Online Teaching and Learning Practices

The best practices in eLearning incorporate methods of delivery that create successful learning.  While there may be similarities in teaching online with teaching in the classroom, far too often information from a classroom setting is only uploaded to the virtual learning platform. The student is left with a course to pursue on his/her own, with little direction, guidance, or collaborative learning. Theories of learning may not be addressed in the design of the online course, creating a gap in the delivery of information and the building of knowledge.  While constructivist-learning theory gives students the opportunity to approach learning from what concepts they have already learned, the varied background of students will necessitate an easily accessible source for them to find answers they need.  Online courses for K-12 grades must reach each of the students and their individual needs.  Since eLearning is continuing to grow in these grades, it is important to have success sooner than later (Cavanaugh & Blomeyer, 2007).  Virtual schools mostly target the higher grades, 9-12, offering remedial courses and advanced placement (Cavanaugh, et. al, 2007).  Teachers need effective eLearning training and schools should require this before teachers become online teachers.  Yet, it has been estimated that only 1% of teachers that teach online have been trained as such (Cavanaugh, et. al, 2007).  Research has shown that K-12 online learning can be as effective as traditional classroom teaching (Cavanaugh, et. al, 2007).  The most successful practices will reach the abilities of all students; those needing remedial help as well as those in advanced courses. 
Effective online teaching will include the principles of effective classroom teaching that have been identified by Chickering and Gamson (1987) and include:
1.     Encourage discussion between students and teachers,
2.     Develop cooperation among classmates,
3.     Encourage active learning,
4.     Provide prompt feedback,
5.     Encourage high expections,
6.     Emphasize time,
7.     Respect diverse learning (Bigatel, et. al, 2012).
However, when a course is taught online, three principles must be addressed which improve success.  Teachers need to be socially active in the online learning environment; students should become part of the online learning community, and they must become fully engaged in the learning activities (Bigatel, et. al, 2012).  There are several ways in which a teacher can connect with the learners in an online learning environment.  In a study that analyzed the effectiveness of online teaching at the Michigan Virtual School, researchers found that successful teachers were those that went the extra mile to reach and interact with students, and maintain a presence (DiPietro, Ferdig, Black, & Preston, 2008).  This necessitates that teachers of online courses be skilled in technology, which often requires training (DiPietro, et. al, 2008).  The best teachers are those who enjoy technology and are willing to continue acquiring the skills as new technological advances are made for effective learning (Bigatel, et. al, 2012).  Researchers also found that the Michigan Virtual teachers acknowledged that online teaching required a twenty-four hours a day flexibility, being available to answer questions posed by students in a timely manner, sometimes over the phone (DiPietro, et. al, 2008).  Often this virtual, but real presence is translated into higher motivation from the students, who may have otherwise dropped out of the online course (DiPietro, et. al, 2008).  When teachers are actively engaged with their online students, they can better identify students that are falling behind, or accelerating ahead.  In fact, the Florida Virtual School, K-12 program, revised their school motto of “any time, any place, any path, any pace” with three tracks for successful completion – accelerated, standard, and extended (Clark, 2001, p. 13).  This is an effective strategy, as it addresses the needs and learning styles of most students.  Some students are ready to move at a faster pace, and yet others need more time.  When a class is taught online, students who struggle can avoid the embarrassment they may experience in the classroom when they cannot keep up.  Teachers can address these needs privately and students with learning disabilities can better progress.  To meet these demands of becoming an effective online teacher, the Florida Virtual School, requires new teachers to attend a seminar and begin teaching online with monitoring and feedback from a mentor who is teaching the same course (Clark, 2001).  In this way, the new teacher is learning as well as teaching.  The teacher will have experiences not only as the teacher of an online course, but as one who is learning to navigate the virtual classroom.  This is an important step to successful online teaching for many teachers that have never taught eLearning.  Florida Virtual School has incorporated an assessment tool, where they solicit students’ responses at mid term and the end of the course (Clark, 2001).  Surveys are embedded as part of the course, and student responses are studied to improve the overall online experience (Clark, 2001). If learning is to become a success online or even in the classroom, teachers and educational institutions must seek feedback from those needing or wanting to learn.
            Christa McAuliffe Academy in Washington state has found success for its K-12 online learning program since it started in 1995 (Clark, 2001).  They developed most of their courses, but also used those from Plato, NovaNET, and ChildU (Clark, 2001).  One of the unique aspects of this virtual school, is that the students (or parents) choose their own teacher mentor, which is not usually an option in traditional schools (Clark, 2001).  They have found that synchronous meetings with mentors has facilitated learning and added to their success (Clark, 2001).  Once again, availability of teachers is important, but also the methods that the teacher takes to become involved in the learning process have impact.  Synchronous meetings can fill the needs for reaching out to students that may not do so on their own.
            Doering, Hughes, and Scharber described effective online teaching methods for social studies in K-12 online learning (Cavanaugh, et. al, 2007).  Teachers have experience in various ways, augmenting their lessons in the classroom, utilizing online activities.  Three categories are identified by Doering, et. al. (2007).  The first being direct instruction from the Internet, such as that supplied by BrainPOP videos (BrainPOP, 2013).  Second is active direct instruction which includes online courses where students direct their own pace with limited data; and the third is constructivist instruction where students direct their own pace and data, securing what information they need to analyze learning (Cavanaugh, et. al, 2007).  This study addressed concerns where learning online could have been enhanced, if the students had been instructed to use reflective tools available on blogs, such as collaborative communication, reflective writing, commenting, and co-authoring blogs (Cavanaugh, et. al, 2007).  Adventure Learning is a learning theory for social studies that takes advantage of a hybrid online learning environment and provides for opportunities to connect and explore real world issues (Cavanaugh, et. al, 2007).   Students interact with researchers who travel to a place with a known issue.  These excursions are shared online with students synchronously (LT Media Lab, n.d.).  For example, the team of researchers explored a remote area of the Arctic region, revealing to students online, the culture of this area in an adventure learning called, GoNorth! 2007 Chukotka (LT Media Lab, n.d.).


Bigatel, P., Ragan, L., Kennan, S., May, J. & Redmond, B.  (2012).  The identification of competencies for online teaching success.  Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(1), 59-77. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=82846343&site=eds-live
BrainPOP.  (2013).  Social Studies.  Retrieved from  www.brainpop.com

Cavanaugh, C., & Blomeyer, R. L.   (2007).   What works in K-12 online learning.   Eugene, OR:   International Society for Technology in Education.   

Clark, T. (2001).  Virtual Schools Trends and Issues.  Retrieved from   http://www.wested.org/online_pubs/virtualschools.pdf

DiPietro, M., Ferdig, R., Black, E., Preston, M. (2010).  Best practices in teaching K-12 online: Lessons learned from Michigan Virtual School teachers.  Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 9(3), 10-35. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=55383105&site=eds-live

L.T. MediaLab.  (n.d.).  Earth Education. Theory into practice.  Retrieved from http://lt.umn.edu/earthducation/theoryIntoPractice.html


Design a Discussion Board for eLearning

          Effective eLearning requires collaboration tools where students and instructors share ideas and join in discussion.  The advantages of asynchronous discussion allow participants to log into their accounts and read their classmates posts at any time.  This is especially helpful for globally located students when language presents communication problems, because they will have more time to read and translate messages, as well as formulate their own.  For students with learning difficulties, online discussion boards are often the answer.  Canvas Instructure was used to meet the needs of autistic students at Bellevue Washington:

Canvas Instructure

          Synchronous discussions simulate face-to-face learning, which is spontaneous. This requires all parties in the conversation to be available at the same time, and essentially share a common language. One of the drawbacks is the same thing as face-to-face meetings – the student cannot go back and read the discussion.  Although these contacts can be effective when everyone is up to the same speed in understanding, often there will be students who did not understand.
Emergent technologies provide tools to meet the needs of designers and users of discussion boards and other forms of collaboration and communication (Alexander, 2006).  Instructors facilitate learning by using web-based discussion forums only in as much as students participate and became engaged in the conversation.  Web-based communities provide sources for problem solving in many areas of daily learning (Alexander, 2006). 
Asynchronous discussion activities include a variety of formats.  Some virtual learning environments have discussion boards built into the framework of their platform.  For example, Blackboard and Canvas Instructure both have this discussion forum as part of the learning platform.  Canvas Instructure offers both synchronous and asynchronous methods of collaborating. Web conferencing uses real-time video and audio, as well as the use of a whiteboard.  Students can collaborate and make presentations in real-time.  These are two screenshots of the pages in Canvas for instructors to produce their own web conferences:

          Teachers can also set up discussion boards outside of their virtual learning environment by using other sources.  Wikispaces offers an easy format for course discussions where teachers invite class members to create an account and contribute. This might also be considered setting up a discussion board within a platform, because designers often use Wikispaces for an entire course (Alexander, 2006).

         Instructors can also stay in contact and relay information to their students through blogs and vlogs.  In this format, comments must be turned on, and students leave a message with regards to the content.  Dialogue develops as other students make comments.  This post is an example of a blog that has had comments enabled, using the Disqus platform.  Google offers a free blog called Blogger, and Wordpress is a self-hosted blog that is the primary choice for professionals. Vlogs are video logs, similar to blogs but on a platform that only supports video and comments.  Examples of this are YouTube and Vimeo. An instructor posts a video for discussion, and open comments to the class.

          Social networking sites are another form where students collaborate and share ideas.  Within the social network of Twitter, students can use hash tags (#) to form groups for sharing.  This idea was used in a course where students were required to make comments and share sites and links on Twitter, using the hash tag, #CNSoMe, for Canvas Network, Social Media course.  The class also had a Facebook page for students to post and share assignments. Social networking is a productive way to reach a global audience and collaborate information. It is not advisable for younger grades, or K-12.  Higher education courses and instructors are more likely to have success with this form of dialogue.
          It is also possible to use free-standing discussion boards for collaboration.  Several options are available to designers and include, Boardhost.com, Forumotion.com, FreeForums.org, Yuko.com, and VanillaForums.com. One of the concerns in any format is to ensure privacy for students.  Therefore, it is best to have logins that are required and registrations to sites for discussion. Privacy can be enabled on many social networks.
          Video conferencing is a method of collaboration and discussion used by UCLA in a graduate level course in screenwriting.  At first they used Skype, but then switched to OpenTok.  Live video study sessions are available using Open Tok, enhancing discussions beyond the board, bringing it to synchronous sharing.

Open Tok


Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2),     32-44.  Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0621.pdf

Canvas Network. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.canvas.net/

Open Tok.  (2013).  Retrieved from http://www.tokbox.com/industry/education

Vimeo.  (2013). Your videos belong here.  Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/

Wiki Spaces.  (2013).  Retrieved from http://www.wikispaces.com/



Assessment and eLearning

Educational strategies for learning require thoughtful planning stages that include objectives and rubrics for mentors and learners (Horton, 2012).  Teachers use rubrics to communicate expectations in a course and grade assignments. Students turn to the rubric as they write papers or complete assignments, in hopes of obtaining the desired grade. These grades should be aligned with meeting the objectives of the course, and serve to better guide both teachers and students (Teacher Vision, n.d.).  In this way, students have a better understanding of what the teacher expects and why points are given or taken off of assignments. For the learner to increase in understanding, a grade must not be elusive, but must fit within a guide – the rubric.  This standard of meeting guidelines and objectives is applied throughout the design of an online course, the delivery of the course, and the reception of the online course. Students of online courses should not have to guess what the instructor wants, but it should be easily discovered through the presence of an online rubric. Effective rubrics make learning easier and more successful for all engaged.
The strategy for developing an online rubric is much the same as for that in any element of instruction and learning.  However, some universities have developed online rubrics, such as that at California State University, Chico (2012). This rubric was prepared to facilitate instructors in the development of their online courses. It is divided into six categories:  (1) Learner support and resources,  (2) online organization and design,  (3) Instructional design and delivery,  (4) assessment and evaluation of student learning,  (5) appropriate and effective use of technology, and  (6)  faculty use of student feedback (CSU, 2012).  Within each of these categories, teachers evaluate their courses as meeting three escalating levels of effectiveness:  Baseline, Effective, or Exemplary (CSU, 2012).
Online learning requires rubrics that address learning strategies that are specific to eLearning.  This will include web page rubrics, multimedia rubrics, podcast rubrics, and more (Schrock, 2012).  As online learning reaches into the mobile device learning platform, these areas need to be addressed as well.  Textbooks, lectures, and assignments that are the staple of brick and mortar classroom learning cannot be simply uploaded to a website and be effective online courses.  Technology advances can enhance learning when properly prepared to become engaging and successful.
These assessment strategies reach across all learning levels, and include K-12 as well as higher education and corporate learning.  An online learning program that is embraced by many public and charter schools to deliver K-12 classes is called K12 (K12, 2013).   This program was one of the first to become available to online learners and has progressed to the point of meeting state and federal guidelines that enables public school districts to offer an online alternative to their brick and mortar schools.  One of their courses analyzed for this paper was an online high school biology course. The objectives and assessments were clearly outlined in the course. Materials for the lab and all books were listed and shipped to the student.  Although there was a rubric for all assignments, some were more effective than others.  Once a week, the instructor covered questions and the expectations via an online synchronous meeting using the technology platform, elluminate. Included in the rubric was the requirement for each of the students to log onto the discussion board and present the results of each lab.  Then, each student was required to respond to two other student’s results.  This was to encourage discussion, but it was not that effective in getting the students to discuss the results.  Students would meet the requirements, but not explore discussion further.  Perhaps this was due to the fact that the students were not familiar with discussion boards, or perhaps they merely wanted to the minimal requirements of the rubric. 
In another course at the higher education level, discussion boards elicited more conversation and dialog between students. However, at this higher educational level of learning, students were more likely to cross the boundaries of proper Internet etiquette.  In a course called “Writing in the Sciences” and offered as a massive open online course from Stanford University on the platform, Coursera, a few students used the discussion boards to condemn other students  of plagiarism.  Upon further analysis, some of the claims were not valid, as the writings submitted, found on the Internet, were in fact the writings of the students who had submitted the work in the course.  One of the drawbacks of this course was the anonymous method of submitting work to be graded by one’s peers.  The use of anonymity seems to encourage more vitriolic conversation and impedes progress of eLearning.  In the submittal of the writing assignments, there were no options to include information about the writer’s experience or published articles, an option that would have cleared up accusations.  Since this was a course offered to anyone, including professionals, to improve their writing of journal articles within the sciences, one would expect that some of these students would be already published. 
The instructor was effective in communicating through asynchronous video presentations.  She used clear examples and quizzes were regularly embedded to assess learners understanding of the material for the online course, “Writing in the Sciences.”  But the writing assignments were not effective in producing the desired outcomes.  This level of learning was blighted by the use of anonymous peer editing, which led to variable results.  Although there are application benefits when a student practices just-learned skills, in this case some students were better skilled than others.  Perhaps this could have been avoided by assigning the same article to all the students to be edited.  In this way, students could have more effectively collaborated on the editing, without accusing other students of plagiarism or being given another student’s writing that was poorly written and not easily edited.  The learning theory of connectivism could have been more effectively addressed through the use of one mutual writing sample to correct and edit (Herrington, n.d.).  Students would begin to build on their understanding of editing and writing (Kinesh, 2012). 
In 1956, Benjamin S. Bloom studied the process of learning and described these results in what became known as Bloom’s Taxonomy (Overbaugh, n.d.).  Others have adapted this and one student revised the pyramid of learning in the 1990s (Overbaugh, n.d.).  Bloom’s original concept of learning progressed from knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, to evaluation.  The revised Bloom’s taxonomy takes these concepts and turns them into action verbs, which are more meaningful and more applicable when designing learning rubrics (Overbaugh, n.d.).   Knowledge becomes remembering, comprehension becomes understanding, application is now applying, analysis is analyzing, synthesis becomes evaluating, and evaluation encompasses creating (Overbaugh, n.d.).  Horton’s (2012) absorb, do, and connect activities for effective online learning meet all of these demands. 
(Overbaugh, n.d.)
The Coursera course, “Writing in the Sciences” applied the tenets of the revised Bloom’s taxonomy in the design and delivery of the course, even though the area of peer editing was not that successful.  In conjunction with Bloom’s cognitive process, an effective rubric will include Horton’s (2012) absorb, do and connect activities.  The following table exemplifies this information, showing how Bloom’s taxonomy and Horton’s activities join to make an effective online learning rubric.  The Coursera course, “Writing in the Sciences” was analyzed using these guidelines.

Learning Activity and Objective
Learn to write in the active voice
Students watch video slide presentation of examples of passive versus active voice. (Voice-over)
Students are presented with sentences in passive voice. They must change to active voice. Correct revision follows on next screen.
Write a 300-word paragraph in the active voice, grade a peer’s writing.
Cut unnecessary words to write with more clarity and ease of reading.
Students watch slide video that presents information on parts of speech and how to streamline writing by removing extra adverbs, long phrases, jargon, needless prepositions, negatives, and “there is” and “there are”
Sentences are introduced one at a time that needs to be edited. Answers follow each sentence, with variation acceptable.
Write and correct a 300-word essay.
Write with strong verbs to write with more emphasis on action.
Students watch slide video with voice over explaining the use of strong verbs instead of nouns. Example: “obtain estimates” is replaced with “estimate”
Sentences that need to be corrected on screen with answers following.
Write and correct a 300 word essay.
Improve punctuation to include the correct use of em dash, parenthesis, semi-colon, and phrases
Slide presentation video, voice over explaining this concept.
Sentences introduced that need changes. Correct them and show the answers online.
Write a 300 word essay using these forms of punctuation and correct peer essays.
Use parallelism in writing to improve readability of papers.
Slide presentation, voice over examples of sentences that are written with parallelism and those that are not.
Sentences are introduced that need to have parallelism.
Write and correct a 300 word essay that incorporates parallelism.

California State University, Chico.  (2012).  Rubrics.  Retrieved from http://www.csuchico.edu/roi/

Coursera.  (n.d.).  Writing in the Sciences. Retrieved from http://coursera.org

Herrington A., & Herrington, H.  (n.d.).  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

K12,  (2013).  How a K12 Education Works.  Retrieved from http://www.k12.com/

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

Schrock, K.  (2012).  Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything.  Retrieved from http://www.schrockguide.net/assessment-and-rubrics.html

Teacher Vision.  (n.d.).  Creating rubrics.  Retrieved from http://www.teachervision.fen.com/teaching-methods-and-management/rubrics/4521.html


Critique of Online Course Design

Online learning course designers must take into considerations different learning strategies and address these in designing effective online courses, which may include simulations, video conferencing or lectures, online quizzes, discussion boards, collaborative projects and peer editing (Nash, 2006).   Horton (2011) identifies effective eLearning design as a critical path or succession of steps that incorporate learning objectives and theory.  When choosing a course of action for instruction, the principles of pedagogy and andragogy must also be considered, as not all learners are the same age or have accumulated the same amount of knowledge (Willems, 2011).  At the college level, undergraduate students have different learning styles than graduate students (Willems, 2011).  Designers should vary the design based on these needs (Liu, et al., 2009).  At the core of instructional design is the objective that learners will be changed (Horton, 2011).   Effective and successful design will include learning activities where the learner absorbs information, discovers through practice, and uses the information (Horton, 2011).
One of the instructional methods that designer’s use for effective e-Learning is to implement tasks rather than to focus on topics (Shank, 2011).  This can be difficult for educators who are more focused on subject matter, but in online learning, tasks are better at connecting students to the real world (Shank, 2011).  This design principle embraces the theory of connectivism, which identifies the need for other’s opinions as part of the learning process (Kinesh, 2012).  As an example, the online course offered at Cousera.org, titled, “Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World” (Cousera.org, n.d.) will be examined. In this course, students came from a broad range of abilities and backgrounds. The class was offered online as one of the massive open online courses (MOOC) from the University of Michigan. The professor was one of the full-time professors at the university and this was a course that is continually offered on a scheduled time frame at the Coursera web site.

Figure 1. Homepage for the Coursera course, Fantasy and Science Fiction:  The Human Mind, Our Modern World.  Reprinted [screenshot] by University of Michigan for  Coursea.org, n.d.

This is a screen shot of the course information page.  After a student has enrolled, the course page becomes assessable. The design of the homepage is clear and the sidebar contains the necessary links to complete the course.  It utilizes the task method of instructional design, as students must complete a task from the initial step through the final step.  The instruction was divided into modules of ten asynchronous video lectures, readings, writings, and peer editing.  Shank (2011) recommends that these modules be concise and relevant. This course followed the format for each module which made it easy to follow, progressing from the task of absorbing information through the video, actively reading the material, and writing or constructing information (Horton, 2011). The use of tasks helps learners stay engaged and focused while learning (Shank, 2011).  Online courses that have clearly defined tasks and intuitive navigational homepages encourage learners to complete tasks. The end result is that the student will have gained a better understanding of the material presented through activities that include Horton’s (2011) absorb, do, and connect activities. This course met the desired design for an effective online course.
The course syllabus is an important link on the sidebar that identifies the tasks to be completed. Each module or unit is based on this format. The student watches a short video presentation where the professor presents relevant information for the upcoming reading. One of the tenets of successful eLearning design is to remove any student frustration with the learning experience (Shank, 2011).  The information is presented in an easy to follow absorb activity (Horton, 2012) after which the student becomes involved in an activity of practice.  After watching the video, the student is directed to an assigned reading, in one case, the novel, “Frankenstein.”  Probably the biggest drawback was the timeframe to complete the readings.  Each module began on a Monday for the video presentation, the reading was to be completed and a review or essay written by the following Tuesday. This was the design for the entire ten modules, and some students posted on the discussion boards that they did not have enough time to complete the readings when they were long or required two books.  However, the discussion boards provided a place for connecting with other students and sharing ideas, fitting a learning theory of connectivism (Herrington, n.d.).  It should be noted that the course was available for enrollment several months before the start date and the web page provided enough information to begin reading ahead of time and the professor encouraged this as well. In fact, the initial page, which comes before the actual homepage for the course, contained many of the required chunks of information noted by Shank (2011).  

Figure 2. Introduction pages to the Coursera course, Fantasy and Science Fiction:  The Human Mind, Our Modern World.  Reprinted [screenshot] by University of Michigan for Coursea.org, n.d.

The following items were made available previous to the start of the course:  Date of the course and length of duration, workload hours required per week, a small paragraph about the course content, work expectations, course syllabus with a list of the ten books to be read, recommended background, suggested readings, reading advice (which included the advice to begin the reading early), course format, and frequently asked questions.  Also included was a short video, where the professor introduced the course. Navigation was clear and the sign up button clearly visible, addressing the needs to avoid frustration from the start (Shank, 2011 and Horton, 2011).
Another area that contributed to some frustration was the lack of knowledge about which students were writing English as a second language. This became more evident as the peer editing process began.  Although it was brought to the attention of the staff via online discussion boards, it was not timely to make changes, although it was acknowledged for a future course.  Students posted on discussion boards that they would grade fellow students differently if they knew that English was not their first language, especially when it came to grammar.  As eLearning becomes more global and the university is extended beyond the confines of a brick and mortar classroom, this area will need to be addressed. There are benefits to including a broad range of learners, as they will bring perspective and previous learning to the table of collaboration and connectiveness  (Herrington, n.d.).  From a designer’s perspective, this may increase the complexity of the project, but must be answered for an effective global eLearning platform (Shank, 2011). 
Shank (2011) recommends that instructional designers allow for learners to interact in such a way as to get to know each other, a type of roll call.  Another online course offered by Canvas Instructure, titled Social Media, encouraged students to post their bio and goals for learning on a discussion board. Then to increase the interaction and collaboration, the instructor required students to form groups based on interests.  One aspect of this course encouraged the learners to get fifty new twitter followers and follow others with similar interests.  The teacher became involved as well, retweeting students and sharing her experiences. She further shared with students that she became more familiar with collaboration through twitter while working on her dissertation. Through out her journey of research and writing she mobilized effort by using twitter. This effort increased her followers who anxiously gave her tips and encouragement throughout the process.

Figure 3. Introduction page to the Canvas Instructure course, Social Media.  Reprinted from [screenshot] from Canvas Instructure, by Canvas Instructure, n.d.

Figure 4. Course Module page to the Canvas Instructure course, Social Media.  Reprinted from [screenshot] from Canvas Instructure, by Canvas Instructure, n.d.

Figure 3. Discussion board page to the Canvas Instructure course, Social Media.  Reprinted from [screenshot] from Canvas Instructure, by Canvas Instructure, n.d.

In the Coursera course, effective instructional design utilized the method of absorb and do activities recommended by Horton (2011) and Shank (2001).  The initial asynchronous video lecture was given by the professor to provide a short background on the upcoming reading and writing assignment.   After watching the video, the student did the reading and the writing assignment, submitting it by a firm due date.  The next day, students had access to approximately five new video lectures for further exploration about the reading.  Peer editing would become available the following day, with students required to grade four essays based on a rubric, assigning a number from one to three, and an area to write a response. These graded writings became accessible the next day, showing the four reviews and grades.  Due to the varied background of the learners, the evaluations varied as well; with some students well versed in the English language and analysis process, while others not so well versed.  This sequence of activities, of absorbing and doing meets the demands of a constructivist learning theory, with students building upon their previous knowledge, the information provided by the instructor, the constructing of their own essays, and grading of peers (Kinesh, 2012).  Effective eLearning courses must embrace learning theory as well as effective instructional design.  ).  In the Canvas course, the modules were more visual, and the sidebar offered a checklist that automatically kept track of the student’s progress. The professor in the Coursera course could no longer interact with students due to the size of the class and this was a disappointment.  The Canvas course was more successful in connectivism, and the instructor was readily available through online discussion boards, facebook, and twitter.  She was also more effective in utilizing the theory of constructivism, as she encouraged goals that were set up as tasks, such as the twitter goal and facebook social network.  Effective eLearning courses must embrace learning theory as well as effective instructional design.


Canvas Network. (n.d.). [Screenshot.] Social media. Retrieved April 5, 2013, from https://www.canvas.net/courses/social-media

Coursera. (n.d.). [Screenshot.] Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind Our Modern World. Retrieved April 5, 2013, from

FitzPatrick, T. (2012). Key success factors of eLearning in education: A professional development model to evaluate and support eLearning. Online Submission, Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED537174&site=eds-live

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

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

Shank, P. (2011). The Online Learning Idea Book, Proven Ways to Enhance Technology Based and Blended Learning. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/61199678/The-Online-Learning-Idea-Book-Proven-Ways-to-Enhance-Technology-Based-and-Blended-Learning

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

Disqus for Online Learning