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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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:

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

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post and fabulous work throughout. You are well positioned to make a significant contribution to the body of knowledge in the field of elearning.


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