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classes, but there are some differences. In an online course, students access the course materials over the Web at any time of day or night. Often much of the information students acquire in the course comes from the class textbook (if one is assigned) and other readings, along with what they get from library research, Internet resources, CD-ROMs, and other resources. Most importantly, students in an online course depend on conferencing software, email, and other asynchronous modes of communication for the interaction they have with each other and with the instructor. This interaction is the core of the course. In an online course, students cannot simply raise their hand to ask a question as they would in a classroom. Email and conferencing software more than make up for this, since having to type out a question forces more reflection before posting it. In addition, thanks to the flexibility of the Web, students will never miss vital class discussions. They can log on and access class materials and discussions at virtually any time of day. Finally, the potential for collaborative work and small-group discussions among students who may never meet face-to-face is what makes Web-based courses so exciting and so powerful an educational format.
How does this all come together in practice? Here's a step by step example of what happens accompanied by a figure to illustrate the concepts being discussed:
1. Students enroll in your online course(s) via your school's registration procedures. 2. Students receive their usernames and passwords allowing them access to the course materials. They also purchase the textbook (if required) and other materials from the college bookstore or other source.
3. Each week, for the duration of the course, the instructor assigns units and materials from the course Web site, readings from the textbook and other print materials, writing assignments, group projects, and other activities. Students work on their own time, going over the online course material from any personal computer with Web access, whether it's at school, at home, at work, or in the library. They submit completed assignments via email. 4. Students communicate electronically with each other and the instructor several times a week. Of course, email, voicemail, fax, and telephone are also viable means of communication, but the heart of an asynchronous Web-based course will take place in the online discussion room. Instructors use many strategies to promote communication online which help ensure student participation and achieve maximum effectiveness in online discussions. 5. At appropriate times the instructor tests student retention of the material. Many Webbased courses have short online Self-Tests for each unit that students use to evaluate their own progress. Also, many textbook companies provide accompanying web quizzes as ancillary materials to the text. Usually an instructor will give mid-term and final exams and/or assign projects. Depending on the school's examination policies, the instructor may need to make suitable arrangements for issuing and proctoring these exams. 6. Students are assessed and graded on a combination of factors – test/quiz scores, individual and group project grades, homework, participation in class discussions, etc. ASSESSING LEARNING OBJECTIVES BLOOM'S TAXONOMY Bloom's Taxonomy provides a useful structure in which to categorize test questions when assessing student learning. The table below describes skills demonstrated for each level of thinking according to Bloom as well as question cues that can be used to elicit student responses within that level. The same content information can be assessed at different levels of cognition. Here are some examples of test questions reflecting the six levels of learning according to Bloom.
Skills Demonstrated • • • • • observation and recall of information knowledge of dates, events, places knowledge of major ideas mastery of subject matter Question Cues: list, define, tell, describe, identify, show, label, collect, examine, tabulate, quote, name, who, when, where, etc.
• • • • • • •
understanding information grasp meaning translate knowledge into new context interpret facts, compare, contrast order, group, infer causes predict consequences Question Cues: summarize, describe, interpret, contrast, predict, associate,
distinguish, estimate, differentiate, discuss, extend
• • • •
use information use methods, concepts, theories in new situations solve problems using required skills or knowledge Questions Cues: apply, demonstrate, calculate, complete, illustrate, show, solve, examine, modify, relate, change, classify, experiment, discover
• • • • •
seeing patterns organization of parts recognition of hidden meanings identification of components Question Cues: analyze, separate, order, explain, connect, classify, arrange, divide, compare, select, explain, infer
• • • • •
use old ideas to create new ones generalize from given facts relate knowledge from several areas predict, draw conclusions Question Cues: combine, integrate, modify, rearrange, substitute, plan, create, design, invent, compose, formulate, prepare, generalize, rewrite
• • • • • •
compare and discriminate between ideas assess value of theories, presentations make choices based on reasoned argument verify value of evidence recognize subjectivity Question Cues: assess, decide, rank, grade, test, measure, recommend, convince, select, judge, explain, discriminate, support, conclude, compare, summarize
ONLINE INSTRUCTION - IMPORTANT POINTS TO CONSIDER Course Organization In a traditional face-to-face course, the instructor often has complete control over the organization of his/her own course. The online instructor is central too, but not alone in setting up the organization and management of the course. New administrative skills are necessary for the online instructor to coordinate institutional, pedagogical, and technological demands.
Lesson Presentation If you think an online course is simply a traditional face-to-face course replicated on a computer screen, think again! Long lectures are not effective online. A successful Internet course will reflect the communicative nature of the online environment and incorporate resources from the outside world. For example, the discussion element of an online course should be a major component and links to related resources and support material should be a standard feature in lesson presentation. Class Communication The instructor really has to work at promoting student discussions in an online course, perhaps more so than in a face-to-face course. Facilitating and moderating group discussions may be necessary, especially to help different student subgroups blend together. One way is to incorporate collaborative learning activities online by asking students to work together in small groups. Time Allocation Teaching an online course saves the instructor time which would otherwise be spent in a classroom lecturing. However, it also requires time online devoted to conferencing with the class and emailing individual students. The asynchronous nature of an online course offers more flexibility in terms of interacting with the course materials and participants both for the instructor and the students. Technical Support Knowledge has become more and more specialized; no one seems to know it all anymore. Technological personnel are experts with server software and hardware but don’t know what you’re trying to teach, how you want to teach it, or what your students know so far. Administrative personnel know who the students are and how important their satisfaction is, but they don’t know how to answer your technological questions. You’re in the middle and will sometimes have either handle technology or administrative issues yourself or know when to redirect questions to the proper resources. "Open Entry" – "Open Exit" Online courses can be set up to allow "Open Entry" and "Open Exit" in terms of when the class begins and when it ends. Web-based courses depend on a real-live instructor and interaction with fellow students to create valid educational experiences. Successful online courses should not be canned, self-paced tutorials that deliberately eliminate contact with other human beings. It is best to offer online courses over a full academic term. This allows students time to cover and assimilate the material, collaborate with fellow students learning the same topics at the same time, and work on projects and papers together and independently at a reasonable rate. Spreading a course out over ten to fifteen weeks also suits the many adult learners with other responsibilities and only a limited amount of time to devote to their studies. Laboratories Web-based courses with required labs might be taken by traditional on-campus students who have chosen to take an online course for the sake of its convenient asynchronicity. These students can simply complete their lab assignments on campus in the usual way. Students who are truly Distance Learners must make other arrangements to fulfill their lab requirements. They may spend one or two Saturdays on campus in specially scheduled all-day lab sessions, do their lab work at a local high school or other nearby facility, or run experiments at home using a lab kit provided by the college. The challenge of running lab sessions for off-campus students is one that all forms of Distance Education, whether correspondence, ITV, video, radio, etc., must face. Creativity and flexibility are the keys to serving the needs of a geographically dispersed student population.
Assessment Assessment in should reflect the online medium in which the course is taught, and traditional testing procedures may not be practical in an online environment. Online test monitoring is still a technological challenge, however there are strategies you can use to help minimize cheating online. For example make exams open book and ask questions that require students to synthesize, analyze, or apply information from the class discussions, lecture-presentations, and text in order to solve problems or explain procedures. This forces students to use higher order thinking skills and permits you to assess whether they have learned the course material. Developing Objectives and Instructional Strategies Interactive Activity Learning objectives should be stated in terms that require an action on the part of students. Objectives stated in a form that does not allow observative behavior means that we cannot actually assess whether or not a student meets those criteria, and students cannot measure whether or not they have met those criteria. Participating in the activity below will help you to develop behavioral objectives that students can be expected to follow and comprehend. What is the purpose of your course? (for example, self-enrichment, degree program, core course, etc)
What are the likely characteristics of students in the class?
What are the general topics students will be expected to learn? List ONE specific Learning Objective for your course. Use the ABCD model. Now, list what students would be expected to do to demonstrate they had mastered this Objective. Use the verbs in this list to help you associate the skill with what the student does. 1. 2. 3. What instructional strategies and learning activities do you use in your face-to-face class to help students organize and learn the material for the objective named above? How do you provide feedback? How do you assess their learning?
How can technology assist you to perform the same activities or to introduce different activities to accomplish what you do in the traditional classroom? How would you provide feedback? How would you assess their learning?
LEARNING STYLES AND THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT Everyone has their own "style" for collecting and organizing information into useful knowledge, and the online environment can be particularly well suited to some learning styles and personality needs. For example, introverted students often find it easier to communicate via computermediated communication than in face-to-face situations. Also, the online environment lends itself to a less hierarchical approach to instruction which meets the leaning needs of people who do not approach new information in a systematic or linear fashion. Online learning environments are used to their highest potential for collaborative learning which complements many students' learning styles, and independent learners have also found online courses to be well suited to their needs. Because learners have different learning styles or a combination of styles, online educators should design activities that address their modes of learning in order to provide significant experiences for each class participant. In designing online courses, this can best be accomplished by utilizing multiple instructional strategies. Below is a table of the most common learning styles. These descriptions reflect different channels of perception (seeing, hearing, touching/moving): Learning Style Visual/Verbal Visual/Nonverbal Auditory/Verbal Tactile/Kinesthetic Preference for information acquisition Prefers to read information Uses graphics or diagrams to represent information Prefers to listen to information Prefers physical hands-on experiences
Visual/Verbal Learners: These people learn best when information is presented visually and in a written form. In a classroom setting, they prefer instructors who use visual aids (i.e. black board, PowerPoint presentation) to list the essential points of a lecture in order to provide them with an outline to follow during the lecture. They benefit from information obtained from textbooks and class notes. These learners like to study by themselves in quiet environments. They visualize information in their "minds' eyes" in order to remember something. The online environment is especially appropriate for visual/verbal learners because most of the information for a course is presented in written form. Visual/Nonverbal Learners: These people learn best when information is presented visually and in a picture or design format. In a classroom setting, they benefit from instructors who supplement their lectures with materials such as film, video, maps and diagrams. They relate well to information obtained from the images and charts in textbooks. They tend prefer to work alone in quiet environments. They visualize an image of something in their mind when trying to remember it.These learners may also be artistic and enjoy visual art and design. The online environment is well suited for this type of learner because graphical representations of information can help them remember concepts and ideas. Graphical information can be presented using charts, tables, graphs, and images. Auditory/Verbal Learners: These people learn best when information is presented aurally. In a classroom setting, they benefit from listening to lecture and participating in group discussions. They also benefit from obtaining information from audio tape. When trying to remember something, they often repeat it out loud and can mentally "hear" the way the information was explained to them. They learn best
when interacting with others in a listening/speaking activity. Online learning environments can complement these learners' style. Although most information is presented visually (either written or graphically), group participation and collaborative activities are accomplished well online. In addition, streaming audio and computer conferencing can be incorporated into an online course to best meet the learning style of these students. Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners: These people learn best when doing a physical "hands-on" activity. In the classroom, they prefer to learn new materials in lab setting where they can touch and manipulate materials. They learn best in physically active learning situations. They benefit from instructors who use in-class demonstrations, hands-on learning experiences, and fieldwork outside the classroom. Online environments can provide learning opportunities for tactile/kinesthetic learners. Simulations with 3-Dimensional graphics can replicate physical demonstrations. Lab sessions can be conducted either at predetermined locations or at home and then discussed online. Also, outside fieldwork can be incorporated into the coursework, with ample online discussion both preceding and following the experience. Finally, the online environment is well suited for presentation and discussion of either group or individual projects and activities.
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