Documentation:MEd/Documents/EDDL OLFM Brief Reports/OLFM Reports 2
EDDL Brief Report by Keith Webster
I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to produce this report on the Graduate Certificate in Online Teaching and Learning (EDDL) Program. Michelle Harrison and I have often discussed he need to refresh, rationalize and fill gaps within the program but, we were always quickly distracted by the rapid pace of working in two related jobs.
I have always worked first to replace obsolete content and activities as well as broken links in a course (in this program obsolescence can come in less than a year), then develop additional content and activities to improve the courses. At the same time, this work was done in isolation, unsure if content or activities might be better placed in another course, or how these might be coordinated between courses.
1. What do you think is working well in the program for both the students and the open learning faculty members?
The EDDL program has been successful in meeting the needs of a wide range of students seeking to upgrade their skills and knowledge in support of online and blended learning. This has included goals that students disclosed that ranged from technical or pedagogical topics needed for the coming semester to aspirational goals to eventually effect a change to online teaching or to develop an online course.
The flexibility of teaching in an online environment based in WordPress, and the relatively small class sizes, has meant that in many cases we have been able to accommodate specific topic modification or activity/assignment modification to match a student’s specific interest.
It has been evident that the theory portions of the courses have awakened student interest in issues they did not previously know enveloped online learning. This is particularly a success when one considers that educators may adopt a self-help approach to developing their online teaching skills, missing the issues and controversies that should inform effective and responsible teaching.
Lastly, the relatively small class sizes and online learning environment has meant that instructors can typically accommodate student request for flexible scheduling. This is particularly important for a program aimed at practicing teachers who have hectic and occasionally unforgiving schedules.
The teaching platform (WordPress) has been an excellent tool for courses where there are always changes to be accommodated in the next offering of a course, and where opportunities to explore topics in the moment can be indulged. For EDDL 5101 and 5131 the WordPress blogs for the students have been important as platforms for students to show their mastery in hands-on activities. The administrative up-keep of the course blog sites has been challenging for some, but Mike’s assistance has kept thing within a reasonable scale. Flexible typically comes with a little more work.
2. What isn't working well in the program for both the students and the open learning faculty members and, in your opinion, needs to change?
In some instances there is a bias towards K-12 content and activities. While approximately 2/3 of students fit this profile it has been observed by non K-12 students.
In many situations the effective number of students is marginal for asynchronous group work. The typical enrollment for these courses is approximately 8-12 but frequently enrollment can be as low as 6 to 8. In many courses there will be a student or two who cannot participate fully during a few weeks of the course due to work commitments or other circumstances. In most of the courses significant elements are designed around group work. Instructors can usually find a suitable work-around for group work but a standard 'low-enrollment' option for these activities and assignments would help.
In some cases students have enrolled in courses without an education background. In most cases these were professionals with an educational role and they were able to successfully complete the course with some additional instructor assistance. In other cases students with marginal English skills have had difficulty in communicating online in these courses.
In courses where there is rapid evolution of content changing activities and resources is easy but changing outcome statements and assignment values is not. In some cases the original skeleton of the course can be a constraint on evolving to reflect current standards.
3. If possible, give a profile of the students taking the program. In other words, who takes the program and why?
For the most part I would say that students enrolled in this program are about 60% K-12 teachers and 40% post-secondary and other non-K12 teachers. Specific profiles are as follows.
K-12 teacher with a few years experience but with tenuous employment looking to become more marketable. This includes ESL teachers and K-12 teachers working overseas (typically Canadian but a few international).
K-12 teacher working full time with 10 or more years experience. Typically is not considering distance learning but wants to become more adept using technology for blended learning or in-class use.
Post-secondary instructor at a college or technical institute who wants to widen his or her repertoire. Perhaps looking at blended learning or development of distance options.
A human services professional with a teaching function in her or his position looking to add educational technology on-site or in a blended role. A few of these have been public health nurses or nurses/social workers with responsibility for educating other professionals. One distinct issue with this profile is that they don't have an education background and are not equipped to deal with the assumptions of prior knowledge/experience made during the course.
4. Any recommendation for specific courses?
I think an important step in improving the EDDL courses is to take an opportunity to review the program. It may be that this can only be done in a 'quick and dirty' fashion but I believe a sustained (if short) conversation between the instructors and ID and support staff could set a guide for us to renew the courses as we go.
Needs Analysis - I've set out some typical profiles above and listed the common goals of students in those profiles as they enter the EDDL program, but a more effective step would be to generate a list of needed skills and knowledge for educators providing blended and online learning.
Once there is a fresh understanding of student needs I think we could compare these to existing outcomes. As part of this comparison we can look at what needed outcomes are currently missing, which existing outcomes may be surplus, and whether outcomes are logically grouped into courses. This could inform instructors in the direction they should take in the normal revisions applied for each new section or it could form the basis of a more formal revision. It could also be the start of a needs analysis for new courses in the EDDL program.
A few topics of import are treated lightly within specific courses or not at all. These include:
- assessment in online learning
- instructional design
- use of Web 2.0 tools in online learning
- social media in online learning
- learning management systems
- universal design for learning/online learning for differently abled students
- web design for learning
- educational games and gamification
- animation and interactive media for learning
- API and RSS for online learning
In some cases these topics could form the basis of a course or a half-size course, or they could be incorporated into other courses.
While EDDL 5101 and EDDL 5111 cover some topics in reasonable depth, they both serve as 'introductory' courses for the technical and pedagogical sides of online learning. In a program with only five courses I think it is problematic to have two courses that try to cover a broad swath. It may be the case there is a programatic argument for additional courses (at the full or half-course size) to cover some of these topics. I am not sure if the enrollments to date support a business case for further courses.
EDDL 5101 offers essentially a survey of the technical side of online learning. On many topics it offers as much detail as is needed but in some cases there could be room for more depth to be covered in another course. Specifically, EDDL 5101 covers Web 2.0 tools and social media. These two topics could be addressed in more depth in a further course or a few specific half-credit courses. There are several topics in EDDL 5101 that are important in other courses. In the past I have linked back to specific pages for those that needed a refresher or who had entered the program at a later course but it may be useful for some content to be hosted on the Kumu Wiki and embedded within specific courses from there. Changes to learning outcomes.
Eliminate 'Understand the basics of how networks and the Internet function'. This outcome uses poor wording and provides too much emphasis to the technical underpinnings of the web. The course content/activities can be further pruned to only include background on the internet that is needed to use the internet for teaching and learning.
Change 'Integrate effective Internet searching strategies for finding resources related to specific curricular topics' to 'Use and instruct in the use of effective internet search strategies'. This way we cover both the research/lesson prep role of the instructor and the need to model and teach this skill to students.
Changes to assignments.
Assignment 4 'Create a Unit Plan' is typically accomplished as a small website that sets out an online unit. This duplicates much of Assignment 3 'Web Publishing'. I think a lesser weight for Assignment 3 (say 20%) to make this an introductory web publishing activity would be better. The remaining 10% could be split by bumping Assignment 2 and Assignment 5 up by 5% each.
I don't teach in this one course so I can't offer specific recommendations for it. I do think that there is probably an opportunity to look at the activities and content to see if there is duplication with other EDDL courses.
This course is forced to run rather quickly through the pedagogical and technical production of each media type, the process for developing media, and the development of activities for student-created media. There are many additional topics that could be expanded on in this course, a few of which I have added as optional activities (using layers in graphics software, creating image maps). More could be included to expand to interactive media and simple gamification, or these could form the basis for new courses. This course could have many of its activities or content sections made available to other TRU Online Faculty in the Kumu Wiki.
It would be possible to create full or half courses for expanded exploration of graphics, audio or video (I would recommend a half course in either graphics or video). A full course on gamification would be a very timely addition to the course, the difficulty would be finding someone with good credentials to write and/or teach the course.
Changes to outcomes.
I would delete the first outcome, 'Assess their teaching environment for multimedia related hardware and software' as most of the course relies on free on web-based software.
This course provides a strong coverage of online facilitation. One issue that continues is that, while Assignment 2 has each student creating a facilitation plan, only one (per group) of these plans can be used in Assigment 3 when the students present their facilitated lesson in groups. There may not be a way to resolve this without imposing an unmanageable assessment load on the instructor. This should be explored as the last learning outcome for the course specifies that students will be able to facilitate an online activity.
I would recommend re-balancing the assignment weighting for this course, depending on what changes can be made to the participation level of Assignment 3 (the facilitation of an online seminar). Currently Assignment 3 is worth 50% but I would suggest lowering this if it remains as a group assignment. If the value of Assignment 3 is lowered, the value of Assignment 2 'Facilitation Plan' should be raised.
This course has always suffered from not being 'about something'. The learning outcomes were, in some cases vague, in other cases repetitive of outcomes met in other courses. I have taken the course as being about 'all the things an online educator must do that are not teaching'. Over the years I have added some items to the courses and removed some items that duplicated content or activities from other EDDL courses. In many cases the items needed to 'manage' online learning could form the basis of their own course.
- learning management systems
- universal design for learning
I have worked on adding:
- privacy regulation compliance
- learning analytics
- identity management
I recommend a major review of the outcomes, content and assignments of this course. Key outcomes to support an online educator's 'management' role should be developed, and other topics could be included if space is available.
I would recommend that the existing learning outcomes be dropped or re-evaluated against an established purpose for the course. I would also recommend that the course outline on the TRU website be reconsidered in that it refers to an 'educational technology in the classroom'. The other courses in this program are focused on blended or online learning, always on how learning happens online. A technology enhanced classroom is very different from this and quite problematic to design online learning for.
As this course is delivered in the summer it typically has low enrollment and the students often have periods where they cannot participate fully. I would recommend making student interaction for most of the activities optional (this is also the only course with no participation or discussion mark) and perhaps staging this course as self-paced but within a standard semester.
Possible spin-off courses
- managing your lms shell
- managing WordPress for educators
There is an opportunity to provide some recognition and micro-accreditation for specific skills mastered during some of the EDDL courses. Badges are a system for recognizing discreet skills attained during a course or other activity. They are backed by an issuing authority, often with an ability to verify them. Badges can be displayed on a blog or website by those that earn them.
- build an online learning site
- evaluate online learning resource
- develop online activity safety plan
- build an educational website
- create an educational graphic
- create educational audio
- create educational video
- create a digital story
- create a media-based assignment
- facilitate an asynchronous online discussion
- facilitate a synchronous online discussion
- Configure and use an LMS site
- Configure and use a WordPress blog
One possible platform to use in issuing badges would be Mozilla's Open Badges (http://www.openbadges.org/).
In a similar vein to the idea of badges, many tutorials, activites (many that would also support a badge) and other content would be valuable to other TRU instructors. If these were hosted on the Kumu site they could be readily accessed by instructors who could earn badges to recognize their new skills.
- Engage in reflective self-assessment and continuous improvement processes related to teaching and learning