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Chris Humphreys

Course Portfolio
ET 755
July 1, 2014

I. Chris Humphreys Masters Degree Program in Educational Technology
University of South Carolina Columbia

II. Research and Practice in Distance Education
Goal 1. To be knowledgeable about research in aspects of distance
education and the use of telecommunications in educational and other
settings.
The following projects are examples of how I learned about research
and the various aspects of distance education. The first assignment was to
read Chapter 1 and make a discussion post and reflection. The chapter was
important to read because it discussed the foundations of educational
theories of online learning. Being new to distance education I found the
chapter discussed the theorists and how the learner and the instructor
played an important part in online learning. I learned about the implications
for online learning and how that will play a major role in 21st century
learning. And through the use of these implications, I will strive to give my
students opportunities to construct their own their own knowledge and
actively participate in meaningful tasks to name a few in the future as a
distance education instructor.

The second assignment related to gaining this knowledge about
research was the discussion and reflection post for Chapter 2 where the
attributes of learning were discussed. Some of the areas that were discussed
in this chapter were the importance of student-student, student-instructor,
and student-content interaction to name a few. During this reading I learned
about the learner-centered approach to education where not only are the
needs of the learner taken into account, but also the needs of the instructor,
institution, and the class. Also, that the learner-centered environment
recognizes the cultural backgrounds and diversity of it learners through the
flexibility distance education offers. Through all of this, instructors in
distance education are able to support their students in an effective manner
that takes into consideration all aspects of their students to create an
effective learning environment. By understanding this aspect of distance
education I will use what I have learned to develop meaningful online
educational learning environments as an instructor or course designer.

The next assignment in research of distance education was the Small
Group discussion posts and reflections 1&2. These two assignments offered
each member of the group to be an active participant in their learning
through meaningful reflection about a research topic in an asynchronous
environment. During the first small group discussion, I was assigned as a
group leader along with another student. This opportunity to lead the group
discussion supported the objective of leadership with individuals and groups
(4.0.1). We were tasked to chose a research topic and begin the discussion
post and pose questions about what we read to elicit responses from the
other two members of the group. Being the group leader I learned that there
is a need for instructors to understand what questions are needed to be
asked to get others to participate in discussions. It helped me understand
that being involved in this capacity that you cannot just be an observer and
just reflect of what others have stated. You as the leader are responsible to
read and comprehend what the research is saying and develop the right
questions for the summarizers to be able to have something to begin with.

For the second small group discussion assignment, I was assigned as a
summarizer. This afforded me the opportunity to reflect on the research
topic that was chosen and respond thoughtfully and thoroughly about the
topic and to summarize what I felt was the most important aspects of the
research. During the small group interaction it was important to work with
just a few peers; which helped in the student-student interaction. We were
able to respond to each others thoughts about the topic and help develop a
summarization of the research. This assignment also was in line with the
objective (4.0.1) demonstrating leadership attributes with individuals and
groups. Given what I learned through the Small Group Discussion
assignments I will use this as a basis for including this type of asynchronous
research reflection in a way that best forms to any course that I may
develop in the future as an instructor or designer.

The Research Synthesis was one of the most difficult projects of the
course. We were to decide on a research topic and cite 20-25 articles and
research studies on the subject and summarize each of them and reflect on
the work. During this project it was important to learn to identify the
appropriateness of scholarly research articles and studies on a specific topic.
The topic I chose for the project was PBL in Online Learning. This subject
was most interesting to me because Im an early childhood educator and as
such on the leading edge of incorporating technology into the classroom.
Many students come with limited experiences in this area and I felt that the
research synthesis gave me the opportunity to explore this for my own
edification. I learned that project-based learning in an online environment
comes with unique challenges faced by instructors and designers alike. In
the future, I look forward to using this type of research based synthesis at
various levels including early education where students learn to reflect on
topic.

The Research Synthesis Presentation offered me the opportunity to
reflect and synthesize about 3-5 areas of my research and discuss it in an
oral format that deepened my understanding of the subject. I was able to
create a presentation using Powerpoint and captured it using Screencast.
Incorporating these types of technologies assisted in supporting the research
presentation to the fullest extent possible. I learned that speaking about a
topic is much more difficult than just writing about it. As a teacher, I hope to
have my students learn to use this type of technology to help them become
comfortable with recording themselves to present their learning in a different
format.

Goal 2. To critically evaluate examples of distance education
implementation in educational and business settings.
The assignment was to Evaluate Instructional Sites using the rubric to
write a summary of our evaluation, citing strengths and weaknesses of the
sites. We worked in a small group of three students. The two online sites we
used were Technologies for Creative Learning and A Survey of Mathematics.
We used the discussion board, as well as, email to share ideas and develop
our evaluations of the two sites we chose. This assignment was important
because is met the objective (2.4.2) understanding what it means to develop
and prepare instructional materials and products for various distance
delivery technologies. I used the experience from this assignment to help in
the development of the course sites build later in the course. In the future, I
would like to incorporate this type of learning into a staff development
setting for my school. As 21st century teachers we need to do this to
become better educators.

Goal 3. To construct effective delivery of courses, topics, or training by
using existing CMS tools.
There are several assignments that fell under this goal. I felt that the
Ch.10 Narrated Presentation, Conference Proposal, Course Sites Build and
the Course Sites Reflection were all related to the construction of effective
delivery of courses, topics, and training.

The first of these assignment was the Chapter 10 Narrated
Presentation where after reading the chapter we were to design a
presentation and record it orally using some sort of technology such as in
my case Screencast. The recording was to be 5 minutes and be a reflection
of the chapters main idea of developing online courses. I felt that this was
relevant as a topic and important to the development of our own online
course. The chapter discussed many aspects of online course develop that I
hadnt previously thought about. For instance, that there isnt any clear
definition of what online learning is and that Blackboard is considered an
(LMS) Learning Management System. Prior to this course I had no
experience with any background for LMSs. Having used Blackboard for a
number of years, I assumed that it was a school tool and gave no thought to
the development of each course by the instructor. I used this information
learned in this chapter immediately in the development of our group site
build. But, more importantly I look to use this as a designer and an
instructor of educational material.

The Conference Presentation Proposal project took a lot of thought to
decide on a suitable topic to present at the South Carolina EdTech
Conference in Greenville during the fall. The title of my proposal is Using
Blogs to Support Project-Based Learning in a K-2 Classroom. The initial
summary was to introduce and excite the audience and then summarize the
intent of the presentation. This is a culminating experience for me that takes
research and ties into the development of a topic to share information and
experiences at a professional level. This is important to me as an educational
technologist to be able to present a topic to the staff of our school on an
area that supports 21st century teaching and learning best practices.

The group project to design and build an Online Course incorporates
many of the objectives such as (1.1.2a, 1.12b, 1.12d, and 2.4.2) These
objectives were met while working in small groups in the design of Full STEM
Ahead. We were to use an LMS, in this case, Coursesites.com that mirrored
Blackboard. We worked in a group of four and developed and prepared the
instructional materials for the course such as surveys, quizzes, discussion
boards, and projects.

The team decided on the format of the course and kept it in a modules
format to help with the instructional layout. We also incorporated
instructional technology processes in the development of interactive lessons
that promoted student learning through the use of research critiques, Web
2.0 tool critiques, project-based opportunities, and reflections.

This project was important to me because I learned how to design a
course from scratch and see what worked and what didnt in the design.
There were things that I would have done differently and things that I like
using and all of these experiences helped give a clear picture of what a
course should look like when completed. It also was great experience to
work collaboratively on a team in the design. This is important because as
educational technologist we will find ourselves working on a design team
where our interpersonal skills and our group dynamics will affect the
outcome of our product. You realize how different roles play a part in the
development of a team and not everyone will see eye to eye or feel the
same way as you do about a theory or design feature.

The Course Site Reflection project was to be completed individually as
a reflection about the design and development of our own course from the
instructors point of view, as well as, reflect about our participation as a
student in another course. We were to include our design elements, as well
as, what worked and what didnt in the development of the course. We
created a wiki to embed our reflection paper on when completed.

This reflection time was important because it gave me a chance to
really think about what I liked about the project and what I found difficult.
Due to juggling assignments and the time frame for which we were working
with the project it developed quickly and I know some portions of the site
build could have been better or more engaging. I hope to use this as a
beginning step as instructor and designer of online learning and distance
education. It was great practice in understanding what it takes to make a
site engaging and meaningful for the learner and the instructor to participate
in.

The final project of the course is this Course Portfolio where we are to
reflect on each assignment completed and the impact it had on our learning
about distance education and online learning. This incorporated several
objectives that provided and in-depth examination of distance education
through the development of the portfolio. This was important to me because
it allowed me time to reflect about my work and where I could have done
better or areas that I found success in. I look to use electronic portfolios or
e-portfolios as a better description as a way for students, even at an
elementary level, to keep their learning organized and able to share with
others.

III. Summary
In closing, this course was challenging for several reasons such as
time, project development, and the gaining of new insight into distance
education. The first, was the condensed time frame in which the course was
administered. This wasnt a terrible problem just something where time-
management became a major focus. The second, was that there were
several projects working concurrently. This was overwhelming at first, but
when I looked at it as a way to practice real-world experience as a designer
or instructor working several projects seemed pretty normal. The next one
was the intensity of the research and reflection projects. However, after
taking ET780 as a Maymester, I felt prepared and competent to conduct
meaningful research to complete the research synthesis project and others
that required reflections and summarizations in small group discussions.
Overall, I found that this course was very successful and know that it will
serve me well in the completion of this degree program and in the future as
an educational technologist.