Happy Holden's Essential Skills: Online Instruction and Distance Learning


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New Technologies

These can be grouped by their action potential into six categories (Figure 2):

  1. Access resources.
  2. Declare or state presence (i.e., online/offline status or physical proximity through GPS).
  3. Expression through tools such as YouTube, podcasts, or profile features of most social networking sites.
  4. Creation of new content and resources through blogs, Wikipedia pages, and social bookmarking.
  5. Interaction with others through asynchronous and synchronous tools, such as discussion forums, Twitter, Skype, etc.
  6. Aggregation of resources and relationships through Facebook, etc.

 

Figure 2: Affordances of emerging technologies [2].

Planning Tools and Inter-Team Communication
Developing online activities and resources requires consideration and planning. A complete online learning development team would consist of the six individuals in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Online learning development team [2].

Creating and Finding Content
Tools for creating content for online learning have significantly improved over the last few years. Articulate Presenter, Audacity, Engage, Flash, Jing, and Camtasia are tools that new users can easily master in a short time. Online learning resources are available from MIT’s OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) initiative, Connexion, OpenLearn, and many more. 

Planning and Fostering Interaction
Supporting online learning, like developing online courses, requires a team-based approach consisting of the six individuals in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Online teaching support team [2].

Self-Paced Online Courses (SPOC)

It seems every university has some courses available online. Many of these are available through commercial companies that specialize in distance learning. That is not quite true—there are some universities or departments that hold out that all courses have to be face-to-face. Unfortunately, that is not supported by research. However, there is a portion of the population that does not have the discipline, disposition, or electronics know-how to use the internet. 

According to an article on massive open online courses (MOOCs) [3], the following are some criticisms of e-learning:

  1. Relying on user-generated content can create a chaotic learning environment.
  2. Digital literacy is necessary to make use of online materials.
  3. The time and effort required from participants may exceed what students are willing to commit to a free/low-cost online course.
  4. Once the course is released, the content will be reshaped and reinterpreted by the massive student body, making the course trajectory difficult for instructors to control.
  5. Participants must self-regulate and set their own goals.
  6. Language and translation barriers. 

Creating an online learning course requires more work than a face-to-face or webinar course. An additional 50 hours have to go into internet platform software and features. Moreover, only about 10% of the students who sign up typically complete the course; 30% attend partially for knowledge only; 20% explore the topic rather than wanting to complete the course; 20% drop because the course required too much time or was too difficult/basic; 10% drop because of poor course design, clunky technology (software), or abuse on discussion boards; 5% cite hidden costs like expensive textbooks authored by the instructor; and 5% were “just shopping around” [3]

What is interesting about the research into online learning is the number of users who are not interested in getting a degree or completing the course, as stated in the statistics above. If you are interested in the conditions for online courses, you can look at the Student Handbook for Self-Paced Online Courses at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

There is even a free college course from Open College at Kaplan University (now Purdue University Global) called “HEO547: Effective Online Instruction—Principles and Practice” [4]. This self-paced online course consists of four modules:

  1. E-learning design and practices
  2. Web 2.0
  3. Bridging theory and practice
  4. Management and design 

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