In today’s digital age most of what we learn comes from an online source. When we are looking for information, we just pick up our smart phone, tablet or computer and have instant access to everything the world has to offer on the subject. The internet is full of knowledgeable people sharing their expertise for others to learn and grow from, many of these in the form of online courses. I had always been hesitant when it came to online courses and preferred a more traditional approach of face-to-face learning, even though I am a technology leader for teachers on a 5th-6th grade campus. Over the past several weeks I have completed the creation of my first online course. The course I created was designed to equip school leaders and educators with the tools and knowledge to create makerspaces, one I predict will interest librarians, teachers, instructional coaches, and technology facilitators who are looking for new ways to inspire and spark curiosity in their students.
Through the process of designing and creating my online course, I quickly realized I was simply repackaging the face-to-face professional developments I had already planned to fit into an online approach. In my technology role, using an online approach is more beneficial for my audience because they can actively participate in their learning, move at their own pace and revisit the information anytime they need a refresher instead of attending another “sit, get and forget” training.
First, I determined my “what” and created a 3 column table based on Lee Fink’s course design. This table acted as the skeleton of my online course, outlining the purpose and intentions of the course. My table was the blueprint to my course which I referred to frequently to remind me of the 5 key components that should be taken into consideration of all courses, online or offline.
Second, I integrated the “how” piece into my course – focusing on how my participants would learn in an online environment and looked at the instructional learning theories that my course would be represented by. The learning theories that lend themselves to the development of an online learning environment are: 1) behaviorism, the belief that learning takes place when behaviors are repeated, 2) constructivism, the belief that learning is constructed by the learner who creates new knowledge by taking their experiences and combine it with what they already know, and 3) connectivism, the belief that learning happens across many networks that take place online. While my course does have aspects of all 3 of these learning theories, it leaned more towards constructivism because participants are expected to take control over their own learning and rely on their past knowledge as they construct their own understanding of makerspaces while sparking curiosity.
Curious adults are lifelong learners who eagerly approach new topics and the unknown with excitement. They are your friends and family who tend to always have a new fact or knowledge of something random, like the requirements to be an Olympian or the cultural traditions and holidays of a land far away. They do not start each day with the intention of learning how hurricanes are formed, they just happened across it while online and followed where it led. The online world is such a phenomenal resource for these curious lifelong learners because they are free to roam, go down all the rabbit holes and learn at their own pace and take control over their own learning. This is the online learning movement. Curious adults are created when teachers, family members, role models and the community present children with opportunities to explore and create their own learning. Curious adults are created when children are encouraged to find their own answers to questions instead of being directly told the answer.
With this digital age comes a new age of learning of consuming information. New online resources and courses are popping up every day, changing the landscape of how people learn. Long gone are the days where teachers can sit and teach directly from a pre-determined path, from an aging textbook. Learning now happens online and it is important that we provide our students with opportunities to learn how to take control over their own learning, seeking out new information digitally. While teachers’ roles are changing, they are still a great resource in the learning process – even when that learning process is changing. If technology is now becoming the vehicle that we use to get to learning, then teachers are the seat belts that keep the learners on track when the ride gets bumpy.
While reflecting on what I have gained from creating my online course, a changed mindset comes to mind first. I have gone from avoiding online courses to being a true believer in the positive difference they can make. I have learned how to use a user-friendly online learning management course, Schoology.com, but another key aspect I walk away from this course with is the standards from iNACOL (2015). These quality standards for online courses can be used in all aspects of teaching with technology, as to me and what I do every day, is a vital game-changer.
Ackermann, Edith. (2001) Piaget’s Constructivism, Papert’s Constructionism: What’s the difference? Retrieved from http://learning.media.mit.edu/content/publications/EA.Piaget%20_%20Papert.pdf
Bates, A.W. (2015) Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/
Fink, L.D. (2003) A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
iNACOL (2015). How to Start and Online Learning Program: A Practicla Guide to Key Issues and Policies. Retrieved from http://www.onlineprogramhowto.org
Project Tomorrow (2015). “Trends in Digital Learning: Empowering Innovative Classroom Models for Learning”. Retrieved from http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/2015_ClassroomModels.html
OTHER AMAZING ONLINE COURSE PROGRAMS TO CHECK OUT!
Udemy Online Courses, https://www.udemy.com
I really like Udemy and have actually paid for 2 courses. These courses never expire and are completely self-paced, letting the learner move through the modules in their own time and fit in their own schedule. This was the inspiration behind my own online course being self-paced.
Lamar University, https://www.lamar.edu/
I can’t discuss successful online courses without mentioning the program I am currently in, Lamar. Lamar online courses are broken up into 5 week courses with a lesson/readings, discussion board and assignment/activity for each week. While my online course is not broken up by weeks, I did use the lesson/discussion/assignment model for each of my modules.
TED Masterclass, https://masterclass.ted.com/
I am currently enrolled in the TED Masterclass which is an online class designed to take you through the process of giving a TED-style talk. This course is broken up into lessons, each lesson having a part(s). This online course is given completely through an app on your phone or tablet. They have created their own LMS and I like that each lesson is locked until you complete the previous one. This prevents any skipping ahead and keeps learners on track.
Eduhero Professional Development, https://eduhero.net
In my school district, at the beginning of the year, everyone has to log into EduHero and complete their required back to school trainings over blood borne pathogens, allergy and anaphylaxis, drug awareness, child abuse, homeless awareness, sexual harassment, employee handbook and the technology agreement. EduHero uses their own LMS that paces you through the course, and the course creator can have questions and tests added at various points in the course.