Planning and Defining Learning Objectives

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As an educator, I have identified the need for a high quality e-learning course in introductory philosophy for all undergraduates pursuing any degree in any major.  Online introductory philosophy courses already exist at both of the community colleges where I work, so there would be no need to get approval from the curriculum committee to teach them.  Both Lone Star College and Houston Community College allow faculty members a great deal of freedom in how they teach the subjects they have been hired to teach.  Houston Community College’s philosophy department allows faculty members—even adjuncts—to choose their course textbooks (with the stipulation that they must be original texts by philosophers) while Lone Star College, though policies might differ from campus to campus, generally pre-selects a textbook (usually an anthology of philosophers or compilation of philosophical writings) for the introductory course in consultation with full-time faculty members.  The following course has been designed with these limitations in mind.

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Empirical Support for Learning Styles?

Learning Styles: A Critical Appraisal

Learning styles-based instruction is a method of teaching that matches instructional techniques to a student’s preferred style of learning.  The benefit of matching instructional techniques to learning styles is that students will learn more.  This claim is known as the matching hypothesis.  Despite the theoretical appeal of learning styles, the evidence for the matching hypothesis is minimal in the current research literature (Cuevas, 2015; Rohrer & Pashler, 2012).  Of the 31 studies published since 2009, only one—not without its methodological flaws—has supported the matching hypothesis.  With the lack of empirical support for learning styles-based instruction, downplaying the need to accommodate learning styles seems not only correct, but also necessary.  Educational resources are limited, and time and money need to be spent on interventions that have been shown by empirically-supported research to improve student learning (Newton, 2015).  In the following sections, I will examine learning styles and related theories, my own experience with learning and education, my preferred way to learn, and my success with various learning modalities.  I will show that learning styles are merely preferences that have little effect on actual learning. Read More …

Three Models of E-Learning to Improve Pedagogy

E-learning models are theoretical constructions that assist practitioners in designing effective learning experiences for students participating in online courses.  They are distinct from learning theories in that e-learning models are concerned with the pedagogical principles that undergird instructional practices or with the effective implementation of such instructional practices.  Among the many e-learning models that are presented in Pachler and Daly’s Key Issues in E-Learning (2011)—the majority of which are based on socio-constructivist learning theories—three stand out as being vital to the successful implementation of e-learning: the Community of Inquiry model, the Conversational Framework, and Computer-Mediated Communication.  Each of the three models selected will be described and evaluated in detail before turning to a discussion of how they might be used in practice to improve the quality of e-learning in a hybrid course on the Western humanities.

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Overcoming the Challenges to E-Learning in Higher Education

Faculty whose teaching habits were developed in a traditional classroom setting are faced with a number of challenges when first attempting to create effective e-learning courses.  Most of the challenges identified below are the result of a widespread prejudice against e-learning: that it is inherently inferior to traditional instruction because it puts distance between the learner and the instructor.  Without the close proximity of instructor to student that we find in the traditional classroom, the argument goes, learners are forced to teach themselves the course content.  Inevitably, learners will fall short of the course’s learning goals without an expert instructor to guide their acquisition of knowledge.  Therefore, traditional instruction is to be preferred whenever possible.

How did this prejudice come to be?  Any attempt to employ traditional course content, without modification, in e-learning contexts reveals the key to the origins of this prejudice. For example, the lecture—a teaching method widely employed in the traditional classroom—does not lend itself to e-learning contexts because it can easily change from a dynamic performance for a specific audience to a static recitation when recorded and uploaded to a learning management system.  The lecture becomes a less effective means of delivering course content because its character shifts as it moves to a new environment.  The fact that course content is transformed by its mode of delivery is overlooked by faculty new to e-learning and student learning suffers as a result.  When student performance suffers because of a mismatch between content and technology, the mode of delivery is blamed for the defect rather than the design of the course content.  Thus, the prejudice against e-learning stems from a poor use of the technology that makes online education possible.  The problem of how to create effective course content for online contexts is not an easy one to solve, but it certainly cannot be solved by blaming the technology. Read More …

Fully-Online Education 

NCU

As I begin my doctoral journey at Northcentral University (NCU), I am glad that I have developed the skills necessary for self-directed learning.

NCU thus far has been a rigorous series of assignments meant to prepare me for the doctoral dissertation at the end of my program. The coursework at NCU is challenging and there isn’t much support for students who need extra guidance. Don’t get me wrong, now — NCU provides many resources for students to use and learn from. However, it is up to students to put those resources to good use.

What this means is that students must be unusually self-motivated and self-directed to get the most out of the program. Faculty are present, but only as mentors or facilitators. There is no teaching as such, only reading and writing in your chosen field. And do they ever drop you in the middle of the current literature!

If you need the extra support of a face-to-face classroom, then NCU is probably not for you. However, for those who want an affordable and flexible alternative to brick and mortar schools, this may be the one that fits.