12.30.2012

Course survey and reflection on e-learning design


Northcentral University is an online university that delivers courses for higher degrees in education. I am currently enrolled in the masters of education, with an emphasis in e-learning. As part of the 8-week course in design, I have become familiar with learning theories, Bloom's Taxonomy of learning, Horton's "absorb", "do", and "connect activities", rubrics for online courses, collaboration toolsmobile learning,  four basic tenets of a successful design, and homepage design.

The Homepage Design -- this is only a mind map of the content to be used in a homepage for an online course and not the actual homepage.




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E-learning and corporate training continues to improve given the tools of technology and the desire of facilitators to create virtual classrooms for courses and webinars. In planning for this type of learning, the instructor or facilitator must first decide on the objectives (Bach, 2007). Webinars tend to be less formal online meetings or conferences (Horton, 2012). Whereas virtual classroom courses span a longer period of time, are more formal, and often fulfill the objectives and requirements of a standard, in-class course such as those in universities (Horton, 2012).  

Obviously, virtual classroom courses require more design than a single online web conference, yet the success of both are dependant on integrating learning theory with learning tools, an engaging homepage that outlines the course objectives, pre-requisites, activities, and synchronous conferencing or chat. Online course design must provide the learner and the instructor with an experience that is as successful as face-to-face learning (Bach, 2007). In fact, for some learners, the virtual classroom may become a better vehicle for learning. 

However, since not everyone learns the same way, virtual courses can be as varied as the learners – each designed around a particular learning theory. Even in traditional face-to-face classrooms, not all students respond to the same teaching methods. It would be advantageous if online learning can address the needs of all students enrolled.

One of the theories that may be influential in online learning is connectivism, which utilizes the social aspects of technology (Boitshwarelo, 2011). Computer-supported collaborative learning embraces the belief that learning is more than digitized classroom content (Stahl, Koschmann, Suthers, 2006). Collaboration is when a group of people work together at the same time – synchronously; which differs from cooperation where students work independently and then bring their work together (Stahl, et al., 2006). Constructivism learning theory is also being used to build e-learning courses which embraces the concept that students bring previous experience with them and true learning is constructed upon this base (Koohang, 2009). However, one drawback to this theory is the lack of knowledge that a student may have and his/her need to absorb more information before constructing. Although competitivness is supposed to diminish, it nonetheless is always there. Some students may require more direction (Kirschner, 2006).

There are aspects of all of these learning theories that can be integrated into an online course. Students can gravitate to the courses that fit their learning styles and needs, thus meeting the needs of more. Course materials that are traditionally taught in the classroom should not be simply uploaded to the web in hopes that it will constitute a successful online course. 

One of the obstacles I faced in designing a homepage is my lack of familiarity with any of the authoring tools available. Some software platforms allow download of a demo trial, which I would like to investigate, given more time. Although I have become familiar with designing an online course, I would learn more by using the software to design a real course. I have "absorbed" some of the information, but need to explore more options and "do" them (Horton, 2012). Perhaps, since I am not engaged as a teacher offering online courses and thus not as experienced, my knowledge was limited at the start of the course. I have tried courses as a student -- Coursea.org and MIT opencourseware. I also became familiar with the format used by K12 online education through my son. However, I learned that I did not need to be a programmer to develop an engaging online course or web conference.

Learning activities fit into three categories where the learner (1) absorbs information, (2) practices or discovers, and (3) completes activities to show an understanding and usefulness of the material (Horton, 2012). Instructional design draws upon various learning strategies that include simulations, discussion boards, peer editing, video conferencing, and online video lectures (Bach, 2007).  All of these are integrated into a virtual classroom that is accessed through an engaging homepage. A survey of homepages would be helpful.

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References

Bach, S. H. (2007). Online learning and teaching higher education. New York: Open University Press.

Boitshwarelo, B. (2011). Proposing an integrated research framework for connectivism: Utilizing theoretical synergies. IRRODL, 12(3). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/881/1816

Horton, W. (2012). E-Learning by Design.  San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer


Kirschner, P. (2006). Why minimal guidnace during instruction does not work: an analysis of the
failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching.
Educational Psychologist , 41 (2), 75-86. 



Koohang, A. R. (2009). E-Learning and Constructivism: From Theory to Application.
Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects , 5. Retrieved from:
http://www.ijello.org/Volume5/IJELLOv5p091-109Koohang655.pdf


Overbaugh, R. & Schultz, L. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved from    http://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Stahl, G., Koschmann, T., & Suthers, D. (2006). Computer supported collaborative learning :An historical perspective. Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 409–426). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://www.gerrystahl.net/cscl/CSCL_English.pdf

12.23.2012

Collaboration tools for web conferencing


Blackboard Collaborate
Long distance learning of the 90s has given way to online learning where students and instructors communicate through the internet, either synchronous or asynchronous. Over 3.2 million students took online courses in 2005, and that rate continues to increase (Koenig, 20120). Video conferences,  email, and discussion forums facilitate communication between students and teachers. Instructors use various tools to meet these needs and new web sources will continue to be developed. Skype is a free video or audio conference method. Elluminate Live! and Wimba Classroom, now part of Blackboard Collaborate is an online tool for communicating via web conferencing, mobile collaboration, instant messaging, and voice authoring. It is a web based platform that helps instructors create the virtual classroom where students can interact and be part of an online learning experience.





When designing the virtual classroom, instructors should take care to use synchronous activities such as web conferencing sparingly, and for items that cannot be covered in an asynchronous activity where students can access information on their own time schedule (Horton, 2012).  It is best when students have many questions and should not be used because an instructor simply did not have the time to create an asynchronous activity (Horton, 2012). In fact, one of the concerns of online learning is that faculty and students will lose the benefits of the traditional classrooms (Koenig, 2010). In a study of 1,206 students and 160 faculty, conducted at New York Institute of Technology in 2010, researchers concluded that in classroom learning was superior to video conferencing and online learning (Koenig, 2010).

In creating a plan for a web conference, you must address technical aspects first: internet speed, availability of students, ability to share a common language and understand each other, and typing speed (Horton, 2012). This information should be made available far ahead of the video conference in consideration of meeting Bloom's Taxonomy of learning (Overbaugh, n.d.). Other information needed for students and facilitator include: day and time of conference, length, an agenda, how to collaborate or participate and where the conference will be stored for after hours access (Horton, 2012).  Roles of participants must be presented before the day of web conferencing. Students will be given the opportunity to voice their questions after certain slides. The method of signaling questions will be part of the web conference platform. This method of interaction follows the theory on connectivism learning, encouraging learners to connect with other students and the instructor (Siemens, 2004). A copy of the conference is an important contingency plan for students who cannot attend the synchronous web conference (Horton, 2012). All learners will have a place -- a discussion board -- where they can ask questions that may come up after the web conference, improving dialogue and connectivism ( Siemens, 2004).



References

Horton, W. (2012). E-Learning by Design.  San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer

Koenig, R. J. (2010). A study in analyzing effectiveness of undergraduate course delivery: Classroom, online and video conference from A student and faculty perspective. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 3(10), 13-25. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=61252685&site=eds-live

Overbaugh, R. & Schultz, L. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved from    http://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

12.16.2012

Designing a Course Homepage



Online learning continues to evolve as an educational option and learning management systems for institutions and instructors provide options for design. The distance-learning courses of past years that required closed-circuit television and mail-in lessons are quickly being replaced as technology advances. 

In approaching the format for online learning, the homepage for each course should be visual and easily navigated (Horton, 2012). Students have greater success if the material is easy to access and clearly designated by icons. Ideally, a course focuses on the student by providing him/her with the necessary tools to navigate the course and meet the learning objectives (Horton, 2012). 

In designing the homepage I would consider using a connectivist learning theory which addresses a variety of learners that may include those entering fields that are different than their previous training (Siemens, 2004).  Instructional learning would also be integrated in this course to fulfill the “absorb” activities identified by Horton (2012) and reduce learner's frustration in trying to find and learn new information. Video lectures would be easily accessed by an icon and remain available through the course for reference. The concept of providing solutions in the early stages of learning instead of "discovering" would be applied as part of the learning theory (Sweller, Kirschner, Clark, 2007). I adhere to the idea that “problem-solving search imposes a heavy extraneous cognitive load” and would integrate examples and sources as part of the learning (Sweller, et al., p. 116).



Create your own mind maps at MindMeister

The title of the course would be visual with images in the background.

The course description and prerequisites would be identified allowing prospective students to determine if the course is a good fit for them and fulfill their needs. This addresses the concepts of andragogy, in that adult learners are actively involved in their educational choices (Knowles, 2005).

A "Start Here" icon would identify what the student needs to do first and address issues of online behavior on forums and plagarism. From there the student would be directed to the syllabus to read and become familiar with.

The syllabus would include a course schedule, textbooks, and grading policy. Useful links and examples would also be included that would address the needs of students not familiar with the subject and meet the needs of the connectivist learning theory (Siemens, 2004) as well as preventing the “heavy extraneous cognitive load” described by Sweller, et al. (2007).

Video lectures will address the need for absorbing information and present examples, fulfilling the basic need to gather knowledge before applying it. The video lectures would also supply a type of scaffolding for learners to see the solutions to the problems in writing, understand them and then apply them to their own writing (Sweller, et al., 2007). 

Homework assignments would then give learners the opportunity to apply the techniques they have absorbed (Overbaugh, n.d.).  The feedback from the instructor would be a critical part of the Homework, supplying the architcture on “accumulating integrated knowledge in long-term memory” (Sweller, et al., 2007).

Discussion forums would be a means for students to connect with other students and share ideas or concerns meeting the needs of adult learners. The overall Homepage would be visually appealing and intuitive.

References

Horton, W. (2012). E-Learning by Design.  San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer

Knowles, M. H. (2005). The Adult Learner. San Diego, Ca: Elsevier.

Overbaugh, R. & Schultz, L. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved fromhttp://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

Siemens, G. (2004). Conncetivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Sweller, J, Kirschner, P., & Clark, R. (2007). Why minimally guided Teaching Techniques do not work; A reply to Commentaries. Educational Psychologist, 42(2). 

12.09.2012

Rubrics for Online Learning



All optimal educational scenarios require a system of organization in the form of a rubric. This facilitates the design of courses as well as the delivery and success of a learning situation. Online courses need to be “graded” against a rubric just as students’ work is accessed against a rubric. In this way, online courses are compared for their quality and success. Most of these are focused on the student-centered approach of a course, alignment or objectives and outcomes of the activities, as well as the ease of technology. For this assignment I will evaluate a course based on one of these rubrics designed for online learning.

Online Learning Rubric:

Cal State Chico has developed a rubric for online learning to help instructors design an effective course. Instructors may assess their online course and make necessary revisions, or use it to design a new course (Chico). Six categories are outlined beginning with the student:

1. Learner support and resources includes information about being an online student, course resources, and supporting course content resources.

2. Outline organization and design analyzes how students navigate the course and how well it is organized. This includes the visual presentation of the course, consistency and the course syllabus.

3. Instructional design and delivery should promote communication, align goals to learning objectives and activities. Student learning activities are addressed to include multiple learning styles, problem-solving skills and critical thinking.

4. Assessment and evaluation of student learning includes assessment of student readiness. Multiple assessment strategies are utilized which include consistent feedback and self-assessments.

5. Appropriate and effective use of technology addresses the use of tools to encourage communication, new teaching methods and multimedia elements. Student engagement is vital.

6. Faculty use of student feedback

(CSU, Chico)

The course I will evaluate is called “Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World.” It is an online course available from the University of Michigan through Coursera.org. While this is not a course for credit and will not have all the components of a semester-long college course, many of the same requirements for success must be addressed.


This course includes an introductory unit of video clips discussing how one should proceed plus ten content units. Each content unit asks for the reading of a book or book-length selection of writings in the field of fantasy and science fiction and offers the chance to write a brief essay about that unit’s reading and to comment on the writing of four other participants. Each content unit begins with a video clip with some advice about that unit’s reading and later provides a series of clips, totaling about 1 1/2 hours, discussing both the unit’s reading and general matters that that reading helps explore. The course also offers an enrichment quiz (ungraded) for each unit and an on-going forum for participant discussion. That forum will be monitored and may stimulate the creation of a supplementary clip or two per unit. If any participant desires a grade, the grade will be determined by the quality and quantity of the writing and responses to the writing of others. (Coursera.org)


I believe one of the learning theories within this course is connectivism which has been described as a learning theory for the digital age (Herrington, n.d.). The students who participated came from a wide range of previous learning capabilities and over a wide geographical range, including those not speaking English as their primary language. Therefore the learning and knowledge was contingent on this diversity of opinions (Herrington, n.d.). This was evident with the peer-reviewed and peer-graded section of the course.

Students were advised to grade 500-word essays using a rubric number scale of 1-4, evaluating grammar in one score and ideas presented in another score. Students had a set time to write an essay and a strict deadline. The evaluation period began the following day, with only those students who submitted an essay able to perform evaluations on peers’ essays. Directions were clear as to the dates and times and rules, fulfilling the rubric stated in CSU, Chico’s guidelines. Students had to participate in the evaluation portion to receive an evaluation on their own essay. This was clearly set forth:  Remember: as with the submission stage, this evaluation stage is required if you want your own assignment submission to be evaluated. (Coursera.org)

Once again, there was a strict timeframe for the submission of the evaluations. The next day, you could access your essay, with four peer-reviewed assessments. This method aligns with the connectivism theory, as learning and knowledge is based on a diversity of opinions (Kinesh, 2012).  This was true, as each student had a different way of grading, even with a rubric. The evaluations were as varied as the student population. Within the evaluations of the same essay, students had differing opinions about whether the thesis was supported or if it was acceptable to make comparisons to other literature. One of the drawbacks was the inability to identify English as a second language students and grade them accordingly.

I would rate the visual organization of the course as high on the CSU rubric. The navigability was intuitive with icons on the left side of the screen. The steps were outlined clearly without too much wording. Students did not have to read through pages of information to navigate between screens. Each assignment became available with each new unit and the whole course was broken down into “chunks” of learning or units.

Each unit opens with an asynchronous video – lecture from the professor utilizing screen shots of words and images, to introduce the course material. This method fits into the behaviorist learning theory – transmitting information (Herrington, n.d.). I found this method to be advantageous over straight constructivist theory that may require students to search and find their own information and introduction to the unit ( The video lecture format, asynchronous and visual prompts the learning to “get excited” about the reading and writing assignment. It is immediate and require little effort, using some of the instructionist learning theory.

After the written assignment, the professor provided a set of video lectures for each unit that provided more insight. This method utilizes the constructivist learning theory, where students watched the short video introduction for the reading material, then read the assignment and wrote the essay without receiving more information from the professor. Students were required to make their own conclusions from the reading, and derive their own thesis. It was entirely open to whatever a student might want to write in his/her essay.

While this fits within a constructivist learning theory, it also opens the door to a wide range of essays and consequently, a wide range of opinions by the peer reviewers (Kinesh, 2012). But you could see where some students had more knowledge and previous experience in their writing. The task becomes difficult to grade each student on the increase of their individual learning and not compare one to another. There were students who became discouraged when they did not get a “good” assessment from another student, which became evident on the discussion boards.

The instructional design and delivery was effective. The instructor introduced himself via a video lecture, students introduced themselves in a less formal way, via the discussion boards. Of course, not every student goes to the boards, and therefore, this method is not satisfactory for reaching all students in an online course. Some students may have felt unable to communicate their needs. The theory of connectivism where students make and maintain connections for continual learning was not adequately met in this course (Herrington, n.d.). However, the course material remains online, archived and accessable to all previous students, which fulfills one aspect of the rubric, and can be considered part of a connectivist learning theory (Herrington, n.d.)

Besides the writing assessment, students had access to a “more to learn” icon where they could take small quizzes about the novels with multiple choice answers. These gave immediate feedback with icons and verbiage: “yes” thumbs up and why it was correct, or “nope” why that was incorrect. The immediate feedback with explanation fits into the instructionist learning theory but with immediate feedback learning is accelerated by providing information at a critical step of learning (Herrington, nd.d).

This course includes an introductory unit of video clips discussing how one should proceed plus ten content units. Each content unit asks for the reading of a book or book-length selection of writings in the field of fantasy and science fiction and offers the chance to write a brief essay about that unit’s reading and to comment on the writing of four other participants.

Each content unit begins with a video clip with some advice about that unit’s reading and later provides a series of clips, totaling about 1 1/2 hours, discussing both the unit’s reading and general matters that that reading helps explore. The course also offers an enrichment quiz (ungraded) for each unit and an on-going forum for participant discussion. That forum will be monitored and may stimulate the creation of a supplementary clip or two per unit. If any participant desires a grade, the grade will be determined by the quality and quantity of the writing and responses to the writing of others.

The final category of the CSU rubric addresses course content and end of course evaluation survey, both of which were included in the University of Michigan course. A “post-course survey” of 26 questions was easily accessible by an icon on the left of the main page. Besides questions of age, gender, country and language, the survey addressed issues that students may have had with the course.
Which best describes your motivation for taking this class?

Did you participate in the course with the goal of earning a certificate, or did you choose to audit instead? Are you currently a student in a school or college?

What is your highest level of education?

If you went to college or are currently going to college, what is thename of your college or university?

Have you ever attended the University of Michigan? If so, what is yourcurrent status? If you have attended the University of Michigan, we willbe following up with another survey soon to gauge your interest in
further continuing education opportunities, and determine which types of
courses you feel would be most useful.

How much did the pre-recorded lectures help you feel connected to theprofessor?

How beneficial did you find the weekly "Some Thoughts On..." videos?

How did you feel about the content and delivery of the lectures?

How did you feel about the design of the syllabus and other explanatorydocumentation?

Did you feel that the course was the appropriate length?

How satisfied were you with the grading options for the peer assessments? 
What is your opinion of the peer assessment grading scale?

Please use this area to give us your general feedback on the course.
What did you like? 
What would you change if you could? 
Please feel free to tell us a little about yourself.   (Coursera.org)

Checklist



 References

Guy, R. (2009). The Evolution of Mobile Teaching and Learning. Santa Rosa, CA: Informing Science Press

Herrington A., & Herrington, H. Authentic mobile learning in higher education. Retrieved from http://www.aare.edu.au/07pap/her07131.pdf

Horton, W. (2012). E-Learning by Design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer

Kinash, S., Brand, J., & Mathew, T. (2012). Challenging mobile learning discourse through research: Student perceptions of blackboard mobile learn and iPads. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(4), 639-655. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=77978502&site=eds-live

12.02.2012

How to design e-learning


E-learning activities are designed for teachers and students. Although online learning will not replace classroom, face-to-face learning, each year more students opt for an e-learning education (Herrington, n.d.). E-learning is growing at 30% per year, according to the 2011 "Human Systems Management" journal (Eom, 2011). Therefore, teachers and educators must adapt their current curriculum to create an optimal online learning experience and compete in this growing market. Although the easiest shortcut is a learning management system that provides discussion boards, email, course sign-in, a list of assignments and links to directed readings; e-learning design can be better (Horton, 2012). Students may eventually choose institutions of higher education based on the quality of their e-learning courses.


Benjamin S. Bloom was interested in how people think, and how they learn, which he delineated in Bloom's Taxonomy (Overbaugh, n.d.). It is interesting to note that the revised pyramid has been upgraded to replace nouns with strong verbs, a method recommended in this prospective e-learning course for more effective writing. Bloom's taxonomy aligns with Horton's absorb, do, connect activities, providing a successful skeleton for building an e-learning course (Overbaugh, n.d. & Horton, 2012).





Absorb -- Do -- Connect

Absorb activities relay information (Horton, 2012).  The most common types of absorb activities include presentations, readings, stories by a teacher, and field trips (Horton, 2012). Some of these may be characterized as passive learning, especially if students are watching a slide presentation or listening to a story. Even field trips and readings are often considered passive learning unless the participant is required to do something (Horton, 2012). But absorb activities are beneficial in preparing students to do something or for short “upgrades” in previous learning (Horton, 2012). These activities are good at explaining and demonstrating a sequence of events (Horton, 2012).  Absorb activities can be pre-recorded, an advantage for many instructors and learners. Students can access information at anytime, and stop the presentation if needed, which meets the needs of technology-based students (Guy, 2009). Absorb activities fall into Bloom's taxonomy of "remembering" and "understanding" (Overbaugh, n.d.).

The following six presentations work well for online e-learning courses (Horton, 2012).

1. Slide shows – These can be created in Power Point and narrated for the Internet using tools such as Articulate Presenter, Adobe Presenter, Adobe Captivate, iSpring Presenter, or Impactica for Power Point. Film clips, drama, demos, text, graphics, and more can be incorporated into this format. Horton has an example online.

2. Physical demonstrations – These are best done with video, though photos can be used for some.

3. Software demonstrations –Demos for explaining how to use a software application.

4. Informational films – These include short films and documentary-type films. Permissions necessary if you don’t do your own.

5. Dramas – These are nonfictional films. They require a script, actors and a good story.

6. Discussions – These can be live interviews or filmed.

For slide shows, it is important to give the learner control over the speed of the presentation and three forms of presentation: hearing, reading the text, and watching graphics (Horton, 2012). This helps meet the needs for various learning styles (Herrington, n.d.). Examples and applications of the information presented help learners grasp new ideas (Horton, 2012). Presentations are more interesting and keep the learners attention if they are not linear (Guy, 2009).  In fact, it is important to give students a "Do" activity early in the presentations, before it gets boring (Horton, 2012). Real-life situations that create a question to be solved, or a practice problem, or an activity that requires the student to use the tools he has just learned, are ways for students to interact (Guy, 2009). Learners need to have control over their e-learning experience and this can be delivered by having students learn new information by solving problems in real-life scenarios (Herrington, n.d.).

Do Activities 

These type of activities require learners to do something with the information they have acquired from an absorb activity (Horton, 2012). These include anything that applies knowledge such as practice problems, discovery activities such as virtual labs or games and simulations where learners play a game and get immediate feedback (Horton, 2012). "Do" activities can also be presented before an absorb activity to provide a basis of knowledge or a starting point so the student realizes what he/she needs to learn (Horton, 2012). After a presentation, a "do" activity provides the learner to apply the new information immediately which increases retention of the subject. This follows Bloom's taxonomy of learning -- remembering, learning, applying (Overbaugh, n.d.).

Connect Activities

Many times connections are left to the learner to make and not integrated within an e-learning course (Horton, 2012). Connect activities link new knowledge with knowledge a student already possesses (Horton, 2012). It is not teaching something new. Connect activities can happen without planning, depending on the learner. It happens anytime he/she stops to ponder and make a connection within an "absorb" or "do" activity. However, it can also be prompted by suggesting learners summarize, evaluate, meditate, or identify (Horton, 20120).  Students can be asked to recall their own experiences or stories. Bloom's taxonomy would describe these "analyzing" and "evaluating" activities, that build upon "remembering" and "understanding" (Overbaugh, n.d.). Research activities help learners connect by using their own sources that apply to the information that has been shared through a presentation or reading (Horton, 2012).  When learners create original work, they are using connect activities and meeting the final outcome of learning in Bloom's taxonomy (Horton, 2012 & Oberbaugh, n.d.).

The prospective project is an advanced writing course for students and writers, comprised of five e-learning activities. Although this course is adaptable to beginning writers, there should be a prerequisite for understanding the English language. ESL students may have grammar needs that English speakers have already acquired. This course meets the needs of graduate students and professionals who publish in peer-reviewed journals. Those in higher education often have a need to write with more clarity, having picked up academic writing styles that are not that well-written (Zinsser, 2006). For each activity, the type and learning objective will be identified, as well as my rationale for selecting these activities. I will explain how online students will learn from these five activities and finally, how the teacher or trainer will assess these activities. This course is based on an open online course offered from Stanford University and a similar one offered as a webinar.



Learning Activity

Absorb
Do
Connect
Learning Objective

Write in Active Voice

Slide presentation with voice-over: examples of active and passive voice sentences.
1) Ten sentences in the passive voice and students must change to active voice. Answers immediately follow.
2)Quiz – identify if a sentence is passive or active. Answers immediately follow.
Write a 300 word paragraph using active voice. 
To write in active voice.

Cut Unnecessary Words
Slide presentation with voice-over: First review of parts of speech – adverbs, prepositions. Student can skip if needed.
Examples of sentences with unnecessary words, and then how to streamline the sentences and remove extra words. Look at extra adverbs, long phrases, jargon, needless prepositions, negatives, and avoiding “there is” and “there are”
1) Ten sentences that need editing and students correct. Answers immediately follow.
Correct a 300 word essay and look for unnecessary words.
To write with more clarity and ease of reading.

Write with Strong Verbs
Slide presentation with voice-over. First a review of nouns and verbs, can be skipped. Next examples of nouns that should be verbs: “obtain estimates versus “estimate.”
Ten sentences with needed corrections, students correct them, answers follow.
 Correct a 300 word essay.













To write with more emphasis on action.

Improve Punctuation
Slide presentation with voice-over. Review of em dash, parenthesis, semi-colon, phrases.
Write ten sentences with these forms of punctuation.
 Write a 300 word essay with these four punctuations.
To use and understand the correct use of em dash, parenthesis, semi-colon, and phrases

Use Parallelism
Slide presentation with voice-over. Show examples of sentences with parallelism and those that are not constructed that way.
Correct ten sentences that need parallelism.
 Correct a 300 word essay, using parallelism.
To improve readability of whole texts by using parallel structure in sentences.




For the first activity, I have chosen a slide presentation for an absorb activity, which will present information on active and passive voice (Horton, 20120).  This is often difficult to recognize at first, and requires practice to become proficient. Students will see written sentences with voice-over reading of the sentences and explanations of  how to change a sentence from passive voice to active. After a number of examples, learners will have an opportunity to try to do it. This will address the "Do" activity (Horton, 2012).  One sentence will be presented in passive voice, and the student will have time to write it in active. The next screen will give the answer so that the learner has an immediate confirmation and explanation. The student will have ten sentences like this to re-write in active voice. At the end of the activity, a quiz will give students a chance to identify sentences in active and passive voice. Answers will be available immediately for reinforced learning (Horton, 2012).  The final connect portion of this activiy will be a paragraph written in active voice. This will be sent to the instructor to grade and give feedback (Horton, 2012). The final learning mode in Bloom's taxonomy -- creating -- will be fulfilled when students write their own essays in the active voice (Overbaugh, n.d.). Analyzing the sentences is achieved in the step just prior to writing/creating an essay.

The second activity involves learning how to cut excessive words in writing to make it more precise and easier to follow. The same presentation method, using a slide and voice-over  will be utilized for an absorb type activity (Horton, 2012).  Sentences in peer-reviewed journals will be used as examples and then corrected; more precise edits will also be shown. Practice activities will give students a chance to participate in a “Do” activity, having hands-on experience in editing sentences. The course will be available at any time and through any mobile device, making it easy for students to access the material, which addresses the needs of the newer generation that is competent with mobile technology (Herrington, n.d.). The final connect activity will give learners a chance to edit a 300 word writing samples which will then be sent to the instructor for feedback. While this final assessment is not "creating" it falls more into Bloom's category of analyzing and correcting (Overbaugh, n.d.). 

The third activity follows the same plan as the first two. This time addressing the writers needs to use strong verbs and avoid turning verbs into nouns. Academic writing often utilizes this method which makes sentences and journal writing less effective (Sainani, 2012). The following two activities will follow the same format, absorbing through a slide presentation, examples, and then "do" activities to engage learners in applying the new information, and "connect" activities to further use the acquired knowledge (Horton, 2012). Through all five activities, the learner will go through Bloom's modes of learning: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, creating (Overbaugh, n.d.).

With the availability of mobile technology, learners will have access to all the learning activities at any time and after the course (Herrington, n.d.).




References

Eom, S. (2011). Relationships among e-learning systems and e-learning outcomes: A path     analysis model. Human Systems Management. Retrieved from http://iospress.metapress.com/content/u721kw83767j3568/

Guy, R. (2009).  The Evolution of Mobile Teaching and Learning. Santa Rosa, CA: Informing Science Press

Herrington A., & Herrington, H. Authentic mobile learning in higher education. Retrieved from http://www.aare.edu.au/07pap/her07131.pdf

Horton, W. (2012). E-Learning by Design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer

Overbaugh, R. & Schultz, L. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved from http://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

Zinsser, W. (2006). Writing Well. New York, NY: Harper Collins





11.11.2012

Four Tenets for Successful E-Learning Design


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The information age has reached beyond the bounds of Benjamin Franklin’s innovative lending library. Sharing knowledge has expanded. Technology opens the door to electronic learning that is becoming more accessible and far reaching.
E-learning is electronic learning, using computers, laptops, mobile devices such as tablets and ipads, as well as smart phones to access the Internet, run software and interface with educational institutions or other learning platforms -- “E-learning is the use of electronic technologies to create learning experiences.” (Horton, 2011, p. 1).  The learning field is expansive when you identify e-learning to include any learning experience with electronics (Horton, 2011). 
People access the Internet for answers, from everything on how to repair a dishwasher to current research in genetic mutation. Higher educational institutions, primary and secondary schools, as well as businesses provide e-learning experiences. 
Yet, effective e-learning is the key to success for the provider as well as the receiver. For this method to become successful, designers must focus on four pillars: instructional design, media design, software engineering, and economics, all of which interact to provide effective learning via electronics. Within each of those pillars, the needs of the learners must be addressed (Ehlers, 2004). However, not everyone will benefit, just as not every student benefits from the traditional classroom. E-learning design requires a succession of steps that Horton identifies as a critical path. (Horton, 2011).

Instructional Design


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Instructional design is one of the tenets of successful e-learning and takes into account learning objectives and theory (Horton, 2011).  Within that context, designers must tackle the obstacles that make learners bored, frustrated and unable to learn in the designated method (Horton, 2011).  Instructional design draws upon various learning strategies that include simulations, discussion boards, peer editing, video conferencing, and online video lectures (Nash, 2006). 
At the foundation of design is an understanding of how students learn, which varies by many factors. This can make instructional design just as varied, as designers try to cover as many learning theories as possible and remain a coherent program. The principles of pedagogy and andragogoy lend perspectives when outlining instruction for youth and adults. But even within those age groups and theories, individuals differ in learning styles (Willems, J., 2011). Graduate students differ in e-learning styles from undergraduates (Willems, J., 2011).  In fact, one theory does not address the needs of all, and rather a combination of theories must be utilized (Liu, et al., 2009). An educational institution’s objectives should be addressed in the instructional design of e-learning. 
The path forward often needs re-defining in the process of achieving the best outcome. If you cannot answer the question of how this design of e-learning “changes the learner,” defining the end result, then the process must be re-thought and mapped out (Horton, 2011, p. 9). Constructivist theory influences the design of addressing the pattern of teaching to students who have previous knowledge – which is often prescribed by pre-requisites (Horton, 2011). Learning objectives are formulated and then a path to reach those goals, taking into account different learning styles and previous learned material. 
Learner’s familiarity and confidence with computers and technology will have an impact on the success of e-learning (Sun, et al., 2008). Horton describes learning activities that fit into three categories where the learner (1) absorbs information, (2) practices or discovers, and (3) completes activities to show an understanding and usefulness of the material (Horton, 2011).


Media Design


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Media design is the second step in e-learning design, once the preliminary objectives are addressed in the instructional design. This encompasses a large pallet of  choices that include multi-media delivered through computers such as audio, video,  graphics, text, and anything delivered through that format (Horton, 2011). 
As the ability to provide a rich media format continues to accelerate, the focus on successful e-learning must be the over-riding objective. According to Liu, et al., e-learners were found to continue the use of e-learning materials based on the richness of the media (2009).  Information presented in text – audio – video format resulted in a higher perceived usefulness and concentration. They concluded that high-quality video is not a distraction but enhances learners completing the tasks (Liu, et al., 2009).


Software Engineering



Software engineering is core to a successful e-learning platform. Instructors cannot take their traditional classroom materials and scan them into a digital format to be presented as an e-learning course with the same success as a quality engineered software program. This is where curriculum for e-learning must involve technology and skilled designers and programmers (Ehlers, 2004). One cannot function without the other for a success. Teachers and educators, trained in the past to develop their own lesson plans from standard textbook curriculum, must now reach out to technologists. 
Educational software was first introduced as a stand-alone learning platform. But with the advancement of the Internet and mobile devices, software becomes more accessible through cloud technology (Sun, P., et al., 2008). Students’ “perceived satisfaction” of e-learning technology influences the success of the online educational future. Course quality and the ease of use affect student satisfaction (Sun, P., et al., 2008). Learners and educators will compete with products that enable learning with greater success (Sun, P., et al., 2008).


Economics



Economics is not the last pillar of importance in a successful e-learning design. The cost of delivering electronic learning covers designers and providers. Education is business and e-learning courses must endure long enough to reap the financial rewards. The field is growing and new technologies quickly replace older ones (Ehlers, 2004). Quality is multi-dimensional, embracing different perspectives, meanings, and levels of quality (Ehlers, 2004).









References

Ehlers, Ulf-D. (2004). Quality in e-Learning from a Learner's Perspective. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/index.php?tag=120&article=230&article=101

Horton, W. (2011). e-learning by Design. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Pfeiffer.

Pei-Chen Sun, Tsai, R. J., Finger, G., Yueh-Yang Chen, & Yeh, D. (2008). What drives a successful e-learning? an empirical investigation of the critical factors influencing learner satisfaction. Computers & Education, 50, 1183-1202. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2006.11.007

Su-Houn Liu, Hsiu-Li Liao, & Pratt, J. (2009). A.Impact of media richness and flow on e-learning technology acceptance. Computers & Education, 52, 599-607. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2008.11.002

Willems, J. (2011). Using learning styles data to inform e-learning design: A study comparing undergraduates, postgraduates and e-educators. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(6), 863-880. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=77923944&site=eds-live




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