Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Promoting Collaborative Learning



Collaborative learning amongst learners can be a fulfilling experience in an online environment.  The concept of collaborative learning is to bring a group of individual learners together to achieve a common learning objective. In this setting, each individual is responsible for a specific role or function in moving the group to a common goal. The advantage of collaborative learning is the shared experiences that the group shares and the critical thinking that takes place as a result. In addition, learners are challenged in ways that are present in individual activities.

In collaborative learning environments, learners engage with peers, present and defend ideas, and exchange diverse perspectives that promote a new knowledge framework. However, collaborative learning can present several challenges that can compromise the team’s success. Conflicts can arise which will stunt the team’s progress. Furthermore, learners who have limited experience in a collaborative setting may struggle in this social setting.


Assignment:  In this week’s assignment, perform an Internet search on collaborative learning techniques in an online environment. As you search various articles and resources, make note of the advantages and disadvantages of collaborative learning. Once complete, use cited sources from your Internet search and your own personal experiences to answer the following questions:

1.  What benefits and challenges do you foresee with collaborative learning in an online environment?   List at least 2 benefits and 2 challenges.

2.  Why are effective communication techniques important in this type of setting?

3.  In what ways should collaborative learning be used?

4.  What determines a group’s success in collaborative learning environments?



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

Plagiarism and cheating has been an issue in the educational field for decades. As a child growing up, I can remember countless times where students cheated on tests and quizzes to get the best grade. This popular form of academic dishonesty was the best way for students, who did not put forth time and effort to study, to achieve high scores and recognition. If we fast-forward to today, the problem is that plagiarism and cheating has morphed thanks to the Internet. For this week’s discussion, I have been asked to provide my thoughts on the following four questions regarding plagiarism and cheating:

What plagiarism detection software is available to online instructors?

There are several online tools that detect plagiarism and provide accurate results. “Free online search engines such as Google allow instructors to track down copied phrases, while commercially available plagiarism detection software and online services (e.g., EVE, Turnitin.com) compare individual student papers to Web documents and/or essay databases to find and report instances of matching text” (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006, p. 5). I am most familiar with Turnitin as I have used this tool with Walden University and the University of Phoenix. From a student’s perspective, Turnitin is user-friendly and appears to provide accurate data.

How can the design of assessments help prevent academic dishonesty?

In the video, Plagiarism and cheating, Dr. Pratt states that he designs assessments that mirror real-life situations and encourage collaboration. I think this is a great way to prevent academic dishonesty in students because it removes the pressure and anxiety to single-handedly succeed. It is extremely difficult to succeed alone. Every success story I’ve heard started with the successor acknowledging another individual for their contributions. We live in a collaborative environment and many businesses are designing their offices to have collaborative workspace, so why not design assessments that mirror the real world. In doing so, you design assessments that allow learners to leverage other individuals and tools.


What facilitation strategies do you propose to use as a current or future online instructor?

 As an online instructor, I feel that it is important to be clear and specific about expectations. This includes providing learners with a detailed explanation of what constitutes plagiarism and cheating, as well as communicating the consequences of both. A few examples would also be helpful. I’ve also found that giving learners different assignments or using case studies can prevent plagiarism. In doing this, the learner relies on their words and thoughts to complete the assignment.

What additional considerations for online teaching should be made to help detect or prevent cheating and plagiarism?

In the video, Plagiarism and cheating, Dr. Palloff states that many learners do not consider copying and pasting material from websites to paper as plagiarism or cheating. With this in mind, it is safe to say that most learners do not know they are being academically dishonest with their actions. The instructor will need to establish how they will deal with plagiarism and cheating and be consistent. For example, if a student is a first-time offender, a warning will suffice. However, if the student is a repeat offender, severe actions will have to be taken.

References:

Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Plagiarism and cheating [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Friday, February 6, 2015

Impact of Technology and Multimedia

What impact does technology and multimedia have on online learning environments?

Technology and multimedia allows learners to connect and collaborate virtually in a synchronous or asynchronous environment.  Web 2.0 tools like blogs and wikis allow users to share, edit, and comment on content. “The Internet has become a part of many people’s daily lives, which in turn has led to the development of educational materials for presentation on the ‘web’ and increasingly courses and universities are integrating online materials in their face-to-face teaching” (Crowther, Kelly & Waddoups, 2004). As a result, the online environment becomes a mobile vehicle that makes learning more efficient an, in most cases, effective. Technological tools have also played a key role in bridging the gap amongst multi-generational learners around the country. In most virtual environments, learners are connected with individuals who have varied degrees of experience, knowledge, and skills.

What are the most important considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology?

When using technology, instructors should be mindful of how and why technology is being used. In the video, Enhancing the Online Experience, Dr. Palloff explains the importance of using Web 2.0 tools in online environments only when they support learning objectives. Using technological tools only to showcase or highlight the “bells and whistles” could negatively impact the learner’s experience. Instructors must also consider the audience and their access capabilities. Certain technological tools require specific bandwidth and/or system software that prevent learners from using it. For example, learners in rural areas may not have the bandwidth needed to access video blogs and other collaborative tools.

What implications do usability and accessibility of technology tools have for online teaching?

At a time where “e-learning” has become increasingly popular, the demand for access to advanced technological tools has also increased. Usability and accessibility represent learner independence in that learners have the power to access virtual environments at their leisure. This concept also supports real-time learning where learners have a question or issue and can immediately access training solutions to answer their question, or remedy the issue.

What technology tools are most appealing to you for online teaching as you move forward in your career in instructional design?

As I move forward in my ID career, I will definitely continue to use blogging and wiki pages. Most sites to create blogs and wikis are free and you can set up an RSS “aggregator” feed to follow all of your favorite pages. I have used both tools personally and professionally, and enjoy the benefits of each. I have used blogs to gain input from family members on our annual family reunion and wikis are a great way to collaborate with colleagues on assigned tasks with stringent deadlines. Honestly, I love technology and the good thing is, the tools are only getting better with time.


References:

Crowther, M.S., Keller, C.C. and Waddoups G.L. (2004) Improving the quality and effectiveness of computer- mediated instruction through usability evaluations. British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 35: 3 pp 289–303

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Enhancing the online experience [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Friday, January 23, 2015

Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

The first step in having a successful online course is setting up the forum/experience for learners. This step can result in a successful or disastrous online experience, based on what the instructor focuses on. The following key components are essential for a smooth online course launch:

  • Syllabus
  • Weekly Teaching Guides
  • Discussions and Rubrics
  • Course Site

In reading the course text, there are other significant components that the Instructor should consider when setting up an online course. Managing an online community can be very overwhelming, but establishing a strong social presence up front can help the instructor adapt to the new environment. It is also important to consider the following questions:


What is the significance of knowing the technology available to you? 

Technology is the driving force behind online learning. Online learning is built from web and technological tools that allow learners to participate in an asynchronous environment. Being knowledgeable about the latest technology can make the online learning experience more efficient and engaging. It also helps you connect with multi-generational learners.

Why is it essential to communicate clear expectations to learners?

Communication is key in an online forum. When the instructor sets clear expectations, the learner knows the requirements and standards for which they are being held to. Clear communication leaves no room for error and ensures that the learner is ready to carry out the activities assigned to them.

What additional considerations should the instructor take into account when setting up an online learning experience? 

When setting up the online forum, creating effective discussion boards is extremely important. Without them, you remove the learner’s ability to express ideas and build relationships with their peers. “Discussion activities give all learners a chance, and in fact they generally require learners to reflect on the ideas in the content resources or the ideas expressed by other students, and then to write about what they think, know, and reason from those ideas” (Boettcher & Conrad, p. 85). Also, discussion boards are a great way to reinforce learning concepts and ensure that the learner’s comprehension is where it should be.

In addition to discussion boards, a strong syllabus will set the tone, while minimizing frustration and confusion in the learner’s mind. The syllabus should clearly outline course expectations, assignments, deadlines, and resources so the learner can confidently move forward in the course.

Reference:

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Welcome!

Hello everyone!!

My name is Jenea Smith and I am pleased to have you visit my blog! For the next eight weeks, I will be posting material for my Online Instructional Strategies course at Walden University. Feel free to review and make comments on the material I post here. I look forward to learning with each of you!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Communicating Effectively

Effective communication is an ongoing process of sharing information. It is essential to clearly express ideas to others and to understand what other people are saying to you. Effective communication leads to trust and mutual respect. “The ability to communicate well both orally and in writing is a critical skill” (Portny, 2008, p. 357). Communication methods should vary based on the message intent. Some messages can be sent via e-mail or voicemail whereas others are best served as a face-to-face conversation, when possible.

In the multimedia program, “The Art of Effective Communication”, one message is conveyed in audio, video, and written text format. The tone and urgency of the message changes in each format as you internalize what the sender is communicating. Effective listening skills and visual cues play a significant role in interpreting the audio and video messages while the written text leaves a lot to the imagination. I feel that the face-to-face communication relays the true message of the sender’s intent. Although it did not happen in this example, face-to-face communication provides an opportunity for the receiver to ask questions, clarify understanding of the message, and visually interpret the sender’s tone, inflection, and body language.

The following points express my interpretation of each mode of communication:

E-mail: In this example, my perception is that this is an urgent matter that only I can deliver on. The sender seems genuinely concerned about meeting a deadline that has serious consequences. The sender respects my current workload but my lack of urgency could potentially damage our business relationship. In this situation, I would act on this request expediently as I would not want to negatively impact my business partner’s assignment.

Voicemail: The business partner’s voicemail adds more urgency to the situation because I can hear the stressed tone and inflection in her voice. The business partner still seems genuinely concerned about meeting the deadline, but does not come across as rude or aggressive. There is still a mutual level of respect with this business relationship and I would definitely react quickly to ensure it stays that way.

Face-to-face: The face-to-face interaction puts me at ease a little more than the previous examples. Although the business partner is expressing concern about meeting the deadline, the visual representation shows that the business partner is relaxed and even smiling as she speaks. Her body language reflects understanding and professional courtesy as it feels like we know each other pretty well. This removes the stressful sense of urgency on my end. Even though I would still want to deliver the data quickly, this interaction makes me feel like I have a little more time before the matter becomes extremely serious.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Learning from a Project - "Post-Mortem"

When I think of a project that I learned a great deal from, a specific one comes to mind. The project goals were reached in the end but the process was disastrous. In retrospect, there are a few components that could have been done differently to make the project a success. To provide some background, this project was created as part of a mandate from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). As part of the mandate, our organization was required to create a process for logging customer concerns and complaints. All branch employees had to be trained with the new process and we had 120 days to do it. This meant that we had to outline the process, create a system, and train all employees in this short period of time.

To get all parties involved, there were two project teams created. One team was mostly comprised of the organization's upper management and project champions, with a few functional employees. The second project team was that of our internal training team which consisted of functional employees and two project champions from the other project team. Each project team had a different project manager.

One problem was that the smaller, internal training project team had to await instruction from the larger organizational project team before actions took place. This created a huge communication problem because the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing. The project champions that were engaged in the larger team would come back and report the "next steps" to the smaller team which included important details and timelines. This process didn't leave our group with much time to execute, which left everyone in a panic of meeting the deadline.

The second problem was that the larger team wanted our group to create the training simultaneously with the policy and the system. This was difficult to do because we needed both to reference in the training. The training had to be revised multiple times as the larger team tried to nail down policy definitions, scenarios, and exclusions. In addition, systems had their share of glitches as we tried to capture screen shots of what the process looked like.

In the end, the project deadlines were met with only 24 hours to spare (no room for error). Looking back, we could not change the CFPB's deadline but the following would have made for a smoother project:


  • Include the Instructional Designer in all project teams and meetings. Obtaining any information firsthand can help the ID draft designs and get an idea of what the project team is envisioning. 

  • Communicate frequently. Time is of the essence for any project so when a project deadline is extremely tight like this one, it is crucial to share information as soon as it is received.

  • If at all possible, policies and systems should be created first. This will save time and resources when the training is created. This will also eliminate multiple attempts to create training that relies heavily on the two components being in place.

  • When faced with a project with stringent timelines, the IDs functional manager should be informed every step of the way. This will help the functional manager when scheduling other projects for the ID.