ETAD 804 was my final course for my program requirements which I took during the Fall Term of 2016. 804 centered around Distance Education, specifically looking at “planning context, need identification, educational objectives, and learning experiences”. This course was the only course I took while in my new role outside of the classroom as a Teacher Technology Coach, which pushed me into a different perspective for the entire course.
This course was largely discussion based and built around the readings in our course textbook. Our weekly discussions were guided by classmates and many provided opportunities to pick from a selection of responses and to participate as much or as little as possible. Having struggled with deeply engaging in message board interactions throughout my entire ETAD journey, I especially appreciated the option to engage at a level comfortable to me. Some weeks I would post multiple times on multiple days, and other days I was quite content being a fly on the wall and watching the discussion of my classmates unfold. I really enjoyed being able to moderate for a week, and, unsurprisingly, I found myself the most engaged in the discussion that week.
For our major assessment, we were tasked to create a design plan for a distance education course. Initially, all students were placed into groups of 4 to explore this task and, although I would have loved to work with those I was assigned to work with, I took one last big risk for my learning and opted to explore the project on my own. Taking on the work of a group of 4 by myself was without a doubt outside of my comfort zone, but I finally had an opportunity to use my coursework to create something that I would get to actualize in my current role. Building upon an initiative that I am a part of from my school division, I decided to build the design plan for an online course that would serve all grade 7 and 8 students in our division. With the diverse range of learners I would have to design for, it would be essential that I consider how to best motivate learners in this situation, since they will not be have the motivation to take the course like adult learners may (Simonson et al., 2011).
Had I not taken this course or had the opportunity to build a design plan, there is a very good chance that I would have jumped right into creating the course content. Because distance education has often been a trial-and-error approach, it is valuable to consider theoretical frameworks while designing for distance education (Simonson et al., 2011). This course pushed me to consider the full picture before diving right in. In the design process, I had to consider how institutional factors impacted my design, considering the stakeholders and potential barriers I may encounter. By looking at the pedagogical factors, I was also forced to think deeply about the learner needs in the context of this course, and consider how the knowledge could be broken up logically and implemented in ways that would meet my learners’ needs (Simonson et al., 2011). Although not a major part of my project, articulating the technological needs and processes was valuable so that those outsider the organization could understand how we were able to implement this within our infrastructure. Evaluation of the course would also prove to be an integral piece of the project. To evaluate, I will look to employ an AUIOU (accountability, effectiveness, impact, organizational context, and unanticipated consequences) model because of the valuable formative and summative information that can be gained (Simonson et al., 2011).
Ultimately, the exciting part of this course was the fact that I have the opportunity to turn my design plan into a fully implemented course that is scheduled to be rolled out to all schools in the 2017-18 school year. Moving forward, all of the differing theories, design choices, and approaches will influence any work I do with distance or online education.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S. E., & Zvacek, S. (2011). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education.