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The course I will be looking at this week is K-12 Blended & Online Learning by Anissa Lokey-Vega, Ph.D., and Jordan P Cameron. The course is offered in partnership by Kennesaw State University (KSU) and the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), “the leading professional organization devoted to advancing quality online learning providing professional development, instruction, best practice publications and guidance to educators, online learning professionals and organizations around the world” (Coursera.org, n.d., para.4).

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According to Daphne Koller, Coursera co-founder, the mission of the Coursera project is to entice “top universities to put their most intriguing courses online for free — not just as a service, but as a way to research how people learn and how knowledge is processed” (Koller, June, 2012). From the Learning Theories perspective, the course is arranged in compliance with a mix of two theories: the cognitive and the constructivist learning theory. From the Distance Learning Theory perspective, the course appears to be grounded in Malcolm Knowles’ Theory of Adult Learning in that it provides “a psychological environment that provides for a feeling of mutual respect, collaborativeness, trust, openness, and authenticity” and “promotes respect and dignity for the adult learner”; allows for “options regarding learning activities”; includes “clear course descriptions, learning objectives, resources, and timeless for events”; and encourages participation based on both felt and ascribed needs (Simonson et al, 2012, pp.50-51).

The course under consideration, K-12 Blended & Online Learning, is ongoing and, although it is its Week4 and the late registration will not earn the learner a PD certificate, the course is still open for registration and content-browsing. Thus, the course provides an opportunity for flexible participation.

The course does not target K-12 teachers only, but is intended to introduce all those interested to K-12 blended and online learning. To make learner-learner communication more targeted and focused on the interest shared by a group of participants, each discussion forum has sub-forums: General Discussion, Discussion for Elementary teachers, Discussion for Middle School teachers, Discussion for High School Teachers. Each student can choose the sub-forum to contribute to (the number of sub-forums for a learner to participate in and benefit from is not limited). There is also a Forum Reputations (Top Forum Posters) option for the discussion forum participants to be able to view their own place in the discussion contribution rating as well as to read/reread the posts which the instructors and the course participants rated as top-of-the-week. Moreover, each week closes with a week wrap-up video in which one the instructors summarizes the opinions voiced by the learners, reiterated the main issues studied, and provides recommendations on how to approach the next week’s materials and activities.

Although those aspiring at earning a PD certificate are obliged to “design a blended or online unit and develop one module to use with K12 students” to earn the “50 professional learning hours” or to be eligible to submit their course scores “to Kennesaw State University’s assessment center for graduate course credit towards a graduate degree in education” (Coursera.org., n.d., para.2), the course provides options for flexible participation for those interested in simply acquiring knowledge or engaging in a unique learning experience (Walden University, n.d.).

The course is linear-programmed (Simonson et al, 2012), has clear course policies, well-defined instructional objectives, and assessment information (Simonson et al, 2012); the design of the materials takes into account the principles of the Multimedia Learning Theory (Mayer, 2007; Simonson et al, 2012): besides the reading materials, the course offers video lectures supported by such options as downloadable transcripts or subtitles. Each participant receives weekly information letters outlining the week’s activities, which produces an effect of social presence (Simonson et al, 2012).

The detailed syllabus, high-quality videos, options for flexible participation by K-12 professionals as well as a broader community, high-quality facilitation, learning activities that promote learner engagement, and various knowledge assessment tools (including peer-assessments) all testify to the fact that a lot of planning went into the course. And although there are cases of attrition, I am certain, participants leave the course for reasons that have little, if anything, to do with the course design and/or implementation.

References

Coursera.org. (n.d.). K-12 Blended & Online Learning. Retrieved from https://www.coursera.org/course/k12blendedlearning?from_restricted_preview=1&course_id=974229&r=https%3A%2F%2Fclass.coursera.org%2Fk12blendedlearning-002

Koller, D. (June, 2012). What we’re learning from online education [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/daphne_koller_what_we_re_learning_from_online_education.

Mayer, R. E. (2007). Five features of effective multimedia messages: An evidence-based approach. In Fiore, S. M., & Salas, E. (Eds.). Toward a science of distributed learning (pp. 171–184). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Walden University [Producer]. (n.d.). Application: Blog—The Impact of Open Source. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_6529293_1&content_id=_23289753_1

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