Sunday, July 31, 2011

Distance Education Post: The Impact of Open Course

This week our application project is to select a course from a free Open Course site and answer the following 3 questions:
  1. Does the course appear to be carefully pre-planned and designed for a distance-learning environment? How so?
  2. Does the course follow the recommendations for online instruction as listed in your course textbook?
  3. Did the course designer implement course activities that maximize active learning for the students?
As our Professor pointed out- do not confuse the terms Open Course (Open Courseware) and “Open Source (Open Source- ware)”, they are not one and the same.  Granted Wikipedia is not a scholarly resource, its definition works well here:

Open Courseware (OCW) is a term applied to course materials in a virtual learning environment created by universities and shared freely with the world via the Internet (Wikipedia, n.d.).
Open-source software (OSS) is computer software that is available in source code form: the source code and certain other rights normally reserved for copyright holders are provided under a software license that permits users to study, change, improve and at times also to distribute the software (Wikipedia, n.d.).

So I visited the Open Yale courses and selected an interesting psychology open course titled PSYC 123: The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food content of this course is very interesting, and the information is presented in an interactive fun manner!

Question 1: Does the course appear to be carefully pre-planned and designed for a distance-learning environment?
Yes, this course appears to be carefully pre-planned; however I do not feel it was initially designed as a distance-learning course.  Upon entering the course you are brought to the About the Course and About the Professor, where it details the course structure as follows: “This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 75 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Fall 2008”(Brownell, n.d.), this is the primary reason I feel this course was not originally designed to be a distance-learning course. Though the course content appears well designed, it was not created solely as a online learning course. 

Question 2: Does the course follow the recommendations for online instruction as listed in your course textbook?
No, this course does not appear to follow the recommendations for online instruction as listed in our course textbook.  Again, this could partly be due to the fact that the course was not originally designed for an online platform. Our course outlines the following categories for the unit-module topic model for delivered distance instruction:
  • Organizational Guidelines
  • Assessment Guidelines
  • Content Guidelines
  • Instruction/Teaching Guidelines
Organizational Guidelines
When course are planned the designer might want to use the Unit, Module, and Topic approach or model (UMT approach) as follows:

Assuming this course is a typical 3 credit course it should contain 3 units, 12 modules, 48 topics, and 48 learning outcomes (Simonson, et al., 2009) however the course appears to simply be comprised of 23 class sessions with no mention of units or modules.

Assessment Guidelines
“Assessment is directly related to learning outcomes. Normally there is at least one learning outcome for each topic...[with] 1 major assignment per unit and 1 minor assignment per two to three modules” (Simonson, et al., 2009).  Though the course does not appear to have specific units and modules the course does contain several assessment components as described by the syllabus.  The syllabus outlines the following components for grading:     

Content Guidelines
The course does a great job in outlining the required readings for each class session and providing streaming video of the professor and/or guest speaker giving lectures. All of the class sessions are available for download as well as two supplements. Students are required to purchase other text, as it is not provided. The Open course does not contain a method to conduct synchronous chats with content experts.  All of the course content appears to be delivered in the same manner, the professor/speaker being recorded while lecturing to the class.

Instruction/Teaching Guidelines
“The pace of instruction for learners is a critical concern to the distance educator” (Simonson, et al., 2009)

The course was not created as an online distance-learning program so many of these guidelines were not followed.

Question 3: Did the course designer implement course activities that maximize active learning for the students?
There appear to be many exercises incorporated into each lecture that causes in class interaction, dialogue, and active learning. It is hard to know if a course designer was involved with this process though.  This Open Course was not designed with the purpose of being an online course so much of the text and activities are unavailable.
Brownell, K. (n.d.). The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food. Retrieved July 31, 2011, from

OpenCourseWare. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved July 31, 2011, from

Open-source software. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved July 31, 2011, from

Recommended Guidelines for structuring your online course. (2011, February 8). Valencia Learning Technology. Retrieved July 31, 2011, from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. (2009). Boston: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Distance Education Blog—Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

This week our blog assignment was to choose one example on which to focus and, in a blog post, identify one to two distance-learning technologies you think provide the best solution for the given challenge. Support your decision with information and rationale from the Learning Resources. In addition, provide examples of the use of these technologies by searching the Internet for two external resources that showcase how these technologies have been successfully used in distance learning.

I selected example 2, the Interactive Tours-
A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a "tour" of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the artwork on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance.

In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?

Prior to answering the question lets detail below the objectives the teacher would like to complete:
  1.     Students to tour museum
  2. Students to see displayed artwork
  3. Students to interact with curator
  4. Students to participate in a group critique on two pieces of artwork

Objectives 1, 2 and 3:
As an instructional designer I would suggest the two-way audio/video communication of videoconferencing. “Videoconferencing programs provide meaningful, interactive learning experiences, connecting the visual arts with all areas of classroom curricula. Videoconferencing lessons are a great way to bring the Museum's collections and special exhibitions into your classroom—as a stand-alone lesson…( In today’s day and age many museums have lessons anywhere from 40-60 minutes for grades K-12 for very little cost (compared to the cost of visiting the facility in person). In contacting the museum the teacher can inquire about pre-recorded lessons that may be helpful in preparing the student for the content presented during the videoconferencing. In addition the teacher can inquire to having a curator available for possible questions later.

A great example of a museum that uses videoconferencing to facilitate distance learning is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of my personal favorite museums! The museum offers several lessons that are linked to Pennsylvania standards as well as teacher programs.

Objective 4:
For this objective the teacher will need to advise if they are looking for a synchronous or asynchronous platform for the course discussion. In the case of a synchronous platform it would need to contain a “chat” function that can support a high amount of user traffic and interaction.  I would advise the teacher to speak with the school administration in the use of Blackboard or Desire2Learn as a CMS, more than likely the school will already have an account set up which the teacher could use. In using a CMS the teacher can have an organized location of the materials and other course related item for this particular project that students could use and access as needed (i.e. promoting self directed learning). If an asynchronous platform is acceptable for the course discussion then the teacher could still use almost any available CMS as most of them have forum and blog capabilities. For example EctoLearn claims to be “the world’s first complete Web 2.0 solution for the wired classroom [as well as] the first true online networked personal learning environment” ( providing the power to network with classrooms across the hall, across town, or across the world and allowing users to create, collaborate, and learn, plus EctoLearn is a free Web 2.0 tool! With EctoLearn you have the ability to create blog posts in which students can respond, a Q&A section, Assignment section that includes completion dates, a discussion forum, as well as a content section in which you can add materials students should review.


Ecto. Retrieved July 17, 2011, from

Philadelphia Museum of Art - Education : Schools : Distance Learning. (n.d.). Philadelphia Museum of Art. Retrieved July 17, 2011, from

Simonson, M. Smaldino, S., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. (2009). Boston: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson.