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LLG 4 - Online Course Evaluations (SJU)

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Online Course Evaluations

Anthony Bourdain was an award-winning documentary narrator, author, and chef known for his sarcastic personality and authentically critical food reviews. His television series, Parts Unknown, was filmed for five years featuring the local foods he ate as he traveled to cities all over the world.

In a time where the average citizen’s world is constantly becoming more globally diverse, this series stood out. Many have tried to replicate his methodologies and documentary format and failed to connect with audiences. Bourdain brought, (and continues to bring in reruns), a sense of familiarity to communities undergoing dramatic demographic change and to travelers exploring unique places for the first time. He effectively engaged and taught people what we all had in common: that we must all eat to survive, and that we all enjoy coming together to eat “good food,” regardless of our other differences.

Was it the food that made him so engaging, or was it his cunning personality? Or rather, was it the way in which he facilitated learning that resonated with the viewer at home? Teachers and facilitators are constantly trying to lead more engaging courses to ensure learning is effective in online classrooms. Two MOOCs are evaluated for their approach and then evaluated for their effectiveness to teach adult learners in the digital age in online classrooms.

Course 1: Building High Performing Teams

The University of Pennsylvania offered the Building High Performing Teams course online, free to audit by anyone who registered an account. LLG4 chose to participate in Weeks One and Two to review, which featured contributions from two primary facilitators and in-depth interviews with business experts. A basic overview of the course indicates that it is the second in a series of five courses that are related in topic. This course is four weeks in length, with two to four hours of recommended study per week. To begin, Week One provides a syllabus outlining the subject matter the course will be introducing. It provides information on the two facilitators and a brief introduction to the course in a three minute video. Week Two began with a series of videos that covered many topics. Several three to four minute video clips are played at the learner’s discretion, with an abundance of subject matter discussed in these very brief videos. The facilitator utilizes examples for learners that may not be very familiar with the subject matter, but spoke in a slow and monotone voice that easily lost all LLG4 group members’ attentions.

Learners are engaged through videos and readings that encourage questions to be submitted in weekly forums. These forums are moderated and there are conversations between many of the students that are learning from each other. There are no real-time interactive sessions, but timely responses are provided to learners by the facilitators in the discussion forum. In a video recorded interview with the former Chief Learning Officer (CLO) of JetBlue Airlines, the professor and CLO discuss some of the learning and training strategies that were successful in his organization. In another exercise, learners are asked to prepare a team charter. The charter is reviewed and graded by the learner’s peers online. At the end of Week Two’s module, a ten question quiz is administered in which the learner is allowed three attempts to pass in order to move forward. Once the quiz is completed, the system generates a grade and the student knows if he/she has passed or failed that module. However, it does not provide the correct response in the event that the incorrect answer was chosen. All tasks must be completed before the learner can proceed to the following week.

The course had a great amount of subject matter to cover. While the facilitators provided relevant real world examples, there was a feeling that they rushed through a significant amount of pertinent information. For example, the interview in Week Two’s module provided a great deal of information, but could lose a learner’s interest halfway through the 25-minute video.

However, LLG4 found this course to relate easily to the andragogical learning theory, allowing students to work through the course material and assignments at their own pace. This course also did not direct learners to complete tasks in a chronological order, enhancing the learner’s self-directed learning experience. Overall, the layout of the course seemed to align in a sequential order, but in presentation seemed to lack a good structure and learner-centered design.

Course 2: World of Wine

The World of Wine course was very well constructed by the University of Adelaide (an Australian University), who designed the lessons for each week. The LLG4 team chose to review and evaluate Week One of the World of Wine MOOC. Week One takes approximately two hours to complete at the learner’s own pace and offers a dynamic approach to teaching their audience about the broad topic of wine. Activities are constantly changing for the leaner between watching videos, providing supplemental reading materials that reinforce the material discussed, and personal reflection. The instructor was highly knowledgeable about wine, very passionate about the subject, and asked interactive and reflective questions to the learners in the recorded videos.     At the beginning of each lesson, the instructor laid out clear objectives to prepare the learner. The videos provided a blended visual and auditory learning environment where the instructor would be speaking while a side panel presented her script. The design of the video formatting is comparable to how political networks provide their top talking points to read on the screen while the host is speaking in the background.

After briefly skimming the surface on the topics and objectives, the modules will delve deep within each topic. Its sequential design starts to develop and build upon each other to make sense to even the most novice wine drinker, all the way to a wine connoisseur. Once a lesson was complete, the instructor summarized the information to connect the learning themes. LLG4 agreed that the way the course was designed and the information they provide can engage all levels of wine expertise.

During our review as a team, we came to the conclusion that there were many adult learning theories used to engage the learner. There was a balance between pedagogical and andragogical approaches, as the course would start by teaching basic knowledge and then transition into more experiential learning techniques based on the audiences’ previous understandings of wine. Self-directed learning was also promoted when the learner was prompted to reflect on their own experiences and to make personal connections to the content being learned. The method for this MOOC also caters to each of Kolb’s four learning styles: Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation. A variety of activities were presented such as videos, infographs, PDF charts, individual experiential activities, reflections, and social interactive opportunities that could be engaging to any of the four learning styles.

Experiential learning theory was promoted by asking learners to craft their own experiences in observing the color, clarity, aroma, and taste-testing wines in the last lesson of the module. Constructivist learning theory was utilized by asking learners to reflect on their experiences and relating those memories to the new content taught in each lesson. Lastly, cognitive learning theory was employed in the instructional design of the course, offering a sequential and dependent structure that continued to build on itself.

Comparisons & Observations of LLG4’s Learning Styles

According to Tennant and Pogson (1995), experiential learning theory is considered from an instructional perspective. They propose four “levels” or ways experience can be thought to incorporate the learner’s experience into the instructional design. These four levels include prior experience, current experience, new experience, and leaning from experience. Learning something which the learner knows nothing about is considered “new experience.” This type of learning is based on creating experiences through instructional techniques, such as simulations and practicums to provide a base for new learning to occur (Merriam and Bierema, 2014).

Participating in and auditing a MOOC online was a new experience for each group member. The course on Building High Performance Teams was of least interest to LLG4 because the topic was closely related to subjects we have already learned through our Masters in Organization Development and Leadership program. However, the wine course provided new learning opportunities for each group member, even though we had varying degrees of knowledge about the topic. The course incorporated simulation and practicum, which was the preferred method of learning by LLG4 as a whole.

In David Kolb’s theory of experiential learning and integrative development, the two major functions at the core of experiential learning theory include “how we take in information [and] what we do with it” (Taylor & Marienau, 2016). Reflecting on our different personal Kolb learning styles, three of our group members learn by active experimentation, and one learns by concrete experience. Active experimentation exercises in the wine course allowed us to have a better appreciation to learn about wine, as we experimented on our own time using the tools and prompts provided. Concrete experience exercises helped us to define the smells, tastes, and colors of wines through descriptive teaching methods.

In the end, our group felt deeply connected to the material and we found ourselves wanting to learn more and more as the course progressed. The course content was attention grabbing, progressive, and engaged the senses at every moment.

Building High Performing Teams:
Merriam, S,B., Bierema, L.L., (2014). Adult Learning:  Linking Theory and Practice, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA. 
Taylor, K., Marienau, C., (2016). Facilitating Learning with the Adult Brain in Mind, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA. 
World of Wine:

Chelsea Boccardo Smith
James (Jim) Brown
Patrick Delaney
Marilyn Pacheco

Saint Joseph's University - ODL 600 OL 2 Fall 2018


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