Friday, April 01, 2005

Ideas on asynchronous pull technologies in course design

When I design courses I focus on pull-technologies. Technologies where students must investigate or seek out information. I choose to do it this way because most of the time I design courses for other Instructors, and I cannot gauge their personal commitment to push-technologies that they must initiate. It is too risky for me to design a course loaded with push-technology, only to have the instructor be a neophyte in the student-to-instructor interaction domain and the students will suffer greatly as a result. So, I have never designed a learning activity around email. I have designed a great many learning activities around asynchronous use of the discussion forum, interactive programming as well as asynchronous use of web-based presentation documents; however, because I have only worked for schools who are supported by an LCMS, I have never had to resort to using asynchronous newsgroups. I will outline a few examples of the activities that I have designed:

  • Classical discussion forum activities like the one we have here at UoP with DQ's and corresponding requirements for replies

  • Discussion forum activities where one student is elected moderator for the week, and must post a critical review to an important required reading. Other classmates are graded on a required number of intelligent postings for the week's discussion.

  • Case study activities in the discussion forum where a dozen case studies are presented by the instructor, students must choose five of them over a three week period and post a message to the discussion forum with their analysis of each. There is also a requirement for students to comment on the analyses of others and foster discussion during the week.

  • Web-page creation activities where students had to create a web-page with a Java-applet embedded, they are then required to post the web-page to the student homepage area of the course (so that the entire class can view it). The other students are required to highlight the best features and the worst features of their classmates webpages (all the while being polite of course!)

  • Entire course creation activities, and then students are required to visit all the other student's course sites and pick the one they liked best and then support their choice with reasons why the course can be characterized as "good".

  • Activities such as students are required to view a selected set of short video clips on the web, and then they must formulate a critique in the discussion forum of one of the video-clips for other students to comment upon.

  • As for presentation documents, I have designed a great many. Situations where PowerPoint slides have been available to complement PDF files containing lesson material, or HTML files etc. I have also selected video-clips and other media (audio and graphic) for students to view as part of the course notes. Web-based content is an integral part of every course I design.

So the permutations and combinations of asynchronous learning activities and resource presentations are almost endless. Some work better than others. Simple designs work best and up-front grading rubrics guide the DE students in a clear fashion.

Many books exist on the subject as well. Two of my favorite books in my library with lots of ideas like this are listed below. The first is more for classroom-based learning activities but with a little creativity you can parallel many of the ideas to a DE format, the second is a short book that's loaded with goodies perfectly suited to technologically enhanced DE courses.

Taylor, K., Marienau, C. and Fiddler, M. (2000). Developing Adult Learners: Strategies for Teachers and Trainers. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Iverson, K. (2005). E-Learning Games: Interactive Learning Strategies for Digital Delivery. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education.