Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Four levels of Courses Explained


1) Textbook style - read content quiz at the end of the unit.
2) Teacher not content expert has to rely on the text book to teach curriculum
3) Content -test - Content cycle
4) Mostly text based
5) Copies successful face to face instruction
6) Teacher developer and ownership
7) Never finished...always under revision.
8) Internet infused course Websites all through the course
9) Bells and whistles added. Flash audio video images.
10) Sage on the stage
11) Student centered
12) Problem first solution second cycle

Online courses can be divided into four different levels, which are not determined by the LMS used. They are determined by the developer's approach. Recognition of the approach will make it easier to determine the methodology of the study.

Level One Courses

The characteristic that indicates that you have developed a level one course is that it is an attempt to recreate the textbook style of teaching. Often recognized as the boring high school class it consists of the premise that you must read the content and do the questions at the end of the unit. We have all taken this type of course in the face to face classroom. It is normally taught by the teacher who is not a content expert and has to rely on the textbook to teach the curriculum.

All the problems associated with this method of teacher in the face to face classroom are carried over to the online world. These courses achieve mild success online. We could get into an intellectual discussion about what is success. But for this theory we are talking about the students staying in the course and passing it. The design of the course fulfills the curriculum and is a content presentation...test...content presentation cycle. This is mostly a text based course and the teacher is there to keep the students on task. The response when asked a content question often is, "It is written write there in plain English. Can't these students read?" This method of cookie cutter design is the easiest to create. Digitize a text book's content and add the unit questions into the online testing system. Once recreated, revisions are few. (PowerPoint slides converted to html with a discussion board attached courses are not even at this level but that is another discussion.) This level of course will never develop into a level two. It is destined to always be a level one type course. It is missing the ownership of an instructor. The question about the student success that needs to be asked is:

Does the design of the course have any impact on the student's success rate?

Is the type of student who remains in the course the type of student who would be successful no matter what type of design was used?

Level Two Course

The characteristic that indicates that you have developed a level two course is the recreation of a successful face to face course online. It is based on a content expert's approach to the teaching of curriculum. The design approach is "What would you do on day one in the F2F classroom?" Create that as closely as you can in the online environment. If you have introduced yourself, create an html file with an image of your face, and a file containing the content that you would tell the students in the F2F. Then ask yourself what is the second thing you do in the F2F, digitize that and so on. Success rate in this level of course is a little higher than level one because it tends to have a little bit more personality than the text book approach. This type of course is taught by the teacher who created it and has taken ownership for it and has a vested interest in seeing the student be successful. A certain level of confidence is needed by the teacher, as well as a certain level of reflection on their teaching style and lessons. This type of course is never finished and is being revised continuously and in time develops into the next level. It will become a level three course when there is some recognition by the teacher that F2F teaching strategies are not enough to ensure success for students online. The teacher's need for the course to succeed and amount of "student mothering" that occurs increases the success rate of the students. The resources used in this type of course are the teacher's ideas and the text book.

A good question to ask if you want to know if you have a level two course is: "Is it possible to take what you have developed back into the face to face classroom with very few alterations?"

In other words the technology and the internet did not influence the course development in any way.

Level Three Course

The indication that you have developed a level three course is when a level two course teacher recognizes the fact that they are teaching with the largest library in the world at their fingertips and have access to technology.

The general design of the course is still content presentation...test...content presentation cycle. This is a carry over from the face to face classroom. The teacher is still not willing to totally step away from the procedures that have worked so well for them in that F2F environment. The courses are still text based but the developer/teacher has started to see some of the cool things that technology can do and starts to see ways to integrate these into the content. These java applets, video, flash files are used to support the content text. These are attached outside the course content and are previewed and chosen by the instructor. The instructor has started to realize that there are resources on the internet created by someone else that can be used as course content and starts to explore methods of making this happen. As stated in the earlier post "the teacher starts to remove themselves from the stage and begins to recognize that the answer to the questions do not have to come from themselves or even from with the course presentation. The course starts to lean towards a student centered self discovery method of learning. The teacher asks the questions and facilitates or gives the students the tools and skills to find the answers. This type of course starts to lean toward learning the problem first and then answering it. Most courses before this were always having the answers first and then discovering the problem.

Level Four Course

The characteristic that indicates that you have developed a level four is when a level three course recognizes that the student might be able to choose the questions and the teacher assists them in using the technology and the internet to find the answers. This is a question first, answers second model. The teacher is just a facilitator whose role is to assist the student and teach them the skills they need to critically analyze vast stores of information on the net. The student and teacher work as a team toward covering the curriculum and tailoring the questions to achieve this. Honestly, I have never yet seen such a course but it is where we are going. There is too much information now to effectively teach it all. The teacher choosing to teach what they are interested in is a model that works for level 1,2 and 3 courses but a change that allows the students to decide to study what they are interested in might be positive change.

The proposal needs to clarify exactly what the implementation of a Learning Management System is trying to achieve. As shown above it can be used for a variety of different scenarios of which some are very simple and others very complex.

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