Monday, December 5, 2011

Online Teaching Experiences

               I was asked to reflect on online technologies and their applications in my teaching experience. I may not be an educator per se, but I am elbow deep in online education in my occupation. Supporting my organization’s online course management system is one of my primary duties. 

                I have seen all types of content online, from nursing to astrology to speech courses. In most cases online content is mainly run through a learning management system (LMS). My organization has two LMSs, one for student course work and another for Human Resources.  HR utilizes a seemingly “homegrown” windows binary script LMS to train new hires on policies, hazards and sexual harassment awareness. Enrollment Services and the academic departments use a contracted service LMS (currently Angel) for new student orientations and course management. 

Every course is given a section in Angel. This allows teachers in face-to-face classes an opportunity to post handouts, grades, extra credit and maybe even “flip” the classroom. Classroom flipping is essentially recording your lectures for students to take home, and then use the class time to work on assignments and team projects. 

Another interesting note, outside of LMS, training content is also delivered online within a few of our divisions and departments. In my division there is one department (PC Techs) who use a wiki to update and comment on common issues and fixes. We, in the Help Desk have a “Handbook” which is really just a word document saved on a secured workspace server. 

I would imagine that the list for pedagogical strategies that would work with online technology is pretty long. I think it would be important to be aware of strategies that would be less efficient online, things that may require hands on or physical sensations like tasting. Even still, these challenges can be a lesson in themselves. And in history, these types of challenges have contributed the innovations that have helped made the online environment a reality. 

What are the technologies that tend to be difficult for students?  I think this a great question and the heart and soul of online learning. I really think the buck stops here. As a communication major and a career customer service provider, I really think end-user usability is paramount in any informational technology application, especially online learning.  As level one support, I have a unique opportunity for candid feedback from students and instructors. 

Firstly I think that there are good and bad version of a lot of technologies, so for example, the “homegrown” LMS for HR is a lot more unfriendly then Angel, which is arguably more unhandy then Moodle. The HR system requires the trainee to be using a school machine with a school email account profile set up in Outlook, bah! Angel is not terrible (though some may argue) my experience in Moodle rooms leads me to feel that it is more intuitive then Angel, for both the instructor and the student. 

But even within any given LMS, courses can be unorganized and misleading. Some teachers in an effort to liven up their course add fonts and colors, which if not select with some degree of awareness can make things difficult to read, especially for partially blind or color blind. Over use of “Flash” will bug iPad users. Big long high res video lectures can take a long time to load, keep in mind some students are still dialing-it-up out in the boonies. 

1 comment:

  1. Your perspective on this issue is very rich. "I really think end-user usability is paramount in any informational technology application, especially online learning." Furthermore, you make insightful comments on "livening" up a LMS, and the difficulties that may arise on the other end. I would also add that what a "creator" sees on their computer may not be seen identically on the "user's" computer (this can be seen with Mac and PC users...).

    Great post!