Feb 28 2010

Moving to online content

Published by at 11:00 am under Uncategorized

I went to a workshop today at school.  The Business teachers in our board gathered to present best practices.  One presented her course as uploaded to Blackboard, another showed how he used google sites and I demonstrated the use of a wiki for similar purposes.  It was an interesting comparison of different tools for the same purpose.

My wikis are the least structured in the sense that they are collaborative spaces, whereas the other two examples were strictly administered by the teachers who authored them.  The Blackboard course was designed by an Accounting teacher.  She liked the way she could create assessments that were self-correcting.  She worried that her students could pass computerized assignments to each other, thus allowing plagiarism.  Her idea was to block all email transmission and shut off the shared drive to the students.  That seems to me a little like locking the door to keep the residents inside, rather than the crooks out.

The google sites example was used more as a repository for resources attached to a calendar.  It provided no interactivity yet, but that was to be included later.  No assessment was present, nor any discussion area.

My wiki provides a space for students to contribute their work and research and to discuss.  The other teachers complained that it did not have a provision for assessment and it opened too many doors to nonsense content being uploaded, not to mention cyber-bullying.

Agreed, and this is what has got me thinking.  I know from my brief experience with wikis that using collaborative spaces is new to students and that a period of adjustment is required.  Yes, students will post stupid things but eventually they learn that they are accountable for all content and start to improve the quality of their work.  Of course, there will always be students who are not serious and need a lot of feedback from the teacher (read disciplining).

I’ve only just started reading the Anderson article and it brings to light the fact that we do indeed need to look at the theory of education, and online education in particular, as we start to move our content online.  And more importantly, we need to recognize that there is a difference between uploading content and creating an online course.  Clearly, the Blackboard example today was not meant for fully online learning but rather for blended delivery.  The author of the course did not consider the needs of the learner (Anderson, p.50) but rather saw this as a step towards using technology in the classroom and compiling a great number of resources in a permanent medium.  The impression I got from the assessment in the course was more a case of “this is what I need to teach you”, rather than “this is what you need to learn”.  There is a difference there. Granted, when dealing with high school students, they don’t always know what they need to learn.  It’s a very different situation from teaching adult, who bring prior learning into the equation (Anderson, p.47).

Anderson makes a strong point when he states that “the challenge of online learning is to provide very high quantity and quality of assessment, while maintaining student interest and commitment”.  This has been my biggest challenge as I’ve moved to online course development.  My early experiments with Blackboard for quizzes was disastrous as the answers had to be case sensitive or the computers would freeze up and a timed assessment was locked much to the dismay of the learner.  I gave up on using Blackboard for that purpose years ago.  And judging from today’s comments, I think some of those frustrations are still present, hence the need for teacher intervention during timed quizzes.

Anderson, T. (2008). Towards a Theory of Online Learning.  In: Anderson, T. & Elloumi, F. Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Athabasca University. Accessed online 3 March 2009 http://www.aupress.ca/books/120146/ebook/02_Anderson_2008_Anderson-Online_Learning.pdf

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