Thursday, 18 August 2016

EDUC6135 Distance Learning: Reflections

Current and Future Perceptions of Distance Learning in our Society

As technology continues to become more pervasive in so many aspects of our lives, the growing acceptance of distance learning will likely follow.  Dr. Siemens (Laureate Education, n.d.) described the rapid gains in the past five years due to our increased experience with communicating online using a variety of technology.   Today there are 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions globally and by 2020 it is projected there will be 6.1 billion smartphones in circulation.  (Lunden, 2015).  Mobile devices increase convenience and the convenience of "anytime, anyplace" learning that is attractive to many adult learners (Simonson, et. al., 2011).
 

When educational institutions offer the same curriculum, with the same learning outcomes and academic rigour as their traditional face-to-face courses, and the curriculum is taught (or facilitated) by the same faculty who teach in the classroom, the profile and academic fidelity increases.  (Gambescia and Paolucci, 2009).   As stated in the Equivalency theory, these learning experiences cannot be equal but they can be equivalent and can meet the same learning outcomes.  (Simonson, et. al., 2011, p. 52).  

As an instructional designer, and as someone who has experienced distance learning that is both well-designed and well-facilitated, I can be a strong advocate for improving perceptions and dispelling misconceptions, such as the following myths about online learning from a recent article in the Huffington Post (Murphy, 2016):


  • Online learning denotes a single model
  • It is impossible to connect in an online classroom
  • Online courses are commoditized and lack rigour
  • Online learning is all about the technology, not the learning

To provide students with an environment and resources where the learning outcomes will be maximized is the goal of all course development and is independent of delivery mode.  (Schmidt and Gallegos, 2001).  In my role as an instructional designer, I will work with subject matter experts and at my educational institution, they would be college instructors who also would teach the course being developed.  Using a systematic instructional design process, such as ADDIE, will allow me to demonstrate the importance and need to understand who the learners are, define the learning outcomes, and identify instructional strategies suitable to the mode of delivery and the needs of the learners.  Many of the misconceptions about distance learning can be addressed and dismissed by recommending effective instructional strategies along with the appropriate technologies to support their use.   I will also ensure that facilitators and learners alike are well-prepared with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in a distance learning environment.  This can be achieved through self-assessment and well-developed training/orientation to build competence and confidence.  (Simonson et. al., 2011).

I hope to have opportunities for applied research in the field of distance education to maintain my currency and familiarity with best practices, emerging trends and technology.  I also hope to use my scholarly voice and academic resources to promote distance learning and convince academic managers (decision-makers) to commit the time and resources that are needed for proper planning, development, delivery, evaluation, facilitation and overall support of distance learning initiatives.

 It is an exciting time to be involved in education and training and having the combination of formal education and the distance learning experience will enhance my ability and effectiveness both inside and outside of the classroom.



References

Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/gambescia121.html

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Lunden, I. (2015).  6.1B Smartphone Users Globally by 2020.  TechCrunch Network.  Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2015/06/02/6-1b-smartphone-users-globally-by-2020-overtaking-basic-fixed-phone-subscriptions/

Murphy, E. (2016).   Dispelling Myths about Online Learning.   Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-murphy/dispelling-myths-about-on_b_9577850.html

Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3). Retrieved from http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.atmae.org/resource/resmgr/JIT/schmidt041801.pdf

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S. E., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. (2011). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education, 5/e, 5th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9780133466584/

Sunday, 14 August 2016

EDUC6135 User Guide: Distance Learning Overview

A user manual can be used to learn about a product or can be used to create a product and these are two very different tasks.

SCENARIO:  A training manager is frustrated with the quality of communication among the trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something newdeliver the training using a blended learning format.

What has lead him to believe that using a blended learning format will solve the problem he has identified?  Has he analyzed his learners?  Does he understand the differences between these delivery modes?  Is he familiar with the instructional design process?

The user guide I have created for this assignment provides an overview of distance learning -- it is meant to be read, remembered and discarded (but hopefully retained for reference).  It does not provide step-by-step instructions to convert the face-to-face training to blended delivery format.  That would be covered in a separate user guide.

Click below to view/print/download the User's Guide:




Thursday, 4 August 2016

EDUC6145 Analyzing Scope Creep

Developing an online help system for our new learning management system experienced scope creep for a number of reasons.

The statement of work did not sufficiently detail the requirements for the online help system.  The initial project planning needs to include a scope statement along with product requirements.  Creating an online help system is far too generic and means different things to different people.
image source:  http://yourprojectmanager.com.au/managing-project-scope-avoid-scope-creep/

As we designed and built the prototype and demonstrated functionality to the stakeholders, they began asking "what about this" or "can we add that" and every time a new version was presented, there were more requests made.  There was no process or documentation created for change requests -- it was primarily verbal suggestions made during demonstrations or a quick email request.

In the future, I would ensure proper planning occurs before any work on the project begins.  The planning process would also define how change requests will be processed, including the need for approval before any change is introduced.




Sunday, 31 July 2016

EDUC6145 Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

Portny (2013) provides the following guidelines to help improve the quality of activity duration estimates:
  • clearly define activities then break them down further until lowest-level activity estimates are two weeks or less
  • clearly define activity start and end points
  • involve the people who will perform the activity
  • minimize the use of "fudge factors"

Duncan Haughey provides the following rules to help create accurate and realistic estimates.  The website https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/estimating-project-costs.php also includes a list of common mistakes.
  • Assume resources will only be productive for 80 percent of their time
  • Resources working on multiple projects take longer to complete tasks because of time lost switching between tasks
  • People tend to be optimistic and often underestimate how long tasks will take
  • Make use of other people's experiences and your own
  • Get an expert view
  • Include management time in any estimate
  • Always build in contingency for problem solving, meetings and other unexpected events
  • Cost each task in the Work Breakdown Structure to arrive at a total, rather than costing the project as a whole
  • Agree a tolerance with your customer for additional work that arises during the project
  • Communicate any assumptions, exclusions or constraints you have to your customer
  • Provide regular budget statements to your customer, copying your team, so they are always aware of the current position


Prior to creating my project schedule as a Gantt Chart, I created an Excel file for both my effort/duration table and my cost estimation worksheet.   There are templates available that can be used in Excel for project planning, including this Project Cost Estimator, available at this site:  http://analysistabs.com/excel-templates/project-cost-estimator-free-download/

This site also includes a number of project management templates for Excel, including Gantt charts, project budgeting and project timelines:  https://www.smartsheet.com/top-project-management-excel-templates

I could not imagine performing these tasks (project scheduling, cost estimations, etc.) without the use of Excel and having pre-built templates would be very helpful for a beginner like myself.


References:

Haughey, D.  (n.d.) Estimating Project Costs.  Retrieved from https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/estimating-project-costs.php

Portny, S. E. (2013) Project management for dummies, 4th edition.  Hoboken, NJ:  John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

EDUC6145 Project Management: COMMUNICATING EFFECTIVELY

Effective communication can be described as "sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner" (Portny, 2013, p. 281)  When planning a project, it is essential that the communication also be planned. 

Link to multimedia program:  http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html

How did your interpretation of the message change from one modality to the next?

The content or words used in the message were identical across all three modalities (email, voicemail and face to face) and I personally felt that the written email was the clearest form of communication.   Perhaps I feel this way because I consider myself a "visual" learner and like to "see" things.  The advantage of the written email is that it creates documentation and I don't have to rely on my memory when responding to the request.   However, research tells us that 93% of communication is non-verbal which means that only 7% of the message comes from the actual words.  (Yaffe, 2011).

What factors influenced how you perceived the message?

After viewing the week 3 media resources, I was attuned to the spirit, attitude, tone, body language, and timing of the communication. (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.)   The tone of the email was a bit stern yet the tone of Jane's voice in the voicemail was pleasant.  In the face to face example, I perceived the message (and Jane) as "friendly" and there wasn't the sense of urgency that I detected in the email.  Voicemail can often be problematic when the audio quality is poor, there is background noise or the caller has a heavy accent. The voicemail was the least effective even though Jane's tone was friendly.


Which form of communication best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message?

Given that the words were identical in all three scenarios, the face to face was the most effective form of communication.   It presented an opportunity to ask questions for clarification and allow Jane and Mark to come to some agreement as to what and when Mark could do in response to Jane's request.


What are the implications of what you learned from this exercise for communicating effectively with members of a project team?

The message itself, regardless of modality, was vague and ambiguous:  "I might"  "when you think"  "if you can".   Communication should be concise, have a clear purposes and always be documented.  Dealing with members of a project team require diplomacy and tact.   By defining the standards of communication, such as frequency, format, response time and other factors, a project team and its stakeholders can establish rules for participation.  (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.)   

Strategies for communicating effectively include finding out what matters to other people and adjusting my behaviour accordingly.  If key stakeholders are not available or lack interest, find out who these stakeholders trust and try to communicate with them.    When my role is external to an organization,  I need to consider the culture of the organization and seek out someone that I feel comfortable with to ask for advice. D
ifferent stakeholders may have different communication preferences so a one size fits all approach may not be appropriate.   (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.)  







References:

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.). Project management concerns: Communication strategies and organizational culture [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Portny, S. E. (2013). Project management for dummies, 4th edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Yaffe, P. (2011).  The 7% rule. Fact, fiction, or misunderstanding.  Ubiquity, Volume 2011, Issue October 2011.  New York, NY:  ACM.  Retrieved from http://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=2043156





Wednesday, 6 July 2016

EDUC6145 Project Post-mortem

PROJECT:  LMS Analytics

Within my organization, our learning management system generates good information for instructors within each course we teach.    It tells us about student logins, time spent viewing content, number of discussion postings, quiz attempts, grades, and so on.  This information is valuable to instructors and enables us to identify and help our at risk students.  We can also learn what aspects of our courses have higher student engagement and which content is rarely accessed or viewed.

Management was interested in this information aggregated across courses, programs and departments. They wanted to know which courses/instructors were "making good use" of the learning management system.   The goal of the project was to determine how to access and report this information.

It was frustrating because the project requester could not define what "making good use" meant.  Yes we could determine that Instructor A had 4 discussion boards in their course and Instructor B used 7 quizzes in their course but this information was quantitative.

The project was a non-starter (failure) because the business need was ill-defined plus there were many constraints and too many assumptions.  We concluded that the desired outcome to the business need as currently stated was not technically feasible.  

In the future, enlisting a project champion could help figure out why the project should or must be done.  We would need to identify drivers that would benefit from the project and determine their real expectations and needs. (Portny, 2013).


References

Portny, S. E. (2013) Project management for dummies, 4th edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Friday, 1 July 2016

EDUC6135 Distance Learning Mind Map



I used an image instead of words to define the future of distance learning because the image is exciting and suggests that there is so much possibility!


This mind map was created on July 1, 2016 using MindMup.com