Tag Archives: instructional systems technology

Online Teaching and Learning in Practice

Online Teaching and Learning (OTL) Framework

by Mark Sivy

The current global academic arena is being shaped and led by innovation and online courses, MOOCS, certifications and degrees. Learners, whether young adults who are full-time learners or working adults fitting courses into their busy schedules, are demanding and benefiting from on-demand access to online education. Developing a robust OTL program enables higher education institutions to be competitive, to meet learner demands for online content and collaborative learning, and to address SME and industry needs for employees to have a working knowledge of online learning and operations.

MOOCProgram stakeholders need to realize that a new OTL initiative will take a few years to gain momentum, but once that occurs, rapid growth and development will follow. The following is a summary of the necessary considerations for strategically planning and developing a successful OTL program. Not all items must be implemented in association with the faculty development, but they will be to occur early in the deployment of OTL.

Elements That Facilitate Effective OTL Practices:

  1. Infrastructure
  2. Support
  3. Learner Fulfillment
  4. Faculty Approval
  5. Learning Outcomes
  6. Cost Effectiveness

Infrastructure

To ensure success, the technical, administrative and instructional foundations for an OTL program should be strategically planned to be sustainable and scalable. Common technical aspects include servers and database capacities, load analyses, student information systems, a learning management system, end-user devices, and bandwidth. Administrative backing in areas such as providing financial resources and staff, policy, advising, online library access, and learning object repositories.

Support

Multiple areas of support will be needed. This will involve help desk support for students, professional development and training for faculty, and technical support and maintenance for systems. Very often with a start-up program, support is provided by faculty, teaching assistants and user communities, but this should be supplemented and eventually replaced by institutional support facilities.

Support Services

Solid support services can make all the difference between program success and failure

Learner Fulfillment

Online learners prefer and need responsive and individualized services. This includes not only the learning management system and faculty, but also areas such as advising, registration and tutoring. Effective and frequent communication is a premium in OTL, and thus the learning environment should sustain high levels of communication, social interaction, and collaboration. Student surveys and needs assessments should be performed on a regular basis.

Faculty Approval

At the core of a successful OTL program are the faculty. They should be involved in the program building process from the very beginning. Input surveys identifying faculty needs, learning needs, and technological needs should be implemented. Marketing of the OTL program should begin early, showing the benefits and advantage of how OTL can enhance instruction and the academy. It is also vital to host faculty forums, create faculty focus groups, form communities of practice, and identify faculty champions. A grassroots faculty advancement of OTL is likely to have a much higher degree of buy-in and success than a program that is a top-down initiative. With that said, administrators should acknowledge that OTL can be more time consuming for the faculty than in-person courses.

Learning Outcomes

It’s essential that both students and faculty feel that the quality of OTL is on par with face-to-face learning. If done well, OTL can exceed traditional classroom outcomes. This can lead to better enrollment, retention and graduation rates.

Cost Effectiveness

A well-planned and supported OTL program can increase financial, infrastructure and human resource effectiveness, thus reducing overall costs.

Reflection Point – “The challenge is not simply to incorporate learning technologies into current institutional approaches, but rather to change our fundamental views about effective teaching and learning and to use technology to do so.” ~Donald Hanna

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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

 

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.