Monthly Archives: October 2013

Eye of the Beholder – Perceptions of Online Learning

“The value that online education offers to students is undergoing a perception change.”  So says Jesse Langley in a 2011 commentary on his Edudemic blog. This week, as part of a class assignment, I interviewed five people regarding their views on online education and why it could be an option.  All five cited convenience as a driving factor, but only two of the five spoke about quality and reputation as a primary consideration in their choice of an institution from which they would consider obtaining a degree. The general public seems to agree with my small sample size: in a 2011 Pew study quoted by Melissa Venable for, it was found that only 29% of adults viewed an online degree as of equal value to one earned at a brick-and-mortar institution.  That said, both the academic community and the business community are leading the perception change.  In the same study Venable quotes,  51% of college presidents (from both online and traditional schools) believed the degrees to be equivalent.  A year earlier, Rachel Zupek reported for CNN that 83% of executives viewed the degrees as equivalent.

Now, just a month ago, David Leebron, president of Rice University, stated that most students entering college should be prepared for a blended learning experience, utilizing face to face and virtual methodologies (Sataline, 2013). Langley (2011) adds that the change in public perception is “changing inexorably.”  I believe that as online education becomes more ubiquitous and as the quality of online education continues to improve, public perception will catch up to that of academics and business executives.

The best thing, in my opinion, that I as an Instructional designer could possibly do to improve societal perception is found in Dr. Ron Paige’s discussion post from this past week (Paige, 2013):  “Competency-based assessment is going to grown bigger by the year!  This is why I continually “hound” students to be able to apply what you know and be able to explain what you apply.” I have seen this principle in action through the course of this term as I have worked to create my first CMS-based course.  At the beginning of the term I, at the halfway point of my degree program, had not – and in my opinion could not – put together one of the courses I had been studying for the past year and a half.  Yet, as I began to “apply what I knew,” I found myself slowly but surely crafting a course of reasonable quality.  By term’s end, I have created a product I can be proud of, particularly for a first effort.  This to me is the essence of changed public perception: when one schooled online can produce at a level equivalent to one schooled traditionally, people will see not only the person but also the institution which trained the person in a more positive light.

Many factors contributed to my own growth throughout the term: engaging in rich discussion about online learning in our discussion posts, creating the Learning Model Matrix early in the course, and understanding the different learning theories all come to mind.   However, two important takeaways will have what I believe to be the greatest influence on my success as an instructional designer: first, the need to identify a particular learning theory and allow it to guide the creative process.  In my case, I worked with Keegan’s equivalency theory (Simonson et al, 2012, p.52), and as I crafted each part of my course project, I asked myself whether the element I was creating would give my learners the same quality of learning outcome they would have received if sitting in a classroom with a teacher.  The result was a more directed, far more cohesive orientation course than I could have created otherwise.

I am more a proponent of distance education now than when I first made the choice to attend college this way because I have experienced firsthand the quality of Walden University’s MSIDT distance program.  Advocating for ever-evolving, ever-improving online programs will help ensure that those who follow will continue to have the positive experience I have had.  I am not yet ready to step in and take that job as an ID – there remains work to be done both in my understanding of and application of the principles of instructional design – I am confident that EDUC 6135 will be a number I long remember as pushing me much closer to the mark.


Langley, J. (2011, November 10). The Changing Perception of Online Education – Edudemic – Edudemic. Retrieved from

Paige, R. (2013, October 26). Discussion Post. Retrieved from

Sataline, S. (2013, September 18). 3 Ways Colleges Are Adapting to Online Learning – US News and World Report. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Venable, M. (2011, September 7). Review: The Digital Revolution and Higher Education – Online Retrieved from

Zupek, R. (2010). Employers on online education – Retrieved from


Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Uncategorized


From F2F to Distance – A Learning Transformation


In the video segment above, I told you briefly about what we’re doing in today’s blog post – specifically, offering tools for you to be more effective in your facilitation of online discussion.  But…

Before you go to the tools, let me offer you some words of advice:  just as you plan for your current face to face training sessions, you will need to plan for the learning experience.  Having said that, I offer words of wisdom from the experts.  Michael Simonson and his team, in their book Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (2012, p. 151), counsel: “The instructional environment should be viewed as a system, a relationship among all the components of that system – the instructor, the learners, the material, and the technology.” If you have not either created or facilitated online learning before, it is important to remember that your planning is an investment that will save you untold frustration later on.

There are two aspects of that planning I would like to key on in this post:

First, you must plan differently from a face to face session – your goal is not to duplicate the classroom.  Desmond Keegan, cited by Simonson et al (2012, p52), proposed that it is neither necessary nor advisable to attempt to duplicate the classroom experience.  His Equivalency Theory states that what should be accomplished is equivalent outcomes – that the learning results of an online class should be the same as if the learner had attended face to face.  Understanding this is both challenging and liberating to you!  It is not to say that elements of your classroom will not migrate; they may simply take a different form! Discussion, for example, while not as spontaneous in an asynchronous online environment, can be much richer, since you can require that learners take the time to research and substantiate their views.

Second, it is absolutely critical that you define your learning objectives before you begin.  Otherwise, it will be easy for you to get caught up in the technology or to simply get sidetracked.  If either of these things happens, your learners will again miss out on the rich learning experience you want for them.

One bonus word of advice:  your role will also change!  In the classroom, you have generally been the focal point, the center of attention.  In the distance learning world, you must become more of a facilitator (Simonson et al, 2012, p. 195). Dr. George Piskurich (n.d.), in a video segment for Walden University said of virtual facilitators: “

 The Tools

Tools for You

This is a lengthy but comprehensive guide to understanding and planning for online teaching, provided by the University of Missouri.  Intended for faculty members new to online instruction, it offers a wealth of advice and instruction on what it will take to be a successful online facilitator.


This excellent article by Vance Durrington, Amy Berryhill, and Jeanne Swafford will offer tips for you to keep your learners engaged and interactive in the online environment.  Given the dissatisfaction you’ve had with your classroom discussions, pay particular attention to the “Learning Environment” and “Asynchronous, Instructor-mediated Discussion Strategies” sections

Once you’ve watched this video from, you’ll have a much better understanding of the online learner, the purpose and use of online discussion, and how to avoid some common pitfalls online facilitators make.


Tools for You To Share With Your Learners


This three-minute video will help your learners understand prior to taking online courses what makes online learners successful.  It was created by Gordon Goertz for a Masters class in Distance Learning at Walden University.


This excellent guide, offered by Lehigh University, will give your learners clear direction and real expectations for their online discussions.  They will come away with an understanding of what makes for successful discussion and how they can contribute to it.

Lauren Moseley of WKU offers an introduction for students who are new to online discussion.  While it is designed for students of WKU and will contain some information particular to the university, your students will learn about what makes for effective, high quality discussion posts.

References (n.d.). Conducting effective online discussions. Retrieved from

Durrington, V., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006, March 18). Strategies for Enhancing Student Interactivity in an Online Environment – Technology News – redOrbit. Retrieved from

Faculty Guide to Teaching and Learning With Technology. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Gallagher, E. (2006). Improving the Discussion Board – Lehigh University. Retrieved from

Goertz, G. (2013). Successful Distance Learners. Retrieved from

Moseley, L. (n.d.). Participating in Discussion Boards. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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Posted by on October 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


Evaluating the “Open Course”

Yale Open Course:  MUSI 112: Listening to Music

When I opened the link to the Yale Open Course web site, the first course in the carousel was MUSI 112: Listening to Music.  I have a very eclectic music collection and have music playing several hours daily in my home, so I was drawn to the title immediately and opened the course. The “front page” of the course was extremely inviting, with a photo of the professor placed where the learner would be immediately drawn to it.  He was standing teaching a class, piano to his right and whiteboard with musical notes to his left.  The page was divided into four uneven quadrants, each with a defined header, and had four links across the top: “syllabus,” “sessions,” “survey,” and “buy books.” I read the content in the quadrants and did the next natural step: I clicked on the syllabus link.

I was quite literally excited as an aspiring instructional designer by what I found there.  The syllabus began by naming the professor, then proceeded to  offer a description of the course, list the texts used for the course, detail the requirements of the course, and even offered a breakdown of the grading. “Wonderful!“ I thought.  Simonson et al (2012, p. 151) state that “teaching at a distance requires planning and organization”  and this site, two clicks into my exploration, felt extremely organized.  This trend continued with my next mouse click: Sessions, which brought me to a listing (with active links) to the 23 sessions which comprise the course.  This course has been meticulously planned – while true, there is a phrase missing from this statement: planned “for the distance learner.”  I began the first session and very quickly realized that although the material was meticulously organized, it was not organized with the distance learner in mind.

Returning to Simonson (2012, p. 153), I find a list of five bullet points around planning for distance learners.  The first of these reminds the designer that “courses previously taught in traditional classrooms may need to be retooled.”  This was the major miss in Yale’s course.  Although as a music lover I found the professor’s introductory lecture interesting, the lesson was simply that:  a lecture.  A stationary video camera had been set up in a classroom and the lecture recorded with the camera focused on the part of the platform where the professor would spend the bulk of his time.  To the upper left of the window was what may have been a projection screen, and there was either a screen or board off to the right of the window which was referred to by the professor but not within the distance learner’s field of vision.

Simonson’s tips (2012, p. 153) referenced above gave three other points on which the Yale course failed:  there was no revision of traditional ways to illustrate points; there was no hint of interactivity, at least in the two lessons I watched; and there were no activities at all , much less group activities.

M. D. Roblyer and Leticia Ekhaml, in an article for the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration (2000), offer a scoring rubric to determine the level of interactivity of any given distance learning course.  The rubric allowed for scoring of four aspects of interactivity, each assigned point values.  A link to the rubric is provided below.  A higher score – nearing the 20-point maximum for the rubric – would indicate a higher level of interactivity, and by implication a greater chance for learner engagement and thus success in the course; a lower score would obviously indicate the opposite.  The Yale course earned the lowest possible score, a single point, in each of the four categories.

For a learner in the physical classroom, this music course would be a fascinating excursion into what makes music work and how a listener to even the most current of pop music could enhance his enjoyment and appreciation.  Merely recording the in-class session and uploading it to an open course web site did not make it a distance learning course.  While the lectures could and likely would be interesting up to a point, it is my conviction that the distance learner would ultimately lose interest due to the lack of interactivity in the modules.



Open Yale Courses | Listening to Music. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Roblyer, M. D., & Ekhaml, L. (2000). How Interactive are YOUR Distance Courses. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance; Foundations of Distance Education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.


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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Uncategorized