Tag Archives: online learning

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

Online Learning Part 6

Online Learning Part 6 – Series Final Thoughts

by Mark Sivy

online learningIn this age of global opportunities due to increased connectivity, greater mobility, and seemingly endless web-based possibilities, intellectual capacity is now being recognized as a nation’s greatest resource. In response, governments and educational institutions should now be seeking to leverage forward thinking strategies and innovative technologies to develop and capitalize on the human resource. Whether changes are being made in public schools, higher education, talent development, or training, the educational processes should be interactive, engaging, and reflective of present and future social and technological trends. A cornerstone of this movement is online education.

At the Core

As a foundation to online education offerings and support, it should be recognized that creating instructional materials is both an art and a science.  As appropriate, design and development staff should incorporate K-12 learning theory (pedagogy) and adult learning theory (andragogy) in the creation of educational content. Additional considerations include:

  • needs analyses
  • stakeholder involvement
  • instructional design – the mechanical / technical aspects of online content creation
  • instructional systems development – the strategic merging of instructional design with learning theory and situational analyses
  • other learning theories such as constructivism, connectivism, and social constructivism
  • web-based learning environment implementation and administration
  • additional web-based learning tools
  • course authoring tools
  • multiple language availability
  • accessibility
  • communication planning
  • media creation
  • project management
  • teaching and learning support

teacher-407360_1280A Broader Sense

Given the current global trends in education, this matter should not a question of whether or not to accept online learning as part of the educational process, but rather how online learning will be incorporated into the local and regional educational culture. For those educational institutions, regions, and countries that want their citizens and country to remain competitive in a global market and economy, online learning should become an integral part of the teaching and learning process.

Reflection Point – “Wherever I see people doing something the way it’s always been done, the way it’s ‘supposed’ to be done, following the same old trends, well, that’s just a big red flag to me to go look somewhere else.” ~Mark Cuban

Online Learning Part 5

Online Learning Part 5 – Tools

by Mark Sivy

According to the Center for Learning and Performance Technologies, there are currently over 2000 digital technology tools and applications which can be used for education, with most of them being relatively easy to use and free or low cost. Mixing these up as you’re developing different online learning or e-learning lessons and activities or mobile learning chunks can make your instructional design and course more exciting and engaging. Most of these tools can be included in the following categories:

  • calendar Personal Productivity – includes calendars, concept mapping applications, computer utilities, organizers, and accessibility tools.
  • Web Browsers and Related Tools – allow for accessing, subscribing to, searching, aggregating, and reading web content.
  • Web Information – offer the ability to create, post, and read information using websites, wikis, and blogs.
  • Communication Tools – permit both synchronous and asynchronous options such as email, instant messaging, texting, and discussion forums.
  • Documents – these provide for offline creation and presentation of information such as documents, spreadsheets, web designand presentations
  • Public Information – present many forms of information access including but not limited to frequently asked questions (FAQs), tutorials, podcasts, and open courseware.
  • Course Management Systems – enable the creation and delivery of course content as well as interactive participation, social exchange, collaboration, tracking, communication, and grading.
  • Instructional Design and Development – support course content authoring and learning assessment
  • Audio, Video, Images, and Graphics – allow for the creation, review, editing, and presentation of a variety of multi-sensory presentation
  • web browserVirtual Environments – facilitate the interaction of individuals with environments and other individuals through the use of avatars within three dimensional surroundings.
  • Web Conferencing and Web Meetings – allow individuals to meet synchronously using voice, voice and video, whiteboards, and screen sharing.
  • Social Networks – permit the creation of various online communities, and allow for the formation of personal and professional networks.
  • Collaboration and Sharing – provide for common digital work spaces for groups or teams to collectively create, share, and modify content.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~ William Arthur Ward

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