World Links Phase III: Curriculum and Technology Integration – eLearning Pilot
In 2003, World Links (www.world-links.org ) conducted an eLearning Pilot for its Teacher Professional Development Phase III: Curriculum and Technology Integration Course.
The eLearning pilot which ran from Feb-May 2003, involved countries of Uganda, Ghana, Gambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana and India. In Uganda, the eLearning pilot was coordinated by SchoolNet Uganda.
The 12-week blended eLearning course for teachers was preceded by a 3-week purely online course for mentor candidates.
The primary purpose of the World Links Phase III eLearning course was to help teachers develop skills and deepen their understanding of how to collaborate with peers to create, incorporate and facilitate innovative classroom practices that integrate networked technology and curricula.
The central goals of this initiative were:
- To provide a knowledge base of current Information and Communication Technology.
- To build technology integrated lessons appropriate for participant’s teaching situation.
- To share ideas and perspectives to help foster insights into effective teaching practices.
- To provide a venue for collaborative project development.
- To collaborate in building a technology enriched curriculum for students.
- To provide a reflective teaching experience for curriculum and technology integration.
- To establish a peer network to be sustained beyond the scope of this course.
The eLearning course in Uganda was coordinated by Kakinda Daniel (current Training Director, SchoolNet Uganda) and was supported by 5 online mentors each in charge of a cohort of 20 participants. The mentors were recruited based on their exemplary performance in a 3-week purely online course for mentor candidates conducted in January 2003.
The five online mentors were; Lawrence Ssenkubuge (a Maths and Physics teacher and currently deputy head teacher, St. Henry’s College Kitovu), Eddie Kigozi (formerly a teacher of French at Bishop’s SS Mukono), Winfred Mwebaza (formerly a Fine Art teacher at Ntare School but now working with Uganda Telecom), Anthony Wanatosi (then a lecturer at Kyambogo University) and Anthony Ndawula (a teacher of literature in English and Political Education at Makerere College School).
Mentors were responsible for reviewing assignments, accessing performance, facilitating discussions and providing help and support.
A total of 100 secondary school teachers were recruited for the 12-week blended course. The teachers were from Gayaza High School, King’s College Budo,Nabisunsa Girls School, Kibuli SS, Mengo Senior School, Bishops SS Mukono, St. Peters Nsambya, St. Joseph’s Girls School Nsambya, Ntare School, Makerere College School and St. Henry’s College Kitovu.
The online course was setup on the Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS) and most activity tasks had to be submitted to the course discussion forum.
The discussion forum was the “classroom” where participants would meet, get to know each other, develop ideas, collaborate with colleagues and submit assignments.
Throughout the course participants were engaged in individual and group activities. Consequently participants were assessed for their individual as well as group performance.
The course content was divided into four parts each lasting three weeks.
Weeks (1-3): Part I – Introduction to Curriculum and Technology Integration
Participants explored a variety of individual activities which were designed to broaden and deepen their understanding of curriculum and technology integration including reviewing their own teaching situations and building online relationships with their colleagues in the course.
Weeks (4-6): Part II – Introduction to collaboration
• Joined online project study groups to develop a simple webpage containing web links to relevant Internet resources.
• Developed lesson and curriculum ideas through exploration of the Internet as a pedagogical tool.
Weeks (7-9): Part III- Technology Integration Collaborative Project
Each participant was required to develop a proposal for a technology integrated lesson. Share the proposal with the rest of the group for comments and suggestions. Thereafter review the suggestions from colleagues and then create a lesson action plan.
Weeks (9-11) Part IV- Final Project Implementation and Presentation
Each participant was required to teach and reflect on a technology integrated lesson. Each cohort was thereafter required to collaboratively share the experiences of their teaching through a web-based forum as a group showcase of the project.
Week 12: Course Examination and Evaluation
After the submission of the final project, each participant was required to complete both the course examination and the course evaluation. Participants had to score 67% or higher to pass the examination.
The course evaluation covered both the course content and facilitation of the course.
78 out of 100 Uganda teachers completed the 12 week training. This was higher than the normal completion rates of (40-60) % in a number of eLearning courses.
Lessons Learned: What works in an eLearning course
1. A blended eLearning course
An eLearning course needs to have both face-2-face sessions and online sessions. Two face-2-face sessions are needed; one at the start of the course and one in the middle of the course.
A face-2-face session is needed at the start of the course so as to:
- Put faces to names.
- Ensure learners can log-in the learning management system (LMS).
- Check that learners have the minimum technical requirements (what browser and browser setting? what plug-in?). Learners can them be advised on how to get them.
- Orientation to the LMS and pedagogy to be used.
- Check that learners have the prerequisite skills.
- Ensure learners can use the Internet tools comfortably and responsibly.
- Discuss the expectations, hopes, fears and challenges learners have or anticipate and develop strategies for success.
- Caution learners against online intimidation and bullying.
- Remind learners that despite all the “sweet talk” about eLearning, eLearning courses are more challenging the Face-2-Face courses.
- Talk about the assessment rubric (most often very different from that of face-2-face courses).
- Provide any offline materials (Print, CDs, DVDs, Video or audio tapes).
Failure to address the above issues results in a very high drop out rate in the first weeks.
A face-2-face session is needed in the middle of the course to provide participants an opportunity to:
- Share experiences.
- Discuss challenges and possible ways of addressing them.
- Develop skills for group projects.
- Opportunity to engage with colleagues to enrich professional relationship
Some of the challenges participants mentioned during the face-2-face session in the middle of the course included:
- Internet Connectivity (slow, irregular).
- Electricity (irregular).
- Slow Typing speeds resulting into high costs in Internet cafes.
- Low ICT skills & ICT confidence.
- Getting time for the Course.
- Other competing School Activities & Programs.
- Small number of Computers.
- Meeting deadlines.
- Delayed response from colleagues.
2. Provide training materials in both offline formats (CDs and Print) and online formats.
Providing offline materials helps to cut down the Internet costs and to deal with challenges of Internet connectivity and irregular electricity.
3. Learners must have some prerequisite skills.
It is important to recruit learners or develop the following skills in the learners before the eLearning course starts; typing skills, file management, web browsing, word processing, email communication, Internet researching and writing skills.
Students who struggle with or become frustrated with new technology, should become comfortable with the technology before attempting an online course
4. E-Learning course designers must use principles of Good Teaching – Sound Pedagogy.
Principles of good teaching are required for both face-to-face courses and eLearning courses. eLearning is not merely changing the teaching materials into an electronic format or just including animations, sound or video!
The eLearning course design must:
- Promote instructor-learner interaction.
- Promote student-student interaction.
- Encourage high learner expectations.
- Promote rich and prompt feedback.
- Promote active learning.
- Facilitate time on task.
- Address different learning styles.
5. The complex online interaction must be managed.
- Clearly spell out the roles and responsibilities of the online staff (instructor, coordinator and mentors.
- Divide the learners in the virtual classroom into manageable cohorts (e.g. 20 students each).
- Set the ground rules for the learners to avoid online bulling and harassment.
6. Provide online orientation training for the online staff especially the mentors. (let them experience what it means to be an online student).
7. Proper choice of learners. Not all learners can succeed in eLearning!
Learners’ competencies needed for successful completion includes:
- Self-confidence and a commitment to succeed.
- Preparedness and self-direction.
- Being focused and good time management skills.
- Ability to work independently and as a group.
- Strong self-motivation and self-discipline.
- Risk-taking and creative problem solving.
- Confidence to follow directions and to ask for assistance when necessary.
- Tolerance for delays in receiving a response from the instructor or mentor or colleagues.
- Time management to be able to work on the course and good comprehension skills.
The presentation SchoolNet Uganda made at the eLearning Africa Conference held (25-26) May 2006, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia about it experience in this eLearning pilot can be downloaded using the link below