Archive for February, 2011

Reflecting on Distance Learning

February 27, 2011

As shown by attendance numbers and degree offerings, online learning is growing in popularity. The Sloan Consortium reports a rising trend in schools with traditional courses are offering online courses as well. There is also a rising trend in enrollment and in the percentage of people who believe online courses offer a superior learning experience (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009). Despite these encouraging trends, there are still skeptics of online learning.

The skeptics believe that the lack of face-to-face or group interaction hinders the social aspect of learning. Some believe that the online, for-profit schools may deliver inferior instruction or have reduced admission standards. Others note the ease in which someone might be able to cheat or misrepresent their work in an online setting. How can the academic community address the concerns of the skeptics to promote wider acceptance of online learning?

To promote high educational standards, institutions must apply the same admission standards for online colleges as for traditional colleges. Institutions should also market the academic fidelity of their online programs in addition to the “convenience and flexibility” attributes of such a program (Gambescia & Paolucci, 2009). Instructors should consider the use of a plagiarism prevention tool such as Turnitin. The scoring rubrics of classes should demand properly cited work to proper credit is given to the sources a student used to research their work.

Instructional designers and course creators should apply the same effort to create a high quality online course as they would a traditional course. A traditional course that is repurposed for online use without consideration for online access, interaction, and feedback will result in poor quality. Instructional designers should consider the use of ADDIE or another instructional design process to understand the needs of the learners and to design a course that meets those needs (Piskurich & Chauser, 2010). Formative evaluations of the course should occur in the form of Alpha and Beta testing before a course goes live (Laureate Education, 2010). Summative evaluations of the course should occur after every term or session to ensure that the learners’ needs are being met.

Both institutions and course designers have to do their part to promote the positive aspects and high quality of online learning. Care must be taken to provide a learning experience that equals or exceeds the experience from a traditional setting. The objections of skeptics of online learning will diminish as more learners, instructors, and friends and colleagues of those groups experience the positive nature of online learning.

References

Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/gambescia121.html

Laureate Education (2010), Video Podcast: Developing online courses. Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=4744647&Survey=1&47=6523831&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

Piskurich, G., & Chauser, J. (2010), Video Podcast: Planning and designing online courses. Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=4744647&Survey=1&47=6523831&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Converting to a Distance Learning Format

February 20, 2011

For this assignment, I needed to create a guide that would help an instructor who is changing their face-to-face instruction to a blended learning environment. I’ve offered planning suggestions, ideas for enhancing the course in an online environmnet, and tips for their role as an online instructor. The guide is available in the attached PDF.

Converting to a Distance Learning Format

The Impact of Open Source

February 6, 2011

Background on Khan Academy

For the next assignment for my Distance Learning course, I need to review an open source educational website. We have to look at the site from the critical eye of whether it appears to meet the guidelines of a good distance learning site according to our course text.

I have chosen to review Khan Academy, a site started and run by Salman Khan. Khan Academy has over 2,000 videos with exercises for about 100 of those videos. More content is being added all the time. On each video page, learners can post comments or ask questions. The questions get answered by other learning members of the community or volunteers.

An excellent feature of the site appears in a learner’s profile. The learner can view statistics such as number of video minutes or exercise minutes watched, number of videos completed, and total energy points, which appear to be a measure of how much a student is doing and how well they are doing on the exercises. There are also badges a student can earn for completing certain achievements such as achieving proficiency in a certain number of exercises or earning a certain number of energy points.

Review of Khan Academy

The courses appear to be well planned. Large subjects are separated into several courses such as Aritmetic 1, 2, 3, and 4. Each video is kept short to accommodate the attention span of a distance learner. The videos I watched were focused and stayed on topic.

The Comments and Q&A sections of each course’s page offer some means of interaction and feedback. One of Bates’ golden rules for the use of technology in education is that interaction is essential (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek, 2009). Khan Academy does not provide enough essential interaction. The learner is not linked to a teacher or facilitator. Students are not placed in classes so they have no specific colleagues to interact with. Also, a learner is not forced to participate in these sections to complete the lesson. To stimulate interaction, possibly the site could award badges for the number of comments or correctly answered questions in the Q&A section.

As for activities, only 100 of 2,000 courses have exercises. The number of exercises is increasing, but right now there are not enough activities for student to practice with. Learning activities need to exist so learners can practice and evaluate their understanding of the course materials (Simonson, et al, 2009).

The site has a clear interface and it is very easy for a distance learner to find the materials they want. All of the courses are listed on a single page so a learner could use the Find functionality of their web browser to search for a keyword. There is also a search function in the upper right of the home page to help learners located a course. To log in to the site, learners can use their Google or Facebook information so they do not need to register or create a new user name and password combination. The course pages are also simple as the courses are displayed in the familiar YouTube interface.

Conclusion

The Khan Academy website is an amazing collection of learning modules that helps students around the globe understand mathematical and scientific topics. The site is easy to navigate and the videos are well structured into reasonable size clips. The site is lacking an effective method for interaction and more exercises are needed. The Khan Academy is a promising example of an open source education website.

References

Khan Academy. http://www.khanacademy.org.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.


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