Category Archives: Online Teaching and Learning

Design and aesthetics matter when creating your course.

One area that is often overlooked in designing a course is the aesthetics of the course. Clearly this is not as important as the goals and objectives of the course, but a well put together course can help your students navigate the content and activities much easier. The infographic below shows some ways in which you can improve the look of your Moodle course.

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Face-to-Face and Online Learning. Which skills can be taught where?

In an article from the site, guest author Tony Bates shares some thoughts on hybrid learning. Bates begins by explaining that although MOOCs get much of the hype in e-learning, it is hybrid learning that tends to get the most development in Canada. The article explores some different models of hybrid learning that explore different mixes of online and face-to-face learning. By exploring these models in their different mixes we can see that the combination of face-to-face and online differs according to the needs of the course. Tony emphasizes the need to work from outcomes to determine which skills can be completed online and which can be completed in a face-to-face environment. He also notes that in many cases, instructors often underestimate which skills can be completed online and do not require on campus face-to-face meetings.

Read through the full article here:

After reading the article think about your course. Are there areas of your course that could be better served online? Are there aspects of your course that you can determine would not be successful if not in a face-to-face environment?

Can MOOC’s Be Effective as a Multicultural Classroom?

MOOC’s have risen as a new and exciting paradigm of online education. The idea behind MOOC’s is to offer education to more people around the world at a reduced price. In fact the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the majority of professors who wished to teach or be involved in a MOOC did so for altruistic reasons. They see creating courses that can be offered around the world as a good thing that would benefit the global population. And why not see it that way?

However in a guest post by Ghanasshyam Sharma for the Chronicle, we are reminded about the cultural challenges that students of MOOC’s may face. Sharma uses a personal story to explain that wanting to educate on a global basis may be a “delusion”, and that many cultural, social, and economic factors need to be researched before MOOC’s can attempt to make education more global.

The full article from The Chronicle of Higher Education can be found here:

Experimental Online Program is Strategically Aligned with the Right Partners

An experimental online program is available for students at Southern Hampshire University. The university is experimenting with a “competencies” based model that sees students showing their mastery of certain competencies before moving on to the next challenge or competency. The example given in the article by Marc Parry from The Chronicle has a student proving they can use “logic, reasoning and analysis to address a business problem.”

Although this is an innovative step in education reform, assessing student competencies is something that currently occurs in the typical “seat hour” degree completion. Students must prove their competency via projects, exams, essays, or presentations and more. The real power of this model lies in the fact that “seat hours” are not the determining factor. This model could truly allow students to become competent with a skill or skill set in an amount of time that is suitable to the student’s learning ability and life situation. It truly makes learning a skill about the learning and not about the time to complete.

In the article Parry refers to an anomaly that has US state law makers, the white house, and even some private foundations, with a common goal to graduate more students, to do so in more timely manner, and to keep the costs for students lower. The alignment of goals has made funding projects(like the one at Southern Hampshire University) a possibility as the needs for education reform at the political level seem to be bending to accommodate these experiments. In the case of Southern Hampshire University not only was funding needed to get the courses built and optimized for a competency based model, but the ability to award funding to students for non-credit hour courses was also granted. So although funding is a key issue in helping these experimental programs get off the ground, it seems that funding agents need to align goals and strategies with those in the political game to tear down other barriers to education; in this case financial concerns.

This alignment seems to be a good thing for education reform, and education funding, but what about the ideas that are not aligned? Are these ideas ruled out? They are not nessecarily ruled out, but the ones with funding, and that are aligned with political education reforms may get more of the spotlight, causing other reforms or projects to be overshadowed.

What do you think about a competency based program of studies? Are there areas on campus that you could see competency base programs succeed?

Check out the full article by Marc Parry below:

Why would I use Twitter in my course? And how would I implement it?

Twitter is a microblogging tool that has been growing in popularity for many years. It allows users to easily share photos, videos, comments and links. If you are unsure how twitter works, check out the links below.

So how can 140 characters posts in a social media tool be useful to you and your student?

Below are some ways you might think about integrating twitter into your course. This is not an exhaustive list, but there are resource links at the end of this article that provide some other options not explored here.

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Creating Videos for Use in a Class

Posted by: Todd Doucette – Teaching Centre – Digital Media Specialist (Video)

The other day a colleague in our office wanted to talk to me about creating videos for a class on flip teaching (or flipped classroom). He had to explain to me what flip teaching was because I had never heard of it before. What I learned was that flip teaching is where students do work prior to class. In this case it was to watch a video lecture and then come to class ready to discuss the topics in the video. It doesn’t have to be a video can be to read an article, chapter of a book, or anything done prior to the class. Considering my focus at the Teaching Centre is video I was intrigued by the concept.

I wanted to see how I could help the instructor create videos that would help with their teaching. We discussed how we could help and had many ideas, many good, some not bad and some that probably wouldn’t work. We wanted good quality for both video and audio. Many times in creating a video people don’t place enough emphasis on audio. We discussed how to make the videos to a quality that your students can see and hear everything. We talked about delivery, where to post your videos, what formats to export it to. We had many different ideas depending upon your goals so if you are interested in creating videos for your class come to the Teaching Centre and I would be happy to discuss how we can help you.


What is a MOOC?

Post by Brad Reamsbottom – Educational Consultant (Development) – Teaching Centre

One of the biggest trends that is occurring in post-secondary education, is the rise of the MOOC. A MOOC is a Massively Open Online Course. This is a course aimed at attracting large scale participation but often has no credit and tuition associated with it.

MOOCs have formed and are based on a theory of Connectivism.  Connectivism theory states that students are exposed to massive amounts of resources and learning takes place in a chaotic environment. Learning occurs as the student has to identify the resources and make decisions regarding the validity of resources in the course; not only the resources placed by the instructor, but the resources that are posted and created by all the students in the course.

Key features of a MOOC.

1. MOOCs are open and accessible to all

MOOCs are not restricted to who can join. They are open to everyone on the globe. Although registration occurs and usernames and passwords can be generated, this process should not restrict anyone from joining and learning.

2. Participation is required for learning

Although resources can be accessed by anyone in the course, a large portion of the learning takes place from the interactions that take place between users. Users are expected to post reflections, tweet links, and post photos among other interactions.  The interactions are often guided by a question or task.

3.  Distributed using various online technologies

A major part of MOOC success comes from the fact that connections are made among people, ideas and resources.  A MOOC may begin within a single website with forums, but may expand to include social media elements such as twitter feeds, blog posts, and videos.

4. Learners add resources to the network of learning

As stated in the last point, connections are made when the learners post material, ideas and feedback related to content they find and content already available in the course. This helps the learning ecosystem that is a MOOC grow.

5. Focuses heavily on authentic peer evaluation, and peer reflection processes

Because the course takes on an unlimited amount of users, it is hard to build in assessments that are implemented and evaluated solely by the instructor. MOOCs tend to use peer evaluation and peer reflection processes to help students explore and develop ideas and topics covered in the course.

This is very much an authentic process if you compare it to a working environment. For example, lets look at what you could do if you were tasked with exploring and implementing a new office software in your office. Most likely you will do the research to see what is available (identify initial resources, exploration, research).  Then you would ask people what their needs are (conversation and interaction, feedback). You would then explore how these different systems stack up against each other (compare, contrast, explore), while comparing them to your office’s comments and needs.  Finally after incorporating multiple perspectives and resources into the decision making process, you will identify a software suite that would work for your office’s needs (analysis and evaluation).

6. The learner is responsible for their own learning

Learners get what they put in when they sign up for a MOOC. If they are not involved in the interactions of the course; if they only lurk and complete the readings, then likely learning will not be optimal.  They will not be synthesizing, analyzing and creating; this will have great affect on their ability to comprehend the topics of the course.

Because MOOCs are open, there is often no credit associated with them. Evaluation is done through peer interactions and self evaluations. There is no one person or institution responsible for the students evaluation. The student must judge for themselves what learning occurred. Comments on reflections and posts by peers in the course will help students in the self evaluation process. As they incorporate feedback and new resources from their peers into their learning process it helps them form decisions as to what comments are relevant, and what is important to the learning of the key concepts in the course.

7. MOOCs are like ecosystems of learning

The ecosystem begins with initial resources posted on a website within a CMS or LMS possibly, but that ecosystem grows with the participation of students. The course itself becomes an interactive text book in a way. A text in which there are valuable resources that also interject comments and resources from peers. A text that interjects questions that build upon initial concepts. Networks are created among the participants. Pods or subgroups can form naturally dependent upon interest in course topics. The networks that get made in the course can lead to further exploration and learning. This idea of spawning new learning opportunities really feeds into the idea of life-long learning.

There is a lot of information out there regarding MOOCs. This article just looks at the MOOC in general and identifies some key pieces of a MOOC.

If you wish to look further at MOOCs, take a look at the resources posted below. They will help you get a better understanding of how MOOCs came to be, how they could be used, as well as how learning occurs within a MOOC.

MOOCS – Wikipedia

What is a MOOC?

Success in a MOOC?

Knowledge in a MOOC?

If you wish to explore building a MOOC, would like some clarification of how MOOCs work, or are interested in certain aspects of MOOCs, please contact the one of our consultants in the Teaching Centre.