Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Open source, open content, OER

This is a copy of a presentation I made at a recent conference about open source, open content, and OER.

Open source tools and resources: what are they and what's out there?

Monday, October 15, 2012


I'm back! It was an extremely hectic summer for me and my colleagues - getting our fall list ready to go - but things are settling down now, as we ramp up for the winter semester.

I've been following the ID news, and it seems that the mainstream press has discovered MOOCs!

I've seen a record number of articles in the past few weeks describing, praising and/or criticizing massive open online courses. Some  prominent universities are adding courses to Coursera or edX. Udacity is quite popular, and even itunes is in the game!

Just to set the record straight, George Siemens and Stephen Downes, both Canadian, were among the first to offer and promote MOOCS. I've embedded a short video (narrated by Dave Cormier) that explains what a MOOC is and how it works:

source: YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=eW3gMGqcZQc#!
See more at: http://www.connectivistmoocs.org/what-is-a-connectivist-mooc/

Friday, June 8, 2012

Plagiarism - how much of an issue is it in post-secondary institutions?

When we talk about plagiarism in post-secondary institutions, we're usually talking about students plagiarising: quoting without attribution, "lifting" sections of text from online publications, textbooks, or other materials, or simply referencing materials incorrectly. We can fix that with education. But what if the instructor or subject matter expert (SME) plagiarises? What can we do about that? 

I think it's more than a matter of ethics - in many cases, I don't believe that SMEs realize that information found on the web can't be copied into their lesson plans without attribution - even if no copyright notice is visible. 

The familiar © symbol means that all rights are reserved by the author, but for many of us, that restriction is too harsh (we want to share our creations!). Enter the Creative Commons. With a Creative Commons licence, we can determine how our works are used and distributed. Licences range from the least restrictive CC BY - which allows users to pretty much do as they wish with our works - so long as they cite us as the original author, to the most restrictive CC BY NC ND, which means users can download and share our work but not modify it.

Back to our dilemma with the SMEs. When instructors and SMEs worked only in brick and mortar classrooms, they commonly shared articles, newspapers and such with their classes. In a digital world, where such items have to be scanned or copied and posted to an online site, copyright concerns are far more visible. And it's not just text. Images and video may also be copy protected. Locating them through an online search does not guarantee that the items are 'free' for you to use. You have to ensure that every resource you find is correctly attributed and that the original owner has granted permission for you to use it. 

A final thought: Many instructors use Youtube or TED videos to illustrate a point, or construct slide shows with lots of cool images, quotes and the like. Before you show that video remember to check that the author has given her permission and that you give proper credit. I recently saw a note in an online forum - students were chuckling about the fact that their instructor had just shown them a video about plagiarism; a video, it turns out, that the instructors didn't properly source or credit...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Implementing and evaluating your course

IN ADDIE, we call the final stages of course development the Implementation and Evaluation stages. In my model of course development, in the final two stages, I first determine if my expectations have been met, and review all my goals, actions, activities, resources, and expectations.

So how do I do that? First I have to ask myself: what are my expectations for this course? Way back in the beginning, I set the goals of this learning experience. A typical goal in corporate training is to improve performance, so my goal may be to "Increase sales by X% by the second quarter". In academia, the goal may be to "Apply instructional design principles to create pedagogically sound learning materials" (by the end of this course). The elements that each goal have in common? There is an action that must be completed to a specific standard within a specified time frame. 

To determine if my expectations have been met, I review the rubrics I made for each activity. If I find that most of my learners performed poorly, I'll have to determine what went wrong.Were my goals too vague? Too stringent? Did I provide relevant job aids, practice exercises, and other resources? If not, why not?

I can't rely on just my opinion! At the conclusion of every period of instruction, we have to see what the learners thought of the instruction - and the instructors! (Remember, we also solicit this information throughout the course of study) The best way to survey learners and faculty is probably via an anonymous questionnaire. (hint: survey monkey is a great place to host an online survey). When we get the survey results we'll know which elements of the course worked and which didn't...and then we make the modifications and run through the cycle again. Remember, all developments are ongoing. Every time we run a course, we should always be looking at the experiences of our learners and instructors and make changes as required.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Creating learning activities

Last month I wrote about the first 2 elements of my learning model. Today I'm going to revisit the third element: Create, which focuses on creating activities that help learners practice their actions, and Provide, which focuses on providing resources to help learners complete the activity.

Envision the following scenario: the objective is to help the learners develop good presentation skills. It's an online class, so they will use your web conferencing platform to deliver a short presentation on a topic of their choice. They can use the the whiteboard app, application sharing or web tour, whichever they like. They have 5 minutes to present.

My preparation: I've shown the learners a number of online presentations, both good and not so good. We've discussed what makes a good presentation and pitfalls to avoid. I've also begun to prepare a rubric that they can use to help them prepare their presentation -  reproduced below. As part of their preparation, each group will add the remaining criteria to this rubric. When all groups have finished this task, we'll get together for a discussion.

When the rubric is finished the learners will use it as an aid to help them polish their presentations. When the presentations are finished, the students and the instructor will use the rubric to score and comment upon the presentations. We'll have a number of sessions like this one, finally reaching the point where each learner creates and delivers a 20 minute presentation online.

Next time, we'll talk about the last 2 elements of my model:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Content alone will not be enough to engage your learners. !Ever!

I read an article recently in which the author chronicled his transformation from lecturer to facilitator of peer instruction (Don’t Lecture Me: Rethinking How College Students Learn). I, of course, thought about his comments in regard to e-learning. How often do we see instructional designers create lessons that ask our learners to passively absorb information through reading or listening? Basically, we've taken the f-2-f lecture format and made it even more passive and - shall I say it? - uninspiring - than the lecture from which it was derived!

Many instructional designers begin and end with the content delivered by the SME, which is highly focused on what the learner needs to know by the end of the instructional period. What we really need to do is use that content to decide what the learner needs to DO by the end of the instruction. Not long ago, I created a graphic and posted it here in the blog. The graphic, part of which is repeated below, tells us to first, define the goal of this learning, then identify the actions learners can take to reach the goal.

It's not enough to focus our efforts on getting the content complete and correct. We have to create opportunities for the learners to apply the information contained within the course to solve something - whether it be how to solve a math problem or how to conduct an interview.

I work for a college, so I'm all about applied learning. Come to think of it, I'd be about applied learning if I worked for a university! I believe that focusing on content leaves a very large gap between the passive transfer of information in an educational environment and learners' performances in the real world, doing real world tasks.

My final word (for now): 

Content alone will not be enough to engage your learners. !Ever! 

More on this next post.