Sunday, July 31, 2011

Open CourseWare

Open CourseWare Programs - How do they fit into the ADDIE Model?

The field of instructional design requires the ID to ensure that the application of technology is a perfect match for the teaching and the learning process.  The ID meets this requirement by following a systematic process (ADDIE) for the planning and implementation of instruction. There are critical components that make this process effective. These components are the learners, the content, the method and materials, and the environment, including the technology (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2009). It is important that these components maintain an interactive balance in order to produce a quality learning experience. The evaluation process is another critical component that ensures that successful learning takes place. It determines what works well and what needs to be improved.  A careful examination of these components is part of the pre-planning process that creates a meaningful and interactive learning environment for distance learners.

The internet has given rise to various types of distance education programs.  With the increase in popularity, one wonders how much pre-planning goes into developing these distance education programs. For example the open courseware programs, which are available to everyone, are primarily composed of videotaped lectures and transcripts. How much planning went into that? Let’s take a look at Yale University’s Open Courseware program and see how the components fit within the ADDIE model.

LearnersContentMethods / MaterialsTechnology
Analysis Heterogeneous-
Open to all
Introductory College level Introductory College level Assumes access for all
Development Not Applicable Based on traditional setting Based on traditional setting Uses a Web Based Portal
Design Not Applicable Lecture format –linear in design Lecture, Readings and problem sets. Plain text with limited links
Implementation Open – Free Enrollment Converted into online Video, audio and transcripts Downloadable files (html, mp3, flash)
Evaluation Mid- term and Final exams Student Surveys Student Surveys Student Surveys

Who are the Learners?
“Distance education can be an important approach to responding to the growing pluralism of learners’ background, [and] characteristics”. Yale’s open courseware program has taken note of this growing tide of learners and aims to “increase its presence and strengthen its relationships internationally” by expanding access to educational resources through the use of internet technology.
The learning group is heterogeneous, with learners from various backgrounds, ages, experiences and cultures. “The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.”
This aim does not speak to a careful analysis of the learner, in which valuable information can help the instructor determine 1) the students’ cognitive abilities 2) supporting materials to individualize instruction and 3) the students’ potential for interactivity (Simonson et al, 2009).

What is the essential Content?

The orienting context for Yale’s courses, appear to be brief in nature with limited details included in the course descriptions and course syllabi.  The information is so general in nature that it does not identify for the learner; goals or objectives. It simply identifies the name and title of instructor, with no contact information, brief course description, required texts, class requirements and grading percentages.  Instructional goals and objectives should always be shared with the students; this will help students to focus on the parameters of the instruction (Simonson et al, 2009). The majority of the content for the courses is introductory in nature.  Although the course content  is available to all who are interested, the learner should have at least a tenth grade education in order to understand and comprehend the material content.
What Teaching Strategies and Media are used?
Yale has taken on a “talking head” approach in which each class session is presented in lecture format, available as downloadable videos, audio and searchable transcripts.  Simonson et al would propose that this talking head approach is the least successful method of them all. Instructional strategies should engage all learners, and limit the informative content to provide more room for the discovery of information (Simonson et al, 2009).

Final Thoughts

Overall, Yale’s open courseware program appears to be as welled planned as a professor’s lecture on any given day. It is an instructor driven program with limited to no interactivity for the learner. But then again Yale’s focus was simply to provide access to its course materials for the viewing of all who are interested. Therefore it appears very limited analysis went into determining the needs of the learner.  The content on the other hand seems to have taken into account the prior knowledge of the novice learner, as all the courses are introductory in nature.  The methods and materials used works well primarily for auditory learners, who are provided access to videotaped lecture, audio and transcript links. Those learners, who require visual examples and cognitive experience with the content, are left wanting more.  The technology tools used assume that the majority of the student population has equal access to the internet  and while most can argue that, that is the case, does the internet access alone account for the needs of the learner? Like Yale, most open courseware programs simply seek to provide information, so is it fair to judge them against the ADDIE model?  If so do we identify open courseware programs to being nothing more than “shovelware” programs, dumping grounds of information?

Click here to visit Yale’s Open Courseware: A Course on Philosophy - Death

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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Collaborative Technologies

 Collaborative Technologies

Technology tools are not only impacting the field of education, but are sought out to promote effective training solutions for businesses and corporations. Economic trends and industry needs are dictating training programs that are convenient, flexible and cost effective. As businesses continue to grow and expand, its training program will also need to grow and expand in order to reach and teach to the individual needs of its employees. It is important for instructional designers and consultants to be knowledgeable and aware of what technology solutions will be most effective. Take a look at the following scenario and recommended solution.

A Scenario Fit for a Collaborative Training Environment

An 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.

The Technology Solution

Elluminate (BlackBoard Collaborate) and WebEx provide Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), video, and collaboration options that allow users to interact face-to-face. Both will allow staff to meet where-ever they want, in the office, iPhone, smartphone and even on the iPad. Additional features will also allow staff to create and share documents with others from a distance. For the staff that is missing in action, the meetings can be recorded and replayed at a later time. See Table for additional features of each.

Elluminate-BlackBoard CollaborateWebEx
Benefits / Features

Easily incorporate wider variety of content.

Application sharing configuration preferences.

Streamlined, easy deployment of multiple locations and choice of language.

Better support for international users.

Organize, script, and package content and activities before live session (formerly Plan!)

Automate routine tasks to focus on facilitating real-time interaction.

Create standalone recordings or industry-standard video files from session recordings and store on a computer, LMS, website, or CD ROM (formerly Publish!).

Playback video files on iPod or view standalone recordings even when not connected to Internet
Benefits / Features

Deliver just-in-time internal or external online training to quickly respond to market or organizational needs.

Reach more people, more often, without travel, facilities, or equipment costs.

Demonstrate products, concepts and procedures using high-quality video.

Promote critical learning skills and collaboration with virtual breakout sessions and hands-on lab.

Track attendance and training completion.

Train up to 1,000 attendees at once, anywhere in the word.

Take a Tour of BlackBoard Collaborate

Take a Tour of WebEx

“Collaborative technologies will enable business partners to easily switch back and forth from web, video and audio conferencing to see and hear each other and to share documents and information in real time. Today's enterprises are also looking forward to leading edge technology, flexible conferences, flexible deployment, common management suites, highly scalable solutions, secure VoIP conferencing, embedded multipoint options and videoconferencing solutions” (Sharma, n.d).

Sharma, S. (n.d.) Video conferencing: Next gen communication. Retrieved from

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My Definition of Distance Education

Before the start of this course, I never really gave much thought to distance learning and what it means. My experience of distance learning involves online coursework, with an asynchronous design. The instructor is in a separate location from the students and learning activities are student centered.  Communication between peers and instructor occurs through discussion formats, online chat rooms, and email correspondence. Although I have not experienced it myself, I am aware that online courses can provide synchronous learning activities in the form of video conferencing and other two way formats. So based on my experience and observations, I would define distance learning as; a learning process that occurs through multimedia formats in an asynchronous or synchronous setting.
Since the start of this course I’ve learned that distance learning has existed since the early 1800’s. At that time distance learning occurred between instructor and student in the form of telegraph correspondence.  By the 1950’s broadcast television was used to offer college credits. Fiber optic communication in the 1980’s-90’s, allowed for two way communications to occur and made distance education interactive for the first time. The advancements of computer technology and the introduction of the World Wide Web, brings us where we are today with the highly demanded online courses, available for students of varying needs. 
Many theorists have proposed various theories in an effort to describe and define distance learning. Both Holmberg and Keegan suggested a need for a theoretical foundation for distance learning in order to provide a “touchstone against which decisions could be made with confidence” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009). At the core, most theorists seem to agree on the basics; that there is a separation between instructor and student, learning can occur synchronously or asynchronously, communication and learning content is delivered through one or more media outlets. Keegan goes on to classify the theories of distance education into three groups; 1) Independence and autonomy 2) industrialization of teaching and 3) interaction and communication (Simonson et al, 2009).
Dr. Michael Simonson defines distance education as; “formal education that is institutionally based, where the learning group; the teacher, the students and the resources, are separated not only by geography and sometimes by time and sometimes by intellect. Communication technology, instruction technologies and media technologies are used to link the resources, the teacher and the student”.
 Revision of My Definition
Distance learning is an ever-evolving system of formal education and training that seeks to bridge the learning process between the instructor and the learner while participating in different locations during asynchronous or synchronous settings.  Distance learning is delivered through multimedia formats which meets the individual needs of the learner and encourages autonomy among the instructors and learners. It is learner driven with emphasis placed on community learning and shared knowledge.
My Vision of the Future of Distance Education
I believe distance learning will become the primary mode for providing education for our population in the near future. Its cost effectiveness has attracted the attention of most local and state officials as they seek to reduce the education budget, not to mention a viable option to address teacher shortage and class size restrictions.  Due to the social trends and consumer interests in technology tools and software, distance learning is easily accessible and highly sought after for its convenience of use. The youth of today are technology ready and eager to learn with technology tools.  Workforce trend and needs will continue to require access to immediate training programs for its employees.  Therefore we will continue to see “exponential growth” in the field of distance education and will see the use of distance education technologies almost across the board in k-12 education, higher education, and in the training and learning environments” (Distance of Education: The next generation –podcast). Not only will we see this growth take place across settings on a national level, but the continued expansion in technology education will occur globally. Dr. Patrick Dixon said it best when he suggested that the future of distance education is in the hands of the student, as we seek to build long lasting relationships across the globe.
Dixon, P. (2008) Future of education: High school and college educational trends; preparing
students for life. Retrieved from
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a
 distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson
Simonson, M. (n.d.) Distance education: The next generation. Laureate Media Inc.

Click on link to see larger view:

View Patrick Dixon's presentation on the Future of Distance Learning