Sunday, 15 May 2011

M4T-A: Week 4 Readings

I've been going through two of the suggested readings in Week 4: Success factors in online teaching and Nine principles for excellence in web-based teaching

Not surprisingly, they both emphasise the need to engage learners by using materials that are relevant to their needs and to the learning objectives. Both of them also stress the importance of creating a supportive and safe environment for learners to achieve their goals. 
  • Success factors in online teaching  
This presentation states that, as online learning entails isolation and a need for time management skills, technical skills and computer access, it is essential to provide a collaborative and supportive environment and to ensure the accessibility of the course materials. In this medium, the role of the mentor becomes crucial for engaging and supporting learners. Success depends on learning resources that are relevant, challenging, but achievable, and easy to navigate. 

Providing support and feedback by means of regular meetings becomes central in this context. The presentation illustrates the point by referring to an experience in which several tools were used to this effect:
Gmail: to profit from a wide variety of Google apps by creating a Google account.
Google Calendar: one of the many Google apps, useful to schedule and view events. for mentors to add events to calendars, and check preferred meeting times. Good tool for selecting event times convenient to the majority of the students.
FlashMeeting: to hold group meetings as a way to foster collaboration and a sense of belonging, as well as to provide opportunities to clarify doubts
my.TAFE: for students to receive announcements and see them in the Google calendar.
redcoal: to send meeting reminders by sms text with the link to the meeting, and feedback on marked assignments.

  • Nine principles of online education
This article elaborates a bit more on the subject, outlining nine principles that are essential for online education to become a successful experience.
  1. The online world is a medium unto itself: materials need to be designed with the web dynamics in mind, providing clear guidelines to navigate them.
  2. In the online world content is a verb: learners need to be actively involved with the content in order to master it. Rather than merely providing content, the instructor needs to design tasks and assignments that learners can engage with in order to meet the course objectives.
  3. Technology is a vehicle, not a destination: tools must be chosen taken into account how they can help to meet the learning objectives, and they need to be constantly evaluated to make pedagogically informed decisions for their implementation.
  4. Great online courses are defined by teaching, not technology: a successful online course presupposes clearly stated objectives and goals, regular and individual contact and feedback.
  5. Sense of community and social presence are essential to online excellence: it is crucial to develop a sense of community to make up for the lack of face to face contact and so that the learner can be percieved as real person.
  6. Excellence requires multiple areas of expertise: excellent instruction must be accompanied by technical expertise to ensure that the contents can be properly delivered and accessed.
  7. A great web interface will not save a poor course; but a poor web interface will destroy a potentially great course: it is necessary to articulate a clear guide to lead students through the course.
  8. Excellence comes from ongoing assessment and refinement: course effectiveness and efficiency should be regularly and systematically reviewed so as to obtain diagnostic feedback.
  9. Sometimes the little extras go a long way:  additions such as exemplars, rubrics, guides, tutorials, personal email messages, calendar reminders, audio clips and video segme

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