In my introductory post, I commented on the importance of collaboration and communication. Applying a social presence lens to student – instructor communication, I could have encouraged interpersonal communications, using techniques such as self-disclosure, affective expression or use of humour. Alternatively, by promoting open communications using such techniques as encouraging students to ask questions, continuing a student thread or expressing agreement in student’s messages. Further, by encouraging cohesive communications by using inclusive pronouns such as “us”, “we” and “group”.
Promoting social presence, at least initially, require conscious effort. The easiest category to incorporate into daily communications with students is open communications. Even with a rudimentary understanding of the indicators, with minimal effort, it becomes almost second nature to incorporate these indicators in everyday communications
Even with just a basic understanding of social presence, it is obvious that it represents an easy to use approach to improve instructor-student communication. Moreover, is powerful in terms of its simplicity. Thinking back to my own time as a student participating in online courses, I can see how social presence was used to enhance learning opportunities and to build cohesive classroom discussion.
David Kumka is a former high school teacher and college instructor who took a brief hiatus from teaching. After spending the last 30 odd years as an IT consultant, and pausing along the way to pick up and M.Sc. in IT and a Ph.D. in Information Systems, David has (happily) returned to teaching as an OLFM.
In Post 2 I discussed an application of the practical inquiry model. The example I described was from an online course from 2002. Although online courses were relatively new at that time, the course design went well beyond what might be termed “an electronic version of a traditional correspondence course”. Although a little strange in the early days, it proved to be an effective model of learning and produced some meaningful discussions when the topic was of interest to the students.
The two most important ideas or concepts presented in the course so far relate to the practical inquiry model providing student feedback. The practical inquiry model provides provides an approach to adult learning that is quantifiable, both in terms of available research and in my own experience with adult learners. The relevance of the student feedback information presented in the course resonates as it reflects both changes in the student and in the delivery medium.
The questions that arise for me from the course concern measurement and evaluation of learning. Do we know enough about online teaching to effectively measure student learning? And what portion of those measurement tools can be automated?
Two specific goals that I would like to achieve are:
Developing relevant skills for providing specific feedback to online students
Explore more recent research related to the Community of Inquiry model of learning particularly in terms of what the model can measure in regards to student learning
Providing direct feedback to students about the “correctness” of a task is (or at least should be) second nature to most teachers. In some cases, feedback should be worded in such a way as to encourage a student that appears to understand the task to be performed, has not yet complete the task. I was surprised in reading Hattie’s recommendations as to the levels of effectiveness when student feedback is properly delivered. As well, the concept of assessment as means of informing students of their current state is a good distinction to keep in mind.
Understanding and adapting to cultural variation in feedback is one way an instructor can provide feedback that is more effective. Another area to effect improvement concerns the situation where students receive feedback on initially incorrect answers – student performance improves dramatically after receiving feedback. As well, correcting constructive verbal feedback from peers is another way to provide effective student feedback.
The course I examined was the “Full Stack Web Development Specialization” course offered by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. This course has many similarities to COMP 4621 – Web Information Systems that Open Learning will begin offering in 2016. The learning outcomes for the HKU course appear to be focused on achieving and demonstrating what are termed “multistructural” skills in Bigg’s SOLO taxonomy – the course materials do not appear to be directed towards achieving learning outcomes that would be classified as “relational” or “extended abstract”.
Student learning in the course is assessed through quizzes, group projects and a final capstone project. Students are expected to pull together the fact-based skill they learn through the course to build a functional web site and a mobile application. It is the latter assignment, specifically demonstrating solving the same business problem using different technologies (e.g. web and mobile) that allows the student to demonstrate leaning that is classified as a multistructural response.
For the online HKU course, the learning outcomes and the assessment are aligned in that the courses teach specific skills and the student is expected to demonstrate an understanding of those skills through software constructed by the student. The difficulty in constructing the required software is that the student is expected to combine concepts leaned in the course. However, the degree to which the student is able to integrate these concepts is not measured.
In a typical module in the course series, students are expected to “Demonstrative an understanding…” and to “Build and configure…” These activities require at best a multistructural response. If they were rewritten to state that “Students will apply their understanding…” and “Students will create and generalize…
Prior to starting the course, I did not have a clear understanding of the cognitive presence model. Cognitive presence relates to levels of meaning obtained through communication. A practical inquiry model as described by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2001) is an approach that operationalizes the cognitive presence model.
In Post 1, I discussed the benefits of collaboration and communication in the learning process. This was anecdotal information based largely on personal experience. The practical inquiry model provides context and rigour for interpreting (and directing) meaningful learning through the communication process.
Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2001) concluded that viewpoint that the practical inquiry model is most appropriate when measuring applied knowledge in adult learning. I would be interested to know whether more recent research supports this conclusion? If so, this may have significant implications for developers of online courses.
I have seen the practical inquiry model used to structure online assignments for a graduate level course in Information Technology. Weekly assignments were constructed such that Thursday through Monday student assignment would focus on initiation and exploration. Activities on Tuesdays and Wednesday would focus on discussion of the assignment materials with the goal of encouraging integration and resolution. Instructor questions posed to the student participants in the latter stages of topic discussions being intended to shape the resolution process.
A number of the other posts on this topic have also discussed the importance of communication.
It would be difficult to identify a single vacation spot that could be called a favourite. But a vacation spot that is indeed memorable would be Liard Hot Springs in north eastern British Columbia. It’s a natural hot springs located within a Provincial park on the western flank of the Northern Rocky Mountains. Remote, beautiful country accessible via the Alaska Highway – a long way from anywhere but well worth the journey.
The last novel I read was one of the Longmire Mystery series by Craig Johnson. Having watched the television series of the same name on Nexflix, I was curious as to whether the television series was closely based upon the novels. Happily, that was not the case. While the Wyoming of the novels includes many of the same characters and places as portrayed in the television series, many of the tales in the novels are richer and contain far more humour than portrayed on television.
And, some initial thoughts about online learning…
One of the most important characteristics of a high quality online learning environment is collaboration. Speaking from experience, I found that grad school courses that involved collaboration between students from many different countries and backgrounds to be the most rewarding. For those involved in Information Technology at least, it was both surprising and at the same time reassuring to discover that in spite of cultural differences, we had a great deal in common when it came to the workplace.
One of the most interesting facets of online learning for me concerns asynchronous learning. It has been surprising to me just how effective the mode can be. However, it does place an onus on both the instructor and the student to be precise. Very precise given that there can be considerable delays inherent in resolving communications that are imprecise or incomplete.