Reflective Journal

During my 8 week online Assessment in E-Learning course at the University of Wisconsin we were asked to keep a weekly reflective journal.  The purpose of this journal was to explore the learning process, identify goals for my teaching/learning, evaluate my participation in the course, and identify areas that I could actively apply to my work.

 Week 1

I am finding myself comparing the current class setup to my antecedent class in E-learning for Educators.

Discussion Rubric

Discussion is a vital learning component in both courses, as the underlying pedagogical structure is based on social constructivist theory, which emphasizes learning through the interaction with others.  The discussion rubric, which is used to assess the student, is of the utmost importance and needs to include clear, concise, and explanatory guidelines for achieving optimum interactions.

Course Module Setup

Both courses released new learning materials and discussion questions every week, with work due by the end of the week (in this course M-S).  This does seem to keep everyone working at a similar pace, obviously important for discussion components.  However, at times the work is overwhelming and I wonder if some flexibility in access to assignments would be feasible and benefit the online student.

Generation of Class Guidelines

This course utilized a wiki as a means for the class to generate its own guidelines (something that provides student ownership of the course).  I enjoyed the ability to quickly address the topic, as opposed to a full discussion in the previous course, and the fact that the guidelines would be available for reference in the future.  I do wonder if it might be good to have a quick discussion debrief to make sure everyone is on the same page, and then to maybe produce a new class generated rubric.

Week 2

Blogging in the Classroom

The topic of blogging was introduced this week and is definitely an intriguing format for driving class interactions.  I am excited to learn from the blogs that my peers have generated.

Week 3

Group Work

This week we are working in teams to investigate different e-learning tools and to create a formalized group document.  The group has been communicating via email very effectively and has generated a timeline for completion of the work and assigned tasks to each member.  We have also generated a Google document that will be the basis for the final assignment.  In addition, we are engaged in a reflective discussion on the  utility of e-learning technology in assessment.

Working in a smaller group has resulted in a significant value added discussion.  Our interaction has been chronologically brief, but seems to have generated a much more cohesive unit, which generated a greater student investment in discussion.

Additionally, we have discussed group assessment as a concept and my team members contributed a wonderful idea about student generated rubrics.  Unanimously, my team found in their classrooms that student generated rubrics resulted in enhanced student participation, investment in learning, and representative self evaluations.  I will definitely be utilizing the concept of student generated rubrics in my future course designs.

Week 4

Group Work Cont.

This is the second week of a two week group midterm project focused on creating an assessment toolbox.  The first week was very productive and our group met the required goals of choosing a mascot, selecting a team spokesperson, agreeing upon a timeline, and creating an outline for the project.  This was all successfully completed over email and was a very effective means of communication.  I do wonder, as a an instructor, if it would have been preferable to have this interaction in a more open venue for assessment purposes.

While the second week is right on track with all participants meeting the goal of creating a first draft by Tuesday, the format and ascetic design are posing a somewhat more cumbersome obstacle to completion.  The outline of the project incorporated all necessary information from the detailed project rubric and all members of the group have successfully incorporated the necessary components.  However, the rubric did not contain much structure on the ascetic design nor the best tool for display of the project.

While the opportunity for creativity is appreciated and the plethora of previous year project examples are helpful, the choice of display format (google docs, wikis, google sites, etc.) has been a limiting factor.  This may be due to the varied experience of the group members with different tools.  Perhaps, a clear choice of tool for display would be useful in future course designs and could be incorporated into the learning objective.  Alternatively, one group member could be solely responsible for the display as their toolbox component.

week 5

Technical Difficulties

This week we were confronted with the sobering realization that technical difficulties in a purely online course can be a substantial obstacle.  In this case, our instructor, institution, and assistant instructor did a great job of addressing the issue and providing us with the necessary materials to complete our assignment over email. It has made me realize that having access to all my materials outside of the website and in a readily available format will be essential for overcoming such inevitable issues.

week 6

Constructivism and Cybercoaching

This week we had some wonderful readings on implementing social constructivism and cybercoaching into the online classroom.

Constructivism

Two of the pedagogical theories behind online learning, constructivism and connectivism, emphasize a social approach to learning and knowledge development.   Whereas, instructivism is more teacher centered and has less emphasis on the social component.

“Instructivism is definitely more teacher and institutionally centered, where policy-makers and “power-holders” create processes, resource-pools, and conditions for success.

Constructivism sees the teacher step aside to a new role as facilitator, pairing students with peers, learning processes, and another another at key moments based on data and observation while the students create their own knowledge and even early learning pathways.

Connectivism is similar to constructivism–in fact, a learner participating in connectivism would likely do so at times with an constructivist approach. The difference here lies in the central role of relationships and networks in connectivism. Rather than supplemental, they are primary sources.”

Heick “The Difference Between Instructivism, Constructivism, and Connectivism”

We can think of a bus as a metaphor for the three pedagogies:

In Instructivism there is a driver, a bus,  and a predetermined bus route.

In Constructivism there is a driver, a bus, and a destination but the route is determined by the passengers.

In  Connectivism there may be a bus or maybe not, and perhaps a destination (passengers have tacitly agreed to end up somewhere near California), and the route is again determined by the passengers.

I will focus the rest of this section on Constructivism as my course is based on Constructivism and it is a predominant form of online learning.

Below are some important highlights from “E-Learning and Constructivism: From Theory to Application” on the implementation of constructivism.

A scaffolding or interaction between three levels of assessment is recommended:

Self Assessment

Group Collaborative Assessment

Facilitator Assessment

A beginning module in a course could begin with self reflection and assessment where a student researches a topic of interest and then brings that knowledge to the group setting.  The group would then would collectively to determine what aspects would be highlighted and presented from the individual components.  The groups would assess the work of other groups and finally have instructor assessment to then reflect on their work and revise if needed.

This would also relies on certain design elements:

Real world assignments/activities

Encouragement of individual goals and objectives

Inclusion of personal experiences in problem solving

Cybercoaching

A few important aspects of cybercoaching that were highlighted in our readings and discussions are listed below:

-Students submit drafts and are provided with instructor feedback
-Revisions are allowed and encouraged
-Self assessment/reflection
-Team work/assessment
-Instructor models online group communication

Cybercoaching relies on the development of good communication between the instructor/facilitator and students.  The use of ubiquitous technology such as email may be a reliable means to encourage and develop communication in the cybercoaching model.

Sources:

“E-Learning and Constructivism: From Theory to Application”Elearning_Constructivism2009

“Cybercoaching model explained” Cybercoaching_paper

Week 7

Final Thoughts

Assessment in E-Learning has been a great course.  We have addressed a number of topics including:

  • The use of icebreakers as an assessment tool
  • The pre-course survey as a way to gather information about the class and introduce yourself
  • The implementation of social constructivism online
  • The utility of rubrics for assessment and to facilitate learning
  • Cybercoaching
  • The importance of group work and the jigsaw method
  • The utility of self assessment
  • The potential for blogs and wikis in the classroom
  • Mapping out a course including learning objectives, assessments, activities and course goals.

My understanding of assessment has been expanded and I have gained some useful insight that is directly applicable to courses I am designing.

Course Design Thoughts

  1. Checklist:  Activity specific checklists for each module have been a great help for staying on top of the material and assignments.  One caveat would be to include reoccurring assignments in the checklist every week.  It was easy to forget to update the reflective journal when the course load became heavier and a thorough checklist would definitely benefit the student.
  2. Instructor Feedback: In this course the instructor gave excellent feedback through the use of mp3s, email, and the course management system.  Additionally, the instructor utilized audio to specify instructions and offered a skype conference for the final project.  The accessibility of the instructor was an important factor and his investment was a motivating factor in my work.
  3. Dropbox: Often it was required to post assignments in multiple locations including dropbox. I assume this was to facilitate assessment, but it was often taxing and felt redundant.  The feasibility of assessing assignments posted in the discussion area of the course is something to consider.
  4. Time limitations:  As an instructor it seems overwhelming to complete formative and summative assessments on all the material generated in this course.  It leaves me with the question of how to keep the work manageable, yet not stifle student work?
  5. Reflective journal:  I enjoyed the reflective journal and it kept me honest, as far as forcing me to reflect and incorporate ideas from the course into my cognitive assessment model.  Additionally, having the professional e-portfolio will be of benefit when designing future courses.  I was concerned about posting each week, as it would increase the work load and force partially formed ideas,but I found it a useful activity.

 

 

Maria Guillily, PhD