Transformational Learning – How to Best Integrate into Online Learning

In my learning technologies course tonight, I listened to a presentation on transformational learning given by Prof. Aaron Doering ( I found his presentation very meaningful to me. I’ve been exposed to his topic in the past, and it certainly relates directly to our topic for this week, pedagogical design. Transformational learning includes the following guidelines: 1- designing experiences, not products 2- trust 3- learning as designers 4- learners as experts 5- aesthetics 6- self-narrative 7- TPAK 8- innovative pedagogy – design as a learner! It’s important for us as online designers, to consider Doering’s 9.5 design guidelines. In the article, Using the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge Framework to Design Online Learning Environments and Professional Development (Doering, Veletsianos, Scharber, & Miller, 2009), it discussed the need to use the Technological, Pedagogical, Content, Knowledge (TPACK) framework in designing online learning environments.  TPACK is the starting point for teachers to become effective classroom facilitators of transformative learning experiences. There is already much scholarly research and work on the effectiveness of using TPACK. Mezinrow (1991) notes this definition of transformational learning theory:  The process of becoming critically aware of how and why our assumptions have come to constrain the way we perceive, understand, and feel about our world; changing these structures of habitual expectation to make possible a more inclusive, discriminating, and integrating perspective; and finally, making choices or otherwise acting upon these new understandings. I think there are additional opportunities to look at integrating transformation learning into  online learning environments focusing on TPACK as an effective framework to shape the pedagogy of the course. 


The EDUCAUSE Conference 2013: Highlights, Trends & Takeaways

Great summary of 2013 #educause conference

Online Learning Insights

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 10.07.19 PMI was one of seven thousand participants that descended upon the Anaheim convention center last week for the three-day EDUCAUSE annual conference. The conference attracts educators, administrators and Information technology leaders from higher education institutions from near and afar; there were 52 countries represented. The conference is by no means limited to Information Technology topics. This year the conference featured 300 sessions within five categories —the majority of sessions I attended were within the teaching and learning track, and a handful in the leadership and management category. Though I usually attend conferences virtually, I chose the face-to-face option given that Anaheim is slightly more than a stone’s throw from where I live. I’m glad I did. I was able to experience the vibe of the conference, pick up on the buzz from other participants at lunch, in the exhibit hall, and impromptu meetings. I also was able to meet a handful…

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Building Patterns and Anticipation: Online Course Development

This week, I spent time reflecting on the topics of building patterns and anticipation in designing my own online course. As I’ve learned over the past 6 weeks, there are many things that need to be taken into account when designing and developing an online course. As learned this week, patterns are very important to an effective course. Patterns provide students with consistencies week to week, and help to reduce anxiety in the course. Patterns are a part of the design of the course, and for many non-traditional online instructors, isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Effective design can support the ability to build engagement and collaboration within a course. 

I’ve been given an opportunity to teach a freshman level course for science and engineering students through the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota. This is my second year teaching the course, and while it’s a face to face course, I’ve attempted to integrate a more hybrid approach to teaching the course. I will note, though, that I am now done teaching the course, as my role was only for the first seven weeks. We used Moodle as the CMS for the course, which is required. Going back to my CMS matrix, Moodle was one of the CMS’s that I analyzed, and there are some difficulties in applying color to the Moodle environment. As Cheri Spiegel notes in her Universal Design paper, color should be used in online course design to attract attention. I’m not sure if color would have made any difference with my students. I’d have to take a survey to see if there is any data that supports this one way or another. But, another key thing that Spiegel notes, is the need for consistency when designing an online course. I unfortunately did not do a great job of this in my f2f class. I would upload various assignments and material on Moodle, but it was very inconsistent from week to week. Most of the direction for the course came from higher-level administration in CSE, with many of those folks unable to understand the importance of how to effectively use Moodle in a f2f course. In the future, I will definitely change this, as I’ve learned the importance of building patterns in an online course. I’d like to also do a better job of building community within the course, both in the classroom, and online. 

Dianne Conrad’s paper, “Engagement, Excitement, Anxiety, and Fear: Learners’ Experiences of Starting an Online Course,” was a great paper and provided some much needed information to better design and develop an online course. Two things stuck out to me: 1) It’s important to provide students early access to your course and 2) students do not feel that instructors are a large part of the engagement for the course. Early access to the course makes complete sense to me, but it was harder for me to understand why students in online environment don’t really have much connection to the instructors. This paper did focus on adult learners, and so this does make more sense for an older student. But, those younger students, it doesn’t seem to be true. I also think Conrad’s ideas can easily be applied to f2f learning as well. 


Building Community into Online Learning Environments

I really enjoyed reading the three articles for this week’s module. They included Building Sense of Community at a Distance (Rovai, 2002), Technology in Support of Collaborative Learning (Resta & Laferriere, 2007) and Representing Authentic Learning Designs Supporting the Development of Online Communities of Learners (Oliver, Herrington, Herrington, & Reeves, 2007). 
As Rovai 2002 notes, a sense of a learning community may be viewed as consisting of four related dimensions: spirit, trust, interaction, and commonality of learning expectations and goals. Rovai 2002 discusses a strategy that enhances these four dimensions should result in stronger feelings of community. Rovai 2002 further notes that a review of literature suggests instructors teaching at a distance may promote sense of community by attending to seven factors: a) transactional distance, b) social presence, c) social equality, d) small group activities, e) group facilitation, f) teaching style and learning stage, and g) community size. If we can design and deliver courses at a distance that build and sustain community by drawing on these factors, perhaps our actions will help promote satisfaction and retention in e-learning programs. Community equals a feeling of being connected to someone or something.
As I continue to read about the importance of building community in online courses, it makes me think about the effectiveness of Massive Online Open Courses, also called MOOCs. MOOCs tend to have a large number of participants, sometimes up to 100K enrollees. Rovai 2002 talks about creating a community within a certain class size or number of students. His argument is that smaller class size promotes a sense of community. Then, does this mean that MOOCs do not have any community built into them, and lack the effectiveness of integrating interaction and collaboration? How can MOOCs provide more interaction and collaboration between students and the instructor?
For another example, at the University of Minnesota, some undergraduate courses have up to 200 students. For example, introductory physics, chemistry, math, and psychology to name a few. These courses also lack the ability to create an effective community of students, including social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence, also known as the community of inquiry (Garrison). Can technology be integrated effectively into an online course to help build community? YES! Technology, simple as the mobile phone, can help build a relationship between an instructor and student in a large lecture style course at the University of Minnesota. I attended a Teaching and Learning conference at the University of Minnesota this past Friday, and one of the presentations described a math professor using his text messaging as a communication medium to interact with his students. Students used the text application to ask questions in and outside of the classroom. The math instructor felt more connected to his students by using text as a communication tool. Success!
I had several good takeaways from the authentic learning article as well. As Oliver, Herrington, Herrington, & Reeves, 2007 notes, effective learning communities need to be designed around activities based on deliberate learning designs that have been shown to be able to deliver learning outcomes. Successful learning design must include meaningful contexts that include collaboration, enables good interaction and communication, and provides effective moderation or facilitation by the course instructor.
I also wanted to mention an article ( posted in the Star Tribune on Sunday, October 5 titled, Where’s the Teacher, Online College debuts self-paced courses. The article discusses a new competency-based approach to learning called FlexPath being utilized by Capella University.  It doesn’t matter how a student learns the course material; all they need to do is a pass a series of assessments that show they understand the material. A quote in the article that really caught my eye was,  “There’s not a lot of interaction, and quite honestly I like it that way,” she added. “I can just get in there [and] get my work done.” Does this mean that interaction is not needed in an online course? I disagree, and point back to the community of inquiry and the need for social presence in online courses to make them effective. Even though the FlexPath courses do have facilitators or coaches that help guide students through the course, there is a complete disregard for the use of interaction and collaboration in these courses, and I don’t feel students are becoming “smarter” or better learners through the process. It will be interesting to see what research unfolds from this new approach. The University of Minnesota was interviewed for the article, and there is much skepticism so far from them.  It will be interesting to see the future of FlexPath. Like any new disruption in higher education, it’s difficult to predict its future.
As I noted in my podcast (, there are several key components needed to successfully build community into an online learning environment.  These include:
Build an extensive introduction (using Flipgrid)
-Incorporate surveys (build community by learning about each student — what is working, how is the class, etc.)
-Incorporate chat (Twitter or other social media tools) and discussions (require students to respond to another student); if course involves group work, assign groups and require them to discuss relevant topics among the group throughout the course – help build collaboration)
-Video engagement (instructor posts videos each week to discuss material, things I learned from previous class)
-Technologies (I mentioned some of them, but Flipgrid, and Twitter can be used to create community in my course. I’d also use podcasting as a tool to provide students an opportunity to express themselves using audio.)
-Self-learning/Constructivist Approach (I’d like to provide opportunities for students to use their experiences and apply them to the learning community, and become facilitator’s of the community further along the course schedule. Create meaning for the students.)

How to Promote Critical Thinking with Online Discussion Forums

Online Learning Insights

ImageCritical thinking is an expected learning outcome of higher education along with mastery of a studied discipline. Yet several studies including one outlined in Academically Adrift, suggests that a significant percentage of students are graduating after four years of college with little intellectual growth; critical thinking gains barely budging from the ‘before’ to ‘after’ assessment. Whether the studies are valid or not is not the focus here, but how to teach higher order thinking skills in online learning environments is. I make a case for asynchronous discussions and their value in developing higher order thinking. I recently facilitated a webinar How to Promote Critical Thinking Skills in the Online Class targeted to educators teaching undergraduate or high school students virtually. I include slides from the presentation at the end of the post. Below I highlight the required learning conditions for effective online discussions, and include excerpts from peer-reviewed papers…

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How Media and Technology Influence Learning

Teaching Through Collaboration Blog

How Media and Technology Influence Learning

(Based on the Clark/Kozma Debate)

This position paper is based on Richard E. Clark and Robert Kozma’s famous debate that looks at whether media and technology influences learning. I will be looking at the role media and technology play in motivating and enhancing learning in schools of the 21st century. I will also be examining the possible challenges within the use of technology in school settings and conclude by suggesting some possible recommendations that will analyze the possible directions of media and technology in the future.

Summary of  Debate

Clark, a professor of instructional technology at the University of Southern California, insists that media does not influence learning under any conditions. He felt that its only influence was cost and distribution. He goes as far as to say, that different forms of “media” are mere vehicles that delivers instruction but does not influence student…

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Social Presence in Online Learning

My video for the week sums up my thoughts on the importance of a social presence in online learning environments.  Link to video: So, to answer the question that yes or no, should their be a social presence in online learning?….YES!!!!

Integrating a social presence into an online learning environment is extremely important for many reasons.

Cui’s article provides a great overview on social presence theory and its importance to building a successful social presence online. A few points to highlight include:

Overall, a social presence online improves a learners’ satisfaction, enhances instructional effectiveness and builds community. But, there might be a tipping point when there is TOO much social presence. As Garrison notes, the community of inquiry framework is valuable to understanding the effectiveness of a social presence and the need for participants to viewed as “real” people. There are positive correlations between a social presence and online interaction, with the design of the course very important to how the interaction between the instructor and student is done. Much of the research points to the need for a social presence as it’s directly correlated to a students’ satisfaction with the course, students’ learning, outcomes and sense of community.

In my video response, I note one Web 2.0 tool, Twitter, that can be used to increase student satisfaction and social interaction within an online course (or F2F course). A great article to reference in regards to social presence and Twitter is