Week 7 – Learning Management Systems – structured learning?

Based on your experience putting your lesson into the Canvas LMS, what do you feel are the benefits of using such a structured space for teaching and learning? How well does the structure of an LMS fit with your theory of online learning?



The cogs of an LMS can all work together and provide a process for the learning to take place.  Having a process isn’t all that bad and so is the structure (as long as their is some flexibility — as with the image, the cogs all work together for outcomes, the smaller cogs spinning a little faster, while the others adding value at a slower, but steady pace.  Even as I think about my personal learning theory including the facilitation model, a semblance of a process can be a good thing.  This process and/or structure could be argued that it is too organized and does not allow the student to think and organize thoughts on their own.  Self-regulation is an important piece of online learning and the idea that a learner can proceed at their own speed could be a benefit or cause failure.

Community is important to an online discussion, but does the structure get in the way of this and interfere with the level of discourse or more specifically development of a social presence?  By providing a certain level of structure – guiding students as to some leading questions, possible articles to read, thoughts, and even feedback, students can attend to more of what supports and builds community.  Reflection is also a key part of building this community — students become better engaged in the learning, can be their own moderators and build a collaborative environment in which discourse happens while staying “on course”.

Relevancy is also an important piece and by providing some level of structure can promote this idea while also encouraging the discussion that arises from the context of the content, but from the student perspective, personal relationships and knowledge.  Relevant content builds on the foundation but also supports the direction and value of the course.


Week 6 – Theory matching…

How hard is it to develop a research method that both matches your theory and created curriculum? What was simple and what was difficult?

Think critically


The focus of our lesson is creating objects (digital fabrication) using 2D printers.  This seems like an easy task to undertake given one of the theories is experiential learning.  Hmmmm… not so fast.  Trying to get someone to understand how something operates, experiencing first hand the objectives and forming opinions, fact finding, possibly working together with another classmate… sounds easy enough.  I see much of this same type of thing happening in many of the “online” courses – let’s just take the content intended for a face to face model and use it.   Sounds like it will work – WRONG.  Having not ever facilitated an online course I have limited knowledge of the background, but I have been a participant or student and I am still amazed of the quality of delivery, the feedback, the course content.  Why does this happen?  I lead a ton of webinars and although not the same, there is still a level of social “community” and connectedness.  I have even gone to the extent of trying some virtual “make and take” models.  Allowing for the experience.  In a search for experiential learning and online, I found a wide variety of studies, but it seems that everyone has a different approach to best facilitating this type of learning.  It was interesting that many schools identify that there is a gap, but not 100% sure what to do about it.  Is it a content problem or a professor problem or maybe a delivery problem or maybe an instructional design problem???

In this article – http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/september/venture-lab-platform-091712.html the authors describe notes:

“The most important part of this platform is that students can learn from their peers,” Saberi said. “The social and experiential aspects of learning must not be diminished by going online; on the contrary, the challenge is how to amplify them online.”

Love this word – amyplify!  How many conversations are lost or gone because the social and experiential pieces are lost?  In our lesson, I think there were standards and objectives, but I would love to delve into a more creative approach to using this same type of level of interaction.  Could students be paired up and use potentially a webcam, video, pictures to amplify their learning and learn from their peers?  We invited students to work with a family member, etc. to explore their project, but a potentially more valuable exercise might have been to experience the printer, the lesson and then have discussion with another classmate.  What worked?  What didn’t?  Why?  What could you have done differently.  As it stands now, our lesson seems to just stop… could their be more learning and conversations?

Here is another interesting article on the subject with focus on constructivism:


Week 5 – My personal learning theory revisited

Write a reflection on the feedback you received from peers and instructor. What do you agree with? Why? What do you disagree with? Why? How has this experience changed or not changed your perspective on your theory?

In reviewing my learning theory and listening to the rest of the theories, it is quite interesting how one develops their own theory.  I am not convinced that one’s theory changes and cannot be fully written in stone.  As I read articles and reviewed key research about my own personal theory to develop my theory, one thing that stuck with me are two terms: inquiry and constructivism.

One piece of my own learning theory is based on Kolb’s experiential learning:

learning_cycle_2This also supports the level of inquiry that I think is a basis of my theory.  I want to allow for learners to develop on their own using their own experiences.  I feel pretty strongly that one creates their own level of knowledge based experiences.  I can facilitate (another piece of my theory) the level of discussion or the direction, but only when I have an interest in something will I truly embrace it.  I think this is the same for teachers or students.  As we continue to explore ways to allow for more online learning, I see this as a barrier to understanding.  Are there ways to help?  Sure… Videos?  Dialoguing with experts?   Reflections based on experiences?

There is one constant which has remained even though I have changed a few pieces… As I noted, my theory seems to revolve around the idea of ownership of learning through a level of inquiry.  The web is not a new thing, but it seems that either we have not done a good job of creating users who understand how to use simple techniques or programs continue to change, grown adapt as such a fast pace that one has to evolve at that same pace (I tend to lean towards the changing pace).  I do think there is a naivety to users and the who digital footprint idea.  How does this parallel my theory… with facilitator theory the goal is to be a guide on the side and the feeling of being comfortable with new ideas.  As it relates to online learning:  accepting feedback or taking responsibility for the learning.  It is not up to the instructor to “spoon feed” the content.  A learner takes an online course for a number of reasons, one being convenience.  From an instructor perspective, this doesn’t mean providing every piece of learning, but providing enough information that will guide the learner.  Another theory, social learning theory… which I have since changed – social cognitive theory, in which one thing that I found interesting – people learn through observations of others.  I know that we take for granted the opportunities to view and observe others in a face to face situation, but how does that happen in online learning?  I think that as an instructor, there is an importance at developing a level of community which allows for some sort of interaction — virtual is tricky.  The types of interactions should be carefully selected so they don’t become “busy work” and offering value.  Finally, the experiential learning theory – instructors must take a personal stake in the learners, as the “why” questions and not what.  Providing opportunities for reflective discourse vs. just spitting back of the information is important and necessary.

Week 3 – Reflections… My Personal Learning Theory

As I reflect back to our week with Second Life… I am wondering how my personal learning theory of facilitation affects how I process information and/or how engagement happens (or does it) in an online environment. What techniques or strategies work to facilitate discussion, deeper diving into learning more or even conversations. After engaging with the VUME of Second Life, some key pieces became apparent: the chat feature was an instrument that could facilitate discussion, but if you missed something that was important, a learner could be lost (as I was a few times). Could the verbal acknowledgements work in this environment? I think so… my auditory senses loved the sounds and actually allowed me to absorb into the environment a little more. Student verbal interactions provided more depth to what has visible in the chat as well as more direction for me as a learner. I can see value of the chat, but at a deeper level, this facilitation of the conversation opened up my eyes and ears to new things. Can a message that is often presented in forum or chat really convey what the author is striving for? Do the words portray the message or is it lost in translation? Can words, images or other media types provide structure to deeper learning?

After participating in the Second LIfe activity, I found imitation something that I found necessary to completely understand the environment. I believe this is rooted in Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. Bandura notes:

“Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.”
-Albert Bandura, Social Learning Theory, 1977

As students modeled using the avatars, I limited their behaviors. I was somewhat motivated as I followed the others and began exploring the environment on my own after learning some of the strategies for interacting. As more and more of the environment was entered, I was able to reflect on the information. Although there were multiple experiences, only the ones which allowed for some engagement provided some level of feedback and could possibly be retained for future needs of the learning.

Does effective feedback lead to the imitation or change in the behaviors? I am going to explore this in more depth.

Week 2 Reflections… which is better?

Synchronous (i.e. Connect) vs. asynchronous tools (Forums): Which is better at fostering online learning? Why? What are your reasons and evidence for this?

Although I think that both have value… for fostering online learning, I feel that synchronous tools provides a richer experience of learning, but… this could be skewed unless there is a participatory need to be involved.  Synchronous learning allows a learner to hear the spoken word vs just reading about them.  Using ones voice there is a level of connection which can be achieved.   Does being “live” in a synchronous class actually mean being “present”?   Being there in person, does not always equate to a level of discourse.  Of course there is a level of immediacy and spontaneity… conversations and discussions.

One thing that I have noticed in both synchronous and asynchronous is the ability to drive the conversation and effective discourse.  Personally, I think this means asking the right questions to get more than a yes/no answer.   Veerman, Andriessen, & Kanselaar (2000) noted the importance of consensus building.  You want a consensus built, but arriving at consensus isn’t always pretty.  I have found that there is still this view of choosing words – although painful, I want someone to say “I don’t agree” and let’s discuss.   Stewart, Harlow, & DeBacco explored students’ experiences through a research study – a few points which I agree:  “learning is a social practice” and social theory of learning and the need to integrate social participation as a process of learning and knowing.  I look forward to more discussion about these topics.  I am of the camp that synchronous “works”.

A.L Veerman, J.E.B Andriessen, G Kanselaar, Learning through synchronous electronic discussion, Computers & Education, Volume 34, Issues 3–4, 1 April 2000, Pages 269-290, ISSN 0360-1315, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0360-1315(99)00050-0.

Stewart, A. R., Harlow, D. B., & DeBacco, K. (2011). Students' experience of synchronous learning in distributed environments.Distance Education, 32(3), 357-381.

Today… my thoughts as I start… online learning

Attempting to answer the following:

“Why have we moved so many courses online? As students, do you feel like online courses are as good as face-to-face courses? What are the major differences between online and FTF courses for you as a student? Whether you have taught one or not, what do you think the differences are for the instructor? How do we know if the formats require different skills or result in different learning outcomes? Do we?”

Image from http://elearningblog.tugraz.at/archives/3333

Why online?  Time. Cost. Flexible. Connected. Currency. Equity. Impersonal. Structure. Convenience. Disconnection. Routine.   These are just a few of the words that pop into my head when I think of online learning, but does I left one out — easy.  Although these words all “work” in an online environment, do they equate to ease?  I don’t think so.  Sure I love the flexibility of online learning, but one of the largest obstacles which causes me the most stress in an online learning is the ease.  It is easy to put off readings, easy to put off assignments, easy to fall out of routine, easy to not be motivated.  These are all things that have happened to me at one point or another and I bet it happens to everyone who has ever learned online.

I believe that there is an approach that both the learner and instructor must take in online learning.  Are instructors prepared to take the same information and “make it different”.  Fortunately for me, I have had more instructors who have realized there is a difference and made it work.  For the learner, the way to approach has to also change.  Sure you can connect with those people from a variety of locations, but does that make it better… or worse?  I know for me, I strive hard to make sure that if placed in groups, I work hard to make sure I am attentive to the needs of my fellow classmates.  Sure I work well under pressure and it forces me into a mode of reflection and review, but what about my classmates?  Does online learning force us to be something we are not?  I am not looking for regurgitation of material in the form of a powerpoint with added audio.  I want discourse – stretching my own thoughts, pairing it with my own experiences and culminating with a valuable learning experience.  I want the “oh wow” feeling and the sense of accomplishment by getting from one point to another with the help and support of my instructor and fellow classmates.

Some questions I hope to answer this semester is how I can be better prepared to teach online while identifying the same things that cause me the most stress as a student and well, be a better online learner.