Elements of Cooperative Learning and Their Application to Distance Ed

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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.

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.

List of Student and Teacher Expectations for Online Courses

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(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

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.

Join me at SITE 2016 in Savannah, GA!

Photo of Sandra Annette Rogers
Say hello if you see me.

Two of my proposals were accepted for presentation at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) International Conference in Savannah, GA.  I’d love to connect with any of my readers who are also going to SITE. This will be my second time to attend this conference and my first time in the city of Savannah.  I can’t wait!

Here’s my current schedule for the conference: (All times are Eastern Standard Time.)

1. Brief Paper: Rubric to Evaluate Online Course Syllabi Plans for Engendering a Community of Inquiry, March 22, 2016 at 11:50- 12:10 P.M., in the Hyatt Regency F.

2.  Poster Session: Saudi ELLs’ Digital Gameplay Habits and Effects on SLA: A Case Study,  March 23, 2016 at 5:30-7:00 P.M. in the Hyatt Regency Harborside Center. See my poster below.

Rubric to Evaluate Online Course Syllabi

4 Things You Can Do to Make Your Online Course More Accessible

The following suggestions are recommended in meeting the Americans with Disability Act (1990).

“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability …shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance… (Section 504, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 794). ” Follow these basic guidelines for compliance and to improve learning for all:

  1. Describe images and hyperlinks with alternative text.
  2. Use San Serif fonts for online text.
  3. Check and repair all portable document formats (PDFs) for accessibility.
  4. Caption all audio and video.

Images. Alternative (alt) text helps people that use assistive technology (e.g., screen readers) as their learning accommodation.  For example, screen readers like Microsoft’s (MS) JAWS (Job Access with Speech) read the description aloud to the user with vision impairment.  Make sure you concisely provide alt text for each image in your online course. This includes images on a course page within a PowerPoint or Word document. For some learning management systems (LMS), it’s not a requirement when adding photos.  For example, Schoology does not.  We’ve contacted the developers to add the requirement as the image is added to the LMS instead of as an additional task afterward.

Hyperlinks. When you add links to your course, think about simplifying information by providing the specific name of the Website instead of a confusing Web address, also known as the URL (Uniform Resource Locator).  Take into account that the assistive technology will read aloud the long URL if you do not give it a name. Imagine listening to an entire URL reading: “h-t-t-p-semicolon-forward slash-forward slash-secure-period-ecollege-period-com-forward slash-shc”.    This would cause extra cognitive load on the listener. Here’s a good and bad example:

The exact name of the Website will aid all learners in understanding where the link will take them.

Fonts.  Sans-serif fonts are recommended for online text to provide accessibility. Sans-serif fonts don’t have the “hats and shoes” on certain letters that serif fonts include.   This is because serif fonts may waiver and become difficult to read on low bandwidth or poor Internet connections.  Schoology provides Arial as the default font, which is sans-serif.  For a complete list of typefaces, see Wikipedia.

PDFs.  Are your PDFs readable? Conduct a word search within the Find box of aPDF for a word you see in the document. Type Ctrl+F if you don’t see a Find box.  If you receive the message, “No matches were found,” then the document is a scanned image, which cannot be read by persons who use assistive technology.  Use Adobe Acrobat Pro XI to repair “unreadable” PDFs.  It has an accessibility checker that you can run to repair the document.

Ensure your MS Word documents are accessible before you save them as a PDF.  MS Word versions 2010 and later have accessibility checkers that will highlight any issues your document has. Within MS Word, select File > Info> Check for Issues > Check Accessibility.  Fix issues like missing alt text for images.  See Adobe Accessibility Quick Reference Card for information on earlier versions of MS Word that you may have at home.

Captions.  Caption all media.  Closed captioning is the preferred format (instead of open captions), so the user can turn it on or off according to their needs.  If you don’t have your media captioned, at the very least, provide a script until you caption the video or audio file.  However, transcripts don’t provide equal access to the lesson because the words and images from the video aren’t in sync to enhance meaning.  See list of free captioning services below.

  1. Captioning Key is funded by the National Association of the Deaf and The Described and Captioned and Media Program. It provides a PDF document on specific quality assurance guidelines for closed-captioning. http://www.dcmp.org/captioningkey/
  2. Amara.org for captioning any video on the Internet: http://www.amara.org/en/
  3. CaptionTube for captioning YouTube videos: http://captiontube.appspot.com/
  4. Subtitle Workshop for captioning any video: http://sourceforge.net/projects/subworkshop/

 

Sandra Annette Rogers, Instructional Designer