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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/