Self Assessment

What Have I Learned?

Several things immediately come to mind: I am not a natural born reflective writer, this is a wonderful tool when used correctly, and, akin to the use of wikis blogging is a tremendously powerful method to enable people to map progress in learning. Can I use this for my students? No. The subject material that I plan to teach would not lend itself well to reflection and blogging is something that the federal government frowns upon unless sanctioned by one’s position within the organization.

Looking back through the material it is possible to see quite clearly where ‘aha’ moments are, gauge new insights and apply some lessons learned for future content as well as personal conduct in terms of my practice. Like anything worthwhile it will get better with more use and I have to remember to focus and force myself to engage in the process. Now if I could just find a little time somewhere in the day…

How Has The Blog Changed Across The Duration Of The Course?

Scanning through my blog this morning I was struck at how tentative the first few entries were. They fulfilled the requirements of the course syllabus, and were written well enough to demonstrate that the material was addressed properly but one could see the uncertainty of the first time poster. Improvement was evident from one assignment to the next and spelling mistakes and minor grammatical errors diminished as time passed.

An interesting lesson was gleaned during 4151: even though one may have taken great care with formatting the documents before publishing, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it will translate well from the Word document on your laptop to the posting screen in WordPress. I spent a fair bit of time trying to get around this apparently simple task with varying results. This has proven very frustrating and at times I despaired of ever getting things to format out properly, each and every time and I find myself dissatisfied. Even now I still see links which drag across the page in some submissions but not in others. Joanne, is there a way to deal with this or am I just seeing a fault in the service provider’s site?

Readings became easier over the duration of the course and the research part actually became entertaining. So many people and so many opinions! How to sort the real from the substandard? Suggestions would be welcomed.

As time passed I found that I was using multimedia more and more, tying links together, doing more and more research. I must learn incorporate more video links where germane to the subject being considered although that is not necessarily the easiest as there may be a paucity of resources. Coupled with the reality of limited bandwidth in the area where I live watching every piece of video just isn’t possible.

Overall marks? I feel that I demonstrated mastery of the required skills and delivered a consistent performance and rate my performance for the blog at 9.0, for the organization and layout 9.0 and for writing skills 9.0.

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Basics of Oil Spill Response Course Module

Course Module Report

The purpose of this report is to cap off EDUC 4151 and analyze our students, our course’s projected needs and other factors. The first portion of this paper will examine an overview of the proposed course, which is entitled: ‘Basics of Oil Spill Response’ (or BOSR) along with learning objectives and why a wiki was chosen as the vehicle for course delivery. The final segments of the paper will examine how students will learn and be assessed, as well as a rationale for the course.

OVERVIEW                                   

BOSR is an in-house, ongoing training program used to familiarize CCG employees with the supporting legislation, policy, theory, equipment and tactics used to deal with environmental issues related to pollution. This proposed segment of the course will be used both for new entry level employees and for those who have not participated in ER training in the past one to two years.

There are 3 proposed components:

  • one segment dealing with legislation, regulations, and basic equipment delivered online;
  • the second addressing further theoretical considerations, potentially delivered online (not detailed in this report) ;
  • the final section which involves in-the-field training only.

The proposed wiki based course is perceived as filling a need, giving learners on ships and at remote stations an alternative to traditional course offerings for some of the material, potentially saving money and better utilizing practical course work offerings which are problematic with regards to scheduling. Informal surveys of management, officers and crew have indicated a definite interest for the presentation of this course in an online format as there is a perceived need and the course is hard to schedule due to differing work regimes between ships, stations, and shore based personnel. Additionally, there is an economy to be realized from not having emergency response personnel travelling the length and breadth of the Western Region delivering entry level training which could be better delivered online at the student’s time and place of choosing.

Learning Objectives :

At the end of this training module students will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast the Pollution Prevention Regulations, Arctic Pollution Prevention Regulations and the use of the  ISM  code as it applies to CCG   employees;
  • Exhibit knowledge of the penalties associated with polluting the environment;
  • Apply knowledge of the Pollution Response Network through the creation of a thinking tool,
  • Create a text document, video or pictorial essay indicating knowledge of basic pollution response gear,  it’s use and capabilities;
  • Contribute to a knowledge-based wiki through posting of assignments and participation in message forums.

Why a Wiki?

This online environment was chosen as the platform for this course for the reasons as listed below:

  • It provides a secure online learning resource which is for CCG employees only;
  • It requires no special programming or coding knowledge;
  • It is a collaborative environment which is particularly suited to the online course format as chosen;
  • It is geared for students to be able to access the course at any time they choose when  on a government network;
  • This type of learning is supported and encouraged by departmental and government learning policies.

Course Content

Students will cover the course content by following a set of lessons and exercises which encourage and support knowledge of the hierarchy of acts, rules, and regulations as well as penalties which underpin and enable pollution prevention.  Students will learn the pollution response network: who to contact and when, as well as the basic equipment (and it’s capabilities)  used in the context of environmental response.

The first assignment involves the comparison and contrasting of the various pieces of legislation and internal regulations which enable environmental protection and response. Several diagrams, reading assignments and lists aid in this task as well as web links are provided for the Justice Laws website for legislative references. Penalties, also a part of the legislative framework are included in this portion of the lesson. Internal network links for the International Safety Management  Code, the CCG Fleet Safety and Security Manual and other relevant CCG policy instruments are provided for further background knowledge.

The second activity is a fill-in-the-blanks-list detailing the pollution response network which is saved for future reference. There is also a crossword puzzle exercise as another the knowledge check activity .

The third assignment, the construction of a thinking tool which illustrates the Pollution Response Network is achieved as students are given reading assignments and tasked to construct a thinking tool: a diagram, list or cycle drawing which they will submit to the wiki.

The fourth and final assignment will consist of the creation of a text document, a video essay (where the capability exists), or a photo essay which details what pollution response gear is available at a particular station or ship where the member serves or has served. There will be readings and pictorial resources to draw upon which show the standard gear which can be expected to be found on a ship or at a station, as well as the capabilities and operating characteristics of the various pieces of equipment.

Assessment Instruments

There will be three distinct types of assessment for this first section all of which will be based in a collaborative wiki. Testing will consist of:

1)    – A quiz comprised of 20 questions: 6  multiple choice, 10 fill in the blank questions and 4 long answer questions covering basic enabling legislation and regulations, and the penalties associated with marine pollution. Each question is worth ½ a mark with the passing grade being 70%.  Answer keys will be available from the vessel’s chief officer or OIC of the station, or online. This portion of the course is worth 10% of the total marks.

2)    – The construction of a thinking tool drawn either from the online course site or another source of the student’s choosing, which illustrates understanding of the pollution response network. This tool may be a Venn diagram, a flow chart or a straight forward list and will detail the hierarchy of notification in pollution response. This diagram will be posted to the wiki. This portion of the course will be worth 5 % of the total marks.

3)    – The identification and classification of various types of pollution response gear from photographs or video footage in place on the wiki and/or from equipment found aboard the student’s ship, the station or shore based installation. Students  will then document the function of the equipment in relation to types and volume of spill using a Word document submission, or video file. Alternately, a submission of a photo or video essay showing how in situ equipment found at the station or ship or at other locations has been used. Students will be encouraged to record their impressions and post them along with their assignment which will become part of the ‘lessons learned’ page of the wiki which will also be used as a training resource by other participants at ships or on stations and shore side. This portion of the course is worth 20% of the total marks. A grading rubric will be developed to rate the submissions.

Rationale

This online course is planned for the reasons which follow:

  • Online training follows federal government policy statements regarding the provision of all types of appropriate training to employees;
  • There is a perceived need on the part of CCG management for online course work to allow people to be more actively involved in their training from the start of their career;
  • Online training allows for the development of ePortfolios which invests learners in the training process and eases the burden on a system already weighed down with bureaucracy,  this is a program under development at the time of writing;
  • Online training allows personnel in remote locations and on ships to participate in required on-the-job orientation or recertification which might otherwise be problematic to schedule;
  • An informal pre-formative study has shown there has been expressed interest from personnel in the CCG fleet and at stations regarding the provision of this type of online training;
  • This type of training saves money and time as it enables pollution control officers to evaluate pre-formatively, formatively and summatively and therefore allow them to better plan hands-on training for personnel at shore side and shipboard locations;
  • Online training allows personnel to work at their own pace, at the time of their choosing and either separately or in small groups with the associated educational benefits for both employee and employer;
  • This type of training also encourages collaborative work with the associated positive educational benefits.

Conclusion

Research has shown that online training may reduce costs, allows students to learn at their own pace, at the time of their choosing, with  better outcomes. This type of training is supported by the federal government through policy and directives. BOSR is an example of a program which has segments which may be more appropriately delivered online, potentially saving money, freeing up personnel to commit to other segments of related course materials and giving valuable data on which to establish other online offerings.

As wikis have  proven to be excellent tools for collaborative online work it was chosen as the vehicle for this offering. Given the sense of inherent community in the structure of the CCG it is felt that this is the perfect instrument to encourage collaboration and learning amongst CCG personnel.

There are potential problems (diverse ages and educational qualifications, and bandwidth for instance) but it is felt that these are not insurmountable. Some training in the use of the wiki based environment may be required although my feeling is that most people are tech savvy enough to pick their way through the wiki site with ease.

Students will have several different types of assignments, all chosen to challenge and encourage the learning process, especially at higher levels. Testing methods were chosen for the same reason: assessments will involve gauging the quality of submissions to demonstrate levels of understanding and retention.

Nothing is perfect in first run courses and I expect this one to be no different than any others. Mistakes will be made, that is the nature of design and presentation of first time online content. It is my hope that the insights I have gained from 4150 and 4151 will enable me to make as few mistakes as are humanly possible, and learn from the ones which do occur.

SECTIONS Analysis Report

This is one of the last parts of the course! It has been a long slog and I was forced to ask for an extension to get the work finished… Thank you Joanne!

S.E.C.T.I.O.N.S Analysis Report

The purpose of this report is to cap off 4151 and analyze our students, our course’s projected needs and other factors. The proposed course is entitled: ‘Basics of Oil Spill Response’ and is the Coast Guard’s in-house training program  for pollution response. This paper will take an in-depth approach to assessing feasibility concerns through the use an analytic tool known as SECTIONS as defined by Bates and Poole in 2003 to determine feasibility issues in online course offerings.

S.E.C.T.I.O.N.S stands for: Students,   Ease-of-use, Content, Teaching and Learning, Interactivity, Organizational Issues, Novelty, and Speed, This portion of the assignment will examine each of these subjects in the context of online learning and the students we hope to attract and educate. Let’s look at SECTIONS and how it applies to online course work and the course which I am planning: Basics of Oil Spill Response.

STUDENTS

Our students are a diverse and interesting group of people, who fulfill an important role as public servants, yet for the most part (unless needed during Search and Rescue incidents), are out of the public eye. Their ages will range across the spectrum for working adults, from 18 – 65 and are both male and female in an approximate 90% to 10% representation. This relationship has changed (albeit slowly)  during the time I have been a member of the CCG with women moving from more ‘traditional’ roles  such as stewards and cooks to more non-traditional roles such as engineers and navigating officers.

Our students have varying access to technology depending on location, be it ships or shore based. Computer access is restricted in some places and for ships especially bandwidth is a real problem. This  problem  means that as the designer I will be forced to create several ‘fall back’ alternates for personnel who are in a position to not have full time access from their work location. Another concern is as simple as being aware that some segments of our network, again specifically the ships, still run on an outdated operating system meaning care must be taken with some video file submissions etc.  Given the wide age range and educational backgrounds other considerations will be adjusting course content and expectations so learners are sufficiently challenged without being alienated.

Ease of Use

In order to not confuse either ourselves or our students it is necessary to understand that the technology we use, whether hardware or software, needs to be straightforward and seamless in it’s use. This enables course delivery which allows  best possible outcomes for students. As well, students should perceive that the teacher is completely conversant with both facets of the technology being used, giving them the confidence to approach their online learning course with  the perception there is both ease of use and usefulness to be derived from the information being offered (Shen et al, 2006). As online learning, especially that accessed by users in a work-related environment is an entirely voluntary process a key consideration is the client must perceive that the system as being user-friendly; geared towards an end practise which rewards the student with some form of usable work related knowledge (Thorpe & Gordon, 2012).

Cost

Every educational offering must be examined in the light of cost per student per unit of time to the educational system or entity which presents the material in order to properly assess success vs. dollars spent to determine effectiveness of program delivery. This can be confusing as not all educational groups are the same: colleges may be markedly different from universities and universities from one another. Finding a body of research which clearly states: “it costs ‘XXXX $ per student per course per year.”, is not easy as it appears there has been no real organized effort to quantify the phenomenon which is the quickly growing market for online courses.

Bates raises some interesting points and has completed a survey derived: “From tracking all the costs from a fully online master program at a large Tier 1 research university in Canada.” His contention is that the averaged cost per person per hour of instructional time  is $12.50 (+/- 20%).   At the end of his article he states: “You may well challenge the cost methodology and the assumptions that drive the costs in this example. You may also challenge the teaching model for online learning. Good: then come up with a better way of looking at the cost issue. We do need more open discussion about the costs of not just online learning, but all teaching in universities and colleges. It is lazy and unjust to merely keep increasing tuition fees rather than looking at new ways of developing and delivering programs that can reduce costs without jeopardizing the quality of teaching. This is particularly incumbent on those of us who believe in online learning.” (Bates 2011)

For my program there is as yet no established method of tracking costs as this is a purely in-house offering. This will be yet another item to added to an ever-growing list of issues to be dealt with to ensure due diligence and observation of best practices for my students, not to mention the taxpayer.

Teaching and Learning

Presenting material, especially to a group of learners as diverse as those in the CCG seagoing personnel pool means several tasks must be accomplished to ensure authentic learning. The material must be presented in a manner which captures learner  attention, is presented in multiple formats where possible, allows a certain freedom to navigate the course material and site, and encourages a sense of collaboration and community (Johnson & Aragon 2002) In BOSR all these criteria  are achieved by the use of a participatory wiki based format and varying activities. This enables me to present required course material in an easy to use manner which can be made engaging for the learner especially given the dry nature of learning rules and regulations. I feel the best assessment practices need to be standard testing; using multiple choice, short and long answer questioning methods as well as allowing the students some free rein by encouraging them to submit materials which are video or web based contributions.

Interactivity

The online environment can be dehumanizing if opportunities for interaction are not built into any course offering. Students derive better outcomes and perceive the course work as being more satisfying if there is more rather than less activity and a sense of shared community is built which encourages active learning. (Sadera et al, 2009)

There are four types of interaction in the online environment: student–to-student, student-to-instructor, student-to-content and student-to-technology and each one of these factors must be balanced in any course or the student’s chance of achieving best outcomes may be reduced. Instructors have to foster and encourage interaction at all levels such that:

  • students actively communicate both privately and in public forums with one another and the instructor;
  • course content should be such that the student is not confused as to course expectations, timelines and materials;
  • the course VLE or website should be easily navigable, functional and easily adaptive. (Mabrito, 2004)

These goals are achieved In BOSR through the use of a wiki-based course which clearly lays out expectations, allows student interactivity with one another and the instructor through both forums and message boards and allows adaptations through the use of contributory exercises. The lesson for instructors is the necessity to build interaction into course design to facilitate and enhance both communication and a sense of community.

Organizational Issues

As the CCG is a federal agency there are host of considerations which must be taken into account which might not apply to other entities such as schools, colleges, or universities. Values and ethics codes must be adhered to and students must be made aware of their obligations as a public servant clearly at the beginning of the course. The prohibition of postings on social media sites must be delineated, especially for younger people who view such issues in a more cavalier manner than their elders might. Other issues which might come to light include a prohibition on communicating with the media or other special interest groups. Moreover, the course will have to be offered on a publicly funded government ‘communities of practice’ site which has it’s own set of proscriptions and rules separate from those in the private sphere. Bottom line? The federal civil service has rules and regulations which have been specifically designed for the service and which must be considered when designing presenting or attending any online course offering.

Novelty

The technology associated with the BOSR course is relatively new to some personnel in the CCG and specifically older people rather than younger. As the course proposed is wiki-based it is incumbent on me as the designer to think and work through as many facets of the federal government’s ‘communities of practice’ site as possible prior to actual presentation and remove as many barriers as are humanly possible. This means trying to anticipate where the students may have problems, a serious concern as this is a federally provided service and anyone who has tried to navigate a federal government website finds them clunky and problematic. Instructions will of necessity have to be set out in a clear, step-by-step and complete manner which leaves no room for misinterpretation. This will probably mean the creation of a set of pages which contain screen captures with clear and unambiguous instructions, as well as the creation of a forum where students can post and receive answers to tech related questions.

This is an old face-to-face classroom course, being re-worked into a new technological base. There will be problems which I am going to have to deal with; the key will be preparation and patience. 

Speed

This course is not perceived as being time sensitive. My students work long and unusual hours in remote locations and as such this course was/is perceived as something they could work through at their own pace.  This is of course limited by bandwidth, which is a problem I noted earlier on and access to a VPN setup which can also be problematic given the nature of government servers. Computers at ships and shore installations are for the most part older, slower machines running old versions of operating systems which also poses problems for users.

Material for the course work can be changed relatively quickly as the course is all based in a wiki style format, the blessing of What You See Is What You Get sites. I imagine that the material could be handed over to another instructor provided he or she had demonstrated their ability to master the technological base of the course and had a basic familiarity with the BOSR material.

Conclusion

SECTIONS is another tool to be used in conjunction with quality assurance guidelines in the design process of online course work. I have found that my thinking has changed about some facets of the BOSR course since having started this exercise. Students’ technological abilities will have to be ascertained to ensure barriers to learning are removed as much as humanly possible. Organizational needs are going to need rigorous scrutiny and amplification so all students understand their rights and obligations. The issue of time also has to be addressed: is there going to be a finite limit on how long students will have to complete the module? More challenges… clearly the work is just beginning.

References:

Bates, T, (March 2011), as retrieved from: The Cost of Online Learning – $12.50 per hour?, Online Learning and Distance Resources, http://www.tonybates.ca/2011/03/22/the-cost-of-online-learning-12-50-an-hour/ ;

Demei Shen, James Laffey, Yimei Lin, and Xinxin Huang, Social Influence for Perceived Usefulness and Ease-of-Use of Course Delivery Systems, University of Missouri, Columbia, Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Volume 5, Number 3, Winter 2006 ISSN: 1541-4914, http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/pdf/5.3.4.pdf ;

Johnson, SD & Aragon, SR (2002);  An Instructional Strategy Framework for Online Learning Environments, Unversity of Illinois, Proceedings of the Academy for Human Resource Development (pp. 1022-1029). Bowling Green, OH: AHRD, http://scholar.google.ca/scholar_url?hl=en&q=http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download%3Fdoi%3D10.1.1.114.7888%26rep%3Drep1%26type%3Dpdf&sa=X&scisig=AAGBfm0FZOoYI948kFZPhDM_6_cTCEggHQ&oi=scholarr&ei=XGVLUabmCsTniwKYr4CIDg&ved=0CCsQgAMoADAA ;

Mabrito, M. 2004. Guidelines for establishing interactivity in online courses. Innovate 1 (2). http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=12 ;

Sadera, WA,, Robertson, J, Song, L & Midon NM, The Role of Community in Online Learning Success, MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol. 5, No. 2, June 2009, http://jolt.merlot.org/vol5no2/sadera_0609.htm ;

Thorpe, M, & Gordon, J, (2012). Online learning in the workplace: A hybrid model of participation in networked, professional learning,  Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(8), 1267-1282, http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet28/thorpe.html ;

SECTIONS Analysis for Teachers; https://sites.google.com/site/sectionsanalysisforteachers/sections-analysis

Assessment Activity Plan for ‘Basics of Oil Spill Response’ course

Hello everyone,

I fought with myself about this post for quite some time as I wanted to get it right. The past few weeks have been extremely busy and I have been seriously questioning whether or not the choice of taking this course was a good one.  What follows is a sketch of the first re-working of an old CCG course offering which once held in the field at lifeboat stations and on-board ships. What was  regarded as a kind of ‘kaffeeklatsch’ course has now taken on a new life and so the course work needs to be upgraded and made more professional in scope and practice. I would appreciate your input.

Assessment Activity Plan

Course Name: Basics of Oil Spill Response

Overview

BOSR is an in-house, ongoing training program used to familiarize CCG employees with the policy, theory, equipment and tactics used to deal with environmental issues related to pollution. This course is used both for new entry level employees and for those who have not participated in ER training in the past one to two years. The proposed wiki based course plan here is perceived as filling a need, giving learners on ships and at remote stations an alternative to traditional course offerings for some of the material.

Learning Objective – Lesson:

At the end of this training module the student will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast the Pollution Prevention Regulations, Arctic Pollution Prevention Regulations and the use of the  ISM  code as it applies to the  CCG and it’s  employees;
  • Exhibit knowledge of the penalties associated with polluting the environment;
  • Apply knowledge of the Pollution Response Network through the creation of a thinking tool,
  • Create a text document, video or pictorial essay indicating knowledge of basic pollution response gear;
  • Contribute to a knowledge-base wiki through posting of assignments and participation in message forums.

The target group of students will:

  • be drawn from CCG employees based at lifeboat stations, light-stations, shore-side installations and on board CCG ships;
  • range in age from 18 – 65;
  • be both male and female;
  • be officers and ratings;
  • be drawn from both Deck and Engineering specializations as well as shore based technical personnel;
  • be both entry level and long term employees;
  • use the course as both initial on-the-job training and ongoing recertification;
  • have a diverse set of computer skills and should be able to understand and interact with online course content;

Course Assessment Instruments (a section from the course)

The purpose of this portion of the course is to enable you to understand the basics of environmental spill response, the attendant enabling legislation, rules, regulations, and penalties associated with polluting.  As well, you will learn who to notify and when, if you are on the scene of a pollution incident which has occurred in the marine environment while working with the CCG. You may choose to work on the material alone with a lesser passing grade requirement (70%) or work in groups which has a higher passing grade (80%) but will also ensure a better understanding of the material being presented.

You will be working with a ‘wiki’ to enter your assignments into a collaborative database which other people in the fleet and stations will contribute to as well. Your personal information or identity will not be shared however, unless you choose to do so. You will also enter your training information into an ‘ePortfolio’ which is an electronic record of your training and certifications.

The wiki is yours so please contribute to it as much and as often as you want.  Ask questions of the instructor(s), of other students and post opinions, photos or video files. This is your site and we want you to find it as user friendly as possible. This freedom doesn’t come without caveats however: remember that you are a public servant and bound by strict end user agreements which limit what and where you can share the material you contribute. We ask that you remain respectful of others at all times and behave in the manner which is clearly set out in the Values and Ethics guidelines. There will be zero tolerance policy for any untoward behaviour. If you feel that you have been treated inappropriately contact your instructor immediately.

There will be three distinct types of assessment for this first section all of which will be based in a collaborative wiki. Testing will consist of:

1)    – A quiz comprised of 20 questions: 6  multiple choice, 10 fill in the blank questions and 4 long answer questions covering basic enabling legislation and regulations, and the penalties associated with marine pollution. Answer keys will be available from your vessel’s chief officer or OIC of the station, or online. This portion of the course is worth 5% of the total mark, and will allow you to enter ‘complete ‘ in your OJT manual section entitled “Section A, Basics of Oil Spill Response: Legislation, rules, regulations, penalties and notification procedures associated with polluting”  and in your training ePortfolio.  Don’t forget to fill in  the feedback form that is part of the wiki: this helps us as course facilitators determine what we are doing right and wrong as well as providing us with guidance as to where we can improve the site and course work;

2)    – The construction of a thinking tool drawn either from your online course site or another source if you wish,  which outlines your understanding of the pollution response network and who to contact in the event of encountering marine pollution. This tool may be a Venn diagram, a flow chart or a straight forward list and will detail the hierarchy of notification in pollution response. Post this diagram to the wiki for others to see and use as well. This portion of the course will be worth 5 % of your final mark and will allow you to enter ‘complete’ in your OJT manual section entitled: “Section A,  Basics of Oils Spill Response: The Pollution Response Network”, and in your training ePortfolio.

3)    – The identification and classification of various types of pollution response gear from photographs or video footage in place on the wiki and/or from equipment you find around your ship, the station or shore based installation at which you work. You will then document the function of the equipment in relation to types and volume of spill using a Word document submission or video file. Alternately, you  can submit a photo or video essay showing how you would use equipment found at your station or ship or at other locations where you have been stationed. You will use as examples materials which you have onboard your vessel or at the station where you work or based from experience. Record your thoughts and post them along with your submission which will become part of the ‘lessons learned’ page of the wiki which will also be used as a training resource by other participants at ships or on stations and shoreside. This portion of the course is worth 20% of your final marks. On completion you will be able to mark as ‘finished’, “Section A, Basics of Oils Spill Response” in both your ePortfolio and your OJT Manual. Next, you will move on to the following section of the course, which is the hands-on training using the actual equipment you have at your ship or station.

Rationale

This online course is planned for the reasons which follow:

  • online training follows federal government policy statements regarding the provision of training to employees;
  • there is a perceived need on the part of CCG management for online course work to allow people to be more actively involved in their training from the start of their career;
  • online training allows for the development of ePortfolios which invests learners in the training process and eases the burden on a system already weighed down with bureaucracy,  this is a program under development at the time of writing;
  • online training allows personnel in remote locations and on ships to participate in required on-the-job orientation or recertification which might otherwise be problematic to schedule;
  • an informal pre-formative study has shown there has been expressed interest from personnel in the CCG fleet and at stations regarding the provision of this type of online training;
  • it saves money and time as it enables pollution control officers to evaluate pre-formatively, formatively and summatively and therefore how to better plan training for personnel at shore side as well as shipboard locations;
  • it allows personnel to work at their own pace, at the time of their choosing and either separately or in small groups with the associated educational benefits for both employee and employer;

There is a link between the establishment of day-to-day acquired skills such as real world problem solving, the actual ‘doing’ or completion of an educational task and the demonstration of authentic learning where we as instructors observe our students having absorbed or synthesized lesson content which applies to them personally and which they will use meaningfully in their lives.  It must be brought home to the student how the tasks and assignments we give our learners relate to real world situations. Through the use of advanced technologies, both hardware and software, we should design content which challenges our online students, encourages a sense of community; allowing them to participate and learn in new ways which change what were once static models based on the face-to-face setting. (Lombardi, 2007). As the

A primary lesson instructors learn regarding the design of course material is the link between learning and assessment: how we gauge that our students have demonstrated successful learning outcomes through the synthesis or integration of knowledge.  The combination of three distinct factors: objectives of the course, teaching methods and assessment techniques are integral to student success. (Sewell, et al, 2007) The objectives of this section of the course and teaching methods as noted above are integrated to give students a better chance of success. Assessment techniques for this course are weighted to enable instructors to gauge student progress through the pre-set phases of the course. The material is arranged to take the student through a step-by-step set of increments, each building on the knowledge gained from the last.

Pre-formative, informal studies have shown there is a need for this training and that there have been requests from a wide range of CCG personnel for this type of training. Formative assessment will be accomplished through the use of comment pages in the wiki as noted above. Formal summative assessment will occur as each student completes the testing process and has marks assigned. Gauging the overall effectiveness of this program is going to be tough as there are so many variables to consider: students at sea, students ashore, variable work cycles, oversight, and dealing with the ever present threat of cheating.

Given this course is still in the early development stages there is a tremendous amount of material to complete. The manual, which is out of date by 5 years, has to be re-written. Test banks have to be prepared and vetted, senior officers and management consulted on how, where and when they think testing should occur. Of course, the biggest issue is bandwidth and how do we get more of it to the ships and some of the stations. It’s not going to be a picnic that’s for certain. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

References:

Boettcher, Judith V, Evidence of Learning Online: Assessment Beyond The Paper, as retrieved from Campus Technology Digital Magazine, Feb 2011,  http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2011/02/23/Assessment-Beyond-The-Paper.aspx?Page=1   ;

Lombardi, Marilyn M, ‘Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview; EduCause ELI Paper 1, May 2007,  http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli300 ;

Sewell, Jeanne P, Frith, Karen H, Colvin, Martha L;‘Online Assessment Strategies: A Primer’;  MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching; Vol. 6, No. 1, March 2010; http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no1/sewell_0310.pdf

What Does Community Mean To Me?

Shared leadership… is less like  an orchestra, where the conductor is always in charge, and more like a jazz band, where leadership is passed around … depending on what the music demands at the moment and who feels most moved by the spirit to express the music.’ Schlechy 2001

What Does Community Mean To Me?

Definition and Context

Community is defined as: “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common such as: Montreal’s Italian community, or: the scientific community; and: the people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities,  and:  the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common, and finally: a similarity or identity,”  (Oxford Online Dictionaries, 2013). It is immediately unmistakable that community does not revolve around the individual but is about groups of people coming together with a common interest or interests and/or to achieve a common set of goals. Another, more in depth definition has noted four components which are integral to the creation of a sense of community:

  • membership, where there is a sense of belonging or a sense of personal relationship;
  • influence,  a sense of mattering, both within the group and without;
  • integration and fulfillment of needs, where the members needs will be met by membership and participation in group activities, and;
  • a shared emotional connection, where members will have a commonality of history and experience which will contribute to shared experiences and achievement of commonly held requirements or goals. (McMillian & Chavis,1986)

We see this repeatedly in the context of the instructional setting: groups of people linked by or sharing a common interest, having a shared attitude or desires, who receive benefits from allied group participation. For students these benefits are easy to define: the application of shared knowledge to develop a skill set to complete educational goals with a pre-supposed return at the end, be it a degree, diploma or certificate. This certification is then applied in the student’s life for various reasons such as job advancement, ongoing on-the-job requirements or for purely personal satisfaction. Additionally there is less overall work for the same amount of effort put in thus freeing the student to concentrate on other subjects or assignments. As instructors one task in the creation of course content, especially in light of online offerings, is the construction and encouragement of a sense of community as it enables better learning outcomes for students. There is also the sense of collegiality where all are encouraged to participate for in doing so community truly comes alive.

Published literature has shown that the creation of online community has a direct correlation to student success, both in terms of perception on the part of students and measureable educational outcomes (Sadera, 2009). It is the responsibility of the instructor to help develop a sense of community through the encouragement of engagement on the part of students and the provision of course content which is interactive and inclusive in scope and practice.

Best Practices for Instructors

Leadership or presence in the virtual world is a key component in any course offered online. There are typically three ‘presences’ in the online world when considering the context of eLearning: the teacher presence, the cognitive presence and the social presence (Anderson 2004) and it is this social presence we shall consider here because that is what online community is above all else: a sense of the social in an environment which can be a less than welcoming one, especially for new students. To that end instructors need to develop and utilize best practices which nurture the student while generating positive learning opportunities and encouraging participation.  Some examples from one source which seem to cover the most ground are listed below:

  • be present at the course site, generate a positive instructor identity;
  • create a supportive community;
  • respect diverse talents and ways of learning, consider cultural differences;
  • set clear expectations for students as to work demands;
  • use a variety of large group, small group and individual work assignments;
  • use both asynchronous and synchronous activities;
  • start an early ‘feedback loop’ for students;
  • prepare discussion forums which excite students and encourage participation;
  • focus on content resources, links and applications to current events which are easily accessible by student resources;
  • combine core concept learning with customized and personalized learning;
  • have an original closing exercise at the end of the course. (Boettcher,  2012)

We can see that most of these guidelines revolve around learner involvement, engagement and inclusion. It is the instructor’s responsibility to provide a course environment which promotes the generation of all 3 factors.

The Role of the Instructor in Building Community

The instructor has multiple roles and responsibilities all of which influence the outcome of the course and student success as a result. Firstly, they must be seen to be a participant, to be involved in the course. This encourages students and gives them a sense of social presence in the context of the course. The instructor must be a facilitator, making the course come alive through the provision of content, ensuring that the student gets the most possible out of material available. Additionally, they assess learner needs and provide support as required in the online environment (Anderson, 2004).  The instructor must also be the person who plays the watchdog and ensures fairness and equality for all students regardless of age, gender, orientation, skill level etc. They should encourage, monitor group activities, ensure that selected tasks are relevant to the course and student needs (Brindley et al, 2009).The instructor is responsible for fulfilling many roles all at once:  friend, colleague, mentor, confessor, facilitator, enforcer and more.

The Role of the Student In Building Community

Just as the instructor has a role and inherent responsibilities in the creation of online community so does the student. The student needs to participate first and foremost, to be a contributing member of the group. This means engaging in all opportunities:  forums, message boards, assignments etc. in a timely and whole hearted manner. Students need to be respectful of others, self-directed learners, motivated and possess a positive attitude towards themselves as learners. Students need to be able to reflect and be unafraid of trying the new and strange. Like the instructor, they need to buy-in to the idea of online community; they will, after all provide the spirit of the group’s enterprise.

How Will I Deal With Issues Around Cultural, Gender or Ethical Concerns?

Cultural Concerns

Given that there is no time or geographic restriction on attendees in the online environment people who enroll in our course work may be from another state, province or conceivably another country at a great distance removed from us. We must be aware that people from other lands and cultures may:

  • either not understand our language or do so imperfectly and their grasp of idiom may be limited;
  •  be culturally different which may mean having different mores and norms;
  • have different perceptions and expectations of both their fellow students and the  instructor;
  • work with computer equipment and software which may be vastly different, with greater or lesser capability than what we use;
  • have different learning styles or have been raised to participate differently in class;
  • have different ways of expressing themselves in both reflection and online identity;
  • have a different work ethic which may result in different attitudes towards fulfilling course and group assignments (UBC, April 2011).

Online designers and instructors must be cognizant of and prepared to deal with the added responsibility of these considerations when contemplating overall course design. Some issues may be addressed through instructor preparation in advance: links to online and real world sources for learners who are challenged or who feel they have been discriminated against or are seeking avenues to surmount difficulties they may be experiencing. Every effort should be put into removing barriers for students who are from another country or culture, speak a different language, or perhaps do not speak at all.

There must be mechanisms in place to address these issues in a timely manner and the instructor must be above reproach by having thought through possible roadblocks and having either solutions close to hand or the willingness to deal with the issues as soon as raised. I feel that the competent instructor should ask people to self- identify or make it clear right at the course outset that there are avenues available to students who feel there are barriers to their success and endeavour to remove those roadblocks as soon as possible.

Gender Concerns

The achievement of equitable gender standing in online courses is not just about ensuring fair and reasonable access for men and women. Parity for all is accomplished through increased opportunities in communication and the removal of barriers to both sexes. Because of the differences in learning styles and communication patterns between both genders instructors need to rethink their design strategies to cope with these variances and ensure a level playing field for both groups. While early research suggested that women did not achieve as high rankings in online course offerings , new studies have shown that the opposite is true, women excel at online courses for any of a number of reasons:

  • they are more collaborative,
  • they communicate more effectively,
  • they cooperate more effectively than men,
  • they work better in the online environment,
  • they develop better elearning styles than their male counterparts which result in better outcomes.

This means the Internet, and  the online learning environment ,which was at one point considered an almost exclusively male domain, can no longer be viewed in that light. Further, there is no ‘gender blindness’ in online learning but rather a weighting towards women as they naturally excel in the collaborative environment which is encouraged by both constructivist and connectivist schools of thought and practice (Monteith, 2002) The implications are clear for designers of online content: much thought and preparation must be given to ensuring parity for everyone when designing new online content.

Ethical Concerns

When dealing with online ethical considerations so much is new as educators struggle to develop material which is consistent and respectful to all relative to the online world. New paradigms and learning environments mean that as often as not educators are breaking new ground as they try to cope with classes which may be separated by geography, time and culture, issues associated with privacy, acceptable behaviours by both staff and students, and whether or not computer-reliant education promotes a fair and reasonable learning environment. How the online learning environment promotes or inhibits academic freedoms raises more questions than provide answers (Anderson & Simpson, 2007).

There should be a ‘zero tolerance’ policy which is put in place at the beginning of any course which clearly states expectations regarding ethics and other associated policies. I think the first policy to be articulated should be that all people, regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, and orientation or language skills should be respected, valued and treated equally. The people who make up the student body should not only be cognizant but supportive of this requirement. There should be a real effort to ensure that people are comfortable with the course, the first part of which is inclusivity. This starts with and ends with the instructor. Students should be able to trust that should there be a concern they should be able to approach their teacher and receive a prompt resolution which fully addresses their unease. It is up to the instructor to foster this spirit in online offerings and be diligent in applying these policies with a fair and even hand.

Conclusion

Community may be described as working together for mutually recognized goals and rewards. In the online context where so much can be left open to interpretation and potential abuse it is incumbent on designers and presenters of online content to be aware of and encourage the development of community in their course work. This means providing an environment where student community is encouraged and promoted.

References:

1)- As retrieved from The Oxford Online dictionaries; http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/community;

2)- Anderson, Bill and Simpson, Mary (2007) ‘Ethical issues in online education’, Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 22:2, 129 -138, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02680510701306673;

3)- Anderson,Terry,  2004, Theory  and Practice of Online Learning, Chapter 11: ‘Teaching in An Online Learning Context’, Athabaska University;

4)-  Boettcher, J. 2007. Ten Core Principles for Designing Effective Learning Environments: Insights from Brain Research and Pedagogical Theory, http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=54  (accessed April 24, 2008);

5)- Boettcher,J,  July 2012, Designing for Learning, 10 Best Practices for Teaching Online, Quick Guide for New Online Faculty, http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tenbest.html ;

6)- Brey, P. (2006) Social and ethical dimensions of computer-mediated education, Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 4(2), 91–101.

7)- Brindley J. E,;  Walti, C, Blaschke ,L. M. ; Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment; International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Volume 10, Number 3,  ISSN: 1492-3831, June 2009; http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/675/1313 ;

8)- Craig, A, Goold A, Coldwell J and Mustard J, Perceptions of Roles and Responsibilities in Online Learning: A Case Study, Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects Volume 4, 2008 http://www.ijello.org/Volume4/IJELLOv4p205-223Craig510.pdf

9)- Gunn, C, French S, McLeod  H, McSporran M, Gender issues in computer-supported learning, www.researchinlearningtechnology.net/index.php/rlt/article/…/12997

10)- Monteith, K., University of Stirling,  Gendered Learning and Learning About Gender Online , A Content Analysis of Online Discussion, http://www.odeluce.stir.ac.uk/docs/Gendered%20Learning.pdf;  2002

11)- McMillian, D. & Chavis, D.(1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology. 14, 6-23

12)- Sadera, W. A. ; Robertson, J,7. ; Song, L. ; Midon, N. ; The Role Of Community in Online Learning Success, MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Volume 5, Number 2, June 2009,

13)- University of British Columbia,  Documentation: Cultural Issues in Teaching Online/Learning Module, http://wiki.ubc.ca/Documentation:Cultural_Issues_in_Teaching_Online/Learning_Module#License  ; April 2011

14)- Vesely, P., Bloom, L. and Sherlock, J.; Key Elements of Building Online Community: Comparing Faculty and Student Perceptions,  MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol. 3, No. 3, September 2007

Roles in Creating Community

‘We must act as if our institutions are ours to create, our learning is ours to define, our leadership we seek is ours to become.’  Peter Block

Roles in Creating Community

Designers, developers, and presenters of online content face special challenges when considering the best ways to generate student engagement and successful participation in online courses. Where community in a face-to-face classroom setting is virtually guaranteed by the normal interactions of people in the social setting which is the classroom, this is not the case in the online environment. John King illustrates this point in the video as noted in the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=D201NOHg3M4#! .

The point being made is that the online environment is a vastly different one than that faced by instructors in the classroom and that different strategies must be employed to effectively deal with this difference. Teachers must look at their roles in the instructional process and lead from a different standpoint, one where integration of technology is placed hand-in-hand with active student involvement and a review of traditionally held beliefs about standard pedagogical views (Labonte 2008).  This of course requires a re-evaluation of the teacher’s roles and responsibilities in the relationship with their students. The objective of this paper is to examine teacher roles and some of the effects that the modern day teacher has in the development of the online learning environment.

What Have I Learned?

The standard educational paradigm has changed for teachers and instructors in the new online world. As Downes describes it; ” If I had to summarize the best advice I could give to e-learning developers, it would be this: here are two key lessons for learning professionals:

1. Adapt to the on-demand world.

2. Embed learning into the context of people’s work.” (Downes, 2012)

This means that more emphasis has to be on the student’s needs: younger learners have different styles, requirements, and expectations of the educational system generally  and online course work specifically. Designers and presenters alike ignore this fact at their peril. At the same time there are more older learners as well who have their own styles and needs. Learning to address this wide disparity will be ever more challenging. The results of ignoring this and other good practices in the virtual classroom such as the development of reciprocity between students, the encouragement of active learning, the conveyance of expectations and the like cannot be undervalued (Dreon, 2013). If these factors are ignored the student is likely to feel alienated, suffer from disillusionment in the educational process and perhaps even fail or have to resort to remedial work to pass the course or courses they are enrolled in.

How Do I Identify With This Topic?

As a student in an online course where community was not completely at the forefront I have seen first-hand the results of a lack of community in a  body of students.  There must be an active encouragement of community in the virtual class, as well as buy-in from the students. This required commitment or active participation if you will must be fostered in the students by the instructor through various techniques and mechanisms such as message boards, social networks, participatory learning forums, and group assignments all designed to promote a spirit of communal cooperation.  Community neither created or encouraged is like a garden without water: there may be seeds and soil but no growth.   

How Will I Apply This New Learning In My Online Course?

The underlying challenge for developers and presenters of online content is to ensure that the virtual environment of any course encourages a sense of community, both in the forefront of things as well as in the background. There must be the creation of a `social sense` in the virtual environment; a both subtle and overt engagement of the students or there is the risk of social isolation and the concomitant loss of interest with associated poor outcomes (Brindley et al 2009). This development of community has other related side benefits: an increased ability to think and formulate critically, the co-creation of knowledge and meaning both in the individual and the group as a whole, the encouragement of a reflective state, and transformative learning. Taken together it can be seen that a new approach to both the design and application of online content must be kept top-of-mind, one that integrates the demands of learning styles of multiple, diverse groups of learners with a newer framework for encouraging community based learning exercises and environments as advocated by both Downs and Siemens.

To these ends there are several strategies which come to mind to help build community in groups being offered online content:

  • enable learner readiness for group work (and thence community building) through a pre-published statement of expectations at the beginning of the course;
  • establish a sense of community by encouraging openness, honesty, ethical fairness,  dialogue between students,  and diverse, respectful discussions;
  • ensure that tasks assigned during the course are those best performed in a group setting;
  • group tasks should be relevant to the course in the context of individual learners and the group as a whole.

The responsibility for all this rests solely with the instructor. He or she must be moderator, facilitator, mediator, confessor and above all friend to the student. The overall success or failure of the student is directly influenced by the instructor’s role and the way he or she develops the sense of both community and contribution to that community on the part of the student.

References:

1)- As retrieved from ‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, Essays on meaning and learning networks’, Stephen Downes, May 2012, http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=58207

2) ) Oliver Dreon, Feb 2013, Faculty Focus ezine, ezine@facultyfocusemail.com;

3)- Randy Labonte, 2008, Leadership and Elearning, Change Processes for Implementing Educational Technologies,  Education for a Digital World, BCcampus and Commonwealth of Learning, 2008, www.bccampus.ca;

4)-John King, YouTube video June 2010, Purdue University, Competencies for Online Teaching Success,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=D201NOHg3M4#!

4)- Randy Labonte, 2008, Leadership and Elearning, Change Processes for Implementing Educational Technologies,  Education for a Digital World, BCcampus and Commonwealth of Learning, 2008, www.bccampus.ca;

5)-  Jane E. Brindley, Christine Walti & Lisa M. Blaschke, Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups In An Online Environment, The International Review of Online and Distance Learning, Volume 10, No3 (2009) (http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/675/1313 )

6)- George Siemens, ‘Connectivism, A Learning Theory for The Digital Age, eLearnspace,  http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Students In Groups Vs. Individual Learning

One of the most exciting developments in modern education goes by the name of cooperative (or collaborative) learning and has children working in pairs or small groups. An impressive collection of studies has shown that participation in well-functioning cooperative groups leads students to feel more positive about themselves, about each other, and about the subject they’re studying. Students also learn more effectively on a variety of measures when they can learn with each other instead of against each other or apart from each other. Cooperative learning works with kindergartners and graduate students, with students who struggle to understand and students who pick things up instantly; it works for math and science, language skills and social studies, fine arts and foreign languages.

Alfie Kohn from Punished By Rewards

Students In Groups Vs. Individual Learning

In the traditional face-to-face classroom setting the instructor controls the in-class learning agenda utilizing pacing and style of learning through the lens of a monopoly of information. Given the immediacy of access to large volumes of information and an increasingly collaborative environment that is the virtual classroom this traditional type of instructional model may be less applicable in the modern world on online learning. Non-traditional techniques and instructional paradigms (methods) must be considered and implemented to guarantee better results for both student and teacher. To that end designers of course content must consider alternate strategies which will work best for the online environment.

It has been shown that group collaboration can be used to positively affect learning outcomes for students and teachers alike: for students by encouraging critical thinking skills in the context of the course work, for teachers freeing them up from the normal processes of day-to-day teaching: course and lesson plans, instructional notes etc., allowing them to focus on other design related considerations . My feeling is that this forces students into types of communication and interaction which might not normally occur in the face-to-face classroom environment.

This is not to say that techniques and strategies from the traditional setting cannot be adapted to the online environment but rather that they may become another tool to use effectively with some prior consideration. Several questions arise when considering the use of groups in the online environment to complete course work. How do group dynamics affect learning in the online environment? Should students be allowed to choose which group of people they associate with to complete online assignments or should this be an instructor driven consideration?

Advantages of Online Group Work

Listed below are factors which positively affect student outcomes when groups are used in online course work:

  • critical thinking is encouraged and stimulated;
  • there is a free exchange of relevant ideas information, and course related  concepts with associated student interaction;
  • problem solving is encouraged;
  • normal geographic and time constraints are less of an influence on students;
  • discussions which occur will take place on a higher levels: such as evaluation, analysis or synthesis;
  • develops a sense of cooperation and teamwork, creating a social framework between geographically distanced students;
  • encourages peer-to-peer feedback;
  • heterogeneous groups encourage differing points of view, discussion and better learning;
  •  encourages reflection.

Disadvantages of Online Group Work

Listed below are factors which may negatively affect student outcomes when groups are used in online course work:

  • poor group dynamics may affect student outcomes;
  • not all students may contribute at the same level;
  • subject matter may not be conducive to group work (a very real concern for the courses I am considering);
  •  without direction the group may take valuable time to sort out roles, meaning there must be direction from the instructor;
  • groups which are more homogeneous in nature may isolate or alienate individual members.

Should Groups Be Self-defining or Instructor Selected?

The question above is problematic as no matter which way the course designer decides to place the emphasis someone may suffer. Those students who learn best on their own may not like or see the need for group work. The majority of adult students who engage in online learning are self-motivated, enthusiastic learners who wish to be considered in the educational process. They have engaged themselves and decided to take an online offering for any one of a variety of reasons: location relative to the institution, work and time constraints, course material which may not otherwise be available, pacing better suited to student needs and abilities, and economy. A fine balance must be struck between allowing these motivated students to choose their own path and ensuring that in the process of forming and achieving course goals and objectives fairness and equality are guaranteed for all students of the course.

Instructors considering the inclusion of group work as an alternative for some portions of online content must concern themselves with guaranteeing the heterogeneity of groups. This will ensure there is the best chance of a balanced perspective for all students in the group with appropriate representation in relation to gender, age, ethnicity, language capability, etc., with all the benefits which arise naturally from this as noted above; benefits which include the free exchange of ideas and information, the development of higher level thinking processes, reflection and the stimulation of critical thinking.

Whichever method is used be it instructor assignment or student choice of who joins what group, there must be adequate mechanisms in place to ensure that all students are satisfied with their group, that all students are contributing equally and that the group individually and as a whole is getting the best learning from the experience. Some alternatives might include the use of performance rubrics or forum posts which are posted between members of each group and the instructor.to evaluate individual participation.

The key consideration, as with any course design, is the employment of specific strategies which apply to the educational needs at hand which are inherent to the objectives and goals as pre-set in the course structure. Group work may not work well for all types of courses or materials and this must be considered from the outset of the design process as well.  It follows then that we must seriously consider group work as yet another tool in the box to be used to best effect for our student’s benefit but not become so caught up in the whirlwind that we include it in material for which it may not be relevant. If we do use this tool it must be in a manner which ties directly to best practices.

References:

Instructional Strategies for Online Courses, Illinois Online Network,  http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/resources/tutorials/pedagogy/instructionalstrategies.asp#SMALL%20GROUP%20WORK;

Scott D. Johnson and Steven R. Aragon, An Instructional Strategy Framework for Online Learning Environments, published in: http://education.illinois.edu/sites/default/files/online/general/NewDirections_OnlineStrat.pdf; (undated);

Becker, Karen L. (2003) Just Tell Me What to Do: Group Dynamics in a Virtual Environment . In Proceedings Women in Research Conference, Rockhampton, Australia as retrieved from: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/12187/1/12187.pdf ;