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The International Online Workshop 
"Methodologies in e-Learning" - Notes
by Carmen Holotescu and Jane Knight

The second online workshop organized together by e-Learning Centre UK and Timsoft Romania ran 23-30 June 2002,  the moderators being Jane Knight, founder e-Learning Centre UK and Carmen Holotescu, Director Timsoft.

The topic "Methodologies in e-Learning" started challenging debates and sharing for the 90 participants, from five continents. The virtual environment was a variant of eLearnTS developed by Timsoft, offering all the facilities needed for a successful workshop.

Very important for the workshop success were the keynotes generously offered by Dr.Nic Nistor - Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter, University Munchen, Germany, and Claude Whitmyer - Research, training, publishing, and consulting on virtual communications and e-learning, FutureU USA.

Please find below:

  All who are interested in participating in such workshops, please join at e-Learning Community Page.
Objectives and Time Table
To identify and to discuss the following topics related to "Methodologies in e-Learning":
  • Learning Styles and the implications for Instruction
  • Strategies and Methodologies used in e-Learning
  • the Problem Based Learning Methodology
  • the Case Study Approach 
  • Collaborative Projects Issues.
  • Materials Page: Papers proposed for initial discussion
  • Links Page: Other online resources
Time Table
  • The following Conferences will be permanently opened:
    • Welcome!
    • Cyber Lounge
    • Technical Aspects
  • Conference for 24 June:
    • Conference: "Learning Styles and implication for e-Learning Strategies"
  • Conference for 25 June:
    • Conference: "Problem Based Learning"
  • Conference for 26 June:
    • Conference: "Case Study Approach"
  • Conference for 27 June:
    • Conference: "Collaborative Projects"
  • Conference for 28-29 June:
    • Conference: "It's your turn"
  • Conferences for 30 June
    • Conference: "Evaluation"
    • Conference: "Farewell"
  • Conference till the next Online Workshop:
    • Conference: "Keep in touch"
Learning Styles and implications for e-Learning Strategies - Carmen Holotescu & Jane Knight
Hello everyone,

For the first debate of our workshop, we propose you to focus on Learning Styles and their implication in e-Learning Strategies. The theme would demand a whole workshop - of course the discussion here will lead to further reflection. We'll try to investigate multiple points of view, as some of us come from universities, some from industry, some from research.

For more than a quarter century, learning style theory has knocked on the door of universities and of corporate training offices offering itself as a credible alternative to one-size-fits-all instruction. Now that technology has given us the means to deliver truly individualized learning, it begs the question: Is it time to let learning styles come in?

A key to getting and keeping learners actively involved in learning, to reduce learning time, to improve knowledge retention and to increase motivation lies in understanding learning style preferences. From adjusting instructional strategies and teaching materials to meet the needs of a variety of learning styles benefit all learners.

David A. Kolb defined the Four Learning Styles:

  • Diverging: combines preferences for experiencing and reflecting
  • Assimilating: combines preferences for reflecting and thinking
  • Converging: combines preferences for thinking and doing
  • Accommodating: combines preferences for doing and experiencing.
There are different ways to classify learning styles: perceptual modality, information processing, and personality patterns - The Critical Technology - www.learnativity.com/download/Learning_Whitepaper96.pdf. It's very important to identify individuals, or groups of individuals, with similar learning styles, then constructing learning activities around the curriculum that correspond to their style.

Two recent articles of Nishikant Sonwalkar: Changing the Interface of Education with Revolutionary Learning Technologies and The Sharp Edge of the Cube: Pedagogically Driven Instructional Design for Online Education focus on pedagogically driven design principles for online education. Sonwalkar defines The Five Fundamental Learning Styles for Online Asynchronous Instruction:

  • Apprenticeship - A “building block” approach for presenting concepts in a step-by-step procedural learning style
  • Incidental - Based on “events” that trigger the learning experience. Learners begin with an event that introduces a concept and provokes questions
  • Inductive - Learners are first introduced to a concept or a target principle using specific examples that pertain to a broader topic area
  • Deductive - Based on stimulating the discernment of trends through the presentation of simulations, graphs, charts, or other data
  • Discovery - An inquiry method of learning in which students learn by doing, testing the boundaries of their own knowledge.
Jessica Blackmore's says in the Learning Styles article - cyg.net/~jblackmo/diglib/styl-a.html: "Students who are actively engaged in the learning process will be more likely to achieve success, as they begin to feel empowered and their personal achievement and self-direction levels rise."

Self-directedness and an active learner role, as well as solution-centered activities are key concepts of Andragogy - introduced by Malcolm Knowles in the USA.

The most articles show that adults are: autonomous and self-directed, goal oriented, relevancy oriented (problem centered), practical and problem-solvers, have accumulated life experiences.

The Teaching Models Guide gives an overview of the most known and used teaching strategies - www.edtech.vt.edu/edtech/id/models/index.html, classifying them as being: instructor-directed, student-instructor negotiated, student-directed.

Let's share our experience and insights:
How your programs adapt to the learners styles?
How do you evaluate them?
Can a learning style be changed or improved?
Which teaching strategies do you use?
What are the barriers to making better use of individual learning styles?
Carmen & Jane
Problem-Based Learning - Nic Nistor
Hi everyone,

Problem-based learning - PBL - is an educational theory that arose from the observation of the way people learn in real-life situations. 

It has been successfully applied in several domains of teaching and learning, and it is expected to stimulate similar learning performance in virtual learning environments too. PBL should avoid the acquisition of inert knowledge and support knowledge transfer - Reinmann-Rothmeier & Mandl, 1999

In order to achieve this, problem-based learning environments have to fulfill several principles: 

  • learning should start from authentic problems
  • it should find place in authentic and multiple contexts, as well as in a social context, and 
  • learners should receive instructional support in order to avoid cognitive overload.

An interesting question is: What is the meaning of authenticity in this context? Common sense regards authenticity in connection with reality. If we think of virtual learning environments, we have to admit that it is hard - if not quite impossible - to embed reality into them. 

Further more, we know that high authenticity can reduce learning performance, either because learners are being distracted from the actual learning, or because the learning situation generates emotions that leads to a similar distraction. In other words, authenticity is quite recommendable for the design of learning environments, nevertheless too much authenticity can disturb the learning process and reduce performance

Now a few questions for our discussion:

  • What examples of PBL can you think of from your "learning history"? Why do you think learning in these cases was problem-based? How was the learning environment built? To which extent and through which features was it authentic?
  • Think of an example of topic that you would like to teach problem-based (and that is not yet being taught problem-based). How would you build a problem-based learning environment for this purpose? In which sense would you understand authenticity in your environment?
Case Study Approach - Carmen Holotescu
Hello again,

Case Study Approach represents another successful teaching methodology which increases student learning, retention, analyzing situations, critical thinking, research and collaboration skills. It is relevant for most fields, but used extensively in law, business, medicine, education, architecture, and engineering.

Often, a prepared case can be used, but when new cases are developed, the instructor should focus on an important dilemma or issue, create enough detail for the students to comprehend the case, and choose a situation about which there is room for debate and several possible courses of action. Case studies present real or hypothetical situations that demand group discussion to develop recommendations or achieve a preferred solution (make decisions

I have learnt about this methodology in a wonderful online workshop organized by University of Maryland USA, facilitated by the energetic Chris Sax - thanks, Chris! The following presentation is an adaptation of that offered by Chris.

Why Use Case Studies?
Case studies: 
  • are interactive
  • involve & engage students with course content
  • increase students' time on task
  • involve analysis & conclusions on the part of students
  • encourage students to think
  • provide relevance to the course content.
What is a Case Study?
A case study:
  • is a story with a message
  • is a realistic everyday scenario that is based upon and integrates multiple areas of content
  • is the "issues" related to the "science"
  • is multi-dimensional
  • contains conflicting data and criteria
  • involves a problem and a discussion of the problem and its potential solutions.
Please read also what Kipp Herried says in Case Studies in Science - A Novel Method of Science Education ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/cases/teaching/novel.html.
What Makes a Good Case?
A Good Case:
  • tells a story
  • is set in the past 5 years
  • creates empathy with characters
  • includes dialogue
  • is relevant to the reader
  • requires dilemmas be solved
  • has generality
  • is short.
What Does a Case Look Like?
A case contains the following basic elements: 
  • teaching goals and objectives
  • blocks of analysis 
  • multiple characters and perspectives
  • a problem, dilemma, or question to be solved
  • the text of a "story"
  • study and assessment questions
  • references
  • teaching notes.
So what does one of these case studies look like? An excellent source of fully developed case studies can be found through the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, which is located at the University of Buffalo. We encourage you to take a moment now to visit this site: ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/cases/case.html. Click on UB Case Study Collection, then choose an area of general interest to you, and then a case study whose title catches your eye. Examine this case for the elements listed above.
Creating Case Studies
Now let's zoom in a little closer. The basic steps in creating a case study are: 
  • choose a topic in the curriculum
  • brainstorm all the possible subtopics
  • identify the "blocks of analysis"
  • identify your purpose in using this case
  • identify the specific learning objectives for the students
  • identify characters in your story
  • write the case from the perspective of one character
  • write study, assessment, and discussion questions
  • design other possible work for the students
  • add references.
Sometimes you don't have enough time to write a full-blown case, story and teaching notes. Then you may base the cases on a general idea or an article take from the news which fits the topic.
Links to a number of case study collections are available at: ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/cases/webcase.htm
Teaching Case Studies
Here's the basic steps to follow when using a case study: 
  • background lessons, lectures, readings on the course content
  • provide students with the case study and study questions for their reading and review
  • conduct a discussion based on the case study 
  • assign follow-up assessment work (quiz or research paper covering the science; individual position paper or essay covering the problem/dilemma/issues.
  • the instructor serves as discussion facilitator, probing for detail, support for arguments, evidence.
An example is Carmen's Case Study for a Web Technology Online Course.
Now let's move on to the perspectives section of this conference. :
  • Can you see how the case study approach may or may not be useful in your courses?
  • If you already use it, please provide us a few details on the topic, the case format ( a general idea, story line, or article upon which you based the case ), learners participation.
  • Did you find in the recommended resources case studies that can be used in your courses? Tell us about them.
Collaborative Projects - Claude Whitmyer
Bringing a group together for collaborative work or study is a complex process requiring careful planning, facilitation, and management. At FutureU when we embark on a collaborative project, whether learning or work related we use the following steps for both higher education and corporate clients (from this point forward I will assume that any "project" we are talking about could be either a traditional workteam project or a study group or learning experience):
  1. Discover Your Needs 
  2. Choose Your Tools 
  3. Use Your Web Site 
  4. Introduce Best Practices 
  5. Reinforce the Learning 
  6. Evaluate Program Success
Discover Your Needs Back to Menu

Every successful collaborative project or learning experience begins with a discovery period. Questions about attitudinal readiness of the team members or learners must be addressed. Technological capabilities must be assessed, including both skill and the availability of hardware and software. Space for face-to-face meetings must be determined and reserved. The tools needed for the online classroom must be chosen.

Choose Your Tools Back to Menu

Once the project needs have been determined it's time to choose the right tools.

Most virtual teaming or online learning is actually "blended." That is, it contains some face-to-face learning experiences as well as online. The more face-to-face you plan to deliver, the more different your online tool set will become. A fully 100% online course would need to replace all the components of a traditional meeting or classroom. To effectively decide which tools to use, one must clearly understand the difference between the physical and electronic space. For details on these differences check out FutureU's study guide on the "Physical versus Electronic Classroom."
Use Your Web Site Back to Menu

The Internet provides a venue for a wide variety of very powerful communicating and learning tools including real-time meeting spaces, time and space-independent discussion forums, live chat, course authoring tools, electronic classrooms, gradebooks, file and data sharing tools and so forth. Building a project or course Web site makes it easier to bring all the tools you are going to use into a single virtual space where it is easy for participants to access them. And it also makes it possible to create privacy and security for information you don't want the rest of the world to see. FutureU offers extensive guidance about the various online tools you might use in The Bargain Hunter's Guide to Building Your Course Web Site.
Introduce Best Practices Back to Menu

This is a critical step in making sure your project or learning experience works. Best practices means both the way you use the technology and they way you facilitate the process. Building community, facilitating participation, and performing basic management tasks are all key to creating a stimulating supportive environment for learning and collaboration. The following FutureU study guides go into more detail on six key best practices for collaborative work or learning:

Establish Community Guidelines
Create A Community Covenant
Hold An Opening Celebration
Encourage Effective Participation
Manage Your Course
Harvest and Weave
Reinforce the Learning Back to Menu

The average person quickly forgets a majority of what has been presented in a meeting or learning experience. To make up for this it is possible to use the semi-automated characteristics of Internet-based communication tools to reinforce the communication or learning. Following up with reminders and questions about how to apply the learning or work agreements in the day-to-day environment consolidates the learning or behavior and helps make it more applicable in the real world. It's easy to send out a summary of findings and agreements from a work meeting or special suggestions for ways to apply key learning from a particular lesson.
Evaluate Program Success Back to Menu

You get what you measure. If you want a behavior change, measure the behavior. If you want an increase in the ability to recall facts or procedures, use standardized testing. If you want faster typing, count keystrokes.

But be careful what you measure. If you count only keystrokes without also counting accuracy, you'll get rapidly produced, completely unreadable pages.

When we have followed these simple procedures our collaborative projects and and learning outcomes have always turned out superior to any other approach. I invite your questions and comments.

Do these steps all seem necessary to you?
If not, do you have examples of when you skipped one or more of these process 
steps and still had a successful project or learning experience?
Are their additional steps or possible sub-steps that you think are important to include?
Do you have a different approach that gives you good results?
Claude Whitmyer, CIO and Chief Community Strategist
It's not the technology; it's what you do with it.
It's Your Turn! - Jane Knight
For this last conference "It's your turn", we are inviting you to help us create a Gallery of projects based on some of the strategies that we have been discussing over the last few days. 

Please create a short entry in this conference which includes a link to your own course site or a course site that you know, together with a few
lines describing what we will find there or what you think is of particular interest.


Copyright © 2002 by Carmen Holotescu and Jane Knight. 
All rights reserved.

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