Group work and its influence on individual creativity

Group work relies on collaboration, participation, and cooperation of every member of the group—in general, working towards solving a problem while maintaining cohesiveness in the group.  While group work (teamwork) has many advantages it also has some drawbacks.  Scholars, such as, the psychologist Irving Janis who coined the term groupthink, and the psychologist Solomon Asch known for the Asch Experiment argued that working in a group forces us to conformity and alters how and what decisions we make.  Basically, we tend to make our decision based on peer pressure rather than from our own logical approach.  More recently, Susan Cain, in her book, Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking echoes the sentiment in what she describes as the New Groupthink—a phenomena that “elevates teamwork above all else.” (Cain, 2012, p. 75).  She further implies that to succeed in this team one must exhibit “Extrovert Ideal” traits such as—friendly, unabashed, assertive, and great public speaker.  She notes that the New Groupthink “insists that creativity and intellectual achievement come from a gregarious place.”  (Cain, 2012, p. 75), and raises her concern over its increased popularity both in the workplace and in our schools.  While she acknowledges the benefits of teamwork and collaboration, she also argues that such working and learning environments impede on the individual’s creativity.  She argues that solitude/working independently matters and is key to creativity and innovation, and that it is equally, if not more, important as group work.

Here is Cain’s TED Talk presentation

Take time to reflect on her presentation, read the links to Janis and Asch, then (in 2 to 3 paragraphs) discuss your thoughts on the influence of group work on individual creativity—making comparison between group work in the online environment, and group work in a face-to-face environment, to what extent do you feel group work influences an individual’s creativity?

Follow this rubric to guide your response.

(Rubric source: Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository)

Reference:

Cain, S. (2012). Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Crown Publishing. NY: Random House, Inc.

Impact of Technology and Multimedia

Impact of technology and multimedia on online learning environments

Technology and multimedia are the foundations of online learning; i.e., without technology online learning would not have been possible.  I also believe that, because of technology and multimedia, the quality of learning itself has improved in terms of access to information in numerous formats from infinite resources; including from connections we create with other learners, and thereby, resulting in a more enriched learning experience.  By the same token however, the technology and multimedia selected for a given online course must add-value to the learning experience.  It should not be used just for the sake of using technology. I think the type and purpose of the technology and multimedia used in a given online course will depend on the learning outcomes of the course, and their [technology and multimedia] effectiveness to facilitate the outcomes.

Considerations for implementing technology in an online course

Before implementing technology, the instructor should consider the learning objectives – what type of tools will help my students achieve those objectives? Do my students have the skills required to use the technology? Perhaps they need to practice with the technology prior to using it for a graded assignment, as suggested in (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011). How much time should I allow for the practice? As an instructor, I also need to consider my own skill level in the technology I choose.  Although it is assumed if one is enrolled in an online class, one does have access to technology, as Dr. Pratt noted in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) as an instructor I still need to consider accessibility issues.  Do I choose downloadable applications or should it be cloud based? Should I choose video/audio tools requiring webcams and microphones or should I go with text only? Some students may not have sophisticated computers or high speed internet to accommodate every type of multimedia.  And so my goal should be as noted in (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010), to communicate with my students to understand their needs and capabilities in terms of what technology tools to use for what purpose.

Implications of usability and accessibility of technology tools for online teaching

Cooper, Colwell, & Jelfs, (2007) define usability as “the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which users can achieve specified learning (or learning related) goals in a particular environment or with a particular tool or learning resource.” (p. 232), and accessibility as “the ability of the learning environment to adjust to the needs of all learners.” (p. 232).  What I think this means is then, the learning environment needs to accommodate the diverse needs and abilities of all learners—it has to be fair and inclusive, and consequently, aid in narrowing the digital divide.  (Cooper et. al., 2007) further note that, “accessibility and usability impact directly on the pedagogical effectiveness of e-learning systems or resources for all learners. . .” (p. 233).  As an instructor, the technology tools I choose should not be a hindrance, but rather assist my students in effectively achieving their learning goals—the tools have to be both accessible and usable.

Most appealing technology tools

There are several technology tools that appeal to me, including Prezi, VimeoYouTube, wiki, blog, VoiceThread, Conceptboard, digital books (via the iPad), TED Talks, and of course a learning management system, my preference being Canvas.  Regardless of my preference however, if it does not address the learning needs of my students, using the tool is pointless.  The learning needs of my students, always takes precedence, and my obligation is to fulfill those needs in whatever manner I can.

What I learned this week

In addition to learning the significance of selecting the right technology and media tools, (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010) tips and suggested pedagogical uses of the various technology tools will certainly help me implement effective online instructional strategies. I particularly like the breakdown of “when/at what point” during a given course (early, early middle, etc.) each tool is best utilized.

Thank you,

Marta

References:

Boettcher, J. V. & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide. Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. (pp. 59, 60, 107, 108). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R. & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Enhancing the Online Experience.

Online Learning Communities

Impact of online learning communities on student learning and satisfaction. . . .

The most significant impact of online learning communities, as I have discovered for myself, and as Dr. Palloff in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) presented is providing learners the opportunity (or in some cases forcing learners to leave their comfort zone) to be active and equal participants in the learning process.  Equal meaning that learners are at the center of the learning experience and that their participation is just as crucial as that of the facilitator (or the instructor) for effective learning.  Being part of an online learning community means belonging to a diverse pool of knowledge, opinions, and expertise, both academically and culturally.  As a learner I am not just absorbing and locking in what I learn but rather exposing my ideas, opinions, and knowledge to those in the community, and expecting feedback—both favorable and unfavorable.  So, what I thought I knew is constantly being questioned and challenged and as a result, I am driven to think, analyze, and investigate deeper the topic at hand.  In doing so, my understanding of the subject expands, my online social presence grows, as indicated in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), and I make expected and unexpected discoveries about myself as well as about the subject I am taking.  As Dr. Pratt noted in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), we in our online learning community, are co-constructing knowledge together both by challenging and supporting each other.  His assessment aligns with (Siemens, 2006) philosophy of knowledge in our connected world, stating: “Instead of seeing knowledge from only one perspective (the filter), we, as individuals, can contribute our opinions and views to extend the depth (diversity) of our understanding.  Knowledge can now be expressed through the aggregate of the individuals—a deafening crescendo of contrasting and complementing opinions and views.” (P. 72).

Essential elements of online community building . . . .

The essential elements of online community building Palloff & Pratt discussed in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) are:

  1. People – the learners, facilitators, administrators, and those working behind the scene to support the learning process.
  2. Purpose – a common goal for the learning community that connects the learners; i.e., the specific course the learners are taking.
  3. Process – the means by which the course is delivered; the learning management system for instance to engage students in the process of community building.

Online Learning Community

Graphics (slightly modified), courtesy of article on UNISA website http://www.unisa.ac.za/Default.asp?Cmd=ViewContent&ContentID=13287

Sustaining online learning communities. . . .

Sustaining this community, as Dr. Pratt suggested in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) is not solely the faculty’s responsibility but also the responsibility of the learners and the institution/administrators.  Faculty must present learning activities that challenge and engage the learners.  The faculty needs to foster an environment that encourages learners to participate and contribute to their learning community.  The continuous presence of faculty to facilitate and to provide guidance and feedback to learners is crucial to keep the community alive.  At the same time, learners must take the initiative—be self-directed in achieving their learning goals.  The institution/ administrators are responsible in providing the appropriate resources both to the faculty and to the learners to facilitate the learning process.

Community building and effective online instruction. . . .

Effective online instruction and community building are interdependent.  Effective online instruction can strive only if there is a well-established learning community.  And conversely, community building happens through a well-planned and designed instruction.  As noted in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), the elements of a learning community include people, purpose, and process.  The effective cohesion of these elements constructs the community that yields effective instruction.

Becoming a more effective instructor. . . .

Given, all the relevant learning materials and resources are available to the learners, I believe that communicating with my learners in a humanely, considerate, non-threatening, and personalized manner is key to effective instruction.  It is about building trusting relationships, albeit through the learning management system/communication technology.  Furthermore, I need to ensure the learning environment engages, challenges, and promotes interaction amongst the learners, with the instructor, and with the content.  As Dr. Pratt advises in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) as an instructor, I must continuously find effective means of reaching out to my learners to motivate and encourage them to be willing participants in, and contributors to their online learning community.  The online learning community is a platform where my learners’ individuality can flourish.  And my responsibility is to ensure I provide an environment that fosters the emergence of those individualities.

Thank you,

Marta

References

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Online Learning Communities.

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. Retrieved on September 5, 2013, from http://www.elearnspace.org/KnowingKnowledge_LowRes.pdf

Analyzing Scope Creep

I was once assigned to “manage” a project that involved the conversion of a customers’ billing process system (both computerized and manual operational processes) from one vendor that was handling the process to another vendor.  This was my first project management assignment and I was assigned to the project months after it had already begun – a sure sign of trouble at first sight.  Among numerous other issues, scope creep was the biggest.  My clients represented the product and marketing divisions of the company in three different countries, including the United States.  There were approximately forty people in the project; marketing managers, product managers, functional managers, programmers, analysts, testers, call center managers, consultants, and the people from the two vendors we were working with.  Prior to my arrival, any request related to the project (new/change) from the clients and other stakeholders had been submitted directly to the functional managers of the development team (with no centralized process for the project).  At times, clients would even directly contact the developers (programmers/analysts) to request changes.  So when I got on board, despite my objection, the expectation remained the same – request would go directly to the functional manager(s) and the functional manager(s) will fit it in his/her group’s schedule, without any impact analysis to the overall project.  And with each request, the scope of the project kept expanding with no clear end in sight.  Every meeting I conducted ended up being an issues log review as opposed to an overall project progress meeting.  I realized later on that my role was not necessarily managing the project but managing and keeping track of issues.  It was frustrating and overwhelming but a learning experience nevertheless.

Looking back at the experience, the project was way beyond my skills and experience as a project manager at the time.  It was a big project and my role was not clearly defined.  Had I truly been the “project manager” and had had the experience and emotional maturity to stand firm by what I believed was good for the project, I would have requested time to pause and to re-assess the project up to that point.  Then along with the influential stakeholders determined a path; i.e., continue with the project by taking corrective actions – which would have meant developing and adhering to a detailed plan that included a scope management process.  If agreement could not be reached on the corrective actions, and if I had had a choice I would have advised against pursuing the project.  Unfortunately (or may be fortunately), due to a re-organization of my division, I moved on to a different organization before the project was completed.  I am not certain what happened to the project at the end.

Scope creep in a project is unavoidable.  However, with proper project planning that includes a “change control system” as discussed in (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, ch. 11) a PM can manage scope creep effectively and lessen the risk of project failure.

Thank you for reading.

Marta

Reference

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). (ch. 11). Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

Here are a few resources that can be useful in estimating costs for ID projects.

Estimating Costs and Time in Instructional Design.  This article provides a comprehensive analysis of factors to consider when developing your training budget, along with examples and a case study.  I particularly like the table with percentages of time for each training development task, for example, the percent of time allocated to develop the analysis of the lesson versus the prototype of the lesson.

Time to Develop One Hour of Training – I find this article helpful for its identification of factors that can reduce instructional development time.  I also like the survey results chart that breaks down training hours estimates into various categories; such as, level of interactivity in a web based instruction from limited to high interactivity, and each with its own estimation of development hours.

Why eLearning Development Ratios Can be Hazardous to Your Career – This is a great article that advises caution in using e-learning development hour ratios, and discusses factors you need to consider.

Thank you,

Marta

 

 

Communicating Effectively

Communication during a project’s life cycle can take various forms: formal, informal, written, or verbal.  (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008).  Regardless of the form of communication used however, project managers need to ensure “their messages are received and correctly interpreted by project audiences.” (P. 367). The multimedia example in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) conveys the message in three modalities: text, voice, and face-to-face.  The message itself however, is not clearly conveyed in any of the modalities presented.

The face-to-face modality somewhat conveys the urgency of the request.  Among the factors that influence effective communication, discussed in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), are body language and tonality.  The body language and the tonality of the requester in this example suggest, the request may be urgent, but the level of urgency is not clear.  Additionally, since the request is made verbally and casually (not in a formal meeting setting) the recipient of the request (Mark) may not consider the request as “urgent.”  The advantage of this modality however, is if Mark has questions he can get immediate clarification.  The voicemail modality has more of an urgent tone than the face-to-face, but still not sufficient enough to indicate to Mark it should be a high priority on his to-do list. The text modality conveyed about the same level of urgency as the voicemail, with more formality; i.e., presented in writing.  Unlike the face-to-face modality, the latter two modalities do not allow for immediate clarification, if it was required.

In all three modalities, the request is ambiguous.  The phrase “let me know when you think you can get your report sent to me…” (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) implies that the requester is willing to wait until whenever the responder (Mark) can get to the report.  If I were Mark, I would assume the report is not a high priority and put it aside for more pressing activities.  The acronym ETA is confusing and can mean different things to different audiences.  The phrase, “missing report” can be referring to various missing reports.  Additionally, the format and transmission mode of the report (raw data vs. actual report) was left up to Mark to decide – further increasing the likelihood of ambiguity.

In his presentation, Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) stresses the importance of avoiding ambiguity.  In this particular example, I think a written communication would be more appropriate.  The requester needs to describe precisely which report she needs, in what format, and on what date, avoiding the use of acronyms (or spelling them out); thus leaving no room for ambiguity.

Marta

References

Portny, S.E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M.  M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). (p. 367). Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.). Communicating With Stakeholders.  Video presentation.

Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.). The Art of Effective Communication. Multimedia presentation.

Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

Context/background. . . .

Back in 2004 we (my husband and I) decided to renovate our house.  Our house was built in the 1950s and required a major infrastructure change so the remodeling effort was not just for aesthetic reasons. The renovation project entailed:

  • A complete renovation of two full bathrooms – gutting walls, insulation, electrical, the works
  • Tearing down a wall to install a sliding door
  • Replacing an existing sliding door with a bay window
  • Installation of wood flooring
  • A revamp of the plumbing infrastructure (below the floor, replacing galvanized pipes with PVC pipes, replacing rusted/leaky copper pipes)
  • Kitchen sink/fixtures replacement
  • Electrical work
  • Roofing (including gutters/downspout replacement)
  • Replacement of windows and entry doors
  • Building front and back patios

Rather than hiring one contractor that did everything, we hired separate contractors to work on their area of specialty.  It was less costly at the time, and allowed us to select the specific person(s) we liked and trusted to do the job. And so, the project team comprised of the master plumber and his apprentice, one electrician, two carpenters (subcontractors of a contractor), three roofers, a mason, windows/doors installers, floor/wall tiles installer, a painter (my husband), and the project manager (myself).

Constraints

  • The contractors were committed to the project but if/when they got called for “emergency” jobs (burst pipes, collapsed roofs, etc.) it meant halting our renovation project.  And this had a ripple effect on the project since the activities in one area of the renovation (plumbing for example) affected and/or depended on the activities in another area of the renovation (floor/wall tile installation, electrical work); known as, successor and predecessor activities in project management terms, meaning that the successor activity depended on the completion of its predecessor activity in order to move forward with the work. (PMBOK Guide, 2008).
  • Budget – of course was a constraint throughout the project and we had to constantly re-assess and prioritize the work to be done.
  • Permits – certain permits took longer than expected which resulted in further delay.
  • Weather – this affected the roofing work, which in turn affected the starting of the patio work since the debris from the roof replacement had to be cleaned up before the patio work could begin, resulting additional delay.

Result. . . .

The end result was beautiful.  Getting there however, was not quite as beautiful.  The project lasted approximately nine months (way beyond what we had anticipated).  The major challenge for me was coordinating everyone’s schedule, primarily because most of the activities could not be completed independently.  The contractors had other clients as well so they had to do their own scheduling between our project and their other projects.  And so I had to try and coordinate the individual schedules to fit in with each other’s schedules as dictated by the activities.  It was not easy.  Additionally, we had to deal with several “unknown unknowns” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 41).  For example, much to the dismay of the tile installer and the plumber, the floor/wall tiles I selected for the bathrooms turned out to be quite sensitive (brittle) breaking easily during the cutting process and the installation of faucets/shower for the tubs.  It also resulted in additional purchasing of tiles to replace the broken pieces (above and beyond the allotted tile budget).  Another unknown unknown was a delay in the delivery of certain materials due to quantity shortage or items being discontinued, which meant more time spent (and more money on some materials) identifying and purchasing a replacement.

An interesting fact and a minor detail. . . .

I also want to mention that while all this renovation was taking place, I still had to operate my in-home daycare business.  I had seven children enrolled in my program at the time, ages ranging from 1 to 10 years old; which required me to carefully and creatively plan and schedule meals, clean up time, play time, reading time, and most importantly nap time (for the five little ones).  I also had to time when to use water and electricity since the plumber and the electrician had to cut off water supply and electricity frequently as part of their work.  Most importantly I had to ensure the children’s safety.  This was especially difficult since our house is small and practically every room had some type of construction debris. And so most of our activities had to be conducted outdoors (weather permitting).

Success factors. . . .

I think what contributed to the project’s success was the cooperation, understanding, and trust amongst the stakeholders.  The contractors didn’t know each other at the beginning but bonded well throughout the project and tried to resolve their schedule conflicts amongst themselves.  The patience and understanding of my daycare clients was a huge factor.  They trusted me enough to leave their children with me in a construction zone – luckily no construction related accidents occurred.  My own (my family’s) flexibility in terms of schedule accommodation also contributed to the success.  Since I (the project manager) was also the client, I had the authority to make decisions (with my husband of course).  If I were managing such a project for someone else, it may have been a whole different experience.  For me personally, I think holding on to the vision of the end result was the driving force for the patience and tolerance of all the construction chaos.  I also indicated my excitement to the workers, at each milestone, which boosted their confidence and satisfaction in their own work, fostering further cooperation and eagerness to complete the job.

Wish I could have. . . .

Ideally it would have been helpful if all the contractors had been able to meet during the define phase of the project and figure out their schedules (what they planned for other projects and what they can commit on our project) as well as, identify potential “emergency” getaways.  This would have allowed me to better anticipate and manage schedule delays; perhaps planned  weekend or evening work to expedite the project.  Furthermore, in the case of the brittle tiles for example, if we had all met at the same time, the tile installer and the plumber could have identified potential issues with certain tiles which would have helped me purchase more suitable tiles, thus spent less money.

All in all, the project was a success.  I was satisfied with all the contractors.  They continue to do work for us as needed and I have referred them to several clients that resulted in numerous contracts.  It was quite an experience for me.  I learned a great deal about home construction/renovation and actually enjoyed the process.  Of course, I had moments of utter panic when for example, in the middle of the roof replacement it rained for three days in a row.  Or when the plumber (who identified the majority of the unknown unknowns) would approach me and say “I just want to let you know…..” to which I would reply ”OMG, now what?”

Here is a picture of one of the bathroom wall tiles….still in good shape.

IMG_0291

Here is a portion of the back patio…..

IMG_0292

Here is the backyard/woods where most of our daycare activities took place…..

IMG_0293

Marta

References

PMBOK Guide (2008).  A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). 4th ed. Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute, Inc.

Portny, S.E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). (p. 41). Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

The Future of Distance Learning – Reflection

Five years ago I still had a computer that required at least two people to carry, and took up the entire surface of my desk.  I would turn the power on and leave for a cup of tea while it booted-up—a solid fifteen minutes.  I had intermittent Internet connection.  I had never heard of  Web 2.0 technologies.  My perception of distance learning was such that it was adequate for a self-paced, asynchronous, single courses, but not for a degree program.  Although I was aware of online degree programs, I had reservations about their credibility and validity.  That was only five years ago!

And here I am in 2013 (only five years later), totally immersed in an online degree program, at a fully accredited institution, receiving a robust, challenging and engaging education, adapting to numerous educational technology tools, interacting with a diversely talented group of learners and faculty, in my own time, from anywhere, and actually enjoying the learning process – all enabled through technological advancement: high-speed internet connection, sophisticated computers, mobile devices, learner-friendly course management system, pedagogically sound instructional design, and expansion of web 2.0 technologies.     Has my perception changed?  Most definitely—and favorably.

Technological advancement, particularly in the last five to ten years, has greatly influenced the status of online education today.  (Hall, Keppel, & Bourne, 2011, p.2) assert that, “Digital technologies have massively widened access to learning. Internet platforms, enhanced by real-time sound and video streaming, high-quality digital images and limitless volumes of text files, now offer a compelling alternative to the conventional classroom.” They further note that the “diminishing costs of both technology and connectivity” is providing academic institutions the opportunity to enter the online education market without the barrier of competition.  And as the number of institutions offering online programs grows, potential students will start to recognize and accept the “legitimacy” of online education.

5, 10, 20 years from now. . . .

In the next five to ten years, the perception of online learning will become more favorable.  Advancement in educational and communication technologies coupled with the education reform movement has already enabled expansion of virtual public schools, an indication of support and acceptance.  See report at The Center for Education Reform.  In higher education, Sloan Consortium (2012) reports “nearly one-third of all students in higher education are taking at least one online course.” Furthermore, “65% of institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.” Sloan Consortium (2012).  Acceptance and support is clearly growing.

The generation of learners in ten to twenty years from now will become fully accustomed to online education throughout their learning experience and will view it favorably.  To them, there would not be a distinction between traditional and online learning, since both would have integrated seamlessly and effectively.  Education will just be “education.”  The current generation of learners will also have adapted to online learning greatly through programs that are interactive and engaging, and course management systems that are even more intuitive and simple to navigate.  They will have a positive perception of online education.  Online learning will also have expanded to most regions of the developing nations.  For most in the developing nations, the lack of educational infrastructure (facilities, materials, qualified teachers, transportation) is one of the reasons preventing access to education today.  Online education will be one solution.  Access to technology and connectivity will be less of a barrier than it currently is.  Read “Ten trends in technology use in education in developing countries that you may not have heard about.”  Interestingly, as I am writing this, it occurred to me that to most learners in developing nations, who would never had had any education, online learning may be their introduction to education, and they will accept its legitimacy right from the start since they would not have had any other form of education to compare it to.  I also believe that the open courses movement by organizations such as the Open Courseware Consortium will play a significant role in the accessibility and provision of free education, particularly in the developing nations.

Watch “Build a School in the Cloud” a compelling and inspiring TED presentation by educational researcher Sugata Mitra.

Improving societal perceptions of distance learning. . . .

As an instructional designer, I can help improve societal perceptions of distance learning by educating people (potential students) about online learning: what it means, what role they play, and the benefits it presents, perhaps through webinars or workshops in my local community.  Another way I can help is by introducing potential learners to open courses such as those offered through Coursera and the African Virtual University and encouraging them to try it out.  While the Sloan Consortium (2012) reports growth of student enrollment in online education, it indicates that acceptance of online learning by faculty lacks similar growth.  I think that providing faculty the training, support, and tools they need for implementing online learning is essential.  As an instructional designer, I need to collaborate with faculty to help them recognize the crucial role they play in the online learning environment, as well as assist them in effectively designing and delivering their courses.

Continuous improvement in the field of distance education. . . .

In order to contribute to the improvement of distance education, my own continued professional development is essential.  Joining a community of practitioners and online learners, taking courses, and pursuing a career in instructional design and/or volunteering my services are ways to keep informed of trends and methodologies in the field of instructional design. And in the process, I have the opportunity to identify areas for improvement.  Through research and collaboration with fellow instructional designers, and academic and corporate professionals, I can explore in depth the distance education theories discussed in (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Svacek, 2012, Chap. 2), and potentially refine/expand the theories so as to enable instructional design that is highly engaging and effective.  Additionally, I like to take an active role (as a volunteer or an employee) in national and international organizations, such as, the World BankUNESCO, and The 50×15 Foundation, in their efforts to minimize the digital divide and promote equal access to education—online education, globally.

Marta

References

Hall, M., Keppel, M., & Bourne, J. (2011). Learning Technology and Organizations: Transformational Impact. Sloan Consortium. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. 15(4). Retrieved on March 2, 2013, from http://sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v15n4/learning-technology-and-organizations-transformational-impact

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. (5th ed.). (Chap. 2). Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.

Sloan Consortium (2012). Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011.  Retrieved on March 2, 2013, from http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/going_distance_2011

Converting to a Distance Learning Format

Converting a face-to-face course to an online format is not simply a matter of “dumping” the existing course to online.  (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  It requires careful and systematic analysis that incorporates the components of a successful learning system: “the learners, the content, the method and materials, and the environment including the technology.” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 152).  Converting a face-to-face course to a blended format adds to the complexity because the designer has to ensure the online and the face-to-face version of the course complement each other, that the activities are integrated seamlessly.  In their findings of best practices approach to blended course design (McGee & Reis, 2012) noted that a blended course “integrates the best of face-to-face and online learning” (p. 3).  Moreover, when both are integrated “in an appropriate and creative manner, the possibility to become fully engaged in a sustained manner is increased exponentially.” (p. 3).

Use Your Best Practices Guide to help you in successfully transitioning your face-to-face training program to a blended distance learning format.

References

McGee, P. & Reis, A. (2012). The University of Texas at San Antonio. Blended Course  Design: A Synthesis of Best Practices.  Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN). 16(4). Retrieved on February 22, 2013 from http://sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v16n4/blended-course-design-synthesis-best-practices

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. (5th ed.).  Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.