through this course I thought wow what a lot of work and thought goes into creating an online course. My initial thoughts were, yes online is different than face to face but, I had not thought of all the pieces that make an online course work. Things like technology supports, student support both with other learners and the instructor, how to make assessments and how to create a good closing and opening of the course so that the learner is ready to move forward with their learning. I now know that creating a quality course is truly a team effort, no one person can possible create the entire course.
Decisional Question: How can this new learning be applied in your online course?
When I am creating my online course, I am going to:
- Schedule a visit with my manager to have the course goals and objectives outlined.
- Meet with the organizations technology support person or persons so that I am aware of what learning platform can be effectively used.
- Keep it simple at the start of the course and do frequent evaluations so that I can pick up on any issues quickly and solve them.
- Have volunteer co-workers test the course to see if they are able to access the course and to make sure all the components work on various devices.
- Create a checklist using the Canadian Recommended E-learning Guidelines to assist me to create a quality online course.
- Create a beginning, middle and closing activity that fits with the course
- Follow the best practice for teaching online
- Have instructions both written and video for the learner on how the course is going to be delivered
I am sure that I may be forgetting something, but I am going to create a course based on best practice evidence that is interactive, relevant to the learner and fits with the needs of the organization. I have a lot of work to do.
Ally, M. (2004). Foundations Of Educational Theory For Online Learning. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.), Theory and Practice Of Online Learning (p. 18). Retrieved from Web
Barker, K. (2002). Canadian Recommended E-learning Guidelines (CanREGs). Retrieved from http://www.futured.com/pdf/CanREGs%20Eng.pdf
Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. M. (2016). The Online Teaching Survival Guide (second ed.). San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass.
Dion, K. W. (2008). Why you need an electronic professional portfolio. Retrieved from https://www.americannursetoday.com/why-you-need-an-electronic-professional-portfolio/
Higley, M. (2014). e-Learning:Challenges and Solutions. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/e-learning-challenges-and-solutions
Pelliccione, L., & Dixon, K. (2008). ePortfolios: Beyond assessment to empowerment in the learning landscape. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/melbourne08/procs/pelliccione.pdf
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf