OTL301 – Post 5

Self-Coding Activity

  1. The self-coding activity was completed by revisiting all of the previous posting and attempting to categorize each by evaluating against a phase of the practical inquiry model. The majority of the posting could be categorized as triggering events, exploration or integration. A few of he posting could be categorized as encompassing the resolution phase.
  2. The only dilemmas that seemed to be resolved concerned student feedback. Some clear and effective methods of incorporating good feedback into online courses was presented. And approaches to effectively use these techniques were presented as well.
  3. In a future course I would likely try to approach my postings more critically, looking to deliver more posting that code as “integration” and “resolution”.
  4. Self-coding isn’t a simple concept to understand (or teach), at least not using the terminology presented by Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes and Garrison (2013).  Providing students with a simplified matrix and relevant examples might help convey the concepts behind self-coding. But it’s not clear to me that student self-coding is a useful exercise that leads to improved metacognitionon on the part of the part of the student. Not a productive use of student time in my opinion. But then I lean more towards the constructivist view of learning theory.
  5. WordPress as a platform was useful as an alternate mechanism for structuring information. If frees the writer from the more rigid structure of word processing software. It allows the writer to mix text, voice and video and to receive mult-media input from others. The WordPress platform does seem to encourage reflective learning although the technology is not all that intuitive to use. It will be interesting, both from a technology perspective and from an educational  perspective as to what product will supersede WordPress? What will be the next big Web 2.0 software product for collaboration?

OTL301 – Post 4

Interview Summary

The majority of my colleagues have left teaching. Well, that deserves more of an explanation. Actually it was I who left teaching and went into industry. In 1986 to be exact. Thirty years ago. I’ve now returned to teaching and am definitely enjoying the challenge.

However, most if not all of the people I began teaching with have retired. So finding a colleague to interview who has kept up with the modern advances in online education has been a bit of a challenge.

The following is an interview with Bob Barlow. Bob was part of the TRU Computing Science Faculty for 13 years (teaching face-to-face) and is now an OLFM teaching three continuous entry courses – COMP 1131, 1231 and 2231. Bob was also the developer for these online courses.

  1. Question: How do you promote community and connection in a continuous entry course?
    Bob: These are introductory and junior courses with very little opportunity for team-based projects. Students are in the process of actually learning the Java programming language, so it is essential that each of them do every piece of assignment programming as a solo effort if they are to become proficient. To provide some sense of community, the Discussions tool is used to give a common point where helpful hints and peer interaction are encouraged.
  2. Question What are your strategies for facilitating the process of critical inquiry, especially those leading to integration and resolution?
    Bob: For all the courses, the assignments give a lot of ‘hints’ to steer the students toward things not covered in the textbook yet are considered fundamental to the language feature or concept they are learning. For example, to program the calculation for volume and area of a sphere, the students are directed to look up the PI constant that is defined in the Math library. As the assignments become more complex, the students have to layer the concepts they have learned to date to build appropriate solutions.
  3. Question: What digital tools have you employed to support the process of critical inquiry in a continuous entry course?
    Bob: I try to use Blackboard as much as possible, especially the Discussion tool as mentioned before. Plus I tend to give as much detailed feedback as possible for the assignments, including suggestions for alternative approaches that they may investigate to develop a better program. The only other tool consistently used is email. At last count, I had students in 9 different time zones, so any synchronous communication or even telephone calls tend to be problematic.
  4. What are the questions that you have struggled with?
    Bob: The most difficult is having the students do enough practice actually writing their own programs. Only then do they really learn the Java language and the basic algorithms. This is much easier in the FTF versions as you would see them in a lab every week for a term. You can have a lot of exercises that are simple to mark and get a lot more reinforcement to the student. I have had a number of OL students do well on the assignments only to fail the final exam. As part of my feedback cycle, I had an email discussion with several and found that they only did the assignments, but ignored the lab exercises and practice questions since there were no marks allocated to them. So, they learned just enough to do the assignments but not enough to become as proficient as needed.   A solution may be to have a lot more submitted assignments, but my fellow faculty might then be making less than minimum wage for the amount of marking time required.

I’d like to thank Bob for taking the time to answer my questions. Bob raises some interesting issues and challenges regarding the challenges faced by online students versus time spent in the f2f classroom. Constructive feedback from OLFM’s to course developers may be one approach to facilitating development of courses that specifically address the challenges of online courses.



OTL201 – Post 1


Dave - September 2015 (1)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.

OTL101 – Post 3

  1. 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”.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

OTL101 – Post 2

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.

OTL101 – Post 1

A bit about me…

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.