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