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Pet Peeve About Images

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Angry

Nothing irritates me more than an all-text blog post touting about the benefits of imagery in learning!! Hypocrisy much???

Categories: eLearning, General Tags: , ,

My Dream LMS

October 15, 2009 1 comment

Just for the fun of it, I’m going to compile a list of what the optimal (in my opinion) LMS would be capable of:

  • Ease of use of Weebly
  • Notation tools of Diigo
  • Note taking tools of Amplify
  • Keyword options (for faculty) of WordPress
  • Keyword options (for students) of Delicious
  • Voice, video, and screenshare of Skype
  • Screen capture (for both student & faculty) of Screenr
  • Microblogging of Twitter
  • I haven’t found an assessment tool I like yet (of course I haven’t really looked)
  • For the price of Moodle

Ok, that’s all I can think of at the moment but I’m sure there will be more eventually.

Categories: eLearning Tags:

Broader View of the Shopping Example

October 1, 2009 1 comment

Ok, that last post is a perfect example of an idea that wasn’t as well thought out as it could have been. So this is attempt #2 at making my point.

The following series of images is an example of what Amazon would look like as a typical online course in higher education.

Amazon’s Main Page:

Amazon_eLearning

I’m looking for a book so I click the Book link and get this:

Amazon_eLearning2

I want an actual book so I click the link and get this:

Amazon_eLearning3

I want a book on Arts & Photography so I click the link and get this:

Amazon_eLearning4

I want a book on Architecture (in Arts & Photography) so I click the link and get this:

Amazon_eLearning5

I want to see more about the book titled “Understanding Exposure” so I click the link and get this:

Amazon_eLearning6After falling down the rabbit hole, I finally get the information I’m looking for but it turns out to be boring and dull (completely non-engaging) but full of the facts I may actually be looking for.

So now, I pose the question again, would you shop here?

Categories: eLearning Tags: ,

Would You Shop Here?

October 1, 2009 2 comments

Amazon as a typical online course in Higher Education:

Amazon_eLearning

So tell me, would you shop here?

Categories: eLearning Tags: ,

Respect in Online Courses

July 29, 2009 Leave a comment

DaycareI’m sure college students wouldn’t really appreciate the comparison I’m about to make but it fits too well on this topic to not use it. If you have ever visited a daycare you will often notice they post rules on their walls. These rules may not necessarily be the same rules the kids follow at home and that is exactly why they are there. If they do not alert the children to the rules of the current location, not all children will behave appropriately. Sure, there are always the well-behaved ones that will be quiet and well-mannered no matter where they are but typically a child will mold themselves to the rules of their current location. Not much changes when we grow up.

Just like you are given codes of conduct at your workplace so you know for sure what is and is not okay, students need to be given the codes of conduct for each online course they attend. What you may feel is a lack of respect may be perfectly acceptable for another instructor. The key here is: Everyone is different. We shouldn’t expect a student to know exactly what we expect of them without telling them. For example, you have no problem with students calling you by your first name. I only want to be referred to as ma’am (this is COMPLETELY fictionally, btw). A semester after taking your course, they take my course. If I haven’t informed them that I want to be referred to as ma’am, should I be upset when they call me Sue? Given the circumstances, no. Given the circumstances, I would actually expect them to call me Sue. But many instructors do get upset (down-right angry actually) if this situation were to happen to them (because they don’t know the circumstances). And far too often, they would go on about how disrespectful the students are no-a-days. When, in this situation, it had nothing to do with respect. It had to do with conditioning. The student had been taught by a former teacher that it is okay to call an instructor by their first name. If they are not told otherwise, they will continue to think this is true. It is basic human nature.

So basically, if you want to be respected, the first step is to tell the students what respect means to you.

Now, it isn’t just that easy. You also have to be willing to give some respect to get some. If you treat your students as lowly, undeserving delinquents then it doesn’t matter how many times you lay down the law, they aren’t going to listen to you. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to be their friend. It doesn’t even mean you have to like them. Simply treat them as deserving participants in your course and you should be fine. I also suggest you tell them they will receive respect from you until they do something to lose that privilege and you expect the same from them. This helps level the playing field and gives them an idea of what to expect.

Categories: eLearning Tags: ,

Well Lit Course

July 8, 2009 Leave a comment

So, inΒ  my last post, I showed you some elements of an online “course” I’m creating on Instructional Design. Daniel Stevens asked me to expand on the idea of a “well lit course.” I’m not sure how far I can really go into it but I’ll give it a shot.

The Light of Information

Traditional learning has been happening for hundreds and hundreds of years. Most students have been shown from a young age how to learn (or at least behave) in that environment. If not it is fairly easy to figure out what you are supposed to be doing through visual and auditory clues. The desks are set up in a specific way to face the correct area of the room. The instructor speaks to you and tells you what page you should be on during the lesson. The instructor can see if you are struggling and can offer assistance. The instructor can even somtimes tell when you are sick or unable to perform to your normal standards and make arrangements accordingly.

light_bookOnline learning is new enough, even a technically savvy individual taking an online course isn’t necessarily well versed in how an online course works. It isn’t always apparent where to go first or what is expected of the student. It is up to the online instructor to light the way. Information is your light. (I’m probably going to take this metaphor a little too far, but here it goes.) A spot light needs to be shown on the place you want the students to start (by creating an announcement pointing them there or by making it big and colorful). Put some twinkle lights on the syllabus (by including instructions on what being an online student means to you and what you expect from them). And always provide ample illumination to submitted work (whether that be in the form of discussions, assessments, or assignments by giving feedback on both correct and incorrect responses).

Pretend the students have never set foot in a classroom in their lives and tell them everything they need to know, highlighting the extremely important parts in bold (never all caps, that is shouting). The idea here is if the student already knows the information they can skip over it, otherwise it is there for anyone who may be confused. This is how you provide the light for your online course. Don’t make students wander around in the dark. That is aggravating for not only them, but you as well (as soon as the questions start rolling in).

Sometimes it is hard to know what all to tell students about, especially if you are extremely comfortable in the online learning environment. It is easy to forget the little things that were confusing at first once you have mastered them. When you run into this problem, be open. Let your students know that you need their input. Ask them what they found most confusing about your course and create a Frequently Asked Questions area. You can add to this as a semester goes on and even use it from semester to semester.

I guess what I’m getting at is there is no such thing as too much information…

Focused by Organization

…as long as it is well organized. Once you start providing all this information to students you have to find a way to present it that won’t overwhelm them. Too much information in an unorganized fashion is blinding. You must develop a system that puts the information in a logical order or provides clear labeling. Providing snippets, teasers, or descriptions of the information can also be helpful because it allows the student to really see if the information is what they are looking for.

Unorganized books blue_arrow 804360_33720836_small

It is also helpful to create skimmable documents. Basically, this means utilizing header text and text formatting to break down the document into parts and highlight the really important information. Highlighting doesn’t have to be simply using bold text or a yellow highlight. You can highlight information by providing an accompanying graphic or bullet points.

Creating well organized, skimmable materials is extremely helpful to students. It allows them to find the document they need quickly and then skim through the document for the exact information they are looking for.

And Reinforced by Feedback

Once your students figure out what they are supposed to be doing and find the information they need, they will need to tell you what they have learned through discussions, assessments, and assignments. Your information flow should not stop short. You need to finish out the lighting of the way by letting them know if they have successfully navigated the road you laid before them. Many instructors simply tell students if they have not completed something successfully and what to do to fix it. It is also necessary to let them know when they have mastered what was put before them.

Categories: eLearning Tags: ,

Lessons in Instructional Design

June 30, 2009 7 comments

I’m creating a course, well more like a self-help area in our ANGEL system, on Instructional Design. Since I’m new to the field but am a veteran online student, most of my information comes from personal experience from the student side of things and how I always wished things would be. A lot of what I write is completely of my own making from my own logic which can be dangerous ground. SO, before I unleash my lessons on the poor, unsuspecting faculty at our university I thought I would show them here. Keep in mind, none of the lessons are supposed to be long or overly bossy. Our faculty, in general, do not take well to any pedagogy instructions especially ones given by someone they deem as inexperienced. So I have left these as light-hearted suggestion.

The following are the first 3 pages (there will be 3 more when I get them written).

Let me have it. Tell me exactly what you think. πŸ™‚ I promise I’ll try not to cry….too hard anyway. πŸ˜‰

How Would I…

418215_2815_smallWhen thinking about the design, structure, and content of your online course you should always keep the learner’s view close to your thoughts. After you create something, look at it from the student perspective. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Would I get the point of this learning object?
  • Would this object interest me?
  • Would I find this object boring or unnecessary?
  • Is it obvious why this object is here?

I’m sure we can all agree, excessive, boring, unnecessary information and tasks are not good for learning. We don’t want to turn the student’s learning experience into a painful one. If the objects you create are not things you personally would find interesting then I’m sure a typical college student would not find it interesting either.

If your objects are interesting to you, go that extra step and try to put yourself into a student’s shoes. Make sure it is something that would interest them. Give them a reason to want to learn from you. Make it interesting and entertaining (if possible). But remember, there is a fine line you will need to learn to walk. You want to make it interesting and entertaining without turning the course into a joke.

I know that is a lot of work and that balance is a hard one to find, but you are a good instructor, you can do it!

The Dark is Scary

474426_67978012_smallNo one likes to be left in the dark about things they are supposed to be involved in. Information is light to your students. The more information you can give them about what you expect of them and how you expect them to achieve goals, the better. This includes a well established syllabus, ease of navigation through the course, and feedback, feedback, feedback.

The best way to start creating a well lit course is to create an informative syllabus. Once again, you will find yourself walking a thin line. You need to make it informative enough the students feel confident in your requirement without overwhelming them with verbiage. Make your requirements clear and concise. No one wants to wade through a 20 page document just to understand what is required of them. If you do find you need a 20 page syllabus (or even a 10 page one) you might want to think about making a condensed version to go along with the detailed version. This way all bases are covered. You can provide the students with a quick reference on what you expect while also providing them with a way to find additional information if the quick reference isn’t quite deep enough for their understanding.

The next step for a well lit course is good navigation. You need to provide your students with a clear path to follow. If the course you are teaching doesn’t require linear learning (which is also a great teaching method) be sure all resources are clearly labeled and categorized appropriately.

The final step is to always give the students feedback. Let students know what they are doing wrong AND right. It’s easy to find yourself only providing feedback for wrong answers (I am as guilty as anyone else) but it is just as important to reinforce when students do something right.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

1055796_39177408_smallAs much as we all would like to live in a perfect world, where young adults have been properly taught the delicate art of respect, we don’t. Although, to be fair, even if a young adult has been taught the art of respect, the rules do seem to change occasionally from person to person and confusion is inevitable. Throw these confused young adults into an online environment where it is hard to distinguish the fact they are dealing with real people, and mass chaos can ensue.

What do I mean by that? Online students are not always the best about respecting their instructors. I honestly believe much of that problem stems from the anonymity of the online world. But, for whatever reason may cause it, I have a solution that may help.

Much like lighting a student’s way through a course, information is the key here. At the beginning of the course, lay down YOUR laws as to what constitutes respect and how you expect to be treated. Along with that, lay down the laws as to how they can expect to be treated. From my own person experience, I find letting students know they will be receiving respect from you until they do something to lose that privilege is the best way to keep the respect ball rolling.

Categories: eLearning Tags: ,