Wrapping Up Distributed Learning…and my degree!!

I am SO excited to finally say that this will be the last assignment of my MEd degree.  I couldn’t be happier!  I’ve learned so much, met so many great people, and have a tonne of great information and resources to take with me.  As a wrap up, I wanted to share the big takeaways I have learned…

1.  When designing a course, no matter where it lies on the blended learning continuum (ICT usage, e-enhanced, e-focused, e-intensive), be sure to start with a well defined set of learning objectives.  Learning objectives should state the audience, what is expected of them, and the criteria or standard they must meet.  Bloom’s (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives provides a clear system for defining the comprehension level expected of the audience.

2.  Decide on the type of course that you want to design.  Twigg (2003) provides a series of models that can be used to guide course redesigns depending on the level of technology integrated into the course and time spent online vs. face-to-face.  Some of the different models include the Replacement Model, the Supplemental Model, and the Fully Online Model.

3.  The Community of Inquiry framework (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008) provides a guide for creating an engaging, interactive, and collaborative learning environment in which the instructor and students freely engage and interact via three fundamental elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence.  The three elements work together to assist students to move through the Phases of Practical Inquiry and engage in deeper levels of learning.

4.  Have a variety of students assessments available in order to appeal to all learning styles and preferences.  Assessment instructions should be clear and include a grading rubric to provide students with guidance as to what is expected of them.  There should be formative and summative assessments, online and face-to-face elements, some elements of group work or collaboration, and all assessments should reflect what is expected of students in the learning objectives.

5.  Have a course evaluation plan.  When redesigning any course, it is imperative that it is evaluated from the perspective of the students and the instructor.  Feedback should be collected in order to make appropriate changes or adjustments.  Feedback should be collected at several points throughout the course as adjustments made during the course may prove to be beneficial for students and/or the instructor.  The Quality Online Course Initiative (QOCI) Rubric is a great example of a course evaluation rubric for online courses (Illinois Online Netword, n.d.).

I wish you all the best with your degrees and I hope these 5 tips can be useful to you in the future.  They are the building blocks around which I have based the course redesigns that I have done in the past.  And they provide a solid foundation from which to implement new techniques and strategies.

Best of luck to you all.



Bloom, Benjamin S. & David R. Krathwohl. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals, by a committee of college and university examiners. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York , Longmans.

Garrison, D.R. & Vaughan, N. (2008).  Blended Learning in Higher Education.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Illinois Online Network (n.d.). Quality Online Course Initiative (QOCI) Rubric.  Available online from:http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/initiatives/qoci/rubric.asp

Twigg , C.A. (2003). Improving Learning and Reducing Costs: New Models for Online Learning.EDUCAUSE Review, 38 (5), 29 – 38. Available online from: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0352.pdf

Online Learning – The Virtual Land of Opportunities

Online learning provides limitless educational possibilities.  It opens up doors for people that otherwise may not have access for any number of reasons.  Online education has the following benefits:

Customizable – Students can choose from programs offered from any institution to study topics that they have an interest in and that will be applicable to them in their careers.  Students can choose from their own institution, if online options are available, or seek a Letter of Permission to choose a course offered at another institution to be counted towards their degree.  For me personally, I was able to choose a program of interest for me that wasn’t offered at any local institution.  Had this online learning opportunity not been available, I would have either enrolled in a program that wasn’t exactly what I wanted, or not pursued a MEd degree.

Accessible – As long as students have access to adequate technology (computer, Internet), online learning breaks down barriers that can exist for students.  Students that were once geographically isolated can now participate.  Students that could not participate due to disabilities now have more opportunities.  I am currently working in Services for Students with Disabilities, and online courses have provided great opportunities for our students that have been diagnosed with several types of disabilities.  Students that are deaf or hard of hearing can participate in discussions through typed Discussion Boards.  Students that suffer from anxiety, including social anxiety and fear of public speaking, feel more comfortable participating in online courses due to the degree of anonymity afforded by online learning.

Flexible – Online learning allows students to balance education, work, family, etc.  Assignments, readings, and other course work can be completed on their own schedule.  Having a full time job, two kids (and another on the way), a relationship, friends, life… I am able to balance everything with my education because I can complete my readings once the kids are in bed, do my assignments on the weekends, do some research on my lunch break, etc.  Traditional face-to-face courses just weren’t an option for me as I could not commit to sitting in a course for 3 hours a week during the day.  Without the flexibility of online learning, a post-grad degree may not have been an option for me.

These are just a few of the benefits afforded by online learning.  The list goes on, but to keep within the limits of this blog assignment, I chose those that were most important to me as a student.  I am very greatful for the online learning opportunity provided to me by the MEd online program through the UofC.  I hope that the UofC, as well as other institutions, continue to expand their online learning opportunities.  I think that we, by taking online courses and educating ourselves about online learning, are helping to make sure that this continues to happen.

To Interact or Not To Interact: What’s the Flipping Difference?!?

Interaction in face-to-face classrooms can differ immensely from online courses, especially as you move along the continuum from e-enhanced to e-focused to e-intensive.  The four different types of interaction are:

Student – Student,

Student – Instructor,

Student – Content,

Student – Technology.

The intructional media and pedagogical techniques used by instructors in traditional vs. online courses determines the types of interactions that are present in each environment (Thurmond & Wambach, 2004).  I believe the level and meaningfulness of all interactions is also dependent upon the strategies and tools used by the instructor.

The traditional classroom offers a very one-sided experience: students sit, listen, and take notes while the instructor (content expert) delivers the information. Besides a few interjections or questions, student-instructor (S-I) and student-student (S-S) interaction is very limited. I would also suggest that student-content (S-C) interaction is limited as it consists solely of taking in what they can from the lecture and attempting to jot notes and remember information. Then students are expected to go home and complete readings and assignments, completely isolated. There is also limited or no opportunity for interaction with technology (S-T).

The Flipped Classroom, on the other hand, is a very student-centered approach to instruction. For those who haven’t investigated the Flipped Classroom yet: students take the time at home to learn the course content via readings and videos and class time is used for collaboration, clarification, and activities. It brings engagement to a whole other level.  Students have various levels of interaction at all stages of the course. Instruction begins at home when students are engaging with the content (S-C) and technology (S-T) by viewing content videos. When they come to class, they are interacting with other students (S-S), the instructor (S-I), and the content (S-C) as they participate in activities, complete assignments with guidance, ask questions, review material, do presentations, debates, the list of possibilities goes on.  The Flipped Classroom provides instructors with the opportunity to create a dynamic and engaging learning environment for students that increases interaction in all four areas.

The Teaching Online Program through UofC provided a great resource summarizing the four types of interactions in online courses (S-S, S-I, S-C, S-T) as well as some tools and strategies instructors can use to create each type of interaction in their online learning environment. It can be found here: http://marymac.pbworks.com/f/4+types+of+interaction.pdf.  I wanted to share this resource with anyone interested in an e-enhanced learning environment like the Flipped Classroom, or increasing student engagement in their e-focused classroom.


Magadan, J. (2010). 4 Types of Interaction. For PC CTLT. Retrieved from: http://marymac.pbworks.com/f/4+types+of+interaction.pdf

Thurmond, V., Wambach, K. (2004). Understanding interactions in distance education: a review of the literature. International Journal or Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 1(1). Retrieved from: http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_04/article02.htm

e-Learning in the classroom and the workplace

Last week I attended a meeting at my workplace (a university) to assist with organizing a conference on blended learning.  The committee consisted of a few staff members with general interest/knowledge of BL, members of our IT team, some faculty, and one senior admin.  Some of the faculty members that were in attendance were newer to the profession, while others have been teaching for many years.  Although all faculty members had an interest in BL in some form, it was interesting to see the varied opinions, questions, and range of concerns and misconceptions.  What is BL and what is considered BL?  Have I been using BL techniques in my teaching already and not known it?  How is this going to change my job?  If we bring this here, what does that mean for me and my support staff?  How do I begin to incorporate BL into my classroom, and get my colleagues on board as well?

I couldn’t help but think of the Starkey (2010) article that explored the connectivism framework.  When I first read the article, I interpreted it as applying to faculty and students in the classroom since that’s how it was written.  Now the teacher is no longer only the content expert, but is facilitating the learning experience for his/her students.  They are the ones that make connections, encourage students to explore, all while using new technologies to enhance the learning experience (Starkey, 2010).   Beginner or experienced, they were the ones that needed to rethink pedagogy in order to meaningfully incorporate technology in the classroom to enhance the learning environment for students.  But who was making the connections for faculty?  Who was going to take on the task of showing them what was available to them, how they could use it, and why it would benefit their students?

As I looked around the room, I realized that was us!  Connectivism applied in this situation as well.  We were facilitating a learning experience for those that would attend the conference.  Because of our education, experiences, and background, the integration of technology into the university seemed like it should be easy.  But as we explored possible concerns and misconceptions, we realized how the connections will need to be demonstrated for some.  It was up to us to design the content and delivery of the conference in a way that best showcased the benefits of blended learning.  As Starkey (2010) notes, “[a] central idea in the learning theory of connectivism is the continual expansion of knowledge as new and novel connections open new interpretations and understandings to create new knowledge which contrasts with constructivism where the focus is on individual learners constructing meaning” p. 234.  That is the goal of the conference – to create connections, open minds to new ideas and understandings of a topic that some may not know much about or that have opinions that may be unwarranted.  Connectivism applies to faculty and students in the classroom, but also in a PD environment where faculty may themselves be the students.

Starkey, L. (2010). Teachers’ pedagogical reasoning and action in the digital age. Teachers & Teaching, 16(2), 233-244.

Distributed Learning – Post 1 – Fashionably Educated

I was inspired this week by the Rotherham and Willingham (2009) article as well as the quote that Sam began her post with.  Rotherham and Willingham maintain that “[i]t’s exciting to believe that we live in times that are so revolutionary that they demand new and different abilities. But in fact, the skills students need in the 21st century are not new” (p. 16).  The skills we require and demand of our students now are no different than those required and demanded in the past, they are just acquired in a different way.  And Sam quoted von Humboldt who developed the German model of the university in the early 1800s as saying that the university teacher is not a teacher in the same sense as at other levels, but is available to help guide and support his students in their learning.  The student-centered approach is what started it all hundreds of years ago.  “It would seem that what is old is new again!” (Pearson, 2013).

We want the same things out of our students as we always have.  But the way our instructors teach those students is different at different levels and has changed from a student-centered approach to a teacher-centered approach somehow/somewhere along the way.  Recently there has been another shift moving back towards the student-centered approach again, perhaps coinciding with the increase in technology used in the classroom.

Those ideas got me thinking… Is education like fashion?  We think we’re coming up with new ideas when really we’re just re-inventing the past.  Bell bottoms and neon tops are like self-directed learning and critical thinking:  If we let some time pass and bring them back with a slight twist, people will think we’re revolutionizing the industry.

I remember when I was in highschool, my Mom chuckled as I begged her to take me to the city to go shopping for bell bottoms.  “Those things came back?!?” she said.  If only she had saved her clothing from highschool!  But the bell bottoms of the 70’s weren’t cool like the ones of the 90’s.  Hers were made of brown corduroy while mine were of the highly fashionable light washed denim.  “Sooo, not the same!”

So what is it about education that we think we’re revolutionizing?  Does adding a technological or online element to our classrooms suddenly make self-directed learning more appealing?  Are our students better critical-thinkers and problem-solvers because we have them discuss their ideas in an online discussion board rather than during face-to-face in class time?  We’re not changing what we expect from education, we’re merely changing the fabric of teaching from the outdated corduroy of the teacher-centered approach of information dissemination to the oh-so-hip-and-cool student-centered approach.


Pearson, Sam. July 7, 2013. Blog Post. “Blog Post #1 – Distributed Learning Summer 2013”.  http://samanthapearsonelearning.ucalgaryblogs.ca/

Rotherham, A. J., & Willingham, D. (2009). 21st Century Skills: The Challenges Ahead. Educational Leadership, 67(1), 16-21.

Course Redesign Project Proposal


King’s (Western University) recently switched Course Management Systems from WebCT to OWL (Sakai).  OWL has more features available to allow for an easier transition to a blended course format.  There are more tools available to allow for greater opportunities for engagement and collaboration online.

I have chosen a graduate level Social Work course for my redesign project.  The course will be offered in the summer term and traditionally has been structured as an in-class only course that meets once a week for four hour blocks.

Learner Analysis

Learner Characteristics

Your Target Audience

Implications for Design

Learners’ ages and age span Graduate Level studentsEarly 20’s + Collaborative and engaging techniques to allow for deeper learning
Reading level Graduate Level Readings from textbook and journals available in the CMS
Writing abilities Graduate Level Discussion Board – rubric for quality over quantity responsesMajor Research Paper – rubric
Grade level Graduate Level Collaborative and engaging techniques to allow for deeper learningDiscussion online and in class
Gender split Mostly female
General aptitude regarding instruction High Use assignments to encourage student engagementUse f2f time not just for lecture delivery
Percentage of foreign language learners Low Having readings and discussions posted online allows for ESL students   a greater opportunity to read through material on their own time and fully   understand
Level of computer skills Low-High Professor to provide basic knowledge on how to use the CMS and basic   tech supportProf to explain the value of the online component and how it relates   to the learning objectives of the course
Motivation to learn the content High Opportunities to engage with the materialDiscussions in class and online

Groups to moderate online discussions weekly

Attitudes toward subject matter Positive Opportunities for students to engage with the material, share   resources and ideas in an open and receptive environment
Level of anxiety Low-High Opportunities for online and f2f engagement to allow students to   contribute in a way that is more comfortable for them
Identified disabilities Possible vision, mobility, psychiatric, learning disabilities, etc. Opportunities for online and f2f engagement to allow students to   contribute in a way that is more comfortable for themHaving content online allows for greater accessibility for those that   use computer software to assist with learning or vision disabilities


The focus of the course is on social work policy and practice, particularly the Canadian welfare system policy formulation, implementation, and change.

Learning Objectives – Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Define the impact of political ideology on recent developments in Canadian social policy;
  • List and explain current environmental conditions affecting the field of social policy in Canada including the impact of globalization;
  • Identify and apply frameworks for policy-making and the dynamics of policy change;
  • Recognize policy resistance and response; and
  • Identify and describe ways social workers can influence through social action, advocacy, and intellectual and philosophical commitment to social policy-making the course and shape of social policy in Canada.


I will be using the Replacement Model which reduces the number of face-to-face hours and replaces them with online activities (The National Centre for Academic Transformation, 2005).  F2F class time will remain mostly the same, being used for lectures and small discussions.  F2F hours will be reduced from four hours to two hours per week.

Activities using technology will include:

  • Online Discussion Board – Weekly discussion boards will be set up where students are required to reflect upon and answer questions based on that week’s content.  Students will also be broken into groups and expected to moderate one discussion week.  Discussion Boards will also be set up for FAQ and Assignment Questions.
  • Blogs – Students will be required to submit 3-4 blog posts throughout the course of the term.  Their first blog response will be a short introduction of themselves.  Then they will post a summary of their discussion week to their blog, as well as answering reflection questions where they will be required to apply what they have learned so far in the course.
  • Online Quizzes – There will be a short, multiple choice quiz to be completed before each class with questions that are based on the readings that should be completed before class.  This will ensure students are prepared for class, have had time to review the material and apply their knowledge, and will come to class prepared with questions on areas of confusion.  The professor will be able to review the quiz answers before class to apply Just In Time Teaching (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008) in order to focus attention on areas where students are having difficulties.

In-Class activities will include:

  • Lectures
  • Discussions based on Online Quiz results
  • Discussions based on Discussion Board summaries
  • Discussions about Assignments

Rubrics will be created outlining the expectations for each assignment.  Quality over quantity will be encouraged.  Students will be expected to contribute frequently, and share ideas and resources in a respectful and open manner.


The success of the redesign compared to the traditional format will be evaluated by:

  • Analyzing contributions to the Discussion Board – using the rubric, Discussion Board responses will be analyzed for quality over quantity, moving through phases (triggering to resolution).
  • Analyzing blog responses – using the rubric, blog responses will be analyzed in the same manner as the Discussion Board responses student evaluation, comparison with previous years.
  • Reviewing the results of the Online Quizzes will be assessed
  • Reviewing the SSW Mid-Course Correction Surveys.  The School of Social Work always implements Mid-Course Correction Surveys which are anonymous surveys administered to students to get their feedback on the course and instructor.
  • Reviewing the SET results.  King’s administers Student Evaluation of Teaching surveys at the end of each course to obtain feedback on the course and instructor.
  • QOCI Evaluation Rubric http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/initiatives/qoci/rubric.asp


Garrison, D.R., & Vaughan, N.D. (2008). Blended Learning in Higher Education.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

The National Center for Academic Transformation, (2005). Five Principles of Successful Course Redesign. Retrieved January 22, 2013 from: http://www.thencat.org/PlanRes/R2R_PrinCR.htm

Article Critique Draft 679.20

Hi Everyone,

I must begin my post with sincere apologies and a short explanation.  You may have noticed my lack of presence online over the last 2 weeks.  It started the night of our Elluminate session.  I could feel myself getting sick and I lost my voice.  Shortly thereafter, both of my boys came down with the horrendous North American flu that is wreaking havoc.  And, as you may have guessed, 4 days of caring for sick kids undoubtedly turned into me getting sick.  I have been out of commission for 2 weeks now!  I think everyone at work is beginning to forget what I look like.  And well, since you guys don’t really know what I look like, you’ve maybe forgotten my writing style…lol.

In any case, I’m starting to feel a bit better and am hoping to make my re-appearance online this week!  Here is my critique of Designing and Orchestrating Online Discussions.

Baker, D. (2011). Designing and Orchestrating Online Discussions. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(3), 401-411. Available online at: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no3/baker_0911.pdf


Article Critique EDER679.20

Here we go again!! Goals for Blended Learning

As we start another course, I am excited to see what this course has to offer me, what skills I can learn, research and theories I can become familiar with, and how I can put my new knowledge into practice in the workplace.

Specifically, I am hoping to learn which elements are most effective in an online environment and how to implement them into an existing course.  I also hope to learn specific strategies for assisting faculty and getting them on board with curriculum changes.  I want to be able to design the most effective and engaging courses for our students.

King’s is slowly moving towards the use of more technology and online elements in our courses.  I hope to, someday, be a part of this shift in a more meaningful way.


EDER 679.25 Blog Post #4 – Creating digital content

Wow, I can’t believe another course has come to a close.  I’m a tech nerd so I have to admit that this has been one of my favourite courses.  I loved being able to play around with different software programs and learn what they can do.

There are so many benefits to creating digital media, but the most important in my eyes is to increase accessibility.  Have information available in text, image, and audio format increases accessibility for learners of different ages, (dis)abilities, and languages.  But because digital media is accessed by so many different learners, this brings on many different challenges.  Mainly, making the media accessible to all learners and the choices that are made when creating it (from font to colours to images to sounds) are inclusive and relevant to all learners.  We must be aware of how our choices may be viewed by others of different religions, cultures, genders, (dis)abilities.  Creators of digital media need to be able to look through the eyes of the learner when creating/designing the media in question.  Creators of digital media also need to be very specific when writing their learning outcome(s) and be cognisant of how every choice they make when creating their media builds towards achieving those learning outcome(s).

The main challenge I found that was consistent across all four assignments was trying to find the “perfect” software.  Especially when using free software, it is very difficult to find a program that does everything that you want.  I would suggest that anyone that is looking to create digital media does some research first on which types of programs are available that suit their needs for that project and compare a few different programs and their features before choosing which program to use.  A couple of times I didn’t do thorough enough research on the program’s features and I ended up ditching the project and starting over with another program and lost valuable time.

One final thought as we finish up this course…  I think a lot of educators view the main purpose of technology in relation to students as valuable in the classroom only.  But while completing LT4 (website) it really struck home with me how technology and digital media can have just as large of an impact on learners outside of the classroom.  For LT4 I created a section for my university’s website for First Nations students.  It occurred to me that without that section of the website, First Nations students may not even make it to the classroom, or last long there.  The website is a tool to help recruit students, as well as promote available academic and personal services to help retain those students.  So although technology and digital media have a strong presence and use in the classroom, we must also remember its place outside the classroom.

Best of luck to everyone in their future courses!


EDER 679.25 Blog Post #3 – TED TALK Amber Case: We are all Cyborgs now.

While listening to Amber Case speak, about a million different ideas were zipping through my brain.  She spoke about computers and cell phones as extensions of our mental selves.  I often think to myself, “How would I get by without my iPhone?!?”  It holds my schedule, email, contacts, Facebook, reminders, task lists, photos and videos of my family, and those are just the things I use daily.  There’s also Apps for the every day little things that help me get by like Yellow Pages, flash light, coupons, meal planning.  The more technology I incorporate into my life, the more I’ve become dependent on it.  I only got a smart phone about 3 months ago and now I wonder how I got along without it.  The convenience of having everything in one place is irreplaceable.  I don’t have to carry around a giant bag with a camera, a daily planner, a grocery list, a phone book, etc.

But when we become to dependent on technology, what happens when it fails?  Do I automatically shut down when my battery dies?  Do my friends evaporate when my contact list is somehow deleted?  I’ve noticed at work before when the network goes down how the entire university seems to shut down.  We can’t work without our email, spreadsheets, databases, etc.  I worry about losing my phone or having my photos and files deleted so I am continually backing everything up.  I have a copy on my phone, which is synched to my computer, which gets backed up on an external hard drive, which I occasionally burn additional copies of important files onto CDs.

Amber Case also spoke about our “second self”, our online self.  This is a very important topic nowadays when so much information about ourselves is present online.  I know there is a new wave of people having 2 Facebook accounts:  one for personal and one for work.  We can connect instantaneously to anyone that we choose.  But with this power comes great responsibility, or so they say!  We need to manage, maintain, and present ourselves in certain ways to certain people.  We need to be aware of what information we are making available to others.  I have become very conscious of this since I had my kids.  Not knowing who is able to see pictures or information about them, I am very careful of pictures and other information that I choose to send out into cyberspace.

Technology has certainly made our lives much easier.  It lessens, or even eliminates the barriers of time and space.  Communication is instantaneous and almost effortless.  Storing information and files online is more efficient and eases access.  Technology is only going to continue to evolve, because as Amber Case said, it is adopted not because it works but because people use it.

TED Conferences, LLC. (2010). Amber Case: We are all cyborgs now. TED Conferences LLC. Retrieved August 23, 2011 from http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/amber_case_we_are_all_cyborgs_now.html.