Week 3-Distance Learning Technologies for a Collaborative Training Environment

Application: Blog—Selecting Distance Learning Technologies for a
Collaborative Training Environment

A new automated staff information system was recently purchased by a major corporation and needs to be implemented in six regional offices. Unfortunately, the staff is located throughout all the different offices and cannot meet at the same time or in the same location. As an instructional designer for the corporation, you have been charged with implementing a training workshop for these offices. As part of the training, you were advised how imperative it is that the staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.

This scenario is precisely like one I was exposed to a few years ago.  My brother in-law is the head of a human resources department for a large software company.  He came to me with a training program widely used for his staff throughout the world.  His frustration was that it was “boring” and did not engage the learner.  He wanted me to evaluate it and provide some insight.  This was before I had enrolled in the Instructional Design course at Walden University but he knew about my history of being a distance learner.  The information was vital for the employees to learn and like this scenario, for them to transfer the knowledge to their fellow employees as well.  The problem was that it was presented in a pedestrian way with a PowerPoint presentation that was made up of cartoon characters and silly word animation.  The presentation did present the material but in a way that made a grown adult agonize about participating in.

While similar, the scenario presented this week needs to be implemented in six offices and it needs to be asynchronous by nature.  While I need to be in charge of a training workshop in these offices, I also need to ensure that the staff members being training can share information with their colleagues who are not physically present.  In this day and age, that seems quite straightforward.  I need to ensure that these professionals can collaborate and in order to ensure this I need to implement distance learning technologies.  Distance learning is one of the fastest growing areas in education (Moore & Tait, 2002) and developments in computer science and information and communications technologies have spurred the growth.

Given that this is a professional training we have a lot of educational technologies at our fingertips.  I feel this notion of distance education should incorporate a way for the students to engage in discussion with one another and that can be accomplished through a multimedia program.  One that involves chat, discussion boards and other ways for the participants to interact with one another.  I would implement the wiki OpenTeams (http://www.openteams.com) and a collaborative concept mapping site, Thinkature (http://thinkature.com).  Both of these technologies offer collaboration tools that can be used in distance training programs.  The Open Teams platform is a great tool for the team members to share documents and to edit and work together effectively.  However, it does not really allow for the users to incorporate images, audio or video.  This is precisely why I would use Thinkature.  Thinkature allows for a computer mediated group.  Research has shown that these systems increase the quality of decisions, facilitate a more equal participation, and encourage groups to stay focused on tasks (Finholt and Teasley, 1998).

These tools will allow my students who are participating in the training to interact with each other but most importantly to collaborate.  They will be able to exchange ideas and concepts with one another and gain a clearer understanding of how others process information and even receive it.  This, in turn, will allow them to pass on their gained knowledge to their peers that they work with face-to-face.

Best,

Deirdre

 

References:

Finholt, TA, & Teasley SD (1998).  Psychology:  The Need for Psychology in Research on Computer Supported Coopereative Work.  Social Science Review, 16: 40-52.

Moore, M. & Tait, A. (2002).  Open and Distance Learning:  Trends, Policy and Strategy Considerations.  UNESCO, Division of Higher Education.  Retrieved January 22, 2016 from http://unesdoc.unesco.org

 

Week 1 Assignment for EDUC 6135-1

Our textbook, Foundations of Distance Education, defines distance education as institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors (Schlosser & Simonson, 2009). I agree with their definition but I feel that there is so much more to distance education. Distance education provides a formal education to learners who need a more flexible program. Distance education allows working professionals to enroll in continued education that is self-directed without interrupting my career. As a teacher I am working towards replacing conventional learning experiences with distance education. I worry about the effectiveness of doing this but I am also keenly aware of how well distance learning has fit into my hectic schedule. Learners say that many other considerations besides personal preference motivate them, especially considerations about where and when they learn (Picciano & Seaman, 2007). I love that I am able to log in to my classroom when I have a free moment or if I am up late at night. I do not feel the stress that comes with having to physically be in a classroom for a given amount of time each week.

I have learned quite a bit more about distance education from my course resources this past week. I have been taking courses in instructional design so that I will be able to design a successful education course in the future. This is based on my past experiences of being enrolled in online courses that were not constructive and poorly planned. The goal of instructional design is to make learning more efficient, more effective, and less difficult (Morrison, et al, 2013). I feel that distance learning needs to be made more accessible to all people and that it also needs to be made more enticing. One way of doing this is to incorporate more collaboration in the courses. Norris, Mason, and Lefrere (2003) emphasize that content may have been the primary focus of the past but the time is coming when inter-activity will drive learning. I believe that distance learning needs to provide more ways for learners to work together in order to create the feel of classroom comraderie. This is vital to many people, while I do not mind working on my own, Kearsley (2000) points out that “the most important role of the instructor in online classes is to ensure a high degree of interactivity and participation. This means designing and conducting learning activities that result in engagement with the subject matter and with fellow students.”

This brings about the question of implementing synchronous and asynchronous communication tools in distance learning. I prefer asynchronous communication forms because I have a demanding job and personal life, this form allows me to participate in my classroom when I am able to. Many educators favor synchronous interaction because they are influenced by the classroom paradigm; often instructors attempt to replicate a face-to-face classroom in the online environment because it is difficult to imagine how an activity works when learners are not participating at the same time, in the same space (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011).

This viewpoint has had a huge effect on how I define distance education. I realize that I cannot just rely on my own personal preferences, but that I have to look at the majority of learners’ needs and wants. I envision the future of distance learning as only growing more and more effective and more widely accepted and valued. Distance education is a way for individuals to enroll in courses from the comfort of their homes, libraries and even work. It offers training, degrees of all levels and even therapy. Distance education comes with some basic requirements for students and teachers, they need to be self-motivated and self-disciplined in order to succeed. I have learned this week that distance education should incorporate different tools for different situations. It needs to provide students with the ability to accomplish tasks that they were not able to in the past. Distance education provides skills and training for people to meet the every changing challenges that are required of them in the work force.

 

References:

Conrad, R-M, & Donaldson, J. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Kearsly, G. (2000). Online Education: Learning and teaching in cyberspace. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

Norris, D., Mason, J., & Lefrere, P. (2003). Transforming e-knowledge. Ann Arbor, MI: Society for College and University Planning.

Picciano, A., & Seaman, J. (2007). K-12 online learning: A survey of U.S. school district administrators. Needham, MA: Sloan Consortium.

Schlosser, L.A., Simonson, M. (2009). Distance Education: Definition and glossary of terms (3rd ed.) Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education.  Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

A warm welcome to my Education 6135-1 Classmates!

I will be posting my assignment tomorrow evening but I wanted to reach out and welcome my new classmates to my blog.

I have been enrolled in distance education since my undergraduate career when I wanted to take more courses but my university would only allow me to take 12 units a quarter, so I enrolled in an online education course and quickly fell in love with distance education.  I have seen many milestones and many setbacks or failures but it has never deterred me from this great experience.  I feel that distance education deserves a lot more credit and that we need to actively change the way some people view it.

A little bit about me, I am the head resource specialist for a large school district in Marin County, CA.  My specialty is Behavior.  This makes my day to day life very exciting, sometimes a little too exciting.  I am amazed at how resilient children are, how I can set high expectations and they not only meet them but exceed them.  I have found that delicate space where I am able to hold children accountable for their actions, get them to change their actions for the better, without feeling bad about themselves.  I wish I could say the same for a lot of adults I encounter.  On top of the demands of my day to day role, I am also covering for our superintendent who is on leave, it definitely feels like January right now, with no days off until Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!!!

I am a lover of the outdoors, of nature, animals and learning from others.  I am one of those people that tends to have a smile on their face yet, I am deeply saddened by the way I see people treat each other and nature.  I am a lover of reading, I read constantly and love to have my opinions challenged.  I think this is due largely to having two educators as parents.  I would come home from school, having been somewhat brainwashed, and declare a new found belief and my parents would not tell me I was wrong or mistaken or even try to change my “ideas”, they would simply ask me to “back them up”, validate them, and this caused hours of my time pouring over books and encyclopedias…yes, books and encyclopedias, I am dating myself……this tactic created a seeker of knowledge.  I didn’t just state a fact or thought but I learned to understand other peoples points of view as well.  This is something that has molded who I am as an adult and as an educator.

I am looking forward to learning more about all of my classmates in the next few weeks we share together.

Best,

Deirdre

Week 6- Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

“If you plagiarise others’ techniques, you steal their emotions and tell your spectators a lie with your work. Works as such equal zero.”
Wu Guan-Zhong

Where to begin….As a classroom teacher in this day of technology, my students and peers are offered a wealth of knowledge and “disinformation” on the internet.   Not only are ideas and knowledge provided on the web,  but so are a countless number of scholarly papers for every topic and age group.  This presents numerous problems for educators when grading work as authentic and original.  I viewed a video program this week entitled “Plagiarism and Cheating” and read the article, “Plagiarism by Adult Learners Online: A Case Study in Detection and Remediation”.  This caused me to reflect on my experiences with plagiarism programs both as an educator and as an adult online learner.  I am quite familiar with Turnitin, I use it at my middle school and I also use it at my current graduate school, Walden University.  When I was taking a research course in education one of my papers required that I site at least ten different sources in a five page paper.  That is quite extravagant, yet, it was a course about research and I needed to show my professor that I was able to find relevant and compelling citations.  This was not a problem, the problem however, occurred when I submitted my paper to Turnitin, as we were all required to do.  Unfortunately, I was the first member of the course to submit my paper and my Turnitin score came back insanely high.  My professor contacted me directly and accused me of plagariasm!  I was floored, beyond upset because as a teacher and lifelong student, I pride myself on my writing as being my own.  I do not expect a perfect score, however, I do know how to write and to be accused of stealing another’s thoughts and writing really enraged me.  This was not handled properly by my professor because all that she looked at was the score that came back from Turnitin.  She did not think about the assignment critically and how much of the paper she expected to be cited from outside sources.  Fortunately, my peers papers all came back with equally if not higher socres of “copying” on Turnitin.  Clearly, this was due to her requirements for the papers and not her students thieving ways!

That being said, we must take the similarity percentage with a grain of salt, how many quotations are in the paper, how many references and citations were required of the students etc. etc. etc.  A teacher cannot simply rely on a score provided by a program but must take it in context of the assignment.  It really scared me afterwards, everytime I would submit a paper I would cringe until the “similarity” percentage came back to me.  I was thrilled last week when it came back as only 2 percent, yet, I was scared that perhaps I did not cite enough outside sources.  Basically, I think that what it comes down to is morals.  Not just knowing right from wrong but making the right choice to do something on your own, this also requires that people believe in themselves and what they are capable of.

I was asked to address four questions this week:

  1. What plagiarism detection software is available to online instructors?
  2. How can the design of assessments help prevent academic dishonesty?
  3. What facilitation strategies do you propose to use as a current or future online instructor?
  4. What additional considerations for online teaching should be made to help detect or prevent cheating and plagiarism?

I feel that there are so many different plagiarism detection software programs available to online instructors and classroom teachers.  Simply google “plagiarism detection software” and you can read endless reviews that are both negative and positive, this is a valuable resource because it provides feedback to instructors about the “failings” of such software.  Esscentially, it comes down to what I stated earlier, use discretion, before relying solely on a software program, look at the paper, look at the requirements……as I have often queried in the past to my boyfriend, “can you plagiarise yourself”?  We can’t take these assessments as the last statement, they are just goveners and need to be treated as such.

When it comes to assessing students to prevent academic dishonesty I feel that we need to involve each student directly in their assessment.  When we are required to write reflections and provide unique outside sources, this allows little room for academic dishonesty.  Do not get me wrong, students can still be dishonest in their reflection and tell the teacher what they want them to hear, however, they are unlikely to steal a specific reflection on a specific course with specific peers in a required paper.  As instructors we need to be able to change our assignments, make them personal to each course we instruct and be able to bend.  A lot of the goals that go into a course rely on an instructor that can change the course to meet the needs of their pupils.

I feel that plagiarism is a huge issue but along with that is that fact that educators needs to expect more out of their students and change their classes to make them more exciting and engaging and to also lessen the chance for their pupils to be able to copy past works.  I find it horrible that I even have to say that.  I would hope that most adult learners would be invested in their learning and would not “steal” or “borrow” from others, but we also have to realize that a lot of the requirements for higher learning require that they do seek and reference outside sources.  That is why I am not citing anyone in this post.  I wrote this from my experiences, they are my words, aside from the starting quote and ending quote.  These are my words and I trust and believe in them.

Best,

Deirdre

Week 5 Blog Posting

Part 2: Blog Assignment: Impact of Technology and Multimedia

As a student in the course EDUC 6135, I have worked with technology tools that have provided varying ways to present information to my students. This week we concentrated on the nuts and bolts needed to set up an effective online environment. In choosing the technological foundations I needed to reflect on the following four vital questions:

 

What impact does technology and multimedia have on online learning environments?

According to Harley (1993), multimedia technology brings situated learning within the reach of learners.   An effective course is designed to be more supportive with more examples and interactions over the course of the training (Morrison et al, 2013) by incorporating interactive media.   Adult learners need material that connects to their own lives and makes the instruction relevant and useful. Online environments need to be designed to enhance learning and enable students to formulate effective goals that are achievable. Successful students should see online learning experience as ways that offer a more flexible schedule but they must keep in mind that the freedom that online learning brings also requires important responsibilities for them as a student which includes self-discipline and being able to effectively use technology and multimedia to their advantage.

What are the most important considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology?

An online instructor needs to be sure that when they are implementing technology that it is available and accessible to their students. I think that a professor needs to consider the technology they use and clearly outline what is expected to actively participate and successfully fulfill the requirements of the course, especially when it comes to technology that people may not have readily available to them and be able to make accommodations when necessary. If students are required to skype etc. and do not have that technology at home, then the professor needs to make it clear that the students need to set up a time to use that technology at a local public library when possible.

What implications do usability and accessibility of technology tools have for online teaching?

If students are not able to access or use the technological tools needed for the online learning environment then they are destined to fail from the start.

What technology tools are most appealing to you for online teaching as you move forward in your career in instructional design?

I am excited to use synchronous collaboration tools in my instructional design. These tools can be used for scheduled group meetings and I feel will provide a wealth of knowledge and social interaction. They enable real-time communication and collaboration in a “same time-different place” mode (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010). These tools allow peers and instructors to engage with on another instantly instead of waiting for a post or email.

With all of the above taken into account I personally feel that I have learned many ways to effectively implement online instruction. The strategies that I have learned and experience over the years have allowed me to see what works and what doesn’t work, not only for me as a learner but also for my peers. I need to provide a framework to help students realize what is expected of them, what they will learn and what their personal goals for the course will be.

Best,

Deirdre

Reference:

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Harley, S. (1993) Situated Learning and Classroom Instruction. Educational Technology 33, 46-51.

Morrison, G. R., Ross, S.M., Kalman H. K., & Kemp, J. E. (2013) Designing effective instruction. (7th ed.). Hoboken,  NJ:  John Wiley & Sons, inc.

Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

This week I viewed a video entitled “Launching the Online Learning Experience” and read chapters 4 and 5 in the text, The Online Teaching Survival Guide. The resources clearly outlined the steps that are vital to take in order to make the online experience successful. Reflecting on those steps has shown me just how important it is to know the technology that is available to me. Technology tools should be chosen carefully, there are so many available and as an instructor I have to be sure to choose those that will not get in the way of the learning experience. This means that I would need to take into consideration the maintainability, compatibility, usability, modularity, and accessibility of those tools.  (Kapp, 2003). The resources also recommend that I focus on the fundamental tools needed and to keep it straight forward and accessible at the start. I can then diversify later when I feel that my students have shown that they are capable of using more complex tools.

All of that being taken into account, I reflected on why it is essential to communicate clear expectations with my learners. Clear expectations significantly contribute to ensuring understanding and satisfaction in an online course (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). They also provide students with direction and a way to prepare for the course. When students are made aware of what is expected of them, they are then able to manage their time more efficiently. Clear deadlines and course requirements are vital to all learners but especially vital to the online adult learner who needs to balance work, school and their personal lives.   By providing a syllabus and a way to communicate clearly, the student is then able to understand what they need to do in order to achieve the grade they desire. I feel that an instructor not only needs to be able to communicate these requirements clearly but that they also need to be readily available to answer any concerns that their students may have or even to just clarify. This means that I would not only need to be accessible to my students but to also answer them in a timely manner.

There are so many considerations to take into account when setting up an online learning experience. One that I find especially significant is that we must address is the diversity of our students. As instructors we need to learn as much about our students needs and backgrounds that they are willing to share. With this in mind, we need to provide a variety of learning models; inquiry-based, project-based, direct instruction, peer-to-peer learning because the characteristic of a highly-effective classroom is diversity (Jacoy and DiBase, 2006). People aquire knowledge in so many different ways and by keeping our classrooms diverse we can meet the needs of our students.

Best,

Deirdre

References:

Boettcher, J. V. & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide. Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. (pp. 55, 57). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Jocoy, C., & DiBase, D. (2006). A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15.

Kapp, K. M. (2003). Five Technological Considerations When Choosing an E-Learning Solution. eLearn Magazine. Education and Technology in Perspective. Retrieved on September 16, 2015, from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=2134469

Week 1 Blog Assignment: Online Learning Communities

Learning communities have a huge impact on course facilitation.  This week I viewed a video program entitled “Online Learning Communities” featuring Dr. Rena Pallof and Dr. Keith Pratt.  They outlined the significance of building an online community.

“One thing is certain, learning communities are more engaging and members become more engaged than is the case with traditional instruction.”

One of the most exciting parts of a learning community is that each student will bring a unique perspective to share with others.  These unique perspectives and varying fields of study add to the overall learning experience.  A learning community needs to be able to allow each member to share their experiences and positions but to also cite research findings that support them.  It is important that the learners see that there is not always one right answer.

A learning community is “a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct meaning and confirm mutual understanding.” (Garrison, 2007) As such, you base learning communities in constructivist principles. A learning community is directed toward learning in a social environment, not socializing.

Dr. Pratt and Dr. Pallof define the cyberspace community and the electronic classroom clearly and explain how important effective teaching, the role of the learner and collaboration are vital to success. One way that the teacher can help the learning community is by allowing time for social orientation.  The learners should be given a place to meet and greet one another.  Taking time to introduce themselves, their likes, how they interact and what they hope to gain allows the community to build trust with each other.  This first step establishes a teaching presence and makes it easier to facilitate discussions and feedback.  The learning community is constantly evolving and learner engagement develops over time.   Conrad and Donaldson (2004) developed a framework for understanding and applying phases of engagement in Table 1 below.  The table outlines the learner role, the instructors role and the different phases of learning.  This clearly shows that effective learning is dependent on a certain level of structure, especially in an online environment.

References:

Conrad, R. & Donaldson, J. (2004). Engaging the Online Learner. San Francisco: Wiley & Sons.

Garrison, D. (2007). Online Community of Inquiry Review: Social, Cognitive, and Teaching Presence Issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(1), 61-72.

Garrison, D., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2-3): 87-105.

Table 1. Community evolution

Phase

Weeks

Learner Role

Instructor Role

1

1 to 2

Newcomer

Social Negotiator

2

3 to 4

Cooperator

Structural Engineer

3

5 to 6

Collaborator

Facilitator

4

Beyond

Initiator/Partner

Challenger/ Partner

 

 

 

 

Hello and welcome to my blog that is dedicated to online learning strategies.

Hello, my name is Deirdre and I am the head resource specialist at a middle school in Marin County, CA.  I am a specialist in behavioral disorders and hold a Masters of Science degree in Special Education.  I am also certified in teaching TESOL at the junior college level.  I am enrolled in a graduate level course this semester that prepares professionals for teaching online.