Optimizing the Learners’ LMS eLearning Experience

The first eLearning course I enrolled in in the year 2000 was a nightmare because I couldn’t find all the required pieces of the course on the website. Granted, LMS (learning management systems) were in their infancy at that point, and I honestly don’t recall which, if any, LMS was use. Nonetheless, the course left such a horrible impression on me that it took many years before I attempted another online course.

I always remember that experience when I design my courses. I’ve worked primarily in Moodle and Blackboard, and each have their pros and cons, but no matter which LMS is used, making the course as learner friendly as possible is always at the forefront of my layout.

In the Blackboard example used here, the site is laid out by module. The Course Documents page contains all documents the learners will use, including the course syllabus and assignments, in addition to links to useful sites. These documents are added to the modules in which the topics are addressed and assignments “handed out.” The multiple postings allow learners to quickly find what they are looking for.

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Assignment Revision

In the last post I described why I revised the course outline because of a problem with the final assignment. This revision has put me a bit behind schedule, but if I run out of time I’ll simply not re-shoot as many videos as I’d hoped.

The revision stemmed from a problem I had with the final assignment. Last semester I noted that students struggled with meeting the expectations of the assignment.  I hadn’t changed the assignment from the previous delivery, so after examining my notes I decided to provide more information about how to create a very basic WPL program.

This simple decision had a domino effect as it may impact other assignments, the content of the modules that I had not scheduled to change, and amount of work required by the learners.

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Continued Changes to the Course Outline

Changes to the Course Outline In the previous post I took a closer look at the syllabus and the course layout. As I mentioned, this was my first draft and I knew there would be a few changes once I started to closely examine the course content and the videos.

The changes add much needed depth to the course but they do not address the problems I see in the final assignment. The more I think about it, the more I am certain that creating a WPL program does not belong in week 7.

The WPL course assignments are all problem-based learning, except for the first assignment, which is a short essay. To keep the spirit of the course intact, I need to engage the leaners by including different elements of a WPL program into the course. Stuffing all the information into one week just won’t work.

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Reviewing the Course Syllabus

Reviewing a Course SyllabusLast week’s blog post looked at my justification for re-designing a synchronous online university course I teach each fall. I’m in a bit of a time crunch because all the videos must be shot and edited no later than mid-April.

In this blog I’m going to describe how I went about adding in three new topics to the 12 week course.

When I began teaching in the early 2000s, it was drilled into my head that I could not deviate from the supplied syllabus. This was reinforced in many of the courses I took in my B.Ed. It was explained in simple terms: The syllabus is a legal contract between the institution, the professor, and the students. Therefore, what I put in the syllabus must be followed, however, an addendum is permissible if the syllabus clearly states which section may be adjusted during the course.

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Why Re-design the Course

Jan 4, 2016 picIn the first post in this series, I provided some background information about the course and the learners. A course re-design must be soundly justified, so in this post I’ll provide further background information about the course and identify what needs to be updated and why.

Facilitators are expected to update one-third of the course every year. The updates should include required readings and videos. The first year I taught WPL I updated about two-thirds of the videos. It just felt wrong to me for learners to see me in class (Adobe Connect) each week, but I was not in the videos.

I had the opportunity to review the course syllabus when I interviewed for the job. The course was well designed. It had a good flow and was very easy to follow. Each weekly topic was tied directly to at least learning outcome (objective). All assignments were tied to at least two learning outcomes. The learning outcomes were reasonable, well worded, measureable, and achievable.

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Course Re-design Project

A few months ago I came to the conclusion it was time re-design an online course I teach. Over the past decade I have created and re-designed a number of courses that were delivered both in the classroom and as eLearning courses. In addition, I have experience as an instructional designer. How I go about re-designing courses has not been at the forefront of my mind in years. I just do it. It’s time to document the journey.

Interestingly, I’m also in the midst of searching for research articles about how professors go about creating and re-designing courses. Some of these articles may find their way in to the forthcoming blog posts, but only if they are open access articles.
About the course

The course I’m re-designing is workplace learning (WPL). The course is part of an undergraduate degree program in education. The age range of the students is 20 to 60 years old. The vast majority have worked, and many of them work full-time. Some students have English as a second language, but of the 60 or so students I taught the course to, only two students had serious writing challenges.

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How to Search for Creative Commons Material

Do you know how to find graphics or sound for your eLearning modules, website, or blog? This short video will introduce you to the importance of knowing copyright laws and how to use the Creative Commons search function to find just what you need to make your eLearning modules come to life … without infringing on copyright.

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E-learning: The Silver Bullet that Can Miss the Target

Have you noticed the similarity between the promise of e-learning and the promises made in advertising?

Much like the advocates of e-learning, advertising sells us on the benefits of a product. For example, did you have a bad night’s sleep last night? Lack of sleep could lead to poor grades, drowsiness while driving, decreased social activity, and inattentiveness at work, which could put your career at risk. The solution is buy the sleep-e-z pillow for only $29.99

Much the same way, e-learning was touted to be the cure-all for the ills of education. Continue reading

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Implementing Blended Learning in Education

Blended learning is a hybrid between traditional classroom learning and online or eLearning. It is best described as a mix of traditional classroom teaching and online learning. When designed properly, blended learning, or bLearning, is a powerful learning and teaching tool that can be used in education and training.

BLearning is often overlooked in instructional design and training in favour of eLearning. This may be because of the added cost of renting facilities where learners can meet instructors face to face; however, it is a powerful tool that, when skillfully used, is the best of online and face-to-face learning.

Over the last few years, the flipped classroom has become more pronounced in the education mix. The flipped classroom is an excellent example of bLearning. In this this method, students use online tools to view lectures, listen to podcast, or conduct inquiry-based learning as the home portion of learning. Later in class, they use this knowledge to complete assignments and partake in classroom discussions, assignments, and exercises.

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Creating a Classroom Environment in ELearning

I’ve taken a number of online courses. The majority of courses were conducted through an asynchronous environment, such as Blackboard. I had a number of issues with the courses, but my one major problem I had was that I didn’t feel as if I was learning along side other learners.

The teachers in the all courses had forums and mandatory discussion participation built into the course. The learners HAD to read all the posts and reply to some and add new posts.

The quality and the insights of the posts varied; but I did not find many posts that made me feel as if I was partaking in a fluid classroom discussion. This one limitation had a large impact on my enthusiasm for the course and the material. Continue reading

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