Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Eating an Elephant or Online Course Design

Original Post:  September 5, 2010

As I sit here typing and look back over the last 2 semesters and the beginning of this semester I never thought I would learn so much in such a short time. Now as I begin what I anticipate is the longest and most difficult semester yet, I am sure my brain will hurt from all the information going in. After I read the syllabus, orientation, goals, and perused the first couple of learning modules I felt really overwhelmed. Then I remembered what I tell my students when they tell me they are feeling overwhelmed, “you can’t eat an elephant whole”. If you eat an elephant a bite at a time you are able to eat the whole elephant and digest it properly. So, I’ll have to keep reminding myself to take little bites and it will all work out.

Then I began thinking about the first class and how worried I was that I would be able to do well in the course with so little computer knowledge. I remembered in the first class learning about pedagogy and how different yet the same it is for online and face to face. Being a nurse first and an educator second I really had not been taught the in-depth information on curriculum development, good pedagogy, and learning theories. I never realized that there were so many web enhancements I could use in the classroom. My nursing education taught me how to teach my patients but not how to teach students and I have found there to be a big difference. My computer skills have also improved. I could type on the computer but did not have really good computer skills. My sons still laugh at how I did not understand that a mouse didn't have to eat cheese; it was attached to the computer. When I think about it, I have learned so much. I had heard about Blogging but never even seen one and here I am creating one! Now I even have an electronic portfolio! Who would have thought I would know this much about the technology available to me if you had met me only a few semesters ago. I can even enter a Wimba room and present a lecture in a Wimba format. With all this knowledge I now know why my brain hurts.
Learning and doing have really been beneficial to me. I designed and presented my first Wimba session and then facilitated the discussion on that presentation. At first it was very uncomfortable talking to a computer and not seeing faces which was really hard. My peers gave me some great feedback that helped me to make improvements for the next time I had to do a Wimba. Then, we were given an opportunity to do a second session and I did it and felt much better. I still have a hard time listening to a session, let alone presenting and not seeing faces. I am so used to face-to-face classes.

In a face-to-face learning session, community is always developed because we see each other on a regular basis. But, in an online setting, we don’t see each other and I did learn some great ways to develop community. I also learned how important community is to online learning. I really do believe having taught face-to-face for many years, that I will be able to utilize what I have learned applying it to online teaching. Then be able to add all the new ideas and concepts I am now learning through this online course and develop a stellar online class for my medical surgical students. As I begin designing my online course, all I have learned will be put to the test. I have the course I want to design but there will be constraints due to the accrediting bodies that oversee us and the inability to change the syllabus in any way. I also see constraints in the online tool my college uses. At this time we are using an outdated WebCT and in a year will be going to Moodle, which I know nothing about. I can only hope Moodle will be an improvement but no one seems to know how the system will work.
With that being said, I also realize that I could develop a course that has some really great student to student and student to content interactions. This will be an improvement over face to face settings. Usually in a Nursing classroom, the instructor puts up a power point and speaks to the slides as they appear. There isn’t always time to do a lot of interaction between the students and content. I think in an online course within a discussion section there can be great learning occurring as students respond to each other and work in small groups on a topic. This will be a great way to see if the students understand the content. In the past I would put my course together by just looking at what the syllabus contained and then developed the lecture using the text book, teaching plan and power points that came with the book. Over the years I began to use other text books and enhanced the power points and now include materials from other sources. Through this course I am beginning to learn how to develop a true teaching plan rather than using basic outlines and objectives and am looking forward to that portion of the course. Learning how to write course objectives and goals, and present the content creatively will especially engage students to learn. This will make them want to learn and not just do it for a grade. I also want to learn the difference between an online and a hybrid course and what truly makes them different. I realize a hybrid course has a face-to-face component where an online course does not. I want to learn the difference between the two course types. In the course I have chosen to design, all the didactic will be online and the clinical portion will be face-to-face. During the clinical settings I will only meet 8 students, while the rest of the students are with other clinical instructors. Therefore, I get to know the other students  in a cyber world only. So I think this course that I will
 be taking should be an interesting and overwhelming 
way to learn all this information. But, I am only going
 to eat my elephant one bite at a time. 

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