eLearning for Educators

This is one of several posts I will make about my Hardie Fellowship experiences.  As well as the specific foci of coursework, there are several other observations and insights that have implications for how online learning is perceived and what is possible as we explore best practices from leading institutions.

A through-line and theme that I am seeing is that the teacher is still vitally important as the learning facilitator.  Good teaching is good teaching - online and face to face.  Knowing your cohort, caring, differentiating and formative assessment are all good analogue practices which should and can be applied in the digital realm.  Technology helps to mediate these good teaching practices, but does not drive them.  Technology is a tool in a toolkit that teachers use to facilitate learning.

Introducing teachers (and students) to online spaces - teaching them how to use and apply technology tools for learning - could be a part of teacher (or student) training or Professional Development.  'eLearning for Educators' was one such example.  'eLearning for Educators' (http://www.uwstout.edu/soe/profdev/elearning.cfm) is one of the courses I have been studying in the USA over the past 8 weeks.  It is offered through the University of Wisconsin-Stout as is part of their eLearning and Online Teaching Certificate Program (http://www.uwstout.edu/soe/profdev/elearningcertificate.html).

In a previous post I commented on how from the beginning, in fact, several weeks in advance of the beginning, I knew who my instructor was, the unit outline, electronic textbook, etc.  Upon accessing the Learning Management System (LMS) where the course was based, there was a useful orientation unit (a separate course that I was automatically enrolled in) that took me through the main functions and processes of the system (which was D2L - Desire to Learn).

The course was synchronous with a consistent weekly structure of readings, activities and reflection.  New modules were available Monday, with forum posts and other mutually dependent interactions encouraged early (by Wednesday), final file submissions due by Saturday evening, with grades posted Sunday.

One of the very first activities was an 'Ice Breaker - Show & Tell' forum post where we introduced ourselves.  Albeit text-based, it was important in establishing an interpersonal connection with classmates and the instructor.  In this particular course it came later, but another activity that was inter-personally important was a live webinar, conducted through Zoom.  The names of people who were responding to my posts had a face and voice - they were real people and I felt a greater sense of community after the webinar than I had before the webinar.  Because of the strong communication and personalised feedback on assignments and pervading presence in the course, I already felt a strong connectedness with my course instructor - but this too was greater for me after the webinar. This connectedness and sense of community was very important in course engagement and completion.

Sandpit space was also provided for people to play, to post, to 'see what this button does' without fear of posting in the main class space.

A discussion rubric was used to guide best-practice responses, serving as both a peer and self-evaluation tool.  Various proficient criteria were listed, along with 'value-adding' techniques to develop posts further.

A reflective journal entry was a mandatory requirement of every weekly module.  The instructor encouraged responses around the questions:  What?  So What?  Now What?  This focused the participant on the module outcomes and encouraged future action based on any new learning.

Working in D2L and then in Moodle (in Module 3 & 4) got me thinking how the course and learning facilitation was really LMS independent.  What mattered most were the learning outcomes and how the instructor established a community of connectedness and facilitated those learning outcomes. Each system had its own nuances of performing similar functions.

Adherence to instructional design principles, graphical quality and mobile-ready responsive web design impacts the user experience and is important to overall engagement.  The structure and layout of this course was well thought out and streamlined.  Perhaps a deficiency of D2L, it wasn't ideal for access via my smartphone.

Below are the learning objectives from 'eLearning for Educators' at UWS.


Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:
  1. Analyze current research on teaching and learning using learning management systems.
  2. Apply an experiential learning method of self-reflection to compose reflective journal entries.
  3. Evaluate, select and manage technology-based assessment tools.
  4. Apply collaborative learning theory to create and use web tools such as discussion forums, surveys, and curation platforms for collaborative learning.
  5. Locate and evaluate the accuracy, relevance, appropriateness, comprehensiveness, and bias of electronic information resources to be used in the online classroom.
  6. Evaluate copyright and the four factors of educational fair use in e-learning environments.
  7. Apply understanding of the impact of learner differences: culture/race, ability/disability, gender, age, socioeconomic status, and family influences in delivery of e-learning.
  8. Analyze how universal design and accessibility impact planning for technology based instruction.
  9. Design and publish an electronic portfolio of course artifacts.
The course content itself explored various aspects such as the LMS, use of discussion forums and collaborative learning, copyright and plagiarism, content curation, equity and accessibility, assessment and, as a culminating activity, creation of an e-portfolio.  Here is a link to my e-portfolio for this course:  http://jgdean.weebly.com  These e-portfolios were peer and self-assessed using a rubric, with feedback provided through a forum.  It very much surprised me how far 'build-your-own' webpage' sites had come in regards to automatically achieving a professional layout.  How could we use e-portfolios for student work and assessment?

This was a pre-packaged plagiarism lesson and interactive learning object

The course textbook is an excellent resource:  Lessons from the Virtual Classroom (Rena M. Palloff & Keith Pratt)

Additional Book Details

Lessons from the Virtual Classroom, Second Edition The second edition of the classic resource Lessons from the Cyberspace Classroom offers a comprehensive reference for faculty to hone their skills in becoming more effective online instructors. Thoroughly revised and updated to reflect recent changes and challenges that face online teachers, Lessons from the Virtual Classroom is filled with illustrative examples from actual online courses as well as helpful insights from teachers and students. This essential guide offers targeted suggestions for dealing with such critical issues as evaluating effective courseware, working with online classroom dynamics, addressing the needs of the online student, making the transition to online teaching, and promoting the development of the learning community. Praise for Lessons from the Virtual Classroom, Second Edition "Palloff and Pratt demonstrate their exceptional practical experience and insight into the online classroom. This is an invaluable resource for those tasked with creating an online course." — D. Randy Garrison, professor, University of Calgary, and author, Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles, and Guidelines "Faculty will deeply appreciate and make use of the many explicit examples of how to design, prepare, and teach both blended and fully online courses." — Judith V. Boettcher, faculty coach and author, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips "Lessons from the Virtual Classroom is filled with insightful caveats and recommendations, pointed examples to enhance your practice, succinct summaries of the research, and engaging visual overviews. Each page brings the reader a renewed sense of confidence to teach online as well as personal joy that there is finally a resource to find the answers one is seeking." — Curtis J. Bonk, professor of education, Indiana University-Bloomington, and author, Empowering Online Learning: 100+ Activities for Reading, Reflecting, Displaying, and Doing

Below are some of my favourite and pertinent quotes from this textbook:

Being available in digital form, as Mark has reflected in one of his posts, did get me thinking about the future of the physical textbook.  It's not just about the paper or print time.  It isn't about having the questions and the answers either.  How are they used for learning?  Learning Psychology is a theme in another course I am studying simultaneously through the University of Illinois (EPSY408) and aspects of some textbooks, with their didactic nature and pre-constructed knowledge, would seem to go against modern thinking in this field.

Overall, I think this course exhibited several traits of quality online practice.  The nature of the modules provides a solid foundation for anyone involved in online learning and could form the basis of Professional Learning for teachers.  The very fact that this was facilitated online demonstrates the proof of concept that you can effectively facilitate Professional Learning online, at a distance and at scale.  What other Professional Learning could be facilitated online, without the need for travel and other associated costs?

Anyhow, I thoroughly enjoyed this course and am now looking forward to receiving my final results and official, physical transcript (and digital option if I want it).

Josh Dean


  1. Lots of thoughts here Josh. I have also been thinking a lot about what makes good online pedagogy as I read yours and Mark's posts. As you say good teaching is good teaching on/off line.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Grant! Yes I have been following your work also on https://doncollegegrant.wordpress.com/author/doncollegecgd
      You have a lot of pertinent, quality insights. I appreciate you following our journey and actively exploring the issues alongside us.


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