Module 3 Reflection

This week I chose to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a web application called Tagxedo. Tagxedo is an online word cloud creator that allows you to customize the shape the word clouds form. A similar common word cloud creator is  Wordle, which allows you to create word clouds, but not to a specific shape.

In Ko and Rossen’s Teaching Online, it talks about different ways of communicating with your students. They mention internal email, external email, instant messaging, texting, chat, whiteboard, and other collaborative tools (Ko and Rossen, 2011). One collaborative tool that allow online meetings for many people is DimDim. This type of resource is great for the institutions that do not provide collaboratie software tools. Unfortunately, this book was written back in 2010 and DimDim was bought by Salesforce.com in early 2011 and no longer offers their services. However, the alternatives today are Google+, Skype, ooVoo, and many other group video conferencing tools. From my experience, I have really enjoyed using Google+ in my graduate studies. I have not yet held a group video conference in teaching my high school students or my continuing education students, but I would love to start doing this.

Currently, I teach a continuing education course for teachers titled “Google Drive Across the Curriculum”. The institution I teach through does not have any type of collaborative software system, so all of my teaching is done through Gmail, Google chat, and Google Drive. This course is a class where students can join at any time and go at their own pace. Because of this, most students are at different stages of the course, and all of my instruction is done through videos, reading, and collaboration with me on their documents. I would like to start incorporating some type of group video conferencing using Google+ once a week or every other week to enhance the learning experience of all my continuing education students.

References

Ko, S., Rossen, S. (2010). Teaching online: A practical guide.(3rd ed.) New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group

Salesforce (2011, January) Salesforce.com acquires Dimdim. Salesforce. Retrieved from http://www.salesforce.com/company/news-press/press-releases/2011/01/110106.jsp

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Adapting to resource levels

One topic that I can relate to is from Chapter 2 of Ko and Rossen. In this, they mention the three typical resource and readiness levels of institutions. When developing a course, it is important to know which phase your institution is in, so that your expectations, assignments, and collaboration all align with what your institution’s network and support can handle.

The first, is the low readiness level where the institution has very little or no experience offering an online course. The technology support department is made up of interns and volunteers that have learned on their own. Instructors create their own sites, and are responsible for their own support. 

The second, is the mid-range scenario where institutions focus their instruction on face-to-face, but offer some blended and online courses on the side. The institution does not have a set course management software system so it’s up to you to decide how to manage your class.

The third, is the high readiness phase where the institution has adopted a management system and all users have a uniform interface. Online courses are featured in the institutions catalog, and face-to-face courses are supported by corresponding websites.

In an ideal world, every institution would be in the high readiness phase, and teaching an online course would be seamless . But the reality is that regardless of the resource and readiness level of your institution, you will always need more support, there will always be a new software or system, and you will have to adapt your teachings based upon the resources you are provided with.

Resources

Ko, S., Rossen, S. (2010). Teaching online: A practical guide.(3rd ed.) New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group

Module 1 Reflection

Designing an effective online course includes many different characteristics. Many of these characteristics are effective regardless if you are teaching in a conventional classroom, entirely online, or in a blended learning environment. I believe Lisa Dawley summarized them best in her book The Tools for Successful Online Teaching. In this, she stresses the importance of engaging students with challenging activities that allow students to collaborate with each other (Dawley,2007). To do this, the instructor needs to provide some type of learning environment platform via social media, Google docs, or similar that are centered around collaboration. Through these platforms, students will not only be able to collaborate amongst each other, but will also have access to a multitude of other resources. The last characteristics I believe to be essential in an effective online course are open communication with the instructor, and flexible deadlines for assignments. Because of the lack of face-time that goes along with online courses, it is imperative that the instructor is available through multiple avenues of communication such as phone, email, messaging, social media, etc. Most often, the type of student that takes an online course is someone who is very busy and is taking classes in addition to family, work, or other commitments. Because of this, I believe online courses should have recommended dates of completion, rather than firm deadlines.

My readings from Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States 2011 further my belief that learning outcomes in online courses are as good as or better than those for  face-to-face instruction. Two-thirds of all academic leaders believe this as well, and this number continues to increase as more and more institutions start offering online courses. (Allen, 2011) In Going the Distance, they evaluated student to faculty communication, perceived student satisfaction, course pace, and the correlation between the number of online courses an institution offers and their rating of the quality. Through these, they found that the number of students and faculty who prefer the overall quality of online courses is increasing dramatically.
It may be a generalization, but I believe the academic leaders that are not currently on board with online education is due to the fact that their education was most likely done in a traditional classroom rather than online. I would love to see a breakdown of the demographics of academic leaders that are against online education.

Resources

Allen, I.E., & Seaman, J. (2011). Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States 2011. Babson Survey Research Group

Dawley, L. (2007). The Tools for Successful Online Teaching. Hershey, PA: Information        Science Publishing