Dr. Nan Chico
March 1, 2004
High School Independent Studies:
A Hybrid Online Essay Writing Course
My project addresses the final phase of the Online Teaching and Learning Master’s Degree program at California State University at Hayward. I have created an online course web site with an accompanying paper in order to demonstrate my knowledge of online teaching and learning and to show this knowledge applied in the actual course which I have created.
The course web site is located at: http://www.officeinstructor.com/EssayWriting/. The need for putting in a password has been disabled. It is only necessary to click on the link “Enter Password” for access to the course.
The course contains approximately 275 internal pages: web pages, interactive forms and portable document format pages (PDF). In addition, it includes numerous links to web resources. My students and I will not be required to utilize all the mentioned pages and resources; nevertheless, these numerous resources are available for incorporating into the course over time as teaching experience utilizing the course calls for changes to its original structure. This course represents a totally new course from the one I designed earlier in the master’s program. I decided to design a new course after I realized that my original course would not achieve the goals I had set: to have an online course to satisfy the requirements of the master’s project; to have a course resource which I could refer to and utilize in my current teaching position. In essence, as a result of this master’s program I have created two courses. I am, however, only presenting the course titled, “ Independent Study: Essay Writing,” which is associated to the above link, for my master’s project evaluation.
I purposely have not incorporated the use of multimedia or many graphics features in my course. This is because of the very limited bandwidth capacity of the environment in which the course will be used. However, in order to demonstrate my ability to create and incorporate multimedia and graphics into an online course, I am including links to the course I previously created for the program, “High School English.” This course makes use of graphics, streaming video, audio, and PowerPoint slide presentations. The following links lead to examples of multimedia used in that course:
Streaming Video with accompanying alternate (accessible) text version;
The title of my project is, “High School Independent Studies: A Hybrid Online Essay Writing Course.” The project consists of three main components:
1. Creating a custom course management system (CMS);
2. Creating a hybrid distance learning course for teaching high school English – essay writing to independent study high school students presently participating in an on-ground English program; and,
3. Testing the effectiveness of the distance learning course in meeting its goal of giving additional learning opportunities to students participating in an on-ground English program.
I define a “hybrid distance learning course” to mean a course that provides students with learning over both the Internet and in face-to-face meetings with their teacher.
Background Information - Goal of Course
My Hybrid Online Essay Writing Course was created to teach independent study students in grades nine through twelve, how to write essays. Presently, these students are enrolled in an independent study program in which they are taking all of their required high school courses. The current schedule arrangement is that each student comes to school for only one hour each week to meet with their teacher, me, to receive and turn in assignments, to take tests and discuss questions regarding all of their courses. The rest of the week they work independently at home, having no further contact with the school or their teacher. They have no opportunity for student interaction or to participate in discussions. The limited amount of time students physically attend school impacts on their teacher’s ability to provide lessons and other resources that could enrich their learning. The students represent a cross section of learner levels, from remedial to accelerated. Their school is in the California school system which is presently undergoing severe budget cutbacks. The effect of these cutbacks is a reduced supply of textbooks and learning materials. In addition, the school district where this course will be conducted has no funds to pay for a Course Management System (CMS.)
Rationale for the Project
The purpose of this project is to study whether on-ground, independent study high school students can participate in and benefit from online instruction.
Although I must teach all the required high school courses to my students in the one hour per week I meet with each of them, I have chosen to focus on creating a hybrid course that teaches the high school essay. In my opinion, the study of essay writing has the most universal benefit to all students and makes the most useful online course to create. My course offers students the opportunity to improve in the following areas:
· essay writing and reading skills;
· computer and Internet skills;
· preparing for the High School English Exam;
· interacting with other students;
· working and collaboration with other students;
· communicating with each other via writing; and,
· preparing for future online classes.
Approach to the Project
A small group of students will be evaluated to determine if they are qualified to participate in the hybrid course. The course is constructed using various principles and applications that I have learned in the CSUH Online Teaching and Learning Master’s Program, for example: VARK Learning Styles and threaded discussions.
Prior to taking the course, students will be given a Star Reading Test to evaluate their reading levels. Students will also be given a computer skills test. In addition, they will receive surveys to complete which will relate to their experiences with learning English, their perceptions of Online Learning and their expectations for the course. Throughout the course, students will be surveyed about their experiences taking the course. During the students’ weekly on-ground visits with me, students are to be interviewed and observed utilizing the online component. At the end of the course, students will have a final interview regarding their experiences with the course. Students also will take the Star Reading Test again to see if their reading levels have improved. Throughout the course, students will be provided with lessons and tests. These tests are to be collected and evaluated regarding the effectiveness of the course. At the conclusion of the project, the course will be evaluated, in part based on the collected materials. Improvements to the course will be then be recommended.
Course Design Issues
My hybrid course is designed for high school students in a multi-grade setting. The course syllabus meets and exceeds the essay writing requirements of the school district in which I am teaching. The course is also designed so that students will have the opportunity to:
· improve their computer skills;
· interact and hold discussions with other students over the Internet;
· display and discuss their essays and projects in different forums; and,
· prepare for the California High School Exit Exam (for those needing to pass it.)
Since the school district has no funding available for a commercial CMS, the course is hosted on a web site I have created. The web site has many of the elements found on a commercial CMS. This web site will function as the CMS. In addition, my CMS is designed for ease of use by the students.
There are a number of legal issues that will be addressed regarding the participation of minors in an online course, including, ownership of student posts in discussions, rights to privacy and censorship.
A characteristic of my school district’s independent study program is that students are enrolling throughout the year. There is no official first day of school. To accommodate this situation, this English course is designed to be flexible and permit students to join and begin participation at anytime throughout the year. This is a significant factor in the design of the course.
Students continue to meet with me one hour each week at the school, in order to participate in their other high school classes. In this meeting, a certain amount of time is given to discussing issues related to the course.
Due to this course being the pilot, initial enrollment will be limited to no more than ten students. The course will have a duration of eleven lessons, rather than weeks.
This is a review of a variety of publications that present information relevant to my project.
In order for students to receive high school credits for participating in a course, state-mandated standards must be incorporated into the course. The following list is English Language Arts Content Standards from the California Department of Education. These standards apply to grades nine thru twelve.
1.0 Word Analysis, Fluency, and Systematic Vocabulary Development
2.0 Reading Comprehension (Focus on Informational Materials)
3.0 Literary Response and Analysis Writing
1.0 Writing Strategies
2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics) Written and Oral English Language Conventions
1.0 Written and Oral English Language Conventions Listening and Speaking
1.0 Listening and Speaking Strategies
2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)
(California Department of Education.)
There are many free resources available to assist the course developer in creating lessons that will comply with these standards. One free resource is provided by the San Diego County Office of Education. It has placed online, for use by educators, a series of lessons called CyberGuides.
These are supplementary, standards-based, web-delivered units of instruction centered on core works of literature. Each CyberGuide contains a student and teacher edition, standards, a task and a process by which it may be completed, teacher-selected web sites and a rubric, based on California Language Arts Content Standards. (San Diego County Office of Education)
Multi-grade Instruction in a Hybrid Online Class
In many Independent Study programs, the teacher works concurrently with students in grades nine thru twelve. The teacher is required to create a unique learning environment that accommodates this heterogeneous group of students. “The challenge for the multi-grade teacher is to meet the individual needs of students in a classroom setting characterized by multiple levels of ability achievement and social and physical development.” (Susan Vincent)
Ms. Vincent goes on to say that:
In multi-grade instruction, children of at least a two year grade span and diverse ability levels are grouped in a single classroom…Students can be taught specific strategies that help them make decisions and solve problems on their own, process information effectively, become reflective about their thinking and learning processes, set their own goals for personal development, and plan ways to achieve these goals…As the multi-grade teacher emphasizes self-directed learning, a more efficient learning environment is created.
The opportunity for a course to be presented in a hybrid online class environment creates the potential for benefits beyond the traditional on-ground classroom. In her paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, Lynn M. Smelser states:
The growth of the Internet and other technologies has teachers finding themselves once again moving away from the “traditional classroom” into educational domains that have no physical boundaries and incredible potential for interaction and collaboration among classroom participants. A hybrid course maximizes this potential by offering two very different environments – the traditional physical classroom and the online space of the Internet – for course members to interact with one another and the course material, thus creating expanded opportunities for uniquely reaching students with different learning styles, backgrounds, and educational goals.
Learning Styles and Online Learning
There are definite benefits that can be achieved when a course designer is cognizant of various learning styles. Studies have shown improvement in student understanding of information when courses are designed with consideration to different learning styles. Diana J. Muir performed research “to determine if online learning could be adapted to individual learning styles and if that made a difference in standardized testing scores of Internet students.” The study showed online learning to be adaptive. Muir states that the “Ideal” online course should include: “…Teacher strategies which address all learning styles, activities that adapt to different learning styles…”
An approach to course design that gives consideration to learning styles is taken thru the use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI.) Harvey J. Brightman discusses “the four dimensions underlying the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and several teaching approaches that will appeal to different MBTI profiles.”
The High School Student
Are high school students prepared for the demands of taking online courses? What type of expectations should there be for student participation and performance? Ron J. Hammond studied high school and college students’ ability to learn online. “High school students had more complaints about interactive learning… They value interactive classes more than college students, yet do not perform as well…and found the interactive courses to be difficult.”
Prior to enrolling students in a distance learning program, they should be assessed as to their ability to participate. This may be done using a questionnaire pertaining to students’ independent study skills and computer experience. “To avoid failure and inefficacious pedagogy in Web-based environments, potential students should respond formally to a set of criteria.” (Elizabeth A. Buchanan)
In order for students to obtain the maximum benefit from a course, a substantial amount of investigation and planning must go into the developing it.
Instructors must create instruction that supports active learning. The learning environment must ensure that the learners are provided with a specific context, clear goals and objectives based on defined needs and instructional strategies that reflect their needs and interests. Strategies should include problem solving, collaboration and partnering. (American Distance Education Consortium)
The online environment is unique in many ways and this should be addressed in the course design. However it is important for the instructor to be aware that the basic principles which foster a successful on-ground course remain the same for the online course.
Many of the best practices employed by classroom instructors can and should be employed in the online environment. All instructors should consider student needs and interests when creating and delivering courses…All instructors must consider the human element in whatever environment they are instructing. (Roger Powley)
Student Qualifications and Standards
Students must meet certain qualifications in order to participate in the course:
· have a home computer which meets hardware and software requirements;
· have a reliable home Internet connection; and,
· be proficient in their computer and Internet skills.
Prior to the start of the course, students will be required to attend an orientation session that explains how to log on and utilize the online component of the course. Students must agree to meet requirements regarding interaction with each other (to participate in discussion and chats), academic honesty and attendance.
The course is an elective in our independent study program; therefore, it has a great deal of flexibility in meeting any requirements of the California Department of Education in order to award high school course credit to the participating students. The content of the course is basically determined by me.
Essay Writing Elements of the Course
· basics of paragraph construction
· components of the five paragraph essay
· reading and evaluating essays
· writing essays.
Additional Course Specific Requirements
Students will be required to:
· type all assignments using Microsoft Word;
· take timed reading and writing tests;
· participate in common discussion topics;
· participate in chats; and,
· participate in a Star Reading test to determine student’s reading level.
Students will utilize a variety of applications in order to communicate with each other and complete assignments including:
· threaded discussions;
· telephone conferences;
· face to face meetings.
Multi-grade, Multi-skill Level Assignments
Students participating in this course are in different grade levels. They represent different skill levels in the subject of English. However, the course has been created to allow for this heterogeneous grouping.
Evaluation of Course
Data will be obtained for later evaluation of the course by utilizing the following:
Surveys are conducted over the duration of the course. Surveys are given to the participating students. Survey One will take place prior to the start of the course. The remaining surveys are conducted during and at the end of the course.
· I will make notes on student feedback (both solicited and unsolicited) throughout the course.
· I will observe students using the CMS.
· Star Reading Test Results
· Reading test scores will be documented prior to and upon completion of the course.
Student Work Samples
Student work samples will document student ability to produce, for example, a five paragraph narrative essay prior to and upon completion of the course.
Interviews with Students
Information gathering interviews will be conducted at the conclusion of the course.
Revision of Course
I will evaluate the course when it has concluded and make recommendations for its revision:
· organize a database of the Course Evaluation data;
· decide on main categories of the course to be evaluated;
· review the data;
· make recommendations for improving the course; and,
· reference items within the course that correlated directly to results of the Course Evaluation data.
The Prospect of My School District Using My Course:
Interview with My School District’s Director of Alternative Education
As part of the master’s program, I received an assignment to write a proposal to my school district recommending the creation of an online learning program. An element of the assignment was to interview one of my school’s administrators in order to investigate her thoughts on setting up such program. I went to my interview with the administrator with preconceptions of how I would like to set up a program. However, one of the outcomes of the interview was that I became aware of major obstacles to creating a program at this time.
Interview with Director of Alternative Education
I interviewed the Director of Alternative Education of our school district. The district is located in Northern California. The interview took place on May 20, 2003. I utilized an unstructured interview approach. This interview method, “does not involve a detailed interview guide. Instead, the interviewer asks questions that gradually lead the respondent to give the desired information.” (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2003, p. 240)
The following are her opinions and thoughts, paraphrased, as they relate to creating an online learning program in the school district:
· Much consideration is now being given to the benefits of incorporating online teaching into school programs. This is being done by state officials in Fresno, California.
· It is going to take time for online teaching to become integrated into public schools. It will require more teachers and administrators who are skilled in the use of computers and who have been exposed to online education to move up to the highest positions in the system. Presently, many of the highest level administrators do not use email for communications, for example, the superintendent of our school district. Many existing administrators and teachers are not computer literate. The movement towards incorporating online learning in schools will not really take place or be supported until the older non-computer-user educators are replaced by the upcoming computer literate generation.
· Because of the present budget problems within the State of California, it may take another five years, until the year 2008, before online education programs start to become integrated into our school system.
· Regarding teacher training: If certain skills or courses are required by the State in order for a teacher to acquire or maintain teaching certifications, the teacher must pay for these courses. However, if the school requests teachers to participate in a special program, the school will pay for it.
· As many teachers without computer skills retire, new teachers, applying to teach in our program, will be screened to see that they possess computer skills and have been exposed to online learning.
· We should look to fund online programs through grants, rather than plan or depend on receiving money from the State.
· Attention is needed for students in the areas of English and Math. However, these are not viable subjects to teach online. Students would be better served in studying electives online.
She explained that two major obstacles to implementing an online learning program at this time are that the State will not pay schools for students enrolled in online learning courses, and that politically, the California Teacher’s Association (CTA) will not get behind online education. A core group in the CTA feels that online learning will promote the loss of teachers’ jobs. The perception is that class size would be greatly increased.
Schools must provide education on an equal basis to all students. This is called Free Appropriate Public Education or FAPE. This has been the centerpiece of lawsuits based on claims that students have not been given equal access to educational opportunities. Applying this to distance education, many students will not be able to participate because many do not have access to computers. In addition, there is also the whole area of providing equal access to the disabled.
As of result of this interview, I realize that it will not be possible anytime soon to set up an online teaching and learning program in my school district. At this time, there are just too many obstacles. However, it still remains apparent that a distance learning program would be an excellent option to offer our students. Because of this I decided to create a course which would be given on an elective basis. I concluded that I would have to be solely responsible for the construction and operation of the course.
Course Management System
Rather than use a commercial CMS, I have custom designed one using Microsoft FrontPage. I did this for a number of reasons, one being I want to have a low operating cost and the other being that I want to have the ability to control the users’ experience as much as possible. By creating my own CMS, I felt I could accomplish both of my goals. I made particular efforts to provide a medium that presents the course materials clearly including use of fonts, complementary colors, tables and columns, navigations system, illustrations, discussion areas, and various content areas.
The CMS will have most of the tools that are found in commercial systems. It will provide a platform that supports the following:
· Password login
· Announcement page
· Discussion boards
· Ability to display web pages
· Course documents
· Creation and storage of forms
· Display of multimedia
· Site navigation
In creating the CMS I have taken into account the end users: high school students.
The characteristics of the CMS are as follows:
· It is very easy to understand and navigate.
· It presents all the necessary information on one page with links to secondary pages.
· It has a an easy-to-use interface.
· It presents the course material in a way that is friendly and familiar to a high school student.
· It is highly flexible and adaptable to future needs.
· I can provide any necessary technical support which may be required.
Teaching and Learning Theories Embodied Within the Design Of the Course
There are many theories and philosophies associated with understanding and improving the educational experience. They aid in addressing and meeting the needs of learners. They help in producing higher levels of cognition, where students are required to demonstrate an understanding of ideas and concepts. As the course designer, my objective has been to incorporate many elements of these theories into the approaches I have used in creating lessons. For the most part, I have accomplished this. However, due to both the limitations of online Internet media and the constraints of my setting a necessary time limit for developing my course, it has become evident that it is impossible to effectively create lessons that embody all the principles I would like to have into the course. The most any teacher, including myself, can do is attempt to create the best lessons possible, utilizing the resources available.
The following are educational principles and theories that I have attempted to include within the design of my course:
Objectivist and Constructivist learning and teaching:
Jonanson (1991) explains that,
The objectivist approach to learning establishes that classes are usually driven by "teacher-talk" and depend heavily on textbooks for the structure of the course. There is the idea that there is a fixed world of knowledge that the student must come to know. Information is divided into parts and built into a whole concept. Teachers serve as pipelines and seek to transfer their thoughts and meanings to the passive student. There is little room for student-initiated questions, independent thought or interaction between students. The goal of the learner is to regurgitate the accepted explanation or methodology expostulated by the teacher.
In contrast to the objectivist approach is the constructivist approach. Glaserfeld, (1995) states that,
Learning emphasizes the process and not the product. How one arrives at a particular answer, and not the retrieval of an “objectively true solution” is what is important. Learning is a process of constructing meaningful representations, of making sense of one's experiential world. In this process, students' errors are seen in a positive light and as a means of gaining insight into how they are organizing their experiential world. The notion of doing something 'right' or 'correctly' is to do something that fits with "an order one has established oneself."
Jonassen (1991) notes that many educators and cognitive psychologists have applied constructivism to the development of learning environments. From these applications, he has isolated a number of design principles:
· Create real-world environments that employ the context in which learning is relevant;
· Focus on realistic approaches to solving real-world problems;
· The instructor is a coach and analyzer of the strategies used to solve these problems;
· Stress conceptual interrelatedness, providing multiple representations or perspectives on the content;
· Instructional goals and objectives should be negotiated and not imposed;
· Evaluation should serve as a self-analysis tool;
· Provide tools and environments that help learners interpret the multiple perspectives of the world;
· Learning should be internally controlled and mediated by the learner.
Use of Both Constructivist and Objectivist Approaches in my Course
My course utilizes both the constructivist and the objectivist approaches to learning. From the constructivist point of view, the lessons I have created direct students to work on their own, perform research and arrive at their own conclusions. They later report on and share and discuss their findings. In subsequent lessons, I present my own answers to the same research questions the students have worked on. I tell the students what minimum learning outcomes I want them to take away from the lessons. I also discuss the students’ earlier conclusions and acknowledge their findings and contributions. Utilizing this approach blends the students’ and my conclusions together. I believe this dual approach is both effective and practical.
The learning environment must ensure that the learners are provided with a specific context, clear goals and objectives based on defined needs, and instructional strategies that reflect their needs and interests. Strategies should include problem solving, collaboration and partnering. (American Distance Education Consortium, 2001)
Conditions of Learning
My course incorporates many of the instructional events that address the Conditions of Learning as described by R. Gagne:
“Gain attention, identify objective, recall prior learning, present stimulus, guide learning, elicit performance, provide feedback, assess performance, and enhance retention.”
The course clearly reflects one of the instructional events, “identify objective,” with each lesson having learning objectives clearly stated.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
An example of this: In addressing the needs of the “Perceptive Student” (as defined in the MBTI profiles) large projects will be broken into smaller segments with multiple deadlines, thereby helping to keep the “Perceptive Student” up-to-date on his or her large project. I have tried to best accommodate different learning styles in my course: students read and write; create illustrations of concepts (visual); hear tape recorded evaluations to their essay assignments, rather than receiving only written feedback (aural.)
Learning Styles as presented by VARK (Neil D. Fleming, Christchurch, New Zealand and Charles C. Bonwell, Green Mountain, Colorado, USA. This)
· Visual Study Strategies (V)
· Aural Study Strategies (A)
· Read/write Study Strategies (R)
· Kinesthetic Study Strategies (K)
Multimodal Study Strategies (MM)
This is one teaching and learning concept I find enlightening and highly useful for developing lessons.
· 10% of what they read
· 20% of what they hear
· 30% of what they see
· 50% of what they see and hear
· 70% of what they say
· 90% of what they say and do
In designing my course, I have tried to incorporate these principles. For example: students are asked to post their work, describe and discuss their work, comment on each others’ work and interact with each other in many different ways. Doing this helps bring the students into the 90% category of the learning cycle.
To state once again, there are many theories regarding learning. It has been and remains my goal to try to incorporate into my course, as many good ideas and principles as I can.
Elements in the Course Design
Lesson design overview:
· Lessons contain clearly stated goals and objectives.
· A lecture section.
· Clear assignments which have been divided into sections.
· Each assignment section has an assessment value.
· There are clear standards for grade assessment.
· Lessons require participation in:
o Group activity.
o Partner activity.
· Each lesson requires students to utilize the Internet for research and communications.
· The hybrid aspect of the course requires students to participate in some lesson activities face-to-face with me or with other students.
Lessons have been planned with particular attention to the following considerations:
· What important ideas and concepts do I want my students to learn?
· What should my students be able to do as a result of taking the course?
· What types of course activities will best implement my goals?
Students are required to contribute to group projects. Working and communicating together makes them part of community building: collaborative experiences as well as interpersonal, socializing experiences.
Lesson example: Students will work with partners and collaborate on assignments. They will interact with each other, discussing and evaluating and helping each other with their work.
Many lessons will attempt to include illustrations (visual), sound/voice (aural) , read/write (written materials), and a chance to do or teach what they have learned (kinesthetic).
Lesson example: Student will work with a partner. Each partner will attempt to explain to the other a principle of constructing an essay. The two partners will also answer a number of directed questions. Initially, they will work only via email or in a discussion area. Later (the next day,) they will be asked to speak to each other, either meeting in person or over the phone to discuss the subject matter. They will later be tested on their knowledge of the subject. In this way, students will be utilizing many of their senses in the learning process.
Intrapersonal Lesson (works alone)
Many lessons require the students to work on their own. Later they may be required to report their findings and enter into discussions with their fellow students. This will demonstrate an understanding of ideas and concepts.
Lesson example: Students work alone, writing essays. When they have completed their assignment they must display them in the discussion area for other students to read and comment on.
Lessons to Improve Students’ Written Communication
Use of both asynchronous threaded discussions and email along with possible synchronous chats will contribute to greatly improving students’ ability to communicate in writing.
Students Create Lessons for Themselves and Each Other
The instructor is not the only one who can create lessons. When students create their own lesson they are involved in the knowledge construction process, they develop multiple ways to think about and solve problems, they have a realistic content for participation in academics, they have ownership and a voice in the learning process, they are part of a social experience (Constructivist Learning Environment, National Educational Computing Conference, “Building on the Future” July 25, 2001 – Chicago, IL)
Lesson example: Students are invited to suggest and create lessons.
The Instructor's Role and Student Learning
The present theory regarding teaching online is that the instructor should be a facilitator of learning, rather than a teacher by rote. The instructor should encourage students to be self-directed: research, explore and discover on their own. The point of this is that when students are participating in a self-directed process, they will attain the greatest learning. The instructor should create lessons that require the students to be active learners
“Some ways to act as a facilitator are, in open forums, don’t lead the discussion, guide the discussion and encourage students to participate. Use short, open ended questions or statements to move them through the discussion, or to reflect on their learning.” (National Teachers Enhancement Network 1999 and Stryker, 1999)
The instructor must also monitor student interaction and lack of interaction. When student participation is less than satisfactory, the instructor must take action to modify the student’s activity or possibly remove the student.
The instructor must also provide clear methods of student assessment.
Steps to Building a Successful Learning Community
In order to create a successful community, students are required to consistently participate in all activities. Many activities relate to community building, such as participation in discussions and working in a group or with a partner. In addition, special areas of interest have been created to encourage students’ participation in the community including the game area, the student web site area, and an open discussion forum.
To encourage the community, students are required to be respectful of each other by following rules for participating in online discussions. They are encouraged to initiate discussions in the open discussion forum. They will have the opportunity to create a set of rules for participating in online discussion.
Dr. Roger Powley, states the following activities in order to foster community building activities:
· Progressive round table discussions (Post a question and everyone responds.)
· Role playing
· On-line debates
· Perform case studies
· Problem solving games
· Work on graded projects together
· Assign and also allow students to team up with partners or teams for help or to participate in a project.
Communicating with Each Student
I expect to communicate with each student at least twice a week: once in our face-to-face meeting and once online. It is particularly important that young students know they are both being held accountable and being supported by their teacher. The online environment makes it easier to directly address each student either by email, discussion thread, or alternative communication. Students’ messages and emails should be responded to promptly. If there is a problem, I plan to take whatever steps are necessary to resolve it quickly.
Motivating Students and Keeping Them on Task.
This course is optional for students. It requires students to apply to take it. Therefore, only students who have demonstrated that they have a high level of motivation to participate will be selected. In addition, the course utilizes good teaching practices to motivate and keep students focused on their tasks. The course contains clear standards to hold each student to. The lessons and assignments are clearly written and every attempt is made to make sure students understand what is expected of them. There are realistic time periods set aside for work to be done. I will provide prompt feedback to students. Students are constantly aware of their progress and grade status.
Communicating Standards to Students
Standards are posted in the syllabus and in each lesson regarding what is expected. They are presented as goals of the lesson and in the form of a grading rubric. In addition, feedback is given to students in the form of direct contact and through work that has been evaluated.
Assessments should be used not only for the purposes of determining and providing grades but also as a teaching tool. My course provides many forms of assessments: quizzes, writing assignments, participation in various activities. Prior to each assessment, students are provided with a rubric or expectations. In this way, the assessment helps to direct the students’ learning experiences, requiring that they understand certain information in order to be successful on tests. In addition, students take assessments and later discuss and compare their answers with other students and their teacher. Going through this process, ultimately, enhances student cognition.
Usability, Readability, Accessibility
In designing both my course and my CMS, I have taken into consideration the good design factors of usability, readability and accessibility. The following are three ways that my course demonstrates its good design approach. The site is very user friendly and provides a clear, easy-to-use navigation system. This is a requirement of usability. To give the text on the site a high level of readability, I have limited the width of columns rather than letting the computer screen determine the size. In the category of accessibility, I have made sure that all the pages are compliant and adhere to the 508 standards.
Usability is the measure of making sure someone of any ability and with any experience can use the website for its intended purpose. For a site to achieve a high usability factor it should do the following:
· Make use of a consistent presentation;
· Provide a site map and user’s position;
· Define key terms, abbreviations, acronyms and specialized language;
· Be predictable - users should be aware of what they must do next;
· Keep the number of actions small, so users can carry out simple tasks;
· Provide helpful feedback about the task they have performed;
· Enable easy searches;
· Make sure users know what will happen when they press a button or select an option based on the information at hand;
· Use link text which is meaningful but brief;
· Use ALT text for all graphics;
· Not use unnecessary ornamentation or embellishments;
· Use common words, not "techno-jargon.”
After reading many articles on the subject, I am offering my opinion on the definition of readability. I believe it is a gauge of how well the author/page designer communicates information, through the medium of a web page, to the reader. Readability is influenced by many elements of page design and writing.
Summarizes information first, later goes into detail.
Content is written clearly and concisely with a unique main idea/purpose/theme.
No wasted words – is written succinctly.
Incorporates various elements of interest in addition to text: colors, graphics. Does not have endless lines of text.
Tries to limit content to one main idea per paragraph.
Organization & Layout
Logically organizes ideas into sections or chunks.
Uses a consistent layout from page to page.
Visually organizes the page into definable sections.
Pages are relatively short, no more than two or three windows.
Incorporates white (blank space) for relief from clutter.
Defines sections by using sub-headings .
Utilizes bulleted lists.
Utilization of Type
Control width of text flowing across screen.
Keep paragraphs short for improved comprehension.
Adequate space between paragraphs; aid in delineating sections.
Adequate contrast of text against background of page.
There are two major standards that are used to judge accessibility: web content accessibility guidelines and U.S. Section 508 and Priority 1 Guidelines. Most U.S. educational sites rely on Section 508. This is the standard I have held my course to. The guidelines follow:
· If you use ASCII art, be sure to include alternate equivalent text, using <abbr> with the "title" attribute. Also provide a link to skip over the ASCII figure. (WCAG 1.1)
· Synchronize alternatives, captions, or auditory descriptions with time-based multimedia tracks. (WCAG 1.4)
· Be sure not to convey information using color alone. Use context or markup as well. (WCAG 2.1)
· Identify language changes in the document. For instance, use "lang" or "xml:lang" to identify a language change. (WCAG 4.1)
· Be sure that equivalents for dynamic content are updated whenever content is updated. (WCAG 6.2)
· Avoid causing screen flicker. Where unavoidable, allow users to control flickering. Four to 59 flashes per second should be avoided as should quick changes from light to dark. (WCAG 7.1)
· If you are unable to make an accessible page, create an alternative page that is accessible, provides the same utility and is updated as frequently as the inaccessible page. Note: this should be considered only as a "last resort". (WCAG 11.4)
· Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for this content. (WCAG 14.1)
· Where navigation links are repeated, provide a method for the user to skip these repetitive links. (508, 1194.22(o))
· If a time-based response is required of the user, provide an alert allowing the user to request more time. (508, 1194.22(p))
Site Analysis and Plans for Course Revision
My course has been designed with revision in mind. I have provided numerous resources regarding subject matter. Each lesson has been developed with lectures, assignments and additional activities. However, until the course is actually used by students, I will not know what works best or what addition information is needed. My plan is to begin the course with Lesson 1 and react to the input I will receive by observing and communicating with my students.
In order to evaluate and revise my course, I am providing three forms: a course walk through, a rubric developed by Chico State University for evaluating online courses and a course fix list. In addition to the above approach to revision, I am also planning to observe students as they use the course on computers and I will have forms to document students’ reactions to the course.
Course Walk Through: Table 1
I am providing the following table as a means to comment on and document observations and impressions a visitor to my course may have. In an effort to improve my course, I will request that my colleagues “take the walk through” the course, utilizing and completing this form. In addition, I too will walk through the course .
The table is divided into two main heading categories, “Looks Good” and “Needs Improvement.”
The next section presents a group of tables that were designed at Chico State University. They attempt to define what a high quality online course look like.
I use these tables to assist in evaluating my course. I have highlighted in yellow my assessments of the course for each of the categories presented in the table. I will use this information to compile a “Fix List” for revising my course.
The Committee for Online Instruction (COI) was formed to address the need for demonstrating quality in online instruction, and for setting some guidelines for developers of online teaching. This committee (originally called CEEOC), comprising 13 faculty, 4 staff, 2 administrators, and 1 student, represented a cross-section of the teaching and learning environment of Chico State. They first met in May of 2002 for three full days during the summer of 2002 to review materials and discuss criteria and categories for evaluating online course components. In order to draw from the expertise of the scholarly community, the committee first reviewed existing best practices, learning styles, and standards (e.g., Graf and Caines' WebCT Exemplary Course Rubric, Bloom's Taxonomy, Chickering & Gamson's 7 Good Teaching Principles); these resources are linked under "Resources for Committee Review, " below.
From these efforts, a rubric was developed, Rubric for Online Instruction. POLS 141, an online course designed by Professor Jim Jacob, was used to test out the feasibility and applicability of the rubric. The Rubric for Online Instruction was presented at the CELT Conference, September 20, 2002, in Chico, CA.
Note: To make it easier to view the pages, please adjust the magnification of your pages to 75%: View > Zoom > 75%.
Fix List & Plans for Revision
Revising my course will be accomplished based upon the following:
· Observations of students using the course interface on the computer.
· Student suggestions and feedback.
· Fellow teacher observations and feedback.
· Administration’s feedback.
· Actual experience teaching with the course.
After having completed the rubric and walk through evaluations as listed above, I have determined a few areas that can use revision and clarification.
In the world of education, much has been written and discussed as to how to determine the best way to provide teaching and learning. Volumes of information exist on the subjects of educational theory versus educational reality, public education versus private education and face- to-face learning versus distance learning. Special terminology has evolved in order to define and discuss educational concepts. Among these concepts, to name a few, are constructivism, behaviorism, objectivism, cognitive, learning styles. Our master’s program presented students with the opportunity to become familiar with many of these concepts and consider how they may be applied within our teaching positions, both face to face and online. In addition, the program presented a multitude of resources to assist us in developing excellent courses and curriculum for our students. We also had the chance to take courses from ten different instructors, participating with, observing and learning from them. And finally, we were given the opportunity to reflect upon our own teaching approaches and explore ways to grow and become better educators. I have, in my course, attempted to incorporate many of these theories, resources and experiences. As I review my course and reflect upon the process of fulfilling the master’s degree, I see that the real challenge of teaching lies in trying to create a balance between incorporating into lessons the best of educational theories and techniques while at the same time, fulfilling the day-to-day requirements of ongoing classes filled with real students.
Student participation in online teaching and learning is appropriate in many settings. Unfortunately at the present time, my job in public education may not allow me to put into practice what I have learned in this master’s program. As my Alternative Education director stated, “The state will not pay schools to teach using distance learning programs,” and “It will be many more years before the evolution of education arrives at the point that the computer is recognized as an essential part of the curriculum.” As I come to grips with this reality, I now realize that if I want to be involved in online teaching and learning, I will have to look beyond my present position in public education.
As I begin to look beyond my present position as a public school teacher, I can see that the course I have created for this project can be utilized to show a prospective employer an example of my ability to create an online course. I can see many opportunities to apply what I have learned in alternative teaching situations, beyond what I presently am involved in. I look forward to exploring these possibilities
Personally, I believe I put forth substantial effort and made a major commitment toward being an excellent student within our master’s program. I believe my online course demonstrates, in part, what I have achieved as a result of participating in this program. I have created a complete multi-use course that can serve in my present school environment as either a fully functional online source of teaching and learning or as a source of reference for on-ground learning. I have also built into the course the attributes of adaptability to change, high functionality and practicality. Without participating in this master’s program, I could never have done this. Looking back at the entire program, I can say that I am very pleased with what I have learned, impressed with the teaching staff I have encountered, enthused with the students I have interacted with and proud of what I have personally achieved.
Finally, as I conclude my last project for the program, I want to than you, Dr. Chico, for the opportunity to participate in the program.
Appendix A – Works Cited
“ADEC Guiding Principles for Distance Learning” American Distance Education Consortium. 2002. 15 Feb. 2003 <http://www.adec.edu/admin/papers/distance-learning_principles.html>
Brightman, Harvey J. PhD. “GSU Master Teacher Program: On Learning Styles.” Georgia State
University Web Site Sept. 1998. Georgia State University. 15 Feb. 2003
Buchanan, Elizabeth A. PhD. “Assessment Measures: Pre-Tests for Successful Distance Teaching and Learning?” Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration Volume II, Number IIII, Winter (1999) 20 Feb. 2003 < http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ buchanan24.html>
Content Standards for California Public Schools. (2003). Retrieved May 27, 2003 from California Department of Education. Web Site: < http://www.cde.ca.gov/standards/>
CSU, Chico's Rubric for Online Instruction. 2003. California State University, Chico. January 2004http://www.csuchico.edu/tlp/webct/rubric/rubric_final.pdf
CyberGuides, Teachers Guide and Student Activities. 2002 San Diego County Office of Education. 28 Feb. 2003 <http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/cyberguide.html>
English-Language Arts-Content Standards for California Public Schools 19, Nov. 2001. California Department of Education. 28 Feb. 2003 < http://www.cde.ca.gov/standards/ reading/>
Fosnot, C. (1996). Constructivism: A Psychological Theory of Learning. In C. Fosnot (Ed.) Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives, and Practice, (pp.8-33). New York: Teachers College Press.
Gall, M. D., Gall, J. D., & Borg, W, R. (2003) . Educational Research an Introduction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Gibbons, H. S., Ph.D., & Wentworth G. P., M.P.A., C.P.A.
“Andrological and Pedagogical Training Differences for Online
Instructors.” (2001) Online Journal of Distance Learning
Administration, Volume IV, Number III. Retrieved May 28,
2003 from State University of West Georgia Web Site:
Hammond, Ron J. “Fine Tuning Interactive Delivery for High School Students in a Rapidly Growing College and Distance Learning System: A Student Readiness Approach.” ERIC ED 429 630 1999. 15 Feb. 2003
“Hybrid Classes: Maximizing Resources and Student Learning.” Teaching-Learning Center. (2002) . Retrieved May 27, 2003 from Durham Technical Community College Web Site: <http://courses.durhamtech.edu/tlc/www/html/Special_Feature/hybridclasses.htm>
Jonassen, D. (1991, September). Evaluating Constructivist Learning. Educational Technology, 36(9), 28-33.
Krug, Steve. Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. Indiana, 2000
Muir, Diana J. “Adapting Online Education to Different Learning Styles.”
ERIC ED 462 940 2001. 20 Feb. 2003
Nielson, Jakob. Be Succinct. 1997, March 15.< http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9703b.html >
Practical Accessibility: Core Concepts. Dartmouth College. 2003. December, 3003 < http://www.dartmouth.edu/~webteach/articles/access.html>
Powley, Roger, CD PhD. “Online Teaching Best Practices.” Innovative Training Solutions Inc. 2001. 15 Feb. 2003 < http://www.itsinc.bc.ca/ amples/Papers/papers_teaching.htm>
Smelser, Lynne M. “Making Connections in Our Classrooms: Online and Off.”
ERIC ED 464 323 2003. 17 Feb. 2003
Vincent, Susan, Ed. “The Multigrade Classroom: A Resource Handbook for Small, Rural
Schools. Book 6: Self-Directed Learning.” ERIC ED 448 983 1999. 20 Feb. 2003
Visualization and Usability Group. National Institutions of Standards and Technology. 2002, May 15 <http://zing.ncsl.nist.gov/WebTools/WebSAT/readability.shtml>
von Glasersfeld, E. (1995). A Constructivist Approach to Teaching. In L. Steffe & J. Gale (Eds.). (1995). Constructivism in Education, (pp.3-16). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc
Web Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. 1999, Watchfire
Corporation. May 5, 2003
Appendix B – Course/Web Site Listing of Internal Pages
Home Page – Black
Home Page - White
New Page 1 - Rubric
New Page 1 – Page Design
Understand the Approach