Thursday, November 30, 2006

Plan to Learn: Case Studies in eLearning Project Management

I've never heard of the Canadian eLearning Enterprise Alliance (CeLAE). I think I'm embarassed by that first statement (*smile*), but I'll move on anyway. Via Stephen Downes' OLDaily, I found out that CeLAE has recently published an eBook (PDF Format) that will be interesting to all members of eLearning Course Development Teams. Especially those working in the higher education setting. Written by 29 authors from eight different countries, it has a strong Canadian compenent from various academic institutions such as Seneca College, University of British Columbia, Athabasca University, University of Saskatchewan, University of Calgary, and University of New Brunswick just to name a few. It's called Plan to Learn: Case Studies in eLearning Project Management. Definitely worth a look!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Q: Does group collaboration online work?


If you remain unconvinced, please take a look at the result of this group collaboration by distance at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania's Department of Instructional Technology. The fruits of their group collaboration have been posted for everyone to view and they may be of interest to you if you are reading this posting. They've created an e-Book entitled E-Learning Concepts and Techniques. It has 11 chapters and has some tidbits in there that are an interesting read.

Are you interested in seeing the actual assignment instructions that the students received? I was! And I was pleasantly surprised that the instructor(s) posted a link to the assignment for all of us to examine.

To me the strength of the assignment was that students had some choice as to which part of the e-book to contribute to. This allows students to gravitate towards an area of personal interest. This strategy often increases the relevance of the assignment to the student and thereby increases the intrinsic motivation of the student. Experienced distance instructors quickly recognize that motivation is the 'golden fleece' in distance education! One nice feature of the assignment is that it points the students in the direction of some collaborative work tools (i.e. Skype, Gizmo and GoogleTalk) as well as some software tools (i.e. Audacity and GarageBand for audio) that might facilitate the completion of the project.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Knee Replacement Surgery can be Fun!

A colleague of mine (actually he’s my boss… thanks Mark!!!), turned me on to this cool website by EdHeads which shows a virtual knee replacement surgery. It’s a Flash driven application that does a remarkably good job at giving the user a chance to experience the process of being an assistant orthopedic surgeon. I’ve gone through it and afterwards I have a much greater appreciation for how the process is actually done. When I put my Instructional Designer Hat on, I conclude that this piece of educational material is well constructed.

Here are some of the aspects I think they did well on:
  1. Navigational instructions are clear and intuitive and there is a sitemap so you can navigate quickly to a specific point in the activity if you are revisiting it.

  2. The use of audio augmented the use of the Flash animation. Clearly the audio was integral to the presentation. For hearing impaired students, the user can toggle subtitles for the presentation.

  3. Use of a cartoon character, in this case the surgeon, guides the user through all the steps really adds realism and humanism to the process.

  4. Each time the surgeon gives verbal instructions that require the user to perform an action a small textbox appears re-iterating the statement with text.

  5. The overall goal of the process is well known: total knee replacement.

  6. The objectives at every step of the process are presented, verbally.

  7. There are nine integrated multiple-choice questions at various points in the procedure. The questions directly target the task currently being performed and provide quick feedback.

  8. There are interactive steps that the use must take: e.g. writing initials on leg, washing leg, drilling bone, moving leg, etc.

  9. I like the associated image bank of real life knee surgery photos.

  10. The Teachers Guide is useful at showing the teacher what grade levels this material is geared towards as well as giving the correct answers to all the multiple-choice questions in the activity. It also points teachers to follow-up activities.

Here are some of the aspects I think they could improve upon:
  1. The feedback on multiple-choice is sparse. Most times all the user gets is a no/nope or fantastic/great comments. Elaborating on why the correct or incorrect answer was chosen by the user might help reinforce the concept being tested.

  2. In some cases, students can skip to the next step without successfully completing the last step. In my view, if your striving for some realism, every step should be completed successfully before moving on. However, this is just my view (*smile*)

Overall, I think this is a great learning activity. (If you have other pros and cons to contribute then please add your items by leaving a comment below.) EdHeads has developed other similar educational activities. Their Total Hip Replacement activity and the Weather Prediction activity are worth investigating as well. Have fun!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

ISBNs get even longer!

A colleague of mine (thanks Ann!!!) came across the fact that as of January 2007, all ISBNs will be changing from a 10-digit to 13-digit number. That's the first I've heard of this. Strange that publishers aren't advertising this more prominently? The Book Industry Study Group's website documents this new development with several resources including a nice recorded webinar hosted by John Abraham. (Be careful... it's detailled!!! hahaha) It's free to view the webinar but does require users to fill in an annoying form (joy!).

The Death of Thomson Learning?

A major player in the education market is selling off their educational unit: Thompson Corporation. In a recent press release on their website, they state that despite being a profitable unit, their educational unit is being sliced into several sections and these sections are being sold via a competitive bidding process. Lets hope that the result is not the expiration of many useful textbooks in the higher education market. Cross your fingers!