Documentation:MEd/Documents/EDDL OLFM Brief Reports/OLFM Report

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OLFM 1 report by Michelle Harrison

Prepared by: Michelle Harrison Date: July 15th, 2014 I am one of the OLFMs for the following two courses in the program: EDDL 5111: Introduction to Distributed Learning, and EDDL 5141: Online Teaching and Learning.

Target Audience and Program Outcomes

This is the current focus of the program from the OL program website: “This graduate-level certificate is designed to provide educators (K-12 teachers, post-secondary instructors and trainers) in British Columbia and beyond, with a solid foundation in the technical and pedagogical expertise required to effectively use education technology in the classroom, in distributed learning environments and in the world of online education.”

Originally the program was targeted primarily at K-12 teachers who were looking to expand their teaching practice and experience in online environments, but also those teachers who were interested or already using educational technologies to enhance their F2F classrooms. The original program design included 10 courses, that would allow learners some choice in an area of interest, but only five courses were developed (low enrolment so no new courses, but likely low enrolment because K-12 teachers need 10 courses for a diploma and the 5+ designation). The learners enrolled do not necessarily match what the forecasted target audience would be (though does match the description on the program website) and we get a mix of K-12 teachers, post-secondary instructors, and others from the private sector who may be interested in developing online learning programs and/or training opportunities, but who may have no educational background. The current complement of courses does not really meet an overall coherent set of objectives – they are either focused mainly on an online context (5111 and 5141 specifically) or a classroom one (5151), and they do not really complement each other in a meaningful way. Some are more theory based (5111 and 5141 look more closely at educational theories and models, specifically for the online context), and others tool and pedagogy based (5101, 5131 and 5151 are more applied, and provide opportunities for developing skills and teaching strategies for using tools). The fifth course is very focused on managing technology in a classroom, and the activities and topics may be most of interest for a K-12 teacher working on their own within a school (though the outcomes would make you think differently) and might not be a good fit for someone in post-secondary who would be interested in using educational technologies to enhance their F2F teaching. I would suggest that this course likely needs to be replaced with something else entirely.

At this stage, I think the program needs to be re-evaluated so that each course fits within an overall plan that includes program-level outcomes. The target audience has shifted, so this needs to be taken into account in the planning. What is it we would like learners to be able to demonstrate when they are finished?

Overall looking at the learning outcomes of the program (see Excel spreadsheet with outcomes):

  • Very large focus on “integrating technology” – 14/42 outcomes use the term “technology” a further 12 reference a specific technological tool (ie networks, internet sources, WWW or multi-media) for a total of 26/42 outcomes related to technology. The majority of the outcomes in EDDL 5101, 5131 and 5151 relate to specific tools or technologies. Many in 5131 are repetitive (“Utilize multimedia effectively”, Create and support activities that incorporate “multimedia”, integrate multimedia across the curriculum). If included in a MEd program more integration of the theoretical perspectives and underpinnings in the uses of technology (and perhaps a rethink around such a focus on the technology itself) would be required.
  • In 5141 – many of the outcomes are at a lower level on Bloom’s taxonomy, so if redesigned for a MEd program, the outcomes and related assignments would need to reflect a higher level of expectation, cognitive engagement and inclusion of writing. It is likely the other courses would need this realignment of outcomes/assessments as well.
  • There is very little focus on assessment in learning (only two outcomes, in 5111 and 5131)
  • Learning theory is only mentioned in one outcome (5111), philosophy in one other (5141)
  • Focus on discussing issues related to technology (4 outcomes, in 3 courses)

What is going well

  • The activities and assessments in the course s are open and flexible in their approach. Learners are encouraged to bring in their own practice and experiences to bear as they develop and build on the theories and ideas explored in the course activities.
  • Major projects require learners to build an artifact that they can use directly in their professional context. Assessment criteria require learners to incorporate the theory and practices explored in the courses into the development of their final project (a teaching unit or collaborative group facilitated project) and learners are able to choose their own topics of interest, as well as educational tools to deliver the content of their projects.
  • Most resources used in the program are available in open access journals or have a creative commons license.

What is not going well

  • The overall design of the program does not really work as it seems to be an “either/or” approach on a course by course basis. One solution might be to change the terms “online” “classroom” to “learning environment” to provide a broader context (in each of the courses). Perhaps a better mix of applied and theoretical activities/perspectives could be added to each of the courses (blending theory and practice, rather than only a focus on one or the other). Broaden the topics and/or courses to include learning design (specifically), open practices (if we are going to be practicing in the open), more opportunity for academic writing, better incorporation of learning theory and other theoretical perspectives.
  • See more detailed list of what is not going well in the WP platform for the specifics on course organization, management and other issues.
  • Low participation in some tasks. Redesign some of the activities to be truly collaborative (many are post/comment), but also alternate these with more independent work. There is often a flurry of activity at the beginning, but as the cohorts are often small, dialogue/discussion often dies down as the course progresses and learners get frustrated when not everyone is engaging.
  • The courses have been running for five years with no major overhaul. Individual instructors have been updating resources and creating flexible solutions for learners as problems arise, but as it is a fairly dynamic field, a major revision would be really helpful.

The platform

The WP platform works well…

  • It allows for instructors to keep the resources updated and to revise the courses with relative ease
  • Provides opportunities for learners to use tools that they could easily use in their own context (it is free, open-source)
  • Learners can easily use their own tools and their work is available to them at any time, which they can then use in their own practice
  • Learners and instructors get experience working in the open, and get ideas and experience in open practice (though this should be further integrated into the program level outcomes)

The WP platform does not work well…

  • Providing a central space for dialogue – there needs to be a robust threaded discussion tool added in to provide this space. This would also require a redesign for activities (away from blog posts for everything).
  • Some learners have a pretty steep learning curve for using the blogging platform. I created short Jing screen-captures to send out to learners to help with problem areas (ie embedding images or video). Having learners in a week before to explore the course space would be really helpful.
  • Some learners are a bit reluctant to work in the open, but I have never had a learner withdraw because of it.
  • Incorporating different kinds of media can be challenging (images are often stretched, some document types don’t embed).
  • Collaborative work – I often integrate a wiki for these tasks, but it sometimes gets lost in the many posts (the center channel becomes a bit overwhelming with all the student posts).
  • Organization. I redesigned the course structure, so that the central channel was not always changing – we need a better way to organize course content, instructor directed content (announcements, weaving posts, introductions – these often got lost) and student directed/generated content so that it is easy to access and find (and in a timely way).
  • Managing student/instructor content. As these courses don’t fit the OL system, there is no one person who ensures that the courses are “clean” for the next iteration. I will receive notice that the course will run (usually only a few days ahead because of the low enrollment) and need to clean out all the old student data, create new student blogs, and ensure that all the blogs are properly linked. It is not an ideal system.
  • I think this may have been addressed in the last rebuild or the WP server, but each instructor needs his/her own course space. We have been sharing – so each time a new iteration starts that instructor has to clean out all the previous posts (and hopefully keep all the previous instructor posts so that they can be repurposed).

Weighing the pros/cons

I would prefer to see the WP platform continue, but with a better theme and some added functionality. Locking these courses away behind an LMS wall would be antithetical to the spirit of the program.

Open Boundary Course?

I would also suggest if we do a redesign that we create these courses as “open-boundary courses”, where learners can choose to do the assessments (for a credential) or participate for their own informal learning goals. As the enrollments are low, this would allow a larger community of learners to participate to provide a more engaging dialogue around the topics.

Specifics for Courses

EDDL 5111: Introduction to distributed learning

  • The term “Distributed Learning” is not used as commonly as it was. “Open and Distance Learning” or “Technology Enhanced Learning” (TEL) is probably used more in exploring the research and discussion in the field. This course provides the foundation for theories related to ODL and TEL, so perhaps a name change and revisiting of the learning outcomes would be helpful ((ie differentiate between distance learning, online learning, eLearning and distributed learning, may not be that relevant).
  • There is no discussion at all about “hybrid” or “blended learning” which would be of interest to HE participants.
  • The design could use an update to incorporate more useful collaborative activities (as well as more specific independent work). There are many activities that are “Post/respond” and learners are not always fully engaged in these activities. Based on feedback from the students, creating more sustained collaborative activities may be one way of increasing engagement.
  • Redesign for the final project.

EDDL 5141: Online Teaching and Learning Note: I was not able to locate the current course online. I think it will also need to be moved to the new WP server with the updated theme.

  • Better align learning outcomes and course topics.
  • Revisit outcomes (incorporate higher level cognitive outcomes).
  • Redesign final project (needs more time for preparation and incorporation of individual independent work (it is worth 50% of the course)).