Better performance with Active Learning! Fact or Fiction?


A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has data proving that students are less likely to fail a course that uses active learning as opposed to lecture style. This study was conducted in F2F settings but I don’t see how it wouldn’t apply to DE settings as well. I would assume that these same results would be found in other types of courses such as the arts and humanities. Learning is an active process and lecture is outdated. Entire courses, such as OMDE 603 are created to introduce students to technologies which engage the student with higher level thinking and doing. The emergence of Web 2.0 technologies is an indicator that the old way of lecture and listen is not sufficient for our learners today.

I would be very interested to see the data on this same study conducted in a DE setting. Students could be separated into two courses, one that uses active learning as the focus and one that uses readings and simple lecture capture. I guarantee the course using active learning technologies and collaborative projects would out perform the basic read and lecture style course. I’ve heard many people ask if lecture style has worked for so many years in the past why would we want to move away from a system that has proven results. I think there are many answers to that question but the number one reason is the fact that we have a different type of student today. Students are more likely to question the whys of the world and think for themselves. They want to collaborate with peers and learn from other’s experiences. The previous generation accepted the information that was given to them and conducted their learning and living without question, doing things for the sake of doing things the way they’ve always been done.

This new type of student is the reason that educators must move away from tradition and embrace the technologies of today and tomorrow. Teachers today ask why they can’t get through to their students or why they don’t see progress in their student’s abilities. I think the teachers should be asking themselves “what can I change and improve upon to inspire progress in my students?” Studies like this one are a perfect answer.


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Personal Learning Environment vs. Learning Management System

It was very interesting to read through the overview of the process of designing a distance education course in Moore and Kearsley (2012). There are several components and steps involved in creating the final product. I feel as though the author-editor model would place students at a disadvantage compared to the team model. I would assume that a team consisting of experts and designers and individual with experience in the field could provide a wider range of information and learning tools than a pair of individuals.

As I began reading more on this topic I found a new learning concept called the Personal Learning Environment. This concept has the ability to eventually replace the rigidity and structured presence of the current Learning Management Systems. The following website is geared towards educators and explains how to create a personal learning environment. I think that all educators should be required to stay abreast of new concepts of learning and teaching and this is an excellent way to do that, by starting their own PLE. Students’ needs are evolving and it is the responsibility of the educators to meet those needs.

Using a PLE would allow students to adapt a digital environment conducive to their own learning needs. Instructional designers would then need to shift their focus to designing platforms for student use as opposed to structured platforms for teacher use. A drawback to this concept would be the difficulty in oversight and management of this type of environment. Using an LMS provides a very structured digital environment, almost a virtual classroom, where assignments are located, information is stored, and data is tracked. This allows educators and schools to track students and properly assess their progress. In order for PLEs to work their way into the mainstream there would need to be effective assessment tools and tracking abilities tied into each PLE. How can this be achieved? I do not know the answer to this question yet but I’m hoping by the end of my MDE program I will have the answer.

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Join ’em!


Teachers today need to find the best way that students learn instead of making students learn the best way they teach.

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Course Objectives & The Design Process

I came across an interesting topic on the website E-Learning Heroes. The discussion was centered on whether or not learner’s really care about course objectives. There was a number of viewpoints ranging from the claim that listing objectives were unnecessary down to the idea that a student can’t learn without them. The consensus seemed to be that the main purpose for course objectives was to assist the course designer. In Chapter 5 of Moore & Kearsley (2012) we were introduced the process involved in designing a distance education. Creating course objectives and learning outcomes were explained as important tools for roadmaps for the students. The designers and architects need to know the objectives in order to successfully design the course. However, the discussion followed that students are more concerned with what they will be required to do to learn the material as opposed to the objectives themselves. One individual noted that when writing course objectives, if you want the student to pay attention, then you must write them in a language the student can understand. Using “clinical language” to list course objectives is a quick road to a snooze fest.

Here is a very informative video compiling research on learning objectives. It’s a little lengthy but worth the watch. I would have to agree with the individuals in favor of using course objectives as a road map, but in a way that explains to the student what they will be getting out of it, in a language they can understand. While many people stated that the use Bloom’s verbs are a good starting point, you don’t want to inundate a student with uninspiring objectives pulled directly from a Bloom’s Taxonomy list.

As I continue through my program and begin my professional career I will keep this concept in mind. I feel very strongly that every aspect of a course should be engaging and inspiring and if you can do that from the start with the objectives then you have a good chance of keeping the student engaged.

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Properties of Powerful Teachers

I read an article on The Chronicle of Higher Education website titled The 4 Properties of Powerful Teachers which I thought was very interesting. It aligned well with the information from Chapter 6, Teaching and the Roles of the Instructor, from our required reading list. The article lists four qualities which it claims are key for a person to possess in order to be a powerful teacher.

1. Personality

2. Presence

3. Preparation

4. Passion

After reading Chapter 6 from Moore and Kearsley (2012) I have to agree with this assessment. I think these four qualities are even more important for distance education teachers. Moore and Kearsley (2012) explain the importance of keeping a balance between interaction and presentation. A distance education teacher has to create a virtual environment with quality materials where students want to be engaged. To relay personality, a DE teacher’s only option is to use the written word. This can be achieved in multiple ways from explaining it in a biography to using informal conversational styles while responding to discussion posts. A face to face teacher has the ability to portray a personality in body language, live conversation, and written word. It is much easier for a student to sense a teacher’s personality by interacting with them in person than through only written word.

Presence is very important in distance education. I would argue that it is more important in DE than it is in f2f settings. A teacher in a f2f setting can display their presence by simply being in the room. A DE teacher must use encouraging feedback, thoughtful interactions, and demonstrable knowledge to show presence in an online class.

I think that preparation is the same for both f2f and DE teachers. A f2f teacher must ensure they have materials in the classroom and they are up-to-date and knowledgeable on the subject in which they will be teaching. A DE teacher must make sure all links are working properly and that the correct information is available to students. They must also show they are prepared by being able to engage in discussion with students with relevant information.

I personally feel that passion is the number one quality that sets bad teachers apart from good teachers, whether its DE or f2f. If you are passionate about what you are teaching it will show in your interactions whether through written word or in person. If you are passionate about teaching you will naturally want to stay prepared and relevant in your field. In addition, a passionate teacher will want to share that passion with their students.

I think a successful online program is one that possesses teachers with all four qualities and which has incorporated new  technology into the way they teach.

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Using Technology to Motivate Students

I recently read an article on EdSource titled Khan Academy launches ambitious math ‘challenge’. In California, Khan Academy the free instructional website, has launched a student math competition titled LearnStorm. The idea is to get students more involved and motivated to improve their math skills while preparing for the upcoming Common Core State Standards assessments. While this will assist students and teachers in preparing for the upcoming tests, the real goal of this competition is to determine how the ‘learning mindset’ of a student can motivate their willingness and ability to learn. Khan Academy has teamed up with PERTS (Project for Education Research That Scales) to develop the math problems and challenges for the students. Khan Academy believes that we can improve student’s learning capacity and motivation by improving their own mindset of their capabilities. The ultimate goal of this project is to “help every student appreciate that they really can learn anything.”

I think this is an excellent example of how incorporating technology in education can improve the learning of students. Not only has Khan Academy discovered a platform that interests students, it has also developed ways to increase their motivation and mindset. Teaching not only involves providing information to students, it involves finding ways to increase the motivation and learning capacity of those students.

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Openness in Education

I recently read an article titled Openness as Catalyst for an Educational Reformation by David Wiley in which he explains the importance of keeping information open and accessible. I felt he did an excellent job explaining the importance of open education resources and how it only benefits society. The statement that stood out to me most was in reference to how many educators hoard their knowledge and teaching tools. Wiley said “information technology is sometimes turned against itself and is made to conceal, restrict, withhold, and delete”. This is what occurs with tools such as learning management systems. The purpose of education is to disseminate knowledge throughout society. A culture is only as successful as its least educated group. I often wonder why educators are so stingy at times with their material. Are they worried about competition within their job market? I can sort of grasp why researchers would desire some degree of restriction to their information before it is published. But why with information that is already freely known and accessible?

Wiley compares this type of restriction on educational sharing with the Reformation. Instead of seeing all the possibilities the invention of the printing press had to offer, the church chose to focus on policy over education and limit it’s dissemination. The purpose of an educator is to teach, educate, and provide knowledge to those who are lacking. If you keep education locked and password protected, who is that ultimately helping? The pocketbook of someone? We have become a society that is constantly focused on being better at something or having more than someone else. This same view occurs in education. The popularity of open courses and open resources is attempting to close the gap of the haves and have nots in the education world. MIT has an excellent offering of free courses in their Open Courseware, with lectures, assignments, exams, and textbooks, completely free and accessible to anyone. EdX compiles open courses from all the top universities and offers them on a consolidated website. These types of offerings do not hurt the knowledge or experience of the educators involved. It enhances society by offering information to those who otherwise would not have the ability to obtain it.

We as a society need to focus less on intellectual rights, copyrights, and focus more on human rights which should include open access to information and knowledge across the board.

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