EDUC 760 Reflective Journal


It is the language of reflection that deepens our knowledge of who we are in relation to others in a community of learners. Miller & Saxton, University of Victoria

MODULE 1: ENGAGED LEARNING IN THE ONLINE ENVIRONMENT


I am beginning this e-Learning course excited about the content. Once I logged in I find that the course appears to be a copy from a previous semester and the modules start off well but then are a bit out of order. The first module is “Engaged Learning in the Online Environment.” There are some good materials but much of the layout of the course goes against much I’ve been taught so far for eLearning best practices. I will keep an open mind and a “wait and see” perspective. The reading regarding myths and realities of online learning was good information. It could be something people at all levels of online learning would find informative. This is would be helpful for a new faculty orientation or even for a faculty workshop topic.

MODULE 2: BUILDING INCLUSIVE ONLINE COMMUNITIES


During this module I read “Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century.” This classic essay had a powerful underlying metaphor. For most of my career working in higher-ed as an instructional designer I have spent a lot of time attending conferences. Most of these last 4 days and bring together experts who share their insights with large audiences and smaller groups in keynote addresses and workshops. Since I don’t teach in a classroom I would say my model is one of “learning communities” such as this. As I read Campfires in Cyberspace I could relate to the author’s 3 metaphors: the campfire, watering hole and cave. The campfire describes storytelling and how it’s been a mechanism for teaching for thousands of years. “We sit in the circle and suppose, while the truth sits in the center and knows.” The campfire represents my learning community. When I attend a conference I sit in a room listening to experts telling stories. The campfire is replaced by the screen, but the metaphor of the storyteller is the same. The second metaphor of the watering hole depicts a gathering place for water where people come together to share the news of the day and learn from each other. The watering hole is going on even today in workplaces where employees gather in the break room to continue this tradition! I learned about many things going on at the university where I worked this way. Exhibit halls and dining rooms at a conference also provide these watering holes. The third metaphor, the cave represents where we come in contact with ourselves. All learners need to isolate themselves in order to gain special insights. Whether in caves or a quiet reading space in our homes the importance of having time alone with one’s thoughts has been going on for a long time. In order for me to read anything that requires focused attention I need to go into my “cave.” While at a conference, in addition to the settings where people are in groups, I find my cave experience by getting away and walking by myself or sitting and reading the handouts I receive in order to absorb what I’m learning. So coming back to my example of professional conferences being a learning community, I see examples of all three learning metaphors going on.

MODULE 3: FACILITATING AN ONLINE COMMUNITY


During this module we analyzed current research on teaching and learning using learning management systems. Since this is what I do for a living I didn’t find it to earth-shattering! We were then asked to facilitate our own discussion forum. I was excited to practice the art of facilitating since I am in a support role, not a teaching role. I found the readings about how to write discussion questions and strategies for facilitating critical thinking to be very helpful. I saved them for resources. I was in the Green Group and posted about Moodle which I know like the back of my hand! There were other great posts from the group that offered perspectives on the many other LMS’s out there. I feel like the course is going better and the organization of materials has improved. I am feeling more engaged with the course.

MODULE 4: MEASURING ONLINE LEARNING


During this module we created an assessment in Crowdsignal and published it to our discussion group. I had never used this before so it was great to try out this free tool. My classmates beat me up on their feedback of my Quiz because I didn’t offer the correct answer right away to the student. Oh well, I’m old-school! Really, though, I appreciated their feedback as I need to consider this in the future when I become a college professor (not). Academic integrity is a hot topic right now in academia.
We also completed a Plagiarism and Paraphrasing assignment that felt like a SCORM from the 1990’s. We had to pass all the assignments and print out the final screen which gave our score. I DID NOT like this assignment as it felt like I was getting my hand slapped every time I got an answer wrong. The plagiarism quiz kicked my butt! I realize how little I know about the intricacies of plagiarism!
Again, creating an assessment in Crowdsignal was a lot of fun and the feedback I received from my classmates was invaluable. It is always nice to learn about other resources available for course development. This has been one of my favorite parts of this course. I really like the sharing of different information and resources.

MODULE 5: UNIVERSAL DESIGN AND ACCESSIBILITY


During this module we analyzed how universal design and accessibility impact planning for technology-based instruction. We also explored learner differences: culture/race, ability/disability, gender, age, socioeconomic status, and family influences to the delivery of e-learning media.
We were asked how we will incorporate Universal Design Principles in the development, delivery, and assessment of your instruction? I thought long and hard then wrote out my process:
My Process
It will take a lot of effort to implement my process since I’m so new at this! So, I need to select the right strategies for delivering instruction to apply UD to specific activities within my class. Specifically, I will need to:

  1. Identify Course Outcomes. I need to identify my course’s, goals, and overall content. This should happen regardless if Universal Design is being applied!
  2. Define the Demographic. I need to understand the population of students who take the course and then consider the diverse characteristics of potential students (gender, age, ethnicity/race, native language, learning style, socioeconomic status, and abilities to see, hear and learn).
  3. Put into place standards for good practice. Adopt good teaching practices.
  4. Adopt UD guidelines. Select existing UD guidelines/standards. Integrate them with my other best teaching practices.
  5. Apply UD. Apply universal design along with design principles and standards for good teaching practice to the overall design of instruction (how do I lecture, how do I set up a discussion board) to maximize the learning of students with the widest variety of delivery methods).
  6. Plan for accommodations. Develop a process to address accommodations (sign language interpreters, alternate formats) for students for whom the course design does not typically provide access.
  7. Evaluate. Monitor effectiveness of my instruction by gathering feedback from students, assess learning, and modify the course based on feedback.

MODULE 6: POWER SEARCHER THEORY INTO PRACTICE


During this module we learned about Scoop.it. This has been my favorite part of the course thus far. The Scoop.it Internet magazine project offers a chance to explore topics that interest you and share your discoveries with others.
• You assemble a web publication of trusted articles.
• You organize your discoveries using keywords.
• You add your viewpoint by commenting on each article you share.
My topics were mostly about Moodle. I had never heard of Scoop.it prior to this. A great find! It’s a great way to find relevant information on the topics you want to learn about. I will use it in my day to day work.

MODULE 7: YOUR E-PORTFOLIO


During this module we began our e-portfolio. I feel like this assignment is “in my wheelhouse. I began creating a personal website awhile back in my career and use WordPress. I feel comfortable using it, have had to for other courses at UW Stout and feel I present better with it. I did enjoy exploring the other sites to compare tools. It was great to see the creativity of others in the class and review their sites. It is interesting to see all the different types of creativity with this module. Gives you a chance know your classmates better and made the course seem a bit more personal like a face to face class.

MODULE 8: CREATING YOUR ONLINE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT


During this final module we are wrapping things up for the course. Final copies of the e-portfolio are due and we needed to post a reflective letter about the course which is what I am doing here. “What I’m Taking Away From Me.”

One of my biggest AH HA moments was being sensitive to people with different disabilities. This is a topic I am dealing with in a course I facilitate on Universal Design for my clients. They have courses that need to be made more accessible and I know that everyone is looking for ways to do this. Trying to understand the struggles and frustrations the students have and try to make it a better experience for them. It is a hard thing to understand if you don’t have the disability. You really have to be open to learning and understanding what the students are dealing with and how to best assist them. Accessibility Checking: Creating an accessible website requires a degree of technical knowledge, and a willingness to learn new ways of creating web-based information. There are a number of free and commercial products that help automate accessibility compliance. Some products are built into web page editing systems. Other products offer free web-based accessibility checkers that will give you an automated assessment based on a web address. These tools are valuable aids for the course designer.

OVERALL REFLECTION


I feel like this was a very beneficial course. I have enjoyed learning the new technologies and concepts in developing effective eLearning. I think the instructor did a good job of providing feedback and gave us challenging assignments to promote learning and comprehension. I am looking forward to additional courses in the UW Stout program.

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