Saturday, September 25, 2010

HMCD 6304: Conducting Research in Instructional Design and Technology

The essence of this MIDT programme was the research that I conducted on a topic that was not only close to my heart but also which, I believe, has helped me gain insight into the perceptions and viewpoints of students and academic staff about the phenomenon of social presence at the university where I work. The results of this study have demonstrated that social presence in online learning classes is assumed to contribute towards the overall quality of online learning as well as the online learning experience.

I had the similar topic in the course HMPD 6204 Research Project Design. In this course, I developed the research project proposal and worked on the first three chapters of my project namely, Introduction, Literature Review and Methods. These chapters have been compiled here as one document. I decided to carry forward the same project in the capstone course HMCD 6304: Conducting Research in Instructional Design and Technology; nevertheless, I refined my focus and carried out research on the need for social presence in online learning. The research findings are significant for the university where I work as I primarily conducted this study on the same university. I intend to sensitize online tutors about the need, role and importance of social presence and arrange training for them so they get well versed in facilitating social presence to the online students of the university. My thesis report can be found here.

HMID 6303: Current Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology

After studying this course, I am equipped with the rich knowledge and understanding about the use of the current trends and issues in instructional technology. This became possible due to the in-depth readings and side-by-side discourse analyses on those readings with my course mates and facilitators on our course blog. These analyses were based on our course book, The World is Open, which was authored by Professor Curtis J. Bonk’s and was rated as the top ten books of the last decade on instructional technologies. One of the tasks of this course was to synthesize any chapter of this award winning book and present it to the rest of the class for discussion. I chose the chapter ‘Collaborate or Die’ and synthesized it in the form of a power point presentation. Please see this presentation here:

During the profound academic discussions and this particular task I learnt that the web is a huge repository of innumerous tools and technologies which are increasing by the day. Interestingly, these interactive web 2.0 tools are being used very meaningfully and successfully in the learning environments all over the world. I have learnt to analyse and evaluate the feasibility of these tools according to the context in which they may be used. I have also learnt to devise plans for their usability in cases where there is high internet accessibility as well as where there is none. What is more, I planned and designed the application of some of these various tools in a learning situation while keeping in view their viability in that environment. This second competency is reflected in this artifact.

There are boundless opportunities that these latest technologies afford to us and I am eager to deploy as many of them as possible not only at my current workplace but also introduce and propagate the use of web 2.0 tools in the traditional learning set ups in the country so that they realize how they can make the very best of internet and technology tools to promote education as well as improve learning. 

HMPH 5903: Human Performance Technology

In the course Human Performance Technology (HPT), I got exposure to rich real-life case studies and their critical analysis and critique by experts in the field of HPT. I realized that in addition to instructional strategies to improving human performance, myriad non-instructional strategies also exist. Also, I learnt how to fit strategies with the organizational mission of the organization for which the strategies have to be carried out. Of particular importance was the fish-bone analysis that I mastered to conduct. I conducted it for a department of another institute and intend to present to them the final report as well as provide consultancy to them for a smooth implementation of the suggested strategies. Artifact 1 and artifact 2 demonstrate how I thoroughly analyzed the human performance problems, sorted out the possible causes and suggested action plan to mitigate those problems. The outline for artifact 2 is given here.

My high moment arrived when the head of the department for whose department I did the fish-bone analysis called me in excitement and informed that she learnt the analysis technique from me and consequently conducted a workshop on it with school administrators. The workshop went very successful and the school principals and administrators went off accomplished and with a thorough understanding of their respective school problems and their causes. This is indeed a small step; I intend to carry out the fish bone analysis to dig out the problems and their potential causes for all the departments of the university where I work. 

HMTT 6003: Instructional Technology Development Tools

Making a basic website while employing HTML, Flash, Adobe Photoshop, Dream Weaver and FrontPage tools was a great achievement for me as I had never tried my hands on such a thing before. I not only learnt to use these tools to set up a website but also got familiar with the website architecture and aesthetics like choosing the appropriate layout, background colours, font attributes, like size, style, colour etc. Moreover, I successfully learnt to host the site on the web. My website that I developed in this course was about the profile of some of the professors that have developed courses for the Virtual University of Pakistan (my current workplace). This website can be accessed here Presently, the students of this university do not have access to the profile of their professors which I believe should be provided to students. A lot of empirical research shows that familiarity among online students and their knowledge providers is important, as this familiarity creates goodwill, association and overcomes anonymity in virtual online classes; all of these are considered critical elements towards fostering a quality online learning experience. I hope to integrate professors profile pages on the existing course website of each course on the university’s LMS.
Furthermore, I have acquired basic skills in the aforesaid web publishing tools and along with the experts from the academic team, graphics and Information Technology department of my university I plan to develop learning objects and interactive e-content that can be used to enhance and foster the learning  of the university’s students. 

HMOA 5403: Online Assessment Methods

In this course, I have learnt the dynamics of online instructive assessment, its usefulness as well as the issues, constraints and challenges it faces. Moreover, I have been trained to devise ways to curb the potential problems that may come up in the online assessment paradigm. Also, I have realized the significant difference between summative and formative assessment and the value of the later. Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning process however, online assessment is a sensitive issue as accrediting bodies as well as students and potential employers, which are an important stakeholder, all over the world and particularly in Pakistan are concerned about the online assessment methods. In a way, a sound online assessment method would help garner the trust and acceptability of online learning among these stakeholders. There is growing trend towards online assessment in Pakistan as this research paper reflects. At my university (where I work) the online assessment method has grown quite sound over the years. A presentation of this method is provided here which was given by the vice-chancellor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) however; I still believe that I can contribute towards making it more efficient and better. I aim to do this by regulating the amount of assessment that should be given to students, the refinement and evaluation of the already prepared question banks, training the academic staff about plagiarism detection and prevention, development of rubrics, designing inclusive assessments and the need for prompt and constructive feedback to students. I have realized and demonstrated skills in these areas which are reflected by artifact HMOA 5403, HMOA 5403 artifact 2, and HMOA 5403 artifact 3.

HMDD 5603: Design and Development of Interactive E-Content

In this third semester course I developed skills to conduct a through needs’ analysis of the target audience for whom the e-content has to be prepared and am now able to document the same in clear and concise way. It is really necessary to carryout a detailed needs analysis of the audience before designing and developing e-content. I am also capable of developing appropriate learning outcomes based on Bloom’s taxonomy as well as stating them and the course outline clearly and explicitly. This and all of the above skills are demonstrated by this artifact in which I focused on plagiarism sensitization project for the tutors and students of an online learning university.

Moreover, through empirical studies provided in this course I learnt that there are varying learning styles and it is most effective if in interactive e- content is designed and developed that caters to multiple learning styles. Right away, I plan to convert all of the static e-learning content and the e-student handbook which is currently static-text hosted on the university’s website into interactive e-content. 

HMLC 5303: Learning Communities and Social Pedagogical Networks

In this course I learnt how the web 2.0 tools can be used in learning settings to form communities, networks and connections among learners while bridging the geographical distances and time-zone differences. I also got know how of the three underlying learning theories: communities of practice, networked learning and Connectivism as well as the differences and similarities among them. This is presented in this artifact 1. Moreover, I realized that in addition to the commonly used learning management systems there is another more student centered and personalized learning environment. I explored that while learning with and from others, the learning could still take place in a very personalized and tailored environment where learners can be enabled to set goals for their own learning and direct their own learning pathways. In this regard web 2.0 tools like blogs, RSS fields, social book marking and networking sites can be used to access people and resources. I learnt to design PLE and used LAMS which is a revolutionary new tool for designing, managing and delivering online collaborative learning activities, as a platform for it.  Besides, I got awareness about the ethical issues in using social software and web 2.0. Artifact 2 demonstrates how I accomplished this.

I intend to introduce the concept of PLE to the academic staff of my university, so that the tutors build learning and sharing networks among the online tutor community of the university as well as access and connect with the plethora of knowledge and resources on the internet to share with them and broaden their learning about online instruction.