By Rich Kiker

Professional development has been something that is “done to” educators for far too long. We are in an era where teachers are rapidly moving to social media for learning while recognizing the irrelevance of traditional continuing education courses. The need for job-embedded, project-based, and learner-centered solutions is quite clear to us yet the institutionalized graduate-course and professional development model has not yet evolved to meet our needs. The Digital Teacher Series is filling this void with the highest standard of eLearning professional development looking to reshape the way online learning is delivered.

What does high-quality eDesign look like?

While the debate on what a model online course looks like will rage on for the foreseeable future, it is hard to argue that the paradigm is comprised of three major components. A great eLearning experience will always revolve around the instructor and instructional strategies, the platform, and the content.

Instructor

An online instructor has to be prepared to be an on-demand support line. Unlike traditional learning experiences, the online learner is often on a island with no input from the feel of a classroom, body language, or the tone of an instructor. As a result it is imperative that an online facilitator embrace a culture of:

  • Radical collaboration
  • Proactive communication
  • Process differentiation, and
  • Learner choice in product outcomes.

These strategies promote a classroom culture that is not only inviting but responsive and consistent. The more that the instructor puts these simple techniques into practice, the better the overall user experience will be.

Platform

We are inundated with options in the LMS world – it can be overwhelming. At the same time there is a renaissance in the simple, yet robust, nature of some emerging interfaces. There was a time that we needed advanced editing packages, a solid knowledge of HTML, FTP clients, and probably photo editing skills to get even a basic website published. Then the gift of cloud computing was given to all of us in the form of Google Sites, Weebly, Pixlr and other tools that quickly made this task manageable and, dare I say, easy. It is just as easy to see that emerging platforms like Edmodo and Haiku are giving users an elegant experience rooted in simple design while not sacrificing any of the robust needs of an online classroom. Moving forward, it is encouraging to see that these platforms will make the transition to online teaching much more pleasant.

Content

Content is king. It is the tip of this three headed model because without engaging learning materials the online experience will always be limited. However, this is not a reason to be intimidated. It seems that every week we are presented with new web-based tools that offer wonderful, media-rich option to enhance the online classroom. The inclusion of these design techniques include:

  • Inspiring or informative videos to set the stage of a unit
  • Strong instructional and immersive materials that promote meaning, acquisition, and transfer (I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer a hat tip to @kristenswanson for sharing this concise model)
  • Multiple opportunities to extend the learning and embed it into the educator’s daily practice; and
  • Frequent summative assessments in the shape of discussions, social media activity, synchronous participation to ensure no one gets left behind.

If the design is thorough in its use of these efforts, the course is sure to be a success. Any institution can create a blended or fully online solution with a little research and a lot of hard work. I guess that is true to the mold of all things good in education.


Rich Kiker is a Director of Online Learning at Palisades School District in PA and Owner of Kiker Learning. If you would like more information on high quality eDesign, reach out anytime at +Rich Kiker or @rkiker.

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