Online Learning Part 4

Online Learning Part 4 – Types and Extent of Online Learning

by Mark Sivy

Online learning exists in different forms and they vary based upon the intended outcomes, level of interactivity, number or users, and the forms of communication which are used. Four general types are:

  • Static Information (usually low level of interactivity, single user, reading)

This can provide intentional learning as in the case of online frequently-asked-questions or other knowledge bases which were purposefully created to provide some form of education for targeted learners. This information could be for a specific subject, process, task, or product. Other online information such as blogs, wikis, and websites can provide unintentional learning in the sense that they are not provided for a specific audience, but rather have been posted for public access and can be found through searches or “web-surfing”. These usually require low levels of interactivity and engagement other than reading.

Static Information

Example of static information – from Clayton Christensen Institute.

  • Web-based Support (usually moderate level of interactivity, multiple users, text-based communication exchanges)

Learning occurs through the use of forums, chat rooms, discussion boards, text-messaging, e-mail, or live instant-messaging. This form of learning often involves a knowledgeable person who responds to learning by answering specific questions or providing needed information.

  • Synchronous (usually moderate to high level of interactivity, multiple users, various forms of sensory input)
Adobe Connect

Adobe Connect

This occurs in real-time with a live instructor presenting information or with a facilitator guiding learning activities and processes. It can be similar to a traditional class meeting, but the meeting is via the Internet using a specialized meeting technology rather than within a physical space. Everyone logs into the common application or system at a specified time and for a given length of time. An event can happen once or meetings can occur on a regular basis for as many times as is required. Communication typically involves text, voice, and sometime video.

  • Asynchronous (usually moderate to high level of interactivity, single to multiple users, various forms of sensory input)

This is the most commonly used category for web-based learning which is occurring in association with a given course or class. It involves self-paced learning which means the learner accesses learning materials, resources, activities, etc. at a time which fits their schedule and location. The usual pacing limits or guidelines are based upon course syllabi and daily, weekly, or term-based timelines. Often asynchronous learning happens through a well-designed website or learning management system which has been developed by an instructor or team of instructors. Even though learning can this type of learning can occur individually, it usually involves a combination of individual and group efforts.

For more on synchronous and asynchronous online learning, read EDUCAUSE and eLearners.com articles.

Reflection Point 1 – I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand. ~ Confucius

Extent of Online Learning

Online learning can also be described based upon the degree to which the learning occurs online:

  • fully online learningFully online – the instruction and learning occurs almost completely in the online environment.
  • Hybrid / Blended – there is a blend between substantial learning occurring both online and face-to-face.
  • Supplemental – the majority of learning occurs in the physical classroom with ancillary materials and resources available online.

Reflection Point 2 – Good teaching is good teaching, no matter how it’s done. ~ Anonymous

 

Online Learning Part 3

Online Learning Part 3 – Benefits and Challenges of Online Learning

by Mark Sivy

online learningOnline learning is not intended or expected to be the magic solution to current education issues. Using strategic planning, an instruction systems technology (human performance technology), and instructional design for online learning approach can in some cases resolve or reduce present education problems or concerns, and it does address modern learner expectations to use digital technologies. On the other hand, online learning comes with its own issues.

Some benefits of online learning are that it can:

  • Fit into personal schedules more easily than traditional learning.
  • Be self-directed and self-paced, thus allowing learners the opportunity to speed up, slow down, and review content at an individual pace.
  • Lead to greater self-confidence, thus empowering the learner to take more responsibility for their learning.
  • Offer personalized learning, using a variety of delivery and presentation methods, thus accommodating multiple learning styles and personal preferences.
  • Lead to the improvement of learner attitudes, self-esteem and self-efficacy which can result in better outcomes and learner retention.
  • Allow for greater personal mobility, reduced travel time and expenses, and the ability to overcome geographic barriers.
  • Compensate for personal restrictions, challenges, or limitations.
  • Facilitate increased student interactivity, student collaboration, team work, and one-on-one contact with the instructor.
  • Permit learners to experiment, explore, create, fail, retry, and learn without the fear of others being aware.
  • Be used to create peer community and support which enhance learning.
  • Allow for broader learning opportunities and course options at a lower cost to the learner.
  • Lower the cost and ease the scheduling for instructor professional development, training, follow-up contact, and ongoing support.
  • Enhance the learner’s awareness and skills in the use of technologies such as computers, applications, and the Internet.
  • Deliver standard content and consistent messages, ensuring that learners have access to the same resources and opportunities.
  • Provide cost savings to institutions in terms of reducing the need for buildings.
  • Enable global awareness, community, networking and resources.
  • Reduce environmental damage caused by energy consumption, waste emissions, and land use.
  • Provide tools which allow for tracking, analyzing, reporting, and improving teaching and learning.
  • Host simulations and role-play activities that would otherwise not be possible

Reflection Point – “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”   ~Albert Einstein

Some challenges of online learning are that:

  • Learners who procrastinate, are not self-motivated, require frequent prompting, or who have poor study habits may fail to meet requirements and deadlines.
  • Non-verbal communication such as body language, facial expressions, and eye contact will typically be missing.
  • Barriers can exist initially for learners due to the need for new skills which are associated with using technologies and new ways of learning.
  • Technological constraints exist in terms of communication, project completion and submission, inadequate devices, and restrictive file formats.
  • It is more difficult to interact or communicate with individuals who tend to be unresponsive.
  • Issues can arise for instructors due to the need for adapting or learning new online teaching strategies, processes, and routines.
  • Students may miss face-to-face social contact and interaction, can feel isolated, or may need in-person teacher-student interaction.
  • Instructors may not always be available on demand in a manner which is often expected when communicating electronically.
  • Slow or unreliable Internet connections can present issues and frustration.
  • Creating and maintaining the necessary institutional infrastructure, resources, and support can be costly and complex.
  • Learners may be confused or disoriented due to the lack of routines surrounding a traditional class.
  • Hands-on activities or lab work are sometimes difficult to host or simulate.
  • Immediate feedback which exists in a traditional class often is not available
  • There is a dependency on Internet connections and functioning hardware.
  • It often requires a difficult change in attitudes and beliefs by learners, instructors, parents, and community.
  • There is a reduction in opportunities to develop oral communication skills and other social dynamics.

Reflection Point – Technology is not capable of or intended to replace teachers, but “any teacher who can be replaced by a computer deserves to be.” ~ David Thornburg

 

Online Learning Part 2

Online Learning Part 2 – How Did Online Learning Come to Be?

by Mark Sivy

In tracing the roots of online learning, it is first necessary to put forth a basic understanding of what sets online learning apart from other forms of learning. For the purpose of this article, online learning is learning that takes place via the Internet when there is a lack of physical presence between the learner and instructor due to geographic separation. Given this perspective, evidence of learning at-a-distance is seen in a 1728 advertisement for a Boston mail-based correspondence course for learning shorthand. Recognized formal education at-a-distance can be found as early as 1858 at the University of London and in 1873 through the Society to Encourage Studies at Home in Boston. Early forms of technology-enhanced distancePLATO Learning System learning are found in the early 1900s with the use of new technologies such as the radio, slide projector, and motion picture. Starting in the 1940s, television provided another medium for distance learning. The first noted use of computers that formed an organized and connected system of learning was PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) in 1960 at the University of Illinois. With the conception of the World Wide Web in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee and it being made publicly available in 1993, modern forms of online education began developing.

Today’s online learning occurs through the use of digital devices such as personal computers, laptops, tablets, or mobile phones that are connected to educational content, events, and activities via the Internet. Depending upon personal choices, needs, and resource availability, web-based learning is available in a variety of formats from instructor-led massive open online courses (MOOCs) to self-paced personalized web-based tutorials. Online learning usually involves gaining access to rich learning environments, experiences, and events which might otherwise not be possible in a typical classroom.

At the level of primary grades, online learning is usually limited to teacher-led activities in the classroom or parent-monitored web-based activities at home. At the secondary level, online learning options become more varied and with increased individual access. For higher education and adult education, learners typically have open access to a variety of digital technologies which allow full access and use of web-based learning resources.

Today online learning is often and incorrectly, used interchangeably with e-learning. In actuality online learning is a subset of e-learning, which actually encompasses all forms of teaching and learning through the use of educational technologies whether via the Internet, a network, or a standalone system. This broad expanse of e-learning includes multimedia learning, computer-based training (CBT), virtual learning environments, and mobile learning.

mobile learningIn summary, online learning involves achieving intended learning outcomes using a digital device that has access to web-based educational content, resources, events, and activities.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ~W. B. Yeats

Online Learning Part 1

Online Learning Part 1 – Internet Trends

by Mark Sivy

The use of the Internet for purposes of communication, information, and online learning has experienced rapid growth during the past two decades. The 2013 Pew Internet Use Survey results show that over 86% of all adults (18+ years of age) in the United States are connected to the Internet, whereas in 1995 it was 14%. The Miniwatts Marketing Group maintains global Internet usage statistics, which indicated in June 2012 that over 34% of the global population were connected to the Internet and that this indicated a 566% increase since 2000.

online learning global internet useonline learning regional internet use

The point made by this Internet usage information is that the path is for the broad use of the Internet as an education conduit for online learning is widening. In a 2012 global Internet user survey by the Internet Society, 98% of the participants agreed that the Internet is essential for access to education and knowledge.

Evidence indicates that the use of the Internet for online learning is steadily increasing and has seen the fastest growth in higher education. An August 2011 Pew Research Center survey, The Digital Revolution and Higher Education, found that 77% of colleges and 89% of four-year universities of offer online courses. Also reflecting this growth in online courses is a Sloan Consortium /Babson Survey Research Group report, Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States, 2013, which found that over 7.1 million higher education students (33.5%) took at least one online course in the Fall 2013 term. In terms of fully online higher education institutions, the Online Education Database organization currently contains reviews of over 1847 higher education schools in the US that offer online courses.

In the K-12 setting, there has also been a rapid increase in the use of online courses and resources. There is an increasing emphasis on online and blended courses and online learning systems, such as found in the National Education Technology Plan, released by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010. A Project Tomorrow survey report, Learning in the 21st Century: 2011 Trends Update, found that three times as many high school students and twice as many middle school students are learning online as compared to the original 2007 report. It was also noted that in 2011, 27% of all high school students took at least on class online. In Project Tomorrow’s 2013 Trends in Online Learning Virtual, Blended and Flipped Classrooms, it is reported that 43% of US school districts offer access to online courses. In iNACOL’s 2013 Fast Facts About Online Learningstates that five states – Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Virginia, and Michigan – require online learning for students in the public schools. According to the Evergreen Education Group’s 2013 Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning Report, 26 states have state-led virtual schools, 24 states have blended schools, 30 states have fully online schools, and the number of private online learning options is increasing.

Reflection Point – The next big killer application on the Internet is going to be education. ~John Chambers

 

International ICT Education Trend

Extending the Reach of High Quality P-12 Education through ICT: An International Trend

by Mark Sivy

Realizing that a well-educated populace is essential for boosting national prosperity and competitiveness in an international economy, top-level education departments and ministries around the world are now focused on ensuring that their P-12 curricula and instruction are adjusted to modern standards. This task involves ensuring that learners have the specific skills, literacies, knowledge, and expertise that will ensure their success in the global marketplace. A crucial piece in accomplishing this, both in terms of learning outcomes and instructional delivery, is ICT (Information, Communications and Technology).

One-to-One InitiativeAs a driver of learning outcomes, ICT has played an important role in the development of new international curricular strategies. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has been at the forefront of providing a basis for the remodeling and modernization of teaching, learning and curriculum, with ICT being a significant consideration. Even though established as a US K-12 education initiative, the organization’s recommendations have global relevance and implications. One of the major categories found within the Partnership’s renowned publication, P21 Framework Definitions document, was created in response to the fact that we live in a global environment that is infused with and dependent upon technology and media. This portion of the document offers the following guidelines for the knowledge, skills, and expertise that student should possess as a result of the learning process:

Information Literacy

  • Access and Evaluate Information
    • Access information efficiently (time) and effectively (sources)
    • Evaluate information critically and competently
  • Use and Manage Information
    • Use information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand
    • Manage the flow of information from a wide variety of sources
    • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information

Media Literacy

  • Analyze Media
    • Understand both how and why media messages are constructed, and for what purposes
    • Examine how individuals interpret messages differently, how values and points of view are included or excluded, and how media can influence beliefs and behaviors
    • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of media
  • Create Media Products
    • Understand and utilize the most appropriate media creation tools, characteristics and conventions
    • Understand and effectively utilize the most appropriate expressions and interpretations in diverse, multicultural environments

ICT Literacy

  • Apply Technology Effectively
    • Use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information
    • Use digital technologies (computers, PDAs, media players, GPS, etc.), communication/networking tools and social networks appropriately to access, manage, integrate, evaluate and create information to successfully function in a knowledge economy
    • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information technologies

21st Centure LearningAs a medium for instructional delivery, ICT plays another significant role in the modernization of international education systems. One of the challenges in many countries has been the provision of a quality and equal education to all children regardless of their circumstances. Around the world, ICT infrastructures are being updated and expanded to provide Internet access to both urban and rural destinations and recipients. Additionally, these schools and learners are being provided with devices to receive educational web content that has been specifically designed and developed by subject matter experts, master teachers, and instructional designers who are highly specialized in e-learning and the variety of learning devices. Of particular interest and development are mobile learning, One Laptop per Child (OLPC), and other one-to-one initiatives. These will be examined in future posts.

Reflection Point – M-learning is the intersection of mobile computing and e-learning, that includes anytime, anywhere resources; strong search capabilities; rich interaction; powerful support for effective learning; and performance-based assessment. ~Clark Quinn

Virtual Reality…For Education?

The Latest in Virtual Reality Gear

by Mark Sivy

The notion of virtual reality can be traced back to 1938 when Antonin Artaud, a French playwright, actor and director, used it in a book written to describe theater. Later, in the 1970s, Myron Krueger coined the term “artificial reality” in reference to the interaction between humans and computers. Historically, this concept of having a virtual session within a computer-generated 3D simulated environment has been nothing more than an exercise in science fiction for the masses. Even though the virtual reality (VR) systems that enable this type of experience have been available for decades, their price tags and technological requirements have been enormous. Then came the recent introduction of the wearable VR device that attaches to a personal computer.

<img src="image.gif" alt="Oculus Rift" />

Oculus Rift

The media forerunner in this has been the Oculus Rift, which is a consumer-targeted virtual reality head-mounted display that is expected to be released in final version near the end of 2014. It made headlines recently when it was announced that the parent company, Oculus VR, was purchased by Facebook in March 2014. The current developer kit version of the Rift is available for $300 US. Similar personal computer-connected systems are under development by other companies such as the Sony Morpheus, True Player Gear Totem, Avegant Glyph, GameFace Mark IV, and Durovis Dive, thus we can anticipate a flood of this very highly anticipated technology into the marketplace during the next couple of years. Presently these systems are primarily being designed for either immersive gaming or for movie entertainment, but other uses of the system are certainly possible and are being considered.

<img src="image.gif" alt="Durovis Dive" />

Durovis Dive

<img src="image.gif" alt="True Player Gear" />

True Player Gear

<img src="image.gif" alt="Sony Morpheus" />

Sony Morpheus

How Can They Be Used for Education?

Imagine the advantages that these VR options would have for education. The levels of engagement, interactivity, collaboration, presence and visualization that these devices will offer can certainly be leveraged to the advantage of learning. In a recent Wired article, Brian Shuster discussed the likelihood of using virtual world environments for educational purposes. Even the Oculus Rift creator, Palmer Luckey, envisions educational uses of his creation in an article in Gamespot. In anticipation of the educational uses of VR, East Carolina University in North Carolina had established the Virtual Reality and Education Laboratory in 1992 and the university currently offers a concentration in VR within their Education Master’s degree program.

Reflection Point: Virtual reality is a medium, a means by which humans can share ideas and experiences. ~ Alan B. Craig

 

Why Educational Technology?

Educational Technology

by Mark Sivy

Having worked over 25 years with technologies used for education and now having completed a doctorate with a specialization in instructional systems technology, I felt the need to reflect upon my experiences and to recalibrate myself within this field. The question is, what IS this field?

After reading through multitudes of definitions and perspectives on educational technology and related terms such as instructional technology and instructional systems technology, I’ve come to an overarching conclusion. In this age of information overload, with a wealth of inconsistent information coming from well-intentioned individuals who probably are not subject matter experts, I firmly believe it is essential to have reputable organizations setting standards that serve as reference points. In the case of educational technology, I turned my attention to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). The AECT, which had its beginning in 1923, is the most widely recognized international educational technology professional organization and it’s been maintaining terminology and definitions for decades.

So to define the field of educational technology, I refer to the definition released by the AECT (2008):

“Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.”

From my perspective, I see some crucial elements in this definition that fit my personal beliefs and interests:

  • Study. The desire to add theory and research-based scaffolding to my work was the primary driving force in seeking my doctorate. I strongly believe that study should be an integral component in any educational pursuits that involve change or adaptation.
  • Ethical Practice. I consider this phrase in the sense of following accepted rules or standards of professional conduct in ensuring intended outcomes. This doesn’t mean discarding creativity and innovation by following rigid guidelines, but rather means that one is prudent, cautious, and responsible in the selection and use of technology. I’ve seen too many cases where technology was used in education because it was a desirable current trend rather than because a well-documented need existed and a well-informed decision was made to use technology to address it.
  • Appropriate Technological Processes and Resources. Even with a recognized need as a driver, carrying out the implementation of a technology has often not been strategically and completely planned. This can result in a lack of buy-in, teaching and learning issues, improper or insufficient support, and funding shortfalls. From my experience, I recommend using a comprehensive project approach such as agile project management.

In the end, I see educational technology as a technology that has been selected and used based upon educational theory, research, and practice, with the intention of integrating technology skills and technological literacy into the curriculum and learning. I view instructional technology (technology as a teaching and learning tool) and instructional systems technology (designing, developing, and managing technology-related processes, policy, infrastructure, organization systems, and services in an educational environment) as subsets of educational technology.

Reflection Point: Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event. ~Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Reference:

Association for Educational Communications and Technology (2008). Definition. In A. Januszewski and M. Molenda (Eds.), Educational Technology: A definition with commentary. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.