Elements of Cooperative Learning and Their Application to Distance Ed

Embed from Getty Images

 

According to Wikipedia, the cooperative learning theory has been around since the 1930s and discussed by researchers from diverse fields such as philosophy and psychology. Cooperative learning involves strategic group practices and elements to aid critical thinking.  As an educator, I’m most familiar with Kagan’s (1985) approach to cooperative learning. Additionally, I learned about Palinscar and Brown’s reciprocal teaching method; their article on Reciprocal Teaching of Comprehension-fostering and Comprehension-monitoring Activities (1984) predates that of Kagan’s work.  Johnson and Johnson researched and wrote about cooperative learning activities in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I learned about their work in my doctoral coursework on instructional strategies.

Johnson and Johnson (1994) were the first to describe the following five essential elements of cooperative learning: positive interdepence, face-to-face (F2F) promotive action, individual & group accountability, social skills, and group processing.  The following lists their elements and how they can be implemented in online courses.

  1. Element of Cooperative Learning: Positive Interdependence

Course Design– A) Provide example of project team roles. B) Another layer to this is to then divide the content assignment into specific components and assign them to team members.

Resources–  I modified the list that Dr. Dempsey shared in our doctoral course on instructional strategies at the University of South Alabama: team leader, timekeeper, idea monitor, QA monitor, and Wild Card (for the extra item that varies according to the content or situation).

Difference from F2F Instruction: A) Not all students will be able to meet F2F on campus due to geographic distances. B) Not all students will see information (login) at the same time. Delays can cause emotional distress to team members and create psychological distance.

2. Element of Cooperative Learning: F2F Promotive Interaction

Course Design- Include synchronous sessions with live audiovisual possibilities.

Resources– Use virtual meeting spaces such as BigBlueButton, Skype, Google+ Hangout, & Second Life

Difference from F2F Instruction: A) Students can discuss items freely without being in earshot of the teacher or other teams. B) Students need technical skills to be able to participate online. C) Meetings can easily be recorded for review.

3. Element of Cooperative Learning: Individual & Group Accountability

Course Design– Create rubric for individual and group tasks explicitly described.  Ask student to complete a peer evaluation of team members according to their assigned components.

Resources- Teacher asks students to create this for greater understanding of the requirements.

Difference from F2F Instruction- No real difference except for no F2F lecture mode to explain rubric.

4. Element of Cooperative Learning: Social Skills

Course Design– Teachers model social skills with teacher talk.  They shape students’ behavior by providing praise when appropriate actions are taken.  They provide rubrics that describe the actions such as how many times to post in forums and to whom.  Students set up their own agreed upon ground rules.

Resources– Netiquette: There are several versions out there.  There’s even a multiple-choice test that scores a students’ netiquette knowledge automatically.

Difference from F2F Instruction– A) Etiquette rules differ. B) In OL, every student gets the opportunity to respond. C) For OL, there’s a larger chance of procrastination due to the “absence” of the traditional classroom routine, physical building, seeing friends in the hallway to remind you, etc.

5. Element of Cooperative Learning: Group Processing

Course Design– Ask students to create their own set of group rules and definitions. (This was another Dr. Dempsey idea.) Monitor group work by asking to be added to their collaborative project sites.

Resources– Use Web 2.0 tools like wiki, clog, and/or Google Drive to collaborate.

Difference from F2F Instruction- A) Must decide on which synchronous and Web 2.0 tools to use and create accounts. B) Meetings include the World Map for time and date. C) May be grouped with someone that you will never meet F2F (I’m unsure of the psychological ramifications but certain this plays a role in online behavior).

References

Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. (1994). Learning together and alone, cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning. Needham Heights, MA: Prentice-Hall.

Kagan, S. (1985). Cooperative learning. San Clemente, CA: Resources for Teachers, Inc.

Palinscar, A.S., & Brown, A.L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities.  Cognition and Instruction, I(2), 117-175.

Magis Instructional Design Model for Ignatian Pedagogy

Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Engraving by C. Klauber. Wellcome M0005653

The Magis Instructional Design (ID) Model for online courses was developed by Sandra Rogers (2015) with input from the Jesuits at Spring Hill College, as subject matter experts, and her professor in instructional design, Dr. Davidson-Shivers. It’s unique in that it addresses religion, spirituality, and social justice in addition to intellectual growth.

Jesuit school educators include techniques for reflection within their units of study in order to challenge students to serve others (Korth, 1993). According to one theology professor, Jesuit educators focus instructional activities on experiential learning to engender the cycle of experience leading to reflection and further action. This is based on the dynamics of Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises from which Ignatian pedagogy is derived.

The principles of Ignatian pedagogy include context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation (Korth, 1993). Further action and service to others is for the “greater glory of God”. Magis means doing more for God’s Kingdom (Ad majorem Dei gloriam).  The Magis ID Model is an alternative to existing ones in that it embeds the following Ignatian pedagogical layers into the systematic design of instruction to develop learners into caring leaders by addressing the whole person:

  1. Analyze Human Learning Experience Online/Offline
  2. Establish Relationships of Mutual Respect Online/Offline
  3. Tap into Learner’s Prior Knowledge & Experience
  4. Design Optimal Learning Experience for Whole Person
  5. Assimilate New Information
  6. Transfer Learning into Lifeworld
  7. Encourage Lifelong Learning & Reflections Beyond Self-Interest
  8. Learners Become Contemplatives in Action

Online Community of Inquiry

Designing for a community of inquiry (COI) loop will address the Ignatian principles of teaching to the whole person. A  COI exists when you have social presence, cognitive presence, and teacher presence. These are essential elements to the communication loop for an online COI (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). This means that learners in an online environment are involved in activities that are cognitively challenging, are able to interact with their classmates, and that the teacher is present in some way through words (e.g., text-based discussion), voice (e.g., podcasts), or person (e.g., webcast).

Bernard et al. (2009) conducted a meta-analysis of 74 online course interactions and found substantive research outcomes indicating the positive effect on learning when online educators build these types of interactions into their courses: student-student, student-teacher, and student-content. These interaction treatments (ITs) were defined as the environments and not the actual behaviors that occur within them. Through ID processes, one can design and develop these types of environments for distance education. Table 1 displays the main components of a Jesuit education, COI, and ITs, and their interrelationships.

Table 1

Comparison of Jesuit Education and Research-Based Best Practices

Jesuit Education of the Whole Person Mind Body Spirit
Necessary Elements for an Online Community of Inquiry Intellectual Presence Social Presence Teacher Presence
Research-based Best Practices for Interaction Treatments Student-content interactions Student-student interactions Student-teacher interactions

Designing Optimal Learning Experiences for the Whole Person

The Magis ID Model analyzes the type of instructional strategies used in distance education to ensure they address the whole person through cura personalis (mind, body, & spirt). Strategy selection should vary to meet the needs of diverse learners and engender higher-order thinking for cognitive presence. Selection depends on various affordances and constraints such as time and resources. For example, an activity-centered lesson is based on an interactive task and requires collaborative tools and student groupings. Content-centered lessons are passive tasks where the student generally only interacts with the content; the exception being discussions of content. Experience-centered activities require a hands-on approach to developing something or serving/working with others. The learner-centered activity provides the learner with more autonomy over their pursuit of knowledge and includes metacognitive actions for self-regulation of learning; the affordances and constraints for this type of activity are highly dependent on the task. Ideally, online educators should provide active learning activities to enhance cognitive transfer of new information and skills learned to long-term memory.

Contact Dr. Rogers (srogers@shc.edu) at Spring Hill College to learn more about this ID model and how it is being used to develop distance education courses.

Copyright Issues for Online Courses

Here are three main takeaways for proper use of copyright protected material in online courses.

I. Follow the Law on Copyrighted Media

Please note copying or changing the original format (e.g., VHS to DVD) of copyrighted material is a violation of the U.S. Copyright Law and Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I recommend you review your institutions policies (e.g., Faculty Manual) on the use of copyrighted material in the classroom. Here are some recommendations to properly show copyright protected videos to students.

  1. Only show a small segment of a privately owned video in your class to illustrate a lesson, as part of the Fair Use laws (Title 17, Section 107, U. S. Code, Copyright.gov).  Avoid showing an entire video of copyrighted material, as this constitutes as a public performance of it and is prohibited by law. Use a Fair Use checklist to determine the purpose, nature, amount, and effect of the media use for educational purposes.
  2. Short-term, one time use– Place your videos on course reserves for checkout by students in the library for one semester only to meet spontaneous use requirements. Fill out the necessary paperwork with the library at the circulation desk for course reserves. If a student does not have a VHS or DVD player, they can check out one on a TV cart to take to a study room in the library for viewing. Meanwhile, place a request order with the purchasing librarian for the library reserves. See solution # 4.

  3. Find it online– Search the library’s video databases to see if the same content is available.

4. Purchase institution-wide license of media object– There is an option for the library to purchase DVD formats to include in their collection. Contact your library liaison and the purchasing agent for the library to learn more about this option.

II. Proper Use of Copyrighted Articles

Articles in the library databases are very easy to share with others. When you share an article from one of the library’s databases, look for the shortened URL for the article. It is called the permalink, stable URL, or persistent URL – different databases use slightly different terminology, but all three versions are the same thing – a shorter URL that acts as an anchor for the article that you’re interested in. Databases normally place the permalinks, stable URLs, or persistent URLs in the Tools section of the article record. This URL doesn’t work by itself or anyone could access it. Your institution’s EZ Proxy service authenticates school users and allows them to access content that your school licenses.

Why do I need to do this for my course? Posting copyright protected articles directly in your online courses constitutes a copyright infringement. Copies of written works are permissible if they are made for personal use only and the copy will not be shared or distributed to a group without the documented permission of the copyright owner. As an instructor, you’re encouraged to direct your students to the original source of the work to avoid copyright infringement.

III. Cite Your Sources

Cite your sources in your online course and material according to the appropriate style guides (i.e., APA, MLA, & Chicago Manual). This sets a good example for students and covers your general use of the copyrighted material (Quality Matters™ Rubric Standards, 2014). Also, cite any media sources (e.g., images, sound, video clips) reused in your video lectures and/or PowerPoint presentations.

See the US Copyright website for specific information.

5 Pitfalls of Online Teaching

Female student looking frustrated with books and computer

I took my first series of online courses for professional development in 2009. The courses were highly interactively and well-designed because they were taught by experts in the field of computer-assisted language learning. A shout-out to my professors in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate program, Principles and Practices of Online Teaching! (See blog on this topic). Ever since then, I’ve compared online courses to those.

As a working instructional designer and current PhD student enrolled in online courses, I bring a well-rounded perspective to the topic of distance education. I’ve researched and written about how to develop an online community of inquiry. It has become my personal agenda to ensure that students taking online courses don’t get frustrated from the course design and lack of social presence and teacher presence.

Here’s a list of what I consider the top 5 pitfalls that will surely decrease student learning outcomes and student satisfaction:

  1. Lack of pattern in weekly assignments will cause confusion, especially in a hybrid (blended) course. For example, as you plan threaded discussions, quizzes, and assignments, make sure they follow a pattern. Otherwise, indicate on your syllabus any gaps in the established pattern of assignments.
  2. Numerous clicks to find content leads to frustration. To increase findability, use clear navigation practices to reduce time lost on task and frustration levels (Simunich, Robins, & Kelly, 2012).
  3. Lack of synchronous sessions to connect with the human leads to reduced achievement. To increase student achievement, include synchronous sessions (Bernard et al., 2009). Arbaugh and Hornik (2006) suggested video conferencing, voice messaging, or some other types of multimedia.
  4. Instructors not responding to students’ discussions in a timely manner could cause missed learning opportunities. There are several theories on human learning about delivering targeted instruction at the right time such as Vygotsky’s (1978) zone of proximal development that posits that a student can only attain so much without the assistance from others. Students need prompt feedback that targets their instructional needs (Arbaugh, 2001). See my blog post on instructor feedback for online courses.
  5. Lack of student-student interactions may decrease student satisfaction and student achievement (Bernard et al., 2004). Make sure students can talk to one another and share their finished projects.

Do you agree with my top 5?

References

Arbaugh, J. B. (2001). How instructor immediacy behaviors affect student satisfaction and learning in web-based courses. Business Communication Quarterly, 30, 42-54.

Arbaugh, J. B., & Hornik, S. (2006). Do Chickering and Gamson’s seven principles also apply to online MBAs? The Journal of Educators Online, 3(2), 1-18.

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Borokhovski, E., Wade, C. A., Tamim, R., Surkes,  M. A., & Bethel, E. C. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of ITs in distance education. Review of Educational Research, 79, 1243-1288.

Simunich, B., Robins, D., & Kelly, V. (2012). Does findability matter? Findability, student motivation, and self-efficacy in online courses.  Quality Matters (QM) Research Grant, Kent State University.

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

List of Student and Teacher Expectations for Online Courses

Embed from Getty Images

(Originally posted in 2015, I thought this blog was relevant now at the beginning of the semester for all those teaching online this term.)

What you can expect from your Instructor:

  • I will reply to your questions within 24-48 hours except during holidays.
  • I will provide clear and concise instructions and exercises for you to follow.
  • I will return graded assignments within two weeks from the due date.
  • I will monitor discussions to clarify students’ postings, highlight good or interesting comments and ideas, and provide insight.
  • I will provide the necessary components of successful interaction: explanation, demonstration, practice, feedback, and assessment.
  • I will provide a range of practice opportunities–from self-corrected multiple choice items to free form expression on a concept.
  • I will provide meta-cognitive, cognitive, and social strategies for instruction.
  • I know the platform you are using very thoroughly, so that I can anticipate and make good guesses about the origins of any problems you’re likely to have, and some answers for them.

What I expect from my Students:

  • Learn what the minimum technical requirements of the course include. Take the student orientation tutorial for this learning management system before getting started.  Read the information in the Help tab (online manual) to learn how to use a tool.  Seek other training services for basic computer and word processing skills.
  • All your discussion posts will be consequential and full of content! For example, simply responding “me too,” or “thanks,” doesn’t include content.  Use good grammar and spelling when posting online.  Use the spell check feature.
  • Follow the rules of Netiquette. For example, no bullying online.
  • Complete all required tasks in a timely manner. Be proactive with a back-up plan in case you’re unable to access the Internet in your regular place of study.
  • Preplan for testing situations to ensure uninterrupted span of time.  For example, you won’t be able to access the Internet in remote locations like on a cruise.
  • Do not plagiarize the work of others and claim it as your own.  Cite your sources using the style guide required for your field of study (e.g., American Psychological Association’s manual for social science). Make sure you use the latest edition.

Protocol for Resolving Technical Issues:

  • First, make sure it’s not a browser issue (e.g., Google Chrome), and try a different browser to see if this solves the problem.  If so, then you either need to update your regular browser or clear its history, cookies, and cache.
  • If after updating your browser, or other browsers don’t work, make sure it isn’t your computer.  Try logging in from a different computer to see if you receive the same error message.
  • Read log error messages and record problem specifics and forward this to tech support and your instructor. Take a screenshot, if possible, to illustrate the exact problem.
  • Remember that your peers can help you, too!
  • Last, after someone (or you) fixes the problem, make sure you refresh/reload the Web page, as the system will remember the exact same page you were looking at the last time you logged in.

Sandra Annette Rogers, PhD

Updated 8/5/17

Goodbye eCollege, Hello Schoology!

Venn Diagram of the tools and features of eCollege compared to those of Schoology LMS

Here’s a link to the PDF of this image.  Pearson is closing its door on eCollege and eCompanion, so we adopted a new learning management system (LMS).  Schoology by comparison has so many more features for our learners.

Quality Matters for Online Instruction

Quality Matters (QM) logo

What is it?

Quality Matters™ (QM) is a peer-review process for providing feedback and guidance for online course design.  According to the QM website, it originated from the MarylandOnline Consortium project in 2003. They received a grant from the US Department of Education to create a rubric and review process based on research and best practices.  In 2014, it became its own nonprofit organization.  Through a subscription service, the organization now provides training, resources, conference events, and research collaborations.  They currently have 5000 QM certified reviewers to assist subscribers with the peer review process of their online courses.

Who uses it?

QM provides specific rubrics and guidelines for the quality assurance review process for K-12, higher education, publishers, and continuing education programs that offer distance education.  QM has a new program to bring the rubric and process to students.  The QM process is specifically for hybrid and fully online courses; it’s not for web-enhanced face-to-face courses.  QM currently has 900 subscribers.  Subscription prices are adjusted to the size of your online programs.

How does it work?

A subscribing institution (or individual) requests a QM review of their course and submits an application.  QM recommends that you familiarize yourself with the rubric through the training process in advance of the review.  They also recommend that the course for review not be new—that it has been through a few semesters to work out the bugs.  A QM coordinator for your course assigns you a team of reviewers consisting of a team leader and two other certified peer reviewers, one of which is an subject matter expert.  They read your self-report about the course and review your course using the rubric and guidelines.  The rubric covers these general standards: 1. Course Overview & Introduction, 2. Learning Objectives (Competencies), 3. Assessment & Measurement, 4. Instructional Materials, 5. Course Activities & Learner Interaction, 6. Course Technology, 7. Learner Support, and 8. Accessibility & Usability.  The team contacts you with questions throughout the 4-6 week process.  Then they present you with your evaluation with time to address any major issues before finalizing the report.

What are the benefits?

Those courses that pass the review process receive recognition on the QM website.  Even if you meet the standards, the peer reviewers provide you with recommendations for further improvements.  Instructors can use this feedback for other courses they teach or debrief with colleagues about it.  This serves as an ongoing continuous improvement process.  This is something that institutions can promote to their clients and instructors can add to the curriculum vitae.  From personal experience in becoming a QM certified peer reviewer, I can attest to the benefits of knowing the best practices and accessibility requirements for online course design.  It has helped me to become a better online instructor and provided me with a wealth of knowledge for my work as an instructional designer.  I’m grateful to the Innovation in Learning Center at the University of South Alabama for training me on the QM process and providing the opportunity to become a certified peer reviewer.