CDL Instructional Design Team Well Represented at CIT 2014

This year’s SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology (CIT), hosted by Cornell University, May 27-30, featured a full schedule of interesting presentations and thought-provoking speakers. The Center for Distance Learning’s Curriculum and Instructional Design Team was well represented with six sessions.

slideA six-member panel presented on “Conquering a Large-Scale Course Conversion,” that addressed some of the challenges and lessons learned during the clean-up of more than 500 online courses, converted in 2013 from the Angel LMS to Moodlerooms, Joule 2. The panel included Kathleen Stone, Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design (CID), as well as CID team members Bob Kester, Bonnie Farrell, Tonka Jokelova, Betsy Braun, and Hui-Ya (Laura) Chuang. Audience members from SUNY campuses considering a similar change expressed appreciation for the group’s insights regarding design issues, team work, goal setting and lessons learned.

Hui-Ya Chuang also presented a well-received and detailed overview of “How to Translate an Online Course into Another Language” in one of the poster sessions. And Kathleen Stone joined fellow members of the Online Accessibility SUNY FACT2 task group to share guidelines and criteria for software and educational resources established to assist campuses in becoming ADA Section 508 compliant. (Co-presenters: Meghan Pereira and Ginger Bidell, Buffalo State College; and Deborah Spiro, Nassau Community College).

Instructional designer Chi-Hua Tseng presented two different Ignite Sessions: “MOOCS: What they are, and what they are not” and “ADA Section 508 Compliance Cheat Sheet.” She also presented an informative poster titled “Mahara 1-2-3: Introducing an e-portfolio platform.”

Exploring Open Education

Members of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Task Force are participating in David Wiley’s Openness in Education course to learn more about open licensing, open content, open access and other facets of open education. In the current course, which began in January, participants explore each topic together and then blog about their discoveries, observations and experiences. Visit the Open Education site to learn more about the course, who’s participating and what they are saying on their blogs.

Detail from OER poster at All College 2012

Detail from OER Task Force poster at All College

The OER Task Force membership includes Ellen Murphy, Kathleen Stone, Michele Ogle, Robert Kester, Hui-ya Chuang, Katarina Pisutova, Claire Miller, Joyce McKnight, Suzanne Hayes, Rebecca Bonanno, Xenia Coulter, and Debbi Staulters. The group shared some of its findings with the Empire State College community in a poster session at the All College Conference on March 28th. If you missed that opportunity, more presentations are coming up.

At the CDL Conference there will be a panel presentation entitled Lessons Learned: An Experience in Open Education, in which group members will provide feedback on their experience taking an open education course.  (Saturday, April 28th at 9:45am).

In May there will be a presentation at the annual Conference on Instruction and Technology (CIT) called Birds of a Feather, so named to attract an audience of others interested in open education. CIT 2012 takes place at SUNY Stony Brook. (Presentation May 31, 8:30am).

Lastly, on Monday June 4th, Kathleen Stone and Michele Ogle will present at the Capital District Educational Technology Group (CDETG) Conference on their experiences with open education related to Science, Math, and Technology. This year’s CDETG Conference is hosted by SUNY Empire State College, Center for Distance Learning in Saratoga Springs.

Stay tuned for more open education updates!

Helping Our Instructors Work Smarter, Not Harder: Automating Activities Using the ANGEL LMS

The Nursing Pharmacology course at CDL uses a unique action-controlled assignment in which all students are preassigned a particular topic and enrolled in teams. The teams are designed to represent one student working on each topic. Students present their work to their teams and then peer-review each other as part of a group assignment. All the navigation is controlled by team actions and dependencies that are built-in to the activity in ANGEL, the Learning Management System (LMS).

These behind-the-scenes, automated actions generated by the LMS control how and when students receive assignments, work in a group, and access peer-review forms. The complex layers of the activity would prove burdensome to the instructor if done manually. This activity therefore allows the sharing of student-generated content, the honing of presentation skills and encouraging social interaction – all without the instructor or the student needing to learn new technology or monitor ongoing submission or completion of assignments. Rather, the instructor can focus on the quality of the learning experience their students are having.

Online Courses Moving to Moodle

screen shot of Moodle page

Example of Moodle course page

In anticipation of Empire State College’s adoption of the open-source learning management platform Moodle 2, Ellen Marie Murphy, Director of Online Curriculum at CDL, gave a demonstration of the software on September 22nd. Well attended by CDL faculty and staff, the presentation provided an overview of the platform’s capabilities and offered a snapshot of what a course might look like in Moodle. The system is versatile, user-friendly and offers countless options for collaboration and incorporating media. The date of course conversion from ANGEL to Moodle has not yet been announced, but expectations are for fall of 2012. For those who were not able to participate on the 22nd, the presentation is available via Elluminate here. Approximate length: 30 minutes. (Actual presentation begins about 5 minutes in, due to audio adjustments).

NOTE: Murphy demonstrated her own Moodle2 examples. The Empire State College version may differ somewhat, but not significantly.

Shared Learning in a Wiki-mediated Environment

At CDL, we strive to offer our online students opportunites to work openly and collaboratively whenever possible. To promote a community of inquiry for student team projects, a wiki-mediated learning environment model was designed and it has worked successfully in learning activities across several disciplines. The wiki activities from four individual courses can be explored below. In these examples students contributed content and shared knowledge by co-creating artifacts and writing collaboratively, while the instructor served as co-collaborator, facilitator, and content expert.

Student satisfaction was high and outcomes demonstrated enhanced quality, creativity and participation when compared to outcomes of similar activities conducted in more traditional environments. A class discussion board provided a format for formative and summative peer review and feedback, which was a motivating factor. Each wiki-mediated learning activity let students demonstrate how they worked together to present a unified project with clear meaning and the use of multimedia. A bonus for instructors: the transparency of the wiki environment charted student growth and development over time.

screen shot from Information Systems wiki

Exploring the Disciplines: Information Systems - Developer: Jianhao Chen

Introduction to College Studies

Introduction to College Studies - Developers: Craig Lamb and Alice Lai

Advanced Health Assessment

Advanced Health Assessment - Developer: Teresa Smith

Communications for Professionals

Communications for Professionals - Developer: Susan Oaks

 

Personalizing Learning: Providing Meaning & Relevance to Student Work

Successful courses are those designed to work in collaboration with learners. Underlying the design of CDL course learning activities is the understanding that our students are adult students, and that it is essential that the activities engage them in meaningful ways. Following current research in the field of adult learning, (Wlodkowski, R. J. 1993), our activities are designed for adult learners who need to:

  • know why the learning is required;
  • direct their own pace/style of learning;
  • contribute their personal/professional/life experiences to the learning environment;
  • apply what they have learned to solve real-world problems, and
  • feel competent and experience success throughout the learning process.

For example, the Global Climate Change course engages students in a self-directed project called the “CO2 Calculator”. This activity requires students to directly observe their own daily routines, and then to assess how they might contribute to CO2 reduction by changing their daily behavior. This hands-on activity invites students to contribute to global energy conservation while also developing an individualized and very personal understanding of the effects of climate change.

How to ‘Chunk’ a Course: Organizing & Coordinating Content

Ever wonder why it is more difficult to remember long strings of information than shorter bits? For over 50 years, studies have suggested that our ability to accurately recall information is capped at about seven numbers or items (Miller, 1956) If we break up the information into little packets, or chunks, we are  more capable of remembering greater amounts of information (Simon, 1974).  For example, remembering a number such as 5138675309 is much easier when broken into chunks, i.e. 513-867-5309. More current research suggest that our limits may be closer to four chunks of information (Cohen, 2001).

When developing courses at CDL, the Curriculum and Instructional Design team strives to organize information to allow learners to easily access the information in a way that enables them to recall it better. Key to our course models, like the Hassenger and the Humanities Model, is organizing information in amounts that are easy to recall.  For example, a quick overview to a given chapter or course module can act as a roadmap for students, and serve to reinforce their learning experience throughout.

Implicit within our courses is  this type of underlying structure, or template, which encourages course organization into four to seven course modules, or chunks. This makes the content easier to access and recall and can assist or even improve learning. The Humanities course model also offers various modalities of presentation, so the learner can choose which presentation of the material best fits his or her learning style.

Real Time Collaboration: Google Docs & Class Participation

In the Women in Business course at CDL, students use a shared document to compile data related to their research on female CEOs from around the world. Each student is asked to provide authentic biographical data for a female CEO in business today, and to add it to a shared form in Google Docs in preparation for a class discussion and later in the course, a research paper.

The data each student enters on the Google Doc serves as an abbreviated research paper thesis, and because other students can view the entries of their peers, they not only learn a bit about other CEOs they may not have chosen themselves, but they also learn to recognize a growing number of influential businesswomen in today’s market.

The Google doc provides a real-time save/edit feature that provides students with the most current, up-to-date information recently added to the form by their peers or the instructor.  It is important to note that students do not need gmail accounts to participate; the document is set up to allow anyone with the link to view and add data.

Because the Google Suite (Apps, Docs, Mail) doesn’t yet communicate with certain screen reader technology, students with visual impairments have the  option to contact the instructor and receive a downloaded version of the document that they can add their data to and resubmit.

The Power of Peer Critique!

Screenshot of Peer Critique InstructionsThroughout the Digital Art and Design course, students are asked to publicly share their art design work via the use of blogs. Peers use discussion threads to critique their peer’s art designs while the instructor monitors to ensure that communication is respectful, relevant, and useful. Peer critique is an interactive, formative and dynamic process that inspires enhanced performance in an authentic setting.

For peer feedback to be an effective instructional strategy, the instructor should supply clear deadlines, a rubric/guidelines, a sample critique, and course credit or incentives for peer reviewers. If peer feedback and critique are embedded throughout the course, it is not viewed as an activity but as a necessary step in the process of creating quality work.

Peer feedback allows for gaining insight from multiple perspectives, while the public posting allows for self reflection;  Students see the differences in their quality of work, which in turns helps them calibrate superior performance in the class and model top performance.

Using Technology to Foster Authentic Learning

In the Communications for Professionals course, a professional, collaborative online environment is created to challenge students to  tap into their existing  knowledge and experiences, and incorporate newly learned skills when presenting themselves in a professional venue. It is intended to build self-confidence and professionalism into their communications.
This activity is designed to encourage participatory learning. The course instructor is charged with channeling the students interests and aptitudes into a more professional focus. By molding online and collaborative abilities and interests into academic pursuits, an authentic learning environment is created. While focusing on discipline-specific learning goals, the instructor scaffolds the learners through a series of activities that increase in complexity, thus shepherding the development of higher-order thinking skills.

Scaffolding activities: A series of role-play introductions to specific work environments, where each work environment is introduced by a first -and report from current employees and business owners (via video).

Collaborative social environment: A course blog was created specifically for the course, while also being open to the academic community. By placing the students in a collaborative social environment like a blog and scaffolding the activities, the students can role-play authentic learning activities.