Online learning or e-learning has become as accepted and almost as commonplace as classroom learning in higher education. It includes all learning that involves technology. It doesn't matter if it's asynchronous or synchronous. The growth in online learning is because technology is more powerful, easy to use, and increasingly available to the world. Everyone has access to a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Almost all education transitioned to virtual learning during the pandemic, and that is proof that online learning is a credible model of instruction. I think e-learning will continue to grow exponentially after the pandemic and include more hybrid learning and courses offered entirely online.
As instructors, we cannot just focus on access to technology as a reason for online learning to exist. As we know, learning something for the sake of knowing it is not enough. We need to make sure learning outcomes are achieved, course design is creative and engaging, and that there are support systems for both students and instructors for any learning, online or face-to-face, to be successful. We also need to ensure that the learning objectives, learning activities, and assessments are aligned and interdependent. This type of course design can be time-consuming, but it is worth the extra effort. For example, the assessments should reflect the desired learning outcomes. If the desired learning objective is higher-order learning, the assessment should not be a multiple-choice test. The assessment should allow students to use their higher-level thinking and apply the knowledge they learned to an activity. I teach my students the required components of a comprehensive communications plan. The students apply what they learned to create their own communications plan for their clients. The plan is the assessment used for the course. It would not be beneficial just to have them reiterate what each component should contain.
Online learning also offers students opportunities for informal or incidental learning outcomes. The internet allows students to expand their knowledge unintentionally. Sometimes unexpected learning can be the spark that sustains students' attention and interest in the learning activity.
Online learning is changing how instructors use taxonomies to design their courses. Instructors creating online materials often don't have practical instructional design training, so using traditional taxonomies of instructional design won't work. A better strategy is to use a more integrated framework that looks at learning outcomes that rely on experience and real-world knowledge and have an iterative process to refine the learning experiences. The elemental learning and Situated Authentic Problem Solving(SAPS) approaches are good examples of this. Elemental learning uses real-life outcomes and those closely simulating real-life to assess or learn a real-life task or a simulation of that task. We know that focused attention is necessary for learning to occur. The best way to focus students' attention is to design instruction that uses students' previous knowledge and develops learning outcomes that students can apply to their personal and professional experience. Using real-world outcomes is the most effective approach to designing online learning.
Technology should be looked at by instructors as more than just a way to deliver instruction. Using a video to say you used multimedia in your course design is not enough. Technology is not just a means of delivering information. Reiser and Dempsey (2018) talk about using instructional technics that are unique learning strategies to maximize technology to attain a specific learning outcome. Technics are more sophisticated and more comprehensive than just media and engage students in activities that involve what they learned. This course is an excellent example of this. We create a forum post in response to questions that ask us to apply the knowledge we learned through the video and reading to the real world and our experience in higher education. Our peers read our posts and respond to them, allowing us to interact with one another virtually and give each other feedback.
My concerns with online learning include access to technology for marginalized students and instructors' ability to master the technology and create interactive active-learning content. I am hopeful that as online learning continues to grow, resources and training will be made available to instructors.
Social media has become a prominent fixture in everyday life, from staying connected to friends and family to looking for a new life partner. The use of social media in higher education is a relatively recent development. Technology is constantly changing as well. New channels are developing, and changes are being made to existing channels. In addition to the well-known tools, additional social media platforms are being designed for use in education that contain extra privacy, security, and instructor oversight features.
Social media can be a great tool when used correctly. Social media can deliver content to students or as a companion to the course content. It can be deliberately designed as part of a class activity by the instructor or used by the students without prior planning. Some of the advantages of using social media in higher education include using social media as an instructional tool to make the learning experience more student-centered and expanding the course content. It also allows students and instructors the ability to access a large variety of learning resources and experts. For example, LinkedIn is a great resource to connect to subject matter experts as guest lecturers in a virtual class. The SME can be located anywhere and connect with the course virtually. Social media can enhance communication within the class. Slack is a great way to do this. I create a Slack channel for each course I teach accessible only to the students in the class. Students use it to post comments about an assignment, ask questions, or give other students feedback. I find it a great resource to be part of the students' conversation. Social media is also a way for students to get feedback from their peers or from professionals in the field they are studying.
Social media has its challenges when used in higher education instruction. One of the most significant issues is maintaining students' privacy if social media is used in a course. Students may not want their personal information shared on social media. Limiting what students share on the platform used in the course is one way to do this. Instructors can create a private group or page that can be seen or accessed only by students in the course. As we know, the anonymity of social media can influence bad behavior. People will post things on social media that they would never say to someone in person. Social media handles can make a person unidentifiable, letting them hide their true identity. One way to combat this is for the instructor to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on cyberbullying. Social media can also have a decentralized effect on education. Students may try to multi-task when using a social media platform, posting something irrelevant to the course instead of focusing on the assigned task. There is also an intellectual property concern about what information can be posted on a social media platform. We have a significant number of international students enrolled in our courses. There are international considerations that need to be considered if we expect those students to use social media as part of their learning activities.
For social media to be a positive factor in higher education is needs to be used in a very deliberate way by the instructor. There is a lot of pressure for instructors to incorporate social media into their courses, but that is not reason enough to do it. The instructor must see the value in using it and have the skills needed to use it effectively and appropriately. The type of social media platform must also be considered by the instructor when integrating it into a course activity. Some platforms work better than others, and the instructor must know enough about the platform to be successful. I had an instructor in my graduate program that was desperate to integrate Twitter into his course. He had no idea how the platform worked and that there was a character limit to each tweet. He assigned a written assignment to be five pages in length and sent to him via Twitter. His attempt failed miserably.
Rich media is defined as animation, video, audio, and other types of media that are used to enhance the teaching and learning experience. Instructional designers should take a learner-centered approach to determine how to integrate rich media into their course design. Rich media needs to be designed to serve the needs of the learners. A good rule to follow is that less is more for learner media because students can be overloaded with information. Focused attention is required for learning to occur. The more information we are presenting to students, the less they can focus on each piece of information presented. The information presented verbally and visually needs to be organized and presented to allow the student to retain and retrieve the information.
Cognitive load is the amount of mental work imposed on working memory during learning. We know there are three cognitive load types, extraneous, essential, and generative, in the instructional design process. As instructors, we can control the cognitive load. Extraneous cognitive load is the irrelevant mental load resulting from poor instructional design. Essential cognitive load is based on the complexity of the presented material. Generative cognitive load requires the student to be motivated to exert the effort needed to make sense of the incoming material. We know that information comes in through the senses and is analyzed. There's so much information coming in, and only part of that information can be processed. The cognitive processes prioritize information critical to survival or a specific goal and turn that information into mental representations of things in the world. Typically, the richer the sensory reception to the media presented, the more potential there is. However, we also know that using overly complex visuals with irrelevant details increases the extraneous cognitive load. This causes the information to be too complex and overwhelming to be retained.
A goal of integrating rich media into the instructional design process should be to help the learner manage essential processing. Rich media can have a positive impact when used correctly. Text and visuals vs. only text can improve learning, especially for novice learners. These learners need more details because they struggle with simple textual cues or information. The integration of rich media into course design should be based on the learners' level, the content being taught, and the way the visuals are used with text or audio.