Susan Ko’s book is a fantastic resource. There are so many good ideas in chapter 6, as far as building a course goes. It would also be possible to go overboard with incorporating all of these ideas into your online class. As the saying goes, “Everything in Moderation.”
If you are using a learning management system to build/ deliver your course, one thing I think is particularly helpful is to turn on tracking. Track as much activity as you can – when students have logged in, when they have clicked on links, participated in discussion forums, or turned in assignments. You shouldn’t do this with the idea that you’re going to pore over the data and determin patterns or anything. When there is an issue, however – you don’t think a student has attended your online class, all week, or you want to make sure that they have spent some time in the discussion forums and haven’t just marked everything “read” – you can use the tracking mechanism to help resolve it.
Chapter 7 goes into detail on activities for students. In particular, I think the mention of ice-breaking activities is important. Online learning can be a pretty lonely venture – especially if you get behind – but having that initial opportunity to introduce yourself to your classmates and connect with them is really important. It can solidify your connections for the rest of the term.
Group activities in online coursework aren’t difficult to pull off, but the instructor needs to provide clear guidelines as to the formation of groups, expectations, and suggestions for where and how to work with the groups. Are they going to use a meeting software like Adobe Connect or Elluminate Live!, or are they going to use discussion forums?
I have enjoyed reading through the posts by my classmates, this week – I was introduced to a couple of tools that I had not seen before. The first was Edmodo, a secure social platform for classes. It looks like it is modeled after facebook to some extent. Teachers can set up an account and once they log into Edmodo, they create groups, either within a class or for each class. Once a group is created, a group access code is created. Students use that to create their profiles and access their groups.
Using Edmodo, teachers can set up assignments, have discussions with their students, provide class updates and news items, and more. From my exploration of the program, this morning, I was unable to determine if it was a full-featured learning management system in which an entire online class could be facilitated, or if it was more useful as a tool and supplement for either a face-to-face or online class.
The other tool I learned a little something about was virtual worlds. A couple of my classmates commented on this and though I have messed around with Second Life a little bit, for example, I have never thought too much about it’s uses in education. Jie Huang created a gorgeous presentation using Prezi on the use of virtual world’s in education and you should check it out for her creativity alone. She compares virtual world’s to the real one and describes the characteristics they share. The similarities between the virtual and real worlds are what make it an ideal learning environment.
Something that another classmate commented on was the need for high-performing graphics, in order run virtual worlds such as Second Life. I thought this might be kind of a hindrance in their use, if they were used exclusively in teaching a class, or as a supplement in distance learning. I get the appeal, though. You can interact socially with classmates, you can perform interactive activities online and within the environments. In Second Life in particular, you can pay a fee and actually carve out your own niche – create the landscaping, build a structure, and outfit your avatar’s appearance, clothes, and gestures.
I’d like to start working on my video production for my course module, soon. I am not very skilled in this area. I downloaded a trial version of Articulate Storyline and have just barely started to piece something together – I decided to create a module on finding the slope of a line. I have Adobe Flash available, if I decide to use that, and Microsoft Moviemaker for editing. This field excites me and I can’t wait to be doing online learning full-time, someday soon – teaching classes, designing/ building classes, working with distance faculty professional development, and technical support for distance faculty and students!