Instructional Design for Beginners

1.1 Examining the Characteristics of the Online Environment

Delhi: Taj Mahal
Mumbai: Gateway of India
Consider the following scenario -
Two faculty members teaching an online certificate in Business Administration, one located at IGNOU in Delhi and the other in Mumbai University, decide to collaborate on a few activities together. Group discussions and presentation areas are setup for the students in Moodle, a course management system to facilitate this process. Students in each course are divided into groups of three and four. Each group is assigned a case study and these cases are posted to each groups presentation area in Moodle, which they will access online, collaborate, prepare solutions and post their case solutions to their designated presentation area in Moodle. The groups in each institution are then paired with each other to engage in a week-long discussion. The newly paired group is asked to review and critique the case solutions by posting comments and ideas in the participation area. (adapted from Dabbagh and Bannan-Ritland, 2005)

1.1.1 Make Connections

Reflect momentarily on the learning environment:
  • Does this scenario depict an online environment?
  • Would this type of activity be possible without the use of online learning technologies?
  • What are the characteristics of online learning and how is it different from the face-to-face environment?
a. Understanding the online environment -

As you read and familiarize yourself with online education, you will notice that there are several terms that are used to describe online learning. To name a few web-based learning, internet-based learning, eLearning, and virtual learning are only some of the terms used to describe learning through the internet. However, Tsai and Machado (2004) arguably notes that failure to recognize the difference between “these concepts limits the pace of development of expertise, precludes precise communication with team members and stakeholders, and often reflects a poor understanding of available alternative solutions.” So, we will refer to the following definition of online learning throughout this course,

       Online learning, also known as e-learning, is a learning experience delivered via a computer and the Internet.  Course work is conducted through
       electronic forums, discussion groups, external resources, quizzes, social rooms, and online submitted assignments. (British Council)

Over the years, you would have noticed in the daily headlines the increase use of the internet to promote education. Several initiatives both private and public in India are promoting the use of the internet in education, for example Sakshat (an online educational portal), spearheaded by IGNOU and “The Internet bus by google” an internet laboratory that travels around town to educate people about the internet where the goal was to “empower people with information” (Times of India) are just a few projects started to popularize online education.

So, why online learning? Online learning allows for flexibility of learning, anywhere and usually anytime access to the learning content, instructor and learners. For online instruction to be a success, you should plan instruction that is supported by challenging activities that enable learners to link new information to old, acquire meaningful knowledge and reflect as well as socialize and build networks. Technology is merely the medium through which processing capabilities are provided to the learner. It requires time, resources, commitment and preparation to be able to deliver authentic learning experiences to the learner.
b. Understanding the distance -

In an online learning environment, the instructor and students are usually separated by the physical distance (different places, cities, towns, countries across the globe) and are often also separated by time (that is, the students work on the course content when they have time to participate, rather that at a specific time set by the instructor or by the educational institution).

Transactional distance derived by John Dewey, is where the psychical distance leads to a communication gap. This gap can be bridged through well planned instruction and teaching techniques. This distance may become more salient in an online course due to the absence of an instructor’s physical presence. (Moore and Kearsley, 2005)

1.1.2 Make Connections

Take a moment to think about how this separation might affect learning in an online class.

1.1.2 Additional Readings

c. Understanding the characteristics and the strengths and weaknesses of the online environment

The Illinois Online Network and the World Wide Learn Network provide a comprehensive look at the advantages and challenges of teaching online.

1.1.1 Learning activity

As you browse through these websites and the required readings,
  • Which of the strengths of online learning are you drawn to and why?
  • What is the one challenge that you are most concerned with and how might it affect you? Is there a possible solution?
Please post your replies to the blog discussion  5.1.1 Learning Activity

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