In many ways, 5318 was a unique challenge. This is the first course in the DLL program that, while still having several COVA components, also had a heavy emphasis on process AND product. Having no previous experience in designing an online course, as well as limited experience in participating in an online course, made this course feel particularly daunting. However, what I discovered throughout this journey was that when you are passionate about the content you are teaching and the skills you want your learners to gain, online learning provides an opportunity for a truly personalized learning experience.
To begin the planning process, I needed to really think deeply about my beliefs in terms of Instructional Design theories. After reviewing the theories, I found myself focusing on two main theories: constructivism and connectivism. As a STEAM teacher attempting to design a STEAM-related online course, I knew that my course would be grounded in Constructivist principles. According to Bates (2015), constructivism is defined by the belief that new knowledge is created by connecting new knowledge to prior knowledge through reflection and other social interaction. This belief is at the very core of my school’s STEAM program. However, connectivism is also closely tied to the program. Siemens (2004) describes connectivism as the ability of students to tap into significant resources for information that exists in the world around them. In an online course, I believe that this is important because teachers are scaffolding information for the learners into modules while still helping students to search for, and make sense of, new sources of information.
With my foundational beliefs set, it was time to review my plan for the course. In my previous coursework, I had constructed both a 3 Column Table and a UbD template for a course I would like to create. I spent some time reviewing both plans closely. The beauty of the UbD plan was the great detail in which each objective was planned, taught, and assessed. Reviewing this plan allowed me to know exactly how I would need to lay out my activities to ensure learner success. However, I found that my 3 Column Table outline would also ensure learner success in a more learner-friendly outline. It also helped me to scaffold my lessons and ensure that I moved through each stage of the learning process. As my course is designed to be taught to Fourth Graders, I knew that using the 3 Column Table was the best way to create a course that would make sense for my learners.
Within a learning institution, there are many standards to be addressed and much content to be covered. As educators, it’s our job to ensure that students are meeting the needs of today’s careers and have the skills necessary to be successful in life. According to Harapnuik (2018), in order for students to truly learn, they need to experience choice, take ownership of their learning, express their voice, and learn through authentic experiences. In an era of standardized testing, and in a setting where one instructor is responsible for meeting the diverse needs of many learners, this is a daunting task. However, online learning is the key to ensuring that students are receiving the type of learning experiences they need. Online courses allow students to work at their own pace, revisit course material as often as needed to master the course content, and provide them with opportunities for specific feedback from course instructors to help them extend their learning. Online learning also allows students to experience different types of specific, immediate feedback including comment posts, question posts, and short video feedback from the teacher. Online learning teaches students important digital citizenship in real-time, which is a major strength of the format.
This course has taught me so much about how to plan, organize, and build content for online courses. It has left me with some key understandings that I plan to share with my district as I move to implement my online course. I’ve learned is that building a course is a collaborative and fluid process. Prior to building the course, one needs to establish the learning goals, determine the assessments that will be used to show mastery of the goals, and then develop dynamic, engaging content that will guide learners down the path of discovery. The course creators need to work with the admin team, curriculum leads, and tech coaches to ensure that all parties are on the same page and ensure that the needs of all learners are being met. The online nature of the planning and implementation allows multiple “teachers” within a single course to add content and participate in the learning, which exposes students to lessons from a multitude of experts.
Another key takeaway from this course has been that just because a course is online does not mean that it cannot be interactive or collaborative. Through technology such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, teachers and students can interact and collaborate in real-time. Programs like Screencastify allow students to complete activities and record their work with audio voiceover, which they then can save and upload as a video. Google Sites and programs like Seesaw let students curate online portfolios to showcase their learning. These ePortfolios not only allow students to have a record of the work that they’ve completed, but blog posts also allow them to be reflective on their learning and share their understandings with the world.
To see a more detailed look at my experience in designing this course, please click here. I am really looking forward to piloting my first online course in the coming weeks, as well as sharing my experience with my district. This will be our first attempt at online learning, and I can’t wait to see the impact it has on our learners!