carol adair (rubicon) Mon 27 Mar 00 22:17
Right now I don't have any specific question. I'm kind of wondering what your general view of on line classes is. I've been teaching that way for a couple of years now, and I think it's pretty exciting what I can do online, like the closeness my students develop with each other. I can shape much more of a community on line.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 28 Mar 00 09:07
> what is your specific question about courseware on line? I > could say a lot about how to design content, activities, assessments, > interactions, and use of a teacher in a web teaching/learning > environment. I'd love to hear you expand on this, Valorie. Since it is common to have a large number of people reading this topic who might not be posting questions, it'd be great if you'd talk about these issues in general. It woudl enlighten me and quite likely a lot of other folks who are wondering but too shy to speak up.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 28 Mar 00 13:50
And I would love to hear more about how <rubicon> uses her online classes to teach and develop community!
Valorie Beer (valoriebeer) Tue 28 Mar 00 19:34
In response to Cynthia's question: CONTENT: One of the major problems in using the web for learning is that very little of the web's overload of information is organized in a manner that you can really learn from. I don't know about you, but I find myself glazing over by the shear amount of data on websites. One of my mentors, Dr. M. David Merrill who teacher instructional design at Utah State Univ, loves to say that "Information is not instruction," and (particularly apropos for the web!) "You can't 'discover' your way to competence." In order to have a web learning experience that really works, you need to select an instructional design model (which tells you how to organize the content so that someone can learn from it). ACTIVITIES: A major problem with the web is that, in most cases, it cannot provide a real practice environment, and practice with the content is essential to learning. There are beginning to be some good simulation tools out there (see www.stagecast.com) that don't take a Ph.D. in computer programming to use. I think that a good strategy to consider is to have the web present content and be used as a place to chat about it, but then refer the learner to a non-web resource where they can actually practice (like using a lab to practice fixing a machine). ASSESSMENT: Some organizations (such as Sylvan Testing Centers) are beginning to use the web to present what used to be paper-and-pencil tests. This is fine, but in this case the web doesn't add any unique value. Web learning assessment is a very new area, but I think a very exciting one in which we can explore collaborative assessment -- for example, a group of marketing students in different locations collaborate using web technology to produce a marketing plan, which a group of senior marketing executives then use web technology to critique. TEACHERS: rubicon has mentioned what it takes to be a successful web teacher -- I can't say it any better than she did! As with classroom teaching, web learning requires strategies to engage the learners, keep them coming back, and helping them work together. The latter is a particular challenge, I think, for traditional teachers who want students to do their own work and who see collaboration as cheating. That is so '50's! (1850's!) The web gives educators a fabulous technical gateway to distance collaboration. The technology isn't the problem; our antiquated notion of solitary learning as the only legitimate learning is. Lest I beat that poor horse again, though -- the way to get good web learning is to think about the LEARNING first before you ever put fingers to keyboard.
Libbi Lepow (paris) Wed 29 Mar 00 08:48
Just a note: Valorie is travelling (a last-minute business trip) and may not be able to log in again until she returns on Friday. She has promised to check in then, so please, if you have further questions, have 'em ready for her!
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 29 Mar 00 09:20
Meanwhile, no reason to stop talking about uses of the Web for education. Has anyone here taken any online courses? Anybody doing a good job with the 'mass market' learners, either for business training or plain old thrill of learing applications? Is there anything analagous to forumone.com for people who are running or setting up education services? Anybody know about that side of things?
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 29 Mar 00 09:59
Thanks for your overview, Valorie. It pretty much covered my next question. I'm going to post my question anyway because, I am curious about the success of the programs at there. In today's Chronicle, in the Business section, there is an interesting profile of Ninth House Network. I read "...corporate training is now a $66 billion industry and the Internet training component is "poised to explode" This, of course, goes along with your numbers. Right now, I'm thinking in terms of your book's frequent admonitions against jumping into Web based training before thinking of how it will enhance an organization's current training program. Do you think that much of this explosion will, as you say, "end up repeating the history we had with television and computer"? Do you think the Web has a better chance to provide good education than these? Or are we just spinning our boredom once more? How successful are the Web based programs out there?
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 29 Mar 00 11:09
Thanks castle for asking about my experiences with Web-based education. Of course, Valorie's book is mostly directed toward setting up workplace training programs, and my whole experience is in regular education, so this is pretty much a topic drift. I couldn't find the restroom in most corporations! (Of course, the book has lots of references and pointers for education Web resources too. I recommend it, especially for the wealth of links.) Still while Valorie is away, it wouldn't hurt to chat a little off the subject.
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 29 Mar 00 11:13
Here's one side. I started using a packaged web course (WCB) because I love diddling with anything on-line. I procured a beta edition of WCB and put up an adjunct class. I never meant it to be stand-alone. (I wish I had read Valorie's book first!) At first I posted assignments, words of wisdom, trial grammar tests, schedules, etc. It really was no more than a reference for my students who didn't take good notes or save handouts. It was kind of fun for those students who were already computer literate and happened to be around on-line anyway. Then I started thinking. For me, usually, thinking means the start of a lot of work. It's a big problem to get both fluency and structure into students' writings. It's almost as if you have to have two complete different classes taught by two completely different teachers. You need the everything's-wonderful-and-let's-all-get-inspired teacher. And you need the there-are-structures-and-rules-and-strategies teacher. I wanted to be both. So I separated the tasks. I left the stuffy parts in WBC (which is now owned and licenced by the college) , but I added a link to a conference that I set up on the River, using Motet conferencing software. It's a lot like this system we are on - Engaged - but prettier, I think, and easier to handle. Anyway a River conference only costs me something like $60 a year, so it's a good bargain. In class, I deal with the structures explaining logic, grammar, classical essay structure. (boring and strict). On line, I become a different person. I encourage my students to post weak, first drafts. I tease and play. I ask them for help with each other's papers. We collaborate. I get students to discuss other things than their assignments. I have, for example, one topic right now, where the students are teaching me about the problems in Taiwan, another where they are planning a hike to Cataract Falls. There's a topic where they tell each other what they ate for dinner that day! There's another where they whine about the class. It's really amazing how the two threads come together throughout the semester. At first their in class writing is stiff and cowardly. At first, their on line posts are sloppy, ungrammatical, and pointless. But little by little, over the semester, their posts (and then their essays) improve. Students start to see themselves as public people, as people who really want to be noticed when they write, as people who want to be respected for what they write. And voila! they become writers! Well, baby writers.
among fiends (frako) Wed 29 Mar 00 11:29
I'm in an ESL chat room 4 hours a day--right now, in fact--and would love to discuss it when I'm more free.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 29 Mar 00 13:12
I'm particularly interested in what you have to say, carol, because it sounds like you've done an excellent job of using tools that you are familiar with - like Motet - to apply to learning, rather than conversing, the purpose that we are familiar with. I'm not clear about what function the WCB servers, though. Could you elaborate on that? I have taken an online course about developing Web pages through Virtual University. I took it back in late 94, early 95. I found it very difficult to learn that way. What happened was that there was some minimum information on the Web, assignments and so forth, and they had chat rooms and a virtual cafe for the students. Classes were conducted in IRC, set up so that the two instructors were the moderators and controlled what participants saw. The only people who could post in addition to the moderators were the leaders of each study group, who each had an additional IRC window open where the rest of the study group could talk; they filtered our conversation up to the instructors. Ultimately though, it failed for me because of a number of silly reasons, like, I was essentially teaching myself so if I had problems, I could check in with the study group's weekly IRC meeting, but they were students, too, they didn't have the answers, and ultimately I simply forgot to "go" to class. More than once I'd look at the clock to see it was 9PM and I should have been online at 7PM. There were too many participants, too many voices, and no "instruction" at all.
Libbi Lepow (paris) Wed 29 Mar 00 15:27
Rubi, can you talk about the process of teaching online a little, please? What works? What doesn't?
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 29 Mar 00 16:06
Linda. I really know what you mean. One of the things Valorie says again and again in her book is to ask yourself before you create a class: "Do you learn this way? Do you know anyone who does?" And in one place, she answers the question "It's unlikely that the answer will be "By sitting in front of a computer screen for hours and hours." I think that's what your (what shall we call it - education provider?) was making you do. Actually, when I think of my own learning style, I'd have to say that I really don't ever learn at all. I sort of ooze inward by dabbling. I guess I try to create learning environments that allow my students to dabble with material. But I can't, right now, imagine, putting the whole thing completely on-line. What a lot of work!
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 29 Mar 00 16:09
frako. I've heard that you have such a chat room. Will you please describe it? Is it a place that my students could use? May I put its URL on my resource page?
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 29 Mar 00 16:17
Lib. You asked me what worked and didn't work. I don't know about "didn't work" but one problem or challenge that comes to mind immediately is getting my students to look at each other's work, to break them from reading only my responses to their posted questions and ignoring the questions and answers of their peers. I really feel impatient with them for a while and have to watch my tone and remember that they are new at real collaboration and independent thinking. What I don't want is a glorified, public e-mail or what I think of as a ping-pong game. You know student-teacher-student-teacher student-teacher. I feel that on-line delivery. is especially ripe for collaboration.
Libbi Lepow (paris) Wed 29 Mar 00 17:02
That's a phenomenon I've noticed when facilitating f2f discussions, Carol - that need to speak through the facilitator rather than participant to participant. How do you handle it online without shutting down the conversation?
Earl Crabb (esoft) Wed 29 Mar 00 18:06
Is it possible that the environment is such that they don't think of looking at other students' posts because they don't need to? Is there a way of making a simple tweak such that they are minimally rewarded (simple feedback, probably) for incorporating someone else's idea into their post?
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 29 Mar 00 18:15
Well. Before I can get people to talk to each other, I have to get them into the conference and talking at all. To accomplish that, I am shameless. I give bribes. Not big ones, but bribes never-the-less. For example, this semester I bought a gross of three-inch, neon-colored, plastic bugs - beetles, ants, wasps and flies. I also bought a dozen large 6 inch plastic bugs - dragonflies and walking sticks and praying mantis. Every two weeks I awarded the "computer bug" prizes. I gave little bugs to whoever had posted anything good (I'm the judge, and I'm a really easy judge in the beginning) I quote people and ask questions and thank individuals for particular contributions. I gave a big bug to the computer bug king or queen of the week. It sounds pretty silly, but, believe it or not, the bugs became sought after. At first, some people posted just to get bugs. Then when I have a critical mass of people all soften with the silliness of bugs (or whatever bribe I've put together that semester), I start to put real information in the conference, things the students really need for their projects. I start giving them assignments that they can do on line in groups. This is where the ping-pong game starts. I keep my mantra in mind, "Tiny steps. Tiny steps."
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 29 Mar 00 18:17
Great idea Earl. That works. And simply not answering for a while works. And asking students if they will help me answer a problem that a particular student is having. Sometimes I just say, "What do you guys think about Peter's question." It takes some time, maybe four weeks, to get them to forget me and simply use each other.
Libbi Lepow (paris) Wed 29 Mar 00 19:05
Carol, are there any other facult members who are using this method of instruction?
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 29 Mar 00 19:25
First, I want to say that Valorie's book discusses the levels of possible learners. When you are setting up a web based course of study, you have to think about a lot of things including (unfortunately) the students/learners. (Wouldn't it be more fun, if we could just play school without them!) According to the book, your learners may be new to the web, or they may understand computer based learning but not how to learn collaboratively. (There are other levels, but I don't get to meet them.) She writes "... these learners may not have experience as active participants in public 'discussions'; hence, they may not consider issues such as quality, content, appropriateness, and intellectual property. " In addition, it may not occur to them that they can contact a real person to get help in a computer-based learning environment, which is possible with Web-based chats, discussions, and e-mails." These two beginning levels name my students exactly. You just have to expect to teach them.
Libbi Lepow (paris) Wed 29 Mar 00 19:31
I was reminded today in a work conversation that people learn differently (some by reading the words, some by hearing them, some by seeing them). How does one insure that the various learning styles are represented in web- based learning?
carol adair (rubicon) Wed 29 Mar 00 19:32
Libbi. I think I'm the only faculty member who has included conferencing software in his/her web course. Quite a few have on-line courses that they create with course design tools. Our school is now using Web Course in a Box which helps a teacher put tests and notes and links and announcements and such. It's fine and those members who are only used to the Web like it a lot. I find it kind of stiff and clunky. The college is now looking at another program, WEB CT. WEB CT is used by most community colleges so we will probably end up with it. I don't sense that faculty members are opposed to web-based methods of delivery, but they are afraid of the workload. There are all kinds of worries about, as Valorie mentioned, cheating and such.
Phantom Engineer (jera) Thu 30 Mar 00 09:47
I've just read through this topic with considerable interest. I'm a professor at the School of Information Studies at Florida State University, where we've had a full Masters Degree program online for the past 4 years, and have just last September begin (make that "begun" ...) an undergraduate degree program aimed at students who have received an A.A. from a Florida Junior College & want to continue, but have reasons that they can't come to a residential college for 2 years. As far as we can tell, the Masters program has been very successful, in terms of the outcomes we can measure ... learning, post-degree employment, students' sense of being part of a distributed learning community, etc. Not all classes have been equally successful, but we're dedicated to making it as good as we can. From our point of view, that means several of the things that have been discussed already: good organization of information, active participation, mechanisms for both synchronous & asynchronous interactions, easily accessible technical support, good pedagogy (which is not always the same thing in a web environment that it is in the classroom). Unfortunately, in Universities, it is all to often the case that administration sees this as a way to draw huge numbers of students (and thus tuition dollars) with little ongoing investment in the things that can really make it work. It's been an ongoing struggle here, and one of the things it means is that our faculty is stretched pretty thin. I don't know if I have any questions to add right now, but wanted to jump in & express my interest ...
carol adair (rubicon) Thu 30 Mar 00 12:25
You have it exactly Gary. Web courses take time and attention if you want them to be successful. And administrators often don't want to support that part. What is your Masters program? Is it in Information Science? And what classes does it support? Libbi. I thought about your question - about learning styles. I think only about 30% of my class gets the full benefits of my on-line efforts. Another 30% gets something, but mostly just bugs and points. A final third, hardly uses it. Every student gains something from their work on-line, but not as much as I would like. (This is, I find, about the ratio of success and not-so-success that I get from any exercise I assign. Always, somebody's in and somebody's not in.) As to the third that really takes it and runs with it..... I suspect that they are people much like me. I think they need a minute to think about answers. I suspect that they need to be courted a bit, that instant warmth and instant friendship confuses them. I think they like to read, go away, think, come back and post. I think they are curious and intelligent but not necessarily fast and charming. I thin they like a way to show their playful, warm sides at their own pace. They are people do well in school but are not necessarily happy in school. Frankly, I'm glad to add a component that works for them too.
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