MOOC: Online Writing Course

I have just started another MOOC course on Coursera about writing. I was amazed to discover they have outlined 5 types of online offering. I am wondering why a writing course talk about online teaching? But I found its information worth capturing:

Type 1: Traditional Undergraduate Level Online Courses: have a great deal of instructor to student interaction,  follow the course content of the face-to-face counterpart, not self-paced, follow along with the entire class within a designated time period, do activities with other members of the class, also limited in size.

Type 2: Traditional Graduate Level Online Courses: the student is much more self-directed, not self-paced, but there is more interaction among the students with the instructor in a facilitation role.

Type 3: Mass Open Online Courses (MOOC): The interaction with the instructor is limited, the instructor mainly participates through designing the course and offering its content. The instructor will also participate in some of the discussion activities and is usually assisted by peer tutors or teaching assistants. Much of the course is conducted with technology providing the evaluation through machine graded tests and assignments as well as the use of peer graded work. These courses may or may not be self-paced based on the content and the design and usually have hundreds or thousands of students from all over the world.

Type 4: Hybrid (sometimes called Blended) Distance Education Courses: These courses usually occur in the traditional college setting and are partially online courses.

Type 5: Flipped Classes: take place in face-to-face classrooms in many colleges and universities. They implement online content and activities as a major component of the course delivery. Instructors determine what content for the course can best be done by students on their own (watching video lectures, read, do tutorials, etc.) and what parts of the course the students usually need help with (writing essays, solving problems, creating projects, etc.). Students complete the work on their own online before coming to class to work with the instructor on the components that are best done with instructor assistance.

Courses with Proctored Testing: Many fully online courses require the students to go to a specific place to do testing. Usually, the site for testing is the college campus or an alternative sited agreed to by the instructor and the individual student. (This class has no proctored testing.) Student integrity is very important in distance education programs because the college has to be sure that their courses meet requirements of governmental agencies.” 

(Ross, Barkley & Blake n.d.)

Although I like this classification and it makes sense, i still find their definition of the MOOC type to be wrong, or at least, incomplete.

References
Ross, L. & Barkley, T., Blake, T. (n.d.) : Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade by Lorrie Ross, Lawrence (Larry) Barkley, Ted Blake. Coursera Course. Week 1. Retrieved from https://class.coursera.org/basicwriting-001/class/index

7 Principles for effective online teaching

I have been away for a while, ainy because I am busy with the impemmentation of knowledge worker technologies, and partially because I am bloggine on y personal blog. For now, I want to capture Chickering and Gamson (1987)  seven principles of effective pedagogical practices for online teaching before they get lost. They are written in 1987, but I find them still applicable today:

  1. Encourage contacts between students and faculty in and out of classes.
  2. Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race.
  3. Active learning is encouraged in classes that use structured exercises, challenging discussions, team projects, and peer critiques.
  4. Students need appropriate and timely feedback on their performance to benefit from courses.
  5. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and professionals alike.
  6. Communicate higher expectations.
  7. Provide a diverse delivery system.

Mobile Learning: The mobile nomad

Who do I consider a mobile nomad? First, let’s agree that learning is converting the public information to personal knowledge.

The obvious answer is that the mobile nomads are the busy workers who seeks education anytime and anywhere. The one who spend so much time idling waiting for the next process of his work. Those who commute. Or those who work in modern corporate world where they have to spend 8 hours at work while their actual work load needs far less than that. Or those who live in locations that lack traditional cable internet connectivity.

The non-obvious answer is still unclear. I think the real mobile nomads are the  lifelong learners who can learn when new knowledge is needed. Information is exponentially changing and knowledge need to be created based on the most up to date information. This is a new breed of beings who are among us but not widely recognized by education. The wikipedians (i.e volunteer collaborators and open source developers) are very good example. They contribute to their knowledge and the global information anytime, anywhere and with any device.

Customizing Teaching for Personalized Learning

Philosophy Statements about Teaching and Learning, v. 4.1

I. Abstract

In my opinion, the best instruction is the 1-1 approach. Not in the traditional sense where a teacher teaches one student. This is not feasible using traditional teaching methods. In an ideal teaching scenario, the learners need to have “customized”, “personalized” and “individualized” teaching that caters for their learning style and talent through the innovative use of technology in all its facets. This applies in the face-to-face setting as well as online teaching.

II. Concepts and Values

This post highlights the set of values and definitions that governs my philosophy about teaching and learning. It includes a set of practices I follow when designing as well as delivering my courses, whether face-to-face or online.

Role of Teachers: Following Entwisted (1990) line of thought, I believe that the primary professional responsibility of teachers, trainers and online courses is to maximise the learning opportunities of their learners. Some would use the term “facilitator” but I still like to use the traditional term, teacher, with added contemporary connotations.

Learning, Information and Knowledge: Information, knowledge and their relation to learning is one of the vaguest concepts in the literature (Fox, 1991). Harris supplied the definition which is closest to my heart:

“knowledge is private, while information is public. Knowledge, therefore, cannot be communicated; only information can be shared. Whenever an attempt to communicate knowledge is made, it is translated into information, which other learners can choose to absorb and transform into knowledge, if they so desire” (Harris, 1995, p.1)

According to this description, I believe that learning is the process of personalizing information and experience thus creating knowledge. Collective knowledge includes skills, attitudes and beliefs. Teachers’ role is to create the desire in the learner to absorb and transform the information and experience into their own knowledge.

Assessment: is defined as “the process of documenting, usually in measurable terms, knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs” (Wikipedia, Assessment). I believe that this definition mixes up between knowledge and information. In my courses, I like to define assessment as “the process of documenting, usually in qualitative terms, the incremental knowledge attained during the teaching process”. How to do this? I have few ideas that I hope will be firmed in version 5 of my philosophy.

Curriculum: I like to categories the curriculum into two types: the regulated curriculum where outcomes are clearly quantified and regulated (like army training, government regulated courses, professional tests) and free-form curriculum where the outcomes depends on the learners’ achievement within clear guidelines (example: art classes, architecture and medicine). I believe courses in the regulated curriculum address learning at the information level. Free form courses tackle the learning at the knowledge level. Each of these two types requires different teaching styles and methodologies. The difference is recognized in the design and delivery of each type, although, personally, I avoid handling regulated courses as an online course.

Learning Spaces: Brown (2005) used the term “Learning Spaces” to replaces the traditional classroom term. I like to use the same term to indicate any space that induces learning in individuals: a classroom, my office, a cafe, over the phone, on a forum, blog, wikipage, online, offline, and all the new medium of learning that is available.

Learning Styles: My teaching recognizes that individuals learn in multitude of ways. Consequently, the process of creating the desire in learners to learn should match the learners’ style. The literature offers at least 13 different schools of thought in this area (Coffield et al, 2004). Out of these schools, I find that Allinson and Hayes Cognitive Style Index to be the most suitable because it has “the best psychometric credentials” (Coffield et al, 2004, p139). I believe, to use learning styles as motivators to learning, I must include other factors like the set of intelligences acquired by the learner (Gardner et al,1995) and the set of strengths that determines their talent (Clifton & Nelson, 1992). My teaching should include drivers that ignite the learning desire based on the learners’ profile. Technology makes achieving this approach more plausible. I find the 4MAT approach to learning styles (McCarthy, 1990) the most suitable. This approach advocates that teaching should:

(1) Promote self reflecting, analysing, and experiencing.
(2) Inspire transitioning of information into knowledge
(3) Allow the individuals to digest and create content
(4) Encourage learners to express themselves

And I like to add a fifth one:

(5) Facilitate creation of knowledge through collective collaboration and network communication (Tapscott and Williams, 2010)

Learning Theories: As outlined by Anderson in his CIDER Webinar of April 2010, effective teaching should apply a mix of learning theories (behaviorism, cognitive, constructive and connectivism). I am a strong believer in this approach.

Generational Differences: Tapscott (2008) coined the term NetGen to describe individuals who were born in the digital age. I agree with him that NetGen learns in ways different than what traditional education is able to offer. Consequently, my delivery will recognize the different learning drivers dichotomies as presented by Coffield, (2004).

Parallel Education: As suggested by Brown (2010) and McGonigal (2010), new learning paradigms are emerging where the younger generation are building their knowledge outside the traditional educational systems. Some refer to this as the parallel education. The learning in this paradigm is naturally motivated and based on discovering personal talents through “virtual-real-life” experiences in areas not recognized in the traditional educational understanding. In my courses, I need to identify learners who are following this approach and encourage them to exploit it in the learning of the material. This is not easy especially that the concept is new. Maybe it will be the core driver for my philosophy version 5!

Technology in Learning: In my educational realm, technology helps to customize, individualize and personalize learning. For many thousand years, human learned based on one-to-one teaching (Toffler, 1980) until the industrial evolution came up with the idea of mass production that shaped our present educational system (West, 2001). This method is becoming obsolete to meet the new challenges (Tapsott & Wilson, 2010). With the advancement of the technology, we can go back to the natural way of human learning, i.e. one-to-one by customizing teaching to satisfy individualistic learning drivers through online courses and activities.

Continuous Improvement: My courses will always contain learners feedback to continuously evaluate means of improvement. This philosophy will continuously evolve based on new discoveries, emerging technologies, my acquired knowledge and interactions with my learners.

III. References

Brown, D., (2010), An Open Letter to Educators, YouTube Video.

Brown M., (2005), Learning Spaces, Educating the Net Generation, Educause eBooks.

Clifton, D. O., & Nelson, P. (1992). Soar with Your Strengths, Dell Publishing.

Coffield, F. J., Moseley D. V., Hall .E & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: a systematic and critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre/University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Entwistle, N.J. (1998). Improving teaching through research on student learning. In JJF Forrest (ed.) University teaching: international perspectives. New York: Garland.

Fox, S. (1991). The production and distribution of knowledge through open and distance learning. In D. Hylnka & J. C. Belland (Eds.), Paradigms regained: The uses of illuminative, semiotic and post-modern criticism as modes of inquiry in educational technology. Englewood Clifs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Gardner, H., Kornhaber, M. L., & Wake W. K. (1995). Intelligence: multiple perspectives, Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Judi H. (1995). Educational Telecomputing Projects: Information Collections, The Computing Teacher journal, published by the International Society for Technology in Education.

McGonigal, J. (2010). Gaming can make a better world. TED Presentation.

Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, The McGraw-Hill.

Tapscott, D., & Williams, A. D. (2008). Innovating the 21st-Century University: It’s Time!, EDUCAUSE

Toffler, A., (1989). The Third Wave, Bantam Books.

West, E. G. (2001). Education and the Industrial Revolution, Liberty Fund Inc.

Wikipedia, Assessment, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assessment

Zukas, M., & Malcolm, J. (2002). Pedagogies for lifelong learning: building bridges or building walls? In R Harrison, F Reeve, A Hanson and J Clarke (eds) Supporting lifelong learning. London: Routledge/Open University.

IV. Appendix: History of the versions of My Philosophy

Version 1: articulated in 1981: The focus was on curriculum and teaching.
Version 2: articulated in 1992: The focus was student learning and success.
Version 2.5: articulated in 1996: The focus included the use of Technology.
Version 3: articulated in 2000: Constructivist concepts were adopted.
Version 3.5: articulated in 2008: Web 2.0 concepts were included.

TAP: Subways and Mac’s

Daydreaming

I want my online courses to be like Subway sandwiches and not like MacDonald buns! I want the learner to choose the ingredients of the course. To choose the style of activities that makes them learn. They cannot choose the objectives nor the duration.

Subway and Mcdonalds have the same objectives: to give you calories and nutritions. One style allows you to choose the ingredients that the you want. The other gives you limited alternatives to choose from. At Subway, if you aim is to lose weight, you choose more vegies than bacon. If you want to put on weight, you double the cheese, bacon and mayo’s. At Macdonald, you do not have this flexibility.

I want my online courses to be the same. They should have clear objectives: (1) the learning outcomes dictated by the curriculum; a and (2) a fixed duration by which the learner should complete the outcomes*. The course will offer a variety of activities. Paced and self paced. Traditional sequential reading material and leaping hyperlinked reading material. Videos and handouts. Synchronous and Asynchronous interaction. Learning by doing and learning by observing. Self reflection and networked interaction. Mayonaise and Catchup. Peer learning and self-learning. The list need to be completed.

The one who chooses to learn using my online course should know what they want and how they learn. Like the Subway customer: they know what they like to eat and know how to choose. For the others, let them go to a Mac restaurant (i.e. packaged courses) or to a fancy restaurant (i.e the structuredconstructivistinteractiving course) . Not mine. I want my student to “Learn Fresh”.

… and I woke up!


Questions:

  1. Was it a daydream or something that I can really make?
  2. Do you think there must be more objectives? Like assessment?
  3. Any suggestions for more ingredients I need to add the “menu of the course”?
  4. I know McDonals is far more popular and profitable than Subway around the world! Do you think traditional online/distant course delivery will prevail over my styles?

Week 3, Q3: Collaborative Participation

[This is my answer to Week 3, Q3: As a teacher of online courses, how do you (or would you, if you do not as yet have online teaching experience) encourage interactions between yourself and your students, as well as between students, and network building with participants outside of the “formal” course? Expand on your answers by saying why you would or would not encourage these interactions, and identify practices that have been successful. Also reflect on the practices of your instructors related to interactions in the online courses you have taken, or are taking.]

I am a strong believer in online interaction. Whether with the learners of the course, between the learners and the outside world and with with the course facilitator. Using the f2f terminology, this interaction is like teamwork and brainstorming that yield synergy. Luckily, this approach started to penetrate our educational system.

There are many methods to encourage collaboration among online learners. All of them will require well designed activities. At the moment, I want to suggest two approaches:

  1. Use of a scoring rubric that encourages and assesses positive collaboration.
  2. Use of peer evaluation activities.

I hope you can enrich my knowledge by suggesting more.


The interaction fails when the assessment of the course is based on testing the acquired information rather than measuring incremental knowledge. I.e., courses that rely on route learning. The collaboration in these courses become cheating. Example: courses related to Project Management Professional certifications. Personally, I avoid designing online course for such courses.


Some successful Examples: besides the methodologies followed in this course, I can quote the following two successful examples:

(1) The Intercultural Dynamics in European Education through onLine Simulation: In this course, learners acted as members of a virtual government and each were given specific responsibility and collectively they were supposed to come up with one government plan. Each learner was from different countries with different background. The learning in the fields of politics, languages, cultural difference, teamwork and synergy was outstanding.

(2) Wikipedia Articles: A group of students were assigned the task of writing certain Wiki-articles on Wikipedia. The interaction with the virtual members of Wikipedia was rich and engaging.

Both of the above examples used suitable rubrics.

Week 3, Q2: Synchronous Events

[This is my answer to W3Q2: “How important are synchronous events (where course participants and instructor interact in real time) such as a webinar or an Elluminate session in fostering an effective online learning environment?”]

The importance depends on the learners and the material of the course. I have worked with teams where Synchronous communication was a burden. For example those who work on compiling Wikipedia and other Open Source projects. At the same time, I have worked with individuals who need the real time synchronous interaction.

Following Universal Design concepts, every online course should have a provision to have one or more synchronous, recorded, events to cater for those who prefer the real time learning.

What is more important is to ensure the technology works well, that the facilitator has a good control of the technology and the session and that the participants can use it effectively.

Reference: IEEE Research Findings.

Week 3, Q1: Ownership of Learning

[This is the answer to EDDL514 W3Q1 question: What do you find is the single most significant difference (that actually impacts learning in either a positive or negative way) between teaching and learning online as compared to in a face-to-face environment ?]

The most significant difference between the f2f and OL learning is “who owns the learning”. In a f2f, the learners’ expects the teacher/facilitator to be the source of their learning. In an online course, the learner should own the learning.

An online learner who does not switch to this attitude will fail a well designed online course. On the other hand, the instructor who designs a course without facilitating the shift of learning to the students will face major challenges (I can list them if requested!)

I drew this image to illustrate it:

Owners of Learning

For example, in a classroom setting, the “learners’ mode of thinking” expects:

  1. Full and clear directions from the instructor on what they learn.
  2. Constant feedback on whether the learning is going in the right direction.
  3. Immediate response on the learners queries
  4. (who can add more! about collaboration, assessment, note taking, etc..)

While in an online course, the successful learner knows that  she owns the learning and she:

  1. does not expect full and clear direction. She expects clear written instructions about the outcomes. But not direction.
  2. does not expect constant feedback. She knows the feedback will be given whenever possible. But not always. (In this course, for example, I have published 16 posts and got feedback on few only!).
  3. does not expect immediate response. She expects that the response will come when it comes. She continues learning while waiting. She does not say: oh I was waiting for your answer to continue!
  4. (Contribute for more!)

So, in my opinion, the attitude of the learner to own their learning is the single crucial element between the success or failure of the learning experience.

P.S.: I truly believe that the ownership of learning should be delegated to the learner even in the classroom setting… but I believe most teaching styles still does not know how to apply it! Even the constructivist approach finds major challenges.