Future of Higher Education and Online Teaching


BloggerThinking a lot about this subject. Am participating in a MOOC (http://edfuture.net/) on that subject and have been blown away by some of the readings. For example: The Siege of Academe, by Kevin Carey washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/septemberoctober_2012/features/_its_three_oclock_in039373.php
or
How the American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps, by the Homeless Adjunct. unctrebellion.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/how‑the‑american‑university‑was‑killed‑in‑five‑easy‑steps/

At the same time, the institution where I am an adjunct is about to launch a new LMS and asked for suggestions for its functionality and thoughts about the policies that these functionalities have engendered. Because the new LMS is not a blank slate. As an instructional designer I can see the differences and am challenged each time I design a course to meet the needs of my students and work within the structure of the LMS. So here are the thoughts I sent to the administration.

My goals for all my courses are for the students to become or continue to be:
1. critical thinkers
2. creative contributors to their field
3. leaders in their profession

Goals for the functionality of any LMS

As an instructional designer who has 20 years of experience with corporations, universities, government agencies and the military I believe that online course can benefit from instructional design that is both efficient and efficacious. It must be the latter to benefit students and the former to benefit the institution.

As an instructor with an instructional design background, following are some of my concerns, suggestions, thoughts about the structure of any LMS. They fall into these areas:
1. Privacy
2. Communication
3. Accessibility
4. Effectiveness
To me there is one great feature in the present system which is extremely valuable for ensuring privacy, enabling communication, increasing instructional effectiveness, and assisting the student learning progress. That feature is called “Dialogue” in the present LMS. This tool is extremely effective because it is flexible and personal. It is one-on-one communication between the instructor and student and it is specifically targeted at specific learning and course objectives. It is limitless. The instructor can address individual deficits and encourage and promote new directions once the learning objective has been demonstrated. In some cases it necessitates dozens of one-on-one communications, but it works! It requires both a subject area expertise and a love of the education process. For students it may require some persistence and the cultivation of new ways of thinking. It is one tool of online instruction that must be available. It is private, effective communication.

The issue of accessibility is also rooted in my instructional design background. All course work needs to be accessible to those who have physical, cognitive or psychological disabilities. Technology has increased this ability for courses to be accessible. Following the principles of universal design, courses that are accessible to those with disabilities are better for everyone! This principle is exemplified in architectural design that has improved the quality of life for so many and provided new alternatives to the general public. All online courses must meet Section 508 requirements including providing alternative forms of presentation and alternative ways to demonstrate learning. These alternatives include extended timelines, screen reader compatibility, audio and video choices, annotations, close captioning, read aloud functions, the use of graphics and electronic assistance. As more and more learning disabilities are identified in the adult populations we serve, we have an obligation to ensure courses are universally accessible in ways that allow learning to take place and to be demonstrated in more than one way. These are not only legal obligations but are professional standards to which all instructional designers are taught to adhere.

Instructor flexibility in choice of resources is also related to my concerns. The courses are rooted in communication, learning, and scientific theory. Those courses also live in a fast-paced, changing, global environment. Knowledge is located everywhere. Creative commons is way that respected academics and professionals participate in a knowledge sharing and knowledge producing environment. Combined with technology, creative commons resources give students and instructors access to up-to-date information, new developments, and theory building without violating or infringing on copyright.

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