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

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