Online learning practices

Revisiting the edited book by Terry Anderson (2008), The Theory and Practice of Online Learning many chapters provide practical experience and suggestions for online learning. Here is a brief summary of some of the chapters:

Chapter 5: Developing an Infrastructure for Online Learning

  • creating online learning includes “planning, structural and organizational issues, the components of a system and the interfaces among them … and human resources, decision-making and training” (p.121)
  • key components to online learning are the needs of students and the learning outcomes
  • also important are: course development, development team, and management processes; learning management systems and course management systems; digital resources and learner services; integrating interfaces and customizable user portals; quality project assessment and evaluation
  • issues to consider: centralized vs decentralized systems; user grow, access, security, and technical help; work contract terms, training, and support committees; organizational change, leadership, governance, and change management; communication

Chapter 6: Technologies of Online Learning

Chapter 8: Meeting the Needs of Today’s New Generation of Online Learners with Mobile Learning Technologies

  • the 4th evolution of technology is seeing the learner in full control
  • “the educational marketplace is increasingly literate and competent with information and communication technologies” (p.205)
  • therefore, create elearning for mobile technology = mlearning
  • mlearning at Athabasca included mobile device-ready learning objects (MP3 versions text, audio and video; open source material, text-to-speech technology), a m-library website, mlearning application tools, and best practices design document

Chapter 9: Social Software to Support Distance Education Learners

  • the challenge: “to permit maximum student freedom while supporting opportunities for community building and mutual individual support in cost-effective ways” (p.222)
  • non-cost effective: cohort model, real-time interactive software, asynch texting = low student to instructor ratio; low economy of scale
  • “social presence correlates with student satisfaction and higher scores on learning outcomes” (p.224) = interaction is key
  • yet, Paulsen contends learner freedom is essential but shifts with individual and group preferences (pace, media, choice, access, content, relationships)
  • social software offers different affordances, has new patterns of interconnection and relies on user input. New term: Educational Social Software (ESS)
  • good features of ESS are presence indicators, notifications, filtering, cooperative learning supports, referring popular activities, modelling students (AI), learner introductions, helping others, sharing docs and objects. See me2u.athabascau.ca by ELGG

Chapter 10: The Development of Online Courses

  • student-centered design includes online instructional materials to help organize, prepare and orient students (syllabus, general info, rules)
  • requires sound pedagogy plus effective online teaching (tolerance for ambiguity, scaffolding principles, high levels of interaction, problem solving and formative assessment)
  • faculty buy-in requires encouragement, support and reward faculty
  • teacher education is critical: online pedagogy, preparation, support and training
  • define ways to manage time effectively online such as get help from technical staff, create a FAQ, set rules for questions and communication, find ways to refer students for help
  • “become familiar with the “institution’s web development unit, technical training unit, information technology unit, and other support units … and build a strong working relationship with those support units” (p.255)
  • course development includes centralized unit, reusable learning objects, Web 2.0 initiatives (community building and social networking tools), course development team (subject matter experts, graphic designer, web developer, programmer, and instructional designer)

Chapter 12: Making Relevant Financial Decisions about Technology in Education

Chapter 13: The Quality Dilemma in Online Education Revisited

  • online learning is still seen with suspect in the eyes of the academy and learners
  • the question becomes how to create quality measures that ensure good design and insure students
  • and who would create these? the institute (peer review)? the government (educational standards)? the education industry (collaborative work using benchmarks)? other models (Total Quality Management – TQM?) International codes of practice? input from institutional stakeholders?
  • Yet, “establishing the terms through which to assess online education should not be left to either the marketplace or to self-perpetuating bureaucracies.
  • the old measure of educational quality in higher education focused on seat time, student numbers, instructor qualifications) and outputs (tuition revenue, satisfaction ratings by students, intellectual property)
  • a new paradigm for online learning could include measure features such as: “learner-centred, local, deferential, tailored, open, collaborative, qualitative, flexible, learning-as-constant with time-as-variable, teacher-skilled, aggregate experience, international/global, dynamic, distributed-delivery model, outcomes, services” (p.311)
  • quality frameworks should also mention about qualifications, auditing, approving curricula, credit system, assessment, informing the public, systems, quality management process, and access (p.318)
  • Canada has the Canadian Recommended e-Learning Guidelines

Chapter 15: Call Centres in Distance Education

  • refabricate call centres with highly motivated and supported staff versus traditional attitudes of low skilled workers – they are the front line of the institution for students and student needs
  • call centres should focus on student service and retention
  • services: one-stop service, diagnosing student needs, prospective student questions, content queries requiring tutoring, program issues requiring advising, and technical questions
  • have basic tutors, program advisors and technical help available, relieving the instructor to manage these queries.
  •  call centres can collect data to reveal student questions to inform better service, instructional design, improving technology
  • one emerging model to follow to lead a call centre: customer experience management (CEM)
  • use a variety of information and communication technology to connect with inquirers
  • such a service will help alleviate feelings of loneliness and disconnection for the community (academy)
  • “to promote the reputation of the organization, they need to feel they are a vital part of the organization” – provide call centre workers training, coaching and support

Chapter 16 – Library Support for E-Learners

  • the role of the librarian in the digital world has changed from information provider to educator – a liaison for distance students navigating the vast amount of info online
  • it is the obligation of universities to ensure all students have access to library resources
  • virtual libraries use an array of technology to link information and access for students – to a diverse selection of publications in print and digital form
  • new technologies can personalize libraries for learners: social tagging, build own collection, automatic references, annotated resources, live chatrooms and messaging, e-reserves, librarian weblogs, email reference service, online tutorials, learning management systems -notions of Library 2.0
  • instructing to increase informational literacy skills also includes critical evaluation of resources
  • such services require staff training, senior management support, collaboration, research, and external partnerships

Chapter 17 – Supporting the Online Learner

  • students have diverse needs and require support to ensure their success, to encourage persistence and to reduce drop out
  • “to develop the learner’s independence and facilitate the learning process by providing supports that are flexible, accessible and readily available when needed” (p.419).
  • a dual mode institution (on campus and online) has the challenges of providing support to two different groups
  • in order to determine support for diverse needs the following needs to be assessed: learner’s readiness for online learning, access and familiarity with tech, their learning style, language proficiency, and educational goals.
  • supports can include: technology support, career counselling, program advising, and learner readiness, writing skills, disability accommodations, peer support, learning community, governance participation, material acquisition, information support, library resources, educational counselling, student rights
  • metacognitive supports helps students learn again and address time management, online learning strategies, writing papers, understanding intellectual property issues, searching and critically analyzing information online, and building communities with social software
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