Strategies to be a successful online facilitator/instructor/professor – Part I

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The fast growth of technology has for sure affected the way education is experienced or shall we say delivered. Online education is the growing need for professionals in today’s economy.

Distance Education can be said as  ‘easy accessibility to learning’. Globally, all the universities have incorporated online learning in their curriculum. With many universities adapting online learning, it certainly takes high-quality coursework to keep their students motivated.

Thanks to the technology that’s helping me get my Masters in Instructional Design and Technology through online. During my coursework, I have received rich and proficient learning experiences. The praise goes to the instructor/facilitator of every course who has contributed diverse methodologies to offer competent knowledge and skill with an effective use of instructional technology.

With the experiences, I have gained; I would like to share the strategies that my instructors used, to build a virtual community that eliminates isolation and keeps the students motivated at the same time.

Eliminate Isolation – Judith L. Johnson, the author of the book, ‘Distance education, the complete guide to design, delivery and improvement’, recommends 5 points for facilitator (Pg 21). In her 2nd recommendation, her thoughts go towards isolated learning. Her suggestion is “to come up with a solid support system to assist students who for the most part are faced with independent and isolated learning.”

Isolation is when a student is left unaccompanied. Faculty has to make an effort to develop communications with the students often throughout the coursework. Technology plays a vital role in this situation. Faculty can connect with students by various methodologies. As I recall, during one of my courses, the instructor made the discussion board very active. She used to connect with every student by giving regular feedback to them. We also had a University messenger where we could chat with our instructor/facilitator, peers, etc.

We were asked to do collaborative assignments and project works. This was a little tough part as I had my peers in different time zones and with various life styles, however, once we figured out a way to communicate it became much fun and a sigh of satisfaction.

Personal connection with students – A one on one interaction is recommended with students. In one of my course works, when we students introduced ourselves with a picture or a small introductory video in the discussion board; the facilitator/professor of the course sent personal mail to us. Possibly, a phone call or a chat conversation with the students at the start of every course will make students comfortable. These approaches would certainly make a course rich in quality and will be highly motivating.

Include Video lectures – A high quality courseware would be where I can see and hear the faculty. For every chapter, I would like to see video of a faculty giving lecture on the lesson. This would be like having a one on one with the faculty for every learner. Duane Champion, Director of Computer Technology, Penn State Public Broadcasting, researched and developed ‘Web Presenter’, multimedia package in which faculty would be able to include live video, audio and many other features in the web-based course. More can be seen here http://qualityspotlight.psu.edu/web_presenter/index.html.

(Distance Education, The complete guide to design, delivery and improvement; pg 120) Author, Judith L. Johnson states about live video services in varying universities such as Coastline Community college in Fountain Valley, California and University of Maine System University College.

I would like to add Stanford University, who offers recorded video lectures. My husband graduated in Stanford’s Project Management Professional certification course. Throughout his course work, he heard saved video lectures. It was an innovative way of reaching students and putting them in ease with difficult chapters. I was highly impressed to see a real faculty in a traditional classroom. Video lectures is a great boon for Distance Education students.

In my next blog, I will continue with synchronous learning, virtual community etc.

Have you acquired any online courses? Could you please share your experiences on the delivery mode and how your instructor/facilitator connected with you?

You might also like :

‘Seven Principles of Good Practice’ to follow in designing Online Education

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© Priya Gopalakrishnan and eLearningbuzz.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.

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Personalization & Voice Principle

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Richard E. Mayer is a professor of psychology who has experimented and written the 12 key principles of Multimedia Learning.

In this post, I would like to ponder about his 10th and 11th principle which is ‘Personalization Principle’ and ‘Voice Principle’ in Multimedia Learning.

Personalization Principle –

According to Personalization principle; people learn more deeply when words are presented in conversational style than formal style. Nevertheless, in the book “E-learning and the science of instruction: proven guidelines for consumers” Clark and Mayer gives guidance for conversational style, ‘The challenge for instructional professionals is to avoid over-using conversational style to the point that it becomes distracting to the learner.’

It makes sense to write informally as learners would feel that they are having interaction with their instructor or a friend but at the same time keeping in mind that not so informal that the learner gets distracted by too casual tone and script. When I say distracted it means that a casual conversational style might even divert the learners from the main message of the training material.

Voice Principle –

Speaking of casual tone, when we look at the voice principle, Mayer has a say that, ‘In voice principle, people learn more deeply when the words in a multimedia message are spoken by a friendly human voice than by a machine voice.’ According to the research of Reeves and Nass (1996), it shows that, under the right circumstances, people “treat computers like real people.” Part of treating computers like real people is to try harder to understand their communications.”

I certainly agree to it, as I have worked with machine voices in the software Adobe Captivate, the voice does not relate anything near to the script on the screen. The script given by me was meant for a casual tone but the way the machine reads without any personalization seems to be very formal. One more cons for machine voice is, while working with global audience, it may get hard for the machine voice to speak with accent. However, working with a local human voice narration might work better in this scenario. (Mayer) Voice cues may affect the degree to which a learner feels a social response to the instructional message.

Have you worked on delivering voice narrations before for your multimedia presentation? Which one did you choose between human voice, machine voice and talking avatars like Sitepal.com? Why?

Which style did you choose, formal or conversational? Why?

Mayer, R. E. (2009). Multimedia learning (2nd ed.). New York, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Clark, Ruth. C., Mayer, Richard. E. (2003). E-learning and the Science of instruction proven guidelines for consumers and designers for multimedia learning. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Photo Courtesy – Sitepal.com

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© Priya Gopalakrishnan and eLearningbuzz.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.

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Extraneous Processing Overload in Instructional Design

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Cognitive image

Cognitive strength is a construct that plays a vital role in instructional design and also a very interesting ongoing research topic in this field.

In the book Multimedia Learning (pg. 79), Mayer discusses about ‘Three kinds of cognitive load processing during learning; extraneous cognitive, essential cognitive and generative cognitive. Though all three of the cognitive processing are necessary for instructional design, but according to my opinion the bigger role is played by extraneous cognitive processing.

What is Extraneous Processing overload?

In an instructional lesson, when the cognitive processing of extraneous material is so demanding that there is little or no remaining cognitive capacity to engage learners in essential or productive processing. Extraneous processing overload is likely to happen when the lesson contains attention grasping extraneous material or when the lesson is presented in a confusing way. The extraneous processing is a cognitive processing in the instructional material that does not offer the instructional goal and it does not involve any learning process.

When we say extraneous material, it simply means, the extra material that is included in the lesson is not relevant to meet the instructional goal. E.g. if the instructional goal is to understand ‘how lighting works’, then extraneous material though interesting but irrelevant would be video of lightning strikes.

Five ways to reduce Extraneous Processing

To reduce the extraneous processing, Mayer ponders 5 principles, they are –

1. Coherence: Delete extraneous words, sounds or graphics.

2. Signaling: Highlight essential words or graphics.

3. Redundancy: Delete redundant captions from narrated animation.

4. Spatial contiguity: Place essential words next to corresponding graphics on the screen or page.

5. Temporal contiguity: Present corresponding words and pictures simultaneously.

These principles are considered to decrease extraneous processing so that learners can use their cognitive capacity for necessary and productive processing.

Ref – Mayer, R. E. (2009). Multimedia Learning (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

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© Priya Gopalakrishnan and eLearningbuzz.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.
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How to Engage Learners efficiently with Rich Media

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Rich media have always been used efficiently as entertainment in the form of films and interactive games. Different forms of edutainment have included features of electronic games in the service of achieving educational goals.

Even though rich media are being used enormously to achieve the educational purpose, yet, learners are not motivated to continue an instructional goal. Why?

Here are a few tips that will help you to design your instructional module with rich media, that will engage learners efficiently –

Minimize unnecessary visuals and text

In the year 1997, Harp and Mayer assessed the learning effects of adding both ‘seductive’ text and visuals to multimedia lessons. Seductive details are normally related to the general topic but are unrelated to the primary instructional goal. Though, these details would certainly spice-up the lessons, but it doesn’t do much judgment to the learning. In 1998, they further concluded that seductive details could distract the learners, by confusing the building of a mental model or by activating inappropriate preceding knowledge.

Utilize right design principles for inexperienced learners

The learner’s level of prior knowledge will help you design appropriate learning using rich media.  Low-knowledge people might benefit immensely by well-designed multimedia than high-knowledge learners. High-knowledge learners will be able to compensate for poorly designed learning compared to low-knowledge learners. According to Mayer (2001), integrating text and diagrams is always considered a good instructional design that helps low-knowledge learners but made little or no difference for high-knowledge learners. Mayer also concludes that, while working with low-knowledge learners, be particularly careful to use relevant principles of multimedia design.

Use simulations effectively with rich media

Simulations not only hold the potential to improve learning but also add value to an instructional program. Simulations are fun and motivating to use, for both children as well as adult learners. During the process of simulation learners acquire a broad discipline-specific knowledge that they are able to later transfer into a professional setting. In a study done by, Moreno, Mayer, Spires and Lester (2001) have noticed that, students learned better from a computer-based simulation game designed to teach environmental science than when the same material was presented as a tutorial with onscreen text and illustrations.

Rich media can enhance learning, provided, if they are used in ways that promote an effective cognitive process in learners;

  • Visuals such as illustrations and animation can improve learning, but animation is not necessarily more productive than illustrations.
  • Audio can enhance learning such as, when the narration supports animation, but background music might divert learners.
  • Including attractive but unrelated words and graphics does not motivate deeper learning but detracts from learning.

Rich media do not create learning, but rich media can enable effective instructional methods that promote learning.
So, use them wisely.

Reference – Robert a Reiser and John V Dempsey. Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (Second ed.).

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© Priya Gopalakrishnan and eLearningbuzz.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.
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‘Seven Principles of Good Practice’ to follow in designing Online Education

[tweetmeme]Good quality training material is defined differently for every individual. A definition must be substantiated, the quality of education must be assessed and evaluated regularly.  As an instructor or an instructional designer, we must look at a variety of indicators to get an evident picture of the quality of educational material that we design for online students.

‘Seven Principles of good Practice’, was developed by Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda Gamson in 1987 and was later revised in 1996 with a focus on technology. These principles offer suggestions on how to assess and evaluate online education. “The principles were based on a research in teaching-learning activities that produced improved outcomes” (Ehrmann, 2000, p.38). The research has set the groundwork for education systems standards and the implementation of the seven principles of good practice-a foundation used by higher educational institutions everywhere.

Given below are the Seven Principles of Good Practice in online education –

  1. Good practice encourages contact between students and instructor – Frequent contacts between a student and an instructor right from the commencement of the class through the end of the class needs to be encouraged to motivate and have the students involved. E.g. Communicating with students via; Web conferencing, Email, Discussion board, etc. By communicating with the students, the students won’t feel isolated and therefore, will be encouraged to continue the education.
  2. Good practice develops reciprocity and cooperation among students – Collaborative learning develops thinking and expands understanding. Working/studying in a team enhances involvement in learning. E.g. Team project work.
  3. Good practice uses active learning techniques – Students must present reflective write-up about what they are learning, instructor may encourage writing that relates to their past experiences, and apply those to their present situation. Encourage students to participate in asynchronous tools like discussion boards to present their write-up and respond to their peers. By discussing/Critiquing peers work, students are motivated and get involved in learning.
  4. Good practice gives prompt feedback – Recognizing whether you are right or wrong benefits in focusing what you learn. Students at any stage always need help in assessing their existing knowledge competence. The students in online education usually anticipate to two types of feedback; informative feedback and acknowledgment feedback. Informative feedback motivates students and helps them to move further with confidence. Acknowledgment feedback is to inform the student that they have received an assignment and so on.
  5. Good practice emphasizes time on task – Allocating a quality amount of time will always lead to effective learning for students as well as for instructors. Online education needs to have timely deadlines for the students to stay on track and avoid procrastination.
  6. Good practice communicates high expectations – Instructors need to expect high expectations from student’s performance. They can maintain this by assigning challenging project or assignment work throughout the course. E.g. Faculties can show examples of work from older students and explain to the students, how the example work met her expectations. Make your expectations very clear in the beginning of the course work.
  7. Good practice respects diverse talents and ways of learning – Make tailored course work. Allow students to choose their own project/ assignment work rather than assigning them a particular topic. This will always bring out student’s self-confidence as it would encourage bringing out their talent as well as sharing their own perspective.

Do you accept the ‘Seven principles of good practice’, or are there other principles you consider should also be looked at when assessing quality in learning?

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© Priya Gopalakrishnan and eLearningbuzz.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.
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