Thursday, September 03, 2015

MUST READ: Teaching in a Digital Age

Ok - full disclosure. I'm a big fan of Dr. Tony Bates. I won't go into the details why except to say, you'll be a fan of his soon. (Check out his bio if you want to know more).
Dr. Tony Bates - Teaching in a Digital Age

The reason you will be a fan of his is because you are going to read his book Teaching in a Digital Age. WAIT! Don't go to Amazon, Chapters, Barns & Noble, or Walmart to find the book. The book is free. He's giving it to you for free. (See why I am a fan of his?) Just swing over to this website and grab it. It's available in a bunch of formats like ePub, PDF, MOBI, XHTML, WXR, etc. So pick the one that works best on your device. Then read it.

It's chock full of great stuff from the new skills needed in a digital age, to an updated primer on learning theories, to demystifying technology types in education, to underlying effective practices around multimedia, to emerging trends in open education, to ensuring quality in technology-media teaching, to supporting teachers, instructors and institutions in evolving to meet the needs of the diverse set of students present at most institutions of higher learning. The book is almost a one-stop-shop for a 360o perspective about blended and online teaching. Put this high on your to-do list. Check it out. It'll make you a BIG fan on Tony Bates... for the right reasons.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Active Learning in the Online Classroom: Examples and Ideas

Someone recently told me that they heard of an approach where all the boring content delivery lecture material is put online so that more active learning can take place in the classroom. They then asked me if this was the best approach for online learning? What they were describing is blended learning or the “flipped” classroom approach. Good blended classrooms have a significant amount of active learning. The active learning philosophies need not only occur in the classroom however. There are ways to leverage the online space to include active learning. Active learning is basically any part of the course that involves active “interaction” instead of just passive tasks. It engages learners into activities that help them clarify, investigate, apply, create and integrate knowledge. Consider the human-factor: any types of human interactions such as Learner-to-Learner or Learner-to-TeachingTeam qualify. However, learners can also interact with their physical or virtual environment and that can be active. Just because you have an online course, it doesn’t mean you have to design learning activities that only involve reading web-pages or textbooks all day. Here’s a list of ideas, across four categories, for active learning online:

Learner-to-Learner Interactions
Creativity in active learning
  • Group brainstorming 
  • Group role-playing 
  • Study/support groups
  • Peer feedback on student work 
  • Exploring a Virtual World as a team
  • Creating visual posters to share with the class
  • Creation of video presentations to share with the class 
  • Asynchronous individual or collaborative learning activities (i.e. Projects) 
  • Creative writing (in groups or individually) that is shared with peers 
  • Problem-based learning Learning activities which encourage critical thinking
  • Cooperative learning group discussions (real time video chat or via asynchronous discussion forum) 

  • Tutorials 
  • Reflective questioning 
  • Relating learning to relevant current events and personal life 
  • Problem-based learning Learning activities which encourage critical thinking 
  • Cooperative learning group discussions (real time video chat or via asynchronous discussion forum)

Learner-To-Virtual Environment
  • Interviewing people
  • Exploring a Virtual World individually
  • Learning activities which encourage critical thinking 
  • Online quizzes (graded and non-graded) that provide immediate feedback 
  • Advanced adaptive technologies like simulations and sensitivity analyses 

Learner-To-Physical Environment 
  • Interviewing people
  • Home-based laboratories
  • Real-life data collection and analysis 
  • Learning activities which encourage critical thinking 
  • Learning activities with hand-on experiences and tasks
  • Learning activities which apply the content of the lesson in real-life situations 
This list is not exhaustive.  Do you have something to add? If so, leave a comment below. Which ever active learning activity you choose for your online course, remember to keep the purpose in mind. Ask yourself, what Learning Outcome will this learning activity serve and does this activity align well with it? If you can answer that question clearly, then you’re on the right track.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Key Trends, Challenges, and Developments in EdTech - 15 years into this century

Wow. 2015. 1999 seems so far away. I remember we were so scared about the Y2K problem and how it might impact our educational systems. Those 1999 problems are long gone. There are new challenges now.

The EDUCAUSE Horizon 2015 report on Higher Education is out now. The project assembled a panel of experts from countries like Canada, Italy, India, Japan, Germany, Turkey, Spain, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, China, Denmark, the UK, New Zealand, and the United States to discuss the salient issues and whittle them down to tight lists. The Report is a very valuable read because it not only provides a summary of each issue but also provides further reading resources for each. These focused resources get you information fast. Specifically, the report describes the following:
  1. Key Trends Accelerating Ed Tech Adoption in Higher Education. It selects 6 of them and breaks them down into 3 categories: Fast Trends (next 1-2 years), Mid-Range Trends (next 3-5 years), Long-Range trends (5+ years).

  2. Challenges Impeding Ed Tech Adoption in Higher Education. It selects 6 of them and breaks them down into 3 categories: Solvable challenges, Difficult Challenges, and Wicked Challenges!

  3. Important Developments in Ed Tech in Higher Education. Again it selects 6 of them and groups them based on time horizon: less than one year, 2-3 years and 4-5 years.
The report comes in two flavours: the Preview (short 8-page version) and the full 56 page report. I definitely recommend the full report. Read it from cover-to-cover. If you are interested in knowing more about how the Horizon Report is built, the team of experts worked using a Wiki and you can view all the details here. If you have any specific reaction about the report that you would like to share, please leave a comment below.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to deal with the overloaded SME

We are all busy. It’s the new normal. When I work on Course Development Teams that develop online learning, I often work with high calibre colleagues. I’ve noticed that high calibre colleagues are even MORE busy. They get stuff done, they work evenings and weekends. They are the “go-to” people when the organization or the department needs resources.
When one of these people is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on a Course Development Team, sometimes it can be challenging. The time required for a SME to do their job well is almost universally underestimated. So now put an overloaded SME into a situation where they are required to invest a significantly greater amount of time and you may get some unexpected results. The most common result that I have experienced is “slippage”. Slippage in the sense that milestones come and go, that deliverables are chronically late and that emails sometimes go un-answered for days. It’s not the typical behaviour exhibited by this high calibre SME.

So as an Instructional Designer, what can you do to help? I have a few tips:
  1. Schedule a regular meeting on a consistent day/time. Depending on your project, it can be weekly or bi-weekly. A one hour meeting to touch base, to breakdown big milestone deliverables into smaller pieces, to identify difficulties and offer resources as the course development progresses, will be very valuable. You will find that hour to be a good investment of your time.
  2. Be organized. Anticipate the needs of the SME. Be prepared with document templates, with learning management system tools, and with performance support tools (such as handouts about how to write effective learning outcomes, etc.) Have these handouts available BEFORE your meetings and distribute them to the SME for consideration early in your project.
  3. Be sympathetic and offer your help. Challenge the SME to give you tasks that you can help with. One of those tasks is likely to simply give feedback on course content. Try your best to give rapid feedback. Be balanced, sensitive and succinct in your feedback. The overloaded SME doesn’t want to feel threatened nor do they want to read 17 pages of feedback (they just don’t have time).
Have you worked with an overloaded SME in the past? What advice would you give to Team Members who work with this individual.