SLOAN-C: Creating a Digital Guide for Blended and Online Teaching and Learning

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On April 23, 2010

sloan-c.png Lead Presenter: Sarah Brittain Dysart; Loyola University-Chicago

From concept to process to product (almost).

Sarah’s group focuses on the pedagogy behind blended/online learning. Loyola is a Blackboard institution and they have a very nice building from which to conduct their operations. They have a media lab for multimedia content creation. They work with academic technology services at their campus, which does the actual hands-on training for faculty.

First version of the guide was very technology and tool based. Through an informal needs analysis they decided they needed a document that was much more pedagogy focused. It was also difficult to schedule workshops with strong faculty attendance. They developed a few learning modules with voice-over PowerPoints (similar to Camtasia).

After attending a project management course, they decided to use a PM technique to revise the entire guide. They wanted to create an online, on-demand learning guide for faculty to help them prepare for teaching online. Each tool or technique would have a detailed explanation with pros/cons of employing the tool. The guide also had to function within the current technology infrastructure of the university. Topics, tools, and techniques had to be based on faculty needs and based on established quality standards for online courses. The living guide would be updated on an annual basis.

Loyola created an initial outline of what they thought should be in the guide. They asked how each tool would be used in a pedagogical manner. They also identified all of the stakeholders, which includes not only faculty, but also the web designers who would be responsible for maintaining parts of the guide.

At the stakeholders meeting, Sarah’s group showed a list of topics and asked the stakeholders which ones were most important. Course setup considerations and communication among students were topics that were actually at the bottom of the list instead of at the top. Most important was to answer the question, “Why teach online?”

Meeting the deadline for the project was difficult. They used some PM techniques to keep them on track. They assigned tasks according to the different needs. They also used a Gannt chart for organizing the project. Frequent meetings also helped keep the participants on track. However, it is important not to have too many meetings or no work will get done.

Remembering that the document is a “living resource” helped them keep on task because they knew they could revise the document later.

Their content management system limited them to how well they could organize content. They only had four categories available and they had to be alphabetized.

Once they had something in place, they had a meeting to get some formative feedback from stakeholders. They ended up using Google Sites for this resource. Sarah’s group also gave a survey on how easy it was to use with the Google Sites implementation.

They will continue developing the content over the Summer.

So far, the first three sections are fleshed out. Since Loyola is a Bb campus, the faculty are used to the same navigation in Bb as they used for developing the resource in Google Sites. They originally developed the content inside a Bb course and then mapped the site over into Google Sites.

Some of the content was created by other campus resources, and were simply linked to from inside Loyola’s online guide. This minimizes the amount of work needed to create the full guide.

Online guides should use techniques that reflect the practices that online students will be engaging in. Link to existing “how to” pages (e.g. Link to external resources. Build flash modules or Camtasia videos that highlight important areas. Incorporate written feedback into the guide. And of course, review and update content regularly.

The project has had a huge impact on the campus. First of all, they’ve raised awareness of Google Sites on campus. Similar to our campus, they didn’t know who set up the Google Sites for their campus. We now have an official Google Sites presence, so we could certainly use this same resource for our online presence in certain areas.

The assessment measure they used for this project has demonstrated how important it is to assess a project before it begins. You need to make sure the end product will really meet the users’ needs.

They have also developed a heightened awareness of how faculty want to use learning technologies. Previously, much of the content was developed based on how the group perceived technology was being used, not how it was actually used. 

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On April 23, 2010. Posted in Blended Learning, SLOAN-C