First, I will start off by mentioning that I didn’t contemplate the ins and outs of my selected master’s course, “Teaching Students Online. Does it really require much explanation?” The answer may be “no” but the content holds a resounding “yes”. I have created webquests (my first format in building online course materials), web pages with curriculum content, Schoology classes, and played with Edmodo. I thought my design concepts within these mediums were pretty good. Let’s fast forward to building and learning in my online Science module through Google Classroom. My past attempts can now be deemed as just that, “attempts”. To be clear I could also include my current module in this category. To see the basis of this reflection let me discuss the design and pedagogical decisions which guided the building of my online course. I will also disclose the pitfalls I encountered using Google Classroom as my LMS.
There are more and more studies that frame what effective online learning, design and pedagogy look like, based on research in such articles as; Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies along with The Effectiveness of Online and Blended Learning: A Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature. Contemplating design a teacher must consider critical aspects, foremost, the objective of the course and course material (learning outcomes). Secondly, knowing the audience of the course will be essential when determining other design decisions. Other critical design aspects that are guided by audience are the selection of an LMS, tools to use, and navigation (architecture). Consideration should be given to building engagement, collaboration, and ensuring clear communication All of the above mentioned can be enhanced by designing original content that meet the learning goal.
Pedagogical decisions had to include content knowledge and types of communication (instructor and student in synchronous and asynchronous settings). A major factor included decisions of assessment (alignment of learning goals, peer feedback, variations of assessments). Another key determination of designing assessments and materials were based on the Universal Design for Learning: theory and practice, principles which allow for multiple means of engagement, representation, action and expression (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014). The final portion of decisions relate to classroom management, to include; organization, structure and building community.
As with all great attempts in something new, my online course design didn’t come without some valuable learning opportunities. My role is that of an Elementary media coordinator and coach, and a past classroom teacher. I purposefully developed a hybrid course (for science) for several reasons. First and foremost my philosophy in educating young students revolve around a hands on PBL environment that includes; routines, encouragement of exploration, questioning, and observing natural occurrences in a joyful setting. I encountered several pitfall in building a hybrid course, which is how to transition between (or perhaps balance) online and hands on learning. I also could have spent more time in the exploration of how these transitions would work by testing my module with a small group of students to gain a sense of balance between the two. Next my selection of my course management system, Google Classroom, would be reconsidered. This is due to restraints in design aspects, specifically; navigation, aesthetics, and constraints of vertical alignment. As a GAFE school it did however, meet the needs of content accessibility (collaborative documents and assignments), collaboration and simplicity of design (increases attention within the environment). I would have given my assessments more thought based on the assessment factors of an online learning environment, such as collaboration, authentic feedback (peer and teacher) and mastery. My pitfalls, however, do not leave me discouraged. Quite the opposite has happened, through my exploration of LMS, research and evaluations I have a desire to become more knowledgeable about all the varied aspects of online learning. My next quest will be to develop more elementary science modules that center around PBL, with the collaboration of others in hopes to share these resources and examine student learning outcomes.
Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2009). Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. US Department of Education.
Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R. O. B. E. R. T., & Baki, M. (2013). The effectiveness of online and blended learning: A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Teachers College Record, 115(3), 1-47.
Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014) Universal design for learning: Theory and practice, Wakefield MA: CAST