Dynamic Online Education

Picture from onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com

Picture from onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com

Although my current position doesn’t afford me the opportunity to work in online education, I have had many years of experience in online education. As an Instructional Designer, I assisted faculty in adjusting their traditional classroom pedagogy for online instruction. I have also taken over 60 credits of online courses in my pursuit of an MBA in Technology Management. And lastly, I have designed curriculum for an online course that I instruct. Stating these credentials is essential for the point I am to discuss because it illustrates that I have different perspectives of online learning as an instructional designer, student, and instructor:

Online learning needs to be more dynamic.

I don’t mean that online learning needs to have synchronous course sections (which it should and oftentimes does), but there needs to be synergy between the delivery of the content and the contribution of students.

Take for instance a basic online course structure in a learning management system such as BlackBoard, Moodle, or Sakai. Students locate the required reading materials and lectures in a designated folder structure. They then move off that page to a discussion forum or assignment submission page and contribute to the class discussion.

If multiple readings are discussed within a given course lesson, it can cause confusion to the students because their discussion is not being effectively curated as it would in a traditional class or synchronous web conferencing session.

In addition, students may repeat the same general comments as their classmates (after probably reading their peers’ comments), therefore, not effectively contributing to the discussion. This results in students not being able to command the subject or demonstrate their understanding.

What I believe online learning should strive for is a re-design of the online classroom structure.

Students should be able to comment on and discuss the content right on the content page. For example, a student viewing a video should be able to add relevant and important contributions to the video at the timestamp that is being referenced. A tool that I believe does this is Vialogues (I hope to research this further). Students should also be able to contribute to a reading in an in-text fashion, similar to Microsoft Word’s Comment feature, pinpointing exactly where the student’s insight is referencing. These tools exist, but how we can apply them to online courses must be championed and designed by Educational Technologists and Instructional Designers.

Online learning has advanced so much in the last 15 years: the stigma of online learning has abated, tools make it possible for students and instructors to connect in real-time, group work is possible with collaboration tools, and secure exam taking is possible without proctors.

However, we, as Educational Technologists and Instructional Designers, should keep online education advancing.

We must innovate and stimulate change for a more dynamic learning experience.


About Julie Tausend Burba

Instructional Designer at Hulu, Ed Tech and Project Management enthusiast. MBA Technology Management, MS Management, BS Communications, Traveler and Cook.

Posted on June 10, 2013, in Educational Technology, Instructional Design, Tausend Talks Shop, Teaching Tools and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Carmen V. Krol

    That’s an excellent point about being able to comment on the same page as the content. I’ve only used Blackboard in online courses, and it definitely drives me nuts when I have to keep flipping back and forth between pages (and even to see previous comments on a thread). I’m not sure about other LMS, but another feature I’d love to see in Blackboard is email notifications. I hate that I have to log in and sift through new comments to discussions – because I often forget to look!

    • I have experience with BlackBoard, Sakai, Moodle, TWEN, and a propriety LMS. I’ve also evaluated several other well-known systems. None of these have yet to revolutionize how we display and interact with learning content. I think to change the way the online learning is structured will mean a direct partnership with one of these firms or starting a new company with dynamic education in mind.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Julie Tausend of Tausend Talks EdTalk

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