Managing Online Learning: What’s Best Practice?

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

The road to technological change in education isn’t going to be paved by those who are committed to traditional face-to-face pedagogy. Yet, Ann Taylor, interim director of the Dutton e-Education Institute at Penn State, suggests that colleges “use traditional face-to-face faculty as … lead instructors, but hire part-time individuals to handle grading and daily course interactions” (Mary Bart, “Best Practices Help Dispel the Myths of Online Faculty Hiring Practices,” Faculty Focus, 15 Aug. 2011). This advice will more than likely lead to more of the same old ground-based practices. The instructional base is still the classroom, and from this perspective, change doesn’t stand a chance.

Taylor also suggests hiring a “course manager to oversee … online courses” (Bart). Unfortunately, for the vast majority of colleges, this is the model for online classes. This, too, is a perpetuation of practice that’s proven inimical to change. The problem is that the only person who can and should manage a class, online or F2F, is the instructor. Adding a layer of bureaucracy isn’t the answer. This is an extremely costly stopgap and simply postpones the need for teachers to manage their online courses.

Taylor offers some good advice, too. For example, faculty should be given the resources to teach their classes. One that I like is “Give new faculty the experience of being an online student” (Bart). However, this experience shouldn’t be limited to the campus CMS. If it is, then change will be stifled in a self-imposed silo.

***

Nancy Caramanico, in “Online Options for Professional Learning” (Techconnects, 15 Aug. 2011), says that “if your school or district is relying solely on sit down, one size fits all training, there is a good chance you are not getting the participant satisfaction, or more importantly, the results your school and your students need.” She suggests an open, independent, empowering model that takes advantage of the fact that “adults today are accustomed to accomplishing many things online on their own time in a self-directed fashion.” The question is a simple one: When teachers are already accustomed to learning so much on their own via online resources, why limit their in-service program to face-to-face workshops that focus on topics that may not be relevant to their needs?

***

Ved Petkar, in “Online Learning at PDSB – Terribly Outdated?“* (The Youth Informer, 15 Aug. 2011), underscores the innate problem of CMSs in general. He recently took an online summer class and was appalled at the AnGEL learning system from Blackboard Inc. that the Peel District School Board (Ontario) is using. “Perhaps at the release of this system,” he says, “it was state of the art but by today’s standards it’s terribly outdated and broken.” He urges the board to ensure that online pedagogy is “up to date with today’s web.” In defense of Blackboard, he suggests that an updated version of the CMS would be an improvement.

Still, despite updates, I’m afraid the one-size-fits-all CMS approach will continue to lose ground to open web alternatives, and the gap is widening by the day. The question isn’t which CMS (or LMS) is the best? Rather, it’s how can teachers use the vast array of applications and services that are proliferating on the web?

The problem is that we can’t expect to see this dialogue and exploration coming from technocrats or people who are hired to manage instructional technology. Their survival depends on centralization and a tight rein on all technology. The last thing they want is for teachers to become empowered and independent learners capable of creating their own learning environments from the best options that are available on the living and breathing web.
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* Click here for the WebCite alternative.

13 Responses

  1. [...] Managing Online Learning: What's Best Practice? « Educational … The road to technological change in education isn't going to be paved by those who are committed to traditional face-to-face pedagogy. Yet, Ann Taylor, interim director of the Dutton e-Education Institute at Penn State, … Source: etcjournal.com [...]

  2. [...] Managing Online Learning: What’s Best Practice? By Jim Shimabukuro Editor The road to technological change in education isn’t going to be paved by those who are committed to traditional face-to-face pedagogy. Source: etcjournal.com [...]

  3. [...] Managing Online Learning: What’s Best Practice? By Jim Shimabukuro Editor The road to technological change in education isn't going to be paved by those who are committed to traditional face-to-face pedagogy. Yet, Ann Taylor, interim directo… Source: etcjournal.com [...]

  4. Great to see my post mentioned here. The PDSB’s approach to online learning is definitely a problem. Luckily, I’ve attended quite a few conferences and research initiatives that have recognized this problem and will bring forth the findings to PDSB.

  5. Hi, Ved. Thanks for dropping in! Your article is a wake-up call to not only PDSB but to colleges around the world. The truth is that few students will question a school’s approach to online learning. Instead, they’ll simply adapt to it, even if it means settling for much less than is available elsewhere or even everywhere else. I know it takes courage to speak up as you have, and I appreciate what you’ve done. I hope you’ll write up your findings in The Youth Informer. Best, Jim

  6. [...] Managing Online Learning: What’s Best Practice? By Jim Shimabukuro Editor The road to technological change in education isn't going to be paved by those who are committed to traditional face-to-face pedagogy. Yet, Ann Taylor, interim directo… Source: etcjournal.com [...]

  7. [...] Managing Online Learning: What’s Best Practice? By Jim Shimabukuro Editor The road to technological change in education isn't going to be paved by those who are committed to traditional face-to-face pedagogy. Yet, Ann Taylor, interim directo… Source: etcjournal.com [...]

  8. “The problem is that we can’t expect to see this dialogue and exploration coming from technocrats or people who are hired to manage instructional technology. Their survival depends on centralization and a tight rein on all technology. The last thing they want is for teachers to become empowered and independent learners capable of creating their own learning environments from the best options that are available on the living and breathing web.”

    I really agree with all until the final paragraph. It sounds good and would work if theory matched reality. For too many instructors and K-12 teachers, they just don’t know “the best options that are available on the living and breathing web.” Furthermore many don’t even know how to find out. Once they do, they have the problem of evaluation, of technological literacy, which means being able accurately to evaluate technology for a specific purpose and assess costs and benefits.

    School technologists can help a great deal and should not be removed from the equation. They understand the technology; instructors understand the pedagogy. Together, they could make intelligent decisions.

    I’d take yet a further step. Some technologies are empowering such as social media. Others are strictly pedagogical — think textbooks or videos. The latter often are dictated by departments or institutions. The instructors add supplements if they choose (and the institution can afford them). There’s value to having the backbone of a given course the same across some range of classes.

    Some of the “supplemental” technology, if pedagogical in nature, should not simply be left to instructors to find and to finance. The technologists, working with the administration and instructors, should help to set standards and to select appropriate materials. Unless these materials are free, many institutions will benefit from site licenses that cost considerably less than what the same materials would cost for an individual instructor.

    All of these comments may or may not apply to post-secondary institutions depending on their nature. I see them as valuable in today’s money-starved community colleges, for example. In K-12 education, they apply strongly. How is a teacher, who is not technologically savvy and who is overwhelmed by five daily classes of 30-40 students, going to find appropriate technology, evaluate it, propose it to the administration, update lesson plans, deploy it, and manage any technical problems that arise? Won’t happen.

    If every instructor, K-16, were really technologically literate and had plenty of time, then the suggestions of the final paragraph would have more merit — if also there were no imperative for consistency in a school system.

  9. [...] Managing Online Learning: What’s Best Practice? By Jim Shimabukuro Editor The road to technological change in education isn't going to be paved by those who are committed to traditional face-to-face pedagogy. Yet, Ann Taylor, interim directo… Source: etcjournal.com [...]

  10. [...] who are committed to traditional face-to-face pedagogy. Yet, Ann Taylor, interim directo…Show original Rate this: Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  11. [...] Managing Online Learning: What’s Best Practice? By Jim Shimabukuro Editor The road to technological change in education isn't going to be paved by those who are committed to traditional face-to-face pedagogy. Yet, Ann Taylor, interim directo… Source: etcjournal.com [...]

  12. [...] The problem is that we can’t expect to see this dialogue and exploration coming from technocrats or people who are hired to manage instructional technology. Their survival depends on centralization and a tight rein on all technology. The last thing they want is for teachers to become empowered and independent learners capable of creating their own learning environments from the best options that are available on the living and breathing web. -Jim Shimabukuro [...]

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