Life by Design

At the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon a grand experiment is taking place.  Due to the impact of recent budget cuts in education both at the K-12 level and in higher education, foreign language courses are being dropped and students are scrambling to find new and different ways to access these necessary courses.   The courses are not only necessary for college admission, but to adequately function in the globalized job market of the future.   Some high school students in our state are going to community colleges for classes, while others are taking online courses developed by educational corporations.

We have assembled a team of Chinese specialists in curriculum and pedagogical design and along with myself working in instructional design and technology, we are preparing online modules in Mandarin for both high school students and the national Flagship program which supplies classes that deliver both content and high level Chinese language instruction to college students.  Our goal is to create a completely new format that offers the best of language instruction and enriched technological media for high student engagement.

Being in a pioneering field is both exciting and daunting at times.  One of the greatest challenges we have faced is exactly how to blend the philosophy of sound evidence based language instruction with best practices in Instructional Design.  There is an art and science to both good language instruction and engaging instructional design and finding the exact points where these two disciplines intersect has been fascinating.

Communication is key.  One would think that it would be easy to communicate the needs for an online module to a content development team.  But without having taken an online course, the members of the content development team rely heavily on my expertise and understanding of how the course will unfold in an asynchronous online setting.  By contrast, not speaking a word of Mandarin, I rely heavily on the team’s expertise in developing both content and curriculum that will meet national and international standards of language instruction.

Working with native speakers from China and Taiwan, I have discovered their learning styles and their great attention to detail.  While it has been mentioned in the literature that Asian cultures by nature may not necessarily be innovative, I would disagree.  What I have noticed is that their ability to revise, refine and innovate is keen on models that are already created.   The areas where I see our team being stretched is in using new models of teaching, such as project based learning and folding in Web 2.0 tools, the quantity of which grows by the day.

It is immensely rewarding to work side by side with colleagues from China and Taiwan as we move forward with our online initiatives.  The various perspectives, skill sets, talents and viewpoints help to create an enriched learning experience that we are eager to sample with student groups soon.

Image courtesy of:

http://www.lzsu.com/wallpaper/Tower-Bridge-Sunset-HDR.html

Extracted: 3/30/12 at 11:34 AM (PST).

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Assessing a Collaboration Project

Online

For this discussion post, you are in the role of an online instructor who has assigned a website to be built by groups comprised of four students each in your course in Multimedia Web Design. This is a capstone project for the course and you have had the opportunity to observe each student’s level of cognitive attitude, technical ability and participation in the course through other collaborative projects, like the Discussion Board. You are entering the last two weeks of the course, and by now, peer to peer relationships have been established and your role now is to function as a learning guide.

Reflect on your role as a learning guide and how best to approach your students, now that they have become more independent. In your previous online courses, reflect upon an instructor who has handled this transitional role well and draw from it as you develop this week’s post.

Reflect on your role as a student and how it has been for you working in groups for academic projects in the past. What have you learned that you can take forward with this assignment?

For this week’s post:

Please describe how you would:

  1. Form the groups for the Captstone Project
  2. Communicate Best Practices for helping the group to manage the project
  3. Establish roles for the project
  4. Assess both individual and group performance
  5. Design rubrics for this assessment

Here is the rubric that your post will be evaluated by the following rubric.  Click on this link, scroll to the very bottom of the page and locate the rubric for Discussion Posts.

 http://inside.waldenu.edu/c/Student_Faculty/StudentFaculty_15198.htm

Post by Wednesday: Please post your response to the class Discussion Board by Wednesday of this week.

Friday: Review the Discussion Board posts and enter in to any discussion to add and expand the discussion.

Sunday: Again, review all the responses to your initial post and follow up with any conversations that you have been participating in to date.

(Cartoon thought bubble reads: ” http://www.canyoudomyhomeworkforme.com”)

 

With the explosion of online learning in both K-12 and higher education, there too, has been an explosion in plagiarism and cheating.   While the motivation for cheating has not changed over the years, the realization that one has cheated, especially in the digital world, has, as it is much more visible in a cyber based classroom.  Most students do not realize that by cutting and pasting text from a website into their research paper without citation represents plagiarism and cheating.

In an interesting survey of approximately 50,000 students from more than 60 universities students believe: ‘cut & paste’ plagiarism – using a sentence or two (or more) from different sources on the Internet and weaving this information together into a paper without appropriate citation – is not a serious issue. While 10 percent of students admitted to engaging in such behavior in 1999, almost 40 percent admit to doing so in the Assessment Project surveys [2002-5]. A majority of students (77%) believe such cheating is not a very serious issue (CAI research, 2005) as cited in Jocoy & DiBiase (2006).  Why has cheating become ‘not a very serious issue’?  It appears both the expectations and enforcements of facilitators/educators has fallen off.

According to Jocoy & DiBiase (2006), it is much harder to detect manually as well.  With budget cuts, shorter teacher days, higher enrollments, it seems plausible that a lot of cheating is going unnoticed.  Thankfully, plagiarism software is now available to online instructors that can check for plagiarism.  Turnitin is a good case in point.  Other methods include Google which allows instructors to track down copied phrases and online services such as EVE actually compares student papers to Web documents and/or to essay databases to find and report instances of matching text.  In their study, Jocoy & DiBiase(2006) did notice a difference in detecting instances of cheating by using digital resources.

Our authors, Palloff & Pratt (2011), discuss the importance of creating an assessment that is highly individualized.  For instance, rather than creating a multiple choice test, design the assessment so that the student has to write a personal reflection paper that demonstrates how they would apply the knowledge gained in the course to their everyday lives.  There is an argument for preparing students for the work world in such a way that collaborative research, and fact finding becomes a norm.  Right now in my son’s 7th grade class, the math teams occasionally take a group exam and each member of the team can contribute their knowledge to the exam.

As an instructor, there are several remedies than can be implemented to cut down on both plagiarism and cheating.

First of all, the instructor holds the expectation that students will not cheat and that there will be enforcements and consequences if students are caught.  The announcement of assignments being processed by Turnitin should be enough of disincentive for a student to go down that road.  More use of librarians can also be helpful, as many current students do not really understand the nature of plagiarism.

As an online instructor, examinations can be made of documents side-by-side, discussion posts can be compared to one another, unusual wording or lengthy wording that differs from the student’s ‘signature style’, and even a mix of fonts and type style in one paper are all ways that an instructor can possibly suspect cheating.  If it is suspected, it is best that the instructor addresses the issue with the student offline and explains the situation and asks for an explanation.

The online instructor has the responsibility to set the tone of this issue early on in Week Zero in the course policies of what the expectations and consequences are for cheating.

The student who cheats only cheats him or herself on really knowing the material that will benefit their life somehow in the future.  That is a real loss for that individual and needs to be prevented.

As I look to the future of online learning, I really like the idea of designing assessments that are as individualized as a student’s fingerprint.  Design the assessment so that the student is forced to engage higher level thinking skills and demonstrate metacognition.  Reflecting on one’s experiences in life or applying the content information to one’s life are excellent ways to measure learning and guarantee that the student has delivered original thinking and truly contributed something unique to the learning community of the course.

References

Cartoon courtesy of www. CartoonStock.com.  Extracted from:  Google Images. 04/07/11

Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1–15.

Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. (2011) Plagiarism and Cheating. Laureate Education Inc., Video Production.

Today, instructors who are looking into online education may or may not be well aware of the vast array of technological tools available for the function of online courses.  The value of these tools which include:  LMS (Learning Management Systems such as Blackboard, Sakai, and Moodle), Discussion Board forums, wikis, email, blogs, video lectures, YouTube, synchronous collaboration tools, webinar and online chatting apps all help to create one of the most essential functions of online learning, and that is, to build a community of online learners.  These tools also increase learner engagement, which inspires and encourages the learner to rediscover their natural love for learning and ignite the curiosity that is still present about things unknown.

For a new online instructor, the exposure to these tools can be overwhelming and daunting and may deter the instructor from moving to an online format.  The key is to try just the essentials the first time around.  Those essentials would be:  email communication, Discussion board forums and the grade book.  With each version of the course, learn another tool that will add another dimension to your course.  But always remember, the content is what is most important.  All the enticements of the technological tools are secondary to the content and the instructor’s responsibility to build a close-knit community of learners.

We have to keep in mind that online learning opens the door to students who may have disabilities of various kinds; so again, the technological tools increase accessibility and usability of information.  Tools like, Text to Speech, Close Captioning for videos, and font and design tools that can build and simplify the appearance of websites for these students.  Building online courses that are both usable and accessible increases the success for all learners.  In their article, Cooper, Colwell & Jelfs (2007) make a compelling argument that by making elearning both useable (effective, efficient and satisfactory in a specific context of use) and accessible, which allows the learning system and environment to adjust to the needs of all learners, everyone wins.

As I move forward with course design myself, I am particularly excited about Learning Management Systems that are modeled after Social Networking sites because they are intuitive, fun and excellent at building communities.  I also think blogging, webinars, online chatting and having classroom lectures in virtual worlds such as Second Life and other SIM environments are exciting possibilities.  From what I have learned, the more you learn about technology, the more you can learn.  Challenge yourself to try something new each day, and before long the courses you design will be amazing, educational and support your students in rediscovering their natural curiosity and love for learning.

For instance, this video shows a fascinating animated look at the role of antibodies in our body.  Media like this certainly engages the learner and tells a story that no words can!

Click here to view:

http://www.cteonline.org/portal/default/Resources/Viewer/ResourceViewer;jsessionid=qQe1JtsRQ+h8BltDfNlOPA**?action=2&discussion.ascdesc=ascending&discussion.listtype=threaded&resid=19623

References

Boettcher, J. & Conrad, R. (2010) The Online teaching Survival Guide. Josses-Bass.

Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231–245.

CTE Online (2010) Antibody Animation.  Extracted from:  http://www.cteonline.org/portal/default/Resources/Viewer/ResourceViewer;jsessionid=qQe1JtsRQ+h8BltDfNlOPA**?action=2&discussion.ascdesc=ascending&discussion.listtype=threaded&resid=19623

If you are one of the growing numbers of instructors who are curious about facilitating online learning or are actually being mandated by your institution to do so, this blog post can give you a few pointers to get you on your way.

The first thing to know about online learning is how very important building a learning community is for the success of the course itself and for what every learner will take into the future.  Because of the isolation factor for both student and facilitator, it is essential in Week Zero to make these connections happen and build on them throughout the entire learning course.

How to do this?

The first step is for you, as the facilitator to write a bio about yourself.  Your students will be much interested in you as the person rather than you as the academic, so concentrate on a photo, image or avatar that represents you, your hobbies, places you’ve traveled, your favorite professional organizations and journals, and other photos that can tell a story of you to your students.   Here are some personal photos I use:

Next, create an Icebreaker for your students.  There are a variety of options here, but the most common are to ask your students to create a bio of him or her with a photo, image or avatar to represent themselves and information about their hobbies, family life and the ‘view from their window’.    You might pose an interesting question like:  “Besides your real birthday, what is one other date on the calendar that you think would have been a great day to be born and why?” (ChatPack). This request will create social presence for your students.  You must also ask them to comment on their learning goals for the course, what they know about the current topic now and what they intend to do with the knowledge they hope to acquire.  This creates cognitive presence and will give you an idea of their zone of proximal development.

Become a Social Negotiator and a Structural Engineer

Within the first two weeks, your role as the facilitator is to be the ‘social negotiator’, connecting with each student via email, online postings on the discussion board or the Q & A chat room and mentoring these connections happening between the students themselves.

With online learning, you have a wealth of technological tools to assist you in this process…everything from discussion boards, to blogs, wikis, instant messaging and live chat rooms.  In the beginning, keep it simple, working with the technology you know and can learn easily. By the second or third iteration of your course, you’ll find yourself adding more interesting ways of using technology.  The use of these technological tools fosters good textual communication between you and your students.   This is essential for online success.

Along with the initial introductions in your virtual classroom, you will need to be sure to establish clear expectations for the learners.  Again, because of the isolation factor and the fact than many students have never done this type of learning before, having your expectations clear and unambiguous, reduces the stress of participating for the student.

In addition to these points, here are some additional considerations when establishing your course:

  • Make sure you have clear contact information not only for yourself, but also for technical support, the library, and other student services.
  • Be sure to include policies, procedures and the mechanics for communicating in a virtual classroom.  This would also include the topics of netiquette and plagiarism.
  • The student needs to be advised before the course starts on all the technical requirements for the course including computer, browser and bandwidth considerations.
  • Provide a brief orientation for students who have never been online learners before.  An orientation like this would cover such topics as:  time management, becoming an independent learner, navigating the Internet, accessing the online library resources, getting online to the university portal to the online course, and posting to a discussion site.
  • Provide a textbook that a set of enriched materials online and one that offers several formats.  Currently, many textbooks have online links provided by the publisher that can add a rich array of media to enhance your course.
  • Focus on creating engaging, challenging and thought-provoking discussion formats.  The threaded discussion is the centerpiece of your weekly lessons allowing the students to build knowledge together, connect with each other and further establish cognitive presence.  Your role is to facilitate this discussion and encourage the students to reach further themselves by bringing in additional resources, related viewpoints and personal experiences.

These abovementioned items represent some of the basics to help you begin your online teaching journey.  As you go along, of course you can experiment with adding in more media materials, links to compatible websites, video interviews you create yourself and so on.  It is really limitless.  Above all, though, make if fun for you and your students!

As I continue to read and learn about techniques of online course design, I get more and more enthusiastic about what the future of education holds for all learners.  Once you learn the basic steps, online course design is a very satisfying experience that can make learning accessible for students that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn!  This field will continue to evolve as technology evolves and perspectives and attitudes change to accommodate the 21st Century student.

References

Boettcher, J. & Conrad, R. (2010) The Online Teaching Survival Guide.  Jossey-Bass.

Chat Pack.  (n.d.) Fun Questions to Spark Conversations.  Questmarc Publishing.  www.questmarc.com.



Welcome to all my cohorts in this exciting course in our M.S. program in Instructional Design through Walden University!  The field of online learning is exploding and I am sure through the next eight weeks that we are exploring this topic, we will learn a great deal about not only what is current in the field, but also what may be possible in the future. It is an exciting time to learn about this fascinating discipline!