Reflection on developing an online learning module

online teaching

Developing online modules has becoming increasingly easier for me as I have created a fully online course (medicine.uabebm.com) and a blended course (uabpreop.com) at my institution. Both of those courses were built outside of a learning management system (LMS). I liked developing this online course using a LMS. It was easier to structure the material and the LMS is designed to best display learning materials. In the platforms I used to develop my other courses I had to work harder to develop a proper layout.

The most difficult part of this exercise was using Moodle in the instructor mode. Other than for this degree I don’t use Moodle. My institution uses an in-house developed LMS. I had to figure out how to do the things I needed to do in Moodle. Thankfully there are multiple videos on YouTube that helped the process.

I used adult learning theory principles to develop this course. The course uses a problem-based learning approach. I use several clinical cases that the learners must solve. The cases, while not real ones, are authentic and so learners will recognize why they need to know this information and will learn while solving problems. The information they gain in this course can immediately be used in their everyday clinical lives. They will need to use their clinical expertise and knowledge to learn in this course.

I try to apply the community of inquiry approach to my online teaching. I try to develop cognitive presence by using problem-based learning and reflection exercises. I try to develop social presence by using discussion boards and encouraging students to work together on the material. Finally, I try to develop instructor presence via video (both an introductory video and in each of the lesson videos) and feedback that will be given on assignments. This is somewhat the hardest part to establish in online courses. I have tried synchronous chats in the past but no students ever showed up for them (not required). I allow students to message me or email me with questions and I answer them within minutes usually.

Community of Inquiry Framework

Online teaching is much harder than face-to-face (F2F) instruction. In F2F instruction you can gauge student understanding by observing their facial expressions and by inviting questions. This can’t be done in online teaching. It’s easy to make an hour long slide show for F2F teaching. It’s much harder to break a lecture into all its component small parts and make individual lessons or videos for online teaching. Online assessment and feedback is harder than for F2F courses. Interestingly, I find online teaching much more rewarding. Maybe it’s because there is a tangible lesson out there on the web that I can click on and see whenever I want to. Learners from around the world can use my materials whereas a F2F lesson gets used by only a few. Maybe it’s because I feel I do a better job teaching online than I do F2F.

This was a useful exercise. The only regret I have is that I can’t directly use the materials in their current form as we don’t use Moodle.

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Edtech 501: Looking Back and Moving Forward

I wish I had done more. I have this sentiment for both 501 and 502. But don’t we always say that.

What do I wish I had done more of? Participated more in group discussions and reviewed everyone’s artifacts. I reviewed some but not all. I was too focused on my own projects and didn’t realize how much you can learn for looking at other peoples’ work. Especially if you critique it and get their thoughts on why they did things the way they did.

I also feel like something is missing from my learning this semester but I can’t put my finger on it. In 502 I felt I didn’t learn enough of the theory behind things but I gained skills. I am not sure that is it in this course. I tried to learn at least an overview of the theory behind RSS, the digital divide, etc. Maybe its that things don’t build on each other in this course like they did in 502. In 501 each component was its own concept and then we moved to something unrelated. Maybe that’s it….the lack of the sense of cohesion. I hope others can help me determine what I feel is missing.

lookingbackThe main challenges I faced were time management and using tools I never had before. When the fall semester started I planned to treat these courses like college course from a timing standpoint: devote M,W,F to one course and T/Th to the other. Well that fell through. I found I had to devote a lot more time to 502 that I planned. Ultimately I usually did 501 work on Monday or Tuesday and then devoted the rest of the week to 502. I don’t think this worked as well as I would have liked because I focused too much on 502 and not enough on 501. I still haven’t developed my plan for next semester.

Using Google+ and Google docs were challenging. I had never used them before. I still don’t use them to their maximal potential. I plan to incorporate them into future classes that I teach. I also found APA formatting difficult mainly because the medical field doesn’t use it. So all the publishing I have done has been in a different format. I bought the APA manual to guide my writing. I also purchased What the Plus Google+ for the rest of us. This book was OK but not worth the money.

I enjoyed most of the projects we did. The Tech Trend assignment was great. I developed a TouchCast. What I liked about that assignment the most was reading the Horizon Report. Since we have to select one artifact I choose the school evaluation. Doing that made me feel like an educational technologist. I assessed the school and analyzed what I found. The analysis should be useful to the school. I am still waiting for them to ask for it. I know they won’t so I will send it to them in the new year. I also liked the digital divide assignment for similar reasons.

How do I plan to use what I learned in this course?

  1. The findings of the digital divide assignment was presented at my divisional faculty meeting in October. They are interested in learning new skills. I plan to develop tech workshops for faculty.
  2. The TouchCast I developed for the tech trends assignment is getting utilized this week as an alternative to this month’s face-to-face journal club.
  3. I plan to use Google+ in an elective course I will teach in the spring.
  4. As part of the RSS assignment I developed a lesson plan that I will also use in the elective course this spring.

Moving forward I need to figure out 2 things: what do I want to get out of this degree and how can I best balance skill development with knowledge development. It seems silly to ask the first question this far into the degree but I don’t really know yet. I began this degree because I got excited using tech for teaching and wanted to learn more. I need to figure out what I am going to do with my knowledge and skills. This will then guide further course selection and planning. I also need to figure out how to strike a balance between my need to know theory and also have enough time to complete the projects required for the course. I think there needs to be more focus on theoretical underpinnings of things. Maybe that comes in later courses.

Thanks to everyone for their great coursework and their feedback. Thanks to Anthony for guiding us on the first steps of our edtech journey.

Edtech 502 is over and I will miss it

When this course began I viewed it as a chore that I had to endure. I had no desire to learn web design. Now I really like it and will miss it. I have spent a lot of hours designing my pages and reading about topics (not that you can tell from my projects). 502 has offered me a creative outlet. I had forgotten how good project-based learning really is. My MPH degree was all project-based (we never took any tests) but it was in 1996-1998 and I had forgotten the satisfaction of completing a meaningful task and learning something simultaneously. I really need to rethink how I teach some of the things I do. Need to make them more project-based.

As with all things that I immersed myself into I am beginning to feel a void. I am going to miss having that new page to make. I really spent a lot of time at the computer working on my sites. Tweaking little things here and there. I wish I knew more. I look at some of my classmates pages and they are so much better than mine. There are things I want to incorporate into pages but not quite sure how. I wish there was 502 part 2. I look at my 501 teacher’s portfolio site and know I can’t make that. Maybe by the end of the 2 yrs or so I will be able to.

So as I say good bye to 502 I look forward to next semester when I take 503 and 513. May you be as stimulating and satisfying to me as 502 has been.

Learning HTML and CSS Can Be Frustrating & Exciting

I have no previous knowledge of web design or coding so learning this at age 48 as part of EDTECH 502 has been very interesting. Even though I was in the first group of students at my high school in 1981 or so to use computers (the Radioshak TRS80) and have owned just about every iteration of home and portable computing device, I really only knew how to use them and not how they really worked or how to program them. I thought I was tech savvy until I had to be tech savvy and then I realized I really wasn’t.

It has been challenging to take a course online that is probably best taught face-to-face. I really need immediate feedback on errors I make or suggestions of how something could be designed differently. It is both challenging and frustrating to try to figure out on my own where I am going wrong. I fear I am not utilizing the full power of HTML and CSS because I just don’t understand it as well as I should. I am proud though of the page I designed today. I think it is visually appealing and easy to read. I also think it provides some useful information on netiquette.

When I began this course I felt I would never develop webpages in the future (nor did I have any desire to).I just wanted to get this required course over to get to things I really wanted to learn.  I told myself to focus on what excites me (which is the design phase of educational materials) and you will get through it. As I am gaining confidence in coding I am actually beginning to enjoy this and hoping I gain enough skills to develop more sophisticated educational pages. We shall see.