Key Learning Areas in EDUC 4150 – Online/eLearning: Principles and Processes

This journal entry will reflect on the key learning areas for me in EDUC 4150 – Online/eLearning: Principles and Processes. The format used in this discussion will be the focused-conversation model.

Objective

I began my learning in EDUC 4150 studying different generations of eLearners. I identify as a Millennial and my business mathematics students are mainly from Generation Z. It is surprising for me to witness a generation gap in my classroom between myself and my students both being from younger generations. I find that the technology skills Generation Z students have are based around smartphones and social media and they don’t carry over to the technology skills needed in a business class. This frustrates me because the skills needed in my classes, such as file management and office software usage, I learnt when I was a child. I also grew frustrated reviewing literature about different generations of eLearners written by Generation X or Y authors who clearly didn’t understand the younger generations such as mine. I started EDUC 4150 with a bitter taste in my mouth but fortunately things picked up in the next module of the course.

I was uplifted when studying the similarities and differences between eLearning and face-to-face learning. I found that because of the digital nature of eLearning the content in my course can be easily updated so that it remains relevant. Furthermore, I learnt that an eLearning environment encourages active participation and that I can design my course for students to ask questions, share experiences, and collaborate with each other. I discovered challenges however in eLearning as outlined by Bell and Federman (2013), namely detecting fraud and cheating online, supporting low-income and underprepared students, and dealing with retention issues.

The next area I focused on was learning theories and eLearning. After learning about the different types of learning theories and their relation to eLearning, I found that the constructivist learning theory was most relevant to my mathematics teaching. This theory was the focus of my learning theory essay which I found the most challenging activity to complete in the course. The material was very dry for me and I was struggling to relate it to my teaching and learning. The biggest struggle was exploring the roles of the learners and instructors in the constructivist learning theory. Eventually, I did power through this activity and found some great resources to assist me such as Crow’s (2015) analysis of constructivism for teachers and learners and Pappa’s (2016) discussions of eLearning activities online learners enjoy. In the end, I came up with some great examples of eLearning that I could apply to my business mathematics course.

During these first few modules of study I was also working on an eLearning tools wiki with my classmate Carla. I researched about Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) and Reddit while Carla explored Soapbox and C3 Softworks. I already use OBS and Reddit for my streaming hobby where I livestream myself playing various video games online. It was interesting however approaching these services from an educational perspective. An article I found by Wilbert (2018) discussed how OBS supports eLearning by supporting the flipped classroom model, allows students to study and learn at their own pace, and is perfect for distance learning. Reddit is community focused, so instructors can setup subreddits for their class and students and collaborate with each other and anyone else on Reddit who would like to join their community.

While approaching the end of this course I learnt about ePortfolios. I had heard the term before but had no idea what they were. I discovered that they are a cutting-edge, valuable resource for students and instructors to develop and I want to try the idea in one of my classes to see how it goes. I find that the most useful part of developing an ePortfolio for students is that they are documenting their learning. They are thinking about their thinking and recording skills that they have and skills that they need to work on.

The last topic I studied was about quality guidelines for developing an online course. I found that learning about these at the end of the course really helped create some anticipation for the future EDUC courses I will take. While working through this module I developed my own set of quality guidelines for my future online business mathematics course. I feel like the process of going through the creation of these guidelines has given me a lot of perspective into how my online course is going to look like when it is up and running. I’m very excited for what is to come with my online course development.

Reflective

I don’t have any experience teaching online courses; however, as a student I took most of my BC Provincial Instructor Diploma (PIDP) courses online. I could tell that there were generational issues amongst students in the courses mainly due to technology skills. I also was surprised at the learning curve I had to deal with learning in an eLearning environment as opposed to a face-to-face one. Being self-disciplined and managing your time is important as an online student. There were also many eLearning tools introduced throughout the courses mainly related to create online video content. I could also tell that a lot of effort had gone into developing the online courses that I took, and it wasn’t until taking this course that I realized what went on behind the scenes in online course design.

I had many successful eLearning experiences throughout the PIDP and one that sticks out to me is the discussion forums in curriculum design with Jeff May. He was very clear at the beginning of the semester about how we should be communicating in the discussion forums and he attached marks to our contributions based on frequency and quality. It sounds silly having to assign marks to make students do something but compared to the other PIDP courses I took this one had the most productive online interactions. I also appreciated all the mini-videos and detailed information provided throughout my online courses in the PIDP and EDUC 4150. It made tackling a big block of content less stressful and helped provide guidance in how to effectively learn the material. These experiences in student-to-student and instructor-to-student online communication are items I would like to emulate in my online course.

For my own learners to have a more positive experience, I would like to improve upon my communication, assessment instructions, and variety of media use. A lot of the time I’m in a rush and don’t have time to reply to so many e-mails from students, so I send back a lot of one-liners than often result students having follow up questions. If I would take the time to write a highly quality response that contains more than just what the student is asking it was save me time in the long-term and improve students’ experiences in my courses. Regarding assessment instructions, I often write them thinking they make sense to me, but then students have trouble understanding them or misinterpret them. I should be checking these instructions with my colleagues to see if they can find any vagueness or unclarity in my writing. To improve my variety of media use, I should use more articles I find online, interactive games such as crossword puzzles, and a wider range of online videos.

Interpretive

Some new insights that I now have are the importance of quality guidelines and the potential of ePortfolios. I can see that creating a set of quality guidelines is the starting point for designing an online course. They can help me plan the overall structure of the course and ensure me that I don’t miss any important elements. I like how these guidelines focus on all aspects of a course such as course organization, learning objectives, resource management, and student interaction. These guidelines can also be referred to throughout the course and improved upon for additional offerings of the course. I think that ePortfolios are the way of the future. They don’t need to be restricted to the scope of a course, but instead can be expanded to an entire program. Because of the digital nature of them, they are also very valuable for use in job applications. ePortfolios are a visually represented summary of a person’s academic, life, and career achievements.

My thinking has changed around creating effective online courses after taking EDUC 4150 because I now consider how different activities in the course relate to learning objectives, how my students can learn the course content in an online environment, and what I need to do to create a positive eLearning environment for students to learn in. When teaching a face-to-face course, I relate the lesson to the learning objectives verbally often referring to the course outline. This method wouldn’t work as well in an online environment as since videos provided to students would typically be short in length. Since there can much more text in an online course as opposed to on a whiteboard in class, ensuring that the learning objectives are stated within the activity the student is completing would benefit their progress in the course. I also have a lot more options for assisting students in their learning of course content online. They can learn through video, simulations, discussion forums, interactive games, and many other online services. Finally, regarding positive eLearning environments, I need to think about ensuring that students are not feeling alone when working through a module in a course. I need to consider what discussion forums can be created to engage students. Furthermore, thought towards whether an activity would be better completed collaboratively needs to be considered.

Decisional

When I design my online course, I learnt that I will have to include a computer literacy module to support students from varying generations and cultures. This module will also need to contain a section on online collaboration and guidelines for my students regarding online communication. Most of my students are first-year students and will be unfamiliar with learning in an online environment.

Regarding the challenges in eLearning mentioned above by Bell and Federman (2013), I researched methods to handle these problems and discussed them in my “Challenges and Opportunities of eLearning” project. To summarize I can combat cheating and fraud by reducing the graded weights on individual assignments and introduce more group-based assignments. I can assist low-income students by raising awareness of the various student services my educational institution offers. To deal with student retention as suggested by CourseArc (2016), I can design my online course for simplicity, reviews/revisions/repetitions, and timely feedback.

After completing my learning theory essay, I decided that I will create bite-sized eLearning videos and implement group collaboration eLearning projects into my business mathematics online course. The videos will be great to deal with the various mathematics problems in the course. There is a plethora of case studies related to business mathematics that are perfectly suited for group projects. Both deliverables are grounded in the constructivist theory.

Based on the eLearning tools I researched, I found that OBS is a superior software for recording videos and I plan to use it to create content for my online course. I also plan on encouraging students to use it for creating videos for their various assessments throughout their studies. I am still not clear whether Reddit is a good idea for use in an educational environment because of the public nature of the service, but I plan to do some more research regarding its applicability to education.

I have realized that I need to develop my own ePortfolio related to my teaching. In my blog post about ePortfolios I outlined how I could begin this process. I would be interested in taking a course on how to develop my own ePortfolio and then use this knowledge to trial run one of my classes to create their own ePortfolios. This may be the most adventurous item that has emerged from my learning in EDUC 4150.

Based on the quality guidelines I developed and posted to my blog, I have decided to focus on Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, and OBS as software I would like my students to learn. I will need to create online tutorials to achieve this goal. I also need to start providing suggested times for completing activities so that students are aware of the time constraints that occur during examinations. Last of all, I plan to place discussion forums around course topics throughout the course website and post challenge problems that students can solve collaboratively online.

Overall, I had an enjoyable experience in EDUC 4150 and I am looking forward to the next two courses in the program. I will most likely begin the next course EDUC 4151 in September.

References

Bell, B. S., & Federman, J. E. (2013). E-Learning in Postsecondary Education. DigitalCommons@ILR, 23(1), 165-185.

CourseArc. (2016, November 22). How to Improve Student Retention in eLearning. Retrieved June 4, 2018, from CourseArc: https://www.coursearc.com/how-to-improve-student-retention-in-elearning/

Crow, B. R. (2015, September 22). Constructivism for Teachers and Learners – A Closer Look. Retrieved June 10, 2018, from Tutoring for Excellence: https://www.tutoringforexcellence.com.au/blog/constructivism-for-teachers-and-learners-a-closer-look/

Pappas, C. (2016, June 23). Top 8 eLearning Activities Online Learners Love. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from eLearning Industry: https://elearningindustry.com/top-8-elearning-activities-online-learners-love

Wilbert, M. (2018, May 7). Live Broadcast Software for Teaching Online Classes. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from DaCast: https://www.dacast.com/blog/live-broadcast-software-for-teaching-online-classes/

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The Importance of Using a Quality Checklist when Developing an Online Course

This journal entry will reflect on my learning around the importance of using a quality checklist when developing an online course. The format used in this discussion will be the focused-conversation model.

Objective

Quality guidelines are important because they give instructors guidance for designing and teaching their online course. The Coulter Faculty Center at Western Carolina University (2007) have developed an excellent online course assessment tool which is divided into multiple sections focusing on elements of course design and elements of teaching. These sections focus on

  • course overview and organization,
  • learning objectives and competencies,
  • resource management and materials, and
  • student interaction and assessment.

I have found that this document is an invaluable resource for assisting myself in creating quality guidelines for my future online courses.

If a set of quality guidelines is not used for developing an online course, the course can become disorganized, learning objectives could not be clear, resources could be difficult to find, and worst of all students would not be able to perform properly in the course. As noted by (Phillips, n.d.), online students are noticing problems in the quality of their online courses. They are noticing that some of their courses are designed around reading from the textbook and completing exercises from it. Poor course construction and inconsistencies are also being seen. Students are seeing a lack of visual aid in many of their online courses. Last of all, they are frequently studying outdated material due to poor management of course resources.

To ensure that an instructor’s online course meets the needs of their learners, they need to be aware of their potential students’ academic preparedness, demographics, and technology skills. If an instructor’s students are first-year students, then are most likely unaware of how post-secondary education works especially in an online format. In this case, the instructor would need to ensure that the expectations and guidelines for the online course would be clearly presented to students when they begin the course. This also would apply to students at any academic level who are unfamiliar with learning in an online environment. Instructors also need to be aware of the demographics of their students, such as age and English proficiency. Mature-age students may be uncomfortable in an online environment, being used to the traditional ways of learning, so the instructor needs to design the course in a way to make them feel welcome and a part of the community. In the case where many of the instructor’s students speak English as a second language, it may be a better for the instructor to deliver information through video as opposed to a lot of text. Regarding technology skills, an instructor can ensure that students are all at a satisfactory technology skill level, by creating tutorials for those who need the help or practice in working with the required technology in the course. All these matters can be addressed by ensuring they are items on the instructor’s quality checklist.

Reflective

As a student who has taken many online courses, it is a black box to me regarding how these online courses were developed. If they were developed with quality guidelines, I never saw them. Perhaps it would be beneficial to students for instructors to share the quality guidelines they used to design the course. In doing so, students can look at how the instructor plans to support them throughout their online learning journey. I have only taken online courses through the School of Instructor Education at Vancouver Community College and I have never had a problem with how the courses are designed. They are very organized, learning objectives are clear, and the resources and materials and plentiful and easy to locate. I also like how there was consistently in online course design between courses and instructors. A couple of issues I have found though is that some of the courses have way too much reading and there isn’t much regarding tutorials for technology help. The lack of technology assistance isn’t a big deal for me, but it concerns me for other students.

For the courses I’ve taken at Vancouver Community College, I always found the course introductions that included overviews on how the course was structured to be very useful. It gave me an idea of how to plan my voyage from the beginning to end of the course. I also appreciated when the instructor would provide guidelines for collaboration, communication, accountability, and privacy. However, there have been frustrations when quality guidelines that I could tell had been developed weren’t being followed through on. For example, in past courses guidelines had been provided about how to create relevant, thought-provoking discussion posts and appropriate methods for replying to others’ posts. However, the instructor could have enforced these guidelines a bit more strictly by replying to poor responses with follow-up questions for the replying student to answer. I am also irritated when I’m working through a module and links I visit take me to outdated information or broken websites. It is important for instructors to review their quality guidelines throughout their teaching career and not just initially when creating the course.

Interpretive

Now that I know about quality guidelines for designing an online course, I am kind of relieved. The process of developing an online course for me initially seems like a chaotic mix of course material and online activities that was iteratively improved upon over the years until a quality online course was developed. With well developed quality guidelines, it is much easier to map out how I can develop an online course. Having these guidelines presented as a checklist is also great as it ensures that I don’t miss any vital components in my course. These guidelines will also be very useful to refer to if something goes wrong in my course. I may need to improve on one of the items on my checklist or even add items that I missed in the initial course development.

Learning about quality guidelines has given me the insight that I have been paying attention to the quality of the learning resources and learning outcomes in my future online course development; however, I have not been paying attention to the quality of the learners’ experience of teaching and learning. In an article discussing quality in online learning by the non-profit organization Contact North (2014), they discuss six key quality assurance issues: program/curriculum design, delivery, faculty preparation, assessment/authentication, student engagement, and using open education resources. I believe that my biggest challenge is going to be approaching student engagement. Contact North (2014) suggests that “[t]o ensure engagement, a systematic review of the course before it is offered, and after the first offering, is undertaken of the key points in the learning experience students are expected to be engaged.” I believe this process should not just be undertaken by the course designer but in collaboration with their peers.

Learning about quality guidelines has changed the scope of my thinking regarding online course development. Previously, I was picturing my online course as lots of little modules and was focusing on how each of those individual modules would look. Now I’ve realized that I need to zoom out my thought processes and look at how the online course would function overall. I’m also thinking not just about the content and activities my students will work on but also how the course can support their learning. Students with differing backgrounds and skills will be entering my online course and the environment needs to be designed to support them. For situations where they cannot get the support they need through the course material, I need to ensure that I can assist them with their issues so that they can be successful in my course.

Decisional

My new learning about quality guidelines has given me many ideas of how to apply them to an online business mathematics course. For computer literacy, students would need to know how to create formulas in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint and how to record videos. I would like students to be able to record themselves talking through their solutions to various problems and have their work presented in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.

Students would be given sets of problems to solve throughout the semester with suggested completion times. This would help them prepare for the time constraint of examinations. Learning objectives would also be stated for these activities with guidance for students to achieve them. I would ensure that problem sets, and other activities, are offered in a variety of content such as images, videos, games, and simulations.

Discussions forums around various course topics would be placed throughout the course website and challenge problems would be posted for students to collaboratively solve together. Students that are having difficulty solving specific problems would also be able to post them to discussion forums for their peers or myself to assist them in solving. Because of the collaborative design of this online course I would ensure that guidelines for communication are posted and that I respond to students in a timely fashion with feedback. By referring to my quality guidelines that I plan on developing I will be able to design an online course that promotes and encourages learning for my students.

References

Contact North. (2014, March 3). As a Faculty Member, What Do I Need To Know About Quality in Online Learning? Retrieved July 3, 2018, from Teach Online: https://teachonline.ca/tools-trends/quality-guidelines-and-practice/faculty-member-what-do-i-need-know-about-quality-online-learning

Phillips, V. (n.d.). 5 Things Real Students Hate about Online Learning Degrees. Retrieved July 1, 2018, from GetEducated: https://www.geteducated.com/elearning-education-blog/5-things-real-students-hate-about-online-learning-degrees/

Western Carolina University. (2007, April 25). Coulter Faculty Center eLearning Faculty Fellow Online Course Assessment Tool (OCAT) and Peer Assessment Process. Cullowhee, North Carolina, USA. Retrieved July 5, 2018, from https://www.wcu.edu/WebFiles/PDFs/facultycenter_OCAT_v2.0_25apr07.pdf

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Quality Guidelines

For myself, I consider “quality” in an online course to mean a collaborative, media-rich, interactive environment in which to learn. Students can collaborate with each other not just for assignments, but through discussion forums placed throughout the various modules in a course. A “quality” course has text, graphics, videos, widgets, and even games if possible. This leads into having an interactive environment. On the Internet, people expect responses immediately and being about to complete an activity and receive feedback straightaway is very important to students’ learning.

An online course is “great” when students feels a sense of self-accomplishment when completing a module and excitement to begin the next. It is even more rewarding when students see connections between the modules and can see how previous ones are helping them learn with the current one they are working on. An online course with assessments that result in professional, high-quality end-products also contribute to the “greatness” of a course. An assessment that a student has completed that want to show to their family and friends as recognition of their learning is a sign of a well-designed assessment.

As a student, to be successful online I need a well-designed course, engaging peers, and a motivated, responsive instructor. A well-designed course has a variety of different activities spread throughout the modules and should not just feel like you’re doing the same cycle repeatedly per module. Online courses can be lonely and a bit boring when you’re in it alone. The instructor should have clear guidelines regarding student discussions and monitor and contribute to them in discussion forums. This ties in with an instructor being motivated and responsive. One way an instructor can demonstrate their motivation of the course content it to provide new, cutting edge information they’ve found online to the class to spark a discussion.

To conclude this post on quality guidelines, I’d like to provide a list of items that I feel enhance the learning experience in an online course:

  • user-friendly interface and layout,
  • computer literacy component,
  • well designed activities with suggested completion times,
  • requirements for students to begin specific activities (e.g. completed previous activity, scored a certain amount on an informal assessment),
  • learning objectives stated for each activity,
  • guidance in activities for students to achieve the learning objectives,
  • online content is current,
  • variety of content type (images, videos, games, simulations),
  • the ability for anyone to contribute resources to the course site,
  • active discussion forums by both instructors and students,
  • guidelines for communication,
  • timely responses to formal assessment,
  • course progress easily obtained.
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ePortfolios in Business Mathematics

I think there is a place in my teaching of business mathematics for ePortfolios. One of the challenges when teaching the course is the wide range of different mathematics skills amongst students. I provide them with review material at the beginning of the course; however, I don’t know if they’re completing it since it isn’t worth marks. Furthermore, some students believe they already know the basics and then get a huge shock when the first midterm hits. By getting students to document what they think their mathematics skills are and demonstrating them by choosing problems from their textbook and solving them, I can then monitor the students’ growth in their mathematics skills through an ePortfolio. One of the indicators that a student truly understands a mathematics concept is being able to explain it to another student. With ePortfolios, students could record themselves solving a problem with commentary to show all of their thought processes besides what is just written down on paper. At different points in the course students could also refer to previous content and reflect on how well they understood the topic and how they can improve. With an ePortfolio, students can track all their learning in business mathematics and be able to pinpoint areas where they exceed at and areas where they need to improve.

In creating my own personal teaching ePortfolio, I see the following values:

  • having my teaching philosophy documented,
  • having my goals outlined and how I plan to achieve them, and
  • having my teaching techniques described.

I recall learning about teaching philosophies during the BC Provincial Instructor Diploma, yet I have never created one. In a journal entry I wrote (Crothers, 2015), I noted that I should respond to the following items to develop by teaching philosophy:

  1. Why do you believe your students want to learn?
  2. What are your aims for teaching?
  3. Does your subject matter affect your beliefs about teaching or learning?
  4. Create a list responding to “When I teach I:”
  5. What do you believe about learning?

When I decide to create my personal teaching ePortfolio, these will be some of the first questions I answer. Having a teaching philosophy documented is also beneficial to share with my colleagues so they are aware of how I approach my teaching.

Regarding outlining my teaching goals, I would like to identify the short-term and long-term ones I wish to achieve. I would also attach rough timelines to them since I believe having deadlines motivates oneself. Some short-term goals I can think of are improved informal assessment and cultural recognition. For long-term goals, I want to introduce the flipped classroom model and discuss ePortfolios with my department in business quantitative studies.

Having my teaching techniques described would add a lot of value to my teaching since I could refer to and improve them to align with how my students learn. Some techniques I currently use, inspired from (Angelo & Cross, 1993), are muddiest point, documented problem solutions, and e-mail feedback. Having a compilation of all the various techniques I use would be an amazing asset.

The kind of artifacts I would include in this ePortfolio are:

  • journal entries of challenging class experiences,
  • lesson plans presented visually, and
  • videos of mini-lessons.

There are many challenging situations that can occur in the classroom such as delivering a lesson to students that don’t have the prerequisites, handling students who think they’re being unfairly assessed, and teaching in a classroom where students don’t have the appropriate language and cultural background. Being able to observe, reflect, interpret, and make decisions based on these situations would be very valuable to have documented. It would also show employability skills to potential employers.

I believe that lessons plans can be much more informative and useful for me if presented visually. This can be done using tables, charts, or graphs. A template for a visual lesson plan is shown below.

lessonplantemplate

Videos of mini-lessons would be useful for resume purposes but also to give students “sneak previews” of what the courses I teach offer. If the flipped classroom model was implemented these mini-lessons would be actual videos that the students watch through the course management site that I create.

References

Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Crothers, S. (2015, October 23). Working Philosophies in Higher Education. Retrieved 24 2018, June, from Reflections of a Business Quantitative Methods Instructor: https://simoncrothers.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/working-philosophies-in-higher-education/

 

 

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Applying Learning Theories to Online Business Mathematics Courses

There are four main learning theories in education:

  • Behaviourism: learning is a change in behaviour
  • Cognitivism: learning is a change in thinking
  • Humanism: learning is a change in the whole person
  • Constructivism: learning is building on learning

Due to the increase in technology usage, the connectivism learning theory has been developed that suggests learning can also be unlearning. I don’t believe humanism or connectivism are very applicable to business mathematics, so I will not discuss them here.

The behaviourist learn theory is useful in business mathematics for routine problems. When solving compound interest problems for example, students need to be able to quickly and correctly determine the periodic interest rate and the number of compounds per period. There isn’t much thinking involved as it’s purely mechanical to do this. An online activity could be a speed test where a student is given 5 minutes to answer 20 questions and they are rewarded for their accuracy and speed. In course management systems such as Moodle students could be rewarded with digital badges for their good performance.

The cognitive learning theory is very important in business mathematics. Many students have developed bad habits in their thinking when solving mathematics problems and a change in their thinking processes is very important so that they can solve more complex problems. Providing students with online resources for general problem solving would be beneficial. In addition, students could be given problems to solve but with guidance so that they can understand the thought process they should be undergoing. For example, a procedure in business mathematics problem solving is to introduce variables, translate problems in terms of those variables, set up equations, and then solve those equations. Online activities could be designed with these steps prompted as the student works through to their solution.

The constructivist learning theory is critical in business mathematics. Mathematics is about learning new theories based on previous theories you have learnt. For example, to understand net cash flow, a student needs to understand annuities, which in turn requires a student to understand interest, which at the most basic level requires students to understand areas of arithmetic and algebra. The structure of the online course could be designed around modules that build on each other and make the student aware about how the content they are currently learning is building on what they previously learnt.

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Fourteen Best Practices for Teaching Business Mathematics Online

According to Boettcher and Conrad (2016), the fourteen best practices for teaching online are

  1. Be present at the course site.
  2. Create a supportive online course community.
  3. Develop a set of explicit expectations for your learners and yourself as to how you will communicate and how much time students should be working on the course each week.
  4. Use a variety of large group, small group, and individual work experiences.
  5. Use synchronous and asynchronous activities.
  6. Ask for informal feedback early in the term.
  7. Prepare discussion posts that invite responses, questions, and discussions, and reflections.
  8. Search out and use content resources that are available in digital format.
  9. Combine core concept learning with customized and personalized learning.
  10. Plan a good closing and wrap activity for the course.
  11. Assess as you go by gathering evidences of learning.
  12. Rigorously connect content to core concepts and learning outcomes.
  13. Develop and use a content frame for your course.
  14. Design experiences to help learners make progress on their novice-to-expert journey.

I would apply these fourteen best practices to my business mathematics course as follows:

  1. Check in on my students online twice a day, seven days a week (morning and evening).
  2. Require students to post a profile picture and a short description about themselves.
  3. Let students know that questions for me that could benefit other students should be posted in discussion forums and personal questions and be directed to me via direct messages. Furthermore, inform students that they will need to commit eight to twelve hours a week for the course.
  4. There are lots of case studies related to business mathematics which would make for good large group experiences. Challenge problems would work for small group experiences. Sets of routine problems would help individuals master course content.
  5. Synchronous activities would be in-person exams and drop-in workshops. Asynchronous activities would be discussion forums where students can discuss their issues about various problems in the course.
  6. After the third week of the course, a short survey would be provided to students to give their thoughts about the course so far.
  7. Challenging problems would be posted for discussion, where students are encouraged to solve pieces of the problems together and discuss their approaches so that they can collaboratively solve problems.
  8. The textbook for the business mathematics course I teach has an electronic version in addition to an online platform for students to practice solving problems. Unfortunately this platform does not integrate with Moodle.
  9. The theory for the course is the same for all students; however, the applications could be customized for their specific programs. General problems can be generated so that each student receives a personalized set of problems to solve.
  10. A good closing activity for the course would be an online practice final exam to prepare students for the real thing. In addition, students could be given the opportunity to share their challenges in the course and provide advice for future students whom plan to take the course.
  11. Ongoing assessment would be achieved by short online quizzes that don’t just ask the students to solve a problem, but also explain their thought processes and reasoning they employed.
  12. When introducing new concepts, let the students know which learning objectives they are related to.
  13. A content frame would be developed by outlining the topics and activities that will take place on a module-by-module basis. The business mathematics I teach for example has three modules spread over thirteen weeks of the semester. A visual representation of this path would be very helpful for students.
  14. Strategies would be outlined for students regarding how to approach learning course content, general tips for problem solving, and exam studying techniques.

References

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R.-M. (2016). The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Second Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Reflections on Being an Online Student

You would think that taking your course online instead of face-to-face would be easier. You don’t have to go to class. You don’t have to sit through boring lectures and have forced discussions with your classmates. You don’t have to fear quizzes and exams. However, taking a course online requires significant more work than in a face-to-face class. Why is that? Well for myself I have a terrible attention span (Millennial by the way). I’m easily distracted and lose focus after doing ten minutes of anything. Because of this one hour of effective studying takes me about three. When you have an instructor who tells you the facts and what to do face-to-face for a few hours a week it takes a lot longer to go through this process by myself. This by no means that I perform worse in online courses than face-to-face ones. On the contrary, it just takes me much more time to get work done.

To deal with these challenges I pretty much have to forego all leisure activities. I have a part-time job streaming competitive games online and just today I’ve had to put that job on hold for a month because it’s interfering with my studying online. On top of this, my work as an instructor has turned out to be more than anticipated due to unexpected circumstances that I won’t discuss here. It’s going to be a rough month but it has to be done to see progress in my studies.

My most important learning in my first course in the Online/eLearning Certificate at VCC so far has been my work I did with Carla in our wiki we developed. I found that talking and collaborating with another student was much more interesting that reading the textbook and online articles. I’m only a couple of weeks into this course and I can see that there is a lot of content to work through. I’m excited to see what is to come, but hopefully there isn’t too much more heavy reading as I’ve experienced in the first couple of weeks.

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Different Generations of eLearners

This journal entry will reflect on my research and learning about different generations of eLearners. The format used in this discussion will be the focused-conversation model.

Objective

I was born in the mid 1980s and identify as a Millennial. My students are on average in their 20s and based on their age they would be classified as Generation Z students. However, the clear majority of them are international students and the assumptions made about Generation Z students simply do not apply to them. As discussed by (Hoover, 2009), researchers tend to label generations based on white, middle-class characteristics and the generalizations of these labels are not always applicable to people who are from a minority, who are poor, or are from a rural area to give few examples. My students struggle with English, many have jobs and families, and most are not computer literate. They would prefer not attending class and working on their own or with their peers instead of listening to me.

How then could I accommodate these students if I transitioned my face-to-face business mathematics course to an online one? (Barrett, 2011) suggests designing the course with beginner computer users in mind, but in such a way that more advanced computer users can navigate faster. To further accommodate students, a variety of instructional modes such as spoken, visual, and written should be available. Although more work is being placed on the beginner computer users in this environment, they are developing the computer literacy skills they need to excel in the business environments they plan to work in.

Reflective

I have been using computers for over 20 years and I consider myself very educated and skilled with technology. However, I have never delivered an online course before. The only online courses I have taken as a student were six of the PIDP courses over the last few years. I can tell the instructors in the School of Instructor Education are very experienced in designing and delivering online courses and I would use their online courses as a model for mine. However, the content of PIDP courses is very different compared to a business mathematics course. The business mathematics course I teach is based around problem solving and there isn’t really any need for deep discussions about any of the course topics. The biggest challenge I can foresee in delivering business mathematics online is promoting an active online environment amongst students.

One area that has frustrated me a little in my online learning is interacting with older generations. It is not the conversations with them have been frustrating, but instead the delay in response times and the constant “fear” of technology they have. I don’t work and study for long periods. I work in one or two-hour bursts here and there throughout the day and night. This is mainly due to my work schedule and looking after my children since my wife has an full-time day job in Vancouver and doesn’t have the flexibility I have. Because of my work style it can be frustrating when I message a classmate and then must wait a few hours or sometimes a day for a response. When someone has a question for me, a typically reply pretty quickly regardless of the communication platform being used since I have everything synchronized to my phone. I also don’t use many traditional communication technologies anymore such as phone calls and e-mail and it feels inefficient going back to these tools sometimes when I have richer communication tools like Discord, Open Broadcaster Software, and WhatsApp.

Interpretive

I’ve never complained to my instructors about older students’ computer literacy before because it’s inappropriate and not really their fault. They didn’t grow up with technology and networks all around them. All I can really do is educate without being condescending. For those who lack computer literacy skills, there are so many little things than can be done to improve them and in turn the quality of their online work. For example, buying a good webcam with a built-in microphone. The webcams that come built-in with laptops are terrible and for $50 you can magnify the quality of your online content immensely. Another suggestion, which I only adopted a year ago, was to get a second monitor. It is amazing how much more efficiently you can do things when you can scatter your windows across two screens. In fact, I want to get a third monitor because even with two monitors I get slowed down. However, I think I’ve been just shrugging off the computer literacy of Generation X students and watching them struggle when instead I should really be helping them.

My thinking has changed from a tolerative one to a more helping one. I’m the sort of person that doesn’t like confrontations so a lot of things that happen around me I tend to ignore. I guess that could be considered a bit selfish on my part and I want to be able to improve my peers’ computer literacy through constructive suggestions. This not only benefits them but also benefit myself because when I’m working in a group, tasks can be completely more effectively. I have a lot of computer experience and I should be sharing it with others.

Decisional

So how does this all tie into delivering my business mathematics course online? My students are mainly from Generation Z; however, their language and computer skills are not that good because of their international background. I also want to ensure that any older students in the online class are not penalized for their age and can improve their computer literacy. I can help all generations of students by including a computer literacy module at the beginning of the course for students to complete if they need to. Examples of the content in this module would be suggested hardware and software to improve quality of work, online communication advice to improve discussion and collaboration, and resources for students to learn specific software through online tutorials.

The most important of part of the computer literacy module would be about promoting online collaboration. At my university, online courses are not very common and for many students it would be their first time taking one. (Pappas, 2016) suggests including social media integration, feedback forums, and communication guidelines as a few ways to improve online collaboration. Most students use social media already, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and by integrating the platforms into my course it would make it easier for students to communicate and share resources. Feedback forums would be especially valuable in my business mathematics course because students could post their solutions to problems they are working on and then help each other. This in turn would help them learn even more about the course content. Communication guidelines are very important because they let students know how often they should be communicating in their online course. For example, in this course I appreciate how the discussion forums instruct students to return to their posts to answer questions and comments and to review and comment on posts from other students. With good design and clear guidelines, I believe that business mathematics will be a suitable course to deliver online and students from all generations will benefit from the style of learning it promotes.

References

Barrett, D. N. (2011, February 9). Designing Online Courses For Learners Who Are Not Computer Literate. Retrieved May 11, 2018, from CommLab India: https://blog.commlabindia.com/elearning-design/learn-online

Hoover, E. (2009, October 11). The Millennial Muddle. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from The Chronicle of Higher Education: https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Millennial-Muddle-How/48772

Pappas, C. (2016, December 10). 8 Factors That Promote Online Collaboration In eLearning. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from eLearning Industry: https://elearningindustry.com/factors-that-promote-online-collaboration-elearning

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Reflections of my PIDP journey so far

It has been two years since I started the BC Provincial Instructor Diploma (PIDP) and I definitely have learnt a lot along the way. The first course I took was PIDP 3100: Foundations of Adult Education. Since I am from a science and technology background, this was quite an overwhelming course for me. I spent most of my time in course improve my research methods and learning how to write papers using APA standards. The course gave me a good overview of what to expect during my studies in adult education.

My second course was PIDP 3220: Delivery of Instruction which has been the only course I have taken face-to-face. In this course, I prepared and delivered three mini-lessons, received constructive feedback in class from my instructor and classmates, and watched video recordings of my mini-lessons. The high point during the course for me was the notion of injecting affection into cognitive lessons to enhance the learning experience. In PIDP 3210: Curriculum Development I learnt more than ever thought I would. I went through the entire development cycle for creating a course and it has helped me develop two new courses at my university.  PIDP 3230: Evaluation of Learning really helped me improve the quality of my assignments and exams. I was shocked how many things I had been doing wrong before I took this course.

I’ll be honest…I didn’t really learn much in PIDP 3240: Enhanced Media Learning. I believe the issue here was not the course nor the instructor, but the fact that I had already taken three courses online and I teach technology usage. It was good to reaffirm what I already knew though. PIDP 3250: Instructional Strategies seemed like it was going to be a very dull course. However, the instructor who ran the course made sure there was a lot of group work and online discussion in the course. This made topics which were a bit boring to me a lot more interesting! The current course I’m taking is PIDP 3260: Professional Practice and I’m not quite sure what I think about it yet. I will need to complete the course to have an honest opinion about it.

I am nervous and excited about taking my final course PIDP 3270: Capstone Project. I don’t really know what to expect but I heard there is a 50% journal entry in that course. My journal skills have drastically improved since I started the PIDP so I guess I will continue doing what I’ve been doing!

References

https://simoncrothers.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/presentation-reflections/

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The Importance of Lifelong Learning as an Instructor

This blog entry is a summary of a length entry I made about the need for continuing education. It helps paint a picture about the importance of lifelong learning as an instructor.

From previous PIDP courses, I have learnt that adult learning is an ongoing process that does not end when you graduate. Knowledge gained in the classroom evolves over time and it is important to acquire this newly produced knowledge in order to accomplish your goals in your career. One way to gain new knowledge is to be involved in some form of continuing education.

As a technology instructor, I need to be continuously involved in learning about the latest innovations and trends in my field. I also strive to continuously improve my teaching to better both my students and colleagues. I can give my students some insight into how their educational lives are changing and assure them that they will continue to learn in the workplace to stay competitive in their industry. The new knowledge I gain can also be used to benefit my colleagues.

I need to be involved in continuous learning to be an effective instructor. There is always the danger of falling so far behind in your knowledge that you become an outsider at work, unable to provide suitable insight and experiences with your co-workers. This is a path I will always strive to stay away from.

I will always be aware of how the material I teach and how my students’ needs are changing. After I complete my BC Provincial Instructor Diploma, my adventure in adult learning will be far from over. I look forward to seeking new knowledge and applying it within the classroom to benefit myself, students, and colleagues.

References

https://simoncrothers.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/need-for-continuing-education/

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