Archive | February, 2013

A Guide to Converting a Face-to-Face Class to a Blended Learning Environment

23 Feb

Imagine you want to convert an existing, face-to-face training program to an online or blended environment in order to improve communication among the trainees. What steps would you follow? What pre-planning strategies would you follow? Are parts of the class enhanced because of the online technologies available? How does your role as trainer change? How do you encourage communication? All these questions are answered in the attached guide. By following the ADDIE process, with some specific attention needed for the online environment, a trainer can adapt the material and methods of the class to a different platform. The overall goal remains the same no matter which layout you are using. “Keep it simple; make it better; and resist the temptation to do otherwise” (Center for Teaching Excellence, n.d., p. 23).

Converting to a Distance Learning Format

References

Center for Teaching Excellence. (n.d.) Online teaching and learning resource guide. Retrieved from http://www.vcu.edu/cte/resources/OTLRG/02_05_DesignConsiderations.html

MIT Open Courseware Lacks Planning for the Online Learning Environment

8 Feb

http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/aeronautics-and-astronautics/16-660-introduction-to-lean-six-sigma-methods-january-iap-2008/index.htm

When I went to undergraduate school for manufacturing engineering, I chose Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) for my education.  WPI is a fantastic school and I learned a lot while attending.  But the Mecca for all engineering students is Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  MIT has always been held up as an elite college and perhaps, the best of the best.  When the assignment for the Distance Learning class at Walden University asked me to chose a free online course and evaluate it for its pre-planning and focus on distance learning, I jumped at the chance to look at a course from MIT.  I looked through the course offerings on the MIT website and finally selected Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods, a class that would be applicable to my current occupation as a process engineer.

The most important document the instructional designer can create for an online class is a syllabus (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  The syllabus acts as the main communication form between the instructor and the student.  Without one, the student will not have enough information to know how to proceed with readings, requirements and assignments.  The syllabus also provides information on what to do if there is a problem or question related to any aspect of the class, including technology and contacting the instructor.  The syllabus for the Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods is basic, supplying the course meeting times, a general description, links to biographies of the instructors and the course schedule.  There is no contact information for the instructor as these are self taught lessons.  There is also very little detail as to what the topics entail.  No linking from the session topics means it is more difficult for the student to navigate.  A good instructor will reduce the cognitive load on the student and forcing them to hunt for topic information, does not create that optimized learning environment (Mayer, n.d.).  The missing communications framework shows a lack of planning on the part of MIT.

The course uses a combination of video lectures as well as lecture notes to deliver the content.  There is a download area for course materials, but it merely contains the HTML pages associated with the course as well as the necessary files.  It is the exact same content as the online version of the course, without the java applets, audio, video and other special content.  The videos included, all lasting approximately an hour, are captures of face-to-face lectures with any slides shown displayed on the screen in their original format.  The orientation lecture goes over the course learning objectives and the outline of the course.  A good course designer will examine the content and sequence it appropriately for the student (Simonson et al., 2012).  MIT does a nice job of providing not just the course objectives, but the objectives of each of the segments throughout the three day course.  Each video starts with an outline of the topics and objectives and sequencing is orderly and flows from concept to concept.

One of the flaws to this method is the lack of understanding that there are differences between face-to-face instruction and that of distance learning.  The course does not seem to be carefully pre-planned and designed for the distance learning environment.  “Courses previously taught in traditional classrooms may need to be retooled.  The focus of the instruction shifts to visual presentations, engaged learners, and careful timing of presentations of information” (Simonson et al., 2012, p 153).

Media selection is lacking and it does not seem to have much thought put into it. There is no interaction with the content leaving the student with a lack of engagement.  The learning environment is both place-shifted and time-shifted leading to a completely asynchronous environment (Simonson et al., 2012).  In fact, since there are no other students taking the class at the same time, there is interaction available.  The learner led, asynchronous environment is the least effective method of delivery (Piskurich, n.d.).  No course activities that enhance engagement between the student and the material are included.  There are no assignments or work required on the student’s part other than watching the videos.  The simulation that is part of three of the sessions in not included but there is a downloadable paper and presentation that describe the simulation conducted as well as various student reactions.

Overall, the MIT course layout will present the topics and concepts in an organized and logical manner to the student but does very little to foster engagement of the learner.  This lack of interactive communication with other students or the material is a key component that is lacking to make this a soundly designed class.

References

Mayer, R. E. (n.d.). Triarchic model of cognitive load: Parts 1 and 2. Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved July 9, 2012, from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=4603387&Survey=1&47=6606753&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

Murman, E., McManus, H., Weigel, A., and Haggerty, A. (2008, January). 16.660 Introduction to lean six sigma methods. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare. License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA. Retrieved February 4, 2013 from http://ocw.mit.edu.

Piskurich, G., and Chaucer, J. (n.d.) Planning and designing online courses.  Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc.  Retrieved February 5, 2013, from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2095296_1%26url%3D

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.