It all Begins with the Course-shell
Clear instructions and expectations are essential to minimize cognitive over-load, so that learners can focus on the learning goals when they are exploring the course website. In the MET program, course information is laid out on Vista – a learning management system (LMS).
I’ve had the chance to explore a few different LMS’s in my career as a teacher and a student. Each of them has its pros and cons, such as the level of content security (whether user can set up their own server), costs , and organization. If I were to pick an LMS to create a course, some factors I would consider include the cost for setup and maintenance, the size of the user community and how easy it is to get help, and also the potential for the LMS to incorporate different learning activities.
Selecting an LMS
When it comes to selecting and using technological tools, the SECTIONS model developed by Bates and Poole (2003) came up quite a number of times throughout the MET program.
S – Students: What is known about the students – or potential students – and the appropriateness of the technology for this particular group or range of students?
E - Ease of use and reliability: how easy is it for both teachers and students to use? How reliable and well tested is the technology?
C - Costs: what is the cost structure of each technology? What is the unit cost per learner?
T - Teaching and learning: what kinds of learning are needed? What instructional approaches will best meet these needs? What are the best technologies for supporting this teaching and learning?
I - Interactivity: what kind of interaction does this technology enable?
O - Organizational issues: What are the organizational requirements and the barriers to be removed before this technology can be used successfully? What changes in organization need to be made?
N - Novelty: how new is this technology?
S - Speed: how quickly can courses be mounted with this technology? How quickly can materials be changed?
The “Teaching” of the SECTIONS Framework and Online Learning Theory
Since the type of activities and interactions between the learners, the learners and instructor, and how the participants interact with the content are enabled by the affordance of the course-shell, we need to have the type of interaction we wish to promote when we choose the course shell. What types of interaction are needed?
According to Anderson (2008), learning is learner-centered, knowledge-centered, assessment-centered, and community-centered.
This diagram represents the three foci (learner, teacher, and content) and the six types of interactions (in black print) between these foci.
This piece of reading had a great influence on my understanding of what a good learning environment. Although the article addresses online learning, I think it also applies to blended or face-to-face learning. In fact, these three foci are very similar to my 3C’s for face-to-face classroom management:
- Community (building a community of learners)
- Content (providing good content)
- Communication (have clear expectations)
The difference is that technology has now provided different media for increased interaction between the three foci. In our ETEC 510 course notes, we were asked to reflect these questions when creating an online course:
“Think about a face-to-face course in which you have been a teacher or a student. What kinds of interactions did you create or experience in the course and what kinds of effects did they have on the overall quality of the learning experience you had, your motivation and your sense of community with other students in the courses?”
I will continue to reflect on these questions as long as I teach.
So far I’m most familiar with Moodle and Desire2Learn. There are more LMS and CMS available, providing more tools for anyone to create learning environments for formal and informal education. I’m excited to explore the functionalities of these platforms and share my passion with the world!
Anderson, T. (2008). “Towards and Theory of Online Learning.” In Anderson, T. & Elloumi, F. Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Athabasca University.
Bates and Poole. (2003) “A Framework for Selecting and Using Technology.” In Effective Teaching with Technology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Pages 75-105.