For this Blog Post I chose the Harvard Extension School http://www.extension.harvard.edu/open-learning-initiative
to analyze further. This week as with previous weeks I have learned the importance of making certain that my course is easy to access, navigate and understand. I have learned as both a distance learner as well as my most recent role as instructor for our course project that is important to be detailed with instructions and additional helpful information but that it is not necessary to drone on and on, as most learners do not have time to spend on reading a bunch of material and looking at several videos and presentations, no matter how entertaining. It is best to get straight to the point with specific details and directions along with the objectives of the course and what you expect the learner to gain from the instruction.
It is necessary in order to have a successful learning environment; one must also have a strong instructional design or system. The instructional environment should have a relationship among and also between all components of the system, instructor, the learners, the material, and technology. Is the course going to be a weekly lesson course, chapter course or like the one that we are currently designing for this course a modular course; once that is decided it is imperative to figure out how instruction is going to be best presented to the learners; is it best to present the information as a Power Point presentation, YouTube Video, Web Conferencing, Blog, Discussion Boards or Virtual, again with regard to what is best for the learners to gain the most out of their learning experience but also with regard to not over doing any particular design system which can be accomplished by the evaluation process. “Evaluation leads to revision of instruction, and revision of instruction helps secure the final outcome of helping students learn” (Smaldino, Lowther, & Russell, 2012).
In the Harvard Extension School site there are several options for the learner to access the courses there are online only courses, Live Web Conferencing, On campus with online option, online only, online courses with required campus weekend. The thing I noticed right away was that this course site gives great detail on how to use the tools necessary to be successful in the courses in order to provide the learner with an efficient and effective quality learning experience (book). On this course site there were links to each of the sites including tutorials for getting started.
Another thing that I have learned about distance learning is that you need to be able to assist with the motivation of the learners, once again this has been accomplished on this site by offering several options to the learner, there are many options and categories of courses that are offered to the learner to also include the overall goal of the learner to include certification programs, undergraduate, graduate and certification programs and an option for learning for no credit. This once again allows for the learner to have complete autonomy in their learning goals another point that I learned in this week’s text book reading about each learner having different interests and attitudes that students bring to the learning experience and thus any instructor that wants to create quality learning experiences will take this into account (text book). In many of the courses I found that there were certain prerequisites to being able to enroll in the course which is helpful for the instructor to learn about a particular learner’s characteristics which is important when trying to design an effective learning experience (Willis, 1994).
On this site the Campus Course Management System is being used for the virtual learning environment, the course management system provides the learner with helpful information about not only the course that they are enrolled in but additional helpful resources to aid in the learner’s success to include information on the writing center, advisement, thesis assistance if applicable, academic integrity, sexual harassment policies, weather information etc. The course management system allows the instructor to manage their classes, assignments, activities and quizzes and resources and also allows the learner’s to be able to access their course from anywhere at any time online (Ullman & Rabinowitz, 2004).
In conclusion I believe that the Harvard Extension School does a very good job at following the recommendations for online course activities, I do wish that the site was a little more exciting to look at but as learning sites are concerned this one was a pretty good as an example of how to construct an online learning site.
Harvard Open Courses: Open Learning Initiative
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.) Chapter 5, “Instructional Design for Distance Education”