5111 – Wk 3 Best Practices in DL

Web 2.0 Tools Impact on DL Learning Environment

Web 2.0 tools can potentially provide an increased access to knowledge through open educational resources.

Best Practices for DL Practitioners

The principles of online teaching or ‘best practices’ literature are similar to those from face-to-face settings based on the mutual emphasis placed on content area expertise, communication skills, and instructional design. Ones that resonate with me are:

Delivery (teaching and tools)

  1. Encouraging staff-student contact through practices that created an environment for interaction and communication. Stein and Glazer (2003) recommend that interactivity between student and instructor is fundamental to building community in the online environment.
  2. Encouraging active learning with assignments that encourage reflection and required students to relate course content material to their personal lives. This helps motivate student interest and encourage control over their own learning environment and is in line with theories of constructivism and engagement that allow students to choose assignments that are relevant, interesting and useful for them (Kearsley & Schneiderman, l999).
  3. Respecting diverse talents and ways of learning by incorporating various ways to present course material, design assignments and format assessment within an “open atmosphere” for learning. This indicates a genuine regard for the different learning styles of adult students and the “democratization” of the online learning environment. Confirmed by Diaz and Cartnal (l999) an awareness of different learning styles aids in the instructional design and ultimately the retention of students in online courses.
  4. Use engaging, imaginative and flexible tools to engage learners. You want to avoid repackaging traditional content online. Having learners read through their entire course content uploaded online does not embrace the essence of e-learning or stimulate creativity. Instead of repackaging think about using e-learning in an engaging, imaginative and flexible way where learners can benefit from interactive tools such as video, blogging and online discussion.
  5. Use both synchronous and asynchronous activities to engage learners in more collaborative and more reflective activities. The variety of activities that are now possible online makes it possible to create many types of effective learning environments. Sometimes there is nothing better than a real-time interactive brainstorming and sharing discussion; other times the requirement to think, plan, write and summarize is what makes learning most effective for an individual.

Back-end (support and infrastructure)

  1. Provide faculty support services specifically related to teaching via an electronic system and assure appropriate training for faculty who teach using technology. Further, the organization should provide adequate equipment, software and communications to faculty for interaction with students, institutions, and other faculty.
  2. Ensure distributed learning policies of the organization are clear concerning ownership of materials, faculty compensation, copyright issues, and utilization of revenue derived from the creation and production of materials used in distributed learning courses.
  3. Ensure students can access technical support on how to use and troubleshoot technology, in particular readily available technical support for extended hours, quick response time from help desk staff and access to up-to-date and compatible technology/software.
  4. Ensure students can access adequate academic and/or tutorial support services, including assistance with learning strategies and writing skills. While access to academic support services is necessary, the role of instructors was seen as much more critical for distributed students.
  5. Full participation is key to the engagement and enjoyment of learners.

Barriers or issues important in DL/online learning environments

  • DL demands a standard level of hardware and internet connection speeds for both individual users and institutions. Ensuring your organization is ready for the change is essential. It’s important to be upfront and to discuss with staff and learners the disruptions they might experience as well as consider conducting trials before a tool is rolled out on a larger scale.
  • Lack of a clear strategy for the development of e-learning is a real barrier to success. Ideally, a strategy should be mapped out a clear vision of how distributed learning should develop.

Needs Analysis for Proposed DL program in Workplace

An example of creating a distributed learning program in my past workplace is an online training site I created for a marketing team for Selkirk College.

There was not enough time or resource to have all the staff sit through training together so I was intended for each team member to take on their own, in their free time in their schedules.

Target Audience

Marketing and administrative staff for the college who are required to put images on the college website.


I evaluated the various technologies available with our resources for working with the group. The requirements were:

  • Ability to change content quickly and easily by content provider
  • Ability to access content at all hours from both home and at work
  • A resource site for staff to access after the training
  • Easily understood content using various tools such as text, pictures and video
  • Tools to test the learning and provide an evaluation of the skills acquired by the student

Supports Needed For Stakeholders

  • Photoshop software
  • Computer and internet access

Technology of the Week

Diigo…good research tool that can be utilized by instructors to evaluate students’ research and note taking skills. We can observe the research in progress and make comments and notes to the student during the process. It also enables better collaboration on information for any group…you can build a group knowledge repository for your class, where each group member can add and subscribe to it, and browse and search it. They can interact with on-the-page annotations…while reading the same Wikipedia article, and commenting and discussing right on the page. Not too bad.