Peer review feedback

Pixabay License, free for use

This week we have been asked to respond to the feedback we received from our evaluators.  The feedback Kalyn and I received was so useful and informative. It made us think more deeply about our course content and profile. It also helped us realize little changes we could make that would clarify our course to others.  Overall, the feedback we received was positive, and the evaluators praised our clear instruction, the ease of navigation throughout the course, how well organized the course materials were, that all links worked well, and the effectiveness of the “how-to” videos we posted.

Our course is a bit different in that our ‘students’ are instructors who are working with an instructional designer.  Therefore, the student/instructor will have some knowledge of UR Courses, and the setup of our class is based on the assumption that they have some basic understanding.

One of the biggest takeaways we got from the feedback is that an introduction video, stating the purpose and goal of the course would be beneficial.  Another expressed concern is there is not much information regarding the course format choice. This course is intended to be an online asynchronous class that does not have a specific time frame, and this should be mentioned either in the intro video or in the Module 1 Overview.  

The evaluators recommended adding better-detailed descriptions in some of our activities. We strongly agree with the recommendation, and we will be adding descriptions to the News Forum and Test Your Knowledge interactive.  We will also rename some of the activities and topic headings to make the course clearer so instructors could find information quickly and easily.

A suggestion was made to include videos, like the “how-to” videos, in all the modules. We believe that this is a fantastic idea because embedding our videos into the modules may make the content more engaging.  Our logic was to create a place where the students could quickly find all of the videos and watch only the ones needed. Going forward, we will keep the ‘How to’ Videos module/section and also embed the videos into the content where applicable.

Another major thing we will change based on the feedback we received is to build in more interaction with the instructional design (ID) team.  It was recommended that we create introductory videos for ourselves as the instructors, but Kalyn and I don’t want to make ourselves more visible as the creators of the course because it represents the entire instructional design team. The students should be working directly with an ID creating an online course, so while the course is being created, they have someone to contact if they have questions.  There are rare cases though, where people aren’t sure who to contact.  We plan to add a section that will make interaction with the ID team more accessible; It will contain a general email address that can be used if the student has questions.  We will also create a Zoom room, and a scheduler, so students can book appointments to meet with an ID in the Zoom room to address any concerns.

The peer review has been a valuable, detailed and meaningful assignment. We appreciated all of the feedback we received. Huge thanks to our evaluators!

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How to learn Online?

The last semester, I attended a training session entitled “Investigating Methods of Non-traditional Teaching and Learning” by Kathryn Ricketts. One of the main themes that stuck with me is that we need to help students to “ learn how to learn,“ which means students should be motivated to drive their own learning. Students are curious, but they can get distracted and take their curiosity elsewhere. We need to meet the needs of every learner through combining different learning and pedagogy strategies coupled with the use of technology.

This week I decided to dig into this idea and was inspired by a great course from Coursera called “Learning how to learn.” In the following few lines, I will try to apply some of the instructor’s,  Barbara Oakley, strategies and advises on “learning how to learn” to the Online/blended learning environment.

Free to use, Pixabay

One of Barabra’s strategy is to form a Chunk. What is Chunk? According to Barbara “Chunking is the mental leap that helps you unite bits of information together through meaning. The new logical whole makes the chunk easier to remember, and also makes it easier to fit the chunk into the larger picture of what you’re learning”.  The following video simplified this technique in a very good manner:

The working memory of a human mind can’t absorb a considerable amount of information, and it functions at its best with a finite number of items. It is recommended that we break a larger piece into small chunks that our memory can handle. Anticipating information overload in online learning is essential. One of the top tips is to break long strings of content into small chunks. Chunking the information makes it easier to remember  with less mental effort.

For example, you might create several 5-10 minutes of videos instead of one long video. This would give students more time to digest the information by using their highest attention span. You can even add questions or activities in the middle of a video to increase engagement and level of retention of information. Also, break down the modules into smaller related lessons and topics is a very helpful design technique that can help students absorb information and master learning objectives and outcomes. However, we have to pay attention to the way the content is organized and displayed in a course. Multimedia, graphics, titles and headings should all help highlight key takeaways.

CCO Public Domain

Giving a course overview is also vital as it helps to apply the chunking concept. Instructors who try to explain the big picture before they go into details are always successful in getting their students’ attention. Students are always curious about why they learn specific material? Why they have to read specific articles? How are they linked to the whole course content in general? If we can guide them making the connection between small pieces they are working on and the full picture, then they are able to retain the information and linking it to their existing knowledge in a much more comfortable and faster way.

Self-testing was also covered in Barbra’s “Learning how to learn” course. She stressed on the importance of self-testing ourselves every time we learn new concepts. She mentioned that recall is actually a form of mini or self-testing. The peer review assignment that we did last week immediately jumped to my mind when I heard Barbra mention that. To do the assignment, we had the need to learn the content well enough to explain it to colleagues or to give meaningful feedback. We all had to go and read about different LMS’s and how to use them and so on. Also, each one of us had to use the information he/she learned or read about for two or three different groups. This repetition helped our brain retain and recall the information in an efficient way.

The brain is powerful, but it has its own limits. We all have to think of ways to work with those limits and to push the boundaries.

Screencasting

This week we are asked to provide an overview of a selected tool. I was planning to pick a tool that can do mind mapping like Coggle, but I decided to review Screencastify instead because Kalyn and I are planning to create instructional videos for our project that would allow instructors to access the videos whenever, wherever, and as much as they need to.

In addition to the many other benefits as stated by Tony Bates in chapter 7 of his book, “Video is a much richer medium than either text or audio, as in addition to its ability to offer text and sound, it can also offer dynamic or moving pictures. Thus while it can offer all the affordances of audio, and some of text, it also has unique pedagogical characteristics of its own. Once again, there has been considerable research on the use of video in education, and again I will be drawing on research from the Open University (Bates, 1985; 2005; Koumi, 2006) as well as from Mayer (2009).”

Like Amy, I was first introduced to Screencastify by Alec in my previous class ECI 833. He recommended it among many other recommended add-ons or extensions for Chrome. I immediately downloaded and added it to my Chrome; however, I didn’t get a chance to try it ever since.

For this blog, I started with some research to understand what Screencastify is and how it works. As per Google Screencastify is, “a lightweight Chrome extension that lives in your browser. There’s no need to download any cumbersome, complicated software. Professional quality videos. Don’t let the simplicity fool you. Record smooth, HD screen and webcam videos.”

I agree that Screencastify is super easy to install. All I had to do is download the extension and sign in with my Gmail account. I opened it up, and it prompts me to set up my microphone and webcam, which was quick and very straightforward. I started recording to test it, and my first impression was that it is very easy and convenient to use. The annotation toolbar was also useful, and I especially liked the Focus mouse feature which could be very helpful for showing Instructors a step by step guide on how to use certain features in URcourses. It is also easy to integrate with YouTube and Google drive.

A big disadvantage for me, however, was that the recording only saves to a specific file type in Google Drive. This will be a problem if I want to upload this file to Kaltura in URcourse. I found that if I open the file from my google drive, it gives me an option to open it with an online video converter which allowed me to convert the video to mp4 easily.

Now the real test is that I wanted to see if I would be able to edit the video after recording or not. Unfortunately, under the free version, I have no access to any editing tools, and I only have a recording time limit of 10 minutes. Another thing I discovered after I finished recording under the free version is that I ca n’t delete the watermark. However, if I chose to upgrade to the premium package, I would be able to solve the editing, watermark, and time limit problems.  The premium account costs $24 per year which is pretty cheap. However, I am not certain if I should pay the money only to get the editing feature that I miss in Zoom; the current video recording tool that I use.

I can see Screencastify as an excellent formative assessment tool, besides creating instructional videos or tutorials. For example, students can demonstrate the process and steps they use to solve a math problem, then send it to the teachers.

From the students’ side of things, screencasting gives them the ability to pause or review content, which helps them to move at their own pace.  Instructors can also use it in their online courses for the purpose of peer review; where students would be able to review each other’s journals or writings.

Many articles speak about the benefits of screencasting feedback on student works. Screencasting is a useful tool for describing a step-by-step process or virtual commenting on students’ work. It helps humanize the learning experience for students and increase their learning engagement.

Design of online courses using UR courses (Moodle)

By Elisa.garcia.1994 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Kalyn and I decided on choosing a course that can be beneficial for our department and us. The main purpose of the course is to prepare Sessional and Faculty instructors to effectively plan and manage their class in UR courses (Moodle). We will create instructional documents and videos on how to use various technology tools that may be used In a fully online and blended course. 

We would like this course to be a valuable resource for instructors when developing their online courses. It is a self-paced course that instructors can take once they know they will teach an online course.

Problem/Concern to be addressed by this course

There are many tools and activities in Moodle.  Most instructors either don’t know what is available or how to best use them to create their course.  Also, almost every year there is a new version of the LMS along with a lot of new features and tools. First time online Instructors and sessional need to be updated and learn about the new version and this doesn’t always happen. Technological advancements are very fast and hard to keep up with.

Target Audience:

Sessional and Faculty instructors who plan to or are currently teaching online and blended courses.

Course Objectives:

  • Familiarize audience with LMS functionality and interface
  • Develop self-paced tutorials and instructional videos
  • Create videos for ‘just in time’ learning
  • Provide professional development and support to the sessional and Faculty instructors.
  • Helps faculty develop quality online courses; article, Seven Things to Consider Before Developing Your Online Course, is a good resource for instructors.
  • Become comfortable with LMS at the U of R.
  • Cover best practices in course navigation and design, online communication and collaboration, online assessments, pedagogy, andragogy, accessibility, and LMS skills training.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Using a range of learning technologies and platforms, for: content presentation, creation and sharing; interaction and communication;
  • Build an understanding of different LMS features and how they correspond to different learning theories
  • Prepare Sessional and Faculty instructors to plan and manage the effective use of technology and moodle
  • Copyright Clearance for the course site

Course formats, platform and toolset:

  • Peer Support forum – where instructors can post questions they have and other instructors can share their experience.  Should be supported by an instructional designer.
  • Best Practices forum or wiki
  • Create books which contain pedagogical and ‘how to’ information
  • instructional videos using Zoom to answer frequently asked questions
  • Use H5P interactive tools, to engage and test knowledge
  • Instructor manual for LMS.

Course Material

  • Moodle docs
  • Bates, A. W. & Sangrà, A. (2011). Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teaching & Learning. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Assessment

  • Do not plan to assess instructors, this course is for their knowledge, so they become better at UR Courses. Our aim is to direct faculty to sources of information and to different aspects of online learning. It will be up to the faculty to decide what to use and what is most relevant to their learning strategies or course objectives.

My experience with blended learning

Although I have limited experience in teaching, one year almost 15 years ago, however, the readings helped me reflect on my own experience as an Assistant Instructional Designer for four years.

I believe that online/ blended learning is expanding every year. Blended learning offers new ways of engagement, and students love the flexibility that online courses provide. It reaches a wide variety of audiences with different learner characteristics, such as distant learners and full-time workers. It also opens a new range of possibilities for learners.

Integrating technology tools in online learning in higher education has many advantages in enhancing the learning experience and creating a good and personalized learning environment for students. The trick is to understand how to use a suitable tool that matches the learning objectives or goals. We need to reach the needs of every learner through combining different learning strategies and different pedagogy strategies coupled with the use of technology. Another way of selecting a suitable mix to reach the needs of every learner is to look at the pedagogy goals and selecting the tools we would like to adapt accordingly.

One of the most important advantages and benefits of e-learning/blended learning is that it makes the learning process easy and fast and keeps pace with the development of the generation. Kyla Ortman stated some of its benefits:

  • #1 Students learn more than they do in traditional courses.
  • #2 Retention rates are higher with online learning.
  • #3 Online learning requires less of a time investment.
  • #4 More frequent assessments can reduce distractions.
  • #5 eLearning is the greener option.

Although these are all good points and benefits to blended learning, however, they can be challenged in some cases.

Emperorsnewgroove Bring GIF - Emperorsnewgroove Bring It GIFs

I found the following graph that summarizes some of the challenges:

Some University students find that blended learning is a very effective way for communication between them and their instructor and with each other using chat or the discussion forums. On the other hand some learners through e-learning face difficulty in expressing their opinions and ideas in writing. Many learners prefer to express their ideas orally, the same way they have been used to for many years through their academic studies, while e-learning users need to possess good writing skills and be able to present their ideas and opinions in writing.

Despite the technological advances in online learning, it’s helpful for both instructors and instructional designers to recognize the potential learning challenges that are associated with this delivery mode. According to studies by online educators as well as student feedback (Challenges and solutions and Improving Online Learning) the main factors impacting the success of online students are related to organization, motivation, and collaboration.

Faculty members are recommended to attend one-on-one or group workshops using the learning management system before teaching online courses for the first time. The challenge is that technological advancements are very fast and hard to keep up with. Almost every year there will be a new version of the LMS along with a lot of new features and tools. Instructors need to be updated and learn about the new version and this doesn’t always happen. For example, in the first semester a standard learning management system course layout was used. In the second semester, faculty members were encouraged to use a collapsed-topics format to reduce the page scroll on the front page of their courses. This transition is a very simple example of the innovations in technology being added to the professional development support continuum for faculty members as they continue to develop their confidence and skills.

Technical problems are also a major challenge in e-learning. A successful and enjoyable LMS and e-learning experience should be accompanied by strategies to improve the access to the internet, computer, and improve the broadband width.

Another big challenge is that insufficient time spent on course development and design can be a huge contributing factor to poorly developed online learning experiences, and a major challenge for e-learning instructors. It is very important to spend time and effort in creating an online course because instructors will have to deal with new content, new ways of engaging students, new assessment tools, and new technologies.  

To summarize, I believe that blended/online learning is going to continue to expand due to many factors such as different generation characteristics, technological advancements, the possibility of receiving different methods of education suited to the learners or even access to the teacher at any time and anywhere.

Another great course!


flickr photo by planeta shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Hi my EC&I 834 classmates, My name is Nataly Moussa. A wife, mom of four amazing kids and an Assistant instructional designer at the University of Regina. EC&I 834 is my second class with Alec, and also my second class overall towards my Educational Technology certificate.

Last semester was my first one in the program and my learning journey since I completed my Bachelor’s in computer science back in 2000. It was a wonderful learning experience. I was really enjoying it, and I learned a lot. However, I have to admit it can be stressful sometimes, but I am sure things will smooth out for me as I go on.

Writing a blog each week in my previous course “EC&I 833” with Alec, helped me shape my understanding for each topic significantly. I was very interested in every single topic we discussed in the class which made me spend most of my evening time everyday searching, reading and writing about it.

I am very excited to be working on developing a blended/online learning course this time. This is very much tied to my job. I help instructors at the university design and build their online courses. My job requires me to be up to date with the latest technology tools, best pedagogical practice, and learning theories. I think of instructional designers as lifelong learners, who are a curious and good listener. Teachers and IDs are both in a perpetual quest to create a successful learning experience for students and to meet their learning needs.

I can see online/ blended learning is growing every year. Students love the flexibility that online courses provide. Blended learning offers new ways of engagements and opens a new range of possibilities. It reaches a wide variety of different learners’ characteristics like students with disabilities or introverts.

  • I want to learn different technologies to achieve my objectives, and to have a clear understanding of learning theories as it would help me in selecting the best teaching strategies and techniques.
  • I want to learn how to select a suitable mix for a learning environment like blended? How to look at the pedagogy goals and choosing the tools I would like to adapt accordingly?
  • I would like to see myself adding more comments under blog posts and be more involved in an interactive discussion.
  • Learning more about the UDL (Universal Design Learning) and how to cooperate it with the blended learning approach