Category Archives: Education Concepts

Time Mangagement and E-Learning

Time management is a critical component of having success when studying online. However, many people struggle with the discipline to manage their time so that they can complete an online learning experience. In this post, we will look at several strategies that can help a student to complete an online course.

Routine is King

Perhaps the single most valuable piece of advice that can be given is the benefit of routine. Routine is as simple as dedicating a certain time of each day to the class. Routine can also manifest itself through setting aside a designated place for studying as well.  The beauty of a schedule is that you have taken control of what you will do during a given day.

It is important that a student has a dedicated place and time for e-learning studies. Even though e-learning can happen anywhere few people can learn anywhere as they must be in a learning mindset first. Often, the mindset to learn is dependent on the environment which the student needs to control.

One Thing at a Time

Multi-tasking is tempting but does not work. This is an extra special problem for e-learning because a student is on their computer. Being on the computer can allow the student to check emails, chat on facebook, listen to music, while they are also supposed to be learning.

These other activities are only distractions when trying to learning content online. As such, it is important to close these other applications and turn off notifications from various websites when really trying to learn online.

Ask for Help

Elearning can be an isolating experience. A student is all alone trying to maneuver the complexities of a subject. At times, a student may even get stuck and not know what to do.

In such situations, it is important that a student reaches out to a peer or the teacher for support. The feedback that is received can make a difference in completing a course or not.

Something that was alluded to in this section is the benefit of taking an online course with a friend. Having a friend in a course can be a source of encouragement and also a way to share the burden of larger assignments.

Conclusion

The anytime anywhere freedom of e-learning is perhaps the greatest blessing and also the greatest curse of this platform. The flexibility gives people the impression they can study whenever. However, when there is no structure to the learning experience there is usually no progress made either. Therefore, each student must put in constraints in order to function at a high level academically when studying online.

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Gamification

The concept of gamification has really picked up steam over the past few years in education. Gamification is the use design elements from traditional games within a curriculum. Examples of gamification include the use of badges, leveling up, progress bars, hit points, etc. As students focus on acquiring the various rewards in the gamification experience they also learn the content. In other words, gamification is primarily behavioral in nature.

The idea of gamification is not completely new. Many adults can remember earning stickers and or points for excellent behavior as a child. Gamification, however, tends to be focused on the online/ technology context. Instead of earning stickers like students in the 1980’s and 90’s today’s students can earn badges online in their schools learning management system as an example.

It may be clear that there are some pros and cons to gamification and these will be addressed below.

Pros

  • Engagement-Nothing motivates a student like playing a game. The badges and points in gamification often heighten engagement at least temporarily for many students.
  • Feedback-Through leveling up and earning badges students are provided with instant feedback. If they are unsuccessful it is readily apparent and there is no need to wait for teacher feedback.
  • Technology exposure-Gamification is focused in a technology domain. As such, it is a great way to help students to develop their technology skills.

Cons

  • Attention span-Games are often fast-paced. However, the real world is not often moving at the same speed. This can lead kids to struggle with everyday tasks that have not been gamified.
  • Assessment-Often the game serves as a platform to master a skill. However, the nuanced nature of grading can be difficult to apply to a gamified learning experience. In addition, the game may not always transfer to actual real-world skill, which further impairs grading. The focus on gaming often makes the learning take a backseat.
  • Cost/logistics-The cost of using software and other materials can be high. Even if you use a free system, such as Moodle, there is the logistics of setting up the badge system in your online platform.
  • Work ethic-A critical skill that students need to acquire is how to do something they don’t like to do. Gamification can make almost anything fun. However, in the actual world, there are a little of boring things that people have to do. Students must develop the discipline to engage in an activity because it needs to be done rather than because it’s fun.

Conclusion

The appropriate use of gamification is dependent on the extent to which it is used. Having a progress bar in a course probably will not influence attention spans detrimentally. However, more complex gamification is probably where you will start to see problems as shared in the con section.

Therefore, an appropriate analogy would be to compare gamification to salt. A little bit of salt makes food taste better. However, too much salt can ruin the food and impact the health of the eater. As such, a little gamification can enrich a learning experience but heavy doses could harm learning and perhaps character development.

Teacher Burnout

Teacher burnout is a common problem within education. The statistics vary but you can safely say about 1/3 of teachers suffer from some form of burnout at one point or another during their career. This post will define burnout, explain some of the causes, the stages of burnout, as well as ways to deal with burnout.

Definition

Essentially, teacher burnout is an experience of a person who is overwhelmed by the stress of teaching. The most common victims of this are young teachers as well as female teachers.

Young teachers are often at higher risk because they have not developed coping mechanisms for the rigors of teaching. Women are also more often to fall victim to teacher burnout because of the added burning of maintaining the home as well as difficulties with distancing themselves emotionally from their profession as a teacher.

Causes

Teacher burnout is generally caused by stress. Below are several forms of stress that can plague the teaching profession.

  • Workload-This is especially true for those who can never say “no.” Committees, field trips, student activities, grading, lesson plans, accreditation. All of these important tasks can overwhelm a person
  • Student behavioral problems-Classroom management is always a challenge as families continue to collapse.
  • Issues with leadership
  • Boredom-This stressor is more common with experienced teachers who have taught the same content for years. There are only so many ways to teach content that are appealing to the teacher before there is some repetition. Boredom can also be especially challenging for a teacher who values learning more than personal relationships with students.

Stages of Burnout

The stages of teacher burnout follow the same progression as burnout in other social work like professions. Below are four stages as developed by McMullen

  1. Closed off- The burnout victim stops socializing and is rigid against feedback. Signs include self-neglect.
  2. Irritable-The victim temper shortens. In addition, he begins to complain about everything. Problems are observed everywhere whether they are legitimate or not.
  3. Paranoia-The teacher is worried about everything. Depression is common at this point as well as a loss of motivation.
  4. Exhaustion-THe teacher is emotionally drained. They no longer “care” as they see no way to improve the situation. Compassion fatigue sets in which means that there is no more emotional support to give to students.

Dealing with Burnout

Perhaps the most important step coping with burnout is to prioritize. It is necessary for a sake of sanity to say no to various request at times. Personal time away from any job is critical to being able to return refreshed. Therefore, teaching cannot be the sole driving force of the typical person’s life but should be balanced with other activities and even downtime.

It may also be necessary to consider changing professions. If you are not able to give your best in the classroom perhaps there are other opportunities available. It is impractical to think that someone who becomes a teacher must stay a teacher their entire life as though there is no other way to use the skills developed in the classroom in other professions.

Conclusion

Burnout is a problem but it is not unique to education. What really matters is that people take control and responsibility of their time and not chase every problem that comes into their life. Doing so will help in coping with the rigors of the teaching profession.

Motivating Students

It can be frustrating for a teacher to spend hours in preparation and planning activities only to have to students who have no desire to learn or enjoy the learning experience. There are ways to help students to be more motivated and engaged in their learning. This post will provide some basic ideas.

Types of Motivation

In simple terms, there are two types of motivation. These two types of motivation are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is an inner drive to do something or in other words to be self-motivated.

Extrinsic motivation is when the push to do something comes from outside of the person. Due to uncontrollable circumstances, the person is pushed to do something.

Each teacher needs to decide which form of motivation to focus on or whether to try and address both in their classroom. A teacher with more of a cognitivist view of teaching will probably lean towards developing intrinsic motivation. On the other hand, a teacher who has more of a behavioral view of teaching may focus more on influencing extrinsic motivation.

Ways to Motivate

Involvement

Nothing motivates like having to help those around you. Getting students involved in their learning and in the management of the class often affects motivation. When students are called to help they realize that they have a role and that others are depending on them. This brings a naturally social pressure to fulfill their role.

Make it Relevant

Teachers often fall into the trap of knowing what’s best for students and sticking to teaching this. However, the student does not always agrees with what is best for them and thus are not motivated to learn.

To alleviate this problem, a teacher must provide immediate applications of knowledge. If the student can see how they can use the information now rather than several years from now they will probably be more motivated to learn it.

One way to develop relevancy is discovery learning. Instead of teaching everything in advance let the students work until they can go no further. When they realize they need to learn something they will be ready to listen.

Acknowledge Excellence

When students are doing good work, it is important to let them know. This will help them to understand what is acceptable learning behavior. People like positive reinforcement and this needs to come from a person of authority like a teacher.

A slightly different way to acknowledge excellence is simply to expect it. When the standard is set high often students naturally want to reach for it because they often want the approval of the teacher.

Conclusion

We have all faced situation when we were not interested or motivated to learn and study. It is important to remember this when dealing with students. They have the same challenge with motivation as we all do.

Critical Thinking Strategies

Developing critical thinking is a primary goal in many classrooms. However, it is difficult to actually achieve this goal as critical thinking is an elusive concept to understand. This post will provide practical ways to help students develop critical thinking skills.

Critical Thinking Defined

Critical thinking is the ability to develop support for one’s position on a subject as well as the ability to question the reasons and opinions of another person on a given subject. The ability to support one’s one position is exceedingly difficult as many people are convinced that their feelings can be substituted as evidence for their position.

It is also difficult to question the reasons and opinions of others as it requires the ability to identify weaknesses in the person’s positions while having to think on one’s feet. Again this is why many people stick to their emotions as it requires no thinking and emotions can be felt much faster than thoughts can be processed. Thinking critically involves assessing the strength of another’s thought process through pushing them with challenging questions or counter-arguments.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Debates-Debates provide an opportunity for people to both prepare arguments as well as defend in an extemporaneous manner. The experience of preparation as well as on the feet thinking help to develop critical thinking in many ways. In addition, the time limits of debates really force the participants to be highly engaged.

Reciprocal Teaching-Reciprocal teaching involves students taking turns to teach each other. As such, the must take a much closer look at the content when they are aware that they will have to teach it. In addition, Reciprocal teaching encourages discussion and the answering of questions which further supports critical thinking skills development.

Discussion-Discussion through the use of open-ended question is another classic way to develop critical thinking skills. The key is in the open-ended nature of the question. This means that there is no single answer to the question. Instead, the quality of answers are judged on the support the students provide and their reasoning skills.

Open-ended assignments-Often as teachers, we want to give specific detailed instructions on how to complete an assignment. This reduces confusion and gives each student a similar context in which learning takes place.

However, open-ended assignments provide a general end goal but allow the students to determine how they will complete it. This open-ended nature really forces the students to think about what they will do. In addition, this is similar to work in the real world where often the boss wants something done and doesn’t really care how the workers get it done. The lack of direction can cause less critical workers problems as they do not know what to do but those who are trained to deal with ambiguity will be prepared for this.

Conclusion

Critical thinking requires a context in which free thought is allowed but is supported. It is difficult to develop the skills of thinking with activities that stimulate this skill. The activities mentioned here are just some of the choices available to a teacher.

Teaching Reflective Thinking

Reflective thinking is the ability to look at the past and develop understanding and insights about what happened and using this information to develop a deeper understanding or to choose a course of action.  Many may believe that reflective thinking is a natural part of learning.

However, I have always been surprised at how little reflective thinking my students do. They seem to just do things without ever trying to understand how well they did outside of passing the assignment. Without reflective thinking, it is difficult to learn from past mistakes as no thought was made to avoid them.

This post will examine opportunities and aways of reflective thinking.

Opportunities for Reflective Thinking

Generally, reflective thinking can happen when

  1. When you learn something
  2. When you do something

These are similar but different concepts. Learning can happen without doing anything such as listening to a lecture or discussion. You hear a lot of great stuff but you never implement it.

Doing something means the application of knowledge in a particular setting. An example would be teaching or working at a company. With the application of knowledge comes consequences the indicate how well you did. For example, teaching kids and then seeing either look of understanding or confusion on their face

Strategies for Reflective THinking

For situations in which the student learns something without a lot of action a common model for encouraging reflective thinking is the  Connect, Extend, Challenge model. The model is explained below

  • Connect: Link what you have learned to something you already know
  • Extend: Determine how this new knowledge extends your learning
  • Challenge: Decide what you still do not understanding

Connecting is what makes learning relevant for many students and is also derived from constructivism. Extending is a way for a student to see the benefits of the new knowledge. It goes beyond learning because you were told to learn. Lastly, challenging helps the student to determine what they do not know which is another metacognitive strategy.

When a student does something the reflection process is slightly different below is an extremely common model.

  • what went well
  • what went wrong
  • how to fix what went wrong

In this model, the student identifies what they did right, which requires reflective thinking. The student also identifies the things they did wrong during the experience. Lastly, the student must problem solve and develop strategies to overcome the mistakes they made. Often the solutions in this final part are implemented during the next action sequence to see how well they worked out.

Conclusion

Thinking about the past is one of the strongest ways to prepare for the future. Therefore, teachers must provide their students with opportunities to think reflectively. The strategies included here provide a framework for guiding students in this critical process.

Videoconferencing in Online Course

Videoconferencing is a standard aspect of the professional world. Most large companies have some sort of video conferencing happening in terms of meetings and training. In terms of personal life, video conferencing is common as well. We probably have all used skype or google hangout at one time or another to talk with friends. However, video conferencing is not as common in education.

Video Conferencing Before Video Conferencing

Before video conferencing became common, many educators would upload videos to their online course or post them on youtube. This allowed the student to see the teacher and have more of a traditional classroom experience but real-time interaction was impossible. Instead, the interaction was asynchronous meaning not at the same time. As such communication was jilted at the least because of the lag time between interactions.

Things to Consider Before Video Conferencing

In order to have success with video conferencing you will need some sort of application that allows this. There are many different applications to choose from such as skype, google hangouts, and even Facebook. However, you want some sort of software that allows you to show your screen as well as control the flow of the conversation.

One app that allows this is called Zoom. This software allows you to schedule meetings. In addition, students do not need to download anything. Instead, the students are sent a web link that takes them to the online meeting. You can share your screen as well as monitor the discussion with the added benefit of being able to record the meeting for future use.

Pros and Cons of Video Conferencing

For whatever reason, video conferencing is engaging for students. The same discussion in class would lull them to sleep but through webcams, everyone is awake and stimulated. I am not sure what the difference is but this has been my experience

The biggest enemy to video conferencing is scheduling. This is particularly true if students are spread out all over the world. The challenges of time zones and other commitments make this hard.

This is one reason that recording a video conference is so important. It allows students who are not available to at least have an asynchronous learning experience. It also serves as a resource for students who need to see something again. Keep in mind you have to post the video either on your LMS or on youtube so that students have access to it.

Conclusion

Video conferencing provides a familiar learning experience in a different setting. It is able to give students who are not physically present an opportunity to interact with the instructor in meaningful ways. As such, the instructor must be aware of possibilities in how to use this tool in their online teaching.

Maintaining Student Focus During E-Learniing

Self-motivation is perhaps one of the biggest problems in e-learning. Students who are left to themselves to complete learning experience often just do not successfully finish the learning experiences prepared by the teacher. For whatever reason, often the internal drive to finish something such as an online class is missing for many people.

There are several strategies that an online teacher can use in order to help students who may struggle with self-motivation in an online context. These ideas include…

  • Brief Lessons
  • Frequency Assessment
  • Collaboration

Brief Lessons

Nothing is more discouraging to many students than having to read several pages of text or even several hours of video to complete a single lesson or module in an online course. Therefore, the teacher needs to make sure lessons are short. Completing many small lessons is much more motivating for many students than completing a handful of really large lessons. This is because frequent completion of small lessons is rewarding and indicates progress which the brain rewards.

How long a lesson should depend on many factors such as the age and expertise of the students. Therefore, it is difficult to give a single magic number to aim for. You want to avoid the extreme of lessons too short and lessons to long.

IN my own experience most people make their lessons too long so the majority of us probably need to reduce the content in an individual lesson and spread it over many lessons. All the content can be there it is just chunked differently so that students experience progress.

Frequency Assessment

Along with brief lessons should be frequent assessment. Nothing motivates like knowing something is going to be on the quiz or there is some sort of immediate application. Students need to do something with what they are learning in order to stay engaged. Therefore, constant assessment is not only for grades but also for learning. Besides the stress of a small quiz provides an emotional stimulus that many students need

The assessment also allows for feedback which helps the student to monitor their learning. In addition, the feedback provides more evidence of progress being made in a course which is itself motivating for many.

Collaboration

Nothing motivates the same as working together. Many people love to work in groups and get energy from this. In addition, it’s harder to quit and give a course when you have group members waiting for your contribution. In addition, interacting with students deepens understanding of the course material.

Communicating with other students online to complete assignments is one way of establishing community in an online class. It is similar to traditional classroom where everyone has to discuss and work together to have success.

Conclusion

Motivated students are successful students. IN order for this to happen in an elearning class studnets need to be engaged through brief lessons that inckude frequent assessment tjat includes social interaction.

Tips for Online Studying

Today it is common for students to study online. This has both pros and cons to it. Although e-learning allows students to study anytime and anywhere it also can lead to a sense of disconnection and frustration. This post will provide some suggestions for how to study online successfully.

Make a Schedule

In a traditional classroom, there is a fixed time to come to class. This regulated discipline helps many students to reach a minimum standard of knowledge even if they never study on their own. In e-learning, the student can study whenever they want. Sadly, many choose to never study which leads to academic failure.

Success in online studying requires a disciplined schedule in which the student determines when they will study as well as what they will do during the study time. As such, you will need to set-up some sort of a calendar and to do list that guides you through the learning experience.

It is also important to pace your studying. With flexible courses sometimes the assignments are due at the end of the course. This temptation leads to students who will do all their studying at the last minute. This robs the student of in-depth learning as well as the ability to complete assignment thoroughly. Learning happens best over time and not at the last minute,

Participate

In a traditional class, there are often opportunities to participate in class discussions or question and answer sessions. Such opportunities provide students with a chance to develop a deeper understanding of the ideas and content of the course. Students who actually participate in such two-way dialog usually understand the material of the course better than students who do not.

For the online student participation is also important and can render the same benefits. Participating in forums and chats will deepen understanding. However, I must admit that with the text-heavy nature of online forums reading the comments of peers can in many ways boost understanding without participation. This is because you can read other’s ideas at your own speed which helps with comprehension. This is not possible during an in-class discussion when people may move faster than you can handle.

Communicate with the Instructor

When a student is confused they need to speak up. For some reason, students are often shy to contact the instructor in an online course. However, the teacher is there to help you and expects questions and feedback. As such, reach to them.

Communicating with the instructor also helps to establish a sense of community which is important in online learning. It helps the instructor to establish presence and demonstrates that they are here to help you to succeed.

Conclusion

E-learning is a major component of the future of learning. Therefore, students need to be familiar with what they need to do in order to be successful in their online studies.

Tips for Teaching Online

Teaching online is a unique experience due in part to the platform of instruction. Often, there is no face to face interaction and all communication is in some sort of digital format. Although this can be a rewarding experience there are still several things to consider when teaching in this format. Some tips for successful online teaching include the following.

  • Planning in advance
  • Having a presence
  • Knowing your technology
  • Being consistent

Plan in Advance

All teaching involves advance planning. However, there are those teaching moments in a regular classroom where a teacher can change midstream to hit a particular interest in the class. In addition, more experienced teachers tend to plan less as they are so comfortable with the content and have an intuitive sense of how to support students.

In online teaching, the entire course should be planned and laid out accordingly before the course starts. It is a nightmare to try and develop course material while trying to teach online. This is partially due to the fact that there are so many reminders and due dates sprinkled throughout the course that are inflexible. This means a teacher must know the end from the beginning in terms of what the curriculum covers and what assignments are coming. Changing midstream is really tough.

In addition, the asynchronous nature of online teaching means that instructional material must be thoroughly clear or students will be lost. This again places an emphasis on strong preparation. Online teaching isn’t really for the person who likes to live in the moment but rather for the person who plans ahead.

Have Presence

Having presence means making clear that you are monitoring progress and communicating with students frequently. When students complete assignments they should receive feedback. There should be announcements made in terms of assignments due, general feedback about activities, as well as Q&A with students.

Many people think that teaching online takes less time and can have larger classes. This is far from the case. Online teaching is as time intensive as regular teaching because you must provide feedback and communication or the students will often feel abandon.

Know Your Technology

An online teacher must be familiar and a proponent of technology. This does not mean that you know everything but rather you know how to get stuff done. You don’t need a master in web design but knowing the basics of HTML can really help when communicating with the IT people.

Whatever learning management system you use should actually be familiar with it and not just a consumer. Too many people just upload text for students to read and provide several forums and call that online learning. In many ways, that’s online boredom, especially for younger students.

Consistency

Consistency is about the user experience. The different modules in the course should have the same format with different activities. This way, students focus on learning and not trying to figure out what you want them to do. This applies across classes as well. There needs to be some sense of stability in terms of how content is delivered. There is no single best way but it needs to similar within and across courses for the sake of learning.

Conclusion

These are just some of many ideas to consider when teaching an online course. The main point is the need for preparation and dedication when teaching online.

Blended Learning Defined

E-Learning is commonly used tool at most educational institutions. Often, the e-learning platform is fully online or a traditional model of face-to-face instruction is used. Blended learning is something that is available but not as clear in terms of what to do.

In this post, we will look at what  blended learning is and  what it is not

What Blended Learning is

Blended learning is an instructional environment in which online learning and traditional face-to-face instruction coexist and are employed in a course. There are at least six common models of blended learning.

  • Face-to-face driver – Traditional instruction is supported by online materials
  • Online driver –The entire course is completed online with teacher support made available
  • Rotation – A course in which students cycle back and forth between online and traditional instruction
  • Labs – Content is delivered online but in a specific location such as a computer lab on-campus
  • Flex – Most of the curriculum is delivered is online and the teacher is available for face-to-face consultation.
  • Self-blend – Students choose to augment their traditional learning experience with online coursework.

These models mentioned above can be used in combination with each other and are not mutually exclusive.

For a course to be blended, it is probably necessary for at least some sort of learning to happen online. The challenge is in defining learning. For example, the Moodle platform places an emphasis on constructivism. As such, there are a lot of opportunities for collaboration in the use of the modules available in Moodle. Through discussion and interaction with other students through forums, commenting on videos, etc., students are able to demonstrate learning.

For a more individualistic experience, if the course is blended the students need to do something online. For example, completing a quiz, add material to a wiki or database, etc. are all ways to show that learning is taking place without as much collaboration. However, a teacher chooses to incorporate blended learning the students need to do something online for it to truly be blended.

What Blended Learning is not

Many teachers will post there powerpoints online and have students submit assignments online and call this blended learning. While it is commendable that online tools are being used this is not really blended learning because there is no learning taking place anytime online. Rather this is an excellent example of using cloud sources to upload and download materials.

The powerpoints were seen in class and are available for review.  Uploading assignments are trickier to classify as online learning or not but if it required the students to complete a traditional assignment and simply upload it then there was no real online learning experience. The students neither collaborated nor completed anything online in order to complete this learning experience.

Conclusion

The definition here is not exhaustive. The purpose was to provide a flexible framework in which blended learning is possible. To make it as simple as possible, blended learning is the students actively learning online and actively learning in a traditional format. How much of each component depends on the approach of the teacher.