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.