Instructional Design for Beginners

1.2 Examining various delivery methods of online education

Most online learning courses make use of a course management systems (CMS) to package, deliver, and mediate instructor-student interaction. Currently, we are using a tool called Weebly to deliver this content to you. What is weebly? Click here to find out.

Various institutions may use different CMS’s such as Moodle, WebCT, Joomla. Using a CMS helps to standardize and consolidate all university or personally owned material in-house. While there are many online educators using web 2.0 technologies to deliver learning experiences to their students, one has to be careful and aware of Intellectual Property and Copyright laws when posting information on the web. Whether you use a CMS or not, there are a variety of interactive communication tools you can use to deliver your online course(s), some are synchronous and some are asynchronous.
a. Understanding Synchronous communication

Synchronous means ‘at the same time’. This means that in an online course, even though the instructor and students are at different geographical locations, both will be scheduled to meet at the same time, same place on the internet. Using synchronous technologies, the instructor and students have a live conversation with each other, this mimics a fact-to-face classroom experience. While this mode of delivery may seem tempting and easy, it may not be the best practical use of the online environment. Online students have different learning needs (as seen in Module 3). Designing an online course that is delivered synchronously can be very tedious and tiring for both the instructor and the student. That being said, synchronous technologies if used strategically, can be very effective in an online course.

There are three tools that facilitate synchronous communication as adapted from OOL, 2009
  1. Chat and Instant Messaging
    Software that allows users to communicate in "real-time" by typing text back and forth between two or more users. Instant messaging platforms such as yahoo messenger, msn messenger, skype, AOL or even the chat option in your institutions CMS i.e. Moodle, Joomla, allows students and instructors to speak to each other using text based chat, audio and even video. Students may also be connected to these platforms using their mobile devices.
  2. Web conferencing (Audio and Video)
    This software has the same capabilities of Chat and Instant Messaging, with the ability to share applications or documents, give presentations to a class, etc. Sharing applications and documents means that one user can open a program or document on her computer and allow other users to run the program or edit the document from a distance. Examples of web conferencing programs are Adobe Connect, Elluminate, Tinychat, Skype, WebEx, etc. Technologies continuously evolve and so the ability to do something keeps on expanding. For example the latest version of Skype now allows users to have video conversations with multiple users.
  3. Web casting – Websites like Ustream and offer users to watch an event, a lecture, a presentation live while in the comfort of their own surroundings (home, office, lounge, airport). Often the videos are recorded for later viewing.

Examples and Best Practices of using Synchronous Technologies -

b. Understanding Asynchronous communication

Asynchronous means “not at the same time” Unlike synchronous delivery methods, students can complete course activities anytime, anywhere. Online lectures, discussion forum, resource links, blogs, wikis, etc are components of an asynchronous delivery environment. Most content for online courses is usually delivered using asynchronous technology. The convenience of sustaining a long discussion and collaboration over a period of time is possible using asynchronous technologies.

There are different tools that facilitate asynchronous communication –

1. Discussion boards – It is like a bulletin board where student post message and other students can view and comment on it when they can.
2. Blogs – An online journal that is frequently updated and made publically available on the web.
3. Wikis- A webpage that allows users to collaboratively add and edit content without using any special software.
4. Email – Sending electronic messages using a free account online.
5. Streaming audio and/or video
6. Narrated slideshows (PowerPoint)
7. Surveys and polls
8. Website links

You can use asynchronous technology to deliver lecture notes, to post deadlines, to provide links to online resources and the library etc. Students like to have all the course materials available at all times so they can print and read or re-read the material at any time. But be wary of providing too much information in print format, especially if your students also have a text (or series of texts) to read for the class. Often in an online course, students are expected to read textbooks and/or articles, lecture notes, bulletin board discussions, etc. Try to think of ways to deliver your course material that will be different from strictly reading. For example, integrate video and/or audio clips along with the printed notes to emphasize certain points.

Examples and Best Practices of using Asynchronous Technologies -
Patuck College, Mumbai using wikis to teach biology

1.2.3 Required Readings

C. Understanding the effects of a combined Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication – Blended approaches

Using a combination of Synchronous and Asynchronous communication technologies will help to address not only the different learning styles of students but also support different teaching techniques as well. Using a blend of delivery methods, will keep students interested, enagaged with the learning experiences, each other and the instructor. Some instructors feel the need for face-to-face interaction is important and many students enjoy the intereaction.
"Learning in a strictly asynchronous environment can be isolating, but learning in a strictly synchronous online environment can be technologically daunting for instructor and students. So, using a blend of technologies can indeed give you the best of both worlds." (Professional Develooment Course, University of Regina 2006)

Examples and Best Practices of using both synchronous and asynchronous Technologies -
E-learning Case Study from India - APT Academic Solutions

1.2.4 Required Readings

1.2.2 Learning Activity

Tell us a story of your experience with a synchronous or asynchronous technology. It can either be a success story or an experience that challenged you as a designer! Please post your replies to the class blog titled '5.2.2 Learning Activity'

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