Guest Blogger PostOn March 9, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton announced via Twitter that Memphis was filing an application for Google Fiber for Communities.  This initial tweet was followed with a post on the mayor’s blog From the Mayor’s Desk. In his blog post, Wharton asks you to “Imagine a promising inner-city 7th-grader collaborating with classmates around the world while watching a live university lecture.” Wharton is asking his readers to imagine e-learning in our K-12 classrooms. This call to imagine e-learning in Memphis classrooms comes less than a week after the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology released a draft of their National Educational Technology Plan 2010 titled “Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology“. This plan calls for readers to embrace the use of e-learning as the catalyst that will propel our schools through the 21st century. With this political focus being put on e-learning, let’s explore how this will look in the K-12 classroom. First we will define e-learning, next we will look at a few of its benefits, then we will note a few barriers to its implementation.

E-learning Defined

From the local to the national level, there is a focus on e-learning in K-12 education. E-learning is the promotion of learning through the delivery of instruction via a computer or the Web (Clark & Mayer, 2003; Mayer, 2003). But what does this really look like? How will this change K-12 education? Perhaps it is easier to start by noting what it doesn’t look like. Embracing e-learning does not equate to a rejection of the formal classroom setting. The computer is only one mode of delivery for instruction. It is not necessarily the best mode for a given situation. While in some circumstances it is, there are times when teachers, peers, or other media are more appropriate for delivery of instruction (Alessi & Trollip, 2001). It also should be noted that e-learning is not about the technology, it is about the learning. Kleiman (2000) addresses myths associated with using technology in the K-12 classroom. He states in his article, “the value of a computer, like that of any tool, depends upon what purposes it serves and how well it is used” (p. 3).

Benefits of E-learning

If the technology is just a tool and learning can take place without the technology, then why such a push for e-learning in the schools? The Office of Educational Technology (2010) posits, “Just as technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work, we must leverage it to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences, content, and resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic, and meaningful ways” (p. v). So this is the picture we should envision when imagining e-learning in our classrooms: opportunities that are “limitless, borderless, and instantaneous (p. vi).

Creating these opportunities can happen in several ways. Embracing e-learning can include the adoption of virtual schools or virtual courses, ubiquitous computing, and using e-learning in the classroom to support the curriculum. Although some virtual schools have had great success (Florida Virtual School, Virtual High School); incorporating e-learning does not mean that brick-and-mortar schools will go away. E-learning can offer many benefits to students who attend traditional schools. These benefits include taking a course online that the school cannot afford to offer, catching up on lost credits, and taking classes with students from across the city or world. E-learning can also be used in the classroom to enhance the curriculum. This may include a virtual field trip or the modeling of a science experiment.

Barriers to E-learning

It is obvious that e-learning has benefits. There is often funding available through organizations and grants to implement e-learning in schools. So why aren’t more schools incorporating e-learning? Kleiman (2004) suggests two reasons: teachers are unprepared and technology support staff are lacking. Toby Philpott has created a Mindomo concept map outlining the barriers he sees to implementing e-learning. These barriers include motivation, literacy, cultural differences, accessibility, economics, and freedom of information. So, before we can see our imagined 7th grader collaborating with classmates around the world, we have some work to do.

With the push for e-learning and a broadband infrastructure coming from the US Department of Education and the prospect of Google Fiber coming to Memphis, I would like to start a conversation on how we see e-learning changing K-12 education. What do you believe the impact will be? What are obstacles to its successful implementation?

References

Alessi, S.M. & Trollip, S.R. (2001). Multimedia for learning: Methods and development (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2003). E-learning and the science of instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kleiman, G. M. (2000). Myths and realities about technology in K-12 schools. In the Harvard Education Letter report, The digital classroom: How technology is changing the way we teach and learn. Retrieved March 18, 2010 from http://www.edtechleaders.org/documents/myths.pdf

Kleiman, G.M. (2004). Myths and realities about technology in k-12 schools: Five years later. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 4(2), 248-253.

Mayer, R. E. (2003). Elements of a science of e-learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 29(3), 297-313.

Office of Educational Technology. (2010). Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.  Available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/technology/netp.pdf

Guest Blogger: Carmen Weaver is the project manager for the TLINC grant at the University of Memphis. She also teaches technology integration to undergraduate education majors at the University. Carmen has a background in Computer Information Systems as well as Secondary Education. She is a doctoral student in Instructional Design and Technology.

Guest Blogger PostAs the opportunity arose to teach, I was hesitant because of the enormous responsibility I felt to ensure that the content presented would be understood and applied by the students in my class. As I began to teach, I had no idea the impact this might make on their lives. These individuals were characterized as the nontraditional student (NCES, 2002).  My concerns were whether I was going about the right way to teach such a group of adult learners.

I was eager to know if there were strategies for teaching adult learners. I had heard the term pedagogy, but through various workshops and conferences I was introduced to the term andragogy. What was the difference and did it matter? Malcolm Knowles (1977) laid the foundation that differentiates adult learners. This began my pursuit to further my own education to meet my needs, which has brought me through the Instructional Design and Technology program. In these courses I have learned theories, strategies and design principles to support learning.

The first lesson learned was from the ARCS model by John Keller. One particular element that stands out is relevance. Adult learners have an immediate need to make application of their learning. These learners bring life experiences that assist in integrated new knowledge into prior knowledge. Durff’s Blog, Making Connections illustrates the schema we have and for adults it is about making the connection quickly.

A second lesson I learned was internal motivation and self-direction. There comes a time where most of us consider learning as a life-long process and embrace the challenge. Our desire to learn improves understanding of concepts as it relates to our work, interests, and daily living. In Melanie Booth’s installments on adult learning, she sheds a different perspective from her toddler’s actions. Her first three installments illustrate perspective, growth, and experience which adults bring with them to the classroom.

As I teach adults, I am also an adult learner. The lessons learned from teaching adults along with my desire to further my education have connected more pieces to the puzzle. What pieces can you add about adult learning?

References

Knowles, M. S. (1977). The modern practice of adult education: Andragogy versus pedagogy (8th ed.). New York: Association Press.

National Center for Educational Statistics (2002). Findings from the condition of education 2002; Nontraditional undergraduates (NCES 2002-012). U.S. Department of Education, NCES. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Thompson, M. A., Deis, M.H. (n.d.). Andragogy for adult learners in higher education. Retrieved February 23, 2010 from http://business.clayton.edu/mthompso/02%20Allied%20Academy%20Paper%20Final.doc

Guest blogger: Amanda Bevis manages the Madison County Adult Education program in Jackson, TN.  Her prior work has gained her experience in healthcare, computer programming, and in the university setting all utilizing her computer experience. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology.

Guest Blogger PostSCORM is a standard. That is the bottom line. It is a way to move content across Course Management Systems (CMS) and Learning Management Systems (LMS). It is a way to package information and move it between various conformant platforms. Standards make our lives easier. Imagine going shopping for a queen size mattress and none are the same size. Standards are important, but if SCORM is just a standard, then is it important to learning?

Some elearning professionals believe that SCORM is mandatory for anyone who is developing elearning. On his blog, Tony Karrer espouses the importance of SCORM as a standard for elearning when creating any content for an LMS. Other elearning professionals vigorously defend the standard because of improved interoperability of content across learning systems. Despite the heavy protection from some SCORM camps, others in the blogosphere admit to a variety of SCORM issues such as the difficulties non-technical users, such as teachers and instructors encounter, when trying to implement this standard.

Despite the many opinions elearning professionals have, the question still remains: Is SCORM important to learning? In my opinion, SCORM has nothing to do with learning.  First, learning is personal, and individuals learn in a variety of ways. Just because your elearning content is SCORM compliant doesn’t change how the learner will understand it. All it does is guarantee your learner can view the same content on more than one SCORM compliant system. SCORM standards do not affect other traditional methods of learning. Second, SCORM is only important to elearning distribution, not learning.  Having standards in elearning can be good, but standards do not change how people learn. Third, SCORM has nothing to do with the quality of the instruction. If the instructional design is poor, all of the SCORM in the world won’t help one bit.

Do you believe SCORM has an impact on learning in general? Do you think all elearning should be SCORM compliant? I look forward to your comments.

Guest blogger: Stacy Clayton is an IT Specialist with over 8 years of experience in Higher Education. She is employed at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She manages websites, web conferencing, interactive development, and video services. Her interests are in creating elearning content and improving the way technology is used in the classroom at the university level.

Image courtesy of throwthedamnthing at http://www.flickr.com/photos/9473541@N02/2074888762/

Guest Blogger PostAs the world has moved from the industrial to the digital era, concepts as training, instruction, and even education have been reconsidered under the needs and challenges that the new era has brought. In some centuries, industrialized countries have moved from learning a craft by apprenticeship to more and more specialized training. Nowadays, the number of tasks and skills that a person needs to have in order to succeed, changes within and between jobs. Under these conditions, a linear vision of training and education to support job performance seems not to be the most efficient approach, either economically or from an instructional point of view.

In this order of things, a change was introduced with the use of Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSSs), an integrated electronic environments, computer-based systems, or just software components that help improve the performance of any given user within the system in which they must perform a task (Rupel, 2003). Although there seems to be a certain semantic struggle about agreeing in a name for EPSS solutions (check Toni Karrer’s blog for a discussion of terms like “ecoaching”, “eperformance”, “esupport”, and “einteraction”, among others), it is clear that the use of EPSSs requires rethinking  the relationship between learning and performance, and not just adjustments in more traditional perspectives on education, instruction, and training (Rosenberg, 1995). By properly designing, developing, and implementing an EPSS, users can begin tasks sooner when provided with appropriate forms of support that are integrated within the real-work performing context (Malcolm, 1998). This way, users are provided the knowledge they require in order to perform a task while they are actually performing it (Cole, 1997). In order to accomplish this, EPSSs need to simplify the steps required to perform a task, present “just-in-time” pertinent information, and help each user’s decision process about the actions that need to be taken (Rupel, 2003).

At a first glance, the idea looks absolutely fantastic to me. So, is this the future? Should EPSS replace training? After doing some reading, I need to side with the “yes” in this question, but, it would be more accurate to answer “yes, when EPSS is the right solution”. Not all performance issues are suitable to be addressed by taking an EPSS approach (Rosenberg, 1995). In his blog, Craig Borysowich provides some specific criteria to identify the conditions under which an EPSS may be needed, listing complexity, frequent changes, high cost of errors, and extensive required job knowledge as some of the criteria. He also recognizes the importance of external factors such as the availability of funds and equipment, the acceptance of computers as a support source by employees, and the need to keep the EPSS current for the viability of an EPSS approach.

In summary, EPSSs represent the application of a performance-centered (vs. knowledge-centered) perspective to solve performance problems that traditionally have been tackled by training and instruction. By using an EPSS approach, costs are lowered, performance is specifically addressed, and many support elements (job aids, assistants, training, etc) can be integrated to provide “just-in-time”, pertinent information to users for the task they are trying to complete. It is not just money what is considered, but also efficiency. Again, we need to add, if done well.

References

Cole, K., Fischer, O., & Saltzman, P. (1997) Just-in-time knowledge delivery. Communications of the ACM, 40 (7), 49-53. Retrieved on Feb 22, 2010, from: http://www.cparity.com/projects/AcmClassification/samples/256184.pdf

Rosenberg, M. (1995). Performance Technology, performance support, and the future of training: A commentary. Performance Improvement Quaterly, 8(1), 94-99. Retrieved on Feb 22, 2010, from: http://marcrosenberg.com/images/PIQ.pdf

Rupel, R. (2003). Learning from EPSS. In STC’s 50th Annual Conference Proceedings. Retrieved on Feb 22, 2010, from: http://www.stc.org/ConfProceed/2003/PDFs/STC50-078.pdf

Malcolm, S. (1998). EPSS tomorrow. Training, 64-69. Retrieved on Feb 22, 2010, from: http://www.performance-vision.com/articles/art-epss2mrw.htm

Guest blogger: Federico Gomez works as an associate professor for Christian Brothers University in Memphis, where he teaches Spanish language and literature courses. He has a background in Psychology and Methodology for the Behavioral Sciences, and he is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. His research interests include web-based instruction, non-profit training, open-source technology for education, and constructivist approaches to instruction. He would like to work in non-profit related instruction and community building through instructional design in the future.

Image from Karin Dalziel at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nirak/842744816/

Guest Blogger PostWhen designing and developing an elearning course you will always be incorporating some combination of text, images, audio, and video. There are several important things you need to keep in mind when working with various types of media.

Text

When designing a course, the wording of the text is not the only thing you should consider. The font you choose can have a huge impact on your elearning course. In one of his blog posts, Tom Kuhlmann points out how the typeface you choose sets the tone or mood for a course. It is important to choose a typeface that matches the tone you want your course to have. For example, you wouldn’t use Comic Sans in a course for business professionals. You would probably be better off using something more traditional like Times New Roman.

While you are deciding on which typefaces are just right for your course, also keep Jennifer Farley’s advice in mind and don’t use more than two fonts per design. She recommends choosing two contrasting fonts such as using an elaborate or decorative font for your headings and contrast them with a sans-serif font for the main text.

Also consider the size of the font in your design. Depending on the age of your learners, a font size of 10 might be too small for them to read comfortably. On the other hand if the font is too large it could distract the learner and make the visual design less appealing.

Finally, if you are creating elearning that will be displayed directly in a browser you should only use web safe fonts. In an article about web safe fonts, Chet Garrison says that if you use an exotic font, only the limited users who have the font installed on their computer will actually see the design as you intended. The thirteen fonts that are considered to be web safe are: Georgia, Palatino Linotype, Times New Roman, Arial, Arial Black, Impact, Lucida Sans Unicode, Tahoma, Trebuchet MSVerdana, Comic Sans MS, Courier New, and Lucida Console.

Images

When using images in your elearning course an important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t use images just for decoration. Although, like text, images can be used to set the tone of a course, they should also contribute to the content and learning.

In another blog post, Tom Kuhlman stresses the importance of using images that belong together. You shouldn’t mix photos and clipart or even different styles of photos and clipart within the same course. The images in your course should have a consistent look and feel.

You also need to consider the direction an image flows when you are deciding where to place an image in your course. You can use images to shift a learner’s focus as long as you place the image in the correct place. For example if you have an image of person pointing next to a body of text, make sure that the image is pointing towards the body of text. Chet Garrison has written a great blog post that goes into more details about this concept.

Audio

Just like images, don’t use audio in your course just because you can. You should only use audio if it helps with learning. Tom Kuhlmann talks about how background audio should only be used if it “contributes to an immersive experience” or “creates emotional cues”. Be careful not to use audio that is distracting to the learner.

Another time audio is often used in elearning is for narration. Al Lemieux offers several tips for recording good narration. The tip that I found to be the best, and that most people overlook, is the importance of using a high quality microphone. Using a good external mic instead of the one built into your computer can make your audio sound much more professional.

Video

Video can be a great way to add content to your elearning course, but it can also be really bad if it is not done correctly. One major problem is having a video clip that is too long. Learners can quickly become bored if all they are doing is watching a video. In an article for Learning Solutions Magazine, Jeremy Vest says that the optimal length for a video segment is two to seven minutes long.

In the same article, Vest says another common mistake, especially with screencasts, is not showing the instructor in the video. The learner can quickly become disengaged if they never see anyone on the screen. So, try to add in some shots of the instructor talking when it is appropriate.

I hope these tips will help you as you are designing your own elearning courses. Please feel free to share some of your on tips in the comments.

Guest blogger: Joey Weaver teaches Computer Technology to high school students at Kansas Career & Technology Center in Memphis, TN. He is currently working on a Master’s degree in Instructional Design & Technology at the University of Memphis.

Images courtesy of Daehyun Park, D’Arcy Norman, & Valeriana Solaris at Flikr Creative Commons.

Guest Blogger PostI’ve had the opportunity to experience the field of education from a few different perspectives.  I’m currently enrolled as a Master’s student in the Instructional Design and Technology program at the University of Memphis, and I spent several years as a high school Marketing Education teacher.  I also currently work for the University of Memphis as an Academic Technology Consultant.  These experiences have provided me a chance to gain valuable insight into both the teacher and student roles.

One aspect of teaching that I have not had the opportunity to experience is that of teaching an online or hybrid course.  As a classroom teacher, I incorporated online activities as well as gaming and simulation into my lesson plans.  However, they couldn’t be classified as true hybrid or online courses. As a student, I have taken several hybrid and online courses as part of my Master’s program.  Therefore based on my experience as a student, a teacher, and someone who currently assists faculty with instructional technology and online course design, I’ve created a “must do” list for anyone who is interested in creating online instruction.

#1.  Clearly outline all course information, policies, and requirements

Just as in a class which meets face-to-face, outlining all course information, policies, and requirements for your online course is critical to student success and aids in lessening student confusion.  Post your course syllabus containing information such as how to contact the instructor, your policy regarding late work, grading criteria, and classroom “netiquette”.

#2. Plan to maintain a consistent presence within your online course.

In a face-to-face classroom setting, would you as the instructor simply place some notes up on the board or set your PowerPoint presentation to play and walk out of the room?  I hope not!  You would remain in the room to lead the class discussion, provide guidance, and assess student comprehension of the material.  Maintaining your “virtual” presence in an online class is just as important as your physical presence in a face-to-face course.  Your students need to know that you are monitoring the class activities, providing feedback in a timely manner, and are available to respond to questions as they arise.  If several days/ weeks pass without interaction from the instructor, many students will begin to feel abandoned and unmotivated to continue on with their work in the course.

#3.  Create a way for students to make a personal connection to their instructor and fellow classmates.

In many instances, the first session of a class which meets face-to-face includes time dedicated to allowing the instructor and students to introduce themselves.  This serves as an ice breaker activity, and gives everyone a chance to make a personal connection with the people that they will be spending the semester with.  This time to connect is just as important in an online or virtual classroom setting  where face-to-face meeting opportunities are likely to never occur. Introductions could take place via a discussion board forum and would also allow the instructor and students the opportunity to link out to some of their academic and professional work to share along with their bio information.

#4.  Create multiple ways for students to engage in the course material.

In the process of writing this post, I asked my personal learning network via Twitter to share any advice or tips for instructors who are creating online content.  Barry Dahl, Vice President of Technology for Lake Superior College and Lake Superior Connect e-Campus, responded with the following: “If you’re creating online instruction, you better NOT be creating an electronic correspondence course.  Interactivity is key.” I couldn’t agree with Barry more!  Interactivity is crucial to creating effective online instruction. Otherwise, you’re simply creating digital notes for students to read.  Discussion board posts, video clips, podcasts, and live chats certainly can enhance the course materials and target a variety of learning styles.

As a part of the blog that is maintained for Lake Superior College, student survey results were posted reflecting their thoughts on the importance and overall satisfaction of specific elements within their online learning experience.  Nearly half of the items mentioned in the list of twelve ties directly back to course development and implementation.  Definitely food for thought!

Guest blogger: Kristy Conger worked in the classroom for seven years as a Marketing Education teacher/ Work Based Learning Coordinator in the Henry County School System. She also taught computer literacy courses through the Adult Basic Education Program, and currently works as an Academic Technology Consultant for the University of Memphis.  Kristy received her BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. After completing her degree, she would like to return to teaching in some capacity and perhaps work within a K-12 setting in an instructional technology role.

Guest Blogger PostToo many ideas were coming to my mind as I was trying to write about how I would like my elearning to be, if I had money and time. I decided to take a step back to look at the whole picture first then at the details, similar to looking at the shell and then studying the core. This is what I came up with.

The shell of my elearning unit would be a highly engaging unit achieved through the pedagogical approach I would use. My pedagogical approach would be student-centered, situated in constructivism, where learners make choices in how they acquire their knowledge (Kanuka, 2006).  In an article reviewing conceptualizations of workplace learning, Smith (2003) talks about the importance of the flexible delivery of learning where learners possess some autonomy in how to approach the learning materials and where the instructor plays the role of the facilitator of the learning experience.  In the same context, Tom Kuhlman (2009) differentiates between the push and the pull approach to learning. The push approach would typically provide the information in a linear fashion that might not meet the learner’s needs. On the other hand, the pull approach provides the information to the leaner in such a way to give the choice of pulling the content as needed by the learner.

In addition, my pedagogical approach will allow learners to progress in their learning through social negotiation, learning through their interactions with others (Jonassen, 2009).  Smith (2003) also describes how the social interaction among the learners, in particular in computer-based learning, helps them construct their knowledge.  In her slide presentation, The Future of E-learning is Social Learning, Jane Hart (2009) describes what social learning is about, especially in e-learning environments.  She points out that people go through a good deal of learning by interacting with one another. Today, with the emergence of the new social media tools, educators are able to incorporate social negotiation in the learning experience of their learners. A concept that emerges from social learning is the Personal Learning Environment (PLN).  Stephen Downes (2010) explains in great detail what personal learning environments are. He points out that they create a shift in how learning is viewed. Learning becomes more of managing connections between different sources of knowledge rather than managing learning itself. In a personal learning community, one would learn by immersion in a community and grow through the interaction with that community.  Where is all of this leading to?

The question comes again: How would my elearning look like if I had money and time?  My elearning will be student-centered, where learners create their PLN to construct their knowledge, individually and socially, and where they have access to a repository of resources that facilitates the process for them. In addition, with the luxury of time that I would have, and in line with constructivism, my instructional strategies will be based on project-based and/or problem-based approaches.

As for the core, I would take the time to provide choices for learners in their interaction with the learning environment to cater to their variation in learning styles.   I would also spend money and time on the creation of multimedia.  I would hire an illustrator and an animator for my images and comic strips. I would hire an audiovisual expert to produce high quality video and audio. In order to immerse my learners in authentic learning experiences, I would definitely venture in the creation of 3D learning environments.  The eLearning Coach presents a nice review on the book Learning in 3D, by Karl Kapp and Tony Driscoll.  Last but not least, I would pay careful attention to the design principles. Either by me spending the time or by hiring a web designer, my elearning unit has to have an attractive appeal to it.  Whether in the choice of colors, font, images or layout, my unit will have a nice look and feel.  Of course, the icing on the cake is the formative evaluation.  Money and time will allow me to proceed with a sound formative evaluation, the results of which I will use to improve my unit.

Can you see my unit? What would your approach be like?

References

Jonassen,D. (2009). Reconciling a human cognitive architecture.  In S. Tobias & T.M. Duffy (Eds).  Constructivist Instruction: Success or Failure? (pp.16-17). Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Kanuka, H. (2006). Instructional design and elearning: A discussion of pedagogical content knowledge as a missing construct. E-Journal of Instructional Science and Technology. 9(2).

Smith, P. (2003). Workplace learning and flexible delivery. Review of Educational Research, 73(1), 53-88.

Guest blogger: Suha Tamim is a doctoral student in Instructional Design and Technology. She also holds a Masters degree in Public Health, Concentration Health Behavior and Health Education. She is interested in learning design, constructivism, and learning styles. Few years prior to becoming a doctoral student, Suha worked as an instructor at the university level, teaching students how to design health education materials and how to use them in the field.  She was also involved in training school teachers and health workers on the design of health education materials.  Suha previously discussed integrating text, images, audio, and video into elearning.

Guest Blogger PostA new year is upon us and thus we should take time to examine some of the potential changes that the year 2010 will bring. Examining potential changes is important because technology is in a constant state of change and so are the lives of those involved with instructional technology. Although this blog post will not attempt to take on all the predicted changes in instructional technology for the year 2010, this post will examine three 2010 predictions I agree with and three that I do not.

I Agree With….

At the beginning of this year, staff members and contributors to eLearn Magazine each described some of their predictions for the year 2010. The first prediction that I agreed with was from Stephen Downes who predicts that the demand for online learning will increase from both the private sector and traditional institutions. I agree with this prediction because the current economic crisis and job situation will compel citizens to take on new positions and roles, requiring them to learn new knowledge and skills. I also agree with Mark Notess’ assessment that higher education institutions will make greater movements towards open source solutions. I agree with Mr. Notess because the economy is forcing many higher education institutions to cut costs wherever they can and because open source options are becoming more accepted and understood by the technological community. Finally, I agree with Jim Hendler’s prediction that the technology gap between students and teachers will continue to expand and widen. I agree with Mr. Hendler because student’s technological exposure and experience continues to grow while many teachers technology learning remains stagnant or does not increase at the rate in which new technologies are developed.

I Don’t Agree With…

From the same eLearn Magazine article, I do not agree with Roger Schank’s prediction that mobile e-learning will go away. I believe that as mobile technologies increase, so will opportunities to learn from mobile devices. I believe that just-in-time learning will become a major form of e-learning on mobile devices. I also do not agree with Hend S. Al-Khalifa’s prediction that portable devices like Smart phones and Nintendo DS systems will make their way into traditional classrooms. I do believe that learning opportunities will increase on devices like these; however, to be implemented into the classroom there would need to be more teachers willing to teach using these devices. I do not think that many teachers are ready to make this leap yet. The final prediction I do not agree with comes from Ignatia Webs. I do not agree with the prediction that pedagogy will overtake technologies role as front and center of innovative learning. I believe that pedagogy should become the primary focus of innovative learning, however technology still offers so much motivation and interest that technology will remain in its central role.

Guest blogger: Jeremy Larson is a 7th and 8th grade American History teacher at Grace- St. Luke’s Episcopal School in Memphis, TN. He received his Bachelors degree in Elementary Education (K-8) at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, MN. While at SCSU, Jeremy also received specialties in Instructional Technology and Social Studies Education. Jeremy is currently working towards his Masters degree in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. He is interested in K-12 technology integration and helping school districts bring technology into the classroom.

Image courtesy of iLounge at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ipodlounger/4310067280/

These are my Jumptags for January 31st through February 9th:

Guest PostInstructional designers are familiar with the basics of usability testing to improve the design of an instructional unit even while it is still in development. Watching users work through an instructional unit or navigate a Web site for the first time helps uncover the ambiguities underlying what we thought was quite obvious. Poking around the Web, I came across a podcast interview by Jared Spool with author and usability expert Dana Chisnell, Spoolcast: Usability Guerilla Techniques (ignore the introductory music and such, the interview begins at about 2:00). She shares two factors that can take us from ‘good user research’ to ‘great user research’: having a Vision and having a Strategy. As I traversed the web threads further, I found other posts that made comments that extend one or both of these components. So let’s take a brief look at how usability can be improved by having a vision and having a strategy.

Image by JulyJu from Flickr Images at Creative CommonsHaving a Vision

Dana Chisnell says in her interview that usability has to be “more than a spot check on functionality.” To conduct an effective usability study, create a vision for what you want the users to gain and what sort of experience you want them to have during the interaction. Great usability begins with a commitment to creating a great user experience. We have to understand more about the users: who are they and why are they visiting the site or participating in the instructional unit (their needs and goals). In another blog, “User Experience Supports Findability and Usability,” Kim Krause Berg comments similarly about knowing web users, “understanding, in-depth, who web site visitors are is a good place to start.”

Having a Strategy

A great vision is implemented through a great strategy. Three thoughts are offered as part of implementing a strategy: (1) use qualitative data to describe the full user experience, (2) implement usability early and often, and (3) share the usability role with others.

First, some usability studies result in statistical, quantitative reports: the average number of clicks to complete a task, the average duration for completing a task, etc. However, Lane Becker (“90% of All Usability Testing is Useless”—but don’t let the title scare you off) argues that real usability drives modifications through a holistic, qualitative approach: why were the users confused, what were they expecting?

Second, usability data should be gathered early and throughout development to accommodate revisions when they are less costly and more efficient. “Some of the most inspired work I’ve seen has happened on whiteboards in the observation room while testing is going on several feet away” (Becker).

Finally, who does the usability testing is part of the strategy. Chisnel recommends involving the entire design and development team: let every member of the team know first-hand what it is like for the user to interact with the instruction. Becker adds, “Anyone who might have a stake in what’s being tested should be present for at least a part of the process.” And both agree that good usability testing can be performed by those who are involved in the design and development, contrary to some opinions that say that only objective outsiders can perform an unbiased analysis of the user experience.

According to Becker, “it’s time to get your hands dirty.”

Guest blogger: Linda Sadler is a Master’s student in Instructional Design at the University of Memphis. Her particular area of interest is safety training in the general industry setting. In the fall of 2009, she completed the 30-hour General Industry OSHA Course to acquire an overview of the safety environment. As part of a broad context analysis that supports safety training, she is interested in pursuing a quantitative study of the safety culture in Memphis-area high-hazard companies to uncover factors that impede adherence to safety guidelines. Linda is currently the Editorial Assistant for The Southern Journal of Philosophy at the University of Memphis.

Image by JulyJu from Flickr Images at Creative Commons