To understand online learning, one must first embark on a journey of self discovery through reading, discussions, reflection and hands on activities. Learning for Educators allows us to explore eLearning through a variety of activities, many of which produced the artifacts you will find below.
Discussion Forums are an integral part of eLearning. They allow participants to interact with new information, their instructors and their peers. As an instructor, it is important to moderate the discussion forums to deepen understanding, clear up misconceptions, applaud work well done, and referee disagreements. We were asked to develop and moderate a topic based on the coursework we had completed to far in eLearning for Educators. I chose to create a discussion question which focused on community building in eLearning. I then made sure to moderate the forum by interacting with the peers who answered my questions, and to make sure they took away from the forum what I hoped that they would. That Discussion Forum can be found here: Discussion Facilitation
I use discussion forums in a number of ways when I teach in an eLearning environment, be it fully online or a blended model. I use discussion forums as my number one means of assessment for students. Carefully constructed questions ensure that students are participating with the course materials on a deeper, more critical level than rote memorization.
Quizzes and Surveys
Assessment takes many forms in education, from formal to informal, formative to summative. Each type of assessment has its benefits and drawbacks, for both the instructor and the learner. One form of assessment that is easy to implement in eLearning is the use of a quiz or a survey. The reason these are easy to use is that they are easy to score and provide immediate feedback to students. Quizzes should really only be used for specific types of learning assessment. Creating a valuable quiz that assesses understanding, rather than rote memorization and recall, can be difficult and time consuming. I chose to create a quiz based on a reading that focuses on a much more involved form of assessment, Case Studies. The quiz can be found here: Quiz Design
Because I am not a huge fan of quizzes as assessment tools, I use them sparingly in my courses, and I fully expect that students will use their notes and the internet to find answers. In anticipation of that, I try to create questions that do not have a direct answer in the readings, but require some thought to determine the correct answer.
Content curation is a great way to get student involved with finding their own learning materials based on a topic they are interested in. When students take control of their own learning, and are asked to find sources of information, they are employing valuable Information Literacy Skills. I created 4 Scoop.it magazines during this course, because I found that there was not one broad topic I wanted to stick with. I want to learn about a number of things that relate to technology and eLearning. My Scoop.it magazines can be found and followed here:
Typically, I have relied on annotated bibliographies in the old fashioned sense to get my students to interact with articles and information on their topics. In the future, I would use a tool such as Scoop.it or Paper.li, where students can gather their information and share it with others. I would also consider using a social bookmarking tool such as Diigo or Delicio.us, where students can work together in pairs or groups to socially create an annotated list of resources on a given topic, much like we did in the Diigo Group, which can be found here: Diigo E-Learning for Educators Group
Perhaps the most important skill set of the 21st Century is Information Fluency, also referred to as Information Literacy, depending on which circles you travel in. Information Fluency refers to the ability to locate, access, evaluate, synthesize, use and produce information. Skills involve using appropriate keywords, browsing effectively, evaluating bias, authority and timeliness of information on both the internet and in books. It refers to the ability to understand and abide by copyright laws in creating their own works and using the thoughts and ideas of others. The Information Researcher Self-Paced Module tested our skills as Information Seekers. I successfully passed both the pre-test and the post-test, showing that I am able to find and use information. Investigative Search Completion Certificate
Self-paced learning can be effective for instruction, and it can also be a nightmare. In the past, I have create self-paced modules that had pre and post assessments surrounding a video lecture. (Academic Integrity Unit). The benefit of self-paced modules is that the information is presented the same way to all students, no matter when they view it. They can access it from anywhere, at anytime. The drawback is that students do not get immediate feedback from the instructor or their classmates, which can lead to a feeling of isolation and frustration. Self-paced modules should be developed and used only where appropriate, and not as the sole means of delivery of course content.
As I mentioned, reflection is a huge part of learning in any form, and keeping a reflective journal helps learners to create meaning for themselves in their own private space. I have previously created written reflected on teaching and learning in the traditional classroom, as well as the integration of technology. My reflections of who I am, and how I view learning can be found here: (Learn, Unlearn, Relearn). On my journey through eLearning for Educators, I was able to revisit topics in eLearning that I had not considered in a while, and it helped me to reinforce that my practices in eLearning were still appropriate. This course allowed me to reflect more specifically on eLearning. My edited reflective journal can be found here: Reflective Journal: The Art and Science of Online Teaching
Engaging in a Professional community
Outside of this course, I very actively participate in a number of Professional Learning Networks. I am an active member of the Intel Teachers Engage Community among others. I use Twitter to connect with educators from around the world on topics that interest me as an educator. I follow a number of #hashtags to keep me up to date with what is happening with technology in other classrooms. The ones I find most valuable as of late are: #edtech #edchat #mlearning #elearning. I also try to participate in these communities by Tweeting out things that I find of interest, and you can follow me @ShannonMersand. I promise, I don't tweet about anything personal or celebrity gossip!
I also, when I find the time, write a blog about my experiences in implementing mobile learning and BYOD in my district. I try to only blog about things that are of interest, and it has fallen by the wayside as I turn my attention back to eLearning and building a Blended and Online Learning program in my school. You can read about some of the projects I was able to create with teachers and students at pocketlibrarian.blogspot.com. I hope to return to it, and post more exciting work in the future.