Discussion: Collaboration online = Discussion Forum

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Discussion_640

In the resources for this week, we find a video with Drs. Pallof and Pratt discussing strategies for assessing interaction and collaboration in an online environment. In the video, they mention different things that could be used as collaboration assessments; like debate, case studies, simulations, and role-playing, but if we look at many of our course situations, the only collaboration activity we can find is discussions. For this discussion, you and you peers will discuss why many instructors are reluctant to use anything else but discussions as collaboration activity.

Begin by considering your own experiences of collaborative activities that you met in online courses as a student. Then, reflect on the following questions:

  • How many of the collaborative activities that you met in online courses are other than discussion forums? Why do you think instructors choose discussion forums instead of other collaboration activities?
  • If you would create a collaboration activity for your work situation (right now or prior) would discussion forum be your first choice? Why/Why not? What kind of activity would you choose?

In this discussion, you should use mainly your experiences and thoughts of discussion forums in the posting. Other resources could be interesting but are not mandatory.

 

Rubric for online discussion

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Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

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One argument against online courses is that it is easy to cheat. My experience is not that online students cheat more than students on campus. To detect cheating is not easy; if a student really wants to cheat they will find a way. Plagiarism is, however, something that is easier to detect. Plagiarism is a sort of cheating since it is about using someone else’s text as if it is my own, but to considering a cheating it has to be done intentionally.

I do agree with Jocoy and DiBiase (2006) and other researchers that found that plagiarism is more about lack of knowledge and understanding than being done intentionally. Today we have the Internet with so much information in different ways, and it is so easy to download films and music, read books, play games and find any information of whatever topic that interests you. Understanding that just because it is available does not mean it is free to use in whatever way you want is something that students need to learn in early age.

For me as an instructor I need to do different activities to teach the students about what plagiarism is since that will decrease plagiarism. Jocoy and DiBiase (2006) mention a research that showed “that students who received no explicit plagiarism instruction plagiarized twice as often as those who participated in active instructional activities such as class discussions of definitions of plagiarism, review of Turnitin.com plagiarism reports, and exercises requiring students to identify instances of plagiarism in example essays.”

Turnitin.com is one example of an online tool that can be used to detect plagiarism. A simple search on the Internet for a tool shows that there are several out there, even though the simplest way is to use Google. Copy the sentence that you suspect is not the student’s own, and use Google to do a search on the Internet. However, often the Universities has license with at provider for a specific tool, and if that is that case, that is the tool we should use.

Another interesting way of teaching students about plagiarism is to have students do several parts of an assignment and the first parts where there is plagiarism detected they get the opportunity to revise and resubmit their work (Jocoy and DiBiase, 2006). That is also something I like to try out in a course, but I do agree with Dr. Palloff and Pratt (Laureate Education, 2010), when they talk about that we should create assignment that is authentic and incorporate collaboration that will discourage cheating.

Reference

Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Launching the online learning experience [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

 

Impact of Technology and Multimedia

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Young people, today, are what we call digital native; they are used to have computer and Internet, and they are using cell phones and social media for communication (Prensky, 2001). Because of that it is not easy to be an instructor teaching in an online course. The students of today expect us to have different technology and multimedia in our courses, and it is a temptation to add a lot of forum, wikis, blogs, video, audio and other Web 2.0-tools. The most important thing for you as an instructor is to decide why you are using technological tools and multimedia in you course. We always have to think of the objectives of the course and consider if the tool helps students get the knowledge of the content and reach the objectives. If the answer is yes then use that tool, but if the answer is no, then put that tool aside.

Focus on the essential tools, especially if it is the first online course you teach, and then for each time it runs you can add more technology. Use tools that you feel comfortable with and that will help you.

We might look at tools as something that is only for students to use, but technological tools could also be tools that can help you as an instructor in the administration work. Tools that we use in an online course should be used to help communication, to create a presence in the online environment (teacher, social and cognitive presence), but also to add tools to student collaboration. Different tools can also help students with the learning of knowledge since it could help them use different learning style.

Another thing we have to consider when using adding a tool to an online course is if the students are able to use it. Who are the students in your online course? It might be middle age to older students, with a lot of work and life experience, but not so much of technology experience. If that is the case, you should use tools that they are used to or tools that are easy to learn to use. You can always let students have the choice to use tools from a toolbox, and they can then use tools they feel comfortable with.

One important thing when it comes to an online course is that it has to be accessible to everyone, no matter if they have a disability or not. In article 9 in United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities can we read about access to information and communication using technology and Internet. Countries that agreed on this convention have then made laws to make sure this will happen. USA is one nation and Sweden another where those laws exists. That means that if you use multimedia of some kind you have to make sure that anyone that cannot see or hear still can use the multimedia and understand the information given.

The last question I had to answer was about what technology tools are most appealing to me to use in online teaching.  I have used and are using almost everything (not games though). I have used and am using video and audio a lot in different courses, and I think that is a good way of teaching online. I use quizzes, forum, Skype, and E-meeting rooms as Adobe Connect. My problem is not the tools itself, but to use them, in a way, that will help students in their study and reaching the objectives. That is the area I need to work on to get better.

 

References

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On The Horizon. 9(5). Retrived from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

United Nations Enable (n.d). Article 9 – Accessibility. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=269

Setting up an Online Experience

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Have you ever thought about all the different steps that need to be taken when setting up an online course? For many, it seems like it is just to take the material from the face-to-face course and digitalize it, and then we have an online course. However, just as we need to plan the face-to-face course we need to do the same with an online course. There are differences that are essential and, therefore, need more work and preparation. Like the technology that we can use in an online course.

Something I claimed for a long time discussing online courses and technology, is that technology is tools that you can use. You do not have to use everything that is out there, you should use the technology that will help your teaching and enhance the learning for the students. Boettcher and Conrad (2010) also mention this when they say “…keep it simple. Focus on the essential tools, and build your first course around those tools.” To be able to focus on the essential tool, or to choose a tool that will help you and your students, you have to have knowledge of what is out there. I have loved the courses in this Master Program because now and then, and sometimes a lot, there are suggestions of different tools I have never heard of. I look into those suggestions, what they are for and what I could do with them, and then I add them to my toolbox (I try to gather the names of the tools) to bring out when I need them. I wish, however, that I had more time to try them out, play with them and be skillful in using them. Often that will happen during the use of the tool in a course.

Knowing what tools I will use will help me prepare and organize the online course, but then we also have the students that might or might not take an online course for the first time. What can they expect from me as the instructor and the course, but also what is expected from them? “Clear and unambiguous guidelines about what is expected of learners and what they should expect from an instructor make a significant contribution to ensuring understanding and satisfaction in an online course” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). The clearer we get the easier it is for the students to focus on the correct things, and learn more. It will also be easier for us teachers, since we avoid discussions about what is happening in the course and can focus on the teaching.

Besides making expectations clear and having knowledge of technology, the instructor needs to consider on how to create a presence in the online course. Presence is about “being there” in the online classroom as human beings.  Three different kinds of presence are needed and need to be planned. Social is about getting to know each other, and to build trust. It is only then “content discussions can be open and substantive” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). Creating social presence can be done with an icebreaker activity at the beginning of the course.  Cognitive presence is about students’ willingness to take part in discussion and other activities, and be able to construct and confirm meaning.  To create cognitive presence is not easy since students might come with different reasons for taking the course, but what an instructor can do is to find out “what students know and how they know it” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). The way the course is organized can also be a help. Teaching presence consists of the material that is prepared before the course starts, but also the way the instructor ask and answers questions in forums, giving feedback on assignments and communicating what is going on in the course. This is also something that the instructor should plan and prepare before the course starts (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

The more preparation and planning we do as an instructor, the bigger the chance that the students will achieve a good experience of an online course.  It will also simplify the work during the course for the instructor since he/she will know what will happen when and can, therefore, focus on the students.

 

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Online Learning Communities

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This week in the course we learn about online learning communities, and it is apparent from the resources that this is something beneficial for both instructors and students. To start with, what is a learning community? According to Dr. Rena Palloff and Dr. Keith Pratt (Laureate Education, 2010) it is “a community of students and faculty who explore content together to construct meaning and knowledge about that content.”

The idea is that active students learn more, and students who are interacting with one another are active. I believe that we all recognize this. We might be searching for specific information in books and Internet, and in the process we learn several other things since we are reading the text to find the information. We might have a problem and we discuss it with our colleagues (peers) and in that discussions we get new knowledge that will help me solve the problem.

Learning communities is about learner-to-learner engagement. You get to know the other students and they get to know you, and then together we make meaning of the content in the course. One comment that Dr.Palloff and Dr. Pratt made was that it should “empower students to take responsibility of their own learning” and if it works at it supposed to, it will “transform students into scholar practitioners” (Laureate Education, 2010). Other positive changes are that students become reflective, increase the self-direction, reinforce their sense of presence, and break the isolation.

There are several elements of online community building; people, purpose, process, method, and social presence. All of them depends on another and play off one another. However, it is not just to bring those pieces together and then we have a learning community. It will not just happen!

Circles in a overlapping relations between the elements of community building

I believe we need to start with the purpose. Why would people come together to interact with each other? The answer to that is not always that they want to learn something, but creating a course with the target group and their needs is a good place to start. On that purpose we as instructor has to create the process, the way the course is designed to take a learner from the start to end, but also the way it is designed to engage the learners. In that process we have to add methods so learners are able to interact, and communicate, and connect with each other.  The process and methods are key to community building.

We have then created an environment where we now can invite people, the learners, into, and give them the opportunity to start develop presence.  We cannot expect everyone to be capable of developing a social presence immediately, therefore, it is important that we give instructions on what to do and when, to help the learners to get started.  Then it is everyone’s responsibility to participate and interact with each other, otherwise there will not be a successful learning community.

One issue that could exist is the lack of knowledge of technology and online study, which could result in loosing learners since they become overwhelmed with everything. Having new student orientation will help students to understand all this new things as well as getting to know each other before they start the actual course. If it is not possible to have that, we have to use the beginning of the course to help them understand and learn all this things.

The instructor of the course is the facilitator and need to be the one setting the tone in the classroom and make it a warm and inviting place to be. That person needs to be involved in the entire process, and slowly cultivating students into the communities.

One thought I got reading and listening to this week’s resources is that even if we are talking about online teaching, all of this can be applied to a class on campus, that we meet face-to-face.

 

Reference

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Online learning communities [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

New course, new knowledge

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Another course where I need to use the blog: Online Instructional Strategies. It will be interesting to learn the theory behind what we do online, as well as getting more tips of what to do to get students more active in courses.

Analyzing Scope Creep

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The instruction for this assignment is to describe scope creep that occurred in a project that we been part of, and explain what we would have done to manage these issues. This is the second assignment in this course where the assumption is that every student in the course has experiences from real world projects. Again, I do not have these experiences and can, therefore, not write a blog post according to the instructions.

What we have learned in this course about scope creep is also something I teach my students. Never say “yes, we fix that” to a client, stakeholder and others that come with requests of new or altered functionality (content). This since the request might delay the project and make it cost more, and we might not get paid for that work unless we negotiate.

The best way of dealing with these requests is “to set up a well-controlled, formal process whereby changes can be introduced and accomplished with a little distress as possible” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton & Kramer, 2008).  In that way, everyone knows how changes of scope will be handled. That process would look like this:

  • The person who has a request fills in a document where they state want the want (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d).
  • Analyze the impact of the change. It concerns schedule, quality of the finished product, costs, team assignments, other deliverables (Greer, 2010)
  • Discuss with the team, how this could be handled with as little impact as possible (Greer, 2010)
  • Discuss with the client that have to approve the new changes and the consequences of it (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d)
  • If the changes is approved the plan for the project need to be updated and everyone involved informed about it (Greer, 2010)

If this process is there from the beginning, there will be no panic or stress or wrong handling when someone comes with a ‘good idea’.

References

Greer, M. (2010). The Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects! Laureate Education Ed.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Monitoring Projects [DVD]. In Series Title. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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