Technology Skills Competition - Constructivist Approach

For the past two days I have had an opportunity to observe our students competing in the Technology Skills Competition. Students work in teams of 4 in the areas of Lego Mechanics, Robotics, Technology and Video Editing to design, and create projects that can overcome specific challenges. For example, using software they program a robot that is capable of using environmental stimuli to determine the correct course of action to achieve a task (i.e. the robot travels along a specified path and determines if the wall in front of it is a particular color, depending on the color it needs to turn either left of right to continue along the path until it reaches the final destination.) Using legos they construct a vehicule that is capable of climbing three different stages on a ramp and knocking over a final target.

The students have an opportunity to create an initial design, test it and then make modifications before they submit their project for final evaluation. The entire process is student driven and is a good example of a constructivist approach to learning which enagages students in authentic problem solving and critical thinking. It was very rewarding to listen to the dialogue of the teams as they tested their designs and discussed how they could be improved in order to overcome the challenge. Not only is this a fantastic and fun way for the kids to learn, but it helps to build their confidence. The students were so proud and had such a sense of achievement when they got their projects to work.

eLearning Ontario

I have returned to my previous role as an eLearning consultant after being an elementary classroom teacher for the past five years. As a result of my experiences in the classroom I think I have become a better educator, especially in the area of literacy instruction. I have gained a new appreciation for the realities and challenges classroom teachers face (i.e. access to technology, differentiating instruction, inclusivity, equity..,). I think it is important for me to keep those realities and challenges in mind whenever I consult with educators.

Prior to working as an eLearning consultant at the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph, I began my secondary teaching career in the late 90's as part of a distance education consortium (6 school boards in Ontario) that developed and delivered courses via the internet. Eventually the consortium folded because we did not have the financial resources to sustain the technical infrastructure and personnel required to support such a large project.

It is very encouraging to see the degree of support and coordination that is now in place with the Ministry of Education's elearning strategy. In addition to providing a province wide Learning Management System (Waterloo's Desire 2 Learn) to deliver the courses there is an Ontario Education Resource Bank that teachers can use to access materials aligned with specific learning strands and expectations. Both of these resources also help to facilitate a blended learning delivery model which seeks to help teachers to integrate instructional technology and elearning as part of regular classroom instruction. Homework Help is a service that allows students to receive real-time math tutoring by certified teachers using chat and whiteboard functions. A critical piece is providing the funding for a District eLearning consultant in each school board to facilitate and support educators that wish to use these resources.

The questions that come to mind are what metrics will be used to determine if this strategy is successful? Adoption and utilizations rates? Learning impact studies or evaluating the actual resources themselves? Some type of testing? Given the amount of investment that has taken place it will be critical to continue to evaluate the outcomes in order that the strategy continues to evolve to meet the needs of educators and learners.

A Framework for the Pedagogical Evaluation of eLearning Environments

I came across the following resource which provides a, "A Framework for the Pedagogical Evaluation of eLearning Environments".

The paper uses Chickering & Gamson's (1987) 'Seven Principles of Effective Teaching' as the framework for examining the potential of Virtual Learning Environments to enhance learning. It also includes a questionnaire based on the viable system and conversational models articulated by Britain and Liber (2004).

The document is made available from Eduforge, "an open access collaborative learning and exploratory environment designed for the sharing of ideas, research outcomes, open source educational software, and tools within a community of educators, researchers and developers."

Reviewing Synchronous Learning Objects

In response to Christy's comments regarding the use of LORI in sychronous environments.

The creators of the LORI describe using a convergent participation evaluation model in conjunction with the rating instrument.  Please see;
Nesbit, J., Belfer, K., & Vargo, J. (2002). A convergent participant model for evaluation of learning ob-jects. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 28 (3). Retrieved  from

I believe that both could be applicable for digital objects available synchronously as many of the criteria in the LORI would be relevant; feedback adaptation; learning goal alignment, content quality, presentation design.

You might want to adapt the criteria in the LORI to address some of the dynamics that are present during real-time activities, i.e. ability to guage understanding and respond to the needs of learners.

Learner motivations in a business and academic environment may not be the same, but there needs to be a formal reward system in place to recognize those who take part in the review process.  Recognition also makes the activity more credible, because in effect the organization/ insitution is reinforcing the idea that this activity is a valuable undertaking.  In academia, the idea behind engaging in a rigorous evaluation of the quality of learning materials is to promote it as a scholarly activity similar to articles being peer reviewed for a journal.  Having someone use your LO would be equivalent to a citation in an article which may indicate that your resource is of some value in that particular discipline. One way of recognizing people who engage in these activities in a corporate environment would be to provide them with the training and time to develop/ evaluate these materials.

Learning Object Articles

A number of articles relating to Learning Objects have just been published online in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects, including:

Interoperability and Learning Objects: An Overview of E-Learning Standardization, by Norm Friesen.

Interactive QuickTime: Developing and Evaluating Multimedia Learning Objects to Enhance Both Face-To-Face and Distance E-Learning Environments, by Thomas Cochrane.

Learning Objects: Using Language Structures to Understand the Transition from Affordance Systems to Intelligent Systems, by Jacques du Plessis.

A Study of the Design and Evaluation of a Learning Object and Implications for Content Development, by Ferdinand Krauss & Mohamed Ally.

Project Open Source Open Access

The Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI) at the University of Toronto is part of a graduate studies program that conducts research in all areas of knowledge media design.

KMDI has just announced the launching of Project Open Source Open Access. It is a "cross-divisional, tri-campus initiative to develop a networked community to share knowledge, enhance coordination, increase awareness, and to encourage research and knowledge mobilisation in this area".

As part of this initiative they will be hosting a lecture series beginning February 10th, 2005. The first speaker will be Michael Geist (Canadian Research Chair in Internet and e-Commerce Law). The series will be webcast live and archived using epresence interactive media (a research project of KMDI). The platform includes, "support for video, audio, and slide broadcasting; slide browsing and review; submitting questions, integrated moderated chat, live software demos and the automated creation of event archives". They are working towards an open source release of this system.

Elearning Planning and Management

As part of the graduate course I am taking on Planning and Management in Distance Education and Training I am reading Marc Rosenberg's book on Elearning Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age. In the first few chapters there were two critical points which spoke to me. First, that technology in and of itself will not enhance learning. The case that illustrates that point well, was the adoption of cable TV in the classroom. As a tool, technology has the potential to enhance learning if it is accompanied by the appropriate instructional strategies which are designed to achieve the learning outcome. I am inclined to endorse Elliot Masie's position that the technological implementation is the easy part of the equation and that the most challenging aspect is developing the new models of interaction that will allow us to truly realize the full potential of elearning.

Rosenberg also contends that "without a comprehensive strategic foundation" elearning implementations are prone to failure. I have seen many elearning projects that were not sustainable because the decision-makers did not set out realistic, long-term objectives that were achievable given the environment they were operating in. That's why over the next few months I will be working with our Dept. of Health Policy Management to develop a comprehensive, multi-year strategic plan for their Online Master of Health Sciences in Health Administration program. The plan will include the costing structure and operational requirements for their program as well as evaluation and performance indicators and methodologies. We are hoping this process will become a template for other programs on campus wishing to adopt similar delivery strategies. Stay tuned on this front, as I will post the materials regarding this plan at this site.

So far the book is a good read, but I do take issue with some of the items Rosenberg lists in his "Benefits of Elearning". Keep in mind that he is coming from a corporate training perspective.

1) "Despite outward appearances elearning is often the most cost-effective way to deliver instruction (training) or information."

From a University perspective this is not necessarily the case. While it may reduce the need for classroom/ instructor infrastructure, the following items can dramatically increase the cost of course development and delivery; software license, hardware, maintenance of course and hardware, expertise (technical/ instructional design), opportunity cost of faculty time (subject matter expert), copyright, multimedia production. There is a potential to become cost effective, but only once the initial startup costs are absorbed and the number of students increase beyond a certain point.

2) Universality. "Concern over differences in platforms and operating systems is rapidly fading".

The increasingly proprietary nature of learning management systems and content is a major barrier to the concept of universality. The consulting fees required to enable the type of exchange to occur between different hardware and software systems is prohibitive. Until open standards/ source are more widely adopted we will not be able to easily exchange information between systems and individuals.

3) Scalability. "Programs can move from 10 participants to 100 or even 100,000 participants with little effort or incremental cost (as long as the infrastructure is in place)."

That last part is the key. Few Universities or colleges have the resources to put the infrastructure in place for such a dramatic increase in participants.

Take our costs for example. We are a small unit supporting about 2500 users.

Software (LMS/ OS) $60, 000

Hardware $50, 000

To increase our capacity beyond 6 000 users would require $150, 000!

I firmly believe that institutions need to employ a costing methodology that reflects the true cost of adopting elearning delivery strategies. Bates's presentation, "The impact of e-learning on the university campus: measuring the costs and benefits"" (windows media version) is an excellent reference. Link for alternate formats (search for Tony Bates).

Benefits of Learning Online

Faculty I consult with often want to know how the learner benefits from online instruction. I respond by saying that web-based education has the potential to change the way students learn. Sociology professor Mark Kassop, does a good job of outlining 10 ways in which he believes online learning excels.

Mark Kassop "Ten Ways Online Education Matches, or Surpasses, Face-to-Face Learning." The Technology Source, May/June 2003. Available online at

Introduction: Empowering Online Teaching through Faculty Development

Rogers (1995) defined innovation as, “an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption.” The articles in this collection have been selected to address the question, how can we promote innovation in teaching? The important distinction for the context of our discussion is that ‘perceived as new’ is relative to the traditional educational practices of a University which consist largely of face to face, lecture style classes. If web-based delivery is adopted and used with the existing instructional paradigms, the effect on learning will be negligible and will therefore not represent an innovation in teaching. Ultimately, it is not the technology that matters, but how we design the learning through the technology (Miller, 1996). Advances in teaching may result when technology is used as an opportunity discover new ways for achieving learning outcomes. Web-based education can represent both a pedagogical innovation and a channel of communication capable of engaging the learner. Technology enables the instructor to create a different kind of curriculum and to establish a different relationship with the student. The virtual classroom provides a new environment for human interaction and allows the teacher to design learning which can be more student-centred and collaborative.

According to Rogers (1995), innovation is adopted by members within society at different times and at different rates. A steep learning curve is overcome quickly by early adopters who absorb the new skills and instructional paradigms quickly while late adopters acquire this knowledge over a longer time span. Information seems to flow easily from innovators to early adopters. The barrier for diffusion is identified by the gap that occurs between early adopters and early main-stream faculty. The size of this gap can be attributed to the level of the interconnectedness between departments at a university. Often faculty have connections that do not extend beyond their department. This limits the reciprocal exchange of teaching methods and content. The number of nodes and connections between departments determines the complexity and richness of the network (Rueter, 1997).

Faculty development is often seen as a key enabler of innovation in teaching as it may serve to link successful teaching initiatives and the broad expertise available throughout a university. Such a network would facilitate the sharing of innovative teaching strategies and encourage the exchange of best practices in the development and delivery of online education. These types of initiatives also help to raise the profile of innovative teaching practices, and foster communication and collaboration between developers and programs.

Each of the following article summaries will examine a different aspect of faculty development and outline the strategies or considerations for promoting innovation in teaching. Together they provide the foundation for the design of the teaching online workshop I deliver at the University of Toronto.

Chapter 1: Online Course Design and Faculty Development

Brown, G., Meyers, C.B., Roy, S. (2003). Formal course design and the student experience. JALN 7(3), 66-77.

The authors examine the collaboration between faculty and professional course designers at Washington State University and the impact that this work had on the student learning experience. The purpose of this study was to examine whether instructors exposed to the faculty development process were more likely to create technology-mediated learning environments which reflected effective teaching principles. Brown et al. (2003) go on to outline which principles of teaching have the greatest impact on learning. Based on their research they determined that the most important quality of good teaching practice is faculty-student interaction. This type of communication is also the basis for employing other principles of good practice. It is essential in facilitating the exchange of diverse points of view, for providing feedback on performance and for communicating high expectations. Regular interaction also provides the structure necessary so that students’ continue to focus their efforts on required tasks. A series of faculty and student surveys focusing on teaching and learning goals, activities and processes was used to systematically evaluate the use and impact of innovative teaching practices. The research findings suggest that faculty development programs which include pedagogical and technology training enhances the opportunities for interactions which lead to improved student learning outcomes.

This article was chosen because it demonstrates that systematic course design improves students’ opportunities for faculty-student interaction, student-student interaction, and other elements associated with best practice. It provides the rationale for why we employ an instructional design template to help faculty clearly articulate the strategies and technologies for online instruction. Engaging in this exercise gives them an opportunity to identify the types and frequency of communication they would like to occur and how these activities help them to achieve the learning outcomes.

Chapter 2: Constructivist training for Online Teachers

Gold, S. (2001). A constructivist approach to online training for online teachers. JALN, (5)1, 36-57.

Gold examines the pedagogical role of the teacher in web-based learning, focusing on the training required to make the transition from in-class room education to online instruction. The article focuses on a two-week faculty development workshop aimed at preparing educators to effectively teach online. Participants were engaged in different types of collaborative exercises ranging from virtual field trips, to online evaluations, interactive essays, and group projects. To promote innovation in teaching faculty experienced constructivist approaches first-hand in order to better understand the value of learner-centred instruction. Gold also outlines the case for constructivist online education. As knowledge is based on different experiences and interpretations by the learner, technology can be used to help them make meaning of their environment by providing the tools by which they communicate their understanding of the world. Gold ties Piaget's processes for knowledge construction to the affordances of online learning networks. For example, the online curriculum can be used to solicit problems from students to act as a stimulus for learning activities. The content can be modularized so as to scaffold learning. Collaborative projects can engage students in designing authentic tasks and case studies can be presented to challenge misconceptions of particular theories. Gold tested several research hypotheses to determine the effect of the training on the instructors, most specifically their perceptions of what online teaching involved and concluded that workshop was successful in getting educators to re-examine their current methods of instruction. He also found that, the participants shifted towards a more constructivist orientation, seeing online courses as offering more opportunities for student participation. Of interest is the description and findings of the culminating activity where groups of participants wrote an interactive essay.

I have included this article, because I agree with the author that in order to effectively teach online instructors should experience it from a student perspective, otherwise the tendency is for them to map their existing practice onto the web-based medium. These experiences also help to inform them about the potential benefits and drawbacks of this delivery medium. The design of the course exposed faculty to a variety of instructional strategies and technologies and was the same approach and organizational structure we used in the development of our own web-based workshop at UofT.

Chapter 3: Faculty Development that Works

Morrison, J.L., & Brown, D.G. (2002) Faculty Development That Works: An Interview with David G. Brown. The Technology Source, July/Aug. Available online

Morrison and Brown discuss initiatives they have implemented at their institution to promote innovation in teaching. Brown suggests that the necessary pre-conditions for increasing the use of technology in teaching is to provide ubiquitous, reliable access, and providing the time for instructors to learn how to use the different tools for teaching. Faculty will be driven to adopt more effective methods of teaching using technology if they determine that there will be a corresponding enhancement in student learning outcomes. Specific recommendations include a laptop program for faculty and students and an environment which encourages instructors to experiment with technology. Recognizing the enormous time commitment that integrating instructional technology takes is a necessary precondition for a successful faculty development program. The authors also suggest that the focus should be placed on effective teaching practices as opposed to learning how to use the technology in order to encourage faculty to seek opportunities for accomplishing new ways of achieving learning outcomes. The article also addresses issue of rewards for faculty and how to provide incentives for educators to learn about technology. They include, “special stipends, hand-written notes from deans, discretionary spending accounts, priority in the receipt of new technology, the capacity to acquire needed computer peripherals and software, distinguished teaching awards, citation in presidential speeches, travel support to share teaching experiences at professional meetings, and additional salary increases.” Most importantly they share the lessons they have learned in fostering faculty development initiatives. One promising idea that failed to work was purchasing release time for faculty. They found that, “if teaching a three-course load takes 70 hours a week, teaching two courses also demands 70 hours a week. In other words, teaching will always take all the time available.” Their greatest successes in faculty development have come in employing students and professional staff to assist faculty members.

I chose this article because it offers a lot of practical suggestions that can be implemented at an institutional level in order to promote the wide-spread adoption of instructional technology. Some of these initiatives are underway at UofT including; wireless networks, individual web space for faculty and students (UTORweb), a laptop program for Art & Science students and pedagogical and technical workshops for teaching online. The current reward structure is in the form of grants which are provided by the Provost's office (with matching funds from the department) to provide the resources and expertise necessary to develop educational resources that integrate technology.

Chapter 4: Creating Online Lessons

Sleight, D., Reznich, C., Yelon, S., & Williamson, J. (2003) Creating online lessons: A faculty development seminar series. Med Educ Online 8(7), 1-7.

The authors describe a seminar series developed and implemented to teach medical faculty to create educationally sound, well-designed online instruction. Medical students in family and community practice are often geographically dispersed for their clinical placements. Online education is a valuable tool for bridging the distance between their placements and their academic center. Participants in the workshop were taught basic instructional design concepts and focused on developing a complete online lesson to develop skills which could later be applied to the design of an entire course. Similar to the UofT workshop, faculty were provided with learning design templates based on the skills and knowledge to be developed. Contrary to the Gold article, this workshop did not attempt to expose faculty to different theories of learning. Rather the content focused on the principles of instruction and the conditions required to elicit certain kinds of performance. What differs from the approach taken at UofT, is that this group of educators also included training in administering the technical aspects of web site and course shell development. This aspect of the course focused on content layout, navigational and compatibility issues using commercial webpage design software. Of particular importance is the changes that were proposed as a result of the course evaluation. Based on the feedback obtained from participants, the authors decided future iterations of the workshop would concentrate on pedagogical issues and that it would be better for support staff to attend to the technical issues of online course development. They also determined that the structure and timeline for the workshop and senior administrative support were important considerations in undertaking such training.

This article serves as a valuable resource as it describes a faculty development program delivered in a medical education context (same participants as the UofT workshop) and provides an alternative method for delivering this type of training. The lessons that were shared by the authors convinced us not to include technical training as part of our online workshop.

Chapter 5: Exemplary Faculty Development Program

Varvel, V., Lindeman. M., & Stovall, I. (2003). The Illinois online network is making the virtual classroom a reality: Study of an Exemplary Faculty Development Program. JALN 7(2), 81-95.

The Illinois Online Network (ION) is a faculty development partnership between all forty-eight community colleges in the state of Illinois and the University of Illinois. The network was established to help faculty to develop and deliver web-based courses that reflect best practices and engage students in higher order cognition. The authors outline the programs and resources that ION provides, the effectiveness of the program as a whole, and the lessons ION has learned about providing a large-scale faculty development program. Each partner is represented by a member on the Steering Committee which oversees the direction and scope of the projects implemented by the network. Liaisons at each of the colleges also help to ensure the quality of program delivery. ION uses a multi-faceted approach to achieve its objectives;

• The Making the Virtual Classroom a Reality (MCVR) series of online courses for faculty, aimed at developing an understanding of online pedagogies and technologies
 A Master Online Teacher certificate program
• On-site campus visits, involving a combination of faculty workshops, private consulting, and meetings with faculty, administrators, and technical personnel
• An annual faculty development institute, involving over 170 faculty from ION member institutions
• A Resource-rich website

Source: Varvel et al (2003)

Participants in the MCVR series are assigned a coach who works closely with faculty to develop or enhance an existing course. The practical exercises require faculty to demonstrate the knowledge they have gained by articulating learning goals, role of the instructor, student exercises, assessment and feedback strategies and selecting appropriate technologies to enable those outcomes. Faculty are also given an opportunity to practice facilitating online discussion. The evaluation surveys indicate that ION activities have had a very positive impact on the satisfaction and confidence of faculty teaching online courses with, "91% of respondents strongly agreeing or agreeing that the course gave them skills and techniques directly applicable to their jobs" (Varvel et al., 2003).

This article was selected because is provides an exemplary model for the implementation of a faculty development program for online teaching. What is particularly valuable is the practical approach they have adopted and the level of collaboration which exists between partnering institutions. Participants in the UofT workshop are also engaged in the practical exercise of course development as they learn about the pedagogy of online teaching. We hope to extend our partnerships to other institutions like the University of Waterloo, Ryerson and Georgian College who have all expressed interest in sharing best practices and resources

Conclusion: Faculty Development and Online Teaching

What each of the articles in this collection represent are practical real-world examples of faculty development programs directed at improving online teaching. All of the authors were forthright in sharing their experiences of initiatives that were both successful and unsuccessful. This is a tremendous benefit to those who subsequently undertake similar initiatives, as they can devote their time and energy building on an existing knowledge base as opposed to creating a new one. Each of these studies has at least in some way informed the design of the teaching online workshop at UofT. As with the other studies the purpose of our training is to provide faculty with the experience of an online learner while completing steps towards the development and delivery of their own course. Similar approaches in the design of the courses was also used. Generally, a well-circumscribed body of information was examined within a structured learning environment. The common themes that were explored included; effective practices for teaching and learning, choosing instructional technologies, instructional design methodology, and cooperative learning strategies. Activities were associated with specific material presented to the learner in each unit. For example, upon reviewing material on “How Instructional Technologies Help Learning” the participants are required to complete the corresponding section in their design template.

An additional aspect of the workshops that were cited was the first-hand exposure to a wide variety of educational theories and practices. Participants were actively engaged and given the opportunity to individually reflect on their experiences in order to build upon their prior knowledge of teaching. Collaborative learning exercises provided the social construct for participants to negotiate understanding by exposing them to multiple perspectives and interpretations. This took a variety of forms. Through group discussion, learners worked towards a common understanding of best practices for teaching and then collectively applied the criteria for evaluating web-based courses. In some cases, the instructional design templates developed by faculty were peer reviewed. This kind of exposure lead to Gold's conclusion that, “teachers exposed to the course significantly changed their attitudes towards online instruction, seeing it is as more participatory, and interactive than face-to-face instruction”. The contextual setting for many of the workshops was authentic in that instructors were learning in the same environment they would be required to use for teaching. Experiencing web-based learning from a student perspective helps instructors to become effective online teachers. Being exposed to the strategies and dynamics of online learning seemed to be the best way to inform instructors about the benefits and challenges of this mode of delivery.

A combination of delivery strategies were employed and ranged from blended to fully online sessions. Many began with some type of in-class session and included an orientation to online learning in specific web-based environments. Faculty mentoring and group activities were a common theme throughout making use of asynchronous and synchronous technologies to complete the required learning activities. The main advantage of providing the workshops online seemed to be the degree of flexibility it offered faculty to work around their teaching and research commitments. They were able to access the material from home and a variety of work locations. Although the timelines and the structure of the content were provided by the instructors, the progression through the learning content was self-directed. This was an important delivery strategy as not all of the material was equally relevant to each of the participants. The learners were able to customize the learning by selecting the resources applicable to their specific course. This approach also allowed the instructors to focus their attention on the individual learners and address specific questions or challenges related to the development of each course. To deal with the workload of this approach, team teaching was often implemented to enable a high level of service to faculty. Many of the workshop also served as models for the delivery of web-based education. The instructors used the technological features of the online environments to illustrate the effective online teaching practices articulated in their workshops. For example, email was used to provide individualized feedback, to communicate the expectations and timelines for the learning activities and to synthesize main points of discussion. The asynchronous discussion board reflected the diversity of perspectives and provided an authentic audience for participants to articulate their ideas. The groups section promoted the value of collaboration in the course design process. Multiple examples of online courses and instructional technology were also presented in the web-based materials.

The evaluation of these programs overwhelmingly indicated that faculty development programs aimed at improving online teaching were valued by participants and increased the range of instructional strategies and technologies that they were able to employ.

Efficacy of Web-based Instruction

This post is in response to a recent report I read, The Efficacy of Web-Based Instruction at York University: A Case Study of Modes of Reasoning, 1730. The report was done by J. Paul Grayson, Suzanne E. MacDonald, and Jean Saindon (2001) at the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies York University, Toronto.

The focus of this paper is on the academic achievement and course satisfaction of students taking

Modes of Reasoning 1730, which centered on critical reasoning skills. The course was offered by the same instructor in two sections, one in class, and one over the web. Of interest was whether the academic performance of web students would be comparable to that of traditional in-class students, after adjustments were made for prior levels of achievement and learning styles. Results showed that grades of in-class students on every form of evaluation were higher than those of web students, even after adjustments had been made for prior grades and learning styles (pg. 1).

The major problem of their study is that it focuses on technology which in and of itself does NOT enhance learning. Effective learning on the web or in a classroom is dependent on the skills of the instructor to adapt to the needs of the students and the design of the instruction regardless of the technology involved (chalkboards, TV, computers, etc.....).

I think that it is ironic that the article deals with the efficacy of web-based instruction. What about the efficacy of traditional classroom which is accepted as the de facto standard and is always used for baseline comparisons.

As Downes and others have pointed out, the problem with comparative studies like this one is that they measure the affordances of new technology based on what they could achieve using traditional methods. It's like comparing what type of communication is possible with email vs. regular snail mail. What you can do with email is completely different than what can be accomplished with snail mail (i.e. attaching audio/ video files, mass distribution, immediate feedback, linking to relevant resources. Each form of communication has its advantages and disadvantages which are relatively self-evident. Neither is perfect so what is the point of comparing the two?

As I read the article it came as absolutely no surprise that the in-class students performed better on traditional testing methods than web-based students taking the same tests when both groups of students were exposed to traditional forms of instruction.

"Both sections had the same readings, essays, tests, and final exams, and the text of in-class lectures was posted on the web." (pg. 3) Those types of assessments reinforce the strategies that were used - ones which students are quite familiar with.

The teaching methods used represents a very limited range of instructional strategies. Perhaps a case-based model where the students could exercise the critical thinking skills they are supposed to be developing in the course would have been appropriate.

The web-based version of the course should not seek to replicate what occurs in the classroom, but should strive to achieve outcomes which are otherwise not possible, ie. engage students in deeper levels and different kinds of interaction because there is no time in class for everyone to provide input on a subject.

If anything web-instruction provides an opportunity to enhance learning styles because information can be represented and accessed in different ways. I witnessed an audio/ video conference between students at Carleton and Waterloo as they worked in real-time on a shared application to solve a problem. The cameras at the workstations were voice-activated and would point to individuals verbalizing their viewpoints.

How would one measure the 'value' of someone collaborating on a project with students from a different part of the world to make decisions collectively which represent a variety of perspectives they otherwise would not have been exposed to? To me that represents the true power of the technology: the ability to globalize learning. As anyone who has taken a course online will tell you, there is just as much you can learn if not even more from your fellow students than you can from the instructor. In addition you grow to understand different regional contexts for applying what is being learned. It also means you have an authentic audience in which to express yourself and not just a one way communication channel to the

A case in point were the previous findings cited in the paper. "Importantly, in a post-course survey, web students reported more peer contact than the in-class group." (pg 7) Schutte (2000) speculated that the performance differences between the groups could be attributed to peer interaction rather than to the use of computer technology.

The study also does not account for the shift required by students in assuming greater responsibility for learning in a web-based environment. Some students do not prefer this because of the increased cognitive load required to process the information. They are forced to develop critical thinking skills to analyze information as opposed to having it spoon fed to them by an instructor.

As I have stated previously, web-based assessments should reflect what is possible in that learning environment. There is little value in research which points to the inability of online instruction to improve performance in traditional areas of assessment (multiple choice tests, essays).

I also think that the focus of the authors on the institutional impact on critical thinking skill development is misguided. The focus should be on the classroom/ web-based strategies which promote this skill.

The authors included the following quote, "Another limitation of previous research noted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy is inattention to the learning styles of students availing themselves of different modes of instructional delivery." (pg. 7)

What they are really saying is that the design of the instruction ie. lecture style on the web is incompatible with certain learning styles. It has nothing to do with the mode of delivery. Accommodations for different learning styles/ abilities can occur in any environment whether or not it actually takes place.

Designing Effective Learning Objects

My presentation on Designing Effective Online Learning Resources (high fidelity version, IE 4.0 and above) will illustrate the process used to design an interactive learning object developed by the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto to help students learn about the therapeutic principles of pharmacology.

The design process can be easliy transferred to the development of learning objects in other disciplines.

The learning models and instructional strategies used to design the learning object will be examined and the results from the peer review evaluation and learning impact study will also be shared.

This powerpoint presentation which I am delivering to University of Toronto faculty today, is a condensed version of the detailed information that I have posted at my weblog documenting this project. You may not want to view the presentation full screen as there is quite a bit of information in the notes section beneath each slide.

I have also created an Adobe PDF version of the presentation with notes and embedded links and a more browser friendly format.

Lessons learned in Delivery of Teaching Online Workshop

We have learned three important lessons during the delivery of our workshop.

Some groups encountered problems with the cooperative activities. These difficulties ranged from very little collaboration to intense competition for leadership roles and personality conflicts (yes, this even occurred with faculty). We made a common mistake of believing that it was merely enough to assign members to work in groups on a common task. This experience reinforced the importance of applying a systematic methodology to the design of a learning strategy. Future iterations of the workshop will structure the learning to include the essential elements of cooperation; positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, individual and group accountability, interpersonal and small group skills, and group processing (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1993).

During the second part of one of the workshops we experimented with making the learning more self-directed to accommodate the busy schedules of the faculty. Participants were not instructed to interact with fellow participants through the discussion board or to review each other’s work. This approach contradicted Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of learning. As Vygotsky (1978) has suggested collaborative learning exercises provide the social construct for participants to negotiate understanding by exposing them to multiple perspectives and interpretations.The schedule for the learning activities was not firmly reinforced. Feedback was provided for the completed sections of the instructional design template and the instructional storyboard, but no other assessment strategies were used. As a consequence very few participants completed all of the required steps to prepare their course for online delivery. This experience clearly reinforced the notion that systematic instructional design provides for effective learning. The success of the first part of the workshop can be attributed to a method of design which combined the structured learning environment of an objectivist approach with the interactivity and authenticity of constructivist learning strategies.

The third lesson relates to the motivation of the learner. Most faculty who took this workshop were motivated by intrinsic factors like their desire to learn. The first few times we delivered this workshop, the extrinsic rewards for the learner were minimal as there was no formal recognition for completing the workshop. One could argue that the workshop was very practical in that it led participants through the actual steps of designing their course. However, we may have overstated the value of this workshop for faculty. Participants that completed the forty hours of learning activities deserve to receive some type of official recognition which could be applied to the promotion and tenure process. The next iteration of the course has been revised to meet the standards for accreditation as part of the Continuing Medical Education Certification Program offered by the Centre for Faculty Development in Medicine, at the University of Toronto.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Holubec, E. J. (1993). Cooperation in the Classroom (6th ed.). Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind and society: Development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Additional Resources

Faculty Development That Works - An Interview with David G. Brown

Centre for University Teaching, Ottawa

Gold, S. (2001). A constructivist approach to online training for online teachers. JALN, (5)1, 36-57
Faculty Online Support Services

The New Classroom Faculty Series: Engaging Students with Online Activities, University of Waterloo

Creating Learner-Centred Instruction, Faculty Development Institute, Virginia Tech University

Rueter, J. G., (1999). Faculty Development for Teaching and Learning with Technology: New Directions for PSU

Rueter, J. G., (1997). A New Metaphor for the Spread of Innovation in Teaching and Learning

Rutkowski, K (2001). The Diffusion of Web Technology in Education (Applications & Challenges)

Instructional Design of Teaching Online Workshop

Some of the learning objectives for the teaching online workshop are listed below along with a description of what the learner is doing while operating in that level of cognitive domain. The learners are engaged in 4 different levels of cognition ranging from application to evaluation. They are analogous to Gagne’s intellectual skills outcomes.

Learning Objective - What will the learner do?

select an appropriate instructional strategy and technology to use in your personal course delivery

-Apply knowledge gained from readings to match strategies to a media

Analyze an instructional design template by conducting a peer review.
-what aspects of the instructional design plan have been clearly articulated
-will the instructional technology support the learning goals?
-is the role of the instructor appropriate for the instructional strategy?
-are the student activities appropriate for the learning goals?

Create an instructional activity which uses technology to enhance learning synthesize constituent parts; instructional strategy, learning goal, technology, teaching model
Evaluate web-based instruction according to the principles of effective teaching identified in Unit 1

Each unit is organized and sequenced according to Gagne’s (1972) nine events of instruction. An overview of the content to be examined is provided to gain the learners attention and to bring relevant prior knowledge about teaching into working memory. The learner is also informed of the goals to be achieved. This establishes expectancy in learners and arouses their interest. A unit schedule and activity checklist serves as a guideline to enable to the learner to complete the required activities within the scheduled timeframe. The content items within the unit are a series of linked web pages and are clearly labelled as learning activities or reading exercises. Each item of content is sequentially numbered so that the learner will know to proceed through the information in order. The purpose of each activity is provided in order to give learners a goal toward which to direct their cognitive energies (Smith & Ragan, 1999). Detailed instructions are numbered and explain the steps required to complete the activity.

The instructional strategies for problem solving learning are used to enhance instructional effectiveness and foster learning. In unit 2 learners identify an instructional challenge they are currently faced with in their class. They combine previously learned cognitive strategies and principles of teaching, along with newly acquired procedures for designing instruction to plan an instructional activity that uses technology to address this challenge. Examples of instructional challenges that other faculty are facing are provided. This is conistent with the approach used by Diane Salter and Les Richards in the Task-based approach for their "New Classroom" series. The examples of online learning at the University of Maryland's Teaching and Learning Resources website act as a catalyst to encourage faculty to think about how they will integrate technology within their own course. This discovery approach gives learners the primary responsibility for processing the information (Smith & Ragan, 1999). Subsequently the learners are directed to resources which will help guide their selection of instructional technologies and strategies. The instructional design template requires faculty to apply their newly acquired knowledge to articulate their plan for integrating an educational technology. The template ‘tests’ their knowledge of the material presented. The learner receives feedback from both the instructor and a colleague in order to revise and improve their instructional design template. This template enables the instructors to assess the degree to which the learners have internalized the new knowledge and skills they have developed. Exemplars are provided so that the faculty can see a sample of a completed instructional design template. A summary is provided at the end of the unit to enhance retention so that the information can be transferred to the next unit.

Assessment Strategies Teaching Online Workshop

Three assessment strategies are employed throughout the workshop. In the first method, the reflective journal entries and instructional design templates are stored together in each participant's ‘digital drop box’ and combined to make up their ‘Teaching and Learning Portfolio’. Together these documents provide insights about the learner’s efforts, progress and achievement in the development of their online course (Arter & Spandel, 1992). The portfolio is useful to assess the degree to which the learners have internalized the new knowledge and skills they developed.

With the second approach, the contributions to the small group discussion are assessed according to the criteria laid out in Edelstein and Edward's (2002) rubric for ‘ Assessing Effectiveness of Student Participation in Online Discussions’ in order to encourage meaningful participation in asynchronous discussion groups. This follows the recommendation outlined by Graham et al. (2001) that the evaluation of participation be based on the quality of submission rather than the length or number of the postings.

The third method examines the responses to the questions in the instructional design template. The instructors use the following 5 point rating scale to assess the completeness of the final submissions of the templates;

5 - excellent, all requirements for the activity have been completed
4 - very good, most requirements for the activity have been completed
3 - good, over half of the requirements for the activity have been completed
2 - fair, half of the requirements for the activity have been completed
1- unsatisfactory, less than half of the requirements for the activity have been completed
0 - no requirements for the activity have been completed

The certificate for the Teaching Online Workshop is issued on a pass/ fail basis. The learners need to complete the majority of the activities to receive their credit.

Aside from providing constructive feedback, the purpose of the assessment instruments is to simulate the experience of an authentic online course, in which learners are able to monitor their academic progress by going to the ‘online grade book’. Additionally, it allows the designers to identify the participants that successfully complete the assigned learning activities that comprise the Continuing Medical Education certificate. Instructors also use the assessment information to consult with students who do not successfully complete these requirements in order to determine remedial work to earn the credit.


Arter, J. A., & Spanel, V. (1992). Using portfolios of student work in instruction and assessment. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practices, Spring, 36-43.

Edelstein, S. & Edwards, J. (2002). If You Build It, They Will Come: Building Learning Communities Through Threaded Discussions. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume V, Number I, State University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center, Available online:

Graham, C., Cagiltay, K., Lim, B., Craner, J., & Duffy, T. M. (2001). Seven principles of effective teaching: A practical lens for evaluating online courses. The Technology Source, March/April. [online ] Available:

Instructional Strategies for Teaching Online Workshop

The instructional design template is a practical exercise which outlines the actual steps faculty need to complete in order to prepare their own resources for web delivery. This makes the learning relevant for faculty and therefore they are motivated to complete the activities. The instructor endeavours to provide the learner with frequent feedback and reinforcement adapted to the individual’s level of proficiency and professional context. For example, the feedback the instructor provides for the instructional design template includes specific cases and strategies relevant to the discipline of the faculty member. In addition the learner receives feedback on their template from a colleague who will provide an alternative perspective based on their teaching experiences. Both types of feedback are provided throughout the various stages template so as to reinforce the iterative nature of the design process. See the example of a completed instructional design template and peer review.

The strategy of using Faculty mentoring is an attempt to increase the interconnectedness between faculty in order to bridge the gap between the early adopters of instructional technology and the 'early mainstream'. Interconnectedness is the degree to which units within the organization are linked by interpersonal networks. "A high level of interaction allows ideas to flow more easily between groups and is positively correlated to organizational innovativeness" (Rogers, 1995). Often faculty have connections that do not extend beyond their department. This limits the reciprocal exchange of teaching methods and content. "The number of nodes and connections between departments determines the complexity and richness of the network" (Reuter, 1997).

Faculty mentoring takes two forms; the facilitation of online discussion where participants in the workshop have an opportunity to ask the mentor specific questions about instructional strategies. In 3 days, our mentor had 75 postings in her discussion forum!!! Another method is to provide presentations that take the form of a face to face session which is also be simultaneously webcast to remote participants using the epresence software developed at the Knowledge Media Design Institute. Remote participants have an opportunity to send in their questions to the presenter via synchronous chat and the sessions are archived for later viewing. This serves as an opportunity for faculty to informally share ideas and techniques they use in their online courses as well as a place to learn new strategies for web-based instruction. The other benefit of using the webcast technology, is that we are able to model this approach so that faculty understand the benefits and drawbacks of this approach.


Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of Innovations. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Rueter, J. G., (1999). Faculty Development for Teaching and Learning with Technology: New Directions for PSU, [online]. Available:

Cooperative learning online

Unit 3 looks at specific strategies for promoting cooperative learning online and illustrates how instructional technology can be used to engage students in high levels of interaction. This information will expand the learner’s capacity to incorporate a variety of instructional and assessment strategies. Online discussion seems to be a topic that many faculty want to discuss during the workshop. Specifically, how do you assess your students' participation online and what role does the instructor assume in the discussion?

An online environment is generally thought to be more learner-centred than teacher-centred. For example, researchers have found teachers post fewer messages proportionally than students and dominate discussion much less in an online environment compared to a face-to-face classroom.

In the workshop we examine the following article, Building Learning Communities through Discussion Groups.

This article provides guidance on how a facilitator designs and manages threaded discussion to direct students in achieving the intended learning outcomes. In addition a model for evaluating student's performance and knowledge integration in a discussion forum is also provided.

The forth unit provides faculty with the opportunity to individually reflect on their experiences in order to build upon their prior knowledge of teaching. Unit 5 takes the learning goals selected in unit 2 and aims to help faculty to develop a coordinated assessment and feedback strategy. Faculty describe what instruments they will employ and how frequent the feedback will occur. They also evaluate the pros and cons of their selected assessment instrument and ensure that the instructional strategies identified in the previous unit are consistent with these measures. Further refinements of the design template may be required as a result of this process and reinforces the iterative nature of designing instruction. The sixth unit represents the materialization of the steps in all of the preceding units. Faculty use a storyboard to graphically map out the sequence and series of events in their instructional unit. This activity reinforces the notion that a clearly articulated plan leads to effective learning. The worksheet helps them to design and keep track of the files and events associated with the individual web pages that they will eventually be including in their online course (shows flow and directionality as well as individual page content). The Storyboarding Master Worksheet includes pages of checklists, tables and worksheets to assist them in completing theirr storyboard by refering to the answers they provided in theirr instructional design and assessment templates that they completed previously.

Instructional Technologies for Elearning

"Instructional Technologies for Online Learning’ is the second unit of study for the teaching online workshop and follows the first module on ‘Effective Teaching and Learning’. Unit 2 builds on the foundation laid in the previous module and leads faculty through the process of selecting goals and determining how technology will promote the achievement of these outcomes.

The first activity involves looking at a collection of examples of online learning found on the University of Maryland's Teaching and Learning Resources website. Faculty try to find an instructional strategy or technology they are interested in using in order to determine how they might apply it in their particular context.

Subsequently, faculty begin to apply the procedures for designing instruction. They are required to think about what activities students will be engaged in and what role the instructor will assume (see unit 2 template). These decisions are guided by the examination of best teaching practices which was the focus of unit 1. The selection of the instructional technology will incorporate the knowledge they have gained in the second unit about how these tools engage students in different levels of processing information. In addition, faculty identify factors which may influence the selection of technology (i.e. student access to technology, experiences, locations) as well as any questions they have regarding the instructional technology they have selected. At this stage each learner’s design template is peer reviewed to afford them an opportunity to reflect on the feedback of a colleague and to make revisions before they proceed to subsequent units in which they continue to further develop the plan for their instructional technology.

Effective Teaching and Learning

The first module of the teaching online workshop begins with faculty reflecting on their own personal learning experiences to identify teaching practices that are effective in promoting learning. They consider the following questions;

-Describe a positive teaching/ training session you have experienced.

-What did you learn?

-How did you learn it?

-What teaching practices did the instructor employ to make it a positive learning experience?

-Describe a negative learning experience?

-What had you hoped to learn?

-What teaching practices where not employed and made it a negative learning experience?

Subsequently, they form groups and share their learning experiences. Together, they establish a consensus on a list of 5 best practices for teaching.

Througout the workshop we try to model the Seven Principles of Effective Teaching: as outlined by Graham et. al. (2001) in their adoption of Chickering & Gamson's (1987) criteria for evaluating traditional teaching practices.

This is followed by a presentation from a faculty mentor who shares their insights and experiences with web-based instruction, including some practical strategies for engaging students online.

Sample Faculty Mentor Profile
L is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Biomedical Communications where she has taught a visual problem solving course since 1983. In 1999 she integrated Web Knowledge Forum with f2f learning strategies in this course. Student feedback was extremely positive and resulted in 2 teaching awards and 1 division award. Recently she successfully conducted a comparative study using Web Knowledge Forum and WebCT in a UT interprofessional health sciences education initiative. L has a B.A. in English and Fine Arts, a B.Sc.AAM in Art as Applied to Medicine, a M.Ed. in Higher Education (Health Professional Specialization) and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in the same field focusing on Knowledge Building/Knowledge Forum.
The purpose of the presentation is to illustrate how the practice of teaching is translated into the online medium. The focus in the first unit, on the practice of teaching and the process of learning reinforces the importance of the pedagogical considerations in adopting educational technology. The activities in this unit are designed so that faculty examine their current teaching practice and identify an appropriate instructional paradigm given their preferred teaching style, learner characteristics and subject matter. Once faculty have clearly articulated a model for teaching, they are in the position to begin analyzing their instruction to discover an opportunity for adopting technology and an appropriate strategy within their course.

Chickering, A., & Gamson, Z. (1987). Seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39, 3-7.

Graham, C., Cagiltay, K., Lim, B., Craner, J., & Duffy, T. M. (2001). Seven principles of effective teaching: A practical lens for evaluating online courses. The Technology Source, March/April. [online ] Available:

Needs Assessment Teaching Online Workshop

Before outlining the themes we examine in the teaching online workshop, I thought I would discuss the initial process of analyzing the needs of our institution and faculty.

By looking at the current practices for teaching online at UofT we were able to define the instructional challenge, and to propose a solution along with a list of tasks that required training. The following 3 challenges were identified. First, some online instructors had limited experience in online learning or teaching. Secondly there was a lack of proper pedagogical training for online learning design and delivery. As a result, these educators tended to map their current practices onto the new medium with little of the transformation that was required to teach online (Gold, 2001). An additional problem was the focus placed on technological applications for online learning.

To provide effective training it was also essential to determine the extent to which instructional technology was being integrated into course delivery throughout the University. Information was collected through a needs assessment survey in order to develop a profile of the learner. This survey revealed the following information;

-target audience
-comprehension level – (establish prerequisites for course)
-learning styles / characteristics
-background experience (pedagogy/ instructional technology)
-familiarity with subject matter
-motivation for taking workshop
The collection of responses to the survey identified the following information;

-what aspect of instructional technology faculty were interested in learning about
-why they needed the training
-what environment (technical / social) they would be applying the learning

This approach was consistent with the Dick and Carey model (1996) which recognized the importance of learner motivation, prior experience and educational context.

The results of the needs assessment reinforced previous research by Gold (2001) which indicated that educators rated the need for training in online teaching as a high priority. Instructional design methodology for re-purposing material for web-based delivery and selecting appropriate instructional strategies which integrated technology were also identified as needs. The designers concluded that instructors would benefit from pedagogical training which addressed the transition required to become an effective teacher in this environment. "Knowing how to teach well in one environment does not presuppose knowing how to be successful in the other" (Gold, 2001). There also appeared to be a trend to offering some aspect of online delivery for courses due to the demand by students who want the benefits offered by this type of strategy.

Our learners are likely to be tenured faculty or instructors with at least 5 years teaching experience. They are currently delivering online courses or in the process of developing resources for web-based teaching. Many of these educators have not taken an online course, or received any formal training in online teaching. It is also likely that they have not completed any formal training in education or instructional design.

These educators are likely to have a positive inclination towards technology and its adoption for enhancing learning. They may view this course as an opportunity to re-think their course design to increase student participation and interaction. The participants will draw upon their previous teaching experiences to decide the appropriate level of online integration.

While there are a wide variety of subjects being taught online at the University, the health sciences (Faculty of Nursing, Health Admin, and Social Work) have recently undertaken initiatives to move their programs to online delivery and may therefore see this kind of training as particularly relevant. The kind of educator who would be interested in taking this course would be motivated by intrinsic factors (desire to learn) as opposed to extrinsic rewards, as there is no formal recognition, for completing this training with respect to promotion/ tenure.

Questions for consideration

What methods do you use to identify your target audience and their needs?

What needs have been identified at your particular institution for creating faculty development programs?

How has your institution chosen to address these needs?


Dick, W. & Carey, L.M. (1996). The systematic design of Instruction. New York: Harper Collins.

Gold, S. (2001). A constructivist approach to online training for online teachers. JALN, (5)1, 36-57

Teaching Online Workshop

I am following the advice of Stephen Downes and will be posting the material for my upcoming presentation at the Teaching, Learning and Technology Conference at the University of Ottawa, Feb 26-27, on my weblog. Hopefully, this will provide a basis for an informal discussion about faculty development initiatives related to instructional technology. As Downes has suggested this could potentially "add a dimension not possible to achieve with a strictly in-person event", given the limited time for the presentation. By sharing my notes in advance of the conference, individuals will be able to peruse the material and reflect on some of the ideas I have posed. This format will give us more time and more ways to deal with specific questions people may have about the workshop we have created. I will be interested to see if this approach garners any attention, once I notify the conference organizers and other people from related fields.

My presentation is entitled, "Effective Strategies for Empowering Faculty to Teach Online". Along with my colleague, Rosemary Waterston, I design and deliver a 30 hour online workshop for faculty to develop best practices for learner-centered, web-based instruction. This workshop is accredited as part of the Continuing Medical Education Certification Program offered by the Centre for Faculty Development in Medicine, at the University of Toronto.

My presentation will focus on 3 areas;

Structure for delivering the workshop
Themes explored and resources used to train faculty about teaching online
Strategies designed to promote faculty collaboration in the development and delivery of online learning

Structure for delivering the teaching online workshop
A hybrid delivery format is used for the workshop . It begins with an in-class session and includes an orientation to online learning in the Blackboard courseware environment, a guest lecture presentation by a faculty mentor, and some group activities designed to arouse interest and motivation and to establish the instructional purpose. For the next several weeks, participants are encouraged to login daily to review online lecture notes and resources, participate in asynchronous and synchronous discussions and to complete the required learning activities. The workshop concludes with a face to face session where participants reflect on their web-based learning experiences.

The UofT ‘Teaching Online Workshop’ was created to help educators to teach online by giving them an opportunity to experience web-based learning. The contextual setting for the workshop was authentic in that instructors were learning in the same environment they would be required to use for teaching. We believe that in order to be an effective online teacher, instructors must experience web-based learning from the student perspective (Gold, 2001). Being exposed to the strategies and dynamics of online learning is the best way to inform instructors about the benefits and challenges of this mode of delivery. The knowledge gained from these experiences will help instructors to decide how to best integrate online learning as part of their course delivery. During the workshop the participants are actively engaged in identifying strategies for personal course development and delivery.

The main advantage of providing the workshop online is the degree of flexibility it offers faculty to work around their teaching, research and clinical commitments. They are able to access the material from home and a variety of work locations. Live presentations and synchronous chats are archived for those unable to attend the sessions in ‘real time’. Although the timelines and the structure of the content are provided by the instructors, the progression through the learning content is self-directed. This is an important delivery strategy as not all of the material is equally relevant to each of the participants. The learners will be able to customize the learning by selecting the resources applicable to their specific course. This approach also allows the instructors to focus their attention on the individual learners and address specific questions or challenges related to the development of each course.

Questions for consideration?

What factors influence the decisions about the format for delivering faculty development workshops?

What are some of the significant instructional challenges associated with creating and delivering faculty development workshops?

How have you used technology to overcome some of these challenges?

Future postings will continue to explore the material for my upcoming presentation.

Gold, S. (2001). A constructivist approach to online training for online teachers. JALN, (5)1, 36-57

Inquiry Approach for Learning Object

The fourth learning objective corresponds to an inquiry approach in which the learner uses trial and error to learn about the basic therapeutic principles. Student can randomly select a range of patient variables, routes of administration and drug dosages and try to induce the principle which applies to that situation.

Inquiry Approach

Using the ‘drug options’ tab the student can randomly select a range of patient variables, routes of administration and drug dosages and try to induce the principle which applies to that situation.

In order to apply a principle the student engages in the following steps;

1. Determine which concepts or variables are involved. Using trial and error, the student can randomly select a range of patient variables, routes of administration and drug dosages. In figure 5 the drug dosage has been increased from 10 to 20 mg (type 20 in the dose box and click on plot). The area underneath the blue curve and above the red curve represents the magnitude of the change caused by the increase in the dosage.

2. Try to determine the principle that explains the relationship between the concepts which apply to the variables you have chosen. Describe the effects that this might have on the patient.

3. Recall the principle. If it is necessary the learner can return to the “Basic Principles” tab.

4. Determine which concept or variable has changed and the direction or magnitude of its change (i.e. increasing dose by 10 mg). By clicking the coloured numbers which appear next to the charted data the learner can review the patient variables that were selected for that example.

5. Determine which concept or variable has been affected (i.e. protein binding when phenytoin dose is increased).

6. Then determine the magnitude and direction of the effect (AUC) on the affected concept or variable.

7. Confirm that the value is reasonable. Practice determining whether or not the principle has been correctly applied.
The above strategies are based on steps outlined by Smith & Ragan (1999).

Smith, P.L., & Ragan, T.J. (1999). Instructional design. (2nd ed.). Toronto: John Wiley & Sons. Inc.

Practice Strategies for Learning Object

Practice Phase

Once the learner has completed viewing the demonstrations of each principle they can practice recognizing situations in which the principle is applicable. The practice of retrieving this information will help the learner to retain the information in long term memory.

1. Using the “Drug Options” tab the student can practice replicating the basic principles by selecting a range of patient variables, routes of administration and drug dosages. The learner begins by stating the principle they want to replicate.

2. As the learners experience the applications of the principles they are encouraged to focus their attention on the direction and magnitude of change which occurs in the ‘blood concentration time curve’ (see green arrow in figure 3) or area under curve (AUC) as a result of a variable being changed. Unless attention is given to this information it will be lost from memory.

3. After sufficient practice the student will be able to identify the features of the situation that suggest a particular principle is being applied and become proficient in correctly explaining, predicting and controlling the effect of these changes on the patient. In order to shift the principle that is being learned from short-term memory to long-term memory the steps which were taken to generate the principle must be rehearsed within 30 seconds.

The memory model for the 3 steps of the practice phase are illustrated in figure 4.

Instructional Strategies for Learning Object

Over the next few days, I will demonstrate the application of the learning theories that were used to design the instructional strategies for the pharmacology learning object. As Bannan-Ritland et. al (2000) state, "learning object systems present yet another technology-based instructional delivery environment with exciting features and attributes that can empower learner-driven experiences and promote cognitive processing if pedagogical considerations are taken into account in their development and evolution" (pg 1).

The following learning objectives were identified for the pharmacology learning object.

i. The learner will be able to list and describe the major therapeutic principles of drug administration.

ii. Given a demonstration of a therapeutic principle the learner will be able to identify and replicate the relationship between the concepts (i.e. absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of drugs) that underlie the principle.

iii. The learner will be able to identify the relevant principles which describe the magnitude and direction of change plotted in the blood concentration time curve as well as a visual representation of the area under the curve (AUC).

iv. By manipulating the patient variables, routes of administration and drug dosage the learner will be able to correctly explain, predict and control the effect of these changes on the patient.

Explicitly stating the learning objectives made it easier for the instructional designer to determine the type of learning outcome the goal represented and to prescribe the necessary strategy. The first three learning objectives above corresponded to an expository approach in which the “Basic Principles” tab was designed to demonstrate each principle graphically.

Expository Approach: In this approach the principles were presented and demonstrated, and then learners had an opportunity to practice applying them.

Demonstration Phase (the steps below correspond to figure 2 of the Basic Principles Tab). If you mouse over the image presented in figure 2 you should be presented with a small icon (in the bottom right corner) that will allow you to expand the image to its original size.

1. In the “Basic Principles” tab each principle is stated and then presented visually. At this point it is useful for learners to practice stating the principle. They may want to re-write the principle or attempt to put it into their own words.

2. The demonstrations illustrate how these rules can be used to explain, control and predict the effects of drug administration. The results are plotted in the “Blood Concentration Time Curve”.

3. The description that accompanies the animation explains the ‘whys’ of the principle.

4. The demonstrations refer to concepts (absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of drugs) and terminology (physiology/ anatomy) that the learner may have previously acquired. During this phase, learners retrieve this prior knowledge in order to understand the principles.

Next's weeks post will explain the steps for the practice phase.


Bannan-Ritland, B., Dabbagh, N., Murphy, K. (2000). Learning Object Systems as Constructivist Learning Environments: Related Assumptions, Theories and Applications. In D. A. Wiley (Ed.), The instructional use of learning objects. Available online

Design Research

In the doctoral seminar I am taking right now we are discussing, 'design research' and "whether or not we should begin with the theory and judge the design reseach based on how well it conforms to the theory we are studying or whether the theory itself should emerge from the design research."

Having read both Edelson and Friedman, I believe that what I have been recently engaged in would constitute design research as outlined by Edelson. While I was conducting my study on the design and evaluation of the pharmacology learning object, I was not aware of the term 'design research' or the steps involved. My colleague, Celynn Klemenchuk has kindly agreed to share her mindmap which effectively illustrates the relationships Edelson identifies in his approch to design research (you may have to expand the image to its original size in your browser).

Upon reflection, I think we should "begin with the theory and judge the design reseach based on how well it conforms".

As the instructional designer involved in the development of the pharmacology learning object, I became interested in the implications of using a design methodology specifically prescribed for learning objects.

The purpose of my study was to contribute to a better understanding of how instructional designers make decisions about developing learning objects. The examination was expected to reveal issues and challenges that instructional designers face when engaging in this type of activity. The goal was to develop an "outcome theory" in which I would characterize the problems and the results of implementing a specific theory of design.

This is consistent with Edelson's notion of research design which "explicitly exploits the design process as an opportunity to advance the researchers understanding of teaching, learning, and educational systems."

My design research also consisted of the four features identified by Edelson.
Research Driven
My research was informed by existing theories of instructional design and I had identified a specific goal.

I was curious to find out if subsequently applying Wiley's Learning Object Design and Sequencing (LODAS) theory to the development of the pharmacology learning object would reveal different design decisions about the scope and sequence of the learning resources that were created.

Systematic Documentation
The process of applying the prescribed steps of the chosen theory was documented. The steps for the principled skill decomposition and work model synthesis were explicity illustrated and shared for critical reflection and discussion.
Formative Evaluation
A peer review of our learning object was undertaken in order to identify "gaps in understanding of the design context".

Three main strategies were used to assess the quality of the learning object and to collect formative date for improving the resource. Early in the design stage the instructional designer conducted usability testing with a third year pharmacy student to obtain feedback on design and navigation issues. This informal meeting was conducted as a 'think-aloud session' where the instructional designer recorded the reflections of the student as she interacted with the learning object. Secondly, peer reviewers were asked to evaluate the quality of the learning object using an established rating instrument and to provide feedback for improvement using an instructor survey. Thirdly, questionnaires were distributed to students in order to carry out a learning impact study based on their use of the learning object.
In my discussion of the research results, I attempted to generalize the implications of applying the theory to the practice of instructional design and the quality of learning resources developed.

As it was an illustrative case study, no statistically significant results were generated. However, it still has potential value to many educational practitioners. To my knowledge, this research was the only example of a practical application of the Learning Object Design and Sequencing Theory (LODAS) developed by Wiley (2000) to a medical context. The results from this research could be used to inform educators about some of the serious challenges involved in designing a learning object that can be reused and repurposed. An examination of the process and instruments used for evaluation could provide valuable insights about methods that could be employed for the peer review of learning objects.

Having thought about it some more, the example I provided above, about Edelson's approach to design research, complements what Friedman outlined in his paper on theory construction.

Wiley, the author of the design methodlogy that I was applying had combined a number of existing instructional design theories; Elaboration Theory (Reigeluth, 1999), Work Model Synthesis (Gibbons, et al., 1995), Domain Theory (Bunderson, Newby, &Wiley, 2000), and the Four-Component Instructional Design model (van Merriënboer, 1997) in an attempt to extend these theories in order to address two fundamental issues in the design of learning objects: scope and sequencing. The end result was the creation of his own Learning Object Design and Sequencing theory (LODAS).

This is consistent with Simon's quote (as cited in Friedman) " as the process by which we ‘[devise] courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones."

The theory developed by Wiley provided me with an opportunity to apply an existing model and derive lessons which I could use to develop theories that are generalizeable in other contexts.

So.... in response to the question, whether or not we should begin with the theory and judge the design research based on how well it conforms to the theory we are studying or whether the theory itself should emerge from the design research I would have to say that there appears to be a natural complement between the two.


Edelson, Daniel C. (2002) Design Research: What we learn when we engage in design. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 11(1), 105-121.

Friedman, K. (2003) Theory construction in design research: criteria: approaches, and methods. Design Studies Vol 24 No. 6

Learning Theory Analysis

Below is an examination of the theories of learning and cognition that influenced the design of the learning object.

Smith and Ragan (1999) stated that it is imperative for authors writing about instructional design to acknowledge the beliefs and values represented in their educational philosophy and that they be based upon theories that have been substantiated by empirical research.

For the development of the pharmacology learning object a pragmatic approach was taken and a combination of learning theories were used, including elements of; behaviourism, generative and cognitive theories and constructivism. Smith and Ragan (1999) defined pragmatists in the following manner. "Pragmatists are inclined to believe that although knowledge is acquired through experience [objectivist], it is personally interpreted through reason and is tentative in nature. Knowledge in a particular field is negotiated based upon an agreement of experts as to a common interpretation of experience or "truth for now". Knowledge built by testing truth for now hypothesis and revising truth as common experience and interpretation implies it should be modified [constructivist]."

I agree with a number of other writers (Ally, 2003; Hannafin, et al., 1997; Wilson, 1997; Duffy & Cunningham, 1996) that there is limited value in asserting which theory of learning is better. Rather, the adoption of a combination of instructional approaches was based on the belief that different instructional conditions are necessary to effectively promote a given type of learned performance. The role of the instructional designer is to prescribe an appropriate strategy and context for learning based on the learning objectives.

Pharmacokinetics is a very complex subject and as a result is one of the most poorly taught areas of the medical curriculum. A radical constructivist would have suggested that articulating goals for learning this subject was inappropriate because educators do not know what learners' need or want to learn (Smith & Ragan, 1999). However, one can't assume that individuals who are novices in this area would have been able to devise an approach to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. Therefore, learning objectives were developed.

The design of the learning object adopted the following behaviourist attributes. Learning goals were explicitly stated in observable terms in order for the learners to establish whether or not they had achieved the desired outcomes. The learning object was sequenced so that students could progress from knowledge acquisition (using basic principles tab to view demonstrations of the principles) to higher order domains (application of principles using the drug options tab). Feedback was presented to students in the form of a graph which plotted the blood concentration time curve and served as feedback to indicate if the student had applied the theory correctly.

Characteristics of generative learning theory were also evident in the design of the learning object. The learner was actively engaged and assumed primary responsibility for processing the information. The pharmacology learning object required the students to interact with the resource to create an outcome (graph on blood concentration time curve). As a result they were more likely to recall the information than if they had merely read it (Houston, 1991). During the process of gathering data using the inquiry approach the learner was required to isolate relevant variables and form a hypothesis about the example. Students reflected on whether or not the instructional content being presented was consistent with previous experiences or prior knowledge (basic physiology and anatomy, pharmacological concepts). 80% of the students that responded to the learning impact study agreed that the learning object encouraged them to reflect on the material.

In order for learners to register information in their sensory systems, strategies consistent with cognitivist and constructivist approaches were applied. Learners were able to control the pace of the information and were directed to attend to specific information. Color was used to highlight the explanations of principles. The plotting of results in the blood time concentration curve was animated. As the curve was being drawn, a green arrow focused the learners attention on the direction and magnitude of change in the graph. A three step memory model was suggested in order for the learners to transfer the information from short-term to long-term memory.

To promote deep processing of the pharmacology principles the information was presented using the spreading activation model in which the students were able to see the relationship between the variables involved in drug administration and the effect this had on the patient. This approach was in direct contrast to the textbook where the principles are treated as individual concepts. Processing the network of related information provided the students with multiple pathways for assimilating or accommodating prior knowledge with new information and therefore makes it personally more meaningful. The opportunity to interpret their knowledge helped them to understand the context in which the different parameters operated.


Ally, M. (2004). Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning. In Elloumi, F. & Anderson. T. (Eds). Online Learning Handbook. Athabasca University

Duffy, T. M., and Cunnigham, D.J. (1996). Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of Educational Communications and Technology (pp. 170-198). New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.

Hannafin, M. J., Hannafin, K., Land, S.M. & Oliver, K. (1997). Grounded practice and the design of constructivist learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(3), 101-117.

Houston, J.P. (1991). Fundamentals of learning and memory. 4th ed. Florida: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Wilson, B. G. (1997). Reflections on constructivism and instructional design. In C. R. R. Dills, A.J. (Ed.), Instructional Development Paradigms. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.