Category Archives: elearning

Using Blended Learning in Your Classroom

Blended learning is becoming a reality in education. Many schools now require some sort of online presences not online of the school but also for individual classes that teachers teach. This has led to much more pressure for teachers to figure out some sort of way to get content online to support studnets. This post will take a look at the pros and cons of blended learning and provide tips on how to approach the use of blended learning.

Pros and Cons

Blended learning gives you flexibility. You are not tied to either traditional or elearning completely. This allows you to find the right balance for your teaching style and the students learning. Some teachers want more online presence in the form of activities and submission of assignments. Others just want a centralized place for communicating with their students and tracking academic progress. Whatever works for you can probably be accommodated when employing blended learning.

Communication and documentation is another benefit of blended learning. Announcements and messaging can be handled by the online platform and these forms of transactions are usually logged by the system and saved. This can be useful for referencing in the future if confusion arises.

The drawback to the flexibility is actually the flexibility. When employing blended learning a teacher has to be proficient in both e-learning and traditional teaching. In other words, you have to become a jack of all trades. Without strength in both methodologies, it will be difficult to determine what you want to do online and to determine how the online experiences augment or replace in-class learning opportunities.

Another problem is the confusion over what is done in class and what is done online. When learning takes place in two mediums it increases opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication. I have frequently had students confused over what was to be submitted online vs in class no matter how clear I was in the course outline and calendar.

Success in a Blended Learning Context

To have success using blended learning involves doing some of the following.

  • Focus on using the online platform less for learning and more for communication when you initially begin using blended learning. There is a lot for you to learn as the teacher and trying to move everything online will lead to confusion for you and the students.
  • Consider having students submit the final version of assignments online. Final versions of assignments usually require the least amount of feedback because they have already been vetted by you in person. This will allow you to focus on the grade rather than on providing more support.
  • Online activities should support learning and probably not replace it. Blended learning is often more effective if it helps students to understand content in class rather than replace it. This means the blended learning platform is a study tool to scaffold students learning outside of class. If an assignment can be completely done online without having to go to class then perhaps this is no longer blended learning since the in-class part is not needed for support.
  • PLanning is critical to using any web-based resource. Websites are designed in advance before they are set up. Even post a blog requires you to develop a draft or two. Therefore, online activities and expectations must be planned well in advance and not just thrown online at the whim of the teacher throughout the semester. Many teachers fall into the trap of just making stuff up as they go. This is a poor methodology in a traditional classroom and a disaster in a blended learning context.
  • When in doubt go traditional. If you are unsure how to achieve a specific learning goal online it is better to stick to a traditional approach until you can figure it out. In-class teaching is old but it still has a place in the 21st century especially when it is unclear how to do it online.

Conclusion

Blended learning can be a powerful tool for helping students are a major headache that annoys everyone. The secret to success lies with the teacher who understands what they want from the online aspect of the students learning as well as what they want in the classroom. When this is clear is it critical that the teacher determine how to meet these goals through the use of various learning experiences.

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Elearning Academic Success

Studying online has become almost an expectation now. Even if you never earn a degree or take a class for credit online there are still many opportunities to train and develop skills over the internet. The role of the teacher is to try and find ways to engage and support their students as they begin their learning experience physically alone with support perhaps thousands of miles away.

In this post, we will look at ways to encourage the academic success of students while studying online. Two ways to support academic success in elearning involve providing feedback and encouraging engagement.

Provide Feedback

Feedback is critical in every aspect of teaching. However, in elearning, it is even more important. This is because the students have no face-to-face communication with you so they have no idea how they are doing beyond a letter grade. In addition, there is no body language to examined or other paralinguistic features that the student can infer meaning from.

Giving feedback requires timeliness. In other words, mark assignments quickly and indicate progress. In addition, if students do not meet expectations it is critical that you point them towards resources that will help them to inderstand. For example, students seem to neglect reading rubrics. When a student gets feedback from a rubric they can see where they were not succesfful.

In terms of a more formative feedback approach, there may be times where it is beneficial to live stream lecture. This allows the students to chime in whenever they do not understand an idea or point. Furthermore, the teacher can ask a question or two of the students and get feedback from them.

Engage Them

Engaging is almost synonymous with active. In other words, students should be doing something in order to learn. Unfortunately, listening is a passive activity which implies that lecturing is not the best way to inspire learning.

In the contest of elearning, one of the ways to inspire active learning is to have the students go out and do something in the real world and report what happens online in the form of a reflection. For example, students studying English will go out and teach English in the real world. They will then come and share their experience. The teacher is then able to provide insights and feedback to improve the students teaching. This provides a connection to the real world as well as a sense of relevance

In a more abstract subject, such as history, music theory, or engineering, students can become active through sharing these insights with laymen or explaining how they are already applying this information at their job or in the home. The goal of using provides the purpose for learning the content.

Conclusion

Feedback and engagement are critical to success in a situation in which the student is primarily learning alone which is found in the context of elearning.

Introducing Google Classroom

Google Classroom is yet another player in the learning management system industry. This platform provides most of the basics that are expected in a lms.  This post is not a critique of Google Classroom. Rather, the focus here is on how to use it. It is better for you to decide for yourself about the quality of Google Classroom.

In this post, we will learn how to set up a class in order to prepare the learning experience.

Before we begin it is assumed that you have a Gmail account as this is needed to access Google Classroom. In addition, this demonstration is from an individual account and not through the institutional account that a school would set up with Google if they adopted tGoogle Classroom.

Creating a Google Class

Once you are logged in to your Gmail account you can access Google Classroom by clicking on the little gray squares in the upper right-hand corner of your browser. Doing so will show the following.

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In the example above, Google Classroom is the icon in the bottom row in the middle. When you click on it you will see the following.

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You might see a screen before this asking if you are a student or teacher. In the screen above, Google tells you where to click to make your first class. Therefore, click on the plus sign and click on “create class” and you will see the following.

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Click on the box which promises Google you will only use your classroom with adults. After this, you will see a dialog box where you can give your class a name as shown below.

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Give your course a name and click “create”. Then you will see the following.

1.pngThere is a lot of information here. The name of the class is at the top followed by the name of the teacher below. In the middle of the page, you have something called the “stream”. This is where most of the action happens in terms of posting assignments, leading discussions, and making announcements. To the left are some options for dealing with the stream, a calendar, and a way to organize information in the stream by topic.

The topic feature is valuable because it allows you to organize information in a way similar to topics in Moodle. When creating an activity just be sure to assign it to a topic so students can see expectations for that week’s work. This will be explained more in the future.

One thing that was not mentioned was the tabs at the very top of the screen.

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We started in the “stream” tab. If you click on the “students” tab you will see the following.

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The “invite students” button allows you to add students by typing their email. To the left, you have the class code. This is the code people need in order to add your course.

If you click on the “about” tab you will see the following.

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Here you can access the drive where all files are saved, the class calendar, your Google calendar, and even invite teachers. In the middle, you can edit the information about the course as well as additional materials that the students will need. This page is useful because it is not dynamic like the stream page. Posted files staying easy to find when using the “about” page.

Conclusion

Google Classroom is not extremely difficult to learn. You can set-up a course with minimal computer knowledge in less than 20 minutes. The process shared hear was simply the development of a course. In a future post, we will look at how setup teaching activities and other components of a balanced learning experience.

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.

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.

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.