eLearning with Adobe Captivate 4

While I often use my blog to discuss research projects related to my doctoral studies or related conference / publication work, one aspects of my professional involvement may come as a surprise to some. I work as a project manager and instructional designer, though I also increasingly engage in eLearning.

captivate 4eLearning and I have a mixed relationship, as often I find it either too involved or not involved enough. As I am currently finishing a short piece on critical thinking–Critical Thinking and the Information You Need. With the purpose of the module being an introduction to critical thinking for doctoral students, I am building this with Adobe Captivate 4 and will publish this as an executable file, so to avoid the possible technical issues that arise with various versions of Flash player. 

It is a lot easier to engage in eLearning when it is a topic I am interested in, that is for certain!

Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning?

I just read this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning, which discussed the initial results of a survey about distance learning.

Interesting findings:

  • more work with less compensation and respect for faculty
  • worse learning outcomes for learners

Honestly, the results do not surprise me. There is a lot more work with online and distance education, and there is not compensation for all these additional efforts. It is a great challenge to engage and maintain the attention of people without the benefit of body language to assess attention, mood, and questions. Fostering a sense of community and shared learning(?!); do not even get me started on these hurdles . . . 

Perhaps this demonstrates how those of us who work in distance education are still considered pioneers (martyrs?) for a changing learning modality? Perhaps institutions embraced distance learning too quickly without considering the additional financial and personnel support needed (beyond the pricy systems themselves)? Perhaps these are the normal growing pains involved in every major shift in teaching and learning?

Let’s face it, changing any aspect of the status quo (and higher education changes very very very very slowly) is a challenge, especially when there becomes more of a flattening of authority in education (the teacher no longer is in front, much of human knowledge is a few keystrokes away, etc.). Whatever the case, I am glad I teach and learn online, as the many benefits of it changes the very dynamics of adult learning itself.

PPOCCID Class Begins Tonight

I am teaching PPOCCID (Principles and Practices of Online Course Creation and Instructional Design) again beginning this evening. I made the syllabus available for anybody who wants to see / use it (comments and feedback are very welcome!).

ppoccid screenshot

One of the ongoing assignments for my students will be to blog:

Course Blogs

Reflective Practice is a critical aspect of teaching and learning, and a fundamental element of teaching online involves acquiring a comfort with technology to communicate and collaborate.

Online learning is a more networked experience than traditional face-to-face (F2F) learning. Thus, students are required to use a blog for this course. Students may use their own blog (if they have one) or create a new one (Blogger, WordPress.com, or elsewhere). Blog posts should be done at least once a week discussing some learning or a reaction to anything in the course.

Making at least two comments every week on other course attendee blogs is required.

Let me set an example for our first posting!

Online Course Creation–Issues Debrief

My Online Course Design class met for the first time last night, and I think it went somewhat well (though it would probably be best to ask my students their thoughts about this!). I used (and am continuing to experiement with) an online adapted version of Stephen Brookfield’s Critical Incident Questionnaire, so will code the results for next week and try to understand more about their perceptions. More about this additional project later.

Overall, I was happy with how the technology (and my teaching, of course!) worked. While the NYU online course system is brand new (the Epsilen Environment), there are a few items that arose that I need to address to try to understand them a little better. I already emailed our technical people about them, and hopefully they will be able to help me determine how to use them better or otherwise open them as help desk tickets or enhancement requests:

  1. Attendance. I took attendance on paper and could not figure out how to enter this into the system afterward. I wonder if this had to be done in real time?
  2. File / Application Sharing. I was able to upload my PowerPoint slides, though when I shared a Word file (and in fact the entire Word application, I believe) I could not tell I was being shared nor could I determine if my students were still able to hear me. I am not sure if I missed the indicators that these were still happening, but I had to go back to the online course screen several times (3, to be precise) to ask my students if they could still see and hear. On top of all this, it seems this did not get recorded in the course archive, so I do not have any direct way of knowing what the experience was like.
  3. Webcam. I tried to use my webcam, though it cast a greenish / yellowing / ghoulish complexion. True, I do try to stay out of the sun, but I do not look like that! Disatisfied with how my laptop’s webcam looks and how crisp and clear everybody else was, I just ordered a new one (Logitech QuickCam Orbit AF) this morning and will receive it on Friday. As one of my students commented about how a webcam helps to maintain attention during a class, I think I need to pay more attention to having a good one that works well.
  4. Share a Web Link. I had trouble sharing a web link. I believe it opened in another window, though as it did not pop-up and come to the front (such as happens with WebEx), I could not be certain that it happened.
  5. Student Names. Probably one of the strangest open issues (that has already been reported to the vendor) involves seeing the student names in the class. They are not visible as names–only as usernames! Correct–I cannot determine who is present by seeing their names, so have to see the usernames and then look at my printed paper to link them up with their real names. I see this as being a strangely anachronistic issue, one that is problematic for me as class facilitator and problematic for the students as we are now part of a class learning community.

As blogging (either private or public) is a course requirement, I am trying to model something about what I am hoping for my students to do. We will eventually have a discussion about ethics, privacy, public persona, Googleability, etc., though I generally do my best to share my thoughts and experiences via my blog without being overly critical or personally confrontational. Hopefully this will maintain (or even increase!) my credibility as a teaching and learning professional.

Online Course Creation FA08, Here We Go!

I am getting ready for my Principles & Practices of Online Course Creation & Instructional Design (which I call the Online Course Creation course that begins this evening. I have been so focused on getting used to the new technology, that I have had little time for anything else (except watching Heroes last night, of course!).

A few additional minor items to add to my checklist:

  • Determine if and when to use a web cam
  • Have water handy by the computer (but do not spill it, of course)
  • report any bugs or non-working items to technical support (I have been making lots of suggestions and identifying some non-working items)
  • decide how (and if) to post slides–directly in the online course environment as slides, as a PDF, via SlideShare, GoogleDocs, etc.
  • determine when (and if) there will be a break
  • determine how attendance will be taken (without having a TA, that is!)
  • open the slides and other files that will be used
  • close programs (such as Outlook, an RSS reader, Skype, IM software,