Reflection

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                Distance education has changed over the last two decades faster than it has changed over the last hundred years.  What began as a way to educate people who did not have access to traditional education, has shifted to a way to educate a multitude of people.  Today, nearly seven million people are taking at least one online course (Allen & Seaman, 2013).  Additionally, many public schools are implementing virtual public schools.  This shift in education is similar to the shift from mail via the post office to e-mail for regular communication.

                As time progresses, distance education will find its place among the other available forms of education.  Currently, 69.1% of university educational leaders feel that online education is part of their long-term strategy (Allen & Seaman, 2013).  Given this fact, it is likely that distance education will continue to grow over the next five to ten years.  We will likely see more virtual universities and global enrollment.  I also expect high school students to take at least one distance learning course, as this is the vision of my current school district.  Although this growth will continue to skyrocket over the next ten years, I believe it will begin to plateau after approximately fifteen years.  Distance education will find its place alongside traditional education. 

                Throughout this process, universities and virtual public schools are looking for effective instructional designers.  I can fill this role to effect positive change.  Currently many of my peers work for universities as instructors.  They perform their duties around their current teaching assignments to the best of their abilities with little understanding of the change this environment requires.  As an instructional designer, I can complete a task analysis before the project to determine the actual needs (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, Zvacek, 2012).  Therefore, a course that I create will focus on the true learning need, not simply fulfill the desires of an administrator.

                As I pursue this endeavor, I will continue to create high quality professional development for the instructors of distance education courses.  In these courses, it is important that there are meaningful connections between the instructor and the students (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  In order to facilitate this, we must create professional development that teaches instructors how to appropriately interact with students to support learning.  While completing my Master’s degree courses, I have had examples of both good and bad professors.  Armed with this knowledge and my background creating courses in Blackboard and Moodle, I believe that I can positively influence distance education within my district and hopefully on a national level.

                As education continues to change with technology, so shall I.  It is important to use technology to educate students, not chose the technology tool and then the educational goals (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  This is my role in distance education.  I will remind everyone that education is the goal, not technology.  In this way, I will take my place among the instructional designers who shape distance education over the next twenty years.

 

References

Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2013). Changing course: Ten years of tracking online education in the United States. Retrieved from Sloan Consortium website:http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/changingcourse.pdf

 Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M. & Zvacek, S. (2012).  Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. Boston: MA.  Pearson.

 

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Changing to a Hybrid Course

There has been a shift in education toward an online learning environment.  Many courses that were once taught face-to-face are now taught via the internet.  In 2010, over six million students were enrolled in at least one distance learning course (Lytle, 2011).  Today we are looking to change a training that has been only mildly effective from a face to face course to a blended environment.  Many people think that this is easy, but it is not.

Easy steps to creating a better hybrid course:

  1. Analyze (the problem, the learner, the first iteration)
  2. Create new content (not everything is transferable
  3. Focus on the objectives (not everything is relevant)
  4. Navigation (this could make or break your course)
  5. Communication (Talk to students often, create a real sense of community)
  6. Set high expectations

 

Always remember, teaching at a distance requires greater emphasis on the initial planning phase and maintenance throughout implementation (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  One can only rely on the analysis and subsequent changes to create a perfect solution to fit the problem.

Scope Creep

Image                Working as part of the after school tutoring program has been a joy.  Last year I was in charge of teaching technology lessons.  At the beginning of the program, my function was simply to teach the predesigned lessons.  When I was given the first lesson, I realized that most of the students had done the same lesson last year.  Additionally, it did not teach them any new skills.  When I brought this to the director’s attention and asked what the next few lessons were, she changed the scope of the project.  Suddenly I was designing technology lessons for an undetermined amount of time with no guidelines.  Additionally, she held a derby for two schools and took two field trips that were not a part of the original design of the tutoring program.  She also ran four clubs within the program that were not a part of the scope.  I was also asked to run two parent nights, where only one was originally scheduled for this program.  This is a prime example of scope creep, which is a very common occurrence with projects (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).

                Our project manager did not have a plan to deal with scope creep.  Instead, every time she was asked to do something additional she chose a person from within the tutoring staff and assigned the project.  While I enjoyed my part, the lack of guidelines for the additional requirements caused a lack of uniformity within the structure of the clubs.  Additionally, attendance at the extra events was poor.  This was a direct impact of scope creep.    

When dealing with scope creep, it is important to have a plan for contingencies and to think through each change and the effect on the overall project.  Additionally, it is important to communicate with your stakeholders about how these changes will affect the project before deciding on changes (Lynch & Roecker, 2007).    Once changes have been made, all stakeholders should be aware of their additional responsibilities.  The project manager should communicate often with the affected personnel to insure that changes are being made in a consistent and appropriate manner (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton & Kramer, 2008).

References

Laureate Education, Inc., (2010). Monitoring Projects.  [Web]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3398237_1%26url%3D

Lynch, M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Controlling the Project. In M. Lynch, & J. Roecker, Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management (pp. 94-108). London: Taylor & Francis Group. 

 

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Learning Spanish Via a MOOC

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                Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are becoming more common in education today.  If you are struggling to understand a concept, where does the search for information begin?  It used to begin in a library.  Now, it begins with a quick search of the internet.  However, in the very near future, questions might be answered by visiting a MOOC.

As a student of instructional design and a budding course designer, I felt it was important to take a MOOC to determine the usefulness of this new media.  I have been learning Spanish words over the last five years informally.  I have no idea how to spell any of these words or if they are simply part of the local dialect.  Therefore, I felt that formal education in the language is finally in order.  As such, I am currently taking Spanish via a MOOC at http://spanishmooc.com/.

The course begins with a trailer for the course that is very engaging.  It uses screen captures from the course, quotes from reviews and Spanish songs to excite students about beginning to learn Spanish.  As I work my way through this course, I am distinctly reminded of Charles Wedemeyer’s theory of independent study.  This course can be taken anytime, anywhere and does not require a minimum number of students (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright &Zvacek, 2012).  Instead, the burden of learning is placed upon the student.  Each step is followed by report showing my score.  When I receive the report, it is my responsibility to choose to progress to the next step or to replay this step.  There is no instructor telling me to redo the assignment, just my better judgment (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  This feedback throughout the program is individualized and the course actually tailors itself to each student.  If you miss a question in the first section, this specific word is carried over to the next set of questions.  In fact, specific words can be targeted throughout the entire course for an individual student.  That type of individualization makes this MOOC very individualized and learning can only occur via student activities (Simonson, et. al, 2012). 

One of the most effective methods of teaching foreign languages is immersion into the language.  Learning a language is learning to communicate with others effectively.  Since language is conversational, it is important that the lessons focus on realistic types of conversations (Rivers, 1981).  This particular MOOC is designed with communication in mind.  It uses real songs including the actual video from the songs.  The learner is required to find the Spanish word that was used in the song.  The English is on the left and the Spanish is on the right.  The actual answer choices are across the bottom.  As you look at the words, you can hover over a Spanish word to hear it pronounced again.  When you do this, it highlights the equivalent English word.    This type of individualization, immediate feedback and focus on communication makes this MOOC very engaging and appropriate for adult learners (Simonson, et. al, 2012).

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Once you have progressed through the first lesson, you can explore other videos via the explore tab or mingle with other students in the course.  This means that you can actually discuss the learning as it is occurring.  These interactions in a MOOC are very unique and allow learners to include the very important social aspect to the course (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  Although I have only worked through the beginning video portions, there are reading and writing practices embedded throughout this course as well.  It appears to me that this course has been specifically designed to incorporate all of the best teaching practices in language learning and distance education.  Instreamia has created a fantastic course for learning Spanish and I would be excited about taking more MOOCs from Instreamia when I finish this course.

References

Rivers, W. M. (1981). Teaching foreign-language skills. University of Chicago Press, 5801 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL 60637.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M. & Zvacek, S. (2012).  Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. Boston: MA.  Pearson.

 

Project Management Help for Instructional Designers

Image                Project management is one of the most difficult tasks assigned to an instructional designer.  We are typically invested in the creation of an amazing product.  However, most instructional designers do not have experience managing others.  Therefore, transitioning into an instructional design career that includes project management can be very stressful.  As such, I can recommend OpenProj and TaskJuggler to make you a much more effective project manager.

                Gannt Project is an open source project that can generate Gannt and Pert forms (GanntPro, 2011).   It can be found at http://www.ganttproject.biz/.  One of the major benefits of this project management tool is the tutorial video.  It actually walks you through utilizing the software which is very easy (Alam, 2010).  Not only are you able to produce the project charts to help you allocate resources accurately, but you can also export important reports.  This software also allows one to easily see dependencies and hierarchies (Alam, 2010).  Additionally, those using Microsoft Project can use this in conjunction with this software (GanntPro, 2011).  Exporting and importing is as simple as clicking the button.  This is important as many stand-alone software programs are difficult to integrate with the existing software (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer & Sutton, 2008).  However, my favorite tool is the Resource Load Chart.  This allows me to see all of the tasks assigned to each group and insure that I do not overload one particular person or group.  I can then collaborate directly in the program (GanntPro, 2011).  This allows everyone to be updated continually which is incredibly important as work is now being delegated globally, not just locally.

                TaskJuggler is another free open source project management tool.  It can be found at http://www.taskjuggler.org/download.html.  This tool is comprehensive that will provide everything you need from inception to completion (Alam, 2010).  It is integrated project-management software (Portny, et. al, 2008).  While this program includes scoping support, Gannt charts, WBS and other necessary reports, my favorite function is the optimizing scheduler.  It actually has a built-in resource balancer and consistency checker (Alam, 2010).  This means that the beginning project manager can be confident that he/she chose an appropriate timeline and selected appropriate resources.  The software even resolves resource conflicts and allows for shift work and multiple time zones (Schlaeger, 2013).  For those who are more familiar with project management, the “as many details as necessary” approach allows for continued flexibility and planning throughout the project instead of planning the entire project before beginning (Jay, 2009).  This tool is not appropriate for those simply creating charts that look nice.  It is intended as a comprehensive tool to help you move through every phase of the project with flexibility and confidence (Schlaeger, 2013). 

                While both of these tools are beneficial to the new project manager, you must find what works within your organization (Portny, et. al, 2008).  RASCI charts, Gannt charts and other reports will help you allocate resources properly (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  However, these are not the only reports that may be required.  In fact, many organizations already have software available that other members are familiar with.  Changing to another software may cause delays in your project due to lack of familiarity with the new project management tool (Portny, et. al, 2008).  As such, I truly recommend that you analyze your organization’s needs before choosing a project management tool.

 

References

Alam, M. (2010, February 15). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.smashingapps.com/2010/02/15/10-free-tools-for-effective-project-management.html

GanntPro. (2011). Gantt Project Home.  Retrieved from http://www.ganttproject.biz/.

Jay, A. (2009, April 21). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.smashingapps.com/2009/04/21/taskjuggler-a-modern-and-powerful-open-source-project-management-tool.html

Laureate Education, Inc., (2010). Creating a Resource Allocation Plan.  [Web]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3398237_1%26url%3D

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Schlaegue, C. (2013). The taskjuggler project management software. Retrieved from http://www.taskjuggler.org/