Archive for October, 2011


Distance Learning Present and Future

The current view of distance learning is based on skepticism. Overall students have had success with distance learning, and students have had disappointments. I like to look at the contrast to traditional classrooms. In Texas given 100 students who started college courses, 13 of them will graduate with a degree. (Tamar, 2011) In the study, one of the main reasons that students do not graduate with a degree is because, “Life gets in the way.”

Distance education will be able to work around life in a way that the traditional classroom is not able to for the 87% of students who are not able to finish a degree program. Because of this advantage the popularity and usefullnes of distance education is going to flourish in the future. Brick and morter classrooms will have difficulty keeping up with distance learning courses because of financial concerns and it’s rigidity on a schedule. To go to college, a graduating senior more than likely needs to find a place to live, a way to make money, and make time for their education. This is extremely limiting to individuals without financial backing, therefore distance education is a more obtainable goal than going to a brick and mortar university.

Improving Societal Perceptions

As an aspiring instructional designer, I am excited to begin work on projects to improve instructional approaches in new and creative ways, but I do realize that I will not be fully embraced until perceptions change toward my profession and distance learning. As an instructional designer, I am inherently an educator and I believe the best way to change perceptions is to educate people about the benefits of distance learning. When promoting distance learning programs, prospective learners need to be educated about what is expected from a student through the course, the way learning occurs, and how they will meet the learning objectives.

The most important way to improve perceptions is to create rewarding, effecient, and effective learning experiences in distance learning. Through my interviews about distance learning, it was clear that when students were going to look for a place to learn the first thing they would do is research the program online, specifically looking for student feedback. Our culture communicates effectively through the internet about every subject, and instructional designers need to leverage this attribute of our society to improve how distance learning is viewed.

Becoming a Positive Force for Distance Education

As an instructional designer, the number one way that I can move the improve the profession in the eyes of the public is to create consistent, quality, and relevant learning experiences online. Creating these experiences for learners will ensure that they strongly consider distance learning for their future development, and also recommend distance learning to their colleagues, friends, and family. In short, the best way to promote distance learning is to do my job well in every aspect.

References

Lewin, Tamar (9/27/11) College Graduation Rates are Stagnant Even as Enrollment Rises, a Study Finds The New Yourk Times, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/education/27remediation.html

A training manager is changing his face-to-face classroom into a blended course.  (Face-to-Face and Online Learning)  The main reason the course is being changed is to produce more quality in the communication between the trainees.  All the materials will be made available online despite where the learning took place.  Attached is a best practices guide for this trainer based on what I have learned through my Master’s program in Instructional Design and Technology at Walden University.

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The Impact of Open Source

Open courses allow students to acquire new knowledge without enrolling in a program or paying tuition. MIT has an entire site dedicated to providing open courses in just about every subject. Having an engineering background I immediately found myself clicking on engineering, mechanical engineering, and finding the course I will be evaluating, Design and Manufacturing 1.

Pre-plan and Design

Although the course appears to introductory, when looking at the lecure notes and activities it quickly becomes apparent that there is a considerable amount of prior knowledge that students need to be successful. “… it is essential to know the nature of the audience.” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009) Given that there are so many other courses available in these open sites it would be helpful to make a list of prior knowledge or skills that students would need. If there is a course available to help students gain this knowledge they could be hyperlinked to that course.

The layout of the course starts with displaying sections for review; course competition videos, selected lecture notes, projects and examples, assignments and solutions, and exams and solutions. These options lead me to believe that this course was not designed specifically for the online environment, but rather it is part of a web-facilitated course or a hybrid course. The section for selected lecture notes lets me know that there is a lecture portion to the course and I may not be able to grasp all of the content because there may be gaps in the learning.

Does the Course Follow Recommendations for Online Instruction

“… courses previously taught in tradtitional classrooms may need to be retooled.” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009) The course did not have a readily available syllabus or outline to help the learner understand where the learning activites were going to take them. Providing this information can help students decipher and focus on the important parts of each learning activity. Without a syllabus too much student effort can be expended on irrellevant information. A syllabus would also show the specific learning objectives.

Looking through the learning activities it did encourage interactivity with the content matter, but not with other learner or an instructor. (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009) Students were asked through assignements to demonstrate their understanding by using a 3d modeling program to create their solutions. Students could then check their solutions against the answers, which also provided explanations for each step.

To determine the quality of online learning courses it is essential to ask two questions; Is this approach going to work?, and How can I make this better? (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009) I do believe that an individual with the appropriate prior knowledge would be able to meet the learning objectives, but the second question is where the online course falls short.

Active Learning

“… the goals and objectives will influence the selection of media.” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009) It does not appear that a lot of thought was put into what type of media would be most useful for content presentation. Written works with supporting images were the primary means for instruction. Given that the learning activities and formal assessments were all based on using a 3d modeling program to show understanding of concepts, it seems appropriate that a screencast of this program solving a similar problem would be very useful for student review.

References

MIT (2009) Design and Manufacturing 1 as taught in Spring 2009

http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mechanical-engineering/2-007-design-and-manufacturing-i-spring-2009/

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.