15-4 “Ancient Cultures Modern Technology” Resource Guide

May 15th, 2004 | By | Category: 15-4: Ancient Cultures Modern Technology, Resource Guides
By Mark Trebian

This resource guide has two purposes: to showcase sources relevant to effective online content development and to provide links to potential partners who can help enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curricula.

The amount of information available about online content development can be quite overwhelming. The space allowed for this guide requires focusing on resources that will hopefully serve the majority of the readers. Many readers have been, or will be, investigating online learning.

For the purposes of this guide, content development refers to resources and material to be used in an asynchronous/synchronous online learning environment. In an asynchronous online learning environment a student can start a course at any time and take as much time as necessary to complete the course. The student may or may not be required to communicate with other students and the instructor online.

In a synchronous online learning environment, more structure is involved. The student will often be required to start a course at a set time and have a set period of time to complete the course. The student can also be required to communicate regularly with other students and the instructor. In both cases, however, the student may never meet classmates or the instructor face-to-face. This resource guide can also be of use to instructors who teach traditional on-campus courses, who provide lecture notes and other supplemental materials online for their students.

Some instructors argue against developing online content by saying it lacks interactivity between students and their instructors. Interactivity is important. To have a truly effective course, students and instructors must be able to exchange ideas and work together in collaborative exercises and projects.

Good delivery should be the focus of any program’s development, either in a physical classroom or online. A common problem in broadcast productions is the “talking head syndrome.” The same problem can plague live lectures and online deliveries. Whether you have a talking head on the computer screen or one standing in front of a live audience, the effect is the same.

Bringing interactivity to online training is new and uncharted territory compared with techniques developed over many decades for the classroom. Merely placing reading assignments and exercise sets online does not constitute an effective web-based course.

So what can be done to infuse interactivity into an online course? There has to be an exchange between students and the instructor as well as amongst students.

Both the students’ and the instructor’s expectations have to change. Students have to shed the tendency to be passive receivers of information, and the instructor must look at his/her role. If that role has been simply to present knowledge, then it must change to facilitation of active learning. If the instructor already has a facilitation style, his/her techniques will have to be adapted so that online tools foster that style.

Developing Online Content

A common tendency for those new to online development is to simply place PowerPoint slides of lectures on the web. Even if a slide presentation effectively complemented a live talk, it often falls short of getting the main points of the speaker across when viewed online.

Amy Gahran (amy@gahran.com) discusses this problem in an article found at http://www.marketingprofs.com/print.asp?source=%2F3%2Fgahran2%2Easp.

Putting up a presentation on the web that is “powerpointless” to begin with can compound this problem. A good discussion with examples on “powerpointlessness” can be found at http://www.geocities.com/couchmath/.  For a good example of what NOT to post online, see the Gettysburg Address PowerPoint at this site.

One method to ensure success in an online course is to build an online community where the students in the course have a sense of ownership and engagement. In a paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association in Seattle, WA, in April 2001, researchers discussed the importance of addressing the organizational and social aspects of building an online learning environment (http://lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/jim-levin/LevinAERA.html).

Their paper is entitled “Social and Organizational Factors in Creating and Maintaining Effective Online Learning Environments.” Sandra R. Levin (slevin@uiuc.edu ), James A. Levin, and Merrill Chandler of the College of Education at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign included several themes necessary for success:

  • Courses that are well organized, utilizing multiple technologies, multiple learning frameworks, and multiple instructional methods contribute to enhanced student learning.
  • Successful students tend to be well organized individuals who set aside specific time for their coursework, prefer project-based group learning, and increase their knowledge through communities of learning.
  • Formal and informal social activities and interactions help to build and maintain effective learning communities. Students formed informal support groups, so that they could work together on course work.
  • The combination of these organizational and social factors is very important to online students and in some cases has been the deciding factor in staying in the program.
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