Hmm. This week’s question is a good one. Our group has been focusing on content design, but we have not spent time (yet) talking about tools. As we have each taken ownership of various modules in the course, my guess is we will embed tools within each module that are appropriate to the content and activities...so they may differ from one module to the next, and from one module-designer to the next.
Since we have not spent time on this particular task related to our course, I’ll use this week’s essential question to think through tools, in general, and the various roles of folks involved in course design...which has been a major “a-ha!” for me during the last few weeks.
This week’s readings highlight the many types of technology platforms, tools, supports, and accessibility features currently available...with so many more on the horizon that it is difficult to imagine what online learning five years from now might look like. I thoroughly enjoy playing around with the tools themselves but quickly become overwhelmed with the “big picture” platform management required for efficient and effective online learning, especially at a systems-level. McClary (2013) provides great insight about the critical nature of “overall institutional vision” in quality distance learning. The selection of a single learning platform, integrated functionality of tools, and uniform usability across classes (and between and among departments) is important for the learner, the teacher, and for the institution as a whole.
Choosing a management system that is “just right,” however, is not the silver bullet to creating a perfect online learning environment. McClary also notes that a “popular learning management system like Blackboard can be used to create high quality course experiences as
For newbies to course design, this is both encouraging and overwhelming. I want someone to tell me which learning management system is the best, which tools are most effective, and which structure will make my course my efficient for both teacher and learner. Obviously, it isn’t this simple!
Access for all students is important—especially for a credit recovery course like the one we are developing for AKLN. Students who are in need of this particular type of class have already failed an English class, and while there may be a number of factors that played into that failure, my experience tells me it is often because the student has poor reading and/or writing skills, has significant attendance issues, or struggles with motivation. Oftentimes, the failure is a result of a combination of these. As a result, our course (and all online courses) must anticipate the need for accessibility supports. The fact that “students with disabilities can’t always access the [e-learning] platforms and are being left behind” (McCrea, 2013) is a current reality that I hope and believe will change rapidly as new technologies develop to streamline accessibility supports for all students. McCrea makes a great point when she states the obvious: “good universal design...precludes the need for future retrofitting.” When a study of online college programs finds that “as many as 80% of all online instructors do not consider the needs of students with disabilities when designing or instructing their courses despite the high percentage of post-secondary students with disabilities,” it is clear that the obvious isn’t as obvious as it should be, and more education is required for course designers to consider the needs of all students from the outset (TeachThought, 2013).
Finally, the “Viewpoint” section at the end of Chapter 4 (Moore and Kearsley , 2012), reminds me that our world is changing more rapidly than most of us can comprehend: “In the decades to come, learning technology will be powerful, ubiquitous, and seamless to the learner—any time and any place.
Corning Incorporated. (2012). A Day Made of Glass 2: Same Day. Expanded Corning Vision. [YouTube video]. Retrieved on 10 Feb 2014 from http://youtu.be/jZkHpNnXLB0
McClary, J. (2013). Factors in high quality distance learning courses. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. Volume XVI, Number 11, Summer 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/summer162/mcclary162.html
McCrea, B. (31 Oct 2013). Who’s serving online learning’s forgotten students? theJournal, October 2013 digital edition. Retrieved from: http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/10/17/whos-serving-online-learnings-forgotten-students.aspx?=THEEL
Moore, M., and Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. [E-Book edition]
Moss, J. (2013). eLearning Technology Compass. [Infographic]. UAF iTeachU. Retrieved from: http://iteachu.uaf.edu/grow-skills/choosing-the-best-technology/
TeachThought Staff. (15 May 2013). 8 helpful assistive technology tools for your classroom. TeachThought. Retrieved on 10 Feb 2014 from: http://www.teachthought.com/technology/8-helpful-assistive-technology-tools-for-your-classroom/