CEP 820: Reflecting Thoughts on Building an Online Course Module

My goal was to create a fully online learning environment that afforded the same unique learning experiences and opportunities as my traditional math classroom, which proved to be a lot more difficult than I imaged.

The design decisions within this course changed several times. When I first began developing my online course, I had the idea that I would just upload content and make it available for my students to access as they needed. Sort of like I do now for my face-to-face classroom. I hadn’t really considered the organization and I definitely didn’t consider the factors that go into policy and practice. As a traditional classroom teacher, the specifics of policy and practice are developed and modeled much differently; they occur much more naturally. However, after reading through various lectures and participating in is several “play” and “design” activities, I realized that developing an effective online course model would require a lot more than I had initially thought. It would require me to be intentional not only in my design choices but also in my instructional choices. Specifically, in order to create an online learning environment that is conducive to learning, my instructional and design choices would have to be much more explicit. I would actually have to think about the learning progression and how my online classroom would run, opposed to the natural progression that occurs in the classroom.

Similarly, the style of teaching has to change with an online course. By reflecting on my own online learning experiences and through the assignments in CEP 820 (assigned lectures, resources, and tasks) I began to realize just how naïve my initial thoughts were about online course development. Additionally, I was sort of disappointed in myself for forgetting about my own powerful online learning experiences and how they helped me develop as a learner and teacher…I should have known that it would require more than uploading content to create an effective online module. Let me elaborate. I would say I am not a traditional mathematics teacher. I use a much more progressive, creative approach. You see, I have a particular passion for online learning, especially when it comes to math. As far back as I can remember, math has always been a struggle; it never came easy for me. In fact, I was actually pretty bad at it! I wanted nothing to do with it after high school. However, as a freshman in college I took an online math course and REALLY learned math for the first time. It was the most rewarding experience; it is the reason I became a teacher. I loved being able to rewind the video- something you can’t do to a teacher- and learn at my own pace. After that I took several other math courses using video instruction–all the way up to Calculus II. I also took four other courses using online instruction–all of which I excelled in. With that established, you should also know that online learning is really the driving force as to why I became a teacher; it changed the way I felt about learning and helped me realize I was capable of understanding math. Consequently, technology integration has shaped my classroom environment and my teaching methods.

Through this reflective process, I was able to refocus and refine my online learning design to better align with my instructional goals. That is, I wanted my online course to encompass similar design features, tools, and supports that afforded me with such positive, powerful learning experiences. Additionally, I wanted to provide my learners with the opportunity to engage in the type of learning that fits them best, using tools and resources that support their unique talents and abilities. Because I know first hand the effectiveness of carefully designed and operated online courses, I felt a lot of pressure to ensure my online course would encompass the design features and tools necessary to make learning possible for ALL learners, including learners who struggle with math, much like I used to. Thus, I concluded that organization was key to producing a successful online course. As an online learner in the MAET program, I have particularly enjoyed the overall design and setup of my graduate school classes. Consequently, I modeled a similar structure in my online course. This model allowed me to scaffold instruction and learning by delivering lesson content in chunks and it provided consistency in content delivery.

After I had mastered content delivery and organization, I was able to tackle differentiated instruction, unique assessment opportunities, collaborative workspaces, and timely feedback amongst other things. Rather than dispensing knowledge and information as I had initially thought I would in my online course, I was able to optimize learning through scaffolded instruction, tools and supports and by creating differentiated, unique opportunities for learners to interact with the course content and each other using interactive multimedia and discussion forums stimulating conversation while providing direct, immediate feedback. Through the differentiated tasks, “quick checks,” and feedback, I was able to inform teaching and learning. Also, after reviewing the Universal Design for Learning guidelines, I refined and improved my content delivery and organization to ensure I was providing all learners with the opportunity to engage in the type of learning that fit them best, using tools and resources that best supported their unique talents and abilities, which I was able to identify through the task design and feedback. Specifically, I focused on providing multiple representations of content and differentiated delivery approaches in addition to unique assessment opportunities, affording all students with the opportunity to demonstrate learning. This is shown in module six in my online course where the learners are provided with additional instructional videos, multiple representations of lesson material, interactive applets, practice problems and activities of varied levels, and objective (skill and performance) based assessments.

Taken together, both organization and differentiation of content led me to my ultimate CMS choice, which is Haiku Learning; however, as I will explain below, it wasn’t an easy process. The goal for my fully online math course was to develop an individualized and differentiated approach for students learning online, and I was hoping to discover a CMS platform that would encompass my instruction, design and feedback ideals through features built right into the framework. As I will elaborate on below, the biggest issue I ran into during my CMS selection was that I would focus on one aspect of something I wanted my online course to encompass, and I would focus on that only, neglecting the other must haves I identified. So, for example, if I liked the organization and grade book feature, I would ignore the design capabilities…typically finding out too late that the platform didn’t accommodate the type of content delivery I needed it to.

When it came time to choosing our Course Management System (CMS), there were several aspects that I focused on, such as but not limited to: organization of information/course design, usability, built in grade book, collaborative work spaces, built in assessment tools, assignment collection features, and the ability to embed outside content/multimedia. So, during a CMS comparison task, I focused on checking whether or not different management systems afforded the design, features and tools I was looking for. After the CMS comparison activity I selected CourseSites because it aligned the most with the type of platform I was looking to use. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t spend enough time “playing” during the CMS comparison activity, rather I spent most of the time reading about features and clicking to see how they would appear on a course page. So, despite the fact that CourseSites checked out on paper, it didn’t check out during the construction stage, which I elaborate on here. Because I planned to embed multimedia and interactive applets to make certain online learning experiences more tangible, I made the quick decision to switch over to Weebly for Education. This was a safe choice because I have used Weebly throughout my teaching profession. However, after spending quite a bit of time designing my online course on Weebly and uploading content, I realized that what I was gaining in freedom of design, I was giving up in organizational structure. Trying to set up links and hide content pages proved to be too much of a hassle; disorganization and confusion was inevitable. So while Weebly meets my more traditional needs as a face-to-face instructor, I realized that it was definitely not working as a platform for my online math course. With no idea what to do next, I headed back to the drawing block (AKA: the CEP 820 showcase of student work). However, through my platform-choice-failures, I was able to develop a clearer understanding of the CMS features I could not work without. That is, I had to figure out which CMS platform could offer me structure and organization similar to that of CourseSites in addition to the design freedoms, such as the ability to embed multimedia, afforded by Weebly for Education. Having established a more explicit design agenda, it didn’t take me long to realize that Haiku Learning was the obvious CMS choice for me, which surprisingly, wasn’t one I reviewed earlier in the course.

Looking back, if I were to offer up any advice to future online course developers, it would be to spend time actually “playing” & building during the CMS comparison activity, rather than researching and window shopping. That is, any car salesman could show you a beautiful car and hand you a printout of the car’s history and features, but chances are you wouldn’t buy it without test-driving it at least once, right? What I mean is, to really understand if the CMS’s tools and features will align with your course vision, you need to test them out. Reading about them in FAQ section isn’t enough, even if they show you pictures J Trust me when I say this: you will save yourself time and trouble in the long run if you spend adequate time properly playing and experimenting with the different course management systems upfront.

Having completed CEP 820, I have a much better understanding of how to effectively design and inform online learning. Through this course, I was able to reconnect with personal learning experiences that I had forgotten about to create an effective online course module that I can build and expand on in the future.

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CEP 813: CMS Assessment Design with Haiku Learning

Assessments should be used as a way to gauge where students are in their learning and the feedback from the assessments should inform both instruction and learning. However, I think that more often than not educators are forced to give assessments that generally don’t align with their instructional style and fail to provide insightful feedback. Sometimes I feel like assessments are used just to provide some sort of data to parents…to communicate a grade in a way that parents understand, even if it doesn’t serve a purpose for improving teaching and learning. For me, I didn’t understand math until I was in college and was taught to reflect on my learning rather than erase mistakes. Based on my personal experiences, for my online math assessment design, I included both traditional assessment measures and nontraditional assessment measures such as, reflective think-aloud, investigations that require problem solving, reasoning, and proof, and collaborative workspaces.

Through both my screencast and this post I am going to tell you about the assessment I created for 8th grade math students enrolled in a fully online math class using Haiku Learning.

CMS: Haiku Learning

Log-in Link to Haiku Learning Math 8 Course, or you can self enroll using this link and by entering 527L3. Keep in mind, this fully online 8th grade math course is something that I am still designing and working on. It is a perpetual work in progress.

Subject Matter: 8th Grade Math: Pythagorean Theorem Unit (Geometry)

Assessment Location: Unit 6: Pythagorean Theorem; Lesson 1: Assess.

Age/Grade level: 8th Grade

Role of intended student: 8th Grade Math Student

Type of course: Fully Online

CMS SCREENCAST LINK

CMS ASSESSMENT DESIGN/CREATION RATIONALE:

There are several reasons why I chose to use Haiku Learning for my CMS assessment design. First, haiku learning is both effective and efficient: the design is clean, user-friendly, and easy to manage from an instructor and student’s perspective. Haiku Learning also has gradebook and multiple assessment features built into the site making it not only a great platform to teach learn and assess but also to communicate progress and proficiency accurately and in a timely manner to both parents and students.

Additionally, Haiku learning is extremely efficient from an instructors perspective as content is easily embedded and uploaded, as you can see in the videos and the multiple-choice assessment on the site. Moreover, for both teachers and students, there is an equation editor available any time you choose to type, which is key for math students especially in an online environment. Lastly, the calendar, announcements, discussion forum and Dropbox are just a few great features designed in the CMS’s infrastructure that make assigning, collecting and assessing a well-organized process.

For this particular task, the assessments I created are designed to measure whether learners have reached the desired learning outcomes at the end of the first lesson of the Pythagorean theorem unit. Since assessment should inform both teaching and learning, I will show you how the lesson design, activities, and tasks align with the assessment tasks, goals, and standards.

As shown in the screencast, the lesson and assessments are aligned with Common Core State Standards for 8th Grade Geometry and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice. Additionally, I explain how the assessment tools I have created will be used to measure proficiency regarding the basics of the Pythagorean theorem: what it is; why it makes sense; and how to use it.

The Pythagorean theorem is one of the main topics covered in an 8th grade mathematics geometry unit, which is also a standard students will be expected to further develop in both high school geometry and trigonometry. Furthermore, the Pythagorean Theorem is commonly present on standardized assessments such as the M-Step and ACT, and in the ever changing world of standardized assessments, the Pythagorean Theorem and its applications have withstood the test of time, making it a key standard for secondary math learners.

Specifically, for this task, I created three different assessments. For the first assessment, I used the built in assessment creation tool in Haiku Learning. This tool, the equation editor, automatic feedback, and direct link to the gradebook made Haiku learning an easy choice for this assessment. The last two assessments utilize the discussion board tool built in Haiku learning. Again, the discussion board tool has a built in equation editor and also allows students to upload pictures and documents to their posts. Perhaps the most impressive tool, though, is the built in rubric creation tool that links rubrics directly to assessments, discussion forums, and the gradebook, making Haiku learning the best choice for all three different types of assessments I created. In addition to those unique features, the discussion board assessment tool allows for collaboration and stimulates conversation.

These three different assessment tasks are designed to give all learners the opportunity to show they have mastered the skills in the first lesson. By differentiating the instruction and assessments, I believe I will be able to more accurately gauge what students truly know in addition to identifying misconceptions. That is, the multiple choice assessment allows me to check their computation and retention, while the metacognitive problem writing and reflective proof re creation assessments allow me to assess transfer, or each learners ability to apply their learning to new scenarios, in addition to each learners ability to consolidate and connect new learning with old. For example, in the Starbursts Re-Creation Proof assessment, I ask learners to consider using half of a Cheez-It on one side of their right triangle. By posing that question, I will be able to see if learners have made the connection between irrational numbers and the Pythagorean Theorem. Additionally, by having students write and solve their own problems dealing with the Pythagorean Theorem, I can ensure that students understand both the math content and vocabulary associated with the Pythagorean Theorem and how to apply that to new real world contexts.

Taken together, these assessments will accurately and effectively measure whether or not learners understand what the Pythagorean Theorem is, when to use the Pythagorean Theorem, and how to use the Pythagorean Theorem.

REFLECTION ON ASSESSMENT DESIGN AND IMPROVED LEARNING OUTCOMES:

Moreover, after reflecting on this weeks task of using a Content Management System to create an assessment, I feel as though the assessments I have designed align with my instructional design, which I hope stimulates learners’ curiosity, engages them in differentiated tasks, and intrinsically motivates them. By creating a collaborative workspace, students are able to ask questions and participate in interactions between one another.

I’ve also included traditional quizzes and non-traditional performance tasks. In addition to traditional assessments, which students may try to cheat on but I feel are still necessary, the performance tasks allow students to demonstrate what they know and evaluate their own learning through reflection. I tried to balance the types of assessments so that they scaffold learning but also inform teaching and learning in different capacities. For example, the results from a multiple-choice test provide much different information on learners’ understanding than the evidence revealed through reflective posts or performance tasks. I don’t think that one form of assessment provides an accurate measure of students understanding, so I included various forms that allow me to gauge where my students are at and how they are progressing using different approaches. Through this process, students will receive feedback regularly from their peers and me.

  • What went into your choices as you focused on certain aspects of your assessments?   While designing my online math assessments I decided I would take what I have learned thus far in the MAET program about online learning, how we learn and instructional design and combine those factors with the format and design of many of my MAET classes, which are also fully online. In addition to the design, I tried to focus on efficient, yet differentiated presentations of lesson content and assessments that aligned accordingly. This task has proved to be harder than I initially thought it would be. I tried to focus on including both traditional and nontraditional assessment methods that allow learners to demonstrate what they know. So, in addition to multiple-choice-like assessments, I made it a priority to implement performance based assessments, reflective assessments, and collaborative assessments. Regardless of the assessment type, I also focused on providing feedback within and throughout the lessons and assessments. For example, responding to reflective posts or setting up quizzes so learners receive automatic feedback based on their correct/incorrect answers.
  • How will your assessment of your students be a tool to grow your students’ learning? The assessments shown in the screencast are designed to inform teaching and learning. Through immediate feedback on lesson quizzes students are able to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, that data provides insight to me as their instructor on which areas I need to go back and re-teach. Moreover, the assessments I implemented in each lesson are designed to stimulate collaboration and reflection. This allows me to assess learners understanding on an individual level and within a community. For example, in the third assessment, students are recreating a proof using Cheez-It snacks and posting their findings to the class discussion. They are also writing their own real world problems and providing insightful feedback to their classmates. Through differentiated assessments learners are receiving feedback from multiple sources and are making adjustments in their learning as they progress, which ultimately leads to personal growth. In fact, learners will not only grow by completing the assessment tasks, they will also grow by reading and providing feedback to their classmates and reflecting on the process. Through this process, by providing multiple different methods of assessment in each lesson, I hope that learners are appropriately challenged and stimulated and if they aren’t that the data collected from the various assessments informs my instruction and allows me to make changes.
  • How will students be involved in the assessment and evaluation process? The way students are involved in the assessment and evaluation process differs based on the assessment design. For example, in reflective assessments, students will receive personal one-on-one feedback from me, sort of like the feedback we receive in our portfolio for CEP 813. Based on my feedback and questions, learners are able to modify and edit their posts and assignments. Moreover, in collaborative assessments, students are involved not only by providing feedback to their peers, but also by responding to the feedback they receive from their peers and me. In additional to reflective and written assessments, students are involved in their lesson assessment quizzes based on how they respond to their immediate feedback and score. They should accommodate their study habits based on their performance scores so they can make improvements by the time they reach the unit summative assessment.