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1. Copy your best post from the Blackboard discussion forum. Explain why this post is your best and explain how it demonstrates your knowledge, your process for investigating topics or has helped you identify something you need to learn more about.

I realized as I was writing this comparison that I have a lot to learn and that a lot has been written about eLearning. I found myself leafing through (virtually) so many articles and getting more and more useful iformation. I also realized that I need to start an annotated bibliography asap. When you find something good, you really need to grab it.

Phil Hill’s article was a great introduction to elearnng models. Although I had heard most of the terms, and have first hand experience with several, it was useful to have them explained. Interestingly I learned that the Library Research I teach is a “flipped classroom”. And all along I thought I was conducting a hybrid class! 🙂

2. What are your experiences with eLearning?

My experience with e-learning began when I took a series of very practical Educational Technology classes at Cerritos College. These classes are geared towards teachers who want to increase their knowledge of computer-based learning tools. This was my first foray into courses taught entirely online and included a variety of topics such as the Office Suite, Web Design, Podcasting, Video Production, among others. These were very practical courses in which we completed useful projects weekly. I also quickly learned how easy it is to fall behind in an online course and how unforgiving a CMS can be. But I did gain very practical knowledge of both the CMS and the various software programs. I gained technological confidence, passed all the courses, and am still using the knowledge I gained in my day-to-day job as a librarian.

Currently I teach a hybrid library skills course using the Sakai CMS. At the beginning of every semester I find it interesting and disheartening to find that many students don’t process the technology skills to utilize our CMS and basic word processing software. However, over the semesters I have experimented with different ways to organize and present the content and have found that now all my students quickly learn how to navigate and use the CMS.

3. What is the present state of the art in eLearning?

The eLearning field is certainly exploding. According to Jacqueline Bichsel, EDUCAUSE Senior Research Analyst, “Nearly all institutions have a major interest in e-learning, at least at the level of some departments. Online courses are ubiquitous, with over 80% of institutions offering at least several courses online and more than half offering a significant number of courses online.” (Bichsel 2013)  Ease of access and flexibility has made online education a very attractive alternative to many people, including me. In fact, it is estimated that the e-learning industry will be around $49 billion (with a “B”) by 2014. (Ferriman 2013) But that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone and it doesn’t mean there’s only one right way to deliver eContent to our students.

I don’t know enough about the field to know what are the best or the worst practices (that’s why I’m taking these courses), but I do worry that some students will be buried under the explosion. As noted in the Educause article assigned by Professor Newberry  “a natural side effect of this new interest in education and educational technology is an increase in hype and in shallow descriptions of the potential for new educational models to replace the established system. All too often, the public discussion has become stuck in a false dichotomy of traditional vs. online—a dichotomy that treats all online models as similar and that ignores blended or hybrid approaches.“ (Hill 2012) And these other approaches might very well be better for many students, particularly those in community colleges in lower socio-economic areas. As one group of experts, the authors of the Serious eLearning Manifestostated just a few months ago, “eLearning can be a valuable experience, but not simply because technology is present; technology must be harnessed to do beneficial things.” (Learning Solutions 2014)

4. What do you think the future of eLearning is?

I must admit I was getting an information overload headache trying to figure out this one. Experts seem to agree that MOOCs, Big Data, Microlearning, and OER, to name just a few, are a big part of the eLearning future in higher education. I need to learn more about all these trends and see how they fit into the community college classroom and library.

According to Education Sector Factbook 2012, eLearning is expected to grow at an average of 23% in the years 2013-2017. (Pappas 2013)  I found it most interesting and overwhelming to read Pappas’ article and infographic Top 10 e-Learning Statistics for 2014.  Another statistic that really stood out was the need to more than double the number of e-learning staff in central IT. The most-desired positions include course designers, professional development staff, and app designers. IT is involved in the management of e-learning services in almost two-thirds of institutions. (Bichsel 2013) Cerritos College is woefully behind in this regard.

I’m most interested in using technology in the very near future to enhance my community college level courses and my library service. I want to use technology and eLearning’s best practices to help my students succeed and get ready for the next step, whether it’s going on to a four-year institution or into the job market.

References 

Bichsel, Jacqueline. The State of E-Learning in Higher Education: An Eye Toward Growth and Increased Access. Educause Review Online. June 21, 2013.http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/state-e-learning-higher-education-eye-toward-growth-and-increased-access

Ferriman, Justin. State of the E-Learning Industry [INFOGRAPHIC] Learning & Collaboration Blog. January 1, 2013. http://www.learndash.com/state-of-the-e-learning-industry-infographic/

Hill, Phil. Online Educational Delivery Models: A Descriptive View. Educause Review Online. Nov/Dec 2012. http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/online-educational-delivery-models-descriptive-view

Learning Industry Experts Commit to Disrupt the Current State of eLearning. Learning Solutions Magazine. March 11, 2104. http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1366/learning-industry-experts-commit-to-disrupt-the-current-state-of-elearning 

Pappas, Christopher. Future eLearning Trends and Technologies in the Global eLearning Industry. eLearning Industry. December 6, 2013. http://elearningindustry.com/future-elearning-trends-and-technologies-in-the-global-elearning-industry


Other Discussion Topics This Week

Online Educational Delivery Models: A Comparison of Two

Make sure you have read the Online Delivery Models information from Educause then engage in this discussion. The article discusses the modes listed below. Choose any two and compare and contrast delivery and assessment considerations for the pair. To do this well you will probably have to research more information about one or more of your choices of modes to work with.

Fully Online Programs
These are courses that are taught only via the web with no face-to face interaction and utilizing a course management system such as Blackboard, Moodle, Sakai, etc. This mode of delivery allows students to complete courses and degrees without attending a traditional classroom session. The school can be around the block, across the country, or on the other side of the world. It can be a community college or an Ivy League University. It can be for-profit or non-profit, public, or private. Online courses open doors for many students who might not have the opportunity to attend a traditional institution. Even though there is no scheduled class meeting time, there are generally deadlines the students must meet although there are many self-paced online courses as well. I’m taking one now in fact through University of LaVerne’s Professional Development program and I have a full year to complete it. Students are expected to be self-disciplined and motivated enough to stay on task and complete assignments. The must be computer savvy as well. But students often realize significant financial savings enjoy the convenience of a more flexible schedule. Online learning also provides many additional benefits beyond just convenience and financial savings. An independent approach to distance learning teaches the student to be a more effective time manager. And with online learning, a student may develop the technological skills needed in their future careers. Knowledge of the functions of the Internet, typing and software programs are necessary to be considered digitally literate, and online learning helps strengthen these skills.

Online course curriculum is generally similar to that of a traditional class in the same field or subject. Faculty who teach fully online courses may use a master course, a course that “gets replicated into multiple, relatively consistent sections in a repeatable manner. In this approach, instructional design teams—typically including multimedia experts, quality-assurance people, and instructional designers—work with faculty members and/or subject-matter experts to design a master course. Once designed, the master course sections can be taught or facilitated by multiple instructors, typically adjunct faculty.” (Hill) Classes can be quite large which means the faculty who teach must have manageable delivery and assessment methods and must also be effective time managers.

Blended/Hybrid Courses and the Flipped Classroom
Hybrid courses are a mix of online and traditional. There will be some face-to-face classroom instruction often using technology in the classroom, as well as fully online components. Hybrid course are a good option for students who feel they need some face-to-face interaction with their instructors and classmates but do not have a schedule that permits them to regularly attend a traditional class. In my own experience teaching hybrid classes I find that students always say they offer the best of both worlds, giving them some freedom from a strict classroom schedule, offering them the opportunity to learn in an online environment, and also giving them access to their instructor.
I found a great description of Hybrid courses on the University of Wisconsin website: “A hybrid course is designed to integrate face-to-face and online activities so that they reinforce, complement, and elaborate one another, instead of treating the online component as an add-on or duplicate of what is taught in the classroom. The definition of hybrid or blended continues to be a much debated topic, as does the use of the term hybrid or blended itself. Although many definitions of hybrid and blended learning exist, there is a convergence upon the three key points identified above: (1) Web-based learning activities are introduced to complement face-to-face work; (2) “seat time” is reduced, though not eliminated altogether; (3) the Web-based and face-to-face components of the course are designed to interact pedagogically to take advantage of the best features of each.” (Hybrid)

Hill states an important feature of hybrid courses and that is that they combine online and face-to-face class time in a structured manner. He also notes that “Although there are varying mixtures of content delivery and interactive activities in this approach, the logical extension is something called the “flipped classroom.” The flipped classroom model involves courses that move the traditional lecture, or content dissemination, away from face-to-face hours and into online delivery outside of class time. The face-to-face class time is used for practice and actual application rather than for introducing the content being studied. The instructor then has time to help students face-to-face with specific problems. Flipped classrooms have been in existence since around 2000, but they have recently been gaining popularity in both higher education and K-12 institutions.”
After reading about flipped classrooms I realized that the Library skills course I teach is actually “flipped”. Students read a lesson online and then do an online exercise using the skills and resources discussed in the lesson. When they come to the computer lab for the regularly scheduled “lab” session we go over the lesson together and they have additional assignments (mostly using online resources but sometimes going to the library to use books) to practice their research skills in class with me present to assist. I find this method most effective when teaching research skills to undergraduates.
As Hill states, “The common theme is to make face-to-face class time more effective, using it to provide much of the instructor feedback and interactive skills portion of a class while pushing content delivery into more-efficient online tools.”

So which is better? There’s probably no clear winner. Learning benefits vary depending on the institution, the technology, the course, the teacher, and the students. However, a 2010 research evaluation performed by the U.S. Department of Education showed that higher education students enrolled in online learning courses performed just as well as those enrolled in on-campus courses and programs. However, those who combined online learning with occasional on-campus visits actually performed better academically than individuals in traditional, on-campus formats. (Benefits)

Hill, Phil. Online Educational Delivery Models: A Descriptive View. Educause Review Online. Nov/Dec 2012. http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/online-educational-delivery-models-descriptive-view

Benefits and Advantages of Online Learning.Education Portal http://education-portal.com/benefits_of_online_learning.html

Hybrid Courses. University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. http://www4.uwm.edu/ltc/hybrid/about_hybrid/index.cfm

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