I.My experiences and interests.
I first became interested in online learning in my first year at Parkland,
when I became interested in expanding access for students in Chemistry 100 .
In 1997, we first offered Chemistry 100 online, one of only 5 online courses
at Parkland. Gradually, as the course evolved, I became interested on information
literacy and copresented a workshop
on the topic. I also was involved in a pilot project, called TechCARI,
which focused on assessment of technology as a learning tool. By 2000,
I was no longer teaching Chemistry 100, having developed a new course also
offered online called Chemistry
in Everyday Life (Chemistry 104). This is definitely a course still in
progress and I've altered it a number of times. A summary of how my courses
have evolved can be found at http://virtual.parkland.cc.il.us/todtreat/.
In addition, to course development, I also have done two projects I'm really
proud of- the Online Faculty
Handbook and Online Resources for Classroom
Activities (ORCA), which I managed. The former, which was reviewed in
your class, is an explicit attempt by Parkland College to aid in the preparation
of instructors for online learning. It is publicly accessible and due for
an update, but I think some of what is there, such as the checklists, you
might find helpful. ORCA is an academic portal designed and developed at Parkland
College for our students and employees. The idea was to create a "common
space" for faculty and students where due dates, email, college activities,
and chats could take place independent of course software. We have also added
remote access to databases from Parkland's Library and will have a gradebook
online in the spring.
The focus of my interests in online education have been in four areas: open
learning environments and their design, laboratories, constructivism, and
Open Learning Environments-"Teaching
Across Different Delivery Modes: Creating Flexible Learning Spaces." Illinois
Prairie Higher Education Consortium Distance Learning Conference, Eagle
Creek State Park, June 16, 2000. (Based on "Growing
Up Digital" by John Seely Brown, Change, March/April 2000)
Laboratories- "Assessing & Comparing
Outcomes in a Lab-Based Science Course Delivered Traditionally and Online," “Best
Practices: Past, Present, and Future” ICCFA Conference November, 2000
Constructivist Online Science Units (COSU)" In partial fulfillment
of requirements for HRE 382 "Design of Learning Systems," UIUC,
Quality Issues- I am currently involved in an project that will do two things:
evaluate a peer review instrument developed at Parkland College for online
peer review, and evaluate the quality of a limited number of courses on their "degree
of constructivism." Sorry, no results yet!
So that's it. As we enter our dialogue, you know my interests and strengths,
and, from the WebBoard, I know a few of yours. I'd like to make this somewhat
active, however, so I'd like you to try to do a few activities on pencil and
paper as you read my comments. The questions are in regular text with my "answers" in
II. What is our goal?
Please take out a piece of paper and draw, in whatever mode makes sense to
you (text, diagrams, pictures, etc) the process in which you believe students
I believe strongly that learning must occur in a supportive environment
that allows students to deal with their own misconceptions and experiences.
My diagram would look something close to a
social constructivist model (from Krajcik, J.S. (1994) “Developing students’ understanding
of chemical concepts.” The Psychology of Learning Science. p 130). It's
a classic constructivist philosophy, but I teach in an discipline that tends
to emphasize facts and objective tests. This is a problem and requires me
to use a variety of methods and concepualizations, emphasizing constructivism
in some aspects of the course and behaviorism in others.
III. How do we achieve it?
A. Design- Using the results of the activity above, how might any
course (not just an online one) "look" in order to successfully
allow the process to occur.
B. Implementation- Now what has to be present in an online course
for this to take place?
C. Community- Is is necessary in your model of learning for a community
to be present? How does this occur?
Courses can be designed in many different ways and provided they match
the instructor's philosophy, I believe they can be successful. If the design
must match the philosophy, we ought to be really careful about "canned" courses.
Furthermore, we must be cognizant of the problems associated with learning
a topic. I believe that any instructional design ought to begin with our
beliefs about how learning occurs. Planning should be made to ensure that
our designs are in keeping with our beliefs.
Because I bring a constructivist approach to the the design of Chemistry
104, the course has a variety of options for students, such as what topics
we cover, what will go into their summative portfolio, and what we discuss.
I do not do "lectures," but I have incorporated lecturettes using
Flash to give students an overview of what do look for. (Click here for
an example on the scientific
A. The value of place- How do we establish what Stanley Ikenberry
has called "the value of place," in which students feel they are
getting something special, something they couldn't get on their own or out
of a book?
I am completely enthralled with the ideas of John Seely Brown found in "Growing
Up Digital." In it he states that "learning to learn in
situ is the key..." implying that we must help our students develop
as online learners and not expect the experience to be the same. He also
raises the notion of Community
of Practice in which he describes the importance of individuals working
together in order to learn more. We create a unique experience by allowing
student input, demanding student participation, and allowing some flexibility
in the ways we assess, for example, using portfolios. In Chemistry 104,
for example, students are given choices, in terms of topics and some assignments.
Students are also encouraged to use their own data through authentic experience,
such as the Municipal Waste Lab and the Nutrition Lab. Finally, student
participation is required weekly in discussions relating chemistry to
everyday experience or current events.
B. What to do with labs- What should be the nature of activities we
ask students to do? To what end?
The most important aspect of laboratory experiment design, in my opinion,
is knowing why we are asking a student to do a particular experiment. What
are the outcomes we desire as instructors? Categorization of laboratory
instruction reveals four basic types: expository, inquiry, discovery, and
problem-based. These types can be contrasted based on the desired outcome,
the pedagogical approach, and the experimental procedure (See Table below). Expository
labs have been criticized for the lack of time students are given to reflect
on the experiment and the emphasis on lower order cognitive skills according
to Bloom’s taxonomy. Research indicates that students may come away with
greater understanding when inquiry, discovery, and problem-based laboratories
experiments are used (Domin, 1999).
Expository (ie. traditional cookbook lab)
Choosing the appropriate solution first requires that you predetermine
the type of lab, the equipment necessary, and the outcomes expected. Labs
in which mastery of scientific equipment is an outcome usually require attendance
on campus. However, simulations, labs modified for home use, kits, museum
trips, and internet labs can all substitute effectively for particular kinds
of labs. Can poker chips, playing cards, or other household items be used
in place of animals in a predator-prey lab? Is a stick figure sufficient
or do we need a multimedia CD able to transmit the concepts? Can the student
use household materials? Such questions require thought about the degree
of realism needed and the fidelity and bandwidth available. I lean
heavily toward the use of "kitchen labs" and internet activities,
with only limited use of simulations. I love simulations, but I am interested
in keeping the cost down for my students and the best simulations require
purchase of CDs.
Simulations should be used for specific purposes. Pence (1997) has written
a pretty good online paper on the topic in which he states,
At this time, available simulations cannot replicate the physical
experiences that students would encounter in the laboratory, although
virtual reality programs may soon offer a possibility of accomplishing
this. Simulations do allow the student to focus on the conceptual background
without the distraction of physical manipulations. In some cases this
can be quite beneficial. Using a simulation as a pre-lab preparation
allows students to go into the laboratory with a better understanding
of what they will be doing. Laboratory simulations do not provide a
replacement for laboratory, but at least they may improve one aspect
of chemistry teaching that is far from perfect.
Pence's statements are limited to chemistry, but they do illustrate something
important that I'd like to raise in this lecture which is the conflict between
trying to reach an appropriate degree of realism while using technologies
appropriate for your audience. Graphically, this conflict can be shown using
Dale's Cone and the degree of fidelity needed. Selection should be based
on availability rather than the required capacity. Who are your students
and what do they have access to? I believe simulations are appropriate whenever
students are unable to actually go to a place, perform an activity, or afford
a higher degree of fidelity.
Fidelity + Time and location + Interaction
+ Realism = Bandwidth
OC-3 (optical carrier-level 3)
FAT 5 cables
DS-3 (digital signal-level 3)
ISDN (integrated services digital network)
However, there are some excellent sites using simulations out there, in
a variety of fields, that take special pains to consider bandwidth and other
issues. Both of them use Flash as a multimedia development tool. DNA
from the Beginning describes the history, chemistry, and uses of DNA.
I use one section of it in my courses: DNA
Detective which uses simulations to show students how DNA fingerprinting
is done. Since few students will ever have an opportunity to actually do
DNA fingerprinting, this is an excellent use of a simulation. Another excellent
site that simulates experience is Becoming
Human, a site that allows students to experience physical anthropology
and studies of human evolution in settings few of us will have an opportunity
to go. In my opinion, this sites could serve as a model of appropriate technology
selection in order to maximize student learning.
C. Should online courses be equivalent to on-campus courses? Is it "good
enough" to show that we have taken an on-campus course and "canned" it
online? Should the outcomes be equivalent?
In my view, attempts to show equivalency between online courses and on-campus
courses may actually undermine what we are trying to. In meeting the needs
of online students, we should be tapping into their daily experiences through
the use of authentic activities, discussions, etc. We also should be taking
advantage of existing material online. By bringing the global to someone
in their home, we enrich the course. Most courses I've seen are very linear,
objectives-based, and intended to look like the same linear, objectives-based
course on-campus. But on-campus, the shared experience is guaranteed, so
long as the students attend. Online this is not the case at all. The online
experience for each individual student is unique. In other words, we ought
to be inventing novel pedagogies online to facilitate experience and this
might necessarily mean that the online course design is different than than
the on-campus design. This issue has been addressed very nicely by Michael
Simonson (2000) who writes,
Online students and those in face-to-face classes learn in fundamentally
different environments. Despite the differences, every student should
have the opportunity to learn in acceptable and appropriate ways. Some
professors attempt to make experiences equal for online and face-to-face
learners. A more appropriate strategy is to provide different but equivalent
learning experiences (p. 29).
The emphasis in our courses, therefore, should be on the experiences,
not the assignments. It makes sense that we should be doing something different
with students at a distance to enhance those experiences.
Online learning is complex and anyone who claims to have all the answers
fails to recognize this complexity. My guess is that there are many different
solutions to the issues I have raised in this presentation. From the writings
you have all posted on the WebBoard, I am sure that you all will discover
methods that work well for you. As you do, please continue sharing and realize
that you have become a community of learners. Hopefully, that won't end when
the semester does.
In this presentation, I have tried to raise some issues important to me,
and, possibly, important to you as well. Certainly there are other issues,
and I'd invite you to raise them with me as we continue to discuss ways to
help our online learners achieve their goals...and ours! Thanks again for
the opportunity to join you.
Domin, D.S. (1999). "A Review of Laboratory Instruction Styles." J. Chem.
Ed. >76: 543-547.
Krajcik, J.S. (1994). “Developing students’ understanding of chemical concepts.” The
Psychology of Learning Science. (p 130
Lockee, B. & Moore, D. (1999). "A taxonomy of bandwidth: Considerations and
principles to guide practice in the design and delivery of distance education.
In R. Branch and M.A. Fitzgerald (Eds.). 1999 Educational Technology Yearbook
(p. 65-71). Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Pence, H.E. (1997) "Are simulations just a substitute for reality?" Chem
Conf '97, http://webserver1.oneonta.edu/faculty/~penche/paper9CC97.html
Simonson, M. (2000) "Making decisions: The use of electronic technology
in online classrooms." In R.E. Weiss, D.S. Knowlton, & B.W. Speck
(Eds). Principles of effective teaching in the online classroom. New
Directions for Teaching and Learning 8
Links to Tod Treat's Website were updated on February 28th,