Video Ask and elearning

I recently learned about a new tool called Video Ask. It’s an interactive video chatbot that allows you to get realtime feedback in a more personalized way. In this video, I discuss the tool and how I use it in my e-learning instructional designs.

The Perilous Task of Creating Marvelous Online Content

When building courses or media for online consumption, content creation and calibration takes the lions share of development. Depending upon the purpose of the content, its creation and calibration is both perilous and perpetual. Whether it’s a general blog post, video, or podcast, content creation and calibration tends to flow through the Alpha testing stage of development, given that its creator is satisfied with the outcome. The designer of the content most likely has a special affinity for it because he or she has lived with the content for several months; has worked with stakeholders and subject matter experts on the content for several days; and has bore the labor pains during the birthing and delivery of the content for several hours. Given this process of content creation and calibration, it is no surprise that the Beta testing stage of content development rarely happens in academic settings, perhaps because the content creator simply wants the consumer to consume.

Content is the lifeblood of a course, hence, “you want to create something you’re proud of” (Branson, 2018). This means that content worth pride needs to be created in the same place that babies are made. A healthy baby develops in 9 months, as a result of the romance of two. However, in most cases, content creators don’t have the luxury of nine months to develop healthy content. One might ask, what goes into content creation and how often should content be calibrated?

Content creation

Monthly, I contribute content to ulimionline.com and thewordconsciousclassroom.com.  As the old cliche goes, it’s both challenging and rewarding. To help me create content consistently, I used advise from Amy Porterfield. Amy suggested Mega-Batching content by doing the following:

  1. Brainstorm content ideas
  2. Break the content ideas down into six topics
  3. Based on the topic, what question is being answered for the audience
  4. List resources needed to create content for that topic
  5. Decide how the content will be shared (i.e., blog post, video, podcast)

Click here for a link to a planning tool that I created, based on Porterfield’s advice.

Content calibration

Once the content is published, that is not the end of the creation process. It is actually the beginning. Like the development and maturation of a child into an adult, content is constantly in need of calibration and recalibration as contexts and audiences change. It is almost always necessary to reuse, revise, remix, or repurpose content, thus the calibration and recalibration of content is constant. Borrowing from the principles of creative commons, below I define the four Rs for content calibration and recalibration:

  1. Reuse – content might have to be reused across different platforms, hence having an archiving system for content is important.
  2. Revise – content might have to be revised based on updated information or the needs of the audience. Hence, keeping raw content is important for future revisions.
  3. Remix – content may be combined with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup) (Wiley, 2018).
  4. Repurpose – content might have to be adapted for use in a different purpose. Hence, blog posts might be repurposed for a white paper or a book chapter.

In sum, content creation and calibration is a constant, and it doesn’t stop once it is published. In other words, in order to fulfill its purpose, content incessantly evolves. Like anxious parents wanting the world to see the beauty of their baby, content designers want users to see the beauty of their content and find purpose with it. To increase the chances of the world seeing their baby as beautiful, some parents might opt for acquiring a designer baby. While content designers may not have that option yet, to increase the chances of beautiful content, some designers might opt to create and calibrate content along with a their content audience, thus extending the romance of content making to its users.

References:

Branson, R. (2018). Greatest Quotes. Business Blogs.Retrieved October 06, 2018, from https://www.businessblogshub.com/2012/09/richard-branson-greatest-quotes/

Wiley, D. (2018). Defining the “Open” in Open Content and Open Educational Resources. This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at http://opencontent.org/definition/.

Digital Media Design and Blended Learning

Blended learning can be defined as a formal education program in which a student learns partly online and partly face-to-face. Blended learning is also an exciting way to personalize learning for students however, creating and calibrating assignments for different blended learning models can be daunting.  Blended learning has many models (i.e., station rotation, lab rotation, individual rotation, flipped classroom, flex, a la carte, or enriched virtual) and assignment/task creation for each model depends upon the purpose of the learning task and the learning path that the students are on. 

Specific blended learning models can be used to fit the differentiated need of learners based upon the instructional learning goal. Using Coil’s (2010) Horizontal and Vertical Differentiation Model, learning experiences can be tailored for specific students according to their specific learning needs. The table below shows how blended learning can be meshed with Coil’s (2010) Horizontal and Vertical Differentiation Model in order to consider how to design and calibrate assignments and tasks.

Much of the current content for assignments and tasks being used for the various blended learning models are pre-packaged by publishers, hence, transferring those materials to a district’s online learning management system as well as converting materials into digital media can be quite time consuming and overwhelming. Hence, when creating assignments for the different blended learning models, the standards of learning, the instructional procedures and the students’ learning stages and learning processes are essential to the creation and calibration of content design and digital media design.

Creation and calibration of assignments and tasks considers whether one should use analog or digital tools within the design while examining best practices for streamlining online assignments with other activities. If digital tools are to be used, then students can help co-design the digital media that will be used to enhance their learning. The following is a list of questions that teachers can use when creating digital media content:

  1. In order for this assignment/task to work, what gaps need to be filled with other tools/strategies?
  2. How will this assignment/task evolve?
  3. Does the assignment/task as intrinsic value for students?
  4. How can learning be distributed to students by students using digital tools?
  5. How will the learning be assessed?
  6. Can assessments be organically built into the assignments or tasks?
  7. How will the assessment be used to enhance student learning?

In sum, Kalaitzidis, Litts, and Rosenfeld Halverson, stated that “Instruction and the design of it should not be rigid, top-down activities. As learners grow, create, and demand new resources, the design of instruction must adapt to meet their needs. Instructors should elicit ideas for these refinements from learners themselves” (p.177). This suggests that instructors should keep assignments and tasks flexible and dynamic.

References:

Coil, C. (2010). Teaching tools for the 21st century. United States: Pieces of Learning.

Kalaitzidis, T.J., Litts, B., and Rosenfeld Halverson, E. Designing Collaborative Production of Digital Media in Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. (2017). Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

Ode to OERs

My institution of higher learning is moving towards adopting Open Educational Resources (OERs). Thanks to policies and initiatives such as the Maryland Open Source Textbook (M.O.S.T),  my colleagues and I are working on creating and sharing OERs in all of our courses. I’ve spent the last few weeks exploring OERs and their potential to remove barriers for learners and faculty alike. I was so impressed with what I saw, that I decided to write an ode to OERs. Here goes…

Ode to OERs

OERs give learners and faculty  true creative freedom.
Liberated from ultra-expensive textbooks, all shout nil desperandum.
Opening the windows of the mind so that rays of knowledge shine in.
Librarians and Creative Commons Licenses are part of its underpin.
Information freely plays amongst different ideas.
Dynamic teaching materials and media, one truly endears.
Appealing to instructors and learners because of its public domain,
OERs present high quality resources that copyright would otherwise detain.
Constellations of resources unlocked by a Creative Common License,
freely creating and sharing information with unbounded salience.
Years of development and attention have bought them up to par,
As such, much learning begins and matures with powerful OERs.

Building an LMS is like Planning a Wedding

After experiencing many online course management ripoffs, and getting frustrated with losing half of my profits to open online marketplaces, I decided to build my own Learning Management System (LMS). As a result, I learned that building an LMS is like planning a wedding. It’s an exciting occasion that can easily turn one into a project manager-zilla.

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For starts, the couple must chose a date for the big day of the wedding. Likewise, I had to choose the date for the premiere of the LMS. Given the amount of time needed for building the LMS and loading the course content, I chose to give the site a year for planning and development.

Next on the list is the venue. Where am I going to host the LMS? I decided to start with WordPress.com. They offered hosting, domain name registration, and website support. The ease of it all was a relief and I did not have to hire a web developer, or so I thought. After struggling with the LMS theme, and watching hours of Youtube DIY tutorials, I decided to hire a web developer to assist me with building the LMS. We moved the site from WordPress.com to Hostgator.com and registered a new domain name.

After the LMS was built, I decided to share it with a few family and friends. Much like sharing the theme of the wedding. I got immediate interest in the LMS as folk were generally interested in its content. Still, the LMS was loading really slowly and I became frustrated with it, as I needed speed to capture and keep potential clients. I asked my web developer how we could speed up the site and he suggested that we compress all of the images. As a novice, I had been using public domain photos and downloading the highest resolution thinking that it would yield better quality. To my dismay, those images were adding lag to the loading of the LMS and this was causing the project manager-zilla in me to appear. It took two days for me to compress the images and after all of that energy and work, the site still loaded slowly.

I made an executive decision to move the LMS once again. It’s like moving the wedding from a church, to a community center, to finally a gorgeous beach front property. I settled with using siteground.com web hosting and oh my gosh! The LMS loads within a matter of seconds. If I only knew what I know now, I would have saved myself so much money and time on the venue selection.

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Assembling a competent LMS team ensues; quite similar to picking out a reliable wedding party. In addition to the web developer, I had to gather a team of content specialists. The LMS itself was a vehicle used to recruit content experts as well. I also used contacts on Linked In to get me started and I reached out to content experts on the Internet. I made plans to present the LMS at an international conference that I was attending and I tweeted out blog posts I had written to enlist content specialists. In the meantime, I created imitation courses to serve as placeholders on the LMS site just in case a user came to visit.

Finally, the time came to select the marketing strategy, much like picking out the wedding invitations. I had spent hours listening to Gary Vaynerchuk and planning out ways to promote the LMS. I used Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to bolster the LMS. As the LMS garnered more attention, I felt myself becoming afraid. Much like a doubting bride, I questioned what I was getting myself into. Am I doing the right thing? Am I making the right choices? But then Gary V’s words came to my remembrance.  “Legacy is greater than currency.” I realized then that I’m building a legacy, hence, my fear diminished and I continued the pursuit of building the LMS.

In sum, building an LMS is intense and at times scary. I must admit, I had to talk myself out of getting cold feet and leaving the LMS at the alter. However, I’m glad that I persevered through the project, as I now have an LMS dream and I’m looking forward to the honeymoon.

Reference:
Vaynerchuk, G. (2017). Crush it!: Why NOW is the time to cash in on your passion. New York: Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

McDonaldization of Education is eroding under Personalization

As personalized learning is becoming more prevalent in education, the pedagogy of instructors is being altered. In other words, by including the learner’s voice, choice, and agency in teacher designed tasks and lessons, this disrupts the smooth operation of the McDonaldized classroom.

The McDonaldlization of teaching and learning views learners as human nuggets rather than individuals. In a sense, many school districts have adopted the characteristics of fast-food restaurants by focusing on efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control. How then has this phenomenon impacted student achievement?

  • Efficiency: The optimal method for accomplishing a task.
    By focusing on efficiency, the onus for learning is placed on the teacher rather than the learner. Hence, the learner becomes passive and unable to process content on a deeper level.
  • Calculability: Learning objectives that are quantifiable rather than subjective.
    Quantifying learning objectives helps teachers to measure the learner’s knowledge attainment and skills acquired. However, the results of these various measures are examined and used to direct learning pathways for learners without the learner’s input. Hence, the learner’s test scores and grades are fundamentally decontextualized for him or her.
  • Predictability: Standardized and uniform services that are highly repetitive, highly routine, and predictable. 
    By focusing on predictability, the onus for learning is again placed on the teacher rather than the learner. Hence, teachers religiously use routines to design learning environments and tasks that elicit predetermined responses. As a result, critical and creative thinking tends to be suppressed within the learning environment.
  • Control: Standardized and uniform practices that establishes routines.
    By focusing on control, the learner’s needs, preferences, and interests are not considered while the teacher is crafting his or her standardized perfunctory practices. Hence, the learner becomes an entity that needs to be controlled rather than taught.

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Personalized learning, on the other hand, views learners as the unique individuals they are. Instead of mass producing general lessons and activities for the K-12 agglomerate,  personalized learning begets lessons that are made to order for individual students. Personalized learning tailors the environment and learning experiences by factoring in the learners needs, preferences, and interests.  How then will this emerging phenomenon impact student achievement?

  • Learner needs: What the learner perceives as a weakness or areas for improvement; what the data indicates as a weakness or an area for improvement
    By focusing on learner needs, teachers and learners may co-design learning pathways; forging learner agency and promoting the learner’s voice.
  • Learner Preferences: Tasks and environmental affinities that the learner has.
    By focusing on learner preferences, tasks and environments may be co-designed with the learner; forging learner identity and promoting learner choice.
  • Learner Interests: Topics, concepts, and/or theories that the learner has deep interests in and passions for.
    By focusing on learner interests, teachers and learners may co-design projects that are relevant for learners; thus forging learner power, also known as productive power.

In sum, McDonaldization of education is eroding. Student nuggets are now unique individual learners who use choice menus to co-design their learning experience. This shift has educators now saying, “welcome to my classroom where you can have it your way.”

Blurred Lines: Is There a Difference Between Online Learning at University or Udemy?

Is learning from a hobbyist validated learning? Does one have to learn from a certified trainer, college/university professor, or coach in order to have validation for his or her learning? With the expanse and abilities of the internet, most people can facilitate authentic online learning experiences for a variety of audiences and purposes. Still, are those experiences valid or are they ineffective? In other words, a college/university degree or a DIY badge, that is the question.

First let’s define learning. According to McCarthy, “learning is the making of meaning” (p.6). How each of us constructs this meaning is based on perceptions and processes that are extracted from our experiences. Hence, the meaning that is made from various learning experiences is based on how we take in the things we learn (perception) and what we do with what we take in (processes). “So learning grows out of this natural rhythm of perceiving and processing” information from the environment (McCarthy, 2000, p. 17).

Now, let’s define valid learning. According to the Collins Dictionary, “something that is valid is important or serious enough to make it worth saying or doing” (Collins, 2018). Hence, valid learning can be defined as the outcome of what the learner has perceived and processed as important within the learning experience. Hence, it is up to the learner to determine whether the learning experience was valid or not.

With the proliferation of online courses and do-it-yourself training programs in the west, many courses are being taught by presumed experts. Actually, it’s never been easier to launch an online course then it is now. YouTubers,  Vloggers, Instagrammers, Podcasters, and other online content creation gurus are bringing the spotlight to online learning and creating a potential disruption to higher education.

The rising cost of higher education is forming new opportunities in edupreneurship. Many inquisitive learners are opting to create their own learning plans by choosing to take online courses from online content creators rather than from universities and colleges. What is more, the question of whether having a university or college degree still remains relevant has arisen.

As Couros (2015) argued in his book, The Innovators Mindset, “your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about and pays off on what you can do with what you know and it doesn’t care how you learned it.” Hence, the future of learning may not solely be validated by college degrees, but by what the learner is able to create. In sum, if the learner perceives that his or her learning experience is valid, then regardless of the context, that learner has achieved learning. Therefore, through the lens of the learner, there is no difference between receiving information from a University or from Udemy.

Reference:
Collins English Dictionary (n.d.). Definition of Valid. Retrieved July 10, 2018, from https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/valid

Couros, G. (2015). The innovators mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.

McCarthy, B. (2000). About learning. Wauconda, Ill: About Learning.