E-Learning and Virtual Classrooms: Issues and Considerations


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  • The following presentation is intended to be shared at the beginning of a brainstorming session with a team of instructional designers that I have been hired to lead.The team’s goal is to create an implement a large e-learning project. Having said that, there are team members who are not familiar with e-learning solutions. Therefore, the purpose of the presentation is to provide background information about e-learning that will serve as context for further discussion and the brainstorming of ideas.NOTE: All images used in the presentation are from Microsoft’s Clip Art Gallery.
  • Group activity: Break up the group into partners. Start by having everyone read the article “Defining eLearning” (http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/elearning/define.html). Each partner group should check comprehension by reviewing the distinctions between the different definitions. Having distinguished the differences, each partner group should determine which definition resonates most with them. Each partner group will then share out with the group.
  • Group activity: Break up the group into partners. Start by having everyone read the article “Defining eLearning” (http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/elearning/define.html). Each partner group should check comprehension by reviewing the distinctions between the different definitions. Having distinguished the differences, each partner group should determine which definition resonates most with them. How is the definition of choice the same or different from Masie’s online learning definition.Each partner group will then share out with the group.
  • As a large group, field responses regarding synonymous terms they have heard used. Refer to Wikipedia’s list below to get people started, as necessary. Write the terms on the wall so that everyone can look at the words when discussing.Terms suggested on Wikipedia’s article to be broadly included by and synonymous with e-learning are listed as follows:multimedia learning, technology-enhanced learning (TEL)computer-based instruction (CBI)computer-based training (CBT)computer-assisted instruction or computer-aided instruction (CAI)internet-based training (IBT)web-based training (WBT)online educationvirtual educationvirtual learning environments (VLE) (which are also called learning platforms)m-learningdigital educational collaboration
  • http://trends.masie.com/archives/2012/8/15/737-the-fading-e-in-e-learning-good-morning-america-and-midt.htmlThe MASIE Center tracks the use of language used to describe learning and has found the following:The use of “e” in e-Learning has been decreasing, as the practices associated with e-Learning are becoming common to learning in general.Digital learning programs are more commonly being labeled “online” than “e-Learning” or even “virtual.” Also, “many are just labeling them as Learning or Training programs, with reference to the delivery being via webinar, distributed or on their learning portal” (Masie, 2010, n.p.).Interestingly, the same trend has happened with the “e” being dropped from e-commerce and e-business.
  • The group does not need to arrive at a single definition, but the questions can be posed and brainstormed on in order to get people thinking about what we are trying to achieve as a group. Hopefully, the discussion up to this point will have touched upon some key characteristics that will be examined in greater detail in the slides to follow:
  • There are advantages and disadvantages to various modes of interaction. Synchronous learning involves:Similar to a traditional classroom experience with interaction occurring online rather than in a physical classroom.A group of students who “meet with an instructor over the Internet” (instructor-led) (Henderson, 2003, p. 130). Students “are online at the same time while they are communicating with each other” (scheduled) (Henderson, 2003, p. 130). Students can interact with the instructor and one another (collaborative).May be difficult when considering time zones and the demands of time commitments such as work.An instructor may strengthen learning, but may be costly.Self-directing learning is similar to independent study. A student works alone without an instructor or other students to communicate with.Learning on own provides flexibility, but may be difficult.Asynchronous (collaborative) learning blends the synchronous and self-directed learning. Students can communicate with an instructor and other students, but not necessarily in real time. Flexibility in communication may be convenient, but may also be a hindrance at times.
  • Having discussed the differences between synchronous and asynchronous learning, we may also discuss how communication can also be looked in the light of being either synchronous or asynchronous. Learners may have the opportunity to ask for clarification regarding the methods listed and may also suggest additional methods that may not be included on the lists.
  • Collaboration can occur using any of the communication methods listed on the previous slide. Have the large group brainstorm how the previously listed communication methods may support collaboration.Examples:Discussion boards may support dialogue through threaded discussions. A group project may be compiled and hosted on a wiki.Additional Collaboration Methods:Document sharing with asynchronous feedback (e.g., by email and/or using Microsoft Office Review tools)Synchronous document collaboration (e.g., using Google Drive to create and edit documents live together)Regarding additional factors that we may need to create successful collaboration, reference Callahan (2008) and the collaboration framework that outlines how a supporting structure for collaboration includes the following:TrustLeadership SupportValuesPhysical SpaceIncentivesTechnologyShared MeaningCollaboration SupportMetrics
  • Upon sharing the definition of ID, the group can discuss what ID models that are currently using or have used in the past.Since people may not be familiar with formal ID models, though, I have a follow-up question that asks people to simply describe the steps in the process that they use when planning instruction. Even if people are not aware of formal models, they may be using procedures that fall in line with formal models. After some group sharing, we may look at some more formal models.
  • There are different models of instructional design that people use. I will introduce just two sample models.Dick and Carey Model:Introduced a systems approach to instructional design.Looked at the way that various design elements interrelate.
  • ADDIE:ADDIE is “based on a systematic product development concept” (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 9).ADDIE does not need to be followed in a linear fashion.Analyze connects to performing a needs assessment.Design involves planning that is both systematic and specific in addressing learning goals with needs in mind.Development is when the plans are put into place and the learning environment and activities are actually created.Implementation includes the actual application of instruction.Evaluation can be both formative (occurring throughout) and summative (occurring at the end).
  • Discuss what each of these suggestions means. Have group members brainstorm what they think that they mean.Do they agree or disagree? Why?Are there other elements that they think should be included as essential?What model will we use? What will our common language and process be?To support discussion, Reiser & Dempsey (2012) explain:“Student-centered instruction means that learners and their performance are the focal points of all teaching and learning activities” (p. 11). This may even mean that a live teacher may not be necessary and that learners may actually select their own objectives.Being goal oriented means that there is a clear purpose for instruction and that there are clear standards in the end for evaluation.A focus on meaningful performance means that learning should have an authentic purpose and should transfer well to the “real world.”Having outcomes that are measurable in a reliable and valid way is important. The evaluation should match the type of learning and it should be consistent no matter and when and with whom it is applied.Having instructional design be empirical, iterative, and self-correcing allows for instruction to be revised as necessary in order to best meet the needs of learners toward reaching goals.
  • Having looked at instructional design models and essentials, I believe the group will be prepared to discuss the specific technologies within that context.Rather than immediately specifying specific technologies, the group should be prepared to go through a systematic process of analyzing the learning goals and learners before jumping into planning. Furthermore, when planning, the group can be sure to have an eye toward developing measurable outcomes.
  • Delivery modes are the elements of communication: text, graphics, and audio. These modes may be used in combination with various media.For instance, books may consist of just text, or they may also include graphics. Nowadays, books delivered electronically may even have audio if they have read aloud functionality enabled.The group may brainstorm other types of instructional media.
  • Dual-Channels Principle – Information is processed in two channels: 1) visual/pictorial and 2) auditory/verbalLimited Capacity Principle – There is a limit on the amount of information that can be processed in each channel at a time.Active Learning Principle – Learning can occur best when “the learner engages in appropriate cognitive processing during learning, including attending to relevant aspects of the incoming information, mentally organizing the materials into coherent cognitive representation, and mentally integrating it with existing knowledge activated from long-term memory” (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 313).
  • Assign each individual an article from “11 Strategies for Managing Your Online Courses” (http://www.facultyfocus.com/wp-content/uploads/images/report-11-strategies-for-managing-online-courses1.pdf).Ask individuals to read the articles keeping in mind the categories on the slide. Individuals should record strategies that they read about according to these categories.The group can share the strategies to come up with a comprehensive list of management tips.
  • While there may be a lot of overlap between best practices for managing and teaching online courses, it is worth taking some time to distinguish between the two.When discussing best practices for teaching virtual courses, I would first field ideas from the group. If there is little feedback being provided from the group, I can provide some examples below to get the discussion started.Possible Ideas for Increasing Engagement:Establish a personal connection with learners.Develop good discussion questions, keeping in mind Bloom’s Taxonomy.Create authentic learning activities.Find ways to increase opportunities for collaboration.
  • E-Learning and Virtual Classrooms: Issues and Considerations

    1. 1. E-LEARNING AND VIRTUAL CLASSROOMS Issues and Considerations
    2. 2. DEFINING E-LEARNING Online learning, used before e-learning, was defined by Elliott Masie as “the use of network technology to design, deliver, select, administer, and extend learning” (Cross, 2004, p. 104). E-learning was first used in late 1997. There is no single or static definition for e-learning.
    3. 3. E-LEARNING DEFINITION ACTIVITY In your partner groups: 1. Read the article “Defining eLearning.” 2. Summarize the different definitions. 3. Pick the definition you think is best. 4. How does your selected definition compare and contrast with Masie’s definition of online learning? Masie’s Definition of Online Learning: “the use of network technology to design, deliver, select, administer, and extend learning”
    4. 4. E-LEARNING TERMINOLOGY What terms are synonymous (or nearly so) with e-learning? How do these terms have different meanings? How do these terms overlap? When do you prefer to use one term over another?
    5. 5. RETHINKING THE “E” IN ELEARNING Elliott Masie (2010) suggests shifting the use of “e” as electronic to: Efficient Everywhere Everyone Evolving Effective Every time Embedded Engaging
    6. 6. DEFINING E-LEARNING How do YOU define elearning? How will WE define elearning? What are defining characteristics of e-learning?
    7. 7. E-LEARNING AND INTERACTION Henderson (2003) outlines three basic styles of e-learning interaction Synchronous learning Self-directed learning Asynchronous (collaborative) learning potential advantages and disadvantages of each What are some style? Which styles of interaction would work for us? Which would not?
    8. 8. E-LEARNING AND COMMUNICATION Asynchronou Synchronous s • • • • • • Email Listservs Discussion Boards Blogs Wikis Webcasts (Recorded) • Instant Messaging (1-to-1) • Text Chat Rooms (Many-toMany) • Teleconferences • Video Chat • Screen Sharing • Webinars (Live)
    9. 9. E-LEARNING AND COLLABORATION How do various communication methods support collaboration? What else do we need for successful collaboration to occur?
    10. 10. DEFINING INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN What is instructional design (ID)? “A system of procedures for developing education and training curricula in a consistent and reliable fashion” (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 8) What ID models do you use? Do you have a systematic process that you use when planning instruction? What is it?
    11. 11. INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN MODELS Dick and Carey Systems Approach
    12. 12. INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN MODELS ADDIE: Analyze Analyze Design Develop Implement Evaluate Implement Evaluate Develop Design
    13. 13. INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN ESSENTIALS Reiser & Dempsey (2012) suggest that any instructional design should: Be student centered Be goal oriented Focus on meaningful performance Assume outcomes are measurable in a reliable and valid way Be empirical, iterative, and self-correcting Be a team effort
    14. 14. TECHNOLOGY AND LEARNING How will we leverage technology to enhance learning? What are our learning goals? Who are our learners? What technology will be available?
    15. 15. INSTRUCTIONAL MODES & MEDIA Instructional Delivery Modes = Communication Elements Text Graphics Audio Instructional Media = Materials/Means that Deliver Instruction Examples:  Charts/Graphs  Animations  Interviews  Lectures  Video Conferencing  Tutorials  Webinars  Internet  Drawings/Illustrations  Games  Screen Capture  Books  Podcasts/Vodcasts  Presentations  Simulations  Video
    16. 16. MEDIA & COGNITIVE LOAD THEORY “Rich media will benefit learners only to the extent that its capabilities are harnessed in ways that support human learning processes” (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012, p. 310).  Dual-Channels Principle  Limited Capacity Principle  Active Learning Principle Remember to keep the learner at the center, not the media!
    17. 17. MANAGING VIRTUAL COURSES Organization & Structure Communication Expectations & Policies Resources & Technology
    18. 18. TEACHING VIRTUAL COURSES  Managing virtual courses involves structuring courses to maximize learning.  Teaching virtual courses involves engaging students to maximize learning. How can we best engage students?
    19. 19. REFERENCES  Callahan, S. (2008 February 11). Collaboration framework [Blog post]. Retrieved from        http://www.anecdote.com.au/collaboration_diag_b2.jpg Clark, D. R. (2010). Defining eLearning. Retrieved from http://nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leader.html Cross, J. (2004). An informal history of eLearning. On the Horizon, 12(3), 103-110. E-learning (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 29 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-learning Henderson, A. J. (2003). The E-learning Question and Answer Book : A Survival Guide for Trainers and Business Managers. New York: AMACOM. Kelly, R. (Ed.). (n.d.). 11 strategies for managing your online courses. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/wp-content/uploads/images/report-11-strategies-formanaging-online-courses1.pdf Masie, E. (2012 August 15). The fading “e” in e-learning [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://trends.masie.com/archives/2012/8/15/737-the-fading-e-in-e-learning-goodmorning-america-and-midt.html Reiser, R., & Dempsey, J. (2012). Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.