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Online PD


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1226] Online PD
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 10:08:23 EST

Hello everyone, At this time, this question is for our guests. Each of you have a unique involvement in the area of online professional development for teachers. Since there is much going on in this area, I'd like for you to help us get started in exploring some of the important questions for online PD.

First, please tell us more about your work:

Why did you/your organization become involved in online professional development? What need(s) were you addressing? How did you decide to address those needs?

Describe the online PD you/your organization offer. How is the online PD you offer (or have offered) similar or different from more familiar forms of online delivery (i.e. course platforms)?

What have you found to be particularly important for making online PD successful for teachers? What changes have you/your organization experienced in the development and delivery of online PD, perhaps even as a result of this?

Thanks so much! I look forward to an exciting week ahead!

Best,

Jackie

Jackie Taylor
Co-Facilitator
NIFL-AALPD
jataylor_at_utk.edu


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1228] RE: Online PD
From: Beth Wheeler (bwheeler_at_sbctc.ctc.edu)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 10:55:18 EST

good morning,

washington state adult education is exploring distance learning for abe/esl students. as part of a pilot effort, able network staff designed and piloted an online "new teacher orientation". this course helps instructors new to the system understand more about relationships - with the state office, their individual campus, and with other instructors at their site. there is some philosophy of adult education, lesson planning, etc. as some folks come to our system without the benefit of prior teaching experience.

the course has been offered three quarters now and each quarter the instructors revised it to more completely meet the needs of the students. there is a waiting list each quarter and instructors who have been in the system for several years are asking to be admitted. when this course was offered, there was not intent to move farther into the realm of online staff development. however, with the success of the course, able network is exploring additional offerings online.

beth wheeler, program administrator
distance learning
sbctc
olympia, washington


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1231] Online PD From: Dlhargrove_at_aol.com Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 11:21:04 EST

Hi everyone,

Florida first became involved in alternative ways of delivering PD about 4 years ago, when we were in the middle of a budget crisis in adult education. Travel budgets were cut considerably, so not many practitioners were able to attend regional or statewide workshops. We needed to come up with an alternative way of assisting our colleagues in receiving Inservice Points. This was about the same time that web-based training was beginning to emerge. Through the efforts of one of our Practitioners' Task Force committees, the first of many online web-based trainings was developed.

When we decided to develop our first course, there were a number of things we looked at:

1. What was the most pressing need for PD?
2. What did the State require be included in order to get this online PD course approved for Inservice Points?
3. Do we need to track the individuals progress? If so, is there a way of tracking without buying an expensive Learning Management System (like Blackboard, WebCT?)
4. How will we measure the success of the course?

Adult education programs survive because students remain in the program and complete their goals. If there aren't any students in the programs, there's no program... we all know that story. To that end, we developed our first wbt called,"Improving Retention in Adult Education programs." It was a 5 hour training, developed using Macromedia Dreamweaver.

After much discussion, it was determined that we could track participant progress through online activities that were submitted throughout the training as opposed to using a learning management system (too costly for us.) Each training contained a number of modules. Within each module, participants were asked to complete activities. These activities were electronically submitted to a Program Specialist at our Dept. of Education, who kept a log on all activities. When the activities were completed, and the post test and evaluation submitted, the Program Specialist would send the inservice certificate to the participant.

Not all activities were submitted, however. In many cases, participants were asked to post their ideas or suggestions regarding an issue they just read. Bulletin Boards were created using WebBoard and participants shared their experiences via the boards. This has proven to be a great way to share information.

We had only one problem.... we weren't RETAINING participants in our Retention Web-Based Training! Sure, we had loads of educators logging on, even from out of state. But for some reason, they weren't finishing the material. After a lengthy process of emailing and calling those who did not complete, we realized that our primary purpose for developing this online learning was NOT the only reason people signed up. For many, they didn't need inservice points.. they were just there to get the information and resources and then they left! Measuring the success of our course took on a whole new meaning. In our newer trainings, we've now included a section that asks, "Why are you here?" with options like, "To receive Inservice Points" to "Just gathering information."

We also realized that, although online learning was perfect for delivering instruction, there's no substitute for face-to-face and other personal forms of communicating. Two years ago, when the term, "Blended Learning" came to fruition, we decided to try pairing one of our web-based training courses with a traditional workshop. Participants who signed up were sent to the web to complete some prework and then met for a day of training. This process seemed to work very well. The only problem was with the travel cuts as discussed earlier. We had to find another way of bringing in the human factor.

With that said, we created a position last year through the Florida TechNet grant called, "online facilitator." We moved the adminstrative function from the Dept. of Education to our new facilitator who not only keeps track of all participants, but also emails welcome letters. Our online facilitator looks at what participants are submitting and responds via email or phone to questions or comments. This process has just started this January, so we haven't been able to really determine its impact.. but it appears to be positive. We are also experimenting with a LMS on a select few WBT's through another contact, and are anxious to see the results of that as well.

Hope this basic overview has been helpful to anyone who might be considering developing their first web-based training for PD. It's always nice to be able to see how others have evolved through this process.

Debra

Debra L. Hargrove, Ed.D.
Technology Coordinator
Florida TechNet
http://www.floridatechnet.org

6025 Audubon Manor Blvd.
Lithia, Fl 33547
P ~ 813.657.0789
F ~ 813.657.0970


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1232] Distance staff development
From: Judith Diamond (JDiamond_at_irc-desplaines.org)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 11:55:15 EST

Commenting on staff development at a distance:

Illinois has three service centers, one for each geographic third of the state. The centers deliver staff development and supportive services for all funded adult education programs including ESL and ABE/GED.

Many, many people come to on-site or regional workshops. However, there are others who because of distance, time, or access difficulties cannot attend.

We tried one online workshop, The Brain, Memory, and Learning. It was offered three times. Each time, the workshop ran for six weeks. We found that, though there was a fair amount of interest in signing up for the workshop, the participants' ability and interest in keeping up with the tasks waned after about the third week. We are now in process of developing some shorter online trainings that would be combined with at least one on-site meeting.

More successfully, we have just completed a video and an accompanying text for ESL teachers called: A Framework Comes Alive: Experience an ESOL Classroom. It is an exciting, fun video featuring a great ESOL teacher and his class along with a panel of experienced ESOL instructors commenting on various aspects of teaching. The guide contains specific suggestions elaborating on the video and includes both activities for teachers to bring into the classroom and a Trainer's Guide for programs who want to use the video on-site. We are very excited about this whole project. It has received an enthusiastic welcome from teachers and programs. We will be showing the video and demonstrating training possibilities at COABE this year.

Judith Diamond
Adult Learning Resource Center
Des Plaines, Illinois


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1235] re: Online PD
From: Jennifer Elmore (jennifer_at_jelmore.com)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 14:34:11 EST

Greetings!

“Why did you/your organization become involved in online professional development? What need(s) were >you addressing? How did you decide to address those needs?”

I've worked on a number of different distance/online professional development resources, so I'm not sure where to start! Perhaps a bit of background would be useful.

My first experiences with online professional development occurred at the National Center on Adult Literacy, where I worked as a Project Specialist four years ago (with fellow panelists, Steve Linberg and Ashley Del Bianco.) From my perspective, online PD came into focus for me/NCAL for several reasons.

When I started at NCAL in 1994, I was involved in various, face-to-face professional development initiatives. Many of NCAL's trainings occurred in regional or national contexts; thus, we covered a fair amount of geographic territory. My colleagues and I thought a great deal about the actual physical distances that we, as trainers, traversed as well as the distances that we perceived within the individual organizations we served. (In other words, we often found that staff in a single organization - though geographically close - grappled with "distance issues" because their divergent schedules and roles inhibited collaboration and community.) Long story short, we became interested in developing new ways, as trainers, to bridge those distances.

Another powerful factor pointed me/us in the direction of distance PD resources. Many of our workshop participants expressed an interest in receiving ongoing support and advice from us - beyond our face-to-face meetings. Participants also wanted to preserve and develop professional contacts and communities that they'd formed in our workshops, so we started to think about ways to facilitate this. (We also recognized that lasting organizational development really required access to continuous support. A "one-shot" training would likely not engender lasting change.)

In 1996, NCAL started work on the LiteracyLink project - http://litlink.ket.org/. NCAL was charged with the development of online resources to accompany/complement the Workplace Essential Skills and GED Connection videotapes and workbooks. We were building an online forum for learners - we decided to extend this resource to include a professional development component for teachers and administrators. Steve Linberg and I developed an online PD course system called LitTeacher - that, for a time, paralleled the learner resources online. (This course system, though still a viable delivery mechanism, is no longer accessible through the LiteracyLink website.)

The first online courses that we developed focused on technology planning and on integrating various types of technology into practice. At this time (mid-late 1990s), NCAL had received a great many requests for training in the area of technology planning. Adult education programs wanted to learn how to:

-craft technology plans that complemented their organizational goals -fund their technology plans -begin to implement their plans - acquire resources, secure support staff, train existing staff to use technology, provide ongoing support to staff re: integrating technology into practice.

So, we felt it made sense to re-purpose our face-to-face technology planning resources for delivery in a distance forum. The demand for this content seemed to support this choice - we hoped to reach a wider audience.

As something of a follow up to this first course (and as a complement to our Workplace Essential Skills and GED Connection work), we developed a series of "integration" classes for teachers. These courses were designed to help teachers navigate the new technologies that their programs were beginning to acquire.

In a nutshell, I feel that I moved towards distance PD, in response to four major factors: -requests from the field to bridge distances with "distance resources" -the realization that effective PD required access to ongoing support -the opportunity to build onto an existing distance project -the growing demand for information and training on technology-specific topics - namely, technology planning and implementation.

This response really only addresses Jackie's first question! I'll write more in due course.

Cheers,
Jennifer

Jennifer Elmore, M.S.Ed.
Education Consultant
http://jelmore.com


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1236] Re: Online PD
From: Eunice Askov (ena1_at_psu.edu)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 15:35:13 EST

Wow! The list has had an amazing amount of discussion already, and Monday isn't over yet! As a guest, I am supposed to speak about my experience in online professional development. Penn State's Adult Education Program has been doing credit-based distance education (M.Ed.) for at least 15 years, starting with audioconferencing, then videoconferencing, and now online through Penn State's World Campus www.worldcampus.psu.edu. We now offer the M.Ed. in Adult Ed. www.worldcampus.psu.edu/pub/adted/ as well as the Certificate in Family Literacy www.worldcampus.psu.edu/pub/famlt/, both completely online. In this unique kind of professional development, because many people want the courses to apply to a master's or bachelor's degree, retention has not been a problem. In other words, they have a clear purpose in registering for the courses. Our discussion boards are lively, centered around the issues in the courses. About half of our assignments are done as group projects so that online "learning communities" truly do develop. As an instructor, it has been very rewarding for me to have been teaching online since January 2000. I feel that I know my online students just as well (if not better) than my face-to-face students. I'll have to continue this tomorrow...off to the dentist! Nickie Askov

Eunice N. Askov
Distinguished Professor of Education
Penn State University

More on the Family Literacy Certificate, added October 24, 2005:

The Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy offers an online Family Literacy Certificate through Penn State's World Campus. There are five courses that cover three specialization areas: adult literacy; parental involvement; and children's education. You can learn more about the Certificate in Family Literacy Program at http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/pub/famlt/.

Spring semester 2006, three Family Literacy Certificate courses will be offered online through the World Campus: Adult Literacy (ADTED 457), Early Literacy Development and Parental Involvement (ADTED 458), and Introduction to Adult Education (ADTED 460).

The Family Literacy Certificate Program is now offering an alternative to the five-course certificate. You can pursue three-course specialized tracks in adult literacy, children's education, or parental involvement.

These thirteen-week courses can also be used as electives in bachelor's or master's degree programs. The courses begin January 18, 2006. For more information, visit the World Campus web site at http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/wc/index.shtml or contact Sheila Sherow at sms20@psu.edu.


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1240] Fwd: Online PD
From: Jerome Johnston (jerej_at_umich.edu)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 00:04:23 EST

Hi. I'm the director of the Project IDEAL Support Center at the University of Michigan. IDEAL stands for Improving Distance Education for Adult Learners. Project IDEAL is a consortium of 14 states working together to develop (and evaluate) distance education as an option to reach adult learners for whom time or distance make classroom learning an unworkable option (http://projectideal.org).

First, please tell us more about your work: Why did you/your organization become involved in online professional development? What need(s) were you addressing? How did you decide to address those needs?

Offering a new program in distance education for adult learners is different than adding a new course to a literacy center's classroom offerings; it's akin to re-inventing the school. There is no way that teachers and administrators can attend a 1 to 2 day workshop and digest all the things they need to know, and then develop an effective plan for offering instruction at a distance. They need to spread their learning over many weeks, developing and refining the various elements of their plan (recruitment, orientation, teaching, and assessment). Online PD was the only way we could see to accomplish this goal.

Describe the online PD you/your organization offer. How is the online PD you offer (or have offered) similar or different from more familiar forms of online delivery (i.e. course platforms)?

The Support Center provides each member state with everything they need to offer online professional development to their teachers: a PD website, a curriculum, a "textbook", a study guide, and a guide for those who will facilitate the PD. The Center provides ongoing support to each state's trainer, ranging from training in the use of the website to mentoring each trainer while they facilitate the course. Every summer there is a workshop for trainers from all the member states where they can refine their techniques for building a virtual community of distance teachers.

DISTANCE LEARNING 101 is a 6-8 week "course" in planning to teach at a distance. Participants spend about two hours per week working on exercises designed to guide their planning for this new activity. The state's trainer/facilitator reads and reacts to each exercise and facilitates an asynchronous discussion of each week's topic among all the participants.

Example: one exercise asks each participant to develop a curriculum for a face-to-face orientation for prospective distance learners. After viewing all the exercises the trainer might post a discussion topic like this: "will you accept anyone that applies for your distance program or will you be selective and take only those students with the highest likelihood of succeeding? What indicators would you use to identify those most likely to succeed?" Staff from the same literacy center are encouraged to work on the exercises together.

The website looks different from Blackboard or WebCT which are built on an expert-novice model of instruction. The Project IDEAL PD model is one of community-building. We want teachers to feel they are professionals exploring a new area of skill development and getting assistance from fellow professionals, not guidance from a "sage on the stage." All the exercises ask participants to develop a plan--for recruitment, orientation, teaching and assessment of distance learners. The trainer's role is to get all of the participants in the course to provide constructive criticism of each other's plan. The textbook (Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners) is a handbook with the collected wisdom of teachers in many states on these very topics. The handbook is revised each year with new tips from participating teachers.

DISTANCE LEARNING 102: STUDY GROUPS. This second PD course is for teachers with one year experience teaching at a distance. Having mastered the mechanics of distance, teachers are ready to think in a more focused way about pedagogy. Each participant develops a case study of a difficult pedagogical problem. The essence of the study group is having the study group members examine the cases one at a time, practicing the art of asking questions that further probe the nature of the problem and developing strategies to deal with the learner's difficulties. Essence of a sample case study: "I have a student who is having a difficult time in ratios and wants to practice at home, and I'm having a hard time "talking" to him online to explain the procedures."

What have you found to be particularly important for making online PD successful for teachers?

Facilitation, facilitation, facilitation. The trainer needs to "work the group" intervening in the ongoing electronic discussion in ways that question contributors about their meaning and redirects discussion as needed to keep the discussion alive.

What changes have you/your organization experienced in the development and delivery of online PD, perhaps even as a result of this?

Facilitating discussions with Socratic dialogue is hard work, and a skill that facilitators frequently need to practice. We have changed our support strategy to provide more opportunities for facilitators to practice these skills.

Online is fine, but there is a need to balance virtual activities with telephone and face-to-face to keep the sense of community alive.


J E R O M E J O H N S T O N
Institute for Social Research - University of Michigan
Program on Teaching, Learning and Technology
734/763-3079 (734) 615-6638 (fax) jerej_at_umich.edu


Subject: Re: Online PD
From: eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 10:22:52 EST

Jerome, Could you talk more about this statement?--
The website looks different from Blackboard or WebCT which are built on an expert-novice model of instruction. The Project IDEAL PD model is one of community-building.

How does an "expert-novice" oriented site look? How does yours look different? Thanks,

Eileen


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1246] Online PD
From: mthacher_at_otan.us
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 11:31:24 EST

Hi Everyone,

Online professional development can mean so many different things. I appreciate Eileen's list, because when I think about my own experience, the most significant learning has also been some of the most informal. For example, I've learned A LOT about assessing reading skills by reading this list for the last week! These kinds of discussions among colleagues who are passionate about their work are very precious to me. So, the listservs are one very important way of developing professionally, even though they aren't "courses." Maybe that is partly because they do form a community. Some of you I've met and I can "hear" your voice in your posts. Others I haven't met but I feel as if I know you.

California is a big state, and my organization, OTAN, is responsible for supporting adult education in the area of technology. My particular focus is helping teachers use technology effectively with students. One exciting development recently is the formation of a Technology Mentor Network. We are just at the point where the bigger programs are figuring out how to create such a position, or at least a few release time hours for such a person, but there might be only one such person in each agency. So, when we created a Technology Mentor Network listserve for CA, there was a tremendous response, and now there are over 50 people on the list. To me, we are providing each other with just-in-time professional development. My hope is that this network will continue to develop and will offer a variety of PD opportunities to the state.

Another example - we are currently in the midst of a 2-day Distance Learning Symposium, and yesterday we had Cheryl Keenan in for a keynote question and answer session via video conference. It was an interesting conversation, and somehow less formal that having Cheryl up on the dair in front of us. Her office is in the process of moving, and the conference room she was speaking from was piled with equipment, but she could still stand there and talk to us about technology and distance learning in adult ed.

I think there are lots of applications for videoconferencing in PD, for exactly that reason, it's very personal. It's almost as good as being in the room with the participants, and once you have the equipment the cost is minimal now that we can do it via the web. I have seen ABE/ASE teachers in San Diego teaching pull-out math groups to several sites at once via videoconferencing, and the students were very comfortable with is. The students at the distant sites talked with the teacher and asked questions just as if they were together in the room. I really think we have only begun to explore this medium.

On the down side, I recently participated in one of the TESOL online pre-conference sessions, on blogging, and the content was interesting, but I couldn't keep up with the volume of email and the reading. I guess I'm one of those who was looking for specific content, which I got to some extent, rather than the full online experience.

Gee, it's hard to write a short post on this topic! I look forward to reading all your collective wisdom.

Marian Thacher, OTAN
Sacramento, CA


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1249] Re: Fwd: Online PD
From: Mona Curtis (MCurtis_at_tvcc.cc)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 11:41:26 EST

In regard to this discussion about distance learning, PD for teachers through distance learning is one thing. But distance learning for students is very different. At least for the students I work with, technology is very foreign to them. Many of my students come to class the first time without ever having touched a mouse (a computer one, that is). There are distance learning opportunties using the TV or videos. But this requrires a lot of self motivation which many students don't have. I don't mean to say they aren't motivated to learn English. They are, certainly. But they're not accustomed to this type learning, often coming with little or no education in their native country. Face to face is the only real way of reaching them.

Mona Curtis
ESL Coordinator
Treasure Valley Community College
650 College Blvd.
Ontario, OR 97914
www.tvcc.cc
541-881-8822 x 316
fax 541-881-2747


Subject: NIFL-AALPD:1254] RE: online PD--Blackboard
From: Jerome Johnston (jerej_at_umich.edu)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 12:36:27 EST

I perhaps mispoke; it's not the core design of Blackboard and WebCT so much as the way these tools are frequently configured given their prominent use in undergraduate education. Students in a Blackboard class have a list of courses in which they are enrolled, there are assignments to be turned in to the instructor, and a gradebook is an important tool.

In our PD implementation we try to use the metaphor of a workgroup instead of a course. We emphasize collaboration, exploration, and helping each other develop new resources or teaching strategies. Look at the Home page for one of our sites at http://projectideal.org/researchq_pd.htm#profdev). You will see that we emphasize Discussions (where you work with your colleagues to solve common problems) and Contributions (where you post resources that will be of value to other participants).

Could Blackboard be configured to emphasize these features? Yes. But I haven't see it done. Perhaps others know that it is being done and can direct us to some examples.
v

At 10:22 AM -0500 3/30/04, Eileen Eckert wrote:

Jerome, Could you talk more about this statement?--

“The website looks different from Blackboard or WebCT which are built on an expert-novice model of instruction. The Project IDEAL PD model is one of community-building.

How does an "expert-novice" oriented site look? How does yours look different? Thanks,

Eileen


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1257] RE: online PD--Blackboard
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 14:17:30 EST

Responding to Jerome's statement: "it's not the core design of Blackboard and WebCT so much as the way these tools are frequently configured given their prominent use in undergraduate education. Students in a Blackboard class have a list of courses in which they are enrolled, there are assignments to be turned in to the instructor, and a gradebook is an important tool."

I agree completely and I see agreement in others' posts about the importance of the discussion board, and mindful facilitation of what happens on the discussion board, and the advantages of asynchronous discussion for promoting reflective dialogue.

I was having a discussion recently with my old college roommate, who is now on the faculty of the veterinary college here in Davis, CA. I was telling him what a wonderful tool online learning platforms can be for reflective dialogue and "think aloud" work. He looked at me like I'd lost my mind. Turns out he was defining online learning platforms from his experience with an online version of "traffic school" from the DMV, where there was a "lesson" presented and then a quiz. UGGHHH. No wonder he wasn't interested.

So our philosophy, background knowledge, and preconceived ideas all influence our approaches to online learning. If we think of it as a means to transmit knowledge from expert to novice, we'll be stuck trying to overcome the barriers formed by approaching online learning with that mindset.

Could online learning be configured to emphasize "Discussions (where you work with your colleagues to solve common problems) and Contributions (where you post resources that will be of value to other participants)"? Yes!

Strategies include giving participants guidelines for participating in the discussion. Here are the guidelines I have given my students (adults returning to college) to get started:

Discussion Guidelines

While we establish the course and the discussion, please post at least 6 messages per week: two original messages, two replies to someone else, and two responses to others' replies. In this way we’ll develop an ongoing discussion with everyone participating and taking responsibility for the learning of the community. Your messages should be “substantive” using the checklist below. You don’t have to be able to check every box on the list, but you should be able to check at least 2 out of 3 on the original messages and 2 out of 5 on the replies. Your messages will probably need to be at least 4 or 5 sentences long. (Please feel free to add shorter replies, notes, or questions as well).

You can use this checklist to evaluate your own contributions before you click on “post.”

Original messages

  • I have summarized the key ideas in a reading or group of readings and

stated what they mean to me (my opinion and the reasons for it)

  • I have discussed or given examples of how the key ideas apply to me or why they don’t
  • I have discussed how this reading connects to others

Replies to other messages

  • I have re-stated the author’s point in my own words
  • I have given reasons or examples of my own for agreeing or disagreeing

with the author’s point

  • I have added to the original idea with my own reasons, evidence, or

examples

  • I have shown another way to look at the issue being discussed
  • I have asked a clarifying question

I combine this with other strategies, and I'm always learning how to do better at facilitation, but I've found that having some guidelines is helpful to students and helps make the discussion central to the course.

Eileen


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1262] Re: Fwd: Online PD
From: Bonnie Odiorne (bonniesophia_at_adelphia.net)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 17:34:58 EST

I agree that initially "face to face is the only way to reach" a new technology user, to allay his/her fears, to learn how to think sequentially to perform basic functions, AND to relate the technology to their learning by doing basic computer-related tasks. By this I don't mean doing learning software, but the basic nitty gritty of learning a computer as a way of learning o r reinforcing the learning of reading/English/spelling/writing/math by adding the kinesthetic/visual modality that technology affords. Yes, the purely technological questions can throw one off the course as they struggle over that, but that, too, is learning. Once they've achieved a degree of proficiency I have them e-mail me, send attachments of completed lessons. We make sure we have some fun time, and do material related to students' needs and interests in addition to ABE/ESL and employment readiness. But the distance learning can't take place without a lot of teacher interaction (assuming the basic technology proficiency has been gained) via e-mail, or my online comments on assignments in Workplace Essential Skills. I'll send them attachments with corrections/questions. References to other websites for grammar or other skills questions. Reinforce learning with video when in class. Just giving a student a day's worth of computer training and expecting them to be a distance learner is unrealistic. And I've also liked using online classroom communities as a resource (communityzero before they started to charge). I haven't used blackboard myself for this, but I'd like to learn how. Does Blackboard itself have an online training for teachers?

Warmest Regards,
Bonnie Odiorne Ph.D
Program Faciliator
Working Smart
Computers 4 Kids
Silas Bronson Library Information Technology Center
Waterbury, CT
Integrating Technology, ABE and ESL Instruction


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1270] Re: Online PD
From: David Rosen (djrosen_at_comcast.net)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 12:14:49 EST

NIFL-AALPD Colleagues

Nickie Askov wrote:

Penn State's Adult Education Program has been doing credit-based distance education (M.Ed.) for at least 15 years, starting with audioconferencing, then videoconferencing, and now online through Penn State's World Campus <www.worldcampus.psu.edu>. We now offer the M.Ed. in Adult Ed. <www.worldcampus.psu.edu/pub/adted/> as well as the Certificate in Family Literacy <www.worldcampus.psu.edu/pub/famlt/>, both completely online. In this unique kind of professional development, because many people want the courses to apply to a master's or bachelor's degree, retention has not been a problem. In other words, they have a clear purpose in registering for the courses. Our discussion boards are lively, centered around the issues in the courses. About half of our assignments are done as group projects so that online "learning communities" truly do develop. As an instructor, it has been very rewarding for me to have been teaching online since January 2000. I feel that I know my online students just as well (if not better) than my face-to-face students.

I wonder if others have found, as Nickie suggests, that a key to retention in online adult education PD (more than a short online course or module) is enrollment in a tuition-bearing course which leads to credit, CEU's and/or a degree.

Nickie has partially answered my earlier question about what helps to build interactivity: effective discussion boards and projects. Anything else, Nickie? And can you tell us what else is effective in building online "learning communities" and what a successful online learning community looks like?

Thanks.

David

David J. Rosen
djrosen_at_comcast.net


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1286] Re: Online PD
From: Eunice Askov (ena1_at_psu.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 15:28:47 EST

Hi, David! In response to your question ("... what helps to build interactivity: effective discussion boards and projects. And can you tell us what else is effective in building online "learning communities" and what a successful online learning community looks like?"), I'll tell you what we do at Penn State in our World Campus courses. During the first week of the course (orientation), students are asked to create a very simple home page using a template. They are also asked to post a riddle on the "Introductions" discussion board about themselves (to be answered only by looking at their home page). This activity seems to loosen up the atmosphere and to get the students to look at each other's home pages. They start noticing commonalities of hobbies, etc.

After about a week into the course, I ask students if they have preferences for group membership. When the online groups are established, they are given specific tasks to perform as a group. They know that they are given the same grade as their group projects so they each have a vested interest in the group's performance. Each group is given a private discussion board (not available to the rest of the class) for their group work, or they may communicate by the course email and chat systems. (I have found that chat does not generally work well with the entire class. However, at the beginning of a course I hold "office hours" occasionally in a chat room so that students can ask questions. We then post the chat logs so the entire group can read them.)

What stimulates the development of online learning communities? I think it is having a common task that about 5 people are asked to do. The task should be "problem-based," requiring thinking and reflection. (If it's too easy, they won't work together. For example, one group task in my research course is to design an evaluation strategy given a workplace literacy scenario.) They are supposed to trade off leadership of the group for the various assignments. An effective online group is one that does work together with everyone participating to produce a thoughtfully developed product. Every semester I get the comment in evaluations that they expected to learn from the instructor, but they did not expect to learn so much from each other.

I like the checklist that someone recently posted for participants to ask themselves in posting to a discussion board. (I will use that in the future.) I usually tell students to post only if they have something new or different to say. If I see a student posting, "I agree with So-and-so," I send that student a private email reminding him/her of the ground rules for posting. Students are evaluated for the quality and quantity of their postings on team and general discussion boards. I weigh participation very heavily in assigning grades because it is the only way to know how and what the student is learning in an online course. I see my major role in the course, in addition to evaluating individual and group assignments and participation, as stimulating thoughtful discussions. I often post a question to elicit further depth in a discussion. Often some of the students will do the same!

These strategies may work only in credit-based courses. I have never taught in any other type of online professional development. Maybe Jere Johnston will add to these remarks. Nickie Askov


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1297] Re: Online PD
From: Beth Wheeler (bwheeler_at_sbctc.ctc.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 19:49:03 EST

nickie, thank you for your some great ideas to build the online "learning community". it is encouraging to hear someone with your experience state you feel you know your online students as well as you get to know your students face-to-face.

beth wheeler
office of adult literacy
washington state


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1327] Belated into - LONG
From: Duren Thompson (solveig@utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:22:02 EDT

Hello everyone, as an invited guest, I greatly apologize for my tardiness in participating in this discussion. My life and work interfered with my being able to respond until today. I am, therefore, an excellent example of some of the "factors" in online professional development.  ;)

I have - all in one go - read all of the postings for this event in just this past hour. I will begin by addressing Jackie's initial questions to guests and then respond individually to a (large) number of folks' posts from the past week. Again I apologize for the "sudden flurry" of e-mails, but this is the best time for *me* to share and build.

I work for the Center for Literacy Studies in Tennessee. The Center houses a number of grants from around the country, including the Southern LINCS Regional Technology Center, the EFF Training Center, and the EFF Assessment Consortium, as well as the Workforce, Learning Disabilities, and Program Leadership Special Collections. In addition, we hold two grants within Tennessee to provide professional development for all Tennessee AE practitioners, including those participating in our welfare-to-work system through the Department of Human Services (which we call Families First). I am entirely funded by the AE "state office" grant - my focus is on TN professional development and infrastructure support as it interacts with technology. (Yea, that's kind of broad - but I have *great* co-workers like Jackie to help untangle knots!)

When I was hired in 2000, development of online professional development was already on the scope of work for the year. (I'm still checking into the history - whose idea was it? Who was our "champion?") Sandra Fugate and I, along with our director Connie White, immediately plunged into research as to what was already out there - what software/delivery system should we use? Who is already doing online PD? What's working? What's not? We attended a Florida Tech conference, called dozens of state directors, spent hours on the internet and demo'd several types of learning platforms. We were incredibly fortunate to be able to draw on the work from Florida (Thanks Deb!), IDEAL, Kentucky, PBS/LiteracyLink, West Virginia, the PD Toolkit, etc.

Prior to this work on Online Professional Development, CLS in TN had been involved in quite a bit of "informal" PD via discussion lists and web sites. Within the state, my predecessors had been working to assist practitioners to integrate technology into the classroom as well as their own professional activities. Immediately prior to my coming on board, the state AE director ceased communicating with individual AE program directors via paper - he insisted they all have e-mail accounts and chose to communicate with them only via e-mail. As a state, we had been working with practitioners on creating their own web pages, gaining access to e-mail for instructors, and integrating LINCS and other web resources into the AE classroom. This helped to set a "base" for what we wanted to do.

Like many, I believe we reached out to online PD as a way of overcoming barriers like travel, time, money, etc. Also - it was the "in thing." We *literally* started out with "Let's offer an online course. - OK, what content will we cover ?Hmm... anything our practitioners want or need will *do.*" We were *convinced* that the course HAD to be free to practitioners. We did NOT want to them to have to pay for course hours. We had a pretty limited budget - like $5000 - so we weren't really in a position to *buy* fancy courseware - we would have to "rent" it from the University or other organization. Eventually we found a source within the University of Tennessee - the College of Outreach and Continuing Education (whose job is to do distance Ed and non-traditional courses - go figure) - who would let us use their BlackBoard server for $300/course - limit of 30 "students, and only the Instructor could ask for tech support (the learners would have to call us.) Connie was a *BIG* supporter of not re-inventing the wheel and strongly encouraged us to "buy" or "borrow" an existing course from someone else. We actually talked with Florida, West Virginia, and PBS about "renting" or using thier courses - even their facilitators. But the more Sandra and I researched, the more we found that the courses out there weren't really geared for our TN practitioners needs OR they weren't what we were finding was considered the most effective online learning methods.

Eventually we decided to use a "version" of Florida's Online courses that went along with their Handbook for Adult Education. They were very generous in letting us "grab" all their content and then play with it. But we wanted to put it in Blackboard. And we wanted to have it cover more hours/content. And we wanted it to be more interactive - we wanted it to be an opportunity for practitioners to network - they always complained that they never got to talk with one another. We also wanted to integrate a "hands-on" component. A "go try it out in your class/with your learners and then come back and tell us what you thought" piece.

We decided to turn one of Florida's 5 hour "independent" courses into a 12-hour facilitated, cohort-based, course over 6 weeks. In theory "2 hours of work per week." AND (because of our brand-new develop-at-the-same-time AE Professional Development points system) the course could not require much more of learners than a "face to face" professional development workshop (where all you have to do is sit and listen and or participate in discussion groups.) No grades. No "tests." No "evaluation" of writings, discourse, or discussion for "quality." With the state office's assistance we determined that the only thing required was "completing" ALL assignments - which meant mostly that they had to *say something* related to what they had read in, or done with, the course material. If you didn't complete all the assignments, you didn't complete the course, and didn't get "points" or a completion certificate.

We spend hours - HOURS - developing content and putting it in Blackboard. We had the option of hiring a consultant to put the content in BlackBoard for us, but at the last minute, determined that it was going to be about as much work to type up the content and give it to them as it was to put it in BlackBoard ourselves. So Sandra and I became course developers, learned html, Blackboard, and online facilitation all at once. While the "out of pocket" cost was only $300 to the Center, the man hours were pretty extensive (but we're *much* better and faster at it now!)

We too, thought that the face-to-face component, a chance to meet each other, build community, and learn the software was critical to success. We "advertised" the course via our statewide discussion lists prior to a large training event in July and then had an *after hours* training session (instructors stayed beyond the end of the conference an extra hour for two days in a row in order to be the first to participate in online PD). We had 28 folks in our first class. Sandra and I were co-facilitators. Boy, did we learn on the fly. There were times when I was updating course content and structure hours before we "released it" to the learners - based on what we had learned in the first few weeks.

Our director, Connie, again ever pushing us to try new things, asked us to offer the course again in September - with a facilitator who had not been involved in the development - Jackie. (Allowing us to research "What is it like to be "handed a course to facilitate?" "How do you "train" a course facilitator?" "What is the role of the "Technical Support" person vs. the content facilitator?") And then Connie asked us to hold the course again in January (2002) without the face-to face component. We learned more - "How do we handle "registration." "When is someone "dropped." "How do you write "step-by-step directions?" "How much tech support will they need?" Next we challenged ourselves to develop a new course (again based on one of Florida's 5 hour components) - but this time we wanted to integrate collaboration - group work. We're still working on making that work smoothly. (We've been most successful with *pairs* rather than groups.)

In year two Connie had a new challenge - offer the same two courses 3 times each in the year (meaning that there really wasn't any month in the year when there wasn't an online course going on) AND limit facilitators to one - not two - AND train a facilitator in the new course, as well as a new person in the "old course." Year two had much lower participation rates. We began to ask if online courses were really only for "tech" folks - early adopters. We cancelled on course for lack of interest. We began to look at our data to determine the best times in the year to offer courses. But, we had also attracted the attention of our co-workers here at the Center. *They* wanted to develop courses too.

This has been year 3 so far. This year we offered the "old" courses one time each - with healthy attendance in each session (22 out of 28 completed the January' 2004 session) and Gail Cope developed with Donna Curry a new "hybrid" course for the TN EFF statewide implementation. Practitioners attended a fall all-day workshop and then participated in a 4 week/8 hour course in January or February. So we "trained" two new "developers." They developed their course around a single web site - the EFF Teaching/Learning Toolkit. They also "pioneered" two new things - larger class sizes - 50 learners in each session - to start - and "required" attendance. Practitioners were told at the Fall workshop that they *would* be participating in a spring online course and when they would participate. We are still processing all the "things learned" from that one (Gail and I talked *today* in fact.).

Lastly, so far this year, we created another new course and, at the same time, are trying out a new online learning tool - "The Learning Manager (TLM)." Based on practitioner request, we knew that our new course was going to be on learning disabilities in AE. Again, Connie encouraged us to not re-invent the wheel - but we were unable to find any online courses already developed addressing this topic. Thus again, something new, we converted a text - "Keys to Effective LD Teaching Practice" (Based on Bridges) - into an online course, drawing on the wealth of resources in the LINCS Learning Disabilities Special Collection and using a similar framework to the previous two courses (the EFF courses loosely use it as well.) As Blackboard has changed its pricing scheme and is not necessarily advancing with new SCORM-compliant technologies, we partnered with the MidWest and Southern LINCS RTCS to investigate other options. NIFL too, wanted a "central" place to collect AE online courses so *everyone* could share. Again, budget was a factor and after some pretty detailed analysis, the two LINCS RTC's invested in TLM. It was fully installed 2 weeks before the course was scheduled to start in March. I'm facilitating 26 practitioners, learning the new software, and molding a new course - as we speak. Sorry I was late to class - I've been busy!

Gad! This is long. I'll put an overview of the "stuff" we've learned in another e-mail.

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies
University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1363] PD from a tech geek's perspective (long)
From: Steve Linberg (steve_at_silicongoblin.com)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 14:13:27 EDT

Hello everyone.

First off, my apologies for arriving so late to the discussion. I'll spare you the tearful details of the sudden and unexpected crush of emergency work that landed on me last week, other than to say that I'm shaking it off today and hoping it's not too late to contribute.

To those I don't know, my VERY BRIEF background is that I'm a computer programmer who fell into adult literacy by accident about 10 years ago; I taught ABE for a few years before returning to the technical side of the field, doing programming and development mostly still in the adult education arena. I built LiteracyLink for PBS with Jennifer Elmore and other NCAL staff in the late '90s, and have been running my "Technology Helping Literacy" portal site LiteracyTent (http://literacytent.org) for a few years now and working on various other technology-related projects.

PD is relevant to a lot of the work I've done over the past 5 years; as some of you know, LiteracyLink initially contained an online course system for professional development, and we ran a few dozen courses over the years. Since I designed and built the system from the technical perspective, I'm intimately acquainted with the issues involved in providing such a service from the developer angle. The LiteracyLink courses were an early offering in the field of online PD for adult educators, and it was clearly defined as a content DELIVERY system, but not a content DEVELOPMENT system. In other words, it was not a system for teachers to CREATE courses on; they picked from a menu of predeveloped courses facilitated by NCAL staff. It had an internal, web-based mail system and a portfolio structure for interaction between teachers and facilitators.

A later project, PDK, amplified the portfolio structure and included threaded discussions as part of a more project-based PD system, an alternative to the "online course" model.

Last year, I began to build a new online course system of my own from scratch, following on my experiences with the above projects and feedback from professional developers about what they felt were shortcomings of the available commercial systems like Blackboard and Community Zero and so forth. It's a great deal of work to build such a system from the ground up, particularly working alone, and I got it to a rough prototype / proof-of-concept stage before having to reluctantly set it aside to focus on paying work. One of the interests I have in following this discussion is trying to get a sense of how satisfied people are with the commercial systems for online courses/PD at this point, and whether I should dust the project off and do another round on it, or retire it if it isn't needed.

My own issues and concerns with the available systems include the following:

1. Feature sets

Designing a system for user friendliness, power and flexibility is a real challenge, and a difficult set of goals to balance. Extremely simple systems can be easy to use, but might not be powerful enough for advanced users' needs. Powerful systems can be famously difficult to get running and have prohibitive learning curves. This is a generic tradeoff that applies almost everywhere, of course, but is no less important in technology.

Put very simply, how easy to use are the powerful systems? How powerful are the easy-to-use systems? Is there a satisfactory balance? Are there any that excel at both?

2. Accessibility

Those of you who know me are probably tired of hearing me bang this drum, but accessibility to online materials has been one of the most important themes in my work since the beginning. For example, I pushed very hard with LiteracyLink to make sure that every single page in the site (over 4,000 pages when we handed it over to KET) was valid HTML and met all of the Bobby standards for accessibility to users with disabilities, meaning that there were text transcripts of videos for the hearing-impaired (or for people whose systems couldn't access video, which is less of an issue today but was important when the site was being developed), descriptions of images for users with visual disabilities, no reliance on color for meaning (for colorblind users) and so forth. It took a huge amount of work to be sure we consistently covered all of those bases, and I saw very few other systems that attempted that level of accessibility. I don't get the sense that there have been gigantic improvements today, but I'm probably a little out of touch with very recent developments.

Also falling under the category of accessibility is the issue of multiple platform support. Many of the big systems being deployed today have either instructions or actual feature sets that assume (or require) users using Windows and Internet Explorer, and don't work with other browsers or operating systems. As a longtime advocate of platform neutrality on the internet, this always makes the steam pour from my ears. I myself use Mac OSX and Linux, and hold a very dim view of systems that only work on one platform (usually Windows), or that only provide key functionality under Windows. The whole point of the internet is to join together ALL computers that can speak the TCP/IP protocol (which virtually all do now), and systems that only work on a SUBSET of that only hurt the big picture and fragment the internet instead of strengthening it. I'd better not get started on this tangent - I can feel my blood pressure rising already.  :)

By way of example, I'm currently deploying the Moodle online course system on LiteracyTent for people who want to test it out, and might run it as a service if enough people want to use it. I like that it's open source - that's a gigantic point in its favor from my perspective - and that the data is relatively portable (see my next point). One very big strike AGAINST it in my book is that some of the editing features (for formatting text) only work in Internet Explorer. That alone was almost enough to cause me not to deploy it, but I decided to hold my nose and go ahead with it and let people decide what they thought. It's something I'd like to see fixed, though (and maybe I'll do it myself if I have to).

Supporting multiple languages is another huge piece of the accessibility arena - we don't all speak English, after all. This is an enormously complex area to work in, and requires very good resources and access to quality translators, but I like to keep the picture as wide as possible when thinking about these things.

3. Vendor lock-in

This is another hugely important issue for me. I'm well aware of the fiscal realities involved in deploying an online service of any kind, as I run servers and a mix of free and pay services. Any vendor of any software system has to be concerned with retaining customers, and this is certainly not new or unique to online PD systems. Customer retention strategy generally falls, from my perspective, into two broad categories: loyalty-building and vendor lock-in. A heavily-biased (for me) example of "loyalty-building" might be Apple Computer; if you're not a Mac user yourself, you probably know one or two, and you know that we tend to be rabidly, fanatically loyal followers of the One True Way. This isn't because you can't switch from Mac to Windows if you want to - there aren't any real technical barriers to switching between Mac and Windows in either direction these days. It's because of, generally speaking, overall satisfaction with the experience, rather than being "locked in" and unable to switch if we decided to.

Vendor lock-in, on the other hand, is (sadly) a much more common strategy in businesses of all sorts: making the customer dependent on the service in one way or another. In software, this is usually accomplished by using what is termed "proprietary data formats," meaning that documents created with commercial applications and services are usually created in ways that at least discourage, if not outright prohibit, using other systems to work with them. I've become increasingly alarmed about this in recent years and have begun speaking about it at conferences in a talk I call "Data Persistance (don't let the computers eat your work)." I don't want to get too sidetracked on this very big issue here, but an example of how it plays out for me is that I can't easily read the papers I wrote in college just over 10 years ago, because they were created with an old version of Microsoft Word, and those files can't be read by current versions and there are no translators available. Since the document formats themselves are a trade secret of Microsoft and not open, there's no way to read them and the data is basically lost. I should have saved them as text files back then so I could take them along with me, but I didn't think to. (Note to fellow techies: yes, I do actually have a method for retrieving them since I happen to collect old computers; I can do a complex daisy-chain of moving the documents forward in small steps on older machines, from diskettes to LANs to CDs and so forth, but I haven't bothered to set it all up yet, and this would be a good way past most non-tech-geek users' capacities or interests).

Put more simply and bringing it back to PD, how portable are the courses developed on the big systems? If you build a course on Blackboard, can you export it to Community Zero (beyond a manual process of a lot of cutting and pasting and hoping the structures are roughly compatible)? Do any of the available systems, for example, follow the SCORM [1] standards for data neutrality? When I last looked, I couldn't find any that did, but maybe in the past year or so some have started to. You could argue that it isn't in the interest of a business selling access to an online course system to make it easy for people to leave and take their courses somewhere else, but maybe the situation has improved since the last time I looked.

[1] SCORM (Sharable Course Object Reference Model) is a proposed standard for course structures - SCORM-compatible courses should theoretically be portable between any systems that support it. Read more at <http://www.adlnet.org/>; there's a 3rd-party "cliff's notes" summary at <http://www.rhassociates.com/adl_background.htm>, but I have not personally reviewed this for accuracy (although I have no reason to suspect that it isn't accurate).

It does seem to me that there are many more PD systems available online today than there were even a year ago, and this seems like something of a mixed blessing. For example, a lot of community colleges in my area each have systems deployed of their own, which they encourage/require people to use instead of going to commercial vendors. This is fine in and of itself, but if we have an increasing number of incompatible systems popping up, that will lead to problems down the road (especially given the often very short lifespan of companies providing technical services in the modern economy).

4. Cost

Finally, there's the cost of PD systems. What are the prices like these days? What does it cost to run a course? Nothing? Hundreds? Thousands? Are there per-learner fees? Limits on number of participants? Limits on data storage? Unlimited in every capacity?

The system I was designing and building, of course, would seek to "score high" on all four of these issues: in other words, be

1. Powerful and friendly for new and "power" users alike
2. Accessible to everybody and all platforms
3. Standards-compliant with no "vendor lock-in", so people could easily take their courses elsewhere if they wanted to switch platforms
4. Affordable (but sadly not free, unless people either want to fund

development or be bombarded by flashing ads at every turn once it's running)

I have just enough hubris as a programmer to tackle a project with such lofty goals and a reasonable expectation of success, and just enough common sense to realize that doing so is a huge amount of work. The prototype as I left it was on a good enough foundation that I have confidence it could be continued, but it would not be something I'd enter into lightly - and it may very well be that there are platforms out there now that are satisfactory enough (is that redundant?) that it wouldn't be worth doing, which would also be fine because it would free me up to think about other problems.  :)

In short, I would only resume development on my own system if it seemed that there were widely unsatisfactory circumstances still out there in the field today - it is a significant risk for a small business to enter an arena dominated by giants with huge development teams and resources. If there are systems out there today that rate highly in the arenas I outlined, I'm happy to leave it on the shelf and move on to other projects. I can and will also continue to offer open-source systems I can host myself on LiteracyTent, as inexpensive alternatives, if there's interest there.

That's a summary of my own perspective as a technology developer in the PD arena. I will continue to read, with great interest, all of the perspectives on these issues offered in this discussion.

Sorry again for being late,

Steve Linberg

Steve Linberg, Chief Goblin
Silicon Goblin Technologies
http://silicongoblin.com
Be kind. Remember, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1365] RE: PD from a tech geek's perspective (long)
From: Judith Diamond (JDiamond@irc-desplaines.org)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 15:01:51 EDT

Steve and all:

We used Moodle for our online course: The Brain, Memory and Learning. We were very satisfied with it except for the Chat. I won't describe all the technical difficulties, but there were many and it became a very frustrating experience. We were told by tech people outside Moodle that our server was not powerful enough for the Chat. So maybe others would not have the same problem.

Judith Diamond
Adult Learning Resource Center


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1366] Re: Moodle - from a tech geek's perspective
From: Marian Thacher (mthacher_at_otan.us)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 15:24:33 EDT

I heard *a lot* about Moodle at TESOL. I talked to instructors from a variety of places (San Jose State University, Alliant University in Irvine, CA. someone who teaches for the UN, and a university in Texas) who were using it and were very enthusiastic about it. I started investigating us being able to use it for adult ed in California because it's *free*! I encountered resistance re the cost of the server to run it, and that they didn't like the programming it uses (MySQL?) and didn't want to have to support it.

I gather from Judith's post that maybe server space and speed is an important issue. Steve, can you comment on that?

And, is anyone else using Moodle and what do you think of it? The fact that it's free is a big plus in my book. It would really level the playing field for the smaller adult ed programs, of which we have many, that couldn't afford their own Blackboard server or whatever. It would mean that any adult ed teacher could either put their course online or create online support for their existing course, if it works. But that's the big question - does it work??

Marian Thacher
OTAN

nifl-aalpd@nifl.gov (Steve Linberg) writes: <snip>

”By way of example, I'm currently deploying the Moodle online course system on LiteracyTent for people who want to test it out, and might run it as a service if enough people want to use it. I like that it's open source - that's a gigantic point in its favor from my perspective - and that the data is relatively portable (see my next point). One very big strike AGAINST it in my book is that some of the editing features (for formatting text) only work in Internet Explorer. That alone was almost enough to cause me not to deploy it, but I decided to hold my nose and go ahead with it and let people decide what they thought. It's something I'd like to see fixed, though (and maybe I'll do it myself if I have to).”

Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1367] Re: Moodle - from a tech geek's perspective
From: Steve Linberg (steve_at_silicongoblin.com)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 15:57:25 EDT

On Apr 7, 2004, at 3:23 PM, Marian Thacher wrote:

”I heard *a lot* about Moodle at TESOL. I talked to instructors from a variety of places (San Jose State University, Alliant University in Irvine, CA. someone who teaches for the UN, and a university in Texas) who were using it and were very enthusiastic about it. I started investigating us being able to use it for adult ed in California because it's *free*! I encountered resistance re the cost of the server to run it, and that they didn't like the programming it uses (MySQL?) and didn't want to have to support it.
I gather from Judith's post that maybe server space and speed is an important issue. Steve, can you comment on that?”

Sure can - and I actually see now that Moodle is up to version 1.2, which features an "improved and more cross-platform WYSIWYG editor" among other things - which sounds like good news. I'll upgrade the test version I'm running on LiteracyTent shortly.

As far as server features and capacity go, it is certainly important to run it on a good backbone. MySQL is the database backend; it's actually written in PHP, a language used for a lot of web applications. It's not my favorite language personally (I'm much more of a Perl hacker), but it's simple to use and work with. I have no problem supporting it on my own servers, I'm perfectly comfortable with PHP and MySQL. (I use MySQL extensively for many other projects I do as well, so everything is already in place.)

I haven't experimented with the chat feature Judith was encountering problems with, so I'm not sure what the technical limitations were, but I would be very surprised if my own servers couldn't handle it (unless it involved some kind of proprietary module that wasn't compatible or didn't run on Linux). I'll kick the tires and give it a try.

My hunch is that if you have computers you can run in a server capacity at a local center, and someone with the expertise to set it up, you could probably run it yourself if you're reasonably tech-savvy; I set up a test version on my powerbook running OSX without too much trouble. However, if you want to make courses available to people outside your center, you definitely want to be running it on a "serious" server with a solid infrastructure (speed, fail-safe network, data backups, and so forth) and good maintenance people. I can certainly provide this myself on LiteracyTent, and certainly other people administering servers can too if they want to. That's the beauty of open source!  :)

”And, is anyone else using Moodle and what do you think of it? The fact that it's free is a big plus in my book. It would really level the playing field for the smaller adult ed programs, of which we have many, that couldn't afford their own Blackboard server or whatever. It would mean that any adult ed teacher could either put their course online or create online support for their existing course, if it works.”

I agree that that's a gigantic plus. Again, if I were going to run Moodle as a service on LiteracyTent, I would want to do so as affordably as possible - and the fact that Moodle itself is free helps a great deal - but there's still cost to me as a service provider for bandwidth, power, and my own maintenance, so there would have to be at least a cost-covering course fee to make it possible for me to do. I can't see that it would be very high, in all probability, but I'd have to look at the demands it makes on the system overall and come up with some reasonable figure. I'll wait until a consensus builds that it's useful or not before worrying too much about what it would need to cost.

”But that's the big question - does it work??”

That's what I want to know from all of you! :)

Again, if anybody wants to try it out and missed the earlier discussions about it here, please feel free to access it on LiteracyTent and play in the sandbox, as it were. Please don't distribute this information outside the field - I don't want the whole world coming to my server and kicking up dirt - but any adult educators are welcome to try it out and decide for themselves what they think. Note that creating a course requires a privilege level higher than what you get as a default when you sign up, so if you want to try it, create your account, and then email me your username and I'll give you the higher privileges you need. Note again that this is really a test deployment - don't run a "live" course on it at this point, all of the data in it will go "poof" at some point.

The site is at <http://moodle.literacytent.org> Use the username and password "ltmoodle" to get to the site, and then register an account and go crazy. :)

- Steve

PS. I will probably take it down briefly today or tomorrow so I can upgrade the system to the new release, and we can look at the new features.


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1369] Re: Moodle - from a tech geek's perspective
From: mcnutt (mcnutt_at_utk.edu)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 16:48:19 EDT

I can't speak to Moodle particularly, but I've been in Distance Education for about fifteen years, and *free* is never free. Whenever you use a free product, you have to spend staff time developing in-house expertise to install, maintain, and troubleshoot the product. Support, when it exists, tends to exist either in the form of a user-community, or volunteers in an open-source development group. In either case, you can never get help "right now" when something goes wrong. You are stuck with "post a message in a forum and wait for someone to get back with you." It's simply not a viable model for anything considered a "mission critical" function. Further, all of the end-user training ends up falling on the local system administration. The frustration level tends to be high, adoption low, and long-term viability questionable.

Bill McNutt
Technical Coordinator
Center for Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1370] Re: Moodle - from a tech geek's perspective
From: Steve Linberg (steve@silicongoblin.com)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 17:54:45 EDT

On Apr 7, 2004, at 4:47 PM, mcnutt wrote:

”I can't speak to Moodle particularly, but I've been in Distance Education for about fifteen years, and *free* is never free. Whenever you use a free product, you have to spend staff time developing in-house expertise to install, maintain, and troubleshoot the product.”

Yes, exactly correct. There's no such thing as free unless you do it yourself, and even then you have to figure in the cost of your own time.

For me as a service provider, using open source / free software (the two are not exactly the same thing, but that's a different discussion not terribly relevant here) has many advantages, one of which is being able to run services at a substantially lower overall cost, and another of which is being able to modify and customize services written in any programming language I'm comfortable with (and even ones I'm not if I have to :) - but even if everything else were free and my time itself were somehow free, there's still the cost of servers to run the software on, the price of power and physical security, and of course bandwidth, which is usually metered.

So no, there's no such thing as "free" in software or services, it's just a question of how and where the money moves around. People often talk in terms of "Total Cost of Ownership" (or TCO) when discussing such matters. In my experience, the TCO of free software is still substantially lower than for proprietary software, and I personally find it more secure and stable, simply because if if there are problems, they tend to come to light quickly, and if I have to crank open the hood and go in there myself to fix something, I've got everything I need to do so and am limited only by my knowledge, as opposed to having to wait weeks or months for a patch or a service pack from the vendor who welded the hood shut (to use a popular analogy).

”Support, when it exists, tends to exist either in the form of a user-community, or volunteers in an open-source development group. In either case, you can never get help "right now" when something goes wrong. You are stuck with "post a message in a forum and wait for someone to get back with you."

Also true, although the turnaround time can be quite rapid depending on where and how you ask for help. And the usenet archives on Google are almost criminally helpful if you're really stuck on something and don't know where to look or ask. If you're willing to really dig, you can find answers to almost anything. Any problem you're having with technology, the overwhelming likelihood is that someone else has had the exact same problem and asked about it somewhere, and possibly received an answer you can reference.

(It doesn't necessarily mean the solution will be easy to implement, or even up-to-date in a rapidly-changing field, but it sure can be a help in a very right-now sense a lot of the time.)

”It's simply not a viable model for anything considered a "mission critical" function. Further, all of the end-user training ends up falling on the local system administration. The frustration level tends to be high, adoption low, and long-term viability questionable.”

I'd say that you've got to have someone willing to take on the role of solving technical problems, whether it's someone on your staff, or someone you have access to with that job description. You can also get paid support for free software from a variety of sources if you need someone you can call on short notice to fix something. I've worked in that capacity a number of times, doing support/maintenance/customization of open source systems and services running elsewhere.

Steve Linberg, Chief Goblin
Silicon Goblin Technologies
http://silicongoblin.com
Be kind. Remember, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1372] Re: Looking at examples (was Moodle... tech geek)
From: Duren Thompson (solveig@utk.edu)
Date: Fri Apr 09 2004 - 13:22:18 EDT

I realized that it might also help folks if they were able to "look" at the content/structure of a BlackBoard (or any) online course (I know it helps *me*). I am glad to offer ours for perusal. We always set up an "observer" account in our courses so guests - like funders, or coworkers, or other professional developers - can "take a look" at our courses if they'd like. I know of at least one state, Oklahoma, who asked if they could "have" our content. Our state director asked that they credit us and Florida appropriately - but said *sure.* They used the observer account to "get" the content information out of BlackBoard (rather than using BlackBoards's problematic export system).

If you are interested in either of the two courses: GED2002 part 1 - Teacher and Student, or GED2002 Part 2 Teaching Tools, please contact me off list and I'll be happy to arrange for you to "visit." We have the two recent "sessions" of each course you can look through if you wish - with all the learner responses and comments. I'll have to manage access if a lot of folks respond - as we only have one observer login ID and I think there would be problems if a group was all trying to log on using that ID at once.

The Introduction to Learning Disabilities in Adult Education online course is still mid-session - and really still in the "beta" phase in TLM. We will be showing it a bit at COABE. When the course is no longer live, however, I should also be able to offer folks a similar "peek" into that course as well. The Center is still in the planning stages about the TLM server (for example the issue discussed earlier about other agencies being able to use the server and the TLM "learning management platform" to deliver whatever content they wish) - if you *do* have questions, please direct them to jjstephe@utk.edu off list for more detailed info.

Florida's courses and Kentucky's are fairly public - does anyone else have online material (public or "private") that could be "looked at" by folks on this list (or even others not on the list?). I really find that reviewing an array of styles, structures, options, etc. helps me to make design decisions/recommendations.

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies

At 03:57 PM 4/7/2004 -0400, you wrote: [snip]

”Again, if anybody wants to try it out and missed the earlier discussions about it here, please feel free to access it on LiteracyTent and play in the sandbox, as it were. Please don't distribute this information outside the field - I don't want the whole world coming to my server and kicking up dirt - but any adult educators are welcome to try it out and decide for themselves what they think. Note that creating a course requires a privilege level higher than what you get as a default when you sign up, so if you want to try it, create your account, and then email me your username and I'll give you the higher privileges you need. Note again that this is really a test deployment - don't run a "live" course on it at this point, all of the data in it will go "poof" at some point.

The site is at <http://moodle.literacytent.org> Use the username and password "ltmoodle" to get to the site, and then register an account and go crazy. :)

- Steve

PS. I will probably take it down briefly today or tomorrow so I can upgrade the system to the new release, and we can look at the new features.”


Participating Online or at a Distance


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1225] participating online or at a distanceNIFL-AALPD:1225]
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 09:42:45 EST

Hello Everyone! This question is for any/all of us on the list. Our experiences in participating in professional development online are as important as our experiences in developing/delivering online PD. Some may feel it is more important. With that in mind, I cannot think of a better place to start!

What have been your experiences in *participating* in professional development online or at a distance? (Examples include online courses, webcasting, videoconferening, audioconferencing, discussion lists, email, chat sessions, etc.) Why did/do you participate online or at a distance, versus other options?

Please describe the professional development experience(s). What stood out to you? What aspects/features of the online or distance professional development did/do you like or not like? What can be done to improve the learning experience? How do these experiences compare to your experiences with other types of professional development?

Thanks!
Jackie


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1227] Re: participating online or at a distance
From: Art LaChance (arthur_at_ellijay.com)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 10:50:45 EST

I entered adult literacy back in the late 80's. At that point most of us couldn't even spell adult literacy. All we were trying to do was help folks learn to do math better or maybe build up reading and writing skills. The majority of people involved were retired school teachers from local churches or community clubs who had organized volunteer programs. I got involved in response to a friends suggestion that the program needed help. There was no "training". I remember clearly my first day. I walked into the evening classroom and was greeted by an elderly gentleman, husband of the retired school teacher organizer of the church program. He smiled and asked if he could help me and I told him I'd like to volunteer as a tutor. He asked if I had a GED or HS diploma, I told him I had a BS in Occupational Ed. He stepped asided and said "OK, go ahead ", and motioned me into the large room with about 10 students sitting at tables.

At the time the various lists became available via NIFL the only information gathering options were to participate in the limited state provided staff development or somehow get engaged with the higher institutions in some sort of practitioner inquiry project. Staff development consisted primarily of K12 philosophically based curriculum delivery options, while virtually all of the computer based delivery systems were designed for middle school students.

I became interested in the lists mainly as a means of acquiring validation for issues that we were experiencing in the classroom. Issues that violated standard K12 "education" philosophy. What I discovered from discussions on the lists was that a very large proportion of our adult literacy field is locked into that which they know best, or the K12 processes. We are changing, albeit slowly and painfully, to discussion and philosophy that is far more relevant to adult level learning. Additionally, State provided training is gradually adapting over to what is needed vs what is popular.

I guess one could cruise the internet and research applicable self training options but how would one identify that which is relevant? I think most of us rely on administrators to provide training to help improve the efficiency of our efforts.

Art

Art LaChance
Gilmer Learning Center
Ellijay,Ga


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1229] RE: participating online or at a distance
From: Jane Mencer (jmencer_at_famlit.org)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 10:56:12 EST

I have taken, created, and facilitated several online PD courses but would like to talk about one in particular. I recently completed (taking, as a student) an excellent, two-month, online course for instructional designers called Leveraging E-Learning. It was sponsored by Friesen, Kaye and Associates, http://www.fka.com, and taught by Dr. Will Thalheimer of Work-Learning Research, http://www.work-learning.com/. Dr. Thalheimer distilled approximately 1,000 studies on work-learning research into eight key learning factors. The format of the course included required (online) reading and completion of two very relevant projects as well as participation on a discussion board and in several synchronous sessions.

Honestly, why did I take it? I was the lucky door prize winner at an online learning conference this past September. Lucky, I certainly was!

The one negative comment that I have is that the discussion board was, for the most part, a dead zone. My classmates only posted what was required. No real discussion took place though we were encouraged to use it actively to query and learn from each other.

One major point of the course was that e-learning's unique capability is contact with learners over time. This fact, though not always used to its fullest in other e-learning courses with which I have been involved, offers the greatest hope for the effectiveness of this delivery mode. I am a staunch supporter of e-learning but recognize that it is not a magic pill. E-learning, like classroom training, has the potential to be wonderful and effective...or not.

Jane Martel Mencer
Instructional Designer
National Center for Family Literacy
325 West Main Street, Suite 300
Louisville, KY 40202-4237

phone: 502/584-1133 ext 169
fax: 502/584-0172
e-mail: jmencer_at_famlit.org


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1230] RE: participating online or at a distance
From: Beth Wheeler (bwheeler_at_sbctc.ctc.edu)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 11:03:26 EST

hello,
i have participated in one online course that is mandatory for instructors wishing to teach through washington state's two-year distance education system. i approached this course with trepidation - i really like to see folks face-to-face. i was pleasantly surprised to find the camaraderie develop in the discussion boards between "students". as with other f2f courses i've taken, i was sorry to end the relationships developed at a distance. while i would still rather be f2f in a classroom situation, I would not hesitate to enroll in another professional development opportunity online.

beth wheeler


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1238] RE: participating online or at a distance
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 17:15:01 EST

I'm going to try to just answer Jackie's question: What have been your experiences in *participating* in professional development online or at a distance? (Examples include online courses, webcasting, videoconferening, audioconferencing, discussion lists, email, chat sessions, etc.) Why did/do you participate online or at a distance, versus other options?

Upon re-reading the question, I realized I was thinking of professional development as something that had been designed and packaged as professional development. I wasn't really thinking of the informal activities through which I develop professionally. But, having re-adjusted my assumptions (temporarily at least), here goes.

Informal activities produce much greater learning for me than the few formal online experiences where I've been a student. Some of the informal PD includes:

1. Observing, reflecting on, categorizing, and experimenting with what's going on in the online courses I've taught (and writing about those observations etc.)
2. Participating in discussion lists, and then observing, reflecting, categorizing, experimenting... My learning from these goes well beyond the content of the discussions. I think about the changes, or not, in myself and other discussants, and what that means in terms of what I know of adult learning theory, research, and practice. This has helped me learn more about mental models and their roles in how we see the world and how we learn and teach, and about Freire's writings and teachings.
3. E-mail discussions off-list with people I only know through the list. Art LaChance and Debbie Yoho especially helped me learn more about how to participate in the lists, and if I haven't learned everything they've taught me it's my own responsibility.
4. Face-to-face discussions about online learning with others who use the lists or who have participated in online courses.
5. An email exchange I had with a colleague that occurred several years ago and from which I am still learning.

For me, the feature that is probably most important is that I have the autonomy to decide what and how I will learn. The experiences may be beyond my control, but what I put into them, and what I take from them are totally up to me. For example, one of the things I grapple with as I participate in the lists is the question of differences in expectations around how men and women participate. Another is the question of class and professionalization of the field, and yet another is the issue of insider vs. outsider status, who grants it and what it means. None of these is an explicit topic, but they're all ongoing themes in my professional development from participating in online discussions. And I want what and how I learn to be up to me; I think I'm the best judge of it!

Eileen


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1268] Re: participating online or at a distance
From: David Rosen (djrosen_at_comcast.net)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 11:43:57 EST

NIFL-AALPD Colleagues,

Jackie has asked:

"What have been your experiences in *participating* in professional development online or at a distance? (Examples include online courses, webcasting, videoconferening, audioconferencing, discussion lists, email, chat sessions, etc.) Why did/do you participate online or at a distance, versus other options?"
Please describe the professional development experience(s). What stood out to you? What aspects/features of the online or distance professional development did/do you like or not like? What can be done to improve the learning experience? How do these experiences compare to your experiences with other types of professional development?"

I would like to hear from adult education teachers who have participated in professional development online, or at a distance. In the online or distance learning environment what has worked for you, what hasn't?

As an online learner myself one thing that has worked is having a very well organized course. I like the directions to be very clear -- where to go, what to do, how to submit work -- and appreciate redundancy in directions if it makes it easier for me as a learner to find and do things.

I have learned that it is important to pay a lot of attention as a learner to whom the online instruction is designed for (i.e. teachers or administrators or both? Kind(s) and level(s) of class(es) you are teaching. What the objectives of the online staff development are, etc.) Of course, it is important that the online staff developer makes the intended audience(s) and objectives clear.

But what about you? As an online learner, what aspects or features of online learning have you liked/not liked?

David J. Rosen
djrosen_at_comcast.net


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1269] RE: participating online or at a distance
From: David Rosen (djrosen_at_comcast.net)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 11:52:35 EST

NIFL-AALPD Colleagues,

Jane Mencer wrote:

"...the discussion board was, for the most part, a dead zone. My classmates only posted what was required. No real discussion took place though we were encouraged to use it actively to query and learn from each other."

For asynchronous online PD to be interactive a lively discussion board is key. Guests and others: how can an online facilitator make a structured PD course or online module discussion board effective?

Also, what other asynchronous features can make online PD interactive?

David J. Rosen
djrosen_at_comcast.net


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1272] : participating online or at a distance
From: Janet Isserlis (Janet_Isserlis_at_Brown.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 12:23:43 EST

One thing I wonder about, too, is face to face interaction. I was peripherally part of a distance course last spring out of Lancaster, UK, and believe that participants (all within the UK) had an opportunity to meet together at the beginning and end of the course. (If anyone from that course is online, please jump in and correct anything I've mis-understood).

Obviously, face to face meetings aren't possible in many instances, but when we're talking about regional learning, it seems to make sense to bring people together to start building the connections they'll need and want to maintain electronically.

other thoughts?

Janet Isserlis


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1276] RE: participating online or at a distance
From: Mingle, Mary E. H. (MMingle_at_lhup.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 13:17:25 EST

Q: How can an online facilitator make a structured PD course or online module discussion board effective?

Eileen provided some excellent suggestions for structuring discussion in an online course in one of her messages yesterday. In an online learning environment, learning activities need to be described in a very structured and detailed way, including information on expectations for the final result (for example, Eileen recommended instructing participants to: "please post at least 6 messages per week: two original messages, two replies to someone else, and two responses to others' replies"). I know it may seem restrictive to provide so many guidelines and expectations, but knowing these expectations up front will lead to greater benefits to learners. In a classroom setting, the facilitator can interrupt a learning activity to clarify instructions or prompt students to respond more completely. Although an online facilitator can provide these prompts in an asynchronous communication environment, I find we get better results if we are clear from the beginning. If points/grades are awarded for completion of various online learning activities, participants can be awarded points not only for posting a comment, but for responding to others.

Q: What other asynchronous features can make online PD interactive?

Embedded activities are useful. These can be simple multiple choice question and response activities that check the learners understanding of the material by providing instant feedback. No points or grades are assigned; only the learner knows whether he/she has delivered a correct response. Many course management systems include features for grouping participants and allow small groups to communicate with one another by e-mail, a group discussion board, or a live chat (synchronous communication). File sharing features allow participants to upload documents that are viewable by all in the group (for example, participants in a course can share copies of their lessons or forms they use in the day-to-day operation of their programs. Or, participants can engage in individual Web research and share links with one another.


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1278] RE: participating online or at a distance
From: Dlhargrove_at_aol.com
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 13:41:45 EST

David and all,
In response to your question, "For asynchronous online PD to be interactive a lively discussion board is key. Guests and others: how can an online facilitator make a structured PD course or online module discussion board effective?"

One idea that we're tossing around as we begin to edit/create new onPD is the notion of including an activity whereby the online user not only posts their own comments to a particular action/activity/assignment, but also that they choose 2 or 3 other users comments and actively compares and contrasts their comments with those of their own.

We haven't implemented it yet, just something we're thinking about.

Debra

Debra L. Hargrove
Florida TechNet


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1279] Re: participating online or at a distance
From: Dlhargrove_at_aol.com
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 13:46:03 EST

Janet,
I agree with your comment, "Obviously, face to face meetings aren't possible in many instances, but when we're talking about regional learning, it seems to make sense to bring people together to start building the connections they'll need and want to maintain electronically."

With budget cuts at an all time high in our state, many participants are looking to the Internet for their PD...electronic communications has broken the geographic barriers that once separated one adult educator to another. But there's so much more to sharing information than just typing it in a small box. Although not required, I think including a blended learning approach to an on PD can only make it stronger.

Debra Hargrove
Florida TechNet


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1281] RE: participating online or at a distance
From: Aaron Kohring (akohring_at_utk.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 13:58:20 EST

Debra and all,

This technique was used in an ESL instruction course that I participated in at the University of Tennessee. Only part of the class was online- we still had some time in the classroom face-to-face. But the online discussions were very lively as we were asked to respond thoughtfully to at least 3 other postings when making our responses. There were some very good examples of not only comparing and contrasting ideas, but building new knowledge out of that.
Aaron


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1282] Re: : participating online or at a distance
From: Jennifer Elmore (jennifer_atjelmore.com)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 14:28:08 EST

Hi Janet - and all.
I think face-to-face meetings can have a significant impact on the quality of online interaction.

I've facilitated pure distance courses as well as hybrid training experiences (that is, PD involving in-person and distance components). I definitely prefer and recommend the hybrid approach, if at all possible; I'm a big fan of "bookending" online training with face-to-face meetings for the following reason(s).

I feel that in-person time (particularly, a training "kick-off") can help create a foundation for online community. My general sense is that participants enjoy meeting in real time/space. Having the chance to connect with colleagues in a tangible setting seems to facilitate the move into the (perhaps less familiar) virtual arena. I think folks generally feel more secure about participating actively online, if they both know and are committed to their audience.

In a pure distance situation, however, participants do not always "know who's out there." Even if the online course provides space for bios, introductions, etc., a lot of people (in pure distance groups) tend hang back initially because they want to get a sense of the crowd before entering the online fray. The upshot of this is - conversation is slower to get started. This start-up lull can cause some participants lose interest/momentum - which, in turn, can set the stage for sporadic participation overall.

In a nutshell, I think that pure distance training experiences tend to require more from the facilitator, especially at first. S/he bears more of the community-building burden, I think, and must be prepared to actively engage participants - both individually and as a group.

Jennifer


Jennifer Elmore, M.S.Ed
Education Consultant
http://jelmore.com


"One thing I wonder about, too, is face to face interaction. I was peripherally part of a distance course last spring out of Lancaster, UK, and believe that participants (all within the UK) had an opportunity to meet together at the beginning and end of the course. (If anyone from that course is online, please jump in and correct anything I've mis-understood).
Obviously, face to face meetings aren't possible in many instances, but when we're talking about regional learning, it seems to make sense to bring people together to start building the connections they'll need and want to maintain electronically.
other thoughts?
Janet Isserlis

Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1289] Re: : participating online or at a distance
From: Marian Thacher (mthacher_at_otan.us)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 15:45:37 EST

Janet Isserlis wrote:

"Obviously, face to face meetings aren't possible in many instances, but when we're talking about regional learning, it seems to make sense to bring people together to start building the connections they'll need and want to maintain electronically."

I feel that in my work I could be doing a much better job of using online connections this way. In California we are just at the beginning of implementing some online professional development, so I can't comment on that yet, but I am involved in a lot of workshops at conferences and elsewhere, and online communication offers the perfect way to follow-up, report and reflect on implementing strategies in practice, and maintain connections. This happens on an individual basis. I might make a connection with one person who really wants to follow up on something, or I really want to follow up with them, but it certainly doesn't happen for everyone. And maybe that's OK. As someone pointed out (was it Debra?), maybe those who were just coming to get certain information got it (or not). But I would like to be better at offering and encouraging the opportunity for people to stay in touch and follow up with each other. This would have to be very targeted, though, maybe pick one area to focus on for the year. Otherwise it would get too overwhelming or too diffuse.

Marian Thacher
OTAN


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1293] Re: : participating online or at a distance
From: Beth Wheeler (bwheeler_at_sbctc.ctc.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 16:33:40 EST

good afternoon,

washington state abe professional development staff is just dipping toes into the online pd ocean. they have developed and are offering an online new teacher orientation that has been very successful - and has a waiting list of interested participants each quarter. another area they have explored is the blended approach. an initial workshop would take place face-to-face with follow-up activities taking place online. the reception from the field has been less than enthusiastic, but the very issues you mention, Debra, are reasons we are moving toward offering more staff development opportunities online.

beth wheeler
washington state office of adult literacy


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1296] Re: participating online or at a distance
From: Bonnie Odiorne (bonniesophia_at_adelphia.net)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 18:11:33 EST

I'd like to respond to this post, and to the one which asked, in essence, "why do they leave?" In my case it wasn't as much a lack of expertise, or even of interaction, or even a fear of work. It was committing myself to something when I already had a full place, and the "illusion" of online learning is that it's easy and convenient. It isn't always either. The classes that worked for me were more modules; I haven't tried to do anything for credit yet, though I've always been tempted by Penn State's M. Adult Ed. program. The main reason I love distance learning, and would love to teach it, is that I share many of the restrictions of our students: not able to drive, lack of adequate transportation, scheduling a course around part-time jobs. I've found also that the lack of discussion is disturbing, especially in one course where my group members had disappeared. But that's not what I'm looking for, necessarily. i just want information, mostly.

Warmest Regards,
Bonnie Odiorne Ph.D
Program Faciliator
Working Smart
Computers 4 Kids
Silas Bronson Library Information Technology Center
Waterbury, CT
Integrating Technology, ABE and ESL Instruction


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1304] RE: : participating online or at a distance
From: Marie Cora (mariecora@hotmail.com)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 11:10:30 EST

Hi everyone,

Actually, I have to agree with Janet that if at all possible, it might be good for there to be at least one opportunity for participants to get together - and I fully acknowledge that this is not always possible - and it might not even be the point of that interaction (i.e.: developing a distance course exactly BECAUSE folks cannot be face to face.

But my father-in-law, a long-time University Prof in sociology, is now doing a couple types of distance learning - one form in which the participants come together 3 times in 3 different locations of the country - and he does say that this type of DL has been the most successful.

What also jumps to mind for me with the course above is that, as David noted in his reply, this course is tuition-based, credit bearing, etc. But all that said, not all courses can be this way, not all people could participate in this way - so what might be the fate of courses that don't have these 'support structures'?

marie cora


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1316] RE: : participating online or at a distance
From: Jennifer Elmore (jennifer_at_jelmore.com)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 18:54:49 EST

Hi all.
Reponding to Marie's question about the fate of non-tuition-based and non-credit online classes...

The classes that I've developed have generally been free to participants, and they have not involved university credit. (Most participants, however, have been able to secure professional development credit within their organization or region for their work.) Thus, the standard incentives for participation, associated with a tuition-based or credit-bearing course, do not apply to my students.

I try to provide a different kind of "incentive scaffolding" to support participation in free, non-credit courses. Most often, this support structure involves (ironically enough) flexibility as well as attention to participants' immediate and pressing professional dilemmas/questions.

When starting a new course, I try to focus on folks' (other) incentives for participation. Raising the incentives issue actively and early - and revisiting it regularly with the whole group and with individuals - seems to improve retention and ongoing involvement. Here are a few tips that I've found useful:

  • In general, try to make connections between course content and specific issues participants are encountering in their professional lives.
  • When the course commences, invite participants to identify 2-3 key questions (or areas of interest) that they would like to pursue in the course/that they hope this course will resolve.
  • Help participants tailor course activities to more directly address and pursue their questions.
  • Follow up with participants regularly re: their progress in these areas.
  • Suggest additional resources to support participants' investigations.
  • Connect individual participants (whose questions are similar) - in order to build community around "like" issues.

Jennifer

Jennifer Elmore, M.S.Ed.
Education Consultant
http://jelmore.com


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1332] Re: participating online or at a distance
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:26:50 EDT


At 02:27 PM 3/31/2004 -0500, Jennifer Elmore wrote:
[snip]

“In a nutshell, I think that pure distance training experiences tend to require more from the facilitator, especially at first. S/he bears more of the community-building burden, I think, and must be prepared to actively engage participants - both individually and as a group.

Jennifer”


We think this is true as well. I, as a facilitator, work very hard to be a caring, supportive, "nurturer" in an online venue. Sandra and I started with this belief from the very beginning - based on a presentation we heard from an online course facilitator at the University of Florida. He was supporting campus-based courses, and emphasized the real need to be "available" to online learners - for tech support, encouragement, and cheerleading - especially in the critical 1st 1-2 weeks. This is where we drew our "1st week slowly" model from.

I was startled recently on an online evaluation to have someone complain that "The facilitator only talked to me twice during the course - I felt ignored.." (Broke my heart actually. I was upset for days.) Early on Sandra and I found that if *we* responded to everyone's posts - they didn't seem to talk to each other much. *We* were meeting their need for interaction - so we worked to "randomly" respond and encourage conversation amongst participants on the Discussion Boards. This meant that a quiet, uninsightful/average poster could get "lost" in the "randomization." Now I actually keep a list of participant's names by me when I "randomly post" and check mark who I post to. If they haven't heard from me directly in over 2 weeks (nothing they've posted has "moved" me to comment), I deliberately make sure I respond to them to keep them from feeling ignored. Feels silly - like I'm working to be "fair" with small children - but it seems to be important.

Not that I feel we have the whole "encouraging insightful, collaborative interactive on the Discussion Board" thing down by any means - no we regularly fret over it (and I'm taking a number of these cool ideas back with me to try). But these things *do* seem to make a difference in *retention* of AE practitioners in Online courses.

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Listservs and Learning


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1248] listservs and learning
From: jataylor_at_utk.edu
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 11:37:02 EST

Hello everyone ~
Some of us mentioned experiences with discussion lists and professional development. Art, you mentioned that you became involved in NIFL discussion lists primarily “mainly as a means of acquiring validation for issues that we were experiencing in the classroom.” Jean, you noted that you participate in listservs as a means of keeping on the “leading edge” and for your own professional development. I understand both of you to convey a PD need for learning and/or discovery over time, is this correct? Can this need for informal PD be met in any other way?

Eileen, I understand you to say that not only has participation with discussion lists been an ongoing, informal learning experience for you, but one that can transcend the online interaction and has potential for lasting change – can you tell us more about what you mean?

What needs do discussion lists meet that cannot be met by participation in other types of interactive, synchronous or asynchronous forums? If for example, one of the national lists were converted to a different format – like a bulletin board instead of a discussion list, how might our experiences be similar or different? What new needs would be met, and what needs would no longer be addressed?

Lastly, how do our experiences with different types of listservs compare? In other words, are the experiences of subscribers to fully-moderated lists similar or different than open lists? How might these two formats impact the learning experiences in different ways?

Your thoughts?
Jackie


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1250] Re: listservs and learning
From: Chris Francisco (cfranc2@ilstu.edu)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 11:49:51 EST

Jackie and all,

I must stress that "staying connected with practitioners from diverse areas of the country" is very important to me. I find that learning from people outside of my immediate human experience is invaluable. I joined the NIFL listserve for this very reason. I also belong to the Charter School listserv to understand other educational components. These resources are immediate and on-going. Often I am aware of key "action" steps that should be taken. The communication is a vital part of my professional health and growth. Again...they must be relevant and they must be nurtured! Be well...

peace,

Chris


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1253] Re: listservs and learning
From: Eunice Askov (ena1_at_psu.edu)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 12:32:16 EST

Jackie, to address your questions in the third paragraph below, discussion boards (bulletin boards) have the advantage of being threaded--that is, people add their comments under a specific topic. In our online classes through Penn State's World Campus we set up separate discussion boards for each topic. Students learn to post to the appropriate bulletin board. I have been amazed at the thought that goes into these postings. Discussion boards encourage us all to think about a topic before making a post. That's what I like about the asynchronous nature because it encourages us to think about what we want to say and encourages learning to take place.

Listservs, on the other hand, seem to be more informal and spontaneous (conversational). One problem with listservs is their disjointed nature due to multiple threads or topics. Often an interesting topic is lost because someone else jumps in with a new issue. As Jere pointed out, a good facilitator (like Jackie) can really encourage thoughtful responses, but most of the NIFL listservs are moderated by volunteers who really don't have the time that it requires to moderate a listserv discussion. Moderated lists, however, can function much like discussion boards as long as the conversation builds in some coherent way. Nickie Askov


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1258] Re: listservs and learning
From: Art LaChance (arthur_at_ellijay.com)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 14:32:18 EST

Jackie,
I think Professional Development - and wonder exactly what does it mean. Improve my ability to deliver services ? That's where I go. Then what is involved with that. What process can get me there. It reminds me of a statement that I heard one time from somewhere that it doesn't matter what you deliver as much as how you deliver it. So training in curriculum delivery or how to fill out paperwork or how to do research or replication of the processes that obviously didn't work for these now adult students confounds our whole process. What I see is a desperate need for cross training from other fields - medical - psychological - rehabilitation – etc into the makeup of an adult who is economically and emotionally depressed due primarily to their lack of education, and how to make effective contact with them to a degree that would enable us to actually propel them into their future.

That's what I'd like to see happen. Cross discipline. Intense awareness activities. Within our capability of understanding the associated jargon.

art


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1259] Re: listservs and learning
From: Chris Francisco (cfranc2@ilstu.edu)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 14:58:19 EST

Art and all,

I know that this discussion centers itself on "professional development" for teachers but must relate some of my remarks to student distance learning experiences. Art brings up some very important issues in his post relating to the why, what, how, and when does distance learning create opportunities for performance improvement. He mentioned the importance of "cross-training" and how this could and should facilitate learner outcomes.

In Illinois we have spent more than three years developing an online, interactive, web-based GED training system, GED-Illinois, for students. This system has gone through extensive field testing and is currently being used by students across our state. Many of you know the vast geographic area of Illinois. We have urban centers, suburban centers, and vast rural regions with students living far from the nearest adult education program. Distance learning can bridge these distances and make accessibility much easier. We all know about the barrier that transportation needs can create for many of our adult students.

In building this system several partners joined the process. We recognized the need for "cross-training" for our One Stop Center employees as the system is offered in these employment centers. Further we recognized that other partners such as the Illinois Secretary of State Office would need an understanding of the system in order to assist their clients at local libraries. In the past two years this training commitment has made a real difference for not only students but the many various service providers. Technology is a core literacy component of our society. Building technology understanding into adult education classes benefits students in their quest for life long learning. We have many "free" points of access to the Internet that many students can use. I wish that I could say all students can access. The digital divide is still a dramatic reality. I will say that Community Technology Centers and Community Libraries are making a profound difference.

peace,

Chris


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1260] Re: listservs and learning
From: Bonnie Odiorne (bonniesophia_at_adelphia.net)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 16:54:31 EST

Yes! I agree. My own small program has seen a significant increase in mental-health-related problems, ranging from Traumatic Brain Injury to those on disability due to depression or other diagnosed mental illnesses. Those who weren't "diagnosed" often were unable to learn because of emotional issues. I did have a PD session, NOT to have the teacher act as a therapist, but to be able to recognize the behaviors, to know some of the difficulties that much of the population have (i.e. reaction to medication), the need for a safe environment, structure; the "stigma" of mental illness). I've had some good success. But I agree there needs to be much more. Many of my friends tell me that what I do sounds more like social work than teaching, and often that's true. But I have a style that chooses to take these kinds of difficulties into account relatively openly (depending on the disclosure desires of the students) and incorporate them into the learning process, to have students reflect on their learning in relation to how they might reflect on their illness, reactions to stress being the major indicator. I did get some indications on how to deal with disruptive behaviors, to negotiate those with the rest of the class, attempting to set clear ground rules and boundaries. If I were one to address skills acquisition above all, I doubt whether these students would (some might say should) remain in my class. If my program is not ready/able/willing to teach, where do they go? I am dealing now with someone who baffles me: when I manage to engage him (which takes a great deal of prodding and a more "authoritarian" stance than I'd like, he responds; if I leave him on his own, he loses track, focus, stares out the window etc. I'm not in any position to "diagnose" him. So what do I do? This is perhaps off the track here, but as you said, we need intense awareness and cross training. I prefer to try to reach the "forgotten," and not to dismiss students because they "don't want to learn," "have too many problems," "always make excuses," etc. Any of which might always be true, of course...

Warmest Regards,
Bonnie Odiorne Ph.D
Program Facilitator
Working Smart
Computers 4 Kids
Silas Bronson Library Information Technology Center
Waterbury, CT
Integrating Technology, ABE and ESL Instruction


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1261] Re: listservs and learning
From: Bonnie Odiorne (bonniesophia@adelphia.net)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 17:05:25 EST

I should have added to my last post that, in fact, our program is in a library technology center,and that some students, in part because of mental health issues that prevent them from regularly attending and functioning well in a classroom setting, do become distance learners. The catch 22 happens that they first need some class time to gain the proficiency necessary to do this, and they might not be able to sustain that. In addition, the regular technology center has trainers that serve the entire city population, and adhere to a traditional IT training model, i.e. having a pre-set sequence, not assessing trainees' needs, or really taking into consideration proficiency deficiencies. In the words of one trainer, every training can't be computer 101. And computer 101 is overenrolled and, again, not exactly profiled to the needs of some learners for a slower-paced environment. Yes, the digital divide is still there, and while technology centers can make a dramatic change in regard to accesibility, the same barriers still apply, at least here, as they always have. Which does not make for a conflict-free working environment, in terms of who we enroll, how they're viewed, and outside unverified opinions about our "effectiveness."

Warmest Regards,
Bonnie Odiorne Ph.D
Program Faciliator
Working Smart
Computers 4 Kids
Silas Bronson Library Information Technology Center
Waterbury, CT
Integrating Technology, ABE and ESL Instruction


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1263] Re: listservs and learning
From: Dlhargrove@aol.com
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 17:51:14 EST

Group,
In regards to Jackie's questions regarding discussion lists:

"What needs do discussion lists meet that cannot be met by participation in other types of interactive, synchronous or asynchronous forums?"

As others have mentioned, the usefulness of discussion lists will vary from user to user. I am subscribed to a number of the NIFL lists, but use them primarily to see what others are doing in my field. In some instances, the subject doesn't mean as much to me as others and for those, I merely pass them by. But there are many cases where colleagues use the lists to share information and guidance on tons of issues. I may not contribute alot, but I sure get alot of information. Discussion lists come to us, through email... we don't have to go looking for the dialogue. But, as a result... we all can have 20-30 emails a day just from the list! Having access to a online bulletin board doesn't clog up our emails and allows us the opportunity to see a succession of messages or threads.

I feel like I'm rambling on here, but I think there's value in both forms of communication. It would be nice to be able to go to a bulletin board and see how a particular topic has evolved over a period of time, problem is... I'm not sure I'd go there as often as I read the messages on the discussion lists.

How do others feel?

Debra

Debra L.Hargrove, Ed.D
Technology Coordinator
Florida TechNet
www.floridatechnet.org


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1264] Re: listservs and learning
From: Christy Nelson (cnelson_at_nwm.cog.mi.us)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 18:28:24 EST

Good points Deb. I also "lurk" on many discussion lists and bulletin boards mainly to obtain information. While multiple emails in an already full mailbox may become tedious, I still find that I read and use them much more often than visiting a bulletin board. I also like the fact that an email message can be saved easily for later reference, and forwarded to individuals for informational purposes.

Christina Luckey-Nelson
Adult Education Coordinator
TBAISD Adult Education
1209 S. Garfield - Suite C
Traverse City, Michigan 49686
231-922-3710


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1265] Re: listservs and learning
From: Beth Wheeler (bwheeler@sbctc.ctc.edu)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 19:11:49 EST

good afternoon,
this is my first foray into the world of "listserves". i've intentionally steered clear because i've seen colleague's mailboxes fill to overflowing. if i had to make a choice between an open discussion board and a discussion list, i would choose the discussion board. it "feels" less intrusive. i'm also a compulsive e-mail answerer - which means i could become addicted and spend hours each day in reading and responding to postings. on the other hand, the postings i have read in the past 24 hours have included information i will share with professional development providers in our state. i guess both formats contain positives and negatives.

beth wheeler, program administrator
distance learning
office of adult literacy
sbctc
olympia, washington


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1266] Re: listservs and learning
From: Art LaChance (arthur@ellijay.com)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 08:19:24 EST

I think that what we'll find IF somebody ever actually does a long term look into a real adult literacy classroom that consistently demonstrates high degrees of low skill level completions we will find this exact philosophy being exercised on an hourly basis.

The problem is that while the funding sources expect success and set those rates higher each funding cycle we as field are being left to our own devices to train ourselves in the measures indicated by Bonnie here, and that doesn't appear to me to be in the best interest of the student nor the teaching staff.

art


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1267] clarification please
From: Nancy L Markus (nmarkus_at_juno.com)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 08:27:33 EST

On Wed, 31 Mar 2004 08:18:33 -0500 (EST) "Art LaChance"
<arthur@ellijay.com> writes:

I think that what we'll find IF somebody ever actually does a long term look into a real adult literacy classroom that consistently demonstrates high degrees of low skill level completions we will find this exact philosophy being exercised on an hourly basis.


I am unsure what philosophy you are refering to. Would you please clearly define it for me?
Thanks mcu..

Nancy Markus


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1271] Re: listservs and learning
From: George Demetrion (george.demetrion_at_lvgh.org)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 12:19:05 EST

One of the values of the listservs also, are the archives. Thus, even as many of the posts seem improvisational and off the cuff (and yet, many are not), and even as there may be 3-4 threads going at a time (not typically though on most lists), perhaps the coherency can be found through the pursuit of specific themes drawn from the primary resources of the archives (the historical record of the field speaking to itself, in real-like time).

Even still, I agree, that often it has proven difficult to maintain a consistent line of discussion over a significant period of time, which, however, may be partially meliorated by building on various chains of postings in the archives on the key topics.

Where I do think more work could take place is in the piecing together and even elaboration of thematic topics that could then get website, that might serve a variety of purposes. There has been some of that on the lists, but I believe more could be done with the rich archival qualitative data base that the field has created in its various real time discourse across geography, programs, positions, and points of view.

Of course, other modes of on-line discourse are also valuable. Perhaps it's a matter of both/and (looking at the strengths of the various communication channels for what they offer) rather than either/or. Not that anyone is suggesting either/or. Even still, I want to keep a sharp focus on what the various channels have to offer; one that includes an honored place for off-the cuff improvisation as well as for more deliberative discourse.

George Demetrion


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1275] Re: clarification please
From: Art LaChance (arthur@ellijay.com)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 13:11:51 EST

Nancy,
I borrow from Bonnie here:

".....a significant increase in mental-health-related problems, ranging from Traumatic Brain Injury to those on disability due to depression or other diagnosed mental illnesses."

Those who weren't "diagnosed" often were unable to learn because of emotional issues. I did have a PD session, NOT to have the teacher act as a therapist, but to be able to recognize the behaviors, to know some of the difficulties that much of the population have (i.e. reaction to medication), the need for a safe environment, structure; the "stigma" of mental illness). I've had some good success. But I agree there needs to be much more. Many of my friends tell me that what I do sounds more like social work than teaching, and often that's true. But I have a style that chooses to take these kinds of difficulties into account relatively openly (depending on the disclosure desires of the students) and incorporate them into the learning process, to have students reflect on their learning in relation to how they might reflect on their illness, reactions to stress being the major indicator. I did get some indications on how to deal with disruptive behaviors, to negotiate those with the rest of the class, attempting to set clear ground rules and boundaries. If I were one to address skills acquisition above all, I doubt whether these students would (some might say should) remain in my class. If my program is not ready/able/willing to teach, where do they go?"’’

I do not think there is an increase in these numbers of student conditions, they've been there all along. Whether we've recognized it or not. This is the norm. The norm is not the 20% or so of public school students who complete the educational process unfettered and reading at a 12th grade level and ready for college. The norm is the 50% or better of our population who didn't get a complete take on it. For whatever reason. We need to realize that we in adult literacy only effectively serve about 5-10% of the group who need adult literacy services to improve their skills therefore the students who actually show up have reached a point in their lives where they are willing to face the exceptionally strong emotional issues that Bonnie refers to above. Whether we are ready to recognize and deal with it effectively and are able to help that person succeed probably for the first time in their lives - that is the question. Should we be professionally trained in those skills mentioned by Bonnie – is the second question.

art


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1294] RE: listservs and learning
From: Marrapodi, Jean (JMarrapodi@phcs.com)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 16:39:44 EST

Jackie asked:

”Jean, you noted that you participate in listservs as a means of keeping on the "leading edge" and for your own professional development. I understand both of you to convey a PD need for learning and/or discovery over time, is this correct? Can this need for informal PD be met in any other way?”

In many respects, this is like reading a newspaper, magazine or journal. You are handed whatever the author thought was important, and pick and choose what interests you. The key difference is the commonality of the community of practice being so specific on a liserv/blog. The needs and skills are similar in the participants, so the topics fit the specific niche really well.

You can meet this type of informal PD in association meetings and conferences, but I'm not so sure we'd count those as informal. I suppose I could search the web if I had a specific topic and call that informal PD. The advantage of the push technology of a listserv is that topics come up that I wouldn't necessarily have thought of. I might not take the time to take a class about a particular topic, but there may be an interesting trend someone is speaking about in a blog or in a listserv that I'd receive info on that I wouldn't have looked for. This discussion is a great example. I wouldn't have gone out of my way to look for things about professional development for AL/ESL teachers, though it is a perfect integration of two worlds I work closely in.

The trick is to take what is useful and ignore the rest and not be overwhelmed by the volume. Many listservs have a digest form, which I prefer, when you get the days postings in one e-mail, rather than individually like this. Many are also archived in threads on a webpage so you can keep track of the topics. Lots of folks prefer to read things in order, so that works for them.

Thanks for asking.
Jean Marrapodi
Senior Education Specialist
Private Healthcare Systems


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1295] Re: listservs and learning
From: Marrapodi, Jean (JMarrapodi@phcs.com)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 16:45:41 EST

Chris Francisco commented:

”I must stress that "staying connected with practitioners from diverse areas of the country" is very important to me. I find that learning from people outside of my immediate human experience is invaluable.”

I totally agree here. I've found that leading edge researchers (ok, famous folks in an industry) participate on these forums, and you'll often get key input from leaders in the field.

Jean Marrapodi
Senior Education Specialist
Private Healthcare Systems


Teacher Needs and the Technology Learning Curve


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1252] teacher needs & the technology learning curve
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 12:10:30 EST

Hi Beth, Jean, everyone,
I'm glad to see such energetic participation today! :)
Beth, you noted, "the course has been offered three quarters now and each quarter the instructors revised it to more completely meet the needs of the students. there is a waiting list each quarter and instructors who have been in the system for several years are asking to be admitted."

Could you tell us more about some of the needs of your students, and what changes were made based on those needs?

Further, have you or others who have implemented a new teacher orientation found that many of your new teachers to adult basic education and literacy were also teachers who may not have had much experience with technology?

The reason I ask is because Jean noted yesterday the additional challenges of older students and using technology:

""For some older folks, it's taking the ideas and figuring out how to implement them, and the technology takes an extra step because of the learning curve to use it. That may also be an impediment for our teachers. Historically Adult Ed has not been on the leading edge of technology so they may not have the experience with the tools to make it automatic."

Has anyone addressed this unique need of teachers in professional development online or at a distance? If so, what changes did you make to address those needs? If not, what changes can be made?

Thanks!
Jackie


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1255] RE: teacher needs & the technology learning curve
From: Beth Wheeler (bwheeler_at_sbctc.ctc.edu)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 13:12:22 EST

re: new teacher orientation changes.....
first, we found that we totally underestimated the amount of time we predicted students would need to spend on the course. this was very frustrating for participants! the changes - stretching the course from three to four weeks and flexing it to keep some parts open after the course ended to accommodate special circumstances.

second, as this is a pilot project, we asked class participants to complete a pre- and post-test. WOW - what an uproar. prior to opening the course for the third quarter, the instructors rewrote the pre- and post-test instructions to show a link to how abe/esl students might feel when asked to complete the required pre- and post-tests. they also added a discussion board question where participants could share how the experience affected them. rich discussion followed and no one objected to taking the pre- and post-test this quarter.

the discussion board has become integral to the success of the course. both instructors "pop in" to conversations, each with a different area of expertise. the conversations during the winter quarter were wonderful in their depth and sharing.

and yes, we underestimated the technology ability of participants.
some actually dropped out because of technical difficulties.
beth wheeler


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1256] RE: teacher needs & the technology learning curve
From: Mingle, Mary E. H. (MMingle_at_lhup.edu)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 13:27:18 EST

Jackie,

In response to your question:

Further, have you or others who have implemented a new teacher orientation found that many of your new teachers to adult basic education and literacy were also teachers who may not have had much experience with technology?

Two years ago, our organization converted a traditional classroom-based training for new adult education and literacy teachers to an online format. We were cautioned by some that new employees in adult education agencies across the state would have little experience with technology and would not be able to complete the course (our courses are offered using the Blackboard course management system). However, we found the opposite to be true. Many new staff members are coming to adult education with technology skills acquired from other employment, including employment in public schools, business, and industry. The online course was a natural fit for these staffers who are hired throughout the year and need to "hit the ground" running, so to speak. They can take the training while they are being oriented to their new position and do not need to wait for another fiscal year to begin in order to access the new cycle of classroom-based courses.

Mary

Mary Mingle
ABLE Academy

Central IU 10, West Branch Technology Center
110 E. Bald Eagle St.
Lock Haven, PA 17745
(570) 893-4038
mmingle_at_LHUP.edu


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1273] Re: teacher needs & the technology learning
From: Jennifer Elmore (jennifer_at_jelmore.com)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 12:28:04 EST

Hi everyone.
In response to Jackie's question...

"For some older folks, it's taking the ideas and figuring out how to implement them, and the technology takes an extra step because of the learning curve to use it. That may also be an impediment for our teachers. Historically Adult Ed has not been on the leading edge of technology so they may not have the experience with the tools to make it automatic."
Has anyone addressed this unique need of teachers in professional development online or at a distance? If so, what changes did you make to address those needs? If not, what changes can be made?”

When I started facilitating the online PD classes that I'd created for LiteracyLink, it became clear to me that I needed to (quickly!) develop some kind of introduction to online learning, the internet, our particular course system, etc. A number of teachers and administrators signed up for our classes because the *content* interested them, but not all of them had a great deal of experience with technology. Not surprisingly, the folks who were new to technology spent far more time negotiating the delivery mechanism than interacting with the course content. So, I needed to provide another layer of professional development - that is, I needed to make sure that the less experienced folks had, at least, some exposure to and understanding of the course sytem before actually taking a course. I was charged with the very challenging task of creating an online course that explained how to participate in an online course.

The introduction that I developed was more of a guided tour or online instruction manual than an actual "online course." It consisted of a series of flat, non-interactive pages. Participants started on page 1 and proceeded through the "book," page by page (by clicking on tour page numbers). Each page described basic internet concepts and/or explained features and tools contained in the real classes.

Though definitely helpful, the introduction was limited in a couple of ways. First of all, it required folks to have a few baseline technology skills. For instance, in order to access this introduction, participants needed to know how to open a browser window, enter a URL, etc. Participants also needed to know how to use a mouse, scroll, and click on hyperlinks. So, it was a stretch for people who were really brand new to technology.

Because this introduction was not "interactive" (it did not contain hyperlinks, forms, etc. in the body of the pages), participants were only able to *read* about the LiteracyLink PD course system. They were not able to get in there and kick the tires. While I think that written material describing a system or tool can be immensely helpful, I also think that the capacity to "try out" while "reading about" is invaluable. I decided not to provide avenues into the actual course system (in the tour) because I felt that the back-and-forth might confuse users. Still, there's no substitute for "trying it yourself."

Jennifer

Jennifer Elmore, M.S.Ed.
Education Consultant
http://jelmore.com


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1277] Re: teacher needs & the technology learning
From: Mingle, Mary E. H. (MMingle_at_lhup.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 13:28:50 EST

Regarding introductions to online learning, Jennifer wrote:

"While I think that written material describing a system or tool can be immensely helpful, I also think that the capacity to "try out" while "reading about" is invaluable. I decided not to provide avenues into the actual course system (in the tour) because I felt that the back-and-forth might confuse users. Still, there's no substitute for "trying it yourself."

I agree, Jennifer. After conducting a few online course sessions in Pennsylvania, we began to see that, although many learners were comfortable "diving into" the Blackboard course management system we are using, others spent a great deal of their online time figuring out how to access various features. We included step-by-step text instructions within the course, which participants can print and follow as they complete the steps. But we needed something more. We created an Introduction to Blackboard online course that eases learners into the system. If you can "do e-mail", you will feel comfortable in this course. We begin with e-mail communication between the facilitator and individual participants and slowly introduce features of the course management system. Participants can try out each feature as they progress through the course and the facilitator is always available to assist.

Mary Mingle
ABLE Academy

Central Intermediate Unit 10
West Branch Technology Center
110 E. Bald Eagle St.
Lock Haven, PA 17745
mmingle_at_LHUP.edu


Subject: NIFL-AALPD:1303] Re: teacher needs & the technology learning
From: mmeilleur_at_alphaplus.ca
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 11:06:10 EST

Hello,

We have has very similar experiences. We began delivering on-line training over three years ago using the virtual classroom software Centra (www.centra.com). It was very difficult to teach the content of the course when participants were so frustrated by the technology. This was one of the first times that literacy practitioners in Ontario were exposed to such technology.

We took a few steps back and provided basic technology training - done mostly face-to-face. I believe that this was invaluable. After providing this training, I saw a big difference with the comfort levels of the practitioners with the technology.

I also had to "quickly" develop other methods of support. Here are some other strategies that we took to bridge the technology gap:

  • We created accounts for first time users. We sent them their usernames and passwords. This minimized the "tech" preparation that each of the participants had to do. They were then able to concentrate on the content with minimal frustration.
  • Participants were asked to call our help desk (luckily we have a technical help desk!) to ensure that the software worked on their computers prior to the training and for a quick orientation to the tool. I estimate that each call took about 20 minutes - but a good investment.
  • I directly called practitioners to help them with the set-up. Again, very time consuming but worth the time.
  • The step by step instructions were also revised to ensure clarity. They were sent by email to all training participants.

I have seen an increase in the technology skills of our practitioners over the years. They do not require as much support as they did when we started three years ago.

Michelle Meilleur
AlphaPlus Centre
http://alphaplus.ca


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1328] Re: teacher needs & the technology
From: Duren Thompson (solveig@utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:22:50 EDT

We have had reasonably good success with training folks to use Blackboard without a face-to-face event.

Here's what I think helps:

1)We screen for basic, basic computer literacy:
Learners are told they must have reliable internet access (defined as "not frustrating.") for at least 3 hours a week. They must have an e-mail account. They must have MS Explorer 5.x or higher, and they must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed. Then they are told - if any of that didn't make sense call us or ask someone to help you. We have walked many learners through Windows Updates, Explorer upgrades, getting a free e-mail account, and installing Adobe over the phone. Lately we haven't had to do this as much. There are more 'experts" to draw on in their own programs! yea!
This does not mean we don't have rank novices. I was SO proud of one of our learners. By the end of the 2nd 6 week course, she had finally learned not to type in all caps. She'd never been on the internet before the class. Many of our folks *get* an e-mail address in order to participate in the course.
2) We customize BlackBoard:
We turned off half the buttons and options in BlackBoard. We chose to use only the Discussion Board, the Assignments, the Surveys, and the chats. Everything else we turned off. Less stuff to learn and confuse them. We also *give* them their user IDs and passwords (and don't insist they change the password - it is so much easier to log in as the student and see the error/problem).
3) We repeat the directions:
We post the directions in the Announcements, in the "Course Information" section, in the Discussion Boards themselves, via e-mail, and in the Assignments. As often as possible, using the same exact words in each location. When we send the initial directions we only give them enough to complete the first assignment - log in, read the assignment, and post to the discussion board. Chat directions and survey directions are each mailed separately.
4) We give them time:
Course always start on Friday - But we we mail out the directions with the user ids and passwords - as well as instructions to complete the very first assignment a week early. This first assignment is ‘’’always’’’ to read the syllabus and schedule and then introduce yourself and say what from the syllabus and schedule you are interested in. This is due on the "first day" of the course (a Friday). This means they had a week to "figure out" how to do the course, wander around in it and/or call us if it is not working. (This also helps us "weed" folks who drop before ever getting into the course.) Then we give them another 10 days to complete the other two assignments for week #1 - even more time to have trouble and call us for support. After that it is 3 assignments per week - due on Mondays.
5) We talk to them often:
We weekly remind them of when assignments are due, when chats are

scheduled, and what is being covered in the course. If students are not "showing up" we e-mail them personally to offer support or assistance. If they still don't post, we call them. A number of "technical problems" are uncovered this way. (I had a virus, I couldn't log on, I don't know how to post, etc.). We are available by phone for tech support and are patient, kind, and supportive (although we occasionally put our heads on the desk after we hang up.)

6) We keep it simple:
Although we long to integrate streaming video, javascript, complex image maps, flash, etc - we don't. We use basic text, basic text formatting, and simple gif/jpeg images. The most complicated thing we ask them to download is a pdf file (and only pdf files - we tried Word files and that created traumas.) We do link to sites that *have* maps, flash, video and sound - but only when we are offering an array/choice of resources to review. That way if it doesn't work for them, they can always go to a simpler site that does. It also makes the tech support on our end easier. Not the best, most well-designed online course material - but the most effective for reaching all of our practitioners.
Anyone who wants a copy of our step-by-step "intro" directions for

BlackBoard is welcome to them. E-mail me directly, or if the response is overwhelming, I'll post them here. I've written a set for TLM too - but I'm still refining those...

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Online Community


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1241] Online community
From: jataylor_at_utk.edu
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 08:59:57 EST

Hello everyone!
I agree with Nickie, there certainly has been a lot of discussion for the first day! In all that we have shared thus far, what themes seem to be emerging?

I noticed that many of us made reference to the importance of interactive learning environments. Jane, you noted, “The one negative comment that I have is that the discussion board was, for the most part, a dead zone. My classmates only posted what was required. No real discussion took place though we were encouraged to use it actively to query and learn from each other.” While Beth, you shared how you missed the camaraderie that developed among participants in a discussion board.

Jane, what could have been done differently to increase the interaction among participants? Beth, what did you take away from the experience that you otherwise would not have learned without the interaction? What are others' experiences with interaction and online community in distance education?

Nickie and others made reference to strategies for developing online learning communities. But first, why online community? How important is interactivity among students in distance education? Are we saying that for a successful distance education experience that interactivity among classmates must play a part? And if so, how much?

Thanks!

Jackie


Subject: Re: Online community
From: jmencer_at_famlit.org
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 10:18:18 EST

You asked, "what could have been done differently to increase the interaction among participants?" That's a great question! I think that there are a few things that might have positively impacted the quality and quantity of discussion on our discussion board:

1. We could have been placed in smaller groups and been asked to read and respond to the postings of only those learners' in our group, instead of the entire class. Then, perhaps, a spokesperson for the group could have summarized for the other group what had happened on their discussion board and vice versa. It can be daunting to have to read every classmate's project summaries, for example.
2. The instructor could have used the discussion board exclusively for sharing documents that we needed for the course. Instead, he (very conveniently, I might add) sent them to our home or work e-mail accounts. Unfortunately for the viability of the discussion board, we didn't always have an incentive to log on to check the board.
3. Perhaps if we had been assigned to read and post on the discussion board frequently and early in the course, as learners we might have developed the habit of logging in and have come to see the board for it's potential value to us. As I said earlier, as a class, we did respond to requirements, just not to optional activities.

Hindsight's 20/20, isn't it?

Jane


Subject: Re: Online Community
From: jerej_at_umich.edu
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 11:03:24 EST

Hello everyone!
I agree with Nickie, there certainly has been a lot of discussion for the first day! In all that we have shared thus far, what themes seem to be emerging?
"I noticed that many of us made reference to the importance of interactive learning environments. Jane, you noted, “The one negative comment that I have is that the discussion board was, for the most part, a dead zone. My classmates only posted what was required. No real discussion took place though we were encouraged to use it actively to query and learn from each other.” While Beth, you shared how you missed the camaraderie that developed among participants in a discussion board.

Facilitation, facilitation, facilitation... I think it requires a person whose responsibility is to keep the discussion moving, picking up on comments...just like Jackie does on this listserv

It's no different than a classroom where a teacher "works" the room to get people involved, playing off one set of ideas against another and inviting comments. It's just a little more challenging without eye contact and with longer times between comments.

J E R O M E J O H N S T O N
Institute for Social Research - University of Michigan
Program on Teaching, Learning and Technology
734/763-3079 (734) 615-6638 (fax) jerej_at_umich.edu


Subject: Re: Online Community
From: cfranc2_at_ilstu.edu
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 11:30:32 EST

Hello Jackie and all,

I was away from the office yesterday and discovered your post and Jere's this morning. I completely agree with Dr. Johnston's comments concerning bulletin boards/discussion groups. In order for them to be successful and engaging they require mindful facilitation. I find in my own life that those venues that "call to me" and are kept "alive" are the ones where I participate. I don't think I'm alone in this respect. Like any classroom...they must be "worked" as Jere mentioned.

In working with students using distance learning methods I find that the students really must be self directed. This desire to self motivate seems key. Many of our students are just not a good fit. I find that younger students may possess the tech skills but they are deficient in motivation. Sometimes these obstacles can be overcome through guidance. I have found that in our Online GED Illinois system that many students of all ages really benefit from a blended approach. They have the classroom experience and are able to continue their GED preparation off-site. Many students have PC's in their homes and are interested in working independently in the privacy and convenience of their homes. They can also work at libraries, One Stop Centers, Community Technology Centers and in some cases churches. This really helps a students stay connected to their studies/goals. It depends on the student!

I so appreciate this venue of discussion and will stay engaged. Thank you!

peace,

Chris


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1247] RE: Online community
From: bwheeler_at_sbctc.ctc.edu
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 11:36:10 EST

good morning,
from the great conversations on the discussion board i learned more than I thought i would about the other students in the class. i was surprised how much of a person's personality comes through in written, informal conversation - not always the positive aspects. the greatest lesson i took from the experience is when communicating through the discussion board it is important to respect fellow students as much - or more - than in a f2f classroom. the instructor was a great mentor in adding positive comments/feedback that kept discussions fresh and interesting.

beth wheeler


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1251] RE: Online community
From: Moore, Shelley L. (smoore2_at_lhup.edu)
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 11:58:40 EST

Hello,

It is my experience that the discussion board and the virtual classroom tools in Blackboard are some of the favorites of course participants. These are two of the tools that allow the participants to feel "connected" to their classmates and the instructor.

I agree with Beth, you certainly can get great feel for someone's personality even through the discussion board. And when the instructor monitors the progress and tone of the discussion, they can provide educational comments, feedback, and different perspectives that help keep the discussion interesting and ongoing. It is my feeling that when facilitated properly, an online discussion can surpass the quality of discussion that can happen in a face to face classroom.

Shelley Moore
West Branch Technology Center
110 East Bald Eagle Street
Lock Haven, PA 17745
Phone (570) 893-4038 Fax (570) 748-1598


Being Funny Online


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1274] being funny on-line - is it all in the eye of the beerholder? (with apologies to Kinky Friedman)
From: Heide Wrigley (hwrigley_at_aiweb.com)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 13:00:22 EST

Hi, Jackie and thanks for encouraging all of us to share our experience with on-line conferences and e-learning.

I'd like to offer a few thoughts on my own experience and would love to hear from others. I've given several distance learning workshops through a state-wide system in Texas (thank you Stan Ashlock and Texas State University at San Marcos). I've also lead an on-line conference lasting several weeks on Youth Literacy through Literacy, B.C. in Canada (we'll do another one in the summer). And, I've been a "guest speaker" for a couple of on-line discussions on special topics, such as ESL assessment, on these here list serves.

Yet I fret and worry ....

I used to teach large ESL/EFL classes and enjoy doing PD workshops but found the distance part a bit challenging and somewhat intimidating. Talking into a TV camera in a studio means not being able to see the faces and gauge the reactions of the audience. So my usual shtick, including some killer lines that I borrowed (ok stole) from Janet Isserlis, didn't seem appropriate for the electronic medium. (If you tell a joke and you can't tell if anyone is laughing, is it still a joke?)

Not being able to see people's faces made me wonder if I was hitting the right notes - did I sound too glib or too arrogant? Did I sound too sarcastic or too irreverent vis a vis our funders? It's easy to throw off a line that could be considered mildly amusing at the time you are typing it but may appear offensive once it appears on the world wide web- so the medium can be a bit constraining.

QUESTION: What have been the experiences of others in that respect? Have you been turned off on these conferences because of tone (because the facilitator or guest speaker was either way too earnest or didn't seem to take things seriously enough?) Or perhaps (s)he was just a tad too preachy?

When doing on-line conferences, I love hearing about the ideas of others who share strategies and resources. But I keep worrying about the ones who had signed on but don't talk or who only say something once and then disappear from the discussion. Were they bored? Overwhelmed with work and kids and contemplating the future of the world? Or perhaps they ditched us for some other more entertaining conference somewhere else. May-be we raise expectations with our advertisements and folks end up feeling under whelmed because they had been expecting more?

When working face to face, I generally work very hard to keep everyone involved, so I wonder if there is some trick I'm missing if only 30% of the official group participates. What's your take on these things?

One more question, if there are some problems with the technology initially, do most people just leave in disgust never to return or do they work it through and are then quiet for other reasons?

Cheers

Heide Wrigley
(somewhere over the North Pole as I write this)


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1330] Re: [NIFL-AALPD] being funny on-line ...
From: Duren Thompson (solveig@utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:24:56 EDT

At 01:00 PM 3/31/2004 -0500, Heide Wrigley wrote:

“QUESTION: What have been the experiences of others in that respect? Have you been turned off on these conferences because of tone (because the facilitator or guest speaker was either way too earnest or didn't seem to take things seriously enough?) Or perhaps (s)he was just a tad too preachy?”

I find video conferences/presentations to be overrated. Once i was over the "cool - neato" part, most presenters were wooden. Interaction was always at a very minimum (one question here, another question there, and then it was over). They all seemed to be overly concerned with "looking professional." So no, "glibness" and too much humor was not an issue for me. Then, of course, in web-based video there is he nasty delay and grainy-ness of the video itself. I hate it when the speaker is talking about 2 seconds before their mouth moves.

We, as practitioners, need to be *actors* with *editors* and *directors* in order to make best use of the video medium. Think about it. If you video-taped a "typical class" of yours (especially from only one position in the room) - would it make for interesting viewing? Or would we be bored? What makes video most interesting to us is generally the ‘’’story’’’ - and the way the story is told. What was the last documentary ‘’’you’’’ watched all the way through? And those *have* stories and editing. The GED Connections videos, Crossroads Cafe videos, TV411 and Madison heights videos are all of very high quality. And yet even they do not "catch" some of our learners. Of course video conferencing has the "interactive" component - but how interactive *is it* - really? How often do you get "called on in class."

On the other hand - for some folks - the face-to-face component is

  • essential* to feeling a part of an online community. In one of our courses we worked hard to take pictures of each learner and upload them. For a couple of folks this was *very* important. (It required face to face and took a significant # of man hours - cost-benefit -wise we decided to skip it in the future).
”When doing on-line conferences, I love hearing about the ideas of others who share strategies and resources. But I keep worrying about the ones who had signed on but don't talk or who only say something once and then disappear from the discussion. Were they bored? Overwhelmed with work and kids and contemplating the future of the world? Or perhaps they ditched us for some other more entertaining conference somewhere else. May-be we raise expectations with our advertisements and folks end up feeling under whelmed because they had been expecting more?”
”When working face to face, I generally work very hard to keep everyone involved, so I wonder if there is some trick I'm missing if only 30% of the official group participates. What's your take on these things?”

I have gone to a number of workshops and conferences where, if it is not required, I don't talk much - or interact with others (and I'm a bit on the chatty side - the kid who always raised their hand in class.) I don't need conversation in order to learn - although I learn just fine with it. Conversation requires effort. Written conversation requires time and even more effort. Typewritten conversation requires skill, time, and more effort. Reading is easier. Lurking takes less time. As Debra points out - I don't have to talk to take in the information I need and go. So don't always assume it is *you* or *your course*  :)

Somewhat unintentionally, we have built in some *impetus* to talk and to stay in our courses. Not only do we have specific start and stop times for a group of practitioners in the course, but we "control" the access to the information as well. We only *turn on* one set of assignments & readings per week. Thus if you want to get all the information, you have to stick around for the whole course. In addition, we created a "drop" policy - if we don't "hear from you" for 2 weeks (and we actively e-mail and call you and or your supervisor/peers at your office) we remove your access to the course and the information. So if you want the info, you have to "talk" to stay in the course, and you have to stick around the whole time to get it all. Lastly, we also leave access to the course materials "on" for up to 6 months after the course is over. Participants can access course materials, links, etc. long after the course is over. So they don't have to get it all in 6 weeks - they have longer to explore and learn. (Truly these decisions were all made separately - for other reasons. It just turns out that they work together this way.)

"One more question, if there are some problems with the technology initially, do most people just leave in disgust never to return or do they work it through and are then quiet for other reasons?”

We find the key to this is Tech support, Tech support, tech Support. And calling them when they *don't show up.* Some will leave disgusted, but many, with some support, will hang in there and finish.

Lastly, your course needs to “fit" their perception of their needs. We are fortunate(?) here in TN in that the majority of our AE practitioners had little or no systematic professional development before 2001. They were/are *hungry* for *any* tools to help them in the classroom. A smaller sub-group of our practitioners had received a *lot* of systematic PD for a couple of years before the online classes (our welfare to work AE classes). They seemed more likely to drop out. One of our theories is that they already *had* all this "Adult Learner" and "Teaching Tools" stuff - they may have felt we weren't really meeting their needs with the content of these online courses.

(Ok, like you Heidi, I *always* feel bad when I lose one. I always wonder what I could have done differently. I always worry about how to get them to talk more, to delve deeper, to talk to each other more. I don't have all the answers - nope, not me. But I'm willing to tell you what we've tried  :)

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Getting Participants’ Feedback


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1280] Getting Participants Feedback
From: David Rosen (djrosen_at_comcast.net)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 13:53:53 EST

Heide and others,

The problem for a presenter of getting feedback (information from the audience which allows you to know whether you are hitting the mark or not) is, as Heide pointed out (Being Funny Online), not limited to the online medium. I have been a speaker and performer (in a musical group, outdoors, at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade in Boston) where the audience was seated so far away, and sitting in the dark, that I could not get tell if they were awake or even there. It usually isn't as big a problem face-to-face as it can be online. But it can be a big problem face-to-face, and I have talked with online PD course facilitators who say they get more feedback, much deeper and more personal feedback, from students online than in face-to-face classes.

Recently I gave a keynote address to several hundred people at a conference. It was in a university chapel auditorium: very beautiful but also quite formal. I was on a stage behind a podium, very removed from those I wanted to dialogue with. And I didn't have as much time as I needed. I anticipated this problem and came prepared with hundreds of mini-questionnaires on purple slips of paper. These were passed out for me at the beginning, and people were asked to list 5 top trends in our society and 5 top trends in adult literacy from their perspective. They passed these (purple) slips to the end of the row where I had asked that they be tabulated. (Yellow) row tabulations were passed up to a gracious graduate student who had agreed to tabulate the yellow tabulations while I presented. When he was done I was given the feedback, and I read the results back to those assembled. Then we had a short discussion about what they and I saw as trends. (There was, of course, some overlap.) This worked for me as a presenter, giving me useful feedback for our discussion. And I think it worked for those in the audience in several ways: 1) it helped them focus on the topic - - trends in adult literacy - - by thinking about it from their perspective first, then listening to mine in the context of what they had been thinking about: how does this guy reinforce my thinking or challenge it? 2) it gave them something to do while latecomers were straggling in; and 3) it was amazing to all of us that we could get nearly 100% participation in a large group and get it boiled down so quickly. Maybe some of you also do this in your face-to-face staff development classes and workshops.

So, what's the online distance learning equivalent of the face-to-face mini-survey?

One thing I am planning to try, using Blackboard, is asking online participants to do a short survey. I will ask them to rate each of the course objectives in terms of their expertise -- from "don't know anything about this" to "am an expert at this." Then I will post the (automatically tabulated) results so everyone can see where the class is on each objective -- not individuals, but the group. This gives us all an idea of what we may need to spend more time on, and what's pretty much in everybody's grasp already.

I am looking for other ideas like this that are quick and easy ways for online participants to give facilitators feedback.. Have you seen or tried something that will give the online facilitator this kind of feedback and also possibly the participants, too?

David J. Rosen
djrosen@comcast.net


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1284] RE: Getting Participants Feedback
From: Jane Mencer (jmencer_at_famlit.org)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 15:03:34 EST

What a great idea, David. I've also seen online polls used effectively for a similar purpose. I have experienced online facilitators during synchronous sessions (I think that we were using NewMeeting) who, after introducing and covering a learning point, using a poll feature of the software posed a one-question multiple-choice question which we, as learners, all answered. Based on the percentage of learners who answered correctly, the facilitator would know whether what he had presented was understood.

Jane


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1287] RE: Getting Participants Feedback
From: Christy Nelson (cnelson_at_nwm.cog.mi.us)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 15:33:05 EST

I also think this is a great idea. There is nothing worse than taking part in a workshop/training/class that is so far off from what you thought it would be when registering. It would great to have the opportunity to voice opinions and perhaps have the chance to gain the information you were looking for when you enrolled.

Christina Luckey-Nelson
Adult Education Coordinator
TBAISD Adult Education
1209 S. Garfield - Suite C
Traverse City, Michigan 49686
231-922-3710


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1290] RE: Getting Participants Feedback
From: Mary Russell (russell_at_literacy.upenn.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 15:54:52 EST

I'd like to second David's mini-survey idea. We have had considerable success using the "instant survey." We took the information and fed it into a spreadsheet. That way you can see where eveyone is on various issues/topics. Blackboard has a survey tool that looks good (it will collate results, too), that I am going to try with my classes this summer.


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1292] Re: Getting Participants Feedback - webex??
From: Marian Thacher (mthacher_at_otan.us)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 16:18:17 EST

Has anyone used WebEx, or something like it, to do professional development? The California Distance Learning Project recently purchased a license to do some training of teachers on new online high school courses that are being piloted. I got to lurk in one of the trainings, and it seems to me that this model could be helpful in terms of getting a sense of your audience.

For one thing, it's synchronous. When you log on you get a phone number to call, and everyone is on the phone together at the same time they are online together, so you hear laughter, grumbling, snoring, whatever. There is also a way to post an emoticon next to your name on the participant list (although I never did find out how to get rid of it once it was there). There is also an instant message screen to post questions or comments. All this while we were watching the presenter's browser so he could show us some information, how to log on to the courses, what's there, etc.

I think there is also a survey function. You can ask a question and have everyone respond, and the results are aggregated immediately. (Does that mean that in some ways this beats face-to-face??)

It seems like having this capacity could be a great way to introduce people to an online course, because you can talk back and forth and coach while you are showing them. They can also have a separate browser window open where they are doing whatever you are demonstrating, although that involves toggling which could be challenging for beginners.

Of course, there is a cost factor. I'm not sure of the cost but I know it's not cheap, but on a statewide level it might be really cost-effective.

I'm interested to hear the opinions of experienced users.

Marian Thacher
OTAN
www.otan.us


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1331] BlackBoard Surveys vs Tests
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:25:53 EDT

David,

One of the things that was in the Florida course that Sandra and I duplicated in our first course was a multiple choice "pre-test" and a "post-test" covering key points in the course. We used BlackBoard's "Test" feature to duplicate these in our course - being very careful to use the exact same wording on both "tests."

Oh man. We got *lot's* of feedback - they *stressed* over not getting them all right. We told them over and over that it was just a pre-test, used to help us know what they know, etc. and still they complained that it wasn't fair, that, "They could have gotten the rest right if..." Sandra and I knew right away that we'd do something different next time.

For the January 2002 course, we implemented the Survey option in Blackboard. we also shifted the questions from a more traditional multiple choice "knowledge of facts" quiz to a competency-based survey built off of the course objectives. Course objectives include "practitioners will implement a cooperative learning strategy in their AE classroom." So the pre and post Surveys ask, "Have you implemented a cooperative learning strategy in your AE classroom in the last 6 weeks?" If they complete the course - they will answer this yes - period. Some questions were short answer, some multiple, multiple choice and some true/false - but all about "Do you already know/do the things we will talk about and do in this course?"

In Blackboard the survey answers are *not* available to the course participants naturally - and this has been our one complaint. Practitioners have told us in passing, "I'd like to know what others said the survey." We have contemplated collating the answers and publishing them for each course's participants - but there simply hasn't been enough time yet - and BlackBoard doesn't make it particularly easy to get the data out into another format (copy and paste has been our only option.) Oh - and the surveys are anonymous (no other option) - although when you get to know your students - you can make pretty good guesses as to who said what.

I think you'll like the survey option - we found that it helped us to get a "feel" for the course participants as a "whole group" and allowed us to tailor discussions and chats to needs we saw in the survey responses. It also lets us know how many "personalities" we have - ringers, skeptics, enthusiasts, the timid, etc.

So, back to the idea of "tests." We really marveled over how these AE instructors reacted. We *know* they have said the same things about their standardized AE "placement" tests - like the TABE - to their own learners. What is it about us as "instructors" or "learners" that makes us all upset when we don't do well even on a "test" that doesn't count? One of the reasons I've hesitated to publish the results of the surveys is that I worried that some folks would "fret" over having answered "differently" from others - or think that they were *wrong.* Are our practitioner egos as fragile as those of our learners? And if so, how does this affect our online course development (or our pd development altogether?)

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1333] Re: Centra vs webex
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:27:37 EDT

Marian,

This sounds a lot like Centra E-meeting which we use here at the Center for Literacy Studies (or more truthfully, are *beginning* to use for cross country and cross-state meetings and trainings coordinated by the Center). Michelle Meilleur mentions that literacy practitioners in Ontario have used Centra for training as well.

Currently Centra e-meeting is a service that the Southern LINCS RTC provides to NIFL and the southern regional states as they request it. We've used it for our Portfolio pilot project practitioner meetings twice this year here in TN. We didn't have funding for even quarterly face-to-face meetings and it was *way* cheaper than renting a phone bridge/conference call. It also allowed them to "share" a document they were working on and edit it as a group. I'm looking forward to using it to assist some of our far-flung presenters for our Summer Academy to plan their 3 hour joint presentations together.

The biggest barriers that we've encountered are:

1) Training - it really does take about 30 minutes of "non-work/content" time to accustom practitioners to using it.
2) Headphones/microphones. Centra runs completely through your computer - no phone charges - and so requires a standard $15 headset/mic combo (although headphones and a standing mic will do). Folks just don't have these things and when they get them or borrow them they have the darndest time getting them plugged in right and then setting their systems to use them. Particularly in K-12 situations where the computers are so locked down the practitioner can't change any settings without a tech support person over their shoulder.
3) "Consistent" bandwidth. Centra really doesn't take up a lot of

bandwidth (as long as you leave the video turned off) for a simple meeting. But if you are in a system with "jumpy" internet service (really slow, then ok, then fast, then dropped for a second, then slow, etc.) - it really messes with the participant's audio reception. Unfortunately, many of our rural areas have the strangest, small company phone service monopolies - with lousy phone service and thus lousy internet connections.

4) You *really* need a facilitator *pair* in order to effectively group edit a document. One to do the mark -up and one to "facilitate" the group. Working the technology to edit and working the technology to facilitate AND editing and facilitating is just too much for one person to do and be effective for the group.

Our center librarian, Beth Ponder, has used it to conduct LINCS cataloging training for a group of 8 - like most new technologies, she said, "We needed to have designed our presentation for the tool - not just assumed our "in-person" PowerPoint would be effective unmodified." But her trainings was successful - just a little bumpy.

I like Michelle's comments about how to "train" folks to use the technology. We tend to train folks to use Centra via a distance - with at least one or two tech folks to help straighten out the "glitches" via phone during that first set-up and training. The tech folks have to be separate from the presenter - and the step-by-step guides we have written do help!  ;)

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1347] Re: Centra vs webex
From: Marian Thacher (mthacher_at_otan.us)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 12:03:42 EDT

Thanks, Duren, this is very helpful. I'm actually planning to use WebEx with a couple of co-presenters to revise our powerpoint, so I will plan in some time to get used to the tool first. Your idea about having two people at my end, one to facilitate the conversation and one to actually make the changes as we talk is great too.

WebEx uses the phone, so we don't have the microphone problem. I have a headset for my phone, but I could see that if you were trying to hold the phone with your shoulder and type at the same time for any length of time it would get pretty uncomfortable.

About the bandwidth issue, we shall see. Tune in next week...

Marian Thacher
OTAN


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1352] Re: Centra vs webex
From: Rejoicer_at_aol.com
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 17:44:10 EDT

We use WebEx at my office, and it's pretty simple to use. A word for the wise presenter is to set up two computers, and log into one as you the teacher, and another as a student so you can watch the latency. It used to be a much bigger problem with speed, but that appears to be corrected. It is also really helpful to see what they see regarding buttons, since the instructor view is a little different. I have the early arrivals play on the whiteboard to get comfortable with the environment and the tools. That appears to take away some of the nervousness with the new system.

I use the chat area like I would use a flip chart to document what people expect out of the class, and like we sould do in a training class, go back over the list at the end to make sure we have addressed everything.

Do warn the students that they will log in and see a white setup screen first, then it goes into the meeting room. They also may have a plugin to download in the beginning.

It's a great tool.
Jean Marrapodi


Why Learners Leave


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1233] RE: Online PD--Why learners leave
From: Marrapodi, Jean (JMarrapodi_at_phcs.com)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 13:20:22 EST

In Debra Hargrove's post, she commented:

"We had only one problem.... we weren't RETAINING participants in our Retention Web-Based Training! Sure, we had loads of educators logging on, even from out of state. But for some reason, they weren't finishing the material. After a lengthy process of emailing and calling those who did not complete, we realized that our primary purpose for developing this online learning was NOT the only reason people signed up. For many, they didn't need in-service points.. they were just there to get the information and resources and then they left! Measuring the success of our course took on a whole new meaning. In our newer trainings, we've now included a section that asks, "Why are you here?" with ptions like, "To receive In-service Points" to "Just gathering information."

This is a great way to handle this. So often people come for what they are looking for, like they would access a website, and leave when they have found the info they needed. In training we call this Just In Time training, and specifically create resources to provide this type of support.

It is not uncommon for e-learning participants to drop out of an online program whether it is for PD or for training or for personal development. This type of discussion occurs in the online world of e-learning designers and trainers on a regular basis. One of the things with online PD, like any PD, is that it must meet the needs of the learner. With online learning, they're always one click away from bailing. It's a constant dilemma of "if we build it, will they come?"

Some of the problem is from poor instructional design. Why bother to read a lecture? Many expect advertising agency level of graphic design whenever they utilize the web, and come anticipating a tv-like experience. That won't happen in an e-course designed by a beginning designer. Some of it is a learning style thing. I've completed my Masters in Online Instructional Design totally online in an asynchronous format through Capella University, and am in the process of finishing up the PhD in Adult Ed in the same forum. I also like to participate in the Barnes and Noble online classes for enrichment. I'm a visual learner, and in Myers-Briggs speak, highly intuitive (ENFP), so this works well for me. I also work really hard in these courses. I also do software training over the internet in a synchronous format. For me, it's an ideal format. For others, it isn't always that way.

My 22 year old son works in NYC, and automatically uses the computer to simplify things. His older peers don't think that way. For Eric, technology is a tool he uses without thinking. For some older folks, it's taking the ideas and figuring out how to implement them, and the technology takes an extra step because of the learning curve to use it. That may also be an impediment for our teachers. Historically Adult Ed has not been on the leading edge of technology so they may not have the experience with the tools to make it automatic. Those of us on this listserv, even, if we asked a poll of 10 colleagues which listservs they participate in, we'd likely get 9.5 blank stares. I'm in a company that works with technology all the time, but I am the only one on the training staff who pays attention to any listservs. These keep me on the leading edge, and discussions like this form a good piece of my ongoing professional development.

In adult ed, we've repurposed from a lot of places for our material. If we're going to do online learning, it's a good idea to leverage the lessons learned from the e-learning pioneers before us and partner when we can utilize those resources. ASTD (American Society for Training and Development: http://www.astd.org) and the eLearning Guild (http://www.elearingguild.com) are just two of the myriad of resources out there.

Don't lose hope. It may not be the learner's non-interest. There are likely other factors at play.

Jean Marrapodi
Senior Education Specialist
Private Healthcare Systems


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1234] RE: Online PD--Why learners leave
From: Jane Mencer (jmencer@famlit.org)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 13:40:43 EST

Jean, would you recommend Capella's Master program in online instructional design? Had you investigated other colleges' and universities' programs as well? If so, what prompted you to enroll in Capella's program? Thanks.

Jane


Subject:[NIFL-AALPD:1237] RE: Online PD--Why learners leave
From: Marrapodi, Jean (JMarrapodi@phcs.com)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 15:58:19 EST

Jane- YES! Highly. Even more so now because they have brought in a department head who has extensive experience with one of the top e-learning companies in the nation. (Allen Interactive in Minneapolis.)

I wanted a program that would allow me to use my work in my school and vice versa. Capella is very much vested in scholar practitioner, and geared for people in the real world. Most of the students are 30-50 years old, so it's a non-traditional population. Many of the professors are authors of books in the field who were recruited to come on board. I also wanted something that allowed me flexibility. The online environment did just that. I did lots of my coursework over lunch from my office, and some late at night. I had no instructional design background, since my undergrad work was in special ed and I had taken a lot of credits in elementary ed toward a masters I never finished. They accepted 12 of those credits into my program. I completed the program 2 years ago, and when I was looking there were very few programs out there. I could take a program in training with 1-2 courses in ID, but nothing totally focused on online design.

One of my staff is taking a masters at the University of San Diego, and her program is much more structured than what I had, and she seems to be getting much more T&D than I was interested in. I looked at Walden University, also online, but they had a major reorg and dropped out of existence for a while. Capella is also accredited--a big plus for me.

I started with one course to test the waters in Summer 1999, then waited a while, switching jobs and waiting for tuition reimbursement to kick in, then came back in Spring 2000. I took 1 course per quarter, and finished by Spring 2002. I took other courses to get an Adult Education certificate, and realized I wasn't that far away form the PhD. I've loved the flexibility of the electives since I've been able to take such a variety. At the PhD level, there is also the opportunity to take a Directed Study and design your own course. I did one on the Learning Organization, one on Adult Literacy, and another on the MBTI in Education, which is this quarter.

Do check it out. That's all online and free. :) http://www.capella.edu Jean


Providing PD Online or at a Distance


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1288] providing PD online or at a distance
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 15:37:27 EST

Hello everyone,
At the beginning of this week, we began by sharing our experiences as participants with professional development online or at a distance, and we are having some very energizing discussions! Teachers, as David noted, we *really* would like to continue hearing from you in this regard. I encourage teachers to share your perspectives as participants in online PD as some of us also address additional topics.

Many of us also have a unique involvement in the area of providing professional development online or at a distance, for teachers. Since there is much going on in this area, I'd like for us to share/continue sharing more about our experiences in providing PD online or at a distance.

~ Why did you/your organization become involved in professional development online? What need(s) were you addressing? How did you decide to address those needs?
~ Describe the online PD you/your organization offer. How is the online PD you offer (or have offered) similar or different from more familiar forms of online delivery (i.e. course platforms)?
~ What have you found to be particularly important for making online PD

successful for teachers? What changes have you/your organization experienced in the development and delivery of online PD, perhaps even as a result of this?

~ And please keep raising the tough questions and sharing the great ideas!

What a rich exchange this has been this week! I hope that even more of us will contribute to the experience.

Best,

Jackie

Jackie Taylor
Co-Facilitator
NIFL-AALPD
jataylor_at_utk.edu


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1313] RE: providing PD online or at a distance
From: Beth Wheeler (bwheeler_at_sbctc.ctc.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 17:30:51 EST

good afternoon, all

  • office of adult literacy staff developed the online "new teacher orientation" as a way to promote access to information that instructors had difficulty getting in another format. many faculty are part-time, so participating in professional development activities is often difficult.
  • we are offering a "new teacher orientation" each quarter in the blackboard platform.
  • flexibility is an important function of the course. instructors have lenghtened the course each quarter to accommodate the busy lives of our faculty. we are still investigating how to offer more pd online.

beth wheeler
office of adult literacy
washington state


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1321] providing PD online or at a distance
From: mmeilleur_at_alphaplus.ca
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 10:54:35 EST

Hello,

Three years ago, every literacy agency in Ontario has to receive training on a new database. It was more financially feasible to do this through Centra's virtual classroom. Once we had this technology available, we saw that there was a lot of potential to deliver other training programs.

Currently, the training we offer is to teach our clients how to use an online adult literacy website (AlphaRoute). We are planning to expand this training in the future and move beyond "how to use the tool" to more pd events that they can take away and apply in a range of different ways.

What we found to be important is to evaluate the needs of our clients and create training programs that are flexible. Using the synchronous classroom is sometimes not enough. We have blended the use of several other tools to create well-rounded training programs. These tools included : asynchronous discussions, recorded sessions (both posted on-line and sent to clients on cd-rom), email support and user guides.

Due to the fact that our courses are not credited, we are struggling with retention and getting interest in our courses. There have been good ideas posted. Any other ideas would be really appreciated.

Michelle Meilleur
AlphaPlus Centre
mmeilleur_at_alphaplus.ca


Open Entry/Open Exit Courses


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1298] Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open Exit
From: Dlhargrove_at_aol.com
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 08:23:40 EST

Hi group,

As I read NIckie's response on her strategies for engaging students, I realize that most of the online PD everyone is talking about involves a set class time period... that is, students sign up and the online class begins on a certain date and ends at a certain date.

All of the web-based trainings that we offer on the Florida TechNet website are open entry-open exit. After I heard the positive results that the Center for Literacy Studies had after adopting one of our trainings, I thought it might increase our retention if we scheduled the online trainings for certain time periods. No one in our state wanted a set schedule.

My question is, has anyone else used the open entry-open exit process for their online PD?

Debra

Debra Hargrove
Florida TechNet


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1300] FW: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open Exit
From: kgongora (kgongora_at_proliteracy.org)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 08:55:00 EST

Debra,

This is exactly what we are currently doing on Verizon Literacy University. It does pose a unique challenge. One of the strengths of online learning, as has been discussed at great length here, is the creation of a community of learners. However, we cannot guarantee that there will ever be concurrent users in a class at any one time. Furthermore, since the courses are 'open' there is not a facilitator actively engaged in the course while students are proceeding through it, making the learning experience an individual experience rather than a community one.

It's really forcing us to think about 'interactivity' in our courses, as a separate idea from 'activity' and how to get around the prescribed course model of our learning management system. As one example, the LMS has a discussion board feature. We tend to use this in certain courses as more of a 'message board' where students can post ideas/responses to a question and read what others have offered. I consider this more activity than interactivity, since there is no immediate reward or feedback for the learner specific to their post.

Regarding the retention rate for courses such as this, it is my experience from working in online learning in a variety of disciplines that in cases like ours, offering some type of prescribed curriculum, credits or CEUs is the only way to ensure higher levels of course completion. (It's something we are currently investigating with VLU.) Another point is to offer shorter courses specific to a very manageable objective, where learners can take a quick course/tutorial that meets a pressing need, then use that information on the job immediately. Even so, retention rates are generally low for these types of courses, unless it's directly tied to something else in their professional development. Reasons for this run the gamut from poorly designed courses to a wrong student/course match.

I'd be curious to hear what the expectations are in this field on CEUs, credits, etc from literacy programs. What ongoing professional develop requirements do you have for the different types of staff, administrative staff, instructional staff, et al.?

Kristine Marane Góngora, Instructional Designer
ProLiteracy Worldwide
kgongora_at_proliteracy.org


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1301] Re: FW: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open Exit
From: Dlhargrove_at_aol.com
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 09:16:55 EST

Hi Kristine,
I like your comment about the difference between activity and interactivity...we have included a new role in our trainings this year ~ an online facilitator.. Her job is to maintain the database of users, track their completion of activities and then email them occasionally to see how they're doing, what questions they might have, etc.. that's the only interactivity we have, except for the new idea we're throwing around about the multiuser bulletin board posting I mentioned earlier.

But that's only the facilitator communicating with the participant. Our courses range from 5 hours to 10 hours, so someone could actually complete one of the smaller ones in a day. Doesn't leave a lot of room for ongoing discussion. The evaluations are coming through just fine too, everyone seems to be happy with what they got for their time. I'm just always looking ahead and constantly improving the process. Your comments and, I think David's or Nickie's are helping me decide which avenue we want to approach.

thanks,
Debra


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1302] Re: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open Exit
From: Linda Robinson (L-Robinson1_at_wiu.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 10:50:50 EST

Hi,
I am enjoying this discussion and would like to respond to Debra's question:

I am with the Center for Best Practices in Early Childhood at Western Illinois University and we have online workshops (focusing on assistive technology and young children) that are used in two ways: as part of courses in Early Childhood, Instructional Technology, and Special Education, and as PD for educators and families. So we have the open entry and open exit format for the latter group. We are currently researching the effectiveness of our workshops for educators, families, and university faculty and students. And, of course, it is easier to get data from students who are required to complete pre/post assessments and performance indicators. We are having a difficult time getting the pre/post data from educators and families. Since all of our data is collected online, we would like to build in limits to further workshop access until assessment is completed. In other words, the participant has to complete the post assessment for one workshop before entering another workshop.

Does anyone currently do this in their online data collection?

Linda Robinson
Center for Best Practices in Early Childhood
Western Illinois University


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1336] Limiting access to workshops until feedback is given
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:30:31 EDT

Linda,

The new online learning system that the MidWest and Southern RTCs is piloting next year - The Learning Manager - has the ability for you to "limit" access to further workshops until a previous workshop is considered "complete."

Right now we are targeting Adult Education programs - but contact Bill McNutt mcnutt@utk.edu or Tim Ponder (our co-facilitator) tponder@zhost.net to find out if there is anything this system could do to meet your needs.

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1305] RE: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open Exit
From: Moore, Shelley L. (smoore2_at_lhup.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 11:15:09 EST

Debra asks: "My question is, has anyone else used the open entry-open exit process for their online PD?"

Our online courses also use a set class time period for beginning and ending dates, however, actually working through the course is usually at the convenience of the individual participant. For the most part, we list "suggested due dates" for activities to give the participants a framework for progress, but generally the only mandatory due dates are ones that are associated with group work.

This set-up seems to work well, taking into consideration the time constraints may that face adult educators. It allows participants the freedom to complete course work as time permits, but also encourages participation, interactivity and connectivity within the group.

Shelley Moore
ABLE Academy
West Branch Technology Center
110 East Bald Eagle Street
Lock Haven, PA 17745
Phone (570) 893-4038 Fax (570) 748-1598


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1334] Re: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:28:32 EDT

Debbie,

We've toyed with the idea of offering the information *both* ways. Get it out on the internet for anyone to browse AND offer it as a facilitated course with peer interaction. You might try that and see if anyone "joins." maybe they don't want it "scheduled" because that is *different* and sounds *restrictive.* But if you offer it - maybe some would like it better? We'll gladly lend you some of our evaluation comments as "marketing tools."  :)

"This course has been such an important part of my life the past 6 weeks. I have looked forward to finding out what was waiting on me each week in the form of an assignment, a reading, etc. The information that I have received from the assignment introductions, the links to associated sites, reflecting on myself as a teacher and my students, and the comments from my fellow adult educators have all been invaluable to me." July 2002 participant in GED 2002 Part #2 - Teaching Tools.

(Nothing makes me feel better than to read the evaluations - for most of our completors we are meeting a *real* need! Now if we can just figure out a way to measure it's effect on their AE learners....Do they actually "hang on" to what they have learned? Does it have a long-term impact on their instruction? Is "Online - in more depth" more effective than "face-to-face but only one day?)

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1314] RE: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open Exit
From: Beth Wheeler (bwheeler_at_sbctc.ctc.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 17:35:25 EST

washington state doesn't have the experience you have, debra, but our "new teacher orientation" course has a set start date, but the instructors have flexed at the other end of the four-week course and kept some aspects open to accommodate instructors who could not complete all the work in the four weeks. retention has improved with this flexibility. the course is non-credit, but we offer a great certificate and proof of attendance and/or clock hours (for k-12 certified instructors.

beth wheeler
office of adult literacy
washington state


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1342] Re: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open Exit
From: Jerome Johnston (jerej_at_umich.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:35:21 EDT

There is a need for the type of PD that Debra's site offers. I think of it as just-in-time training that meets the needs of teachers to learn about a topic when the need arises.

The goal for my PD effort is to build a community of professionals who can help one another solve problems. This requires a fairly stable membership.

However, the next PD effort at Project IDEAL is creating an online environment where graduates of our Study Groups can find two things when they return to the PD site: a growing electronic library of relevant materials and a place to pose a question. When a question is posted, the facilitator's job will be to alert other community members that they need to log on to the site to address the question.


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1344] Re: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open
From: Dlhargrove_at_aol.com
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 11:43:45 EDT

Duren,
thanks for the suggestion regarding have the course offered BOTH ways ~ open entry and scheduled. I think I'll bring the option up at our next technology meeting.

thanks for sharing
Debra

Debra Hargrove
Florida TechNet


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1345] Re: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open
From: Eunice Askov (ena1_at_psu.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 11:47:56 EDT

Jere, I really like your idea of creating an ongoing resource and discussion place AFTER the PD course occurs in Project IDEAL. At Penn State all our courses remain open for one year following the completion of an online course so that students can go back into the course to revisit web links and other resources that were part of the course. One other advantage that we offer as part of credit-based courses (that has not been mentioned in previous discussions) is access to the complete library resources of Penn State, all available online. This also includes a special librarian who is dedicated to helping distance education students with accessing all the online databases, full text journal articles, etc. With the stress on research-based practice, students are finding this resource very helpful to their practice as adult educators. Nickie


Sharing Online PD Content



Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1315] RE: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open Exit
From: Dlhargrove_at_aol.com
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 18:26:05 EST

Thanks Beth for the info. And that leads me to another question... all of our web-based trainings were created with grant funds, and are open to anyone in the country. Since they are PD and not credit courses, we let anyone have access. I'm wondering how many other programs are out there, like your Teacher Orientation that others outside of the home state could link to or access. Is there an opportunity to link to yours? How about everyone else? Anyone else out there have some online PD that "outsiders" could link to? We've had a number of educators login to our trainings.. while it adds to the work load of our online facilitator, she monitors activities and sends a certficate to their staff development contact. In Texas for example, they are awarding them their own inservice points for completing our training.

Who else can share their hardwork?

Debra

Debra Hargrove
Florida TechNet


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1318] RE: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open
From: Linda Robinson (L-Robinson1_at_wiu.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 22:32:56 EST

Our EC-TIIS (Early Childhood Technology Integrated Instructional System) online workshops (www.wiu.edu/ectiis/) are open to "outsiders." We have 9 workshops on topics related to assistive technology and young children. Topics include emergent literacy, expressive arts, math, science, social studies, adaptations, curriculum integration, family participation, software evaluation, computer environment, and technology assessment. We are conducting research on how the workshops are used so participants are required to register (no cost) and complete a quick survey. We invite participation!

We are currently writing a grant to continue our research on the effectiveness of the online workshops and are looking for university faculty who would be willing to incorporate the workshops into their courses, and groups of educators and families. If you or your site would like to participate, I would appreciate hearing from you. Thanks.

Linda Robinson
Center for Best Practices in Early Childhood
Western Illinois University
L-Robinson1_at_wiu.edu


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1319] RE: Scheduled On Courses VS Open Entry-Open Exit
From: Jane Mencer (jmencer_at_famlit.org)
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 08:09:30 EST

You've probably seen the information about it already but, in case you haven't, please visit Verizon Literacy University at www.vluonline.org for free, open to anyone, short, self-paced, online courses about adult and family literacy.

Jane Martel Mencer
Instructional Designer
National Center for Family Literacy
325 West Main Street, Suite 300
Louisville, KY 40202-4237

phone: 502/584-1133 ext 169
fax: 502/584-0172
e-mail: jmencer_at_famlit.org


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1339] Sharing Online PD content
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:32:57 EDT

Oooooo Debra, thanks for the segue!

I mentioned earlier that the Midwest and Southern RTC's are planning to pilot a "centralized" AE online Professional Development Course system via The Learning Manager next year. The idea is to try to "gather" as many AE Online courses as we can from as many states as we can, into this learning management system and then allow other states to access to "running/offering" these courses through the management system. So TN's courses will be in there and some of Ohio's courses will be in there, and if you want, Debra, Florida's courses could be in there, etc. and then AE Professional Developers could "go shopping" for the AE online course they needed to offer in their state or region. Depending on the rights the state permits, you could offer it exactly as designed, mold it to your state's needs, or you could even take "bits" from lots of different courses in order to create a new course of you own! (TLM uses the "learning objects" idea to create a database of 'Assets" and "Modules" within a given course - so components can be "swapped about" amongst various courses and/or new courses - depending on the rights authorized by the original creators.)

This is the software tool Jackie and I are currently learning - and like everything new there is a learning curve. Currently I feel an awful lot like I am braiding the Elephant's tail - I haven't even *begun* to tap into this tool's vast resources and tools. I feel a bit like I am doing everything the hard way. But our learners seem to be ok with it - discussion and learning seem to be happening. They followed the step by step guide just fine to get going in it. It *is* different than Blackboard, and like all "changeovers" there are things we feel we've lost and things we've gained. I suspect there is a whole lot more to this to be gained - I just need to be patient with myself as a learner.

Tim Ponder and Bill McNutt are collaborating in this - hopefully Tim can say more?

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1343] Re: Sharing Online PD content
From: Dlhargrove_at_aol.com
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 11:25:25 EDT

Hi Duren and others,
Your ideas regarding the centralized PD system is fantastic! I was just about to email our state director and others at DOE to see what the possbilities would be for our AE's to use online modules from other states. I'll mention your centralized idea to them and confirm that you can include our trainings.

Please keep us all posted as the status of that system,

Debra Hargrove
Florida TechNet


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1349] Re: Sharing Online PD content
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 12:47:40 EDT

Debra -
For the upcoming year (July 2004 - 2005ish) we will be "piloting" the system - there will be no cost to programs we contract with who come with content they are willing to share with anyone. If you are interested in being part of the "guinea pig" group - please let Jean Stephens, our director, know. jjstephe@utk.edu Eventually we may have too many "volunteers" but I don't think we've reached that point yet...

After the pilot year, there will be a charge for programs/states to "offer" courses from the database/using the TLM tool. The pilot year is being used to figure out, partly, how much it will all cost, how the logistics of us all sharing will work, and what the "rates" will need to be.

I have no real idea what the rate will be - but I know they are taking into consideration what *we* here in TN think would be reasonable per learner (what *we* have a budget for) as our state leadership grant will have to *pay* this TLM grant to use the service just like everyone else. So it is unlikely to be exorbitant. I *do* know that they are currently talking about a discounted rate to those who provide content that can be offered to others - so if you *do* submit your content, it will be cheaper. But folks who *have* no online content to share *will* be able to simply contract to offer the course via TLM to folks in their state.

Jean's really the coordinator of this effort - I'm just on the front lines wrestling with the new software as a designer and facilitator!  :)

Duren


Online Design



Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1308] Online design
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 15:46:23 EST

Hi Jerome, Nicki, Jennifer, Ashley, and all,

In a previous response to Eileen, Jerome wrote:

"The website (http://projectideal.org/researchq_pd.htm) looks different from Blackboard or WebCT which are built on an expert-novice model of instruction. The Project IDEAL PD model is one of community-building. We want teachers to feel they are professionals exploring a new area of skill development and getting assistance from fellow professionals, not guidance from a "sage on the stage." All the exercises ask participants to develop a plan--for recruitment, orientation, teaching and assessment of distance learners. The trainer's role is to get all of the participants in the course to provide constructive criticism of each other's plan. The textbook (Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners) is a handbook with the collected wisdom of teachers in many states on these very topics."

This leads me to wonder about all of the decisions that go in to selecting the types of technology tools one would use to design an online course. For example, if I wanted to design an online course by having a study circle online (assuming there was a specific need), and the approach of the course would be to encourage critical reflection, social construction of knowledge, lesson plan development, critique, and implementation - how do these factors play in to deciding which technology tools to choose? Would it be necessary to even use a learning management system in this case? Would a simpler technology like a discussion list and a file sharing system do?

What factors (in addition to the ones we have discussed) have a role in online course development and design?

Thanks!

Jackie


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1320] Dynamics of online design?
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 10:11:37 EST

Hello everyone,
I have a scenario for you, and a question: Participants are enrolled in an online PD course. The course contains a discussion board, for posting weekly "assignments". There is *action* on the board vis-a-vis posting assignments and some *inter*action on the board. It also has a discussion list, which participants use to send out one completed assignment per week, and find/receive announcements from the course facilitator.

Yet, none of the participants use the discussion list to share practices, even when they have been encouraged to do so. Noone talks on the list (well, except one participant, who has mentioned that she likes to learn from others; and obviously the course facilitator)! A few participants join in optional weekly chat sessions, which end up being trouble-shooting sessions with questions directed at the facilitator, and replies back to the group, for a just-in-time PD need.

What might be some pitfalls in online design? What are the larger issues of "positioning" in regards to teaching style, uses of technology options, and learning styles?

What dynamics might be involved in online design, under the surface?

Thanks!

Jackie


‘’’Subject:’’’ [NIFL-AALPD:1322] RE: Dynamics of online design?
‘’’From:’’’ kgongora (kgongora_at_proliteracy.org)
’’’Date:’’’ Fri Apr 02 2004 - 11:05:58 EST

re: the non-responsive students scenario...

For students to participate, they need to see the relevance of it to their success in the course. It would seem, from this example, that the nonparticipating students feel as though they are progressing through the material just fine without it, akin to an online lecture and subsequent test. If the facilitator wanted more actively engaged students, the design of the instruction feel short of that. Some students will take advantage of the medium with minimal prompting, but just as in a classroom, there will always be those who'd prefer to sit and listen.

To encourage a more collaborative learning experience, one thought might be that the assignments should be project-based and designed to require up front input from the students. Really, it's not that different from what you might do to encourage discussion in a classroom scenario, just with the added challenge of an asynchronous environment. You'd ask some probing questions first off, before presenting your material, and not just present information and then ask "Okay, so what do you think about it?" You might direct different questions to different students, coaxing them to participate where they otherwise might not.

Or, one simple example, this instructor could *start* a lesson by taking a position that illustrates the objective of a lesson. Ask each student to take a position on it, pro or con, and defend their position on the board, prior to getting to the 'meat' of the lesson. Once all have made their case, then you proceed.

These types of activities also give the instructor and students something to relate back to as they facilitate the course. It gives them something to discuss, and compels them to actively participate in that discussion, and not just react to something they've learned. It helps the student build the learning experience, and takes advantage of the benefits of online learning with a facilitator, instead of giving the student a paper to read.

Kristine Marane Góngora, Instructional Designer
ProLiteracy Worldwide
1320 Jamesville Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13210
315-422-9121, ext. 284
FAX: 315-422-6369
kgongora@proliteracy.org

http://www.proliteracy.org ProLiteracy Worldwide
http://www.vluonline.org Verizon Literacy University


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1324] RE: Dynamics of online design?
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 13:18:22 EST

What dynamics might be involved in online design, under the surface?

Several spring immediately to mind, but one of the things I'm learning is to try to focus on one point per message, otherwise all the points can easily get lost. So, one point: novices, intermediates, and experts each have different kinds of learning interests, needs, and "developmental tasks." The design needs to either cater clearly to a specific level, and help people self-select appropriately for enrollment in the course, or provide something for everyone and help them select from an array of options.

I use the terms novice, intermediate, and expert pretty loosely. There's a lot of overlap, and one may be a novice in one area and an intermediate or expert in others, but the terms can be useful for rough sorting. Novices might need more concrete information and direction; they can perform in superficially "expert-like" ways when given the rules experts follow. Intermediates might need more opportunities for reflection on practice, feedback or guidance on what they choose to practice. Intermediates are internalizing the assumptions that will guide them, personalizing knowledge and experience and turning it into "tacit knowledge." Experts have already internalized a great deal of knowledge and experience; they are going to pick and choose what they want to learn, and probably be much more internally motivated and self-directed in learning it.

I'm very much oversimplifying what I think is going on, but I think the level of expertise of the participants is an underlying element of design.

Eileen


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1340] RE: Dynamics of online design?
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:33:42 EDT

Another observation to the "non-responsive" students scenario.

Eileen Eckert talks about "novices, intermediates, and experts each have different kinds of learning interests, needs, and "developmental tasks."

So, If the content of the online course is *New* information for most of the participants - and many feel strongly that they *don't* have expertise in this topic/area - then wouldn't they be at the *novice* level? Wouldn't it be hard to get them to "speak out" and/or share ideas/build knowledge when they feel like they just got the knowledge?

Eileen posits "Novices might need more concrete information and direction;"

- so, if the content you are presenting is designed to be an introductory course (or orientation course for example) should you *expect* a certain kind and level of discussion/participation? Should you then *expect* lower levels of conversation - or *plan* different kinds of "prompts" or course assignments to stimulate conversation around more concrete topics?

Is it just me, or are Adult Educators generally *really* polite? I see most of our practitioners very reluctant to "challenge" each other in online discussions. I see lots of "way to gos" and "I like that ideas" but very few "what do you mean by thats' or "I disagree's." Is the *public* element a factor? Is the "permanent record" element a factor? Is it a history of "Unsafe conversational environment" that may be affecting our folks? In K-12 settings, they too are having a hard time getting teachers to collaborate - and these folks see each other every day. Our AE practitioners *might* see each other once a year. "School" has a history of "go into my room and shut the door" for most instructors. A high level of autonomy and minimum of critical observation unheard of in many other professions. Are we fighting this very entrenched more' in trying to get our teachers to be collaborative critical thinkers?

OK - I'm going to bed now. An even dozen posts is *way* too many for one evening. Hopefully I won't let so many thought-provoking e-mails build up next time.  :)

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1348] RE: Dynamics of online design?
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 12:22:07 EDT

Hi Duren,
Thanks for noting, Eileen "posits" not "states"--I am theorizing based on novice-expert research I've read and observations of teachers.

You wrote:

"Eileen posits 'Novices might need more concrete information and direction;
- so, if the content you are presenting is designed to be an introductory course (or orientation course for example) should you ‘’’expect’’’ a certain kind and level of discussion/participation? Should you then *expect* lower levels of conversation - or *plan* different kinds of 'prompts' or course assignments to stimulate conversation around more concrete topics?"

I don't think we should expect lower levels of participation (but we shouldn't be surprised if that's a constant challenge either). I think we should plan different kinds of prompts and more explanations. For example, an assignment might be to post a possible application of the content, or to really try something out and report the results, with the explanation that even though the idea is new, people tend to learn better when they can get their hands dirty (really or virtually).

The assignment could include instructions to give critical feedback about someone else's post, with information about how to give "critical" feedback that is positive and helpful.

I don't think it's just adult educators who are really polite; I see it with all my students online, and they are mostly adults returning to school from all sorts of backgrounds. I think that no one teaches how to give useful feedback, so students are reduced to saying, "I agree," "Way to go," or nothing at all. By useful feedback, I mean feedback that support's the learner's autonomy, is focused on the task and not the person, and directs the learner's attention to an aspect of the work that is important. (I'll send the feedback section of my doctoral lit review if anyone requests it off-list.)

For example, if someone posts a possible application, it can be much more helpful to get feedback that asks, "How would this work in your classroom (maybe with a certain type of student if you know that's an issue)?" than, "That would never work in my classroom!" And it is supportive of autonomy--it doesn't matter if it wouldn't work in my classroom, we're not talking about my classroom. Also, "You might try..." recognizes the learner's ultimate autonomy and choice in the matter more than "You should do..."

And it can be much more positive to say, "It looks to me like that application is designed to do x, y, and z" than, "You're so creative to come up with that!" And it is focused on the work rather than using the work to make judgments about qualities of the person. "You're so creative" sets a standard that people can internalize as "Uh oh, they're judging my abilities with everything I write. I'm not subjecting myself to that."

Lastly, a specific comment on an aspect of the work that is intriguing, could be better explained, doesn't seem to fit with the rest, or deserves attention for some reason is more helpful than a general, "What a good idea!" Whatever the level of expertise of the learner, it's pretty rare for an idea or application to spring forth in final form, and learning how to pick the aspects that work could improve is an important and usually appreciated skill.

I think that if we can be more explicit about how we support learning and community-building, as well as about the content, we can have more successful participation. Of course this is all based on observations and research I've read. No one's funded me to study it formally ; )

Eileen


[NIFL-AALPD:1357] Re: Online design
From: Jennifer Elmore (jennifer_at_jelmore.com)
Date: Tue Apr 06 2004 - 12:00:13 EDT

Hi everyone.
I'm responding to a series of questions that Jackie posted on Thursday. (I was offline at the end of last week - my apologies for the delayed reply.)

This leads me to wonder about all of the decisions that go in to selecting the types of technology tools one would use to design an online course. For example, if I wanted to design an online course by having a study circle online (assuming there was a specific need), and the approach of the course would be to encourage critical reflection, social construction of knowledge, lesson plan development, critique, and implementation - how do these factors play in to deciding which technology tools to choose? Would it be necessary to even use a learning management system in this case? Would a simpler technology like a discussion list and a file sharing system do?
What factors (in addition to the ones we have discussed) have a role in online course development and design?

I'd like to share a few of the questions that Steve Linberg and I considered while we were developing technology platforms for LiteracyLink (http://litlink.ket.org/) and for another multimedia resource called The Professional Development Kit (http://literacy.org/pdk).

Our answers to these (non-tech-related) questions actually drove our technology decisions. Although Steve and I used these questions to develop an online delivery mechanism ourselves, I think that they could also inform a technology selection process. If you are looking for a commercial or "pre-made" online delivery mechanism, the following issues are (I think) important to consider:

  • the kind(s) of content resources you'll likely provide
  • the nature of your online community/types of interaction you'd like to promote

CONTENT
The following is a fairly central content question: are you planning to present core content materials, around which discussion and activity can take place - or will participants be responsible for generating the content, themselves, by responding to the facilitator's questions? The technology implications are different in each case.

If you are planning to create your own content (and this content is more extensive than a list of links to other web resources), you will need to "house" it somewhere - which, in turn, recommends a more complete learning management system. A simple discussion board, for instance, probably would not handle all of your content presentation needs. If your primary learning goals involve tapping into participants' professional knowledge and providing a collaborative forum that does not assert a set of "materials" for study/consideration, a simple discussion board and file-sharing system would probably be adequate.

COMMUNITY
Defining the kind of online community you'd like to create (and the sort of communication you'd like to encourage) will help you decide which interactive tools to choose/use.

  • What would you like your ideal online community/working group to "look" like? For instance, how often might participants interact?
  • Will participants always interact as one large group - and/or will they break into smaller working groups/pairs?
  • How would you like discussions/collaborations to unfold - who will prompt activity?
  • What kind of access will participants have to facilitator(s)? What kind of access will participants have to their classmates?

Jennifer

Jennifer Elmore, M.S.Ed.
Education Consultant
http://jelmore.com


[NIFL-AALPD:1358] Re: Online design
From: Jerome Johnston (jerej_at_umich.edu)
Date: Tue Apr 06 2004 - 20:27:11 EDT

In the full message below Jackie asks:

”Would it be necessary to even use a learning management system in this case? Would a simpler technology like a discussion list and a file sharing system do?”
1. Examine what you are trying to accomplish; identify an electronic tool that provides exactly the kind of activities you are trying to support.
2. Examine the experience of your audience. Are any online tools that your audience is already comfortable with?

If your target audience is already familiar and comfortable with WebCT, adapt that tool to fit the learning goals of your project. If they are unfamiliar with any tool or system, then you are free to introduce a cost effective solution that has the characteristics you want. If you choose a "new" system for them you will have to count on a training period in which you bring your audience up to a level of fluency that will meet your goals for the experience.

I have adapted www.communityzero.com to meet the needs of Project IDEAL member states. Over the years I have insisted that each member state train their teachers in how to use that tool. Even so, when I introduced the Study Group concept last fall, to add a virtual PD activity for experience distance teachers, I learned that we had to have a two-week window before the Study Group began during which we re-trained participants to become fluent with a tool they had only recently stopped using.


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1371] Re: Online design - LONG
From: Duren Thompson (solveig@utk.edu)
Date: Fri Apr 09 2004 - 11:08:30 EDT

For COABE two years ago, we presented on what we had learned in developing online courses, facilitating online courses, and being a student in online courses.

When it came right down to it - what we learned was what *questions* to ask yourself. Jerome below asks some of those questions. Our impression was that there was no one right way to create online courses for AE - that it all depended on your resources, your purpose, the needs of your target audience, the content, the limitations of your target audience, etc.

Without sharing the whole list (we had a two-sided, 10pt font handout which listed LOTS of questions for developers to answer prior to and during development - and we thought we hadn't listed all the question - really), here are some of the *key questions* we think go into online design (with a few comments about what decisions we've made and why).

1) First we suggest that you have done some research in the field of online PD, assessed your audience's needs and resources (as well as your own resources) and *Have a Plan* - meaning really thought through the desired outcomes, considered a realistic time schedule, and identified who will be doing the work).
2) Then we suggest the following questions about Course *Design*:
  • What delivery method(s) do we want to use?
  • Have we considered a variety of delivery technologies - alone or in combination? (web pages, software packages, e-mail, CD-ROM, etc.)
  • How accessible is each technology for learners? How flexible is it for a particular target group?
  • What is the cost structure of each technology? What is the unit cost per student?
  • What are the best technologies for supporting the desired instructional and learning approaches?
  • What kind of participant interaction does the technology enable? How easy is it to use?
  • What are the organizational requirements, and the barriers to be removed before this technology can be used successfully? What changes in the organization need to be made?
  • How new is this technology? Have we read third-party reviews? What kind of technical support can we expect?
  • How quickly can courses be implemented/mounted with this technology? How quickly can materials be changed?

(We chose Blackboard at the time because there was training for developers and facilitators available at UT for free/minimal cost, we could "rent" it cheaply, it seemed fairly easy for us to get content "into" and to change content, it allowed us the options for asynchronous and synchronous dialogue, and the interface seemed pretty straightforward and low bandwidth for our users.)

  • Are we using good general curriculum design methods?
  • Have we set clear educational goals for the course?
  • Have we obtained/created a course map/flowchart/outline?
  • If we are “adapting” existing materials, have we considered how it will be “chunked,” as well as what will need to be added and/or deleted?
  • What is the duration of the course? How many total hours should it take a participant to complete the course?
  • What kinds of learning are needed/wanted? What instructional approaches will best meet these needs?
  • What materials will we use? Have we considered copyright issues?
  • Based on our desired outcomes & the course goals, what “level or type” of learning is expected from our participants?
  • How will we assess participants learning? How will “grading” work?

(We decided on 6 weeks and 12 hours right up front for a reason I can no longer remember - not too long, but enough time for more in-depth learning. Then we actually had to stop and go back to the first question halfway through our "adaptation" of Florida's materials. We were trying to do too much - add too much information. We had to narrow our scope and *Keep It Simple.* The overall course outline became *very* important - and interestingly enough, the structure of the platform we were using - BlackBoard - influenced how we chose to "chunk" our materials AND how we were going to "assess" learning.)

  • Are we using good online curriculum design methods?
  • How will participants interact with each other and the facilitator? (Asynchronous, synchronous, or combination? Independent, indirect, cohort, group work, etc?)
  • What media do we wish to incorporate? (text, hyperlinks, audio, video, etc.)
  • Have we obtained/created a design for the layout, the interface, graphics, etc?
  • How will we keep participants motivated/engaged?
  • What resources, materials, “hands-on” access will participants need?

(We were, like everything, on a fairly short and crowded deadline to develop the course content the first year - it was almost entirely text-based, except, of course, for the richness of the web sites we linked to. We added more graphics directly into BlackBoard for the second and third offerings. We learned to link all files as pdfs (not MS Word files) and chose to put them in as links rather than use Blackboard's upload feature - it limited out control of placement and "look" of the link in the course. We learned to *warn* participants that they would need access to AE students to complete coursework - some had to arrange to "borrow" a class or two to complete the course. We are *still* problem-solving the whole discussion board, discussion list, and chat interaction issue  :)

  • What will we expect of our facilitators? (We have a separate sheet of “Questions to ask yourself as a Facilitator”)
  • How will we train our facilitators?
  • What kind of tech support will we provide? How?
  • What kind of access will they have to developers to ask questions?
  • What level of control/access will they have to make changes to the course materials?

(We didn't ask these questions until the second offering - when we had a facilitator who wasn't involved in the development. We're still working on this. One thing we *have* learned - is that we suggest facilitators should *take* the course as a student prior to facilitating it. Then they should have access to the "whys" of how the course was constructed - how the answers to how some of the questions above were determined. And we limit the changes pretty heavily - and that for facilitators to make changes - they have to be trained in the development side of the software.)

  • What will we expect of our participants? (and another separate sheet - “Questions to ask yourself as a Participant”)
  • How will we train our participants?
  • What kind of tech support will we provide? How?
  • What materials will they be expected to have/buy?
  • Have we made expectations clear throughout the course and

“promotional” materials? In multiple formats? Repeatedly?

(The "...clear expectations throughout, ...in multiple formats, repeatedly" part was something we learned over the first 3 offerings and keep getting reminded every time. We've also learned to tell folks what they NEED to read all the way through - we send them directions - and then they chose not to follow them, and have tech problems! We *still* get folks who say "Oh, I need an e-mail address for this course?" or "Oh, this is internet? I thought it would come in the mail.")

  • Have we addressed course “logistics”?
  • Who will “host” the site? How will course material be uploaded?
  • Have we addressed instructional support for the participant? (glossary of terms, syllabus, schedule, explanation of academic expectations & course logistics, contact information for facilitators, etc.)
  • When/how will students “turn in” assignments?
  • Have we considered “incompletes/failures” and completion/make up procedures?
  • Have we addressed the registration process and “drops”?
  • Have we addressed payment/money issues?
  • Have we addressed “credit” issues what will students “get” as a result of course completion?

(Many of these questions we encountered *during* the first offering of our first course. If a student signed up for the course and then never showed - how did we deal with that? If a student showed for the first assignment and never completed anything after that - what do we do? Payment/money has not been an issue so far - but we have asked ourselves the question - would asking for a minimal charge - like $30, make finishing the course more important to folks - give the course more value?)

3) We then listed a series of questions re implementation, testing, marketing, evaluation and maintenance. How will you know it is successful? How will you know *what* made it successful? We implemented a 6 month "follow-up" survey via e-mail and snailmail (for those who do not respond to the e-mail). We get about a 25 - 50% return. At the end of the course we ask them to make a plan for integrating the new information into their instruction - and on the survey we ask how they did on their plan? What worked? What didn't? What could support them better and what effect did the course have on their students?

Whew! That's a lot of info. Sorry to take so long - but I thought this might help folks.

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Online F2F and Judging


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1285] online, face-to-face, and judging appearances
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Wed Mar 31 2004 - 15:04:23 EST

I agree with lots of the comments on the importance of a face-to-face component to a mainly online course. To play devil's advocate (again) though, courses that never involve a face-to-face meeting take away many of the opportunities to incorporate appearances into our evaluations of others' ideas.

We can still make assumptions based on names, writing style, tone, and usage, and information the participants choose to disclose, but we don't have appearance, and I think that's a major source of stereotypical judgments (not that we make them on purpose, but it's very hard to overcome acculturation).

What do others think?

Eileen


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1323] Re: online, face-to-face, and judging
From: Eunice Askov (ena1_at_psu.edu)
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 12:31:51 EST

Eileen, I am really glad you made this comment. Our Penn State students are from all over the world so face-to-face is not possible! I have heard from students that they are glad not to be seen, especially if they are doing course work late at night in their p.j.s! A woman in my class was a paraplegic who had had difficulties with access at other higher ed. institutions (especially during the winter). It is also very interesting because we do not know a person's racial or ethnic background. Sometimes a person will say, later in a course, "This issue is important to me because I am African American." Online instruction really is a leveler of race, ethnicity, social class, etc. which I believe enhances learning since we can hear all viewpoints equally. Nickie Askov


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1326] NIFL-AALPD:1323] Re: online, face-to-face, and judging
From: Bonnie Odiorne (bonniesophia_at_adelphia.net)
Date: Fri Apr 02 2004 - 16:52:19 EST

I've been monitoring with interest the exchange about face-to-face vs. a "total" distance learning environment, particularly that between Eileen and Nickie, regarding distance learning as having the potential to defuse stereotypical assumptions in acculturation, or "leveling". I'm not at all sure about this. I suspect that we might make the same assumptions via appearance as we might from names, ways of speaking/writing, level of expertise. In other words, acculturation will always be at play, and that the assumption of neutrality or "leveling" in the "faceless" environment of distance learning needs to be looked at very carefully. When you mentioned, Nickie, that sometimes someone might reveal their race or ethnicity later in the course, I wonder about that. Could that imply that "before" that revelation all things were equal but that now they're not, that our assumptions have been put back into place? Or would a person's revelation about race or ethnicity come as surprising because a "neutral" position in our socio-economic power structures might be assumed at "white?" (or educated, or whatever). I'm not meaning to offend by asking these questions, and I've not had the chance yet to be "on the other side of the monitor (desk)" as a distance learning teacher. I wonder what others might think?

The issue of gender is here as well, since it's not as "easy" to conceal gender... I can remember some five years ago when my program got started we were really thrilled to be all women in a domain that had been rather exclusively male, that of technological "experts."

I'm equally interested about someone not having to care about their appearance when they "attend" class, which might be similar to people's working at home or telecommuting. I'm also interested in the paraplegic, who is using distance learning as to my mind it is meant, i.e. to overcome distance and/or transportation barriers, which as an individual with a visual impairment I share. What assumptions might you make about me if I were slower than some to do a web search because my eyesight was a factor in the quick scanning of information? Would I give the impression of an "inefficient" reader? Again, I don't ask from defensiveness, but I sincerely want to know, because the question addresses the fears I had had about joining a "regular" computer training, that I'd "slow down the class." Turns out that I do have the proficiency to keep up in a "mainstream" environment, but there might be a button or dialogue box or whatever I might not immediately see. Which addresses the issue of the differences in reading print vs. in the technology medium.... These musings do get one far afield, but all have to do with some kind of "positional" assumptions of competence, certainly; power perhaps, in the distance learning environment, and might again be a factor in students' retention, participation in discussions etc.

Warmest Regards,
Bonnie Odiorne Ph.D
Program Faciliator
Working Smart
Computers 4 Kids
Silas Bronson Library Information Technology Center
Waterbury, CT
Integrating Technology, ABE and ESL Instruction


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1329] Re: online, face-to-face, and judging
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:23:35 EDT

Hi Bonnie, and others,
I have been trying without success to find the student comment in an article on online learning that triggered my writing. In that course, students met face-to-face after the course was over, and one wrote that she developed a sympathetic or friendly relationship with a fellow student whom, if they had both been in a classroom together, she would have dismissed based on her appearance. In that case I believe it wasn't race or class; I think it was just style--maybe Birkenstock vs. business suit.

I've facilitated online courses in which I never met my students, and there were times I did instinctively jump to conclusions based on name, writing style, a few disclosures, etc. For "instinct" read "culturally conditioned and hard-to-overcome stereotyping." A good thing about solely online learning is that in the absence of a physical impression of someone, I was prodded more to become aware of the stereotyping I was doing. So I saw a Latina name--what did I expect from that? And despite personal experience to counter familiar stereotypes, and despite hours of diversity training (which may be where my bias against formal training originated), the weight of ingrained prejudice was such that I expected her to have some basic skills difficulties. But when that happened based only on a name, it prompted me to question why I would leap to that conclusion, whereas if we had been in a classroom I might have taken appearance into account and probably not given much thought to jumping to whatever conclusion I would have reached. I still wouldn't have had real evidence, I just would have had appearance as well as a name, and I think we all unconsciously make judgments on that flimsy basis all the time. Without it, maybe we're prompted to become a little more aware? Or maybe we don't jump to the same conclusions?

Then again, maybe we would, and do.


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1341] Re: NIFL-AALPD:1323] Re: online, face-to-face,
From: Eunice Askov (ena1_at_psu.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:34:34 EDT

Bonnie, I don't know how to answer your questions. Of course, we all make assumptions about others based on a person's communications in a distance education course. I didn't mean to imply that these assumptions would not exist. However, it is more subtle than if the person is sitting in a classroom. Some students find that liberating (for whatever reason), or so they have told me.

It is interesting, to me at any rate, that people reveal what they want about themselves in this learning environment. (The intent of the student home pages is to let us get to know each other.) Since you mention visual impairment, I had a student who very openly revealed that she was visually impaired. It seemed to be part of her identity, I guess, because it didn't affect her performance in our online course. (Maybe she was concerned that it would affect her performance.) Another student was very concerned about being older than the other students, a fact that she mentioned in a private email. She unfortunately dropped the course, expressing that she was too old to learn in that environment. I also had a student with one of those names that could be either male or female. The student whom I had assumed was female turned out to be a male (revealed when he mentioned his wife!).

Regardless, I do feel that I get to know students well in this medium. Some of them share very personal things, usually privately and often when they are unable to keep an assignment deadline. But I have also had students share good news, both privately and openly. The class that I had during the semester of Sept. 11th became particularly close as one of the students had a relative who was missing and then found dead in the tragedy. (She gave us regular updates as they searched for her relative. At the end of the course she thanked us all for being her support group.) I'm not sure that people are that open in a face-to-face environment. It reminds me of the person on the airplane sitting next to you who tells you their life story (or their fears and concerns) because they know they will never see you again!

To bring this discussion back to online professional development, the situation I am describing is probably very different because our students are scattered geographically. They are engaging in Penn State courses online because of their individual desire for professional development certified by a certificate (as in the Certificate in Family Literacy) or a degree (as in our M.Ed. in Adult Education). Many non-credit PD opportunities may involve groups of teachers where they already know each other or at least have some commonalities of teaching experiences, needs, and interests. Does this make a difference in retention? In learning? I don't know.
Nickie


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1350] Re: NIFL-AALPD:1323] Re: online, face-to-face,
From: Bonnie Odiorne (bonniesophia_at_adelphia.net)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 15:35:05 EDT

Nickie and Eileen,
Thanks for your answers. I suspected that if we thought a bit more we'd come up with more nuanced answers about online stereotyping: the important thing is to be aware, and, perhaps, think about other aspects of the online culture. I've not done a lot of chat, but there's the emoticon and other print and text conventions that supposedly convey feelings that don't come across online; I've never felt particularly constrained expressively myself, or felt that in others. Has anyone else experienced a spillover of online "netiquette" issues from the wider area of chat and the Internet? I think also of the abbreviations of text messaging... Just curious. As for the novice, not used to typing a lot, how would that impact ease of expressivity? And does acquisition of PD AND technology skills simultaneous impact the learning curve. I'm interested in your "little old lady", and why she felt discouraged. We're getting beyond race/ethnicity to the whole issue of online learning, ease with the medium, reflection on one's learning etc.

Warmest Regards,
Bonnie Odiorne Ph.D
Program Faciliator
Working Smart
Computers 4 Kids
Silas Bronson Library Information Technology Center
Waterbury, CT
Integrating Technology, ABE and ESL Instruction


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1351] Re: online, face-to-face, and judging
From: Rejoicer_at_aol.com
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 17:22:16 EDT

Eileen commented on the thrill of meeting the students face to face after being online together. Palloff and Pratt, in Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace : Effective Strategies for the Online Classroom, discuss the importance of creating community in the online classroom, and I would suspect that a strong community was established in their classroom, and the face-to-face crystalized that. In my graduate program, wholly online, we are required to attend three residencies during the course of our PhD work. These are the places that you put the name and the face together. Even though our courseroom posts pictures, the in-person meeting really is different.

Like any other class, though, you can sit beside someone all semester and never connect. It isn't all that different online. The key is to facilitate the connections.

Jean Marrapodi

PS. My office server decided these are spam (egad!) so I will be working from this e-mail moving forward.


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1353] Re: NIFL-AALPD:1323] Re: online, face-to-face,
From: Marian Thacher (mthacher_at_otan.us)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 23:24:39 EDT

I also had a student with one of those names that could be either male or female. The student whom I had assumed was female turned out to be a male (revealed when he mentioned his wife!).

On the other hand, there are women these days who also have wives, so yet another assumption bites the dust.  :)

Marian Thacher
OTAN


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1362] Re: online, face-to-face, and judging appearances
From: Cynthia Barnes (cbarnes2_at_ccc.edu)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 13:58:18 EDT

Eileen,

I think that you make a very good point. One of the most important "up sides" of online and distance courses is the fact that they help us to interact with one another sans the usual biases that we have about others' appearances.

In fact, I visited a school some years ago where all students were required to wear uniforms. I thought that the uniforms were for the students' benefit, i.e., to eliminate rivalry and bullying, etc. However, the principal told me that the students wore uniforms so that the teachers would not be able to tell what socio-economic group the children were from (based on considerable research that documents the connection between teacher expectations and student performance). That experience was a real eye-opener.

And for people who everyday are judged, first, by what they look like and, perhaps later, by who they are, you can't imagine how wonderful it is to be able to interact in a "color/class/gender/age-blind" medium.

Having said this, the digital divide still represents formidable obstacles for some learners, i.e., those whose socio-economic and/or academic "disadvantages" have not helped them acquire computer literacy.

By the same token, until on-line and other media incorporate voice-actuated and non-written dimensions (I'm sure some already do) where people for whom written communication is more challenging can participate, some will still be excluded from learning in this way, just as they may be handicapped in face-to-face learning situations.

Conversely, helping learners learn to navigate and negotiate online learning creates a need to know that can be a real motivator for helping students develop computer competencies and improving writing skills. A community college in Washington State teaches ESL, in part, through an Introduction to Computers course. Students must learn to use the computer (and all of the vocabulary associated with it) at the same time that they improve their writing and speaking skills by writing email messages to one another and reading those sent to them.

Well, I've rambled on enough about this. I've truly enjoyed the wealth of information this forum has provided.

Blessings,

Cynthia


Creating Champions



Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1306] Non-technology Considerations
From: Tim Ponder (tponder_at_zhost.net)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 11:33:57 EST

Hello,
I want to echo what several have said, wow! When Jackie asked me to join her in this activity, I thought it would generate a rich discussion, but what we have had the first three days is way beyond what I expected. I want to thank our guests and all participants of this list for their participation in this discussion.

We will be looking at some of the technology related issues in distance education, especially as they relate to the topics discussed so far. Yet it is important to (continue) addressing the non-technology angle. What other non-technology related issues need to be considered? What issues did you encounter in the planning or development of the distance education activity?

Examples might be related to accountability, accreditation and standards, teaching styles, or what pedagogical concerns were identified and addressed. How did your audience respond?

How did the non-technology related issues help define the choice of platform or technology you chose to use? What features of the technology became important? Did you or would you revisit your choice based on what you have learned?

And finally, to participants in distance education activates, how well did the chosen platform address your "non-technology" needs. What suggestions or requests would you have for the instructor/facilitator to enhance your learning experience.

tim

Tim Ponder
Ohio Literacy Resource Center/Midwest LINCS
tponder@literacy.kent.edu
865-637-7074
http://www.midwestlincs.org


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1307] non-technology: creating champions
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_athotmail.com)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 14:35:38 EST

Tim asked about non-technology issues around online pd. One that springs to mind is the role of advocates, champions, early adopters in getting started--key people with both the vision and understanding of the potential effectiveness of online pd <and> the authority or position in an organization to make things happen.

Can some people in organizations that are using online learning for pd talk about this?

Thanks,
Eileen


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1309] Re: non-technology: creating champions
From: Joyce Probus (JProbus_at_ket.org)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 16:01:30 EST

In October of 2001, KET and the Kentucky Department for Adult Education and Literacy launched an online training site designed to help Kentucky's adult educators prepare to teach their students about the new version GED exam, which was to come into use in January of 2002.

This free site, located at http://www.ket.org/ged2002, has been visited by teachers from all 50 states, and several countries. The site counter is at 79,226 visitors as I write, and I watched as seven new teachers registered in the minutes after 2 p.m. today.

There are several reasons this site has been so successful :

  • timely delivery of information that was new, and greatly needed
  • the graphic interface of the Internet permits samples of graphic literacy questions
  • simulation of alternate format questions, with immediate scoring and feedback

Please visit!

Joyce Probus
KET
560 Cooper Drive
Lexington, KY 40502-0022
800-354-9067


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1338] http://www.ket.org/ged2002
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:32:13 EDT

I like this site and have only one complaint -

What about the *other* subject areas on the GED 2002?
This site covers Math, Writing, and Critical Thinking. And while Critical Thinking is a major component of the Science, Social Studies and Reading sections - our practitioners have asked us when you all are going to "add" the other subject areas?

So they like it! And they want more! (We link to it and have them explore it in our GED 2002 Teaching Tools online Course.)

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1310] Re: non-technology: creating champions
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 16:20:06 EST

Joyce,
Thanks for the link. Did you have a "champion"? Clear demand for online training and someone to hear and respond? How did this training come to be offered online?

Eileen


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1312] Re: non-technology: creating champions
From: Joyce Probus (JProbus_at_ket.org)
Date: Thu Apr 01 2004 - 17:26:33 EST

The GED2002 Online Professional Development project was piloted by KET's Milli Fazey, project consultant for PBS LiteracyLink's GED Connection and Workplace Essential Skills. Just as Kentucky Educational Television's network of transmitters was developed to beam educational programming around the hills and hollows of our state--the physical barriers; the LiteracyLink project used technology to extend the opportunities and improve the quality of education for adult literacy providers across the nation (www.pbs.org/literacy).

Milli and DAEL applied this learning model to reach teachers across the state in a timely way, building upon the experience gained from LiteracyLink's online learning components and KET's role in the production of the GED Connection materials. Milli continues to develop online training materials for Kentucky, most recently for LiteracyLink's Online Management System.

KET is proud to partner with PBS to offer ESL/CivicsLink online professional development for teachers of Civics to English language learners (www.pbs.org/civicslink).


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1337] Re: non-technology: creating champions
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 08:31:15 EDT

In TN, we have been incredibly fortunate to have our State Director of Adult Education, Phil White, be a "champion."

He has really worked to integrate the benefits of technology into all aspects of Adult Education - at all levels. He has supported and encouraged online PD, Distance Education for Adult Learners (the full range - online through low tech), e-mail for communication, computers for programs, and "Computer Basic Skills" classes.

We also have a set of "Support Practitioners" in TN who work with other practitioners in regions of the state to answer questions, encourage good instructional practices, disseminate resources, etc. These folks (about 20 or so) peppered our first few online courses. They are the ‘’’gung-ho’’’ early adopters - and they in-turn "talked up" the courses to others as part of their "support" role . We have similar "gung-ho" supervisors/coordinators who also joined the early classes and talked them up to their instructors as well as their peers.

Then, of course, there is the whole Center staff and the wonderful, wonderful PI's we have (People In charge - 'Principle Investigators' to UT). They also threw their support, encouragement, challenges, and even needed skepticism in our direction as we over-enthusiastic techo-philes proudly announced "It can be done! Now how do we do it?" - and then went on through many jungles to capture the online PD beastie.

I feel we have also been fortunate in our support from the Federal offices - their encouragement, through Phil White, has been important as well. If there was no support or even "atta-boys" coming from that direction, I'm sure our struggles would have been longer.

So yes, having everyone "on the same page" made implementing Online Professional Development much easier. And since we already *had* such great advocates standing out there for us - I really have no ideas as to how to "find" or recruit such champions or advocates...Any ideas folks?

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Videoconferencing and Video Online



Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1346] Re: [NIFL-AALPD] being funny on-line
From: Marian Thacher (mthacher_at_otan.us)
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 11:48:42 EDT

I'd like to make a distinction between videoconferences or webcasts where one person is addressing many, and ones that are more interactive. Duren describes the one-to-many videoconference well. I think we do get into that "looking professional" thing, maybe because we can't see our audience reaction so we are trying to be more 'perfect,' or maybe because of our ideas about what TV is "supposed" to look like. But it doesn't have to be that way. I think once we get used to it, we could make it much more personal.

Especially with smaller groups. The videoconference ABE math class I observed in San Diego was very informal, relaxed, and personal. Students at the distant site raised their hands, asked questions, made jokes with the teacher and talked with the students at the other site. They had all developed relationships with each other after a few weeks of class.

It wouldn't be that interesting to watch a video of any of these events. We do post streaming videos of most of our big webcasts, and nobody would watch them unless they ‘’’really’’’ wanted the information, but sometimes that's the case. But the actual events, I think, can be interactive and comfortable once we get more used to the medium.

Marian Thacher
OTAN

nifl-aalpd@nifl.gov writes:
>At 01:00 PM 3/31/2004 -0500, Heide Wrigley wrote:

"QUESTION: What have been the experiences of others in that respect? Have you been turned off on these conferences because of tone (because the facilitator or guest speaker was either way too earnest or didn't seem to take things seriously enough?) Or perhaps (s)he was just a tad too preachy?


I find video conferences/presentations to be overrated. Once i was over the "cool - neato" part, most presenters were wooden. Interaction was always at a very minimum (one question here, another question there, and then it was over). They all seemed to be overly concerned with "looking professional." So no, "glibness" and too much humor was not an issue for me. Then, of course, in web-based video there is he nasty delay and grainy-ness of the video itself. I hate it when the speaker is talking about 2 seconds before their mouth moves.
We, as practitioners, need to be *actors* with *editors* and directors* in order to make best use of the video medium. Think about it. If you video-taped a "typical class" of yours (especially from only one position in the room) - would it make for interesting viewing? Or would we be bored? What makes video most interesting to us is generally the *story* - and the way the story is told. What was the last documentary *you* watched all the way through? And those *have* stories and editing.

Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1355] Videoconferencing and video online
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Tue Apr 06 2004 - 06:13:03 EDT

Good morning, Heide, Duren, Marian, All,
(Duren, Marian, I realize you may not be available to address this until next week.)

Heide, you shared your experience as a speaker/facilitator in a videoconference, and I understood you to say how difficult it is to communicate to a group of people whose faces you do not see. To a different degree, I think that moderators/facilitators on discussion lists can somewhat relate, except that (should one be so inclined) anyone can email in their pajamas at 6 a.m. and not worry about that level of appearance! Thanks for stepping forward with your experiences.

Duren, I appreciate you sharing your insights on videoconferencing. While I can relate; I would also like to understand better. I hear you saying that you have had some negative experiences in this regard, but I also hear you saying that video as an online learning tool for professional development is a worthwhile endeavor. Is this correct? When you shared your experience of videoconferences/ presentations, were you writing in terms of your experience as a participant, an observer of, or a presenter in a videoconference (or any combination thereof)? Thanks in advance for clarifying.

Marian, I hear you saying that there are many strategies that can be used with videoconferencing. Next week, we will be discussing the specifics of online courses, but I would like for us to not lose these thoughts. Regarding videoconferencing in general, what have you found to work best, and in which situations? I'll bet you have many insights in this regard.

What have been others' experiences with video and professional development online or at a distance? How have you used video face-to-face, and how might that translate (or not) to a distance education experience?

(And for next week -- How might video be effectively incorporated into online professional development courses?)

Thanks!
Jackie


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1356] Re: Videoconferencing and video online
From: Janet Smith (smith_at_literacy.upenn.edu)
Date: Tue Apr 06 2004 - 10:26:01 EDT

Hi Jackie,

We recently finished a literature review for TECH21 on videoconferencing and professional development that might be of interest. Some of the report deals with desktop videoconferencing, but the discussion is a bit fluid concerning the various types.

Here is a section of the discussion that might be of interest, though it is lit review oriented. Mary Russell can probably add more since she is working directly with the TECH21 desktop videoconferencing initiative.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Many of the tips for large-group videoconferencing also hold true for DVC (and for teaching in general).

Planning issues

  • Plan for the DVC event to be early in the day when the Internet might be less crowded.
  • Distribute session agendas and materials several days ahead of time so that expectations are clear.
  • Involve teachers in the development of programs for their professional development.
  • Make sure there is enough time for interaction.
  • Discuss etiquette and turn-taking in advance to avoid confusion and frustration.
  • Have a backup plan and maintain a telephone bridge if possible .
  • Make sure the set up area affords some sense of privacy.

Practical considerations

  • Avoid clothing that has bright colors and busy patterns. Wear plain fabrics of muted colors.
  • Enunciate and speak more slowly than the normal rate of speech.
  • Minimize abrupt motion because movement has to be compressed and decompressed.
  • Talk to the camera rather than the computer screen so you appear engaged with the other participants.
  • Avoid extreme close-ups with camera placement and be aware of the importance of eye contact between users.
  • Limit extraneous noises like coughing or saying “umm.” Instead provide non-verbal feedback like slowly nodding your head.

Pedagogical and design issues

  • Establish pedagogical outcomes first and use DVC to accomplish them where appropriate.
  • Exploit the motivational effects of DVC on the learners.
  • Seek interesting links/partnerships with other agencies and programs.
  • Involve all participants within the first few minutes so they don’t disengage, informal introductions or chat can be effective in reducing anxiety and creating rapport.
  • Encourage interaction by limiting instructor talk to no more than 10-15 minutes without learner responses and activities.
  • Use a variety of different media to engage interest.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The full report can be found at the following URL:

http://www.literacy.org/products/t21_vc_smith_v14.pdf

Hope this adds to the discussion a bit.

I've been glued to my computer reading posts for days now. I really like all the info. It has given me a lot to think about. Great job Jackie!

Janet

Janet C. Smith, PhD
Senior Editor and Manager of Internet Communications
National Center on Adult Literacy / International Literacy Institute
Graduate School of Education / University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3111
phone: 215-746-6736
email: smith_at_literacy.upenn.edu


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1359] FWD: RE: Videoconferencing and video online
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 09:37:48 EDT

[From Duren, please read on ~ ]

I have been a participant in 5 or more "televised" videoconferences, and 3-4 "desktop" video conferences.

The "televised" video conferences were either "one way" or "minimally interactive - in that I was part of a large group and the presenter or presenters did most of the talking with one or two questions taken from each of several sites participating in the teleconference. It was a lot like being in a face-to-face 100 people "lecture" class in college. I could have slept through it and no one would have noticed. I didn't feel engaged at all - I could have watched the video tape and gotten the same experience. The video *quality* was good, but the speakers were very formal, stilted, and had little screen presence. Lastly, in my opinion, what little "question and answer" with the presenter that happened enhanced the experience very little. Oh - and I had to travel to wherever the conference was happening on *their* schedule not mine.

The Desktop video conferences were generally informal - more like meetings (or demonstrations of videoconferencing). I was sincerely disappointed by the video quality - very jumpy - and it's mismatch with the audio track - video was often seconds behind the audio. Quality was so poor that I tended NOT to look at the video as it distracted me from the task at hand. And in missing the video it turns out I missed very little of any importance. In all cases the video link to "see" each other was provided purely to give the participants a face-to-face feel - not to convey critical visual information.

In particular, I was able to gain *very* little from facial expressions due to video quality (and yes, some of these were recent). Body language - at least "large motions" would have been visible - except again, the participants were sitting down, and tended to move very little (likely because someone told them to keep motions slow or to a minimum due to video compression.) I found little value from the video for a fair amount of technological effort and/or complexity.

But then again, I am someone who is *comfortable* not seeing folks I am interacting with. E-mail, discussion boards, phone calls, etc. are routine in my life and I feel I can connect *without* video. For someone who is a very "visual" or "in person" collaborator, video contact - even poor video contact may be very important.

So yes, I feel it has a place in PD online/at a distance - depending on the material presented, the needs of the learners, and the technological limitations involved, but I think sometimes it is "over-hyped." I feel video for the sake of video is not a good idea. It is technologically more complicated, requires more monetary investment (for bandwidth at least, plus cameras), and delivers poorly in my opinion. Remember, I noted that just getting *microphones* installed by users for Centra was a significant technological challenge. Some of our practitioners can't get better than a 3600 connection to the internet from their place of employment, much less at home. And until it is more functional, easier to access, and more widespread, we aren't going to be very good at using it to its full capacity (practice improving implementation). Using it solely so we can see each others' "talking heads" is *not* in my mind, using it effectively for instruction. I'm waiting for advances in either the delivery of video signal or better access to WIDE bandwidth before I am going to start advocating for its inclusion in online professional development.

I'm waiting breathlessly for cars that drive themselves, too.  :)


Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies

At 06:12 AM 4/6/2004 -0400, you wrote:
Good morning, Heide, Duren, Marian, All,

[snip]

Duren, I appreciate you sharing your insights on videoconferencing. While I can relate; I would also like to understand better. I hear you saying that you have had some negative experiences in this regard, but I also hear you saying that video as an online learning tool for professional development is a worthwhile endeavor. Is this correct? When you shared your experience of videoconferences/ presentations, were you writing in terms of your experience as a participant, an observer of, or a presenter in a videoconference (or any combination thereof)? Thanks in advance for clarifying.
(And for next week -- How might video be effectively incorporated into online professional development courses?)
Thanks!
Jackie

Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1360] RE: Videoconferencing and video online
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 13:16:45 EDT

I'm another who doesn't need video, so I tend to dismiss it; however, in order to get beyond the first-generation stiltedness and other bugs, don't we first have to go through those problems? Maybe in ten years we'll be saying, "Boy, remember when we were using just using text to communicate--how did we ever manage?!"

The first time I taught online, I included links to Science Friday archives of radio shows on cognition and learning. I had high-speed Internet then, so it was easy for me to access, and I thought it would be a great enhancement to the other materials in the course. I think one out of seven of my students was able to access it, and I ended up dropping it.

One approach is to use video as an enhancement rather than a required part of the course, and make sure everybody knows that if they can get it it's a nice extra but the essential stuff is also provided in other ways to those whose technological or other limitations prevent their using the video to full effect. What do you think?

Eileen


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1361] RE: Videoconferencing and video online
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 13:53:52 EDT

AH, using video as *content* is a different matter! I heartily support the effective use of video online to make a point, demonstrate a skill, or show content that is otherwise difficult to explain. A picture is really worth more sometimes than a 1000 words and a video is a 1000 pictures. My antipathy was primarily directed to the use of two-way video so participants can *see* each other -- trying to make an online class as much as possible like a "bricks and mortar" class. This, however, prompts me to questions why we want the online experience to be as much like the "traditional" as possible. Isn't one of the *benefits* of the online option an asynchronous format? That I don't *have* to be at a certain place at a certain time?

I agree, too with Eileen's statements about bandwidth - it is still a barrier for many in accessing video. I know that McGraw Hill, in order to overcome this with the online version of their GED software has chosen to distribute the content on a CD - which, when you open it, opens your internet browser and asks you to log in. You can work content offline and upload progress all at once at the end of your session or even at the beginning of the next. While this particular tool is not designed for professional development, something similar *could* be used for professional development delivery (the online PDK toolkit can be set up somewhat like this, although you have to know the drive letter of your CD ROM). This allows the video to be served form the local CD while you are online interacting with text content, exercises, discussion boards, etc.

Yes, Eileen, I think we do have to "practice" in using video-conferencing and effectively integrating it into our "skill sets." But there is *so much* to integrate into my skill set that I have chosen to put video on the back burner - hoping that when I get around to trying to work on it, it will have gotten better!  :) I trust that business and industry will work many of the bugs out at a far faster rate than we can - as *they* have the right kind of money to pour into the problem and *we* don't at the moment.

My concerns are really for the participants. In joining the "new tech"/video bandwagon, I want to be sure we aren't "overteching" them. Someone asked if we think the *technology* interferes with folks completing distance format professional development. I think the answer is yes. If you aren't comfortable using a computer, you are going to have to be pretty strong-willed or self-motivated to join an online PD experience, much less complete one. I worry that in trying out all this new stuff (like video) we might be making the technology "scarier" or more frustrating. Especially to *our* PD population who is traditionally lower in technology comfort and skills than even the average K-12 instructor.

Optional/enrichment is a good compromise at this time I think. Currently we make even chats in our courses optional - because we are worried that participants will feel frustrated that they can't attend at a particular time - and drop the course. We offer chats in order to address some participants "learning style" needs - some tell us that the chats are the best parts of the course. Others state they sincerely dislike them and caution us never to make them required. (Chatroom conversations can be very disconcerting if you don't ‘’’think’’’ that way.) Do you know what we hear the # one "stated" barrier to chat participation is? The lack of keyboarding skills. Those that type faster - get to say more, and more quickly.

Debra asked how many out there have open entry/open exit type online courses. I'd like to know how successful Synchronous methods are proving to be for adult education PD - particularly PD offered to full time professionals that does *not* have college credit attached. (Required or "voluntary" inservice-type sessions.)

Durne Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1364] RE: Videoconferencing and video online
From: Thomas Nash (tnash_at_windham.k12.me.us)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 14:21:28 EDT

Though I have not participated directly in a video-conference course, I have experienced several state-wide adult education director's meetings and training via that medium. Though the benefit of locale was in my favor and was also the case for those at sites throughout our very rural state, the sessions provided too little quality, valuable interactions. For many of the reasons mentioned already, I too found it difficult following talking heads, not being able to experience the non-verbal communication and it nuances, and quite frankly remaining fully engaged especially when audio and video signals were less than desirable. It does have a future though I'm convinced, but just has to evolve, as do we in our acceptance - and use - of it.

Tom Nash
Director of Windham Adult Education
Windham, Maine


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1368] RE: Videoconferencing and video online
From: Marian Thacher (mthacher_at_otan.us)
Date: Wed Apr 07 2004 - 16:26:14 EDT

Wow, I really had a different experience than Duren, and others, with videoconferencing. First of all, I'm probably spoiled because all the county offices of ed in California are hooked up to Internet2, which allows us a very high-quality, synched videoconference experience. Second, I was using it, in one instance, for more of a brainstorming session than for formal instruction, and I felt like we were all in the room together, which was important for the dynamic of trust and sharing. Brainstorming is a good example because to feel like it's ok to throw out any idea that comes into your head, you have to feel pretty safe, and body language can help develop that trust. So videoconferencing seemed like the perfect solution. But again, my project is housed in a county office of ed, and the other participants were able to go to their county office too.

I have also experimented with videoconferencing from my desktop at home (on cable), with much less satisfactory results - slow, jerky picture and erratic sound. I agree that we aren't there right now to be able to do this from anywhere. But from places where we have a really fast connection I think it's worth consideration. And we are creating more and more of those places.

Marian Thacher
OTAN

nifl-aalpd@nifl.gov writes: <snip>

”My antipathy was primarily directed to the use of two-way video so participants can *see* each other - trying to make an online class as much as possible like a "bricks and mortar" class. This, however, prompts me to questions why we want the online experience to be as much like the "traditional" as possible. Isn't one of the *benefits* of the online option an asynchronous format? That I don't *have* to be at a certain place at a certain time?”

User Technical Support


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1379] User Technical Support
From: Tim Ponder (tponder_at_archon.educ.kent.edu)
Date: Tue Apr 13 2004 - 09:14:09 EDT

Debra's message regarding maintenance led me to think of user technical support, another area sometimes overlooked in planning and budgeting.

For those who have participated in online courses:

  • Did you have access to support for questions relating to usability or technical problems?
  • Did you feel the support you received was sufficient?
  • Do you have any recommendations, as a user, for those providing the support for online courses?

For those providing online courses:

  • How do you handle both instructor and end user technical support?
  • How time consuming do you find this?
  • Do you have any recommendations on what has worked or what has not?

thank you,
tim -- Tim Ponder
Ohio Literacy Resource Center/Midwest LINCS
tponder_at_literacy.kent.edu
865-637-7074
http://www.midwestlincs.org


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1380] Technical Support
From: Hale, Lydia (lhale_at_lhup.edu)
Date: Tue Apr 13 2004 - 10:02:26 EDT

I would like to answer Tim Ponder's question regarding how providers of online courses handle technical support questions. At the West Brach Technology Center, where ABLE Academy is located, we use Blackboard for our online courses. We currently use Blackboard through a strategic alliance with Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania (LHU).

The participant contacts the instructor about any problems. If the instructor cannot answer the question, the instructor will contact the instructional designer. From there, if the question cannot be answered, our contact with LHU will be asked the question. If she cannot answer it Blackboard is contacted by the LHU contact.

When a technical problem does happen and it is resolved, the participant is contacted as soon as possible. Once that contact is made the rest of the online instructors and instructional designers are sent an e-mail explaining the problem and the solution.

This process is really not time consuming and most problems are esolved within 24 hours. This process has worked so far.

Lydia

Lydia Hale
CNEPDC Coordinator
(570)893-4038
lhale_at_lhup.edu

www.wbtc.ciu10.com/cnepdc


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1381] Re: User Technical Support
From: JHAM5325_at_aol.com
Date: Tue Apr 13 2004 - 10:24:43 EDT

In a message dated 4/13/2004 8:13:55 AM Central Standard Time, tponder@archon.educ.kent.edu writes:

For those providing online courses:
  • How do you handle both instructor and end user technical support?
  • How time consuming do you find this?
  • Do you have any recommendations on what has worked or what has not?

We offered several online courses via Blackboard for elementary school teachers. These courses used Blackboard, interactive web sites and interactive CDs. Initially, the facilitators provided step by step instructions to students on the first day of class in a group setting at a computer lab location. This worked well unless there were extremes of computer experience within the group, such as very beginners and pros. However, some of the pros then helped the very beginners, so that worked out well in the end, but not always. Prior to this we also provided in person step by step instructions for the course facilitators, some who had very little computer experience. This was pretty effective, but they needed refreshers and help with all those quirks that seem to surface after the class is up and running. That's when we decided to create very detailed support guides.

We provided separate detailed student and instructor technical support guides that included step by step instructions along with screen shots that demonstrated each step. We also provided online instructions and help along with details on downloading various programs that were needed for the courses. We provided phone support, which worked well as long as the student or instructor were sitting at their computer and could follow along while we walked them through what they needed to do.

For the most part, the support guides did the trick, unless a student was using an older computer or older version of various supporting software or had absolutely no computer skills. One problem we ran into was that teachers had access to one type of operating system and computer with certain software at school and then at home they had a different version of the operating system and a different computer and software. We were using Quicktime and had to work through the quirks.

We found that very patient and positive phone support was effective with students who had no computer skills, because we helped them get through the hesitation and then get moving with the course as they overcame their fears and learned that they could follow the directions and the computer steps correctly and get things to work. The technical support took approximately 10 hours per week (depending on the amount of students and courses you are running) in the beginning of the courses and then tapered off after students got started and felt comfortable. The time consuming part was creating the detailed support guides and then testing those guides to make sure we covered all of the steps. However, these were well worth creating as the feedback we received was very positive and resulted in less dependence on phone support.

Jackie Hamlett
Adult Literacy and Technology Consultant


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1383] Re: User Technical Support
From: Eunice Askov (ena1_at_psu.edu)
Date: Wed Apr 14 2004 - 11:28:33 EDT

Tim, you raise some really good questions. Technical support for online course development and delivery is extremely important. I'm not sure I would venture into online delivery if we didn't have Penn State's World Campus technical support. Students can email or call them day or night at no charge. It is not uncommon for them to spend hours with some people helping them with technical problems or configuring their computer to use our learning management system (ANGEL). [The World Campus also handles registration, initial advising, financial aid, etc. so that the faculty can focus on teaching and advising master's degree students! In our Certificate in Family Literacy <www.worldcampus.psu.edu/pub/famlt/> they handle all of the logistics of a certificate program.] Without technical support I can only imagine that offering an online course would be very difficult. Nickie Askov


Online Platforms



Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1384] Learning Management Systems
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Wed Apr 14 2004 - 11:46:49 EDT

Hello everyone,
We'd like to hear specifics from both teachers and professional developers. While we do not suggest to promote one LMS over another with this question, your experiences with various learning management systems are important. In your experience either as a teacher participating in online PD, or as a professional eveloper/instructional designer/technical administrator, what features in a learning management system do you like/not like?

(here's a way to compare some different features)
http://www.edutools.info/course/compare/byfeatures/index.jsp

If there was one you liked, which LMS was it in, and what about it appealed to you? Were there related factors (like facilitation, content) in tandem with this feature that seemed to enhance the learning experience?

If there was one you did not like, which LMS was it in, and what about it did you find unappealing and/or problematic? Were there additional factors (like facilitation, content) in tandem with this feature that did not seem to work well?

Thanks!

Jackie


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1386] RE: Learning Management Systems
From: Sandra.Kestner_at_ky.gov
Date: Wed Apr 14 2004 - 16:08:08 EDT

In Kentucky, we use the Angel learning management system for our online PD courses. We are lucky, like World Education in PA, we too have a technical support system through the KY Virtual University (KYVU). Our adult educators have access to a help desk anytime they have a problem. Angel is a wonderful tool, but many of our educators find it a little overwhelming at first. But we are making progress as we offer more and more opportunities online. Sandy kestner


RePurposing F2F Workshops



Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1385] Repurposing face-to-face workshops
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Wed Apr 14 2004 - 11:53:12 EDT

Hello everyone,
I have another question for you today! :)
More and more training opportunities are now being provided as online PD, for various reasons. I noticed some of us have mentioned that workshops/trainings originally offered face-to-face were repurposed for an online format.

How might one repurpose a face-to-face workshop for an online forum? What were the challenges you faced, and what might you do differently?

Thanks,

Jackie


Pitfalls in Online Course Development and Delivery



Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1376] pitfalls in online course development and delivery
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 12 2004 - 15:21:48 EDT

Hello All,
I have found that oftentimes, learning and sharing what doesn't work can be just as valuable as sharing what does. We've heard from a couple of us the week before last in this regard, but many of us subscribed to this list have experiences in online course development and delivery. Please share at least one example of what *not* to do in developing and/or delivering online courses! What did you learn from your experiences? And based on your experiences, what might you recommend to others who may find themselves in similar situations?

I look forward to hearing from you ~

Best, Jackie


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1377] pitfalls in online course delivery
From: Kathleen Olson (olsonk_at_franklin.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 12 2004 - 17:06:23 EDT

Having taught many online courses, I think the most significant factor is the number and quality of 'contacts' with the instructor. I feel students are more likely to complain about a course or an instructor when the teacher is an abstract persona, rather than seen as a real person. I also find it is easier for students to drop out or not complete the class when there are not sufficient 'contacts' with the instructor. The university I teach for has tried to help ameliorate this problem by having a conference call fairly early in the course and several scheduled chat sessions during the course. Students often report that these were some of the most valuable and/or enjoyable parts of the course.

Kathy Olson
Training and Support Specialist
NE ABLE Resource Center


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1378] Re: pitfalls in online course development and delivery
From: Dlhargrove_at_aol.com
Date: Tue Apr 13 2004 - 08:42:39 EDT

Hi all,
Jackie asked for some examples of lessons learned in developing and delivering online courses. As I mentioned in an earlier discussion, our online training is developed using grant money. What we forgot to do, was continue to include funds in the subsequent grant proposals to maintain and update the existing trainings! We had links to research and other resources on the web that were becoming broken, etc and turned the trainings into frustrating experiences as opposed to engaging ones.

Just a recommendation to those who are considering developing.

Debra Hargrove
Florida TechNet


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1382] Re: pitfalls in online course development and delivery
From: Jennifer Elmore (jennifer_at_jelmore.com)
Date: Wed Apr 14 2004 - 00:19:16 EDT

Hi everyone.
Here are a few of my "lessons learned" re: online course development and delivery.

Creating a Course

1. Consider the volume of work and/or reading you assign. Depending (naturally) on the goals of a particular class, you may find that "less is more" in an online context. Try to streamline.

The first online courses that I developed resembled some of the syllabi that I'd received in school. The courses included mountains of information on a given topic - reading lists, resources, websites, etc. Most of the teachers and administrators who signed up for these courses did not have the time to explore all (or even a portion of) the materials. Rather, they wanted me to distill information for them, highlight key issues, etc. A few people who were unable to weed through the material felt delinquent and, I believe as a result, lost momentum and/or dropped out entirely.

2. Try to separate system-related instructions from course content.

(This may be less of an issue if you are working with a commercial delivery system like Blackboard.) The early LiteracyLink course pages mixed system-related instructions with course content. Participants found this confusing - we tried to remedy the situation by creating "Help" tabs that connected users to system-related information. The introduction of a clearly delineated "Help" section drew an important line between the delivery mechanism and its operation - and the course content.

Facilitating a Course

1. The following point may be fairly obvious, but I'll include it anyway. If at all possible, give participants a chance to learn/become comfortable with the technology before delving into the course content.

In one online course I facilitated, I relied a little too heavily on the content's capacity to engage participants in using the technology. I had hoped that folks would be more inclined to learn and experiment with the technology if they had compelling (content-driven) reasons to do so. I should have provided more of a baseline tutorial, especially for people with limited technology experience. Because I did not offer enough background information on the technology up-front, I/we spent more time troubleshooting technology issues than investigating the content.

2. Know the strengths/weakness of your online tools. Be prepared to use these tools in a variety of ways/combinations to better accommodate participants' needs.

Here's an example: when I first started facilitating online courses, I thought that the online chats would solidify my communities by giving participants a chance to discuss issues in "real time." My first experiences as a chat facilitator were rather challenging. I entered the chatting arena with fairly structured agendas (consisting of 3-4 questions or discussion points). I learned pretty quickly, of course, that the chats moved too rapidly to explore issues in any depth. In addition, a single chat typically produced a cadre of side discussions.

I tried hard to keep participants on task, but "the tide of the online chat" always took over. I had to revise my assumptions about the chatting function and what I could/could not accomplish in that forum. Ultimately, I invited participants to use online chats to connect informally and to air questions, comments, etc. that I subsequently posted on the discussion board (thereby, encouraging more in-depth commentary).

3. At the beginning of every course, clarify how much and what kind of access participants will have to you/the facilitator. Among other things, estimate response times - let them know how long it will take you to respond to email, written work, bulletin board posts, etc. If circumstances change during the course, send up a flare.

Once, while facilitating an online course, I got sick and dropped offline for a few days. I forgot to tell participants that I was unwell and would likely be away from the computer. The upshot of this oversight was that I "lost" a couple of people. When my class did not hear from me for several days, they (I later learned through course reviews) became frustrated and lost momentum. They were no longer sure of my consistency as a facilitator. All this to say that too much communication is far better than too little.

Jennifer

Jennifer Elmore, M.S.Ed.
Education Consultant


Informal Approaches


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1387] informal approaches to trying online pd
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Wed Apr 14 2004 - 18:41:23 EDT

Hi all,
I've been getting so much information about how organizations and individual instructors can plan and implement online professional development. I'm currently having a rather different experience, and I wondered if others could relate to it.

I'm in an organization where online learning had not been used (though I've used it for about 5 years in other places, and am a big fan). There's some active resistance, but mostly disinterest. A few months ago, a colleague and I decided we were never going to be able to adopt an online learning system, or try it out, if we tried to do it formally. So we set up an online component to our course using Blackboard's free 60-day trial. Then I did the same for an online professional development course for teachers. Then my colleague did the same for all the courses she teaches. Then some of the other teachers set up Blackboard courses on their own for other reasons, including informal sharing of concerns, practices, etc.

Now we're at the point where there is some recognition of the value of online learning, and some interest in exploring how to use it officially." I'm very grateful Blackboard has the free 60-day trial feature, and I hope we can start using the "real" Blackboard here.

The tips and experiences from people who have used a deliberate, purposeful approach to adopting online learning are great. I hope that others will find ways to jump in and try it, even if they are in organizations that are not as willing or able to take that purposeful approach. Personally, I think the key there is to let participants know that it is an experiment and relies on their patience, collaboration and activity, and feedback in order to work out the bugs.

Have others experienced the informal approach to adopting online pd?

Eileen


Knowing What Works



Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1389] knowing what works?
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 15 2004 - 11:32:30 EDT

Hello everyone,
Last week, Kristine mentioned collaborative learning, and that has got me to thinking about success. Maybe others can help me in exploring the question of success and related ones.

What does 'working' and/or 'not working' mean in a distance education context? How do we know if a strategy or tool has 'worked'? Can we separate success from or between the content, type of facilitation, and delivery method? For example, if teachers were not able to meet the goals of the online professional development experience, how do we know *which* aspect of the distance education was not a right match for the learning goals?

  • Was it the choice of LMS?
  • The design?
  • The type of facilitation, and any combination thereof?

Or was it something altogether different, and how do we know?

Thoughts, anyone?

Thanks, Jackie


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1390] Re: knowing what works?
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Thu Apr 15 2004 - 15:04:02 EDT

One thing to consider in deciding what works is: are the designer/teacher's goals the same as the participants' goals? Several people have talked about participants coming to a course with a goal that is met partway through, and then "dropping out." In that case, it looks like the course didn't "work" for that person, when in fact it did. So who defines the goal and the success?

Another point is that there can be, and often are, changes in understanding and knowledge that don't get put into practice. Maybe the person doesn't know how to translate understanding into action, or maybe they're not quite ready. Maybe the knowledge becomes action a year later, or in a different way than was anticipated by the course designers/teachers/evaluators. Does it mean the course "failed"?

I think that it helps to have room in the course design for participants to set and articulate their own goals, and document what they do learn.

If we just look at whether they've learned what the teacher thinks they should learn, we are likely to miss anything that doesn't fit that preconception. By doing so, we could come to the conclusion that learning hasn't happened, when it really just happened differently than we expected.

Eileen


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1391] Re: knowing what works?
From: Duren Thompson (solveig_at_utk.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 15 2004 - 16:51:52 EDT

Eileen,

You said:

"I think that it helps to have room in the course design for participants to set and articulate their own goals, and document what they do learn."

Our very first assignment in our courses is to ask folks "what they hope to gain" from the course - what are their goals, or what on the course syllabus/schedule sounds interesting to them.

Interestingly enough, like literacy students, many instructors return a "fuzzy" answer - like:

  • "I've never taken an online course before and wondered what it was like."
  • "I just was interested in something new."
  • "I'm a new instructor and just need anything."
  • "I can't get to workshops so I thought I'd try this."
  • "My supervisor recommended I take this."
  • "It sounded interesting..."

As professional developers, I think we need to work with our "professionals" about the idea of "professional development" - personal goals, career paths, etc. I think that many AE practitioners - searching for *something/anything* to make "it" easier or make more sense - stumble from one PD event to another constantly searching and never really sure they have found what they were looking for.

I guess my question is broader than just online PD - "How can we assist AE practitioners to become "professionals" in their pursuit of professional development?" I think that, like with psychotherapy, if the practitioner isn't truly focused on self-improvement, less or even no self-improvement happens. How do we assist them in "focusing" or committing to instructional change? To actual "professional" *development.*

Umph. I've just asked how to change people's attitudes and beliefs about themselves - and how to motivate them to want to change. Not much - just that little thing.

Duren Thompson
Center for Literacy Studies


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1400] Re: knowing what works?
From: Jennifer Elmore (jennifer_at_jelmore.com)
Date: Sat Apr 17 2004 - 13:55:57 EDT

Hi everyone.
This post is squeaking in at the last minute! I'd wanted to comment on the issue of gauging "success" in distance/online learning, but I got waylaid at the end of the week.

I think that there are "markers" of success in distance education - most of which are fairly straightforward. The ones that occur to me, off-the-cuff, include: retention, participation, participants' reported comfort-levels, completion of assigned work, peer-collaboration, attainment of personal and course goals, etc.

I think that the factors or conditions that contribute to a "successful" face-to-face training experience are generally at the heart of "successful" distance initiatives, as well. In my opinion, both need to:

  • communicate (and pursue) a clear purpose or set of goals
  • cultivate a sense of community
  • provide access to relevant resources/support
  • offer various ways to work and learn
  • provide opportunities for sustained development/exploration

Face-to-face and distance initiatives accomplish the above points in different ways. Probably saying the obvious - it's crucial to engage participants in the process of defining what "worked" and what "didn't work." In the case of distance learning, the question is HOW WELL or WHETHER the distance tools/strategies supported the underlying goals of the course. I'd recommend applying the areas listed above (or ones like them) to different aspects of the online experience. To give one small example - a facilitator might, in a course review, ask participants to react to the bulletin board's:

  • capacity to promote community
  • impact on resource dissemination
  • effect on work structures/collaboration
  • potential as a source of ongoing activity

Thank you, Jackie, for your expert facilitation! It has been a pleasure.

Jennifer

Jennifer Elmore, M.S.Ed.
Education Consultant
http://jelmore.com



Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1392] DE with adult learners
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 15 2004 - 16:59:22 EDT

Hello All,
Wow, have we completely exhausted the subject of online PD? Surely not! :-) Eileen, Nickie, Debra, Duren, and others have brought up some good points this week, and I hope we continue exploring the issues. We have covered a lot of territory, but what opportunities for learning have we yet to explore? Is there anything you have encountered in your experience that might help us better understand professional development online?

As one example, does anyone subscribed to this list have experiences with providing distance education for adult learners? If so, please tell us about it.

In what ways is providing distance education for adult learners similar/different than for teachers? What might we - as professional developers - learn about providing online PD from what is being learned about providing distance education for adult learners?

Best, Jackie


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1393] RE: DE with adult learners
From: Patricia Duffley-Renow (pduffley_at_utk.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 15 2004 - 17:20:44 EDT

Hello to all,
Please keep in mind when doing any type of training that the format you use is accessible. Recently two of my students enrolled in an online course at a major university and they could not access the course because of all the bells and whistles. I have several references that give ideas how to accomplich this if anyone would like to have them. Patricia Duffley-Renow


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1394] Re: knowing what works?
From: Eileen Eckert (eileeneckert_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Thu Apr 15 2004 - 17:56:01 EDT

Hi Duren,
I think this is a perennial question--how to set goals when you don't know the full array of options (or don't know what the options are at all). I think it can help to ask people what it is that frustrates them or keeps them up at night, and use that to direct attention to certain parts of a course, or questions to keep in mind as they participate. Goal-setting doesn't have to be a one-shot deal either; it can start with a "fuzzy" goal that comes into focus as it is re-visited throughout the course.

Maybe goal isn't even the best word. I remember reading some studies that found when people come into a course with a specific goal, they direct their attention narrowly to meet that goal, whereas when they come with a non-specific goal their attention is more broadly distributed and they may get more out of it because they're not sorting relevant from irrelevant based on that specific goal and thereby screening out lots of potentially good information.

Maybe this is a question of re-visiting, in dialogue, the needs, interests, and learning experiences of the participants as well as delivering the content. I know it bugs me when learners figuratively sit back and wait for me (the teacher) to offer them something they deign to accept as useful--it doesn't happen often, but when it does I feel like I'm supposed to be an entertainer (and it should come as no surprise that I'm not one). Part of that attitudinal change starts with awareness: so you're here because your supervisor recommended it, but now that you are here, it's your choice to make the experience worthwhile or not. Were we talking about teachers or ABE students? Some similarities there maybe. But this goes back to the discussion board and dialogue being the heart of the course for me.

Eileen


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1395] Re: DE with adult learners
From: Eunice Askov (ena1_at_psu.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 15 2004 - 19:29:39 EDT

Jackie, on the issues of adult learners' using online instruction, Jere Johnston, Leslie Petty, Shannon Young, and I wrestled with these issues in writing "Expanding Access to Adult Literacy through Online Distance Education." This monograph, funded by the US Dept. of Education, is downloadable from the NCSALL web site <www.gse.harvard.edu/~ncsall/research/occas.htm>. We described practices recommended in Project IDEAL, informed primarily by experimentation in PA, as well as in Australia which takes several different approaches to implementing online distance education for adult learners. We hope the monograph will be useful to teachers and program administrators as they struggle with the issues around online distance education for adult learners. It might also inform those involved in online professional development of teachers. Nickie Askov, Penn State


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1396] Re: DE with adult learners
From: jataylor (jataylor_at_utk.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 15 2004 - 23:39:50 EDT

Hi Nickie, Jerome, and All,
Nickie, you mentioned that you and the other authors wrestled with the issues of distance education for adult learners. You also alluded to issues in the monograph that may in fact, help inform online professional development.

One reason why I tend to schedule discussions like these to formally end on Mondays, is to allow room for reflection over the last weekend of a discussion. Would you and Jerome care to expand a bit on some of the points either of you found to be significant from the monograph - as it might relate to professional development? I realize we could probably spend at least an entire week or two discussing this aspect with the both of you; (and would be so inclined!) however, I do know that yours and Jere's time is limited. Given the discussion over the last couple of weeks, are there things that stand out to the both of you from the monograph that would add to this discussion?

Thanks so much for all of your contributions. :) I think I can safely say that many of us have learned a lot from the experiences that all have had to offer.

Best,

Jackie


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1397] RE: DE with adult learners
From: Jane Mencer (jmencer_at_famlit.org)
Date: Fri Apr 16 2004 - 08:31:56 EDT

I was heavily involved in the state of Kentucky's rollout of three online curricula for adult learners. It was a rocky road since so few had traveled it before us. What stands out in my mind for lessons learned include the following:

A. It is imperative that the instructors who facilitate the learners'progress have a working understanding of the computer, the products, and their role as distance educators. Accomplishing this is no small feat!
B. Readily available technical support accessible in multiple forms is a must (for example, online and by phone). Those staffing the help lines must know not only about computer use but about the specifics of the curriculum product as well.
C. Introducing the learner to online learning in person (face-to-face) is ideal.

Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1398] DE or e learning?
From: Frances Keenan (fkeenan_at_pbs.org)
Date: Fri Apr 16 2004 - 17:02:14 EDT

I would suggest that we not equate online education with distance education. Learning online is just that. A teacher may be nearby or not. A learner may be in a lab, a classroom, at home. Sometimes a learner may be at a distance from her teacher, but not necessarily.

Recently, I saw the term e-learning used. I think that would be a broader way to talk about computer based learning. There are lots of issues related to teaching via computer! Distance education issues are just one set (and are not always determined by the delivery technology).

This discussion on online professional development has been great! Kudos to Jackie for stellar facilitation!

Fran
PBS Project CONNECT
www.pbs.org/esl


Subject: [NIFL-AALPD:1399] Re: DE with adult learners
From: Eunice Askov (ena1_at_psu.edu)
Date: Fri Apr 16 2004 - 19:47:15 EDT

Jackie, my hope is that readers will go to the NCSALL web site <www.gse.harvard.edu/~ncsall/research/occas.htm> and download the monograph for themselves to read about the issues related to delivering online distance education to adult learners. We are assuming in using the term "distance education" that learners and the teacher are separated geographically. The purpose in offering instruction online is to expand access to adults who otherwise would not be able to engage in instruction. (Project IDEAL found in the Pennsylvania experiment that the learners in the online program were not the same as those in their face-to-face programs. These learners tended to be employed and unavailable for classroom instruction.)

We approached the issues of instruction from a constructivist learning theoretical framework. We believe that a good teacher is a facilitator of learning. Learners learn best if provided applications from real life in problem-based learning instruction. The role of the teacher, therefore, does change in online learning. Hence, there is definitely a need for online professional development. One of the best ways to learn how to teach online is to experience it!

We also contrasted the governmental approaches to implementing online distance education in the US and Australia. In the US the federal government and other organizations have funded large curriculum development projects so that students could engage in multi-media instruction, some of which includes online learning. In Australia the approach varies across the states with some taking a more centralized approach and others more homegrown. However, the federal investment has been in the professional development of teachers rather than in the development of multi-media instructional projects. Teachers are funded to develop a small online project (or to work with technologists who do the technical work). After that experience they are then funded to become mentors of other teachers who are just beginning online instruction. That is the major difference that we see in policy.

Jackie, thanks for your skillful facilitation. We appreciate having the opportunity to explore these issues in depth. Nickie Askov, Penn State


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