Friday, October 12, 2012

Assessing Collaborative Efforts

The thorn in the side of teachers and students since the beginning of education has to be group projects. At least this is how I felt as a student and as a new teacher. I was the type of student who liked to do things by myself and my way because I wanted it to be on my terms (which usually meant last minute but very well done). When required to work in a group, I usually took on most of the responsibility and would even delegate to others. Personally, it didn't bother me when others didn't do work because I assumed I could do it better myself anyway. I wasn't letting anyone mess with my GPA. As a new teacher, it was a nightmare assessing group projects between determining individual and group achievement and listening to complaints among group members. In both positions, group work and assessment did not come naturally to me. I assume I am not the only one who feels this way.

One of the problems is that the same methods of assessing individual work are being applied to group work. Teachers do this because they are accustomed to it. Students complain because they know something is wrong and they, too, have gotten used to standardized grading, or grading for every child based on the exact same criteria (content knowledge, skills, behaviors, etc). We cannot assess this way because if everyone in a group does the same exact thing, it is nothing more than independent work done in the company of others.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Conference Video Presentation Story Board

(click image to enlarge)

Here is my storyboard for a video to introduce the concepts of asynchronous and synchronous learning at a conference.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Distance Education: Collaborative Interaction

Collaborative interaction in the field of education once meant working in small groups within the brick and mortar classroom. As new innovations allowed for people to connect synchronously and asynchronously from a distance (specifically the internet and various collaborative innovations like Skype, blogs, wikis, etc) collaboration changed. It became global and reached far past those in your immediate environment. Siemens (2008) sees collaborative interaction as a way to improve education through distance learning in a way that face-to-face (F2F) learning cannot.

The need to improve education is seen in greatly in poverty stricken areas. Digital literacy has become an important aspect of succeeding in this digital age, and the digital divide has separated those that are digitally literate and those that are not, and most times poverty is a factor. A blog post by Danica Radovanovic states, "collaboration possibilities using the Internet and social media services present one of the communication practices for overcoming inequalities in e-skills, twenty–first century literacies and communication, and foster better collaboration and participation." In her view, collaborative interaction helps to close the gap by teaching communication skills, specifically digital communication, a skill Radovanovic sees as important to obtaining knowledge in the 21st century, one that has played a part in the knowledge gap.

Distance Education: The Next Generation

Distance education has sprouted in the areas of corporate training, higher education and K-12 schooling. There is a need to evolve the practices in each area (Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W. & Coleman, C., 2008). The problem is not that distance education doesn't work, it is that it has been done quickly with not enough attention to quality.

In the case of training, Moller, Huett and Foshay identify the reasons distance learning became popular: it is cost saving, scalable and timely. However, focus on these areas took focus away from quality and rushed delivery of distance learning content. More focus is needed on quality, needs assessment, and other factors to create quality education.

Quality is also a problem in higher education (Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W. & Coleman, C., 2008), though the quality of instruction is more dependent on the instructor than with corporate training. There are new pedagogical issues that need to be addressed. These issues include but are not limited to collaboration in a virtual environment, managing a virtual environment and intellectual property rights. There is a need for distance learning in higher education to evolve so that the negative perceptions of e-learning courses and those who teach hem can be dispelled.

Unlike with higher education, the quality of instruction tends to be less dependent on the teacher with K-12 virtual schooling. Many schools develop specific programs to meet state requirements and standards. There are many positive aspects that need more consideration like the ability to offer more communication with students and families and the availability to offer more courses in different areas.
Distance education isn't going anywhere. There needs to be a focus on finding best practices in different areas to create learning environments as good as or better than their face-to-face counterparts.


Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008, May/June). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 1: Training and Development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008, July/August). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 2: Higher Education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66–70.
Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W. & Coleman, C. (2008, September/October). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–67.