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Top 10 questions

tenTop 10 questions an organization should consider prior to implementing an eLearning program

1.  What are the costs involved to implement and develop an eLearning program? Is this a cost-effective solution?  The costs include: course development, purchasing a learning management system, IT support, infrastructure, additional staff and time.  Often the startup costs are very costly.

2.  Does the organization have content experts to develop effective courses? Are these experts computer savvy? Will the organization have an instructional designer to help?  Developing course materials and making them interactive can be difficult and very time-consuming.

3.  Does the organization have an effective Learning Management System?  Is the LMS easy to navigate and can it withstand the organizations number of users and class materials?

4.  Does the organization have effective course development software?  Is the software interactive?  Is the software mobile friendly?  Since learning tablets and cellphones with internet are fairly new, many course development software are not mobile friendly.

5.  Does the organization have reliable IT/ help desk support?  IT/ help desk support will be needed for working out log-ins, computer compliance, set-up, and technical support/issues for learners and instructors.

6.  What unit or person is going to be responsible for managing the eLearning project?  Having a leadership unit or one person to be in charge of progress, ongoing problems, and questions is needed for things to run smoothly.

7.  Does your organization have a vision and strategic plan for the eLearning program? Are there goals set for the organization to meet?  According to Bates “Visioning is a techniques that allows those working in an organization to understand the full range of possibilities for teaching and learning that technology can facilitate and the possible outcomes, acceptable or otherwise, that might result from its implementation (Bates, 2000)

8.  What type of training will the organization’s staff need prior to implementation?  Will the instructors or learners need training on technology? Well trained staff will help things run smoother upon implementation.

9.  How is the organization plan on funding the eLearning program?  Will you charge tuition?  Will you receive government funding?  ELearning costs are ongoing and long-term funding should be considered prior to implementation.

10.  How and when will the organization evaluate the new eLearning program? Who will do the evaluation? When implementing a new program it should be evaluated to get all the kinks worked out and to improve the programs effectiveness.

Resources:

Bates, A. W. (2000). Managing technological change: Strategies for college and university leaders . San Francisco: Jossey-Bates Publishers.

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The Challenge of Collaborative Online Learning

There has been many changes since 2002 on how quick and convenient communication for learner support has become.  Changes in communication technology have included internet speed, internet availability, pricing on technology, technology advancements in general, and cell phones.  Many people, including myself have smart phones, which makes it very easy to send and reply to emails from classmates and instructors.  This has made communicating much faster with receiving knowledge through emails very quickly and being able to respond on the go.  From 2002-2012 many changes in technology have made internet faster, readily available, and more convenient for learner support.  These changes have had a huge impact how people communicate and the easability to communicate regardless of distance.  Support for Open and Distance Learning can be done through the internet with more resources available.

CD-ROMS and paper materials being sent in the mail are out of date.  Yet, synchronized and asynchronized course still have the same issues as now.  A course being an interactive CD-ROM or a asynchronized class on a LMS, both do not have personalized information.  Without a “live” person/instructor dialog and interaction is limited.  A mixture of synchronized and asynchronized is ideal for maximizing learning.  “The availability of learners to eachother and to the tutor has the potential to overturn the emphasis on distance education as an individual form of learning. The potential to create extensive dialogues and interchange electronically means that online teaching is often prioritising the learning group as the chief resource for learners and the focus for the tutor, rather than the needs of each individual learner, though these to can be accommodated in the pedagogical design supports that” (Thorpe, 2002).

~CM

Centralized vs Decentralized

If I were appointed to the New Online Programs Committee in a newly created private university, I would recommend a mixture of centralized and decentralized management of educational technologies. The goal would be to “develop a system that encourages teaching units to be innovative and able to respond quickly to changes in subject matter, student needs, and technology” (Bates, 2000).  A mixed model would allow for the best of both worlds and fewer disadvantages.  In a mixed model there would be a central unit, but also have area specialists.  In having a mixture there would not be chaos or overlaps of services.  A decentralized model alone can have overlap of services, no regular funding, and lack in standards.   “A central unit can ensure that quality standards are followed in the development of technology based teaching and learning” (Bates, 2000).  A mixed model would have a director to coordinate collaboration in teams, services, focus areas, and meeting standards.

My recommendation would go on further to say management of technology of online programs is very important and “information technology now is a core, mission-critical area for all universities and colleges, and it includes academic as well as administrative needs.  Consequently, the use of information technologies needs to be coordinated, and policy, and investment needs to be planned at the most senior institutional management level” (Bates, 2000).

Funding Strategies

Which funding strategy would I recommend for my organization?

I would recommend a reallocation of internal funds for an online initiative.  Currently, my organization is implementing a learning management system (LMS) in the next couple months.  This is a major expensive for the organization, but very beneficial for trainings, saving administration time, and better record keeping.  Developing online unsynchronized and synchronized courses within the LMS, would allow for a cut back on face-to-face teaching. “To change the way we teach by replacing some face-to-face activities with technology based learning and by making more effective use of faculty with the help of technology” (Bates, 2000). The reallocation of funds to online classes/ trainings could potentially save the company a lot of money.  Funding for class trainings currently involves a lot of travel and time spent.  Many of the classes that are mandatory for new hires could easily be made into unsynchronized courses on the LMS.  New hires are frequent and trainings are often required before working on the job, this often causes many face-to-face trainings to be very small,  I would suggest the time and money of content experts be relocated for developing online courses in the LMS. “By using Web-based materials, on-line group discussions, and email, classroom teaching activities maybe reduces by up to half, freeing the instructors for work on technology-based learning” (Bates, 2000).

Technology Infrastructure

Ryan Thomas, Director of Information Technology at the College of Education at University of Illinois, was interviewed about the college policies and what he think is important on technology infrastructure.     From this interview I learned that the College of Education does not have its own policies on hardware, software, and network use for online distance learners and online faculty.   The College of Education uses the University’s policies on these areas and those policies are set by a committee from the Office of CIO.

Faculty and students having differently levels of resources make sence.  Faculty should have much more access than a student.  Ryan was not specific on specific learning outcomes or institutional goals that would result from the implementation of technologies in the College of Ed.  He could  have explained on this issue.  I am curious what they are considering to implement.

Setting policies would be great for distant online leaners and faculty, because they have a different set of factors affecting them.  I would make sure a strong strategic plan was in place to meet goals for long and short-term with technology and what is offered to online learners and faculty. Second, setting a policy for hardware might be beneficial.  Such as specific headsets that are approved or recommended.   I think this would be very beneficial for those who are purchasing headsets and helping with audio issues during class.  The best case senario would be the “technology fee” we pay as students, should go directly into buying and shipping students appoved headsets.  

 

Managerial Issues

Khan breaks down the organization by people, process, and project management.  There are roles and responsibilities to individuals involved in eLearning projects in both Khan and Bates.  However Khan is very detailed in roles and seems more fitting in my opinion for larger projects.  Although I enjoyed reading about the process and design stage in Khan, I identified with the Bates lone ranger model in my own work.  Bates, in my opinion is more realistic, because he talks about how projects do not always finish because of money, interest, and bad technology.  One advantage to lone ranger projects according to Bates is it gives the opportunity to try new technologies and freedom.  In my own work, I am apart of a lone ranger project.  I am trying out new LMS for my organization.  I am able to weed out the “winners” to share with a small group of stakeholders.   Lone ranger projects can lose momentum as a project drags on and this can be a huge disadvantage.  Being a “lone ranger” in a project takes a lot of time and that can be a big disadvantage.   In my own project, demos of LMS “winners” seems to keep the small group involved in the project momentum.

Vision and Planning of eLearning

Technology has brought about a change that is forcing organizations and institutions to rethink their visions and planning of education.  Dr. Scott Johnson the Chief Information Officer and Associated Dean for the College of Education at the University of Illinois spoke in an interview about challenges, goals, and the development of online programs.  I identified and agree with Dr. Johnson’s comment on “it is clear that a lot of the policies and procedures that we have in place for the traditional programs are not going to work for these more innovative types of programs, so we need to rethink what is involved in online delivery.” Online classes are different from traditional classrooms and they need their own set of guidelines.  The learning process, making classes interactive, and being innovative are important to consider for quality in online education.   Many organizations and institutions need to consider developing eLearning curriculum and programs in a different aspect.  The change is institutions to provide quality online education needs to start with a vision and a plan.  Dr. Johnson gave advice about online development, saying it needs to be run like a business.  I think that is good advice that could be used in many institutions.  As online education becomes more popular there will be more competition.  The University of Illinois has strong leadership like Dr. Johnson to develop visions and plans.  In Managing Technological Change, Tony Bates (2000) talks about vision in organization and institution.   Bates believes vision is more important than planning.  I believe vision is part of the planning process and is an important factor in reaching goals.  I would not say vision is more important, because planning is needed to reach goals.     ~CM~