Professor & Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University

Tag: edtech

Using an instructional design perspective to analyze MOOC materials

Posted on December 13th, by George Veletsianos in courses, moocs, open, scholarship, sharing. 19 comments

A facebook conversation from yesterday encouraged me to share one of the assignments that I developed for my instructional design course. The goal of the class is for the students to understand, experience, and apply instructional design in a variety of educational contexts.

One of the assignments I developed for asked students to enroll in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and analyze the instructional materials within the course using one of the rubrics provided by Dick and Carey (the instructional design book we use in class). It was a lot of fun and the students appreciated the exercise. Given the lack of presence and voice by instructional designers in MOOC happenings, the lack of valid, reliable, and serious research that exists on the topic (though Rita Kop’s work on cMOOCs is admirable), and my desire to engage students in contemporary events, I came up with this assignment to embed MOOC analysis in my course. The assignment is available for download on https://dl.dropbox.com/u/2533962/instr-materials-veletsianos.doc and posted below for those who just want to skim it without downloading it. Enjoy and feel free to use it:

Instructional Material analysis assignment

Individually, you will examine and report on the instructional materials of one popular digital learning initiative. An analysis matrix will be provided to you, and you will use that to matrix to evaluate these initiatives.

Length: Minimum 500 words.

Criteria Levels of Attainment Points
Written analysis (evaluation)
  • Evaluation adheres to the matrix, is thoughtful, and presents evidence of original thought
  • Evaluation does not adhere to the matrix or is superficial on various levels
87-0
Rubric completion
  • Learner completes and submits the rubric for evaluating instructional materials (p. 250-251) for his/her selected initiative.
2

 

This task requires a few hours of research before you can actually complete it. Even though this is an individual task, if you would like to discuss the assignment with any of your colleagues, please feel free to do so.

Mechanics

First read the chapter and the rest of the materials for this week. Without reading those, I can assure you that your understanding of the issues presented will be superficial.

Second, examine the rubric provided by Dick & Carey for evaluating instructional materials (p. 250-251 – see below for the rubric). You will be completing this rubric for a digital environment, and it’s a good idea to understand what it encompasses before you proceed.

Third, select one course provided on one of the following platforms to examine:

  • A course on Coursera (select a course that is occurring right now or has been completed. DO NOT select a course that has not started yet): https://www.coursera.org/courses
  • A course on EdX (select a course that is occurring right now. DO NOT select a course that has not started yet): https://www.edx.org/courses

You can also choose to examine DS106: http://ds106.us/ I am including DS106 on its own because it is a course as opposed to the above (Coursera, EdX, and Udemy) which are platforms. If you pick any of these three (Coursera, EdX, or Udemy), then you should also pick a course (e.g., Within Coursera a possible course is https://www.coursera.org/course/friendsmoneybytes).

Assignment

Once you have made your selection, it’s time to research your course. Spend time looking around, examining and evaluating the instructional materials provided. You will use the rubric to keep track of the criteria that need to be assessed, and then using this rubric you will write a report assessing the instructional material for the course.

You should start your report by stating the course and its provider. A link would also be helpful. For example, using the example above, I would start my report by stating the following:

“I am examining the course entitled Networks: Friends, Money and Bytes (https://www.coursera.org/course/friendsmoneybytes). This course if offered through Coursera and is taught by Mung Chiang who is a Professor or Electrical Engineering at Princeton University. The course is an introduction to the topic of X and its objectives are XYZ.”

Your report should be specific and detailed in its evaluation of instructional material, and should be guided by the five criteria families discussed by DC: Goal-centered, learner-centered, learning-centered, context-centered, technical criteria. I would like to see that you understand each criterion and that you are capable of applying it to evaluating your course. For example, at the very least, I would expect to see statements such as the following:

Instructional designers use five criteria families to evaluate instructional materials. Learner-centered criteria focus on XYZ and refer to X. The instructional materials for this course appear to be adequate for this criterion because <provide list of reasons here>. The course could be improved in this domain by <list of additions/revisions here>. However, because item X was not disclosed in the course, I am not able to evaluate Y.

Let me reiterate that to complete this assignment you will need to do background research on the course and the platform. For example, your background research on Coursera will reveal that some of these courses have more than 80,000 students from around the world. This fact alone will impact your evaluation!

Instructional Material Evaluation Rubric

Rubric is copyright of: Dick, W., Carey, L. & Carey, J. (2008). Systematic Design of Instruction, (7th ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

A. Goal-centered Criteria:
Are the instructional materials:

Yes No Some
1. Congruent with the terminal and performance objectives?
2. Adequate in content coverage and completeness?
3. Authoritative?
4. Accurate?
5. Current?
6. Objective in presentations (lack of content bias)?

 

Learner-centered Criteria:
Are the instructional materials appropriate for learners’:
Yes No Some
1. Vocabulary and language?
2. Development level?
3. Background, experience, environment?
4. Experiences with testing formats and equipment?
5. Motivation and interest?
6. Cultural, racial, gender needs (lack bias)?

 

Learning-centered criteria
Do the material include:
Yes No Some
1. Pre-instructional material?
2. Appropriate content sequencing?
3. Presentations that are complete, current and tailored for learners?
4. Practice exercises that are congruent with the goal?
5. Adequate and supportive feedback?
6. Appropriate assessment?
7. Appropriate sequence and chunk size?

 

Context-centered Criteria
Are/do the instructional materials:
Yes No Some
1. Authentic for the learning and performance sites?
2. Feasible for the learning and performance sites?
3. Require additional equipment/tools?
4. Have congruent technical qualities for planned site (facilities/delivery system)?
5. Have adequate resources (time, budget, personal availability and skills)?

 

Technical criteria
Do the instructional materials have appropriate:
Yes No Some
1. Delivery system and media for the nature of objectives?
2. Packaging?
3. Graphic design and typography?
4. Durability?
5. Legibility?
6. Audio and video quality?
7. Interface design?
8. Navigation?
9. Functionality?

What education research and instructional design practice can offer to Coursera MOOCs

Posted on July 30th, by George Veletsianos in courses, engagement, moocs, my research, NPS, online learning, open, scholarship. 1 Comment

This is part of my ongoing reflection on moocs. See the rest of the entries here.

I have signed up to a number of MOOCs as a student (and led one of the #change11 weeks), and have spoken in general terms a couple of weeks ago about how education research can help improve the type of education offered through a MOOC. In this post, I will give specific suggestions, focusing on the University of Pennsylvania MOOC: Listening to World Music, offered through Coursera. I am signed up to this course, which started on June 23, and I just submitted the first assignment. I decided to post these thoughts early because of two reasons. First, the beginning of any course is an important moment in its success and I find that it takes a lot of planning and reflection. Second, MOOCS are discussed as being experiments in online education. The Atlantic even calls them “The single most important experiment in higher education.” I agree that they are experimental initiatives, and as such would benefit from ongoing evaluation and advice. Where I disagree with is the notion that they are a departure from what we know about online (and face-to-face) education. This post is intended to highlight just a couple of items that the Coursera instructional designers and learning technologists could have planned for in order to develop a more positive learning experience.

1. Length of the video lectures.

The syllabus lists the length of the video lectures (e.g., video 1 is 10:01 minutes long and video 2 is 10:45 minutes long.) However, this length is not provided on the page that students visit to watch the videos, which is where they need that information. I’ve annotated this below.

 

2. Opportunities for interaction.

The platform provides forums for students to interact with each other. Learners are of course instrumental and will figure out alternative, and more efficient and effective ways to communicate with each other, if they need to. For instance, in a number of other MOOCs students set up facebook groups, and I anticipate that this will happen here as well. What Coursera could do to support learners in working with each other is to integrate social media plugins within each course. I am surprised that this isn’t prominent within the course because you can see from the images below that Coursera uses social media plugins to allow students to announce participation in the course:

For instance, it appears that the course uses the #worldmusic hashtag, though it’s not integrated within the main page of the course, not does it seem to be a unique hashtag associated with the course.

3. How do you encourage students to watch the videos?

Let’s say that we added the length of each video next to its title. Now, the learner knows that they need about an hour to watch the video. Some learners (e.g., those who are intrinsically motivated by the topic) will watch them without much scaffolding. But, how do you provide encouragement for others to do so? Here’s where some social psychology insights might be helpful. By providing learners with simple descriptions of how the majority of their colleagues are behaving (i.e. appealing to social norms), then one might be able to encourage individuals to watch the videos. For example, the videos might include a dynamic subtitle that informs learners that “8 out of 10 of your peers have watched this video” or that “70% of your peers have completed the first assignment” and so on. This is the same strategy that hotels use to encourage users to reuse towels and the same strategy that Nike uses when it compares your running patterns to the running patterns of other runners, as shown in the image below:

4. Peer-grading expectations.

This course is different from others that I’ve participated in because it includes an element of peer-grading. This is exciting to me because I’m a firm believer in social learning. One minor concern however is the following: I don’t know how many peers I am supposed to evaluate. I thought I was supposed to evaluate just one, but each time I finish my evaluation, I am presented with the option to “evaluate next student.” Do I keep evaluating? How many do I need to evaluate before I can move to the next step? I don’t know. In other words, it’s always helpful to inform the learner of what s/he has to do. For instance, in my case, I just stopped evaluating peers after having evaluated 4 because I don’t know how much I am expected to do. Perhaps there’s no minimum… and this information would be helpful to me as a learner.

Overall, my experience with this course is positive, though there is a lot of room for improvement here, which is to be expected. For example, I haven’t touched much on the pedagogy of the course, but there’s a few more weeks left… so stay tuned!

Notes:

Nike photo credit. Thanks to my colleague Chuck Hodges for directing my attention to the Nike example.

Technology, Education, and Learning Institutions in 2025

Posted on June 18th, by George Veletsianos in courses, online learning, scholarship. 4 comments

“Technology, Education, and Learning Institutions in 2025” is a signature course that I will be teaching for the School of Undergraduate Studies at UT Austin in Fall 2012. Thus, I was excited to learn the other day that George Siemens and colleagues will be teaching an open course entitled The Current/Future State of Higher Education. While the audiences and purposes of these two course may differ, it’s exciting to know that other groups are thinking that it’s important to lead a course that asks participants to think critically about the potential futures and alternative narratives of education. Anyone can make predictions about the future of education (e.g., predictions about the demise of higher education institutions are a dime a dozen). Yet, it’s hard for newcomers to differentiate between wishful thinking, “real” change, incremental change, and potential change. Thus, a well-rounded understanding of educational systems, and the multiple purposes they serve, is important.

Signature courses at UT are interdisciplinary seminar courses for incoming students emphasizing “discussion, critical thinking, short research projects, student presentations, and writing on interdisciplinary topics of contemporary importance.” Importantly, all UT signature courses carry the Writing Flag, meaning that they must meet certain writing requirements in order to ensure that students hone in on their writing skills. To this end, students in this course will write papers describing potential and alternative educational futures and institutions. To instill a sense of commitment, responsibility, encouragement, and hope , I approached the editor of Educational Technology and asked if he was willing to work with me on dedicating a special issue on student’s informed perspectives on the future of education. While we discuss the future of education, I think it’ important to hear from students and learn from what they have to say. Since Educational Technology magazine goes to about 2,000 readers in more than 100 countries around the world, I think that this is a great way to get some of these voices in the mainstream. Our guiding prompt will be the following: If you were going to design an educational system of the future today, what would it look like? This is a question that others have asked as well (e.g., Levin, 2002)

This is how I described the course to potential students:

What will education look like in 2025? What role will technology play in future learning institutions? What will schools and universities look like? Will we invent new forms of education that reside outside of schools and universities? What is the purpose of education and how will it change in the next 10-15 years? Will we still use lectures halls? Will online education be the norm? Are we reaching a point where “anyone can learn anything from anyone else at any time?” Or, are Google, Facebook, and Twitter “infantilizing our minds,” distracting us from meaningful learning and purposeful living? Together, we will answer these questions. Just as societies, governments, and other social groups adapt and change over time, so do institutions of learning, the work that they do, and how they do that work. We live at a transient time for education, at a time where entrepreneurs, politicians, philanthropists, college professors, and university presidents are defining what education may look like in 2025. Together, we will investigate major trends influencing education, and understand how education and learning institutions are changing with the emergence of certain technologies, social behaviors, and cultural expectations.

I’ll be posting my syllabus, readings, videos, and additional learning resources here in due course.

The expanding scope of Educational Technology

Posted on March 13th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

With SITE 2012, SXSWedu 2012, and SXSW 2012 all happening within the span of two weeks, we’ve been keeping quite busy around here. Though these conferences provide lots of opportunities for discussion with colleagues, they also allow us the chance to introduce our students to the burgeoning nature of our field.

Last week, I had the great pleasure of hosting Audrey Watters in my class. Audrey is an education technology journalist and open education advocate that was described by Stephen Downes as “one of the best things to come along in education technology in 2011.” She spoke to my class about educational technology start-ups, educational technology entrepreneurship, and the business world’s recent fascination with our field. These are topics that are at the forefront of our field at present, but are largely missing from our field’s curricula. Thus, Audrey’s visit was of great interest. Our discussion continued beyond the end of the class, and if you haven’t met Audrey yet, you should! She’s knowledgeable, passionate, and says it how it is. Our field needs more Audreys, more people who aren’t distracted by the shiny technologies and their promises, and who are good at analyzing trends and the changes facing education. Audrey’s talk focused on “How Hating Blackboard Hurts Ed-Tech Entrepreneurship”:

Description: The “I hate Blackboard” Facebook group has tens of thousands of members, reflecting no doubt a fairly common sentiment among students and teachers alike regarding the learning management system giant.  It’s not surprising then to see a string of competitors arise to challenge it. But how does the focus on Blackboard — on its failures to make its customers happy — skew the way entrepreneurs (and just as importantly, perhaps, investors) think about ed-tech?  By focusing on improving the LMS, are we trying to “fix” the wrong problem?  What are some of the opportunities for ed-tech startups that aren’t getting enough attention because we focus so much on this one particular company and on the LMS industry?