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What Schools Should Know About Online Learning -- Oct 2010

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What Schools Should Know About Online Learning -- Oct 2010

  1. 1. @IPSD What School Districts Should Know About Online Learning Jeffrey L. Hunt, Ed.D. Director, E-Learning The Institute for Online Learning Indian Prairie School District 204 October 2010
  2. 2. Table of Contents Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 1  Business Plan ...................................................................................................................... 2  Teaching and Learning ....................................................................................................... 3  Course Development ....................................................................................................... 3  Course Providers ............................................................................................................. 3  Curriculum Alignment .................................................................................................... 4  Course Quality ................................................................................................................ 4  Talent is Important .......................................................................................................... 4  Professional Development .............................................................................................. 5  Administrative..................................................................................................................... 5  Content Licensing ........................................................................................................... 5  Course Load .................................................................................................................... 6  Purchase or Develop ....................................................................................................... 6  Open Educational Resources .......................................................................................... 6  NCAA Approval ............................................................................................................. 6  View of Online Instruction ............................................................................................. 7  Highly Qualified Instructors ........................................................................................... 8  Illinois’ Remote Education Programs Law ..................................................................... 8  Research and Evaluation ................................................................................................. 9  Technical ............................................................................................................................. 9  Learning Management System ....................................................................................... 9  Bandwidth ..................................................................................................................... 10  Teacher Technology...................................................................................................... 10  Classroom software ................................................................................................... 10  Digitizing equipment ................................................................................................ 10  Animations ................................................................................................................ 11  Summary ........................................................................................................................... 11  References & Resources ................................................................................................... 12  Animations .................................................................................................................... 12  Learning Management Sytems: .................................................................................... 12  Licensing for Movies, Television Shows & Educational Films ................................... 13  Open Educational Resources ........................................................................................ 13  Professional Societies ................................................................................................... 13  Virtual Classroom Software .......................................................................................... 13 
  3. 3. Introduction Learning online is a topic gaining more acceptance in public schools and higher education. The Sloan Consortium (Allen and Seaman, 2009) reports that in the fall 2008 semester, 25% of students in colleges and universities reported they were in an online course; the offerings were growing at about 20% a year. More importantly, the majority (83%) of the courses were offered at the undergraduate level. There’s a high likelihood that college-bound high school seniors will see a course online early in their post- secondary education. Similar trends are occurring in K12 education. International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) tracks the trends of online courses in elementary and secondary schools. In its annual review of programs nationwide, known as the Keeping Pace report, iNACOL reports that in 2009 there were 2 million course enrollments, and the enrollment was growing annually at 30% (Watson, Gemin, Ryanand Wicks, 2009). Preliminary results from an Education Week (2010) survey about learning online, conducted in August 2010, indicates that school personnel know about the need for personalized learning, the need for alternate avenues for credit recovery, and that technology has a positive impact on student learning. These converging ideas may energize the online movement within traditional educational organization. While the trends are occurring, it is important to know that schools use online learning to address a variety of student needs, including: • Creating opportunities for small and rural school districts to offer course subjects and highly qualified teachers to their students. • Allowing student to blend high school and post-secondary learning options. • Reducing class size. • Helping students recover credits in an alternative learning environment. • Providing individualized instruction and unique learning options. • Allowing students the opportunity to interact with students far beyond their school or town boundaries. • Meeting the needs and expectations of today’s millennial students (Watson and Gemin, 2009, p. 3). Meanwhile, groups outside education are studying online education and its impact on schools. In their book, Disrupting Class, Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, and Curtis Johnson apply their disruptive innovation model to schools with online classes being the disruptive force. Schools use the term “disruption” to mean that there’s an upheaval 1
  4. 4. within the school, such as a student protest or teacher strike that upsets the school’s operation. The disruptive innovation model states that the innovation occurs outside the organization, usually as a lower quality product. As the product improves more and more customers leave the well-known product and use the newer one. The switch occurs quickly, faster than the dominant producer can respond. Christensen thinks that online learning may be a disruptive innovation, and that if it is, half of the high school courses could be offered online before the end of the next decade. Whether Christensen’s predictions are correct, the trends are that students will see online education in their future. In the same spirit schools offer advanced placement courses, honors courses, and school to work programs, students should be prepared to be successful in online classes. In this article, we will investigate some of the issues that schools need to consider when implementing an online program. What is written here is not completely new. Resources are available to help an organization get started in online learning, such as iNACOL’s web site (www.onlineprogramhowto.org). Like any initiative, a plan of action is necessary to address governance, funding, and implementation. After the business plan, the district must address the issues of teaching and learning, the long term administrative issues of the initiative, and the technical issues involved. Business Plan To drive the online program, a plan of action is necessary. For example, Watson and Gemin (2009) provide a detailed plan for managing and operating online programs. Friedrichsen and Gensmore (2009) provide similar advice. Their plan allows for several components, including administration, curriculum, assessment, and student support. In detail, the plan calls for: • Mission Statement • Governance • Leadership • Planning • Staffing • Commitment • Financial and Material Resources • Equity and Access • Accountability • Curriculum and Course Design • Instruction • Assessment • Faculty Support 2
  5. 5. • Student Support • Guidance Services • Organizational Support • Parents • Evaluation • Improvement One of the key areas of focus is the mission statement that identifies the audience. As noted earlier, online learning has served a variety of purposes. Whether it is to offer courses that have enrollments too low to teach, to accelerate students, or to help students with credit recovery, the mission needs to focus on the target group. As success occurs and the more demand for courses broadens, then the business plan can be revisited and revised for the program’s expansion. Teaching and Learning The main focus of schools is teaching and learning. Unlike popular thought, we cannot just put kids in front of computers and expect them to learn. Teachers are essential in online instruction, just as they are in traditional classrooms. Their roles will shift from the instruction of the masses to the instruction of individuals and small groups. Oral quizzes, checks for understanding, and targeted discussions put the teachers in very important positions to teach, although the focus is different from the traditional teacher’s role. Course Development In short, excellence and achievement in instruction and outstanding learning have fundamental factors, regardless of the mode of learning. Solid curriculum design uses many pedagogies to ensure learning. Course components -- such as advanced organizers, study guides, guided practice, and such -- should be part of online classes. iNacol and Quality Matters provide standards for online learning that are aligned very closely to typical curriculum standards for traditional courses. Curriculum and course design in both plans focus on clear and focused goals, capability to differentiate, and assessment aligned to the teaching and learning. Course Providers Complete courses can be purchased from online course providers. In some cases, the providers will employ the teachers. It is important to check with the local Regional Office of Education (ROE) or Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to determine the certification rules for using a provider’s teachers. At the time of this writing, ISBE was investigating whether school districts could use instructors who were not certified in Illinois. 3
  6. 6. Curriculum Alignment Schools should develop their own standards for curriculum alignment, especially with courses that are purchased. By taking their own curriculum guides, they can then match their plan for learning to the course in consideration. Before beginning schools should determine the matching standard, such as 85% alignment. For courses that are developed by the district with its teachers, the online curriculum can be matched easier. Course Quality Many districts are concerned about course quality. This umbrella term refers to several factors, including whether the students experience similar learning as to the written curriculum for traditional courses. For a course that is designed by the district, the online version can be written that is consistent with the traditional classroom, including many of the activities. Course quality is further strengthened when students take examinations in a proctored environment. The literature about online learning indicates several promising practices: • Using the same course outlines, major assessments and courses examinations as face-to-face courses. • Proctoring major assessments and final exams. • Using live virtual sessions with software like Elluminate or Wimba Classroom. • Requiring students have interactivity with the teacher and other students. • Requiring weekly, purposeful communication between the teacher and individual students. • Adding oral exams at milestone points in the course to check for understanding. • Challenging problems for accelerated (gifted) students. • Delivering challenging and engaging content. (Hunt & Olesen-Tracey, 2010) Talent is Important Online teaching talent is important. Teaching online has it own set of challenges and opportunities. For individuals who want to explore new ways of teaching, an online assignment may energize a teacher. So it is important that the organization recruit teachers who have interest in teaching online or in non-traditional formats. 4
  7. 7. Professional Development Teaching online is different from traditional teaching. A teacher who excels in a traditional classroom may not be successful online. This medium requires instructors who are adaptable and ready to teach differently. Further, online teachers need more assistance than a technology coordinator can provide (Davis & Rose, 2008). Davis and Rose (2008) further suggest several purposeful actions to develop online faculty: • Recruit and develop faculty to provide virtual school related professional development. • Integrate virtual schooling in preservice and professional development programs, for teachers, their leaders, and education service providers. • Differentiate professional development according to need, role, culture and context. • Research professional development for virtual schooling (pp. 12-16). Administrative As with any initiative, administrative leadership is essential to cut through hurdles and internal inertia. Administration needs to have an individual who can care and nurture the program and allow the Clayton Christen (2008), professor at Harvard suggests, “Schools should have an individual, different from the CTO, whose sole job is to implement online courses. The individual "should be free to take whatever steps are necessary to bring in online courses to help children in the school have access to and find the courses they need" (p.227). Content Licensing Likely, copyrights are the most challenging components of online learning. Unlike traditional classrooms where educators use materials under the guise of “fair use,” the electronic medium, changes the terms of licensing. When a school purchases video content on a DVD, the copyright owner grants the school permission to use the video in that format. Changing the content into a digital medium for video streaming purposes scares the copyright owners, because their intellectual property can be distributed very easily. The change of format means that school districts must get new licenses from producers; some copyright owners are helpful and others will not return communication. Be persistent and kind in this matter. I have had some copyright owners charge minimal fees, a hundred dollars a year, and other charge thousands per year. Full length motion pictures and television shows are available. The licensing fees vary. The References list has information about companies that provide content in streaming format. 5
  8. 8. Course Load How many students can a teacher instruct online? Practically, the number is about the same as a traditional teaching load. Instead of teaching a class, the instructor may spend considerable time with one-on-one teaching or small group teaching. In many cases, the teacher is responding after the fact. While checks for understanding can occur in virtual classrooms, online teachers are responding after the student submits work. The casual questions that are asked in a traditional classroom that indicates the level of learning are more difficult to capture online. A student may have to make special effort to get extra help, such as scheduling a meeting or visiting during an instructor’s office hours. Purchase or Develop The decision to purchase course material or develop it with a district’s teachers is a fundamental decision. Purchased courses may or may not be closely aligned to the traditional course. The designer’s decision chain is “borrow it,” “buy it,” or “build it yourself.” Clearly the easiest way is to get the material from outside providers. Local production is tedious and time consuming, but quality courses can be built locally. Likely, a school district does not have a resident instructional designer, although many faculty members may have technical skills that can be used to develop local courses. Open Educational Resources Open Educational Resources (OER) is a trend of content providers to make their content available for free or minimum fees. Quality content is available from several sources. Start a search for course content at OER commons or National Repository of Online Courses. NCAA Approval Student-athletes who are National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I and Division II athletic prospects have special academic requirements. Online and other non-traditional courses can satisfy those requirements. While the broader academic community continues to view online courses with skepticism, quality issues can be addressed as mentioned earlier. All stakeholders want courses that are challenging, relevant, and consistent with the requirements of traditional courses. It seems that everybody has heard of a course where a student received a semester’s credit for a core course by working two weeks. To address this issue, the NCAA changed its guidelines for non-traditional courses, that is: Those taught via the Internet, distance learning, independent study, individualized instruction, correspondence, and courses taught by similar means, including software-based credit recovery courses (NCAA, 2010). 6
  9. 9. For courses to qualify for NCAA approval, they must have the following components: • The instructor and the student have ongoing access to one another and regular interaction with one another for purposes of teaching, evaluating and providing assistance to the student throughout the duration of the course; • The student's work (for example, exams, papers, assignments) is available for review and validation; and • A defined time for completion of the course is identified by the high school or secondary school program (NCAA, 2010). In working with the NCAA on specific course approvals, I provided: • A grade sheet indicating the student’s grades compared to the points possible. • A broad outline of the course. • The course syllabus. • A sample of one section of the course, including the section’s outline and study guide. • A log showing many of the virtual classroom interactions and a summary of the topics discussed.. • A sample of the student’s work, including graded homework and graded exams. The NCAA requested log-in and log-out times each learning module for the student. The district’s LMS could not provide that information, although For purposes of privacy, we asked our students, who were 18 years of age, to sign a release letter that we could speak with the NCAA and any college representative about the course to advocate on the student’s behalf. View of Online Instruction Listening to the community and peers, the view of online learning and instruction is that this mode is a way for students to get credit for a course without much work. It is essential that leaders involved in school districts ensure that the online course has the same quality as the traditional courses. This can occur by requiring that certain elements be part of the course, such as proctored exams. Looking at the promising practices section, requiring a minimum number of those components, such as five or six of the eight components, can be the district’s standard of quality. When a course’s content is modeled after a district’s traditional course with the same or parallel assessments, the district has a strong test of quality. 7
  10. 10. Highly Qualified Instructors As mentioned above, at the time of this writing, ISBE was reviewing how to account for the certification of online programs where the teachers are not Illinois certified. For Illinois teachers, it is essential that they are highly qualified with university credentials in their subject areas as well as education principles. Further, it is important that they are motivated to teach differently online. Illinois’ Remote Education Programs Law In August 2009, the Illinois governor signed a bill approving online learning. The law, known as the Remote Education Programs Act (HB 2448), permits school districts to collect General State Aid for students completing course work in educational programs outside traditional schools. The law requires a board of education policy, that is renewed annually, an individual learning plan a tracking system to audit students’ participation in the course. One weakness of the law is that General State Aid can be claimed only for days students work online on a day that is on the district’s calendar. Further, they must be involved in the online course on “days of attendance” as defined by the Illinois School Code (ILCS 5/18-8.05). The law requires that the district create a Remote Education Plan for each student. The plan must account for the following components: • Goals • Assessments • Progress Reports • Expectations, processes, and schedules • Family Responsibilities • IEP Requirements • Participation • Responsible Parent • Program Administrator • Term of Participation • Location of Participation • Certification The Illinois State Board of Education has written rules for tracking attendance. For the purposes of determining average daily attendance for General State Aid under Section 10-29 of the School Code [105 ILCS 5/10-29], a school district operating a remote educational program shall document, and make available to the State Superintendent of Education or his designee upon 8
  11. 11. request, a written or online record of instructional time for each student enrolled in the program that provides sufficient evidence of the student’s active participation in the program (e.g., log in and log off process, electronic monitoring, adult supervision, two-way interaction between teacher and student, video cam). To claim General State Aid, the district must create a remote educational plan along with a way to precisely track students’ participation in the courses. Research and Evaluation As with any initiative, the latest research provides a searchlight to help a district formulate a program of courses that helps students in the target audience learn. Accelerated students can thrive in a completely online program, while students in a credit recovery program will need more support of a blended learning environment. It is essential to determine which best fits the targeted student in the program. As students complete the program, looking back at their progress and their feedback is essential to reformulation of learning modules. Such opportunities allow administrators to determine the program’s demographics and achievement levels. End of course surveys, provides important student perspectives and insights that can assist in changes in curriculum and mode of delivery. Technical The school Chief Technology Officer (CTO) has many daily challenges. Supporting an online initiative brings its own set of issues. This section addresses important components that the CTO will have to consider and implement. Learning Management System The main technical component of an online initiative is a Learning Management System (LMS), whether this is part of a vendor’s offering or purchased by the school district. An LMS is a bundle of software that has course content and administrative features. Ellis (2009) defines an LMS in broad terms as: [A] software application that automates the administration, tracking, and reporting of training events. . . . A robust LMS should be able to do the following: centralize and automate administration use self-service and self-guided services assemble and deliver learning content rapidly consolidate training initiatives on a scalable web- based platform 9
  12. 12. support portability and standards personalize content and enable knowledge reuse. (p. 1) Several software publishers produce add-ons to the base software that learning and administrative features. These software components are available for free or at a cost. The add-ons include web 2.0 software, virtual classroom software, and the like so that these features can be offered as part of the LMS. Bandwidth One of the major challenges and emerging issues of a school district is the speed of the Internet connection. As the number of portable devices becomes available at more affordable prices, the district will need to build capacity. Because today’s courses have components of audio and video, the district will need more capacity to go along with other increases in demand for connectivity. As courses are borrowed, purchased, or built locally, the students will need the bandwidth to access the local LMS or the vendor’s system. Teacher Technology Teachers can be successful online when they have technology available to them to use at school and away from school, whether that is at home, at the local coffee shop, or on the road at a hotel. A portable computer with a web camera and audio headset are the starters. The computer should have a productivity suite, whether it is licensed or open source. Additionally, software should be included to make and edit audio and video podcasts and to edit images. Either licensed software or open source versions are acceptable. Classroom software Software is available for teachers and students to interact across the Internet. Teachers and students can see each other and hear each other. Teachers can make presentations, annotate slides, and save the presentations for later review. Instructors can prepare questions that students answer to check for understanding or for quizzing purposes. Students who view recorded sessions can answer the questions as well. This will indicate their involvement in the lesson. Digitizing equipment Once licensing agreements are in effect, some content may need to be digitized. Of course, this can occur after formal licensing has occurred with the copyright holder. This can be a simple computer system that has a DVD drive and appropriate software or a formal video system, like “Avid” or “Final Cut Pro.” 10
  13. 13. Animations Teachers can create animated presentations. Voki is a web site that makes a speaking character that can be embedded in a web site or in a learning management system. The result include advertising to help pay for the service. The maximum length of a Voki is 1 minute. The same company provides the service for a monthly fee without advertising. Codebaby is a computer program that produces animations from a cast of programmable characters that gesture, walk, sit or stand, and move about. The software license has a fee. Summary Online learning is a growing trend in schools and universities across the country. Leadership is required at all levels to set a program in the desired direction, to provide necessary energy, to ensure quality, and to monitor and evaluate progress. District leadership is necessary to ensure that appropriate policies are adopted. Leadership is needed in teaching and instruction to groom appropriate teachers who can teach online. Finally, technical expertise is necessary to support teachers as they develop and deliver their courses. 11
  14. 14. References & Resources Allen, I.E. & Seamen, J. (2010). Learning on demand: Online learning in the United States 2009. Babson Survey Research Group. Davis, N. & Rose, R. (2008). Professional development for virtual schooling and online learning. Vienna: Virginia” North American Council for Online Learning. Education Week (2010). E-educators evolving. September 22, 2010. Ellis, R.K. (2000). A field guide to learning management systems. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training & Development. www.astd.org. Hunt, J.L. & Olesen-Tracey. (2010). Online courses offer new learning potential. Illinois School Boards Association. http://www.iasb.com/journal/j070810_06.cfm. Christensen, C.M., Horn, M.B., & Johnson, CW. (2008). Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation with changed the way the world learns. NewYork: McGraw- Hill. Friedrichsen, J. & Gensimore, M. (2009). Standards for planning and implementing your online program. www.blendedschools.net. National Collegiate Athletic Association. (2010). Nontraditional courses: How Division I proposal no. 2009-64 changes the initial-eligibility equation. www.ncaa.org. Watson, J., Gemin, B., Ryan, J. and Wicks, M. (2009). Keeping pace with K-12 online learning: An annual review of state level policy and practice. Vienna, Virginia: International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Watson, J. & Gemin, B. (2009). Management and operations of online programs. Vienna: Virginia: International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Animations Codebaby. www.codebaby.com Voki. www.voki.com Learning Management Sytems: Blackboard. www.blackboard.com Brain Honey. www.brainhoney.com 12
  15. 15. Desire 2 Learn. www.desire2learn.com DimDim. www.dimdim.com Moodle. www.moodle.org Sakai. www.sakaiproject.org Licensing for Movies, Television Shows & Educational Films Criterion Pictures. www.criterpicusa.com. (800) 890-9494. Motion Picture Licensing Corporation. www.mplc.com. (800) 462-8855. Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. www.swank.com. (800) 876-5577. Films on Demand. www.films.com Discovery Education. www.discovery.com Open Educational Resources National Repository of Online Courses. www.montereyinstitute.org OER Commons. www.oercommons.org Professional Societies International Assocation for K-12 Online Learning (www.inacol.org) Quality Matters (www.qmprogram.org) Virtual Classroom Software Adobe Connect. www.adobe.com DimDim. www.dimdim.com Elluminate. www.elluminate.com Webex. www.webex.com Wimba Classroom. www.wimba.com 13

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