Supporting Meaningful Interactions

Hello, colleagues and peers,

I am here in a second post this week to discuss how to support meaningful student to student and student to instructor interactions in the online environment.

As mentioned in my previous post, I decided to integrate a Google+ Community into my Prototype plan. After reading through the readings for this week’s blog prompt, I realized the importance of developing that sense of community for learners in the online environment.

Again, through my reflections and readings, I have come back to my initial motivation for selecting a social feel for my prototype project. Edmodo is designed to mimic Facebook and, I believe, “de-schooling” the online learning environment will be conducive to building an online community among learners.

However, going through this week’s readings, I wondered if a social environment would be enough. The Schwier article resonated with me. Schwier states:

“For a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge. It isn’t enough that material is presented to people and they interact with the instruction. It isn’t enough that the learners interact with instructors to refine their understanding of the material.”

I decided, after these readings, that I wanted to add a community space where students could interact and support each other, particularly in the area of technology. I believe that a safe space to ask questions and share resources will help to build community as it will be a supportive place for those who technology may traditionally isolate. In addition, Google+ offers connection outside of the Edmodo or “classroom” space.

Furthermore, the Schwier article cemented my decision making around having a face-to-face class at the beginning and the end of the module. I believe that the face-to-face meet and greet among the students can begin to create the integration of the group. I know that from my experience in Alec’s classes that the chance to introduce ourselves to each other in the face-to-face environment helped as we worked through the online class.


I did think about creating a hashtag for students to follow along within Twitter. I think Twitter is an excellent tool for connecting people with a learning community. However, I chose not to add it to my class for fear of adding too much tech and potentially overwhelming the students. Considering it is an oral communication class for adults that are looking to build their essential skills, I think that challenging the students to become familiar with Google+ and Edmodo is enough, to begin with.

I would like to add that the readings triggered me to remember the importance of the instructor in maintaining the position of a co-learner. Schwier argues that trust is imperative in creating a meaningful online learning community. Research has also shown that trust is best developed in an environment where there is a flat hierarchy where students can feel that they can make meaningful contributions and that their thoughts and experiences are as valid and useful as those of the instructor.

Furthermore, the instructor needs to be present and supportive of student interactions. Yuan and Kim discuss the importance of student/instructor interactions in their article and state that students are most likely to drop out if their feel isolated in their online learning. In terms of my prototype, this research supports my decision to have asynchronous meetings every other week. I decided that asynchronous meetings every other week provide an appropriate balance between support and independence in online learning. It allows for some flexibility but also supports at appropriate times within the learning module.

In addition to the Google+ Community for tech support, the Edmodo community is a great template for student interaction. As space is set up like Facebook, students can leave “notes” (like a status update) or comment on each other’s posts just as they would on social media. I believe that this would be great for providing feedback. In the oral communication module, I envision creating opportunities for students to take videos of themselves speaking on prompts and sharing them in the Edmodo space just the way they would on Facebook. I believe the social/familiar feel would reduce anxiety around the oral communication and ease the learning curve. Furthermore, that ease and openness help to build the community that the student need to facilitate their learning.

What are your experiences in community building within the classroom?
What has worked? What has not?
Do you believe in student-centered learning?
How do you create meaningful interactions in an online environment?

Thanks for following!


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Working in Edmodo

Hello colleagues and peers,

This will be a brief post to discuss my experiences using Edmodo for my Prototype.

This week I have been looking for online resources to put into my online module for developing oral communication skills. So far, I have implemented open resources from the Government of Canada website on Essential Skills and YouTube.

I found a lot of quality content from the Government of Canada website. I have been dividing up the different activities into separate google docs. I can upload into Edmodo directly from my google docs, which is great. I find GoogleDocs to be the best way to store my course material and upload it easily. So far, this is one of my favorite parts of using Edmodo. It is super simple to attach documents or links and post them quickly.

I sampled uploading some assignments and using some of the polls on the Edmodo page. So far, I haven’t had too many hang-ups. One thing that I have had a challenge with is changing the order of the posts that I have made in the course. For example, I was “testing” how things would appear and practiced uploading assignments and notes to the Edmodo “timeline.” Now that I have done some further development on my Prototype I realize that I want to add/change some of the documents that are posted to the prototype and I can’t figure out how to reorder things on the timeline. It looks like I am simply going to have to delete them and post again.

Anyone out there with experience in Edmodo? Do you know if you can reorder posts on the timeline?

I continue to be satisfied with the “social” look of Edmodo. I feel comfortable in it and it doesn’t bring back negative connotations of online courses of the past when online was the same as so incredibly boring!



Social learning is now and I am happy to have had the opportunity to delve into social media, open education and online learning. I feel much more confident about designing meaningful and engaging online learning experiences. I know I still have a long way to go but I know where to look and the main players, which gives me a good starting point for the future!

After reading this week’s reading on discussion boards I have decided to integrate GooglePlus Community into my prototype. I envision it being used as space where students can support each other with the tech learning. The Edmodo space can be a place where they can submit assignments, participate in group work, comment and provide each other coursework and the GooglePlus Community can be a space where they can ask questions about how to do certain things (like upload videos or submit assignments in Edmodo).

I do recall that when I was doing my initial research on which Prototype to choose, that there was feedback about how Edmodo lacks a group messaging space. I agree that this would be a great addition to student support.

If you have used Edmodo please feel free to provide me any feedback on my experiences so far. Have yours been similar? How did you manage the lack of group messaging? Any way to restructure posts? I see more research in my near future.

Thanks for following.






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My Personal Digital Learning Preferences

Hello again, colleagues and peers,

This week, I have been challenged to think about my own experiences with learning from digital sources.

To be honest, I don’t have a tonne of experience with formal online learning besides EC&I 831. Therefore, I am going to reflect on my informal learning experiences.

Typically, if I am looking for information to learn online, I will look for videos. I find that I like the auditory and visual examples combined. Particularly if I am learning a hands-on skill. For example, if I am trying to learn a new recipe, I will look up a video as opposed to just reading a recipe. Particularly if I am attempting to bake something more complex. I like to see the techniques that are used for mixing, the tools, the speed etc. in the video.

I also like to use audio for learning. I listen to the radio and podcasts a lot. Typically, I am listening to the news but I also like to learn about current events around the world. If I am trying to develop a deeper understanding of different perspectives of world affairs, for example, I will listen to podcasts. I choose audio because it is something that I can play in the background while I work or while I am driving. The flexibility of audio allows me to have it on hand at any time and allows me to multi-task while I am doing it.

In contrast to video, I typically can’t multi-task when watching a video like I can when I am listening to audio. If I am watching a video I need to be seated and listening to the video uninterrupted in order to fully comprehend what I am watching.

Apart from audio and video, I do a lot of informal learning online by reading. The advantage is that it is easily accessible, however, it is also something that I have to focus on and that I cannot do when I am multitasking. Personally, I process information well when I read it and I appreciate that I can always re-read material if there is something that I don’t understand.

I also learn well through interaction or conversations with others. I appreciate hearing different perspectives and getting feedback and having someone ask critical questions. Talking with others, for example, in our EC&I 831 class, allowed me to see the content from different lenses and take inspiration from my peers as they applied the learning to their individual contexts.

In my other post from today, I discuss how I plan to deliver my online course. I know that audio and video are high on my list to integrate into my Edmodo prototype. I want to integrate as many social approaches as possible. One tool that I really like for the audio and video content is Screencast. I know that I used it when I was learning Cree.

Before I conclude, I will say that I am happy to have had the great online learning experiences in 831 and 834. I think that these classes have really challenged my thinking about online learning and allowed me to see how social and meaningful online interactions can be.

Please share your own experiences with digital learning tools! I would love to hear how you learn online either formally or informally.

Thanks for coming by.

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Mode of Delivery for my Online Course

Hello colleagues and peers,

This post will cover some thoughts on the mode of delivery for my online course. This post comes after reading chapter 9 in the Bates text.

After reviewing the different types of online learning, I have decided that my course will be a hybrid or flexible learning experience in which students can do the majority of their learning online and come together for a face-to-face meeting at the beginning of the course and on the second-last day of the course.

I envision that this course will be a 12 week course with 2 face-to-face meetings and 6 synchronous online meetings, every other week during the semester. I chose to have 2 face-to-face meetings because it allows the students to see each other at the beginning on the semester to get to know their classmates and have a laid-back social type of interaction to build trust among peers and the instructor. I think this is an important part of establishing trust, developing report between the instructor and students and setting the tone for the course. The final meeting of the semester would be face-to-face oral presentations. It would occur in the second-last week of the course because it would allow the student the opportunity to conduct online peer evaluations in the final week of the course.

The 6 synchronous meetings would be to review content once the student have had 2 weeks to read, watch, listen and interact with various online tools in the Edmodo learning environment. As mentioned in my previous post, I will incorporate various means of digital instruction in an effort to facilitate a learning process that is individual and meaningful to different learning styles. As we discussed in our class meeting this week, I see myself as a facilitator. I see the learners as creators of their own learning and I hope to create a safe environment that allows for the students to explore and apply the content in a way that is meaningful to their own circumstances.

As previously discussed, I chose a social learning platform (Edmodo) because I want to students to be able to interact with it in a social way. My vision for students to improve oral communication would be for them to take videos of themselves with a smart phone talking about a particular topic and constantly be sharing in the Edmodo environment. This would allow students to record videos back and forth with each other and apply the oral communication skills that they are learning throughout the course. For example, if the topic of the week is eye contact, the students can discuss X topic and their peers can comment (with audio, video, text) on the quality of their eye contact skills in the video.

I believe that this method of learning fits best with my learners because many of the learners are adults who are looking to upgrade skills and transition into better employment opportunities. The implications of that audience are that the learners likely have a series of commitments outside of the class such as family, non-traditional work hours and potentially other educations pursuits. With this in mind, a total of 6 one-hour meetings is a commitment but not an overbearing commitment. I believe that having a social learning environment will minimize the heaviness of the course as the students can be free to share socially with their hand-held devises in the course and still improve their skills. This means that their videos, audios or posts could be done in the app when the students are on a lunch-break, on the bus or from work.

In terms of resources, I am going to strive to integrate all open source resources. I believe that even integrating people talking on YouTube (including some of the bloggers that we looked at this week), could be starting points for conversation around different types of oral communications styles and how they differ within different environments and contexts. Watching a speech by Steve Jobs, for example, could be an opportunity for students to critically analyse how to grab the attention of an audience, what makes people laugh, how a presenter moves around a stage and what strategies the presenter uses in terms of intonation, eye contact and speed. Since there are so many free and open ways to create learning opportunities around oral communication, I see no reason to invest or to have the students invest in costly materials.

I am beginning to see my prototype coming together! I look forward to this next week when we have some time to sit and work on it so I can get this set up in my Edmodo space.

I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions!




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Thoughts on Digital Instruction Tools

Hello, peers and colleagues,

As I review this weeks content, I find myself challenged by the questions that Bates has proposed in his textbook:

  • what is my underlying epistemological position about knowledge and teaching?
  • what are the desired learning outcomes from the teaching?
  • what teaching methods will be employed to facilitate the learning outcomes?
  • what are the unique educational characteristics of each medium/technology, and how well do these match the learning and teaching requirements?
  • what resources are available?

As I look through the digital instruction tools, I have made an effort to come back to these questions and keep them as a foundation for the decisions that I am encountering as I work to develop a prototype to teach oral communication in an online environment.

I shared a post on Twitter earlier this week. Here is the tweet:


As I embark on my understanding of the foundations of my position of teaching and knowledge I come back to this quote and the message in this tweet. One of the central desires for the learning outcomes of my teaching would be to create an environment that allows for the transformational learning experience to take place. Following transformative learning experiences, learners have the ability to understand their position, think critically about it and understand how they can contribute to there personal growth and development and therefore, in turn, impact their community (Mezirow, Cranton, Brookfield).

The idea of a transformative learning experience was briefly discussed in my last post and extensive research has been done and can be seen in here in research by Patricia Cranton and Jack Mezirow. It is important to note that transformative learning experiences cannot be forced but they can be the goal (Cranton, 2002). Educators can facilitate an environment that may lead to transformative learning by critical reflection (Mezirow). As learners critically reflect, they assess presuppositions and gives learners a voice as they grow to understand themselves as agents of power (Cranton, 2002). Once learners see themselves as agents of power, they have the capacity to act and challenge the dominant discourses and move towards an inclusive and progressive community.

This article affirms that transformative learning can take place in the online learning environment. In the article, Smith (2012) encourages instructors to rethink their roles, to deliberately take advantage of the online context in transformative learning.

How does this relate to my prototype and digital instruction tools? I promise it does!

When evaluating the tools it is important to offer a variety of tools that will allow for the students to engage and reflect. Reflection is the key. Therefore, the learning materials included in the oral communication module must permit this type of interaction.

In order to reach as broad of an audience as possible, I would integrate audio (which also requires little bandwidth to remain inclusive), video (particularly videos that students record of themselves as they learn to improve their oral communication skills), computing for the purpose of submitting self-reflections, and social media tools such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress to share their experiences and learn tips from others on how to improve oral communication.

I believe that a learner-controlled environment is most effective for the adult learner for reasons discussed above and in my previous post.

I did some research on Edmodo and found that the following resources are embeddable into Edmodo. This link also has some helpful resources for integrating snap chat. Something that I admit I really need to work on. Overall, the Edmodo blog is really helpful and I want to take some time this week to do some more research on that blog.

Other goals for this week are to integrate audio, computing, video and social media into my Edmodo module for learning oral communication.

Any other helpful tips or tricks to integrating these tools into an online environment? I am happy to have taken EC&I 831 because that is providing me a lot of context for a learner guided, social media style of online course that existed all within a free and open space.

Something that I don’t really understand is to what extent is Edmodo free and open? Can you clarify that for me Alec?

Thanks for following along! Open to any feedback!


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Prototype Platforms: How to choose!?

Hello peers and colleagues,

My task for the week has been to take a deeper look at some different learning management systems to decide which would be best suited to the creation of an online oral communication skills module. In this post, I will talk about the foundations that I stand upon when making decisions about learners who are working towards improving essential skills. This includes foundations of adult learning and research on essential skills. The second part of this post will discuss which LMS’s that I considered and which articles helped support my choice. Finally, I will discuss why I have chosen Edmodo as the prototype for my EC&I 834 project.

I have come back to the questions that were proposed by the Bates chapter in my previous post. Those questions included the following:

  • what kind of course or program should I be offering?
  • what factors should influence this decision?
  • what is the role of classroom teaching when students can now increasingly study most things online?
  • if the content is increasingly open and free, how does that affect my role as an instructor?
  • when should I create my own material and when should I use open resources?
  • should I open up my teaching to anyone, and if so, under what circumstances?

The motivation for teaching a module based on essential skills was described in my previous post. In short, it is based on the fact that Canada needs to improve workplace skills training and lifelong education. In order to improve essential skills, research states that Canadians need to have access to education and skills outside the traditional school system. The Conference Board of Canada (2018) argues:

The Canadian training system does not fill the skills gap for people who, for various reasons, have not acquired skills at school. Much more needs to be done in the workplace in order to improve Canada’s adult literacy rate.

Demographic change in Canada offers an opportunity to shift resources from the formal education system into the skills system. Instead, as the population of school-aged Canadians declined in the 1990s, education spending on youth kept increasing. Canada will need to shift resources into other parts of the education and skills system as demand for traditional schooling continues to decline (What does Canada have to do to improve its grade? section, para. 1).

Research demonstrates how adult educators play an essential role in helping adults in transition to develop the skills needed to transition into meaningful employment. Many times, adults find themselves “trapped” by social forces (Chen, 2012). This argument is in line with the research from the Research Board of Canada that states that there are gaps in the training system that lead to adults being left without the essential skills required to transition effectively into meaningful employment.

Malcolm Knowles’ research portrays the adult learner as having an innate desire to learn and as an active participant in the planning of their learning (1980). Merrium (2001) argues the importance of the educator as a facilitator of learning and one who creates an environment that supports self-directed learning. Therefore, the task at hand is to create a learning environment that allows for self-directed learning that allows learners to understand their situation, critically reflect upon it and choose a path of action to transform their situations.

With these important foundational considerations in mind, I deliberated the selection of my prototype platform. Considering users of the course that I am designing are working towards improving their essential skills, I want to choose an interface that is easy to use and easy to learn, particularly for those who may not have high computer literacy skills. In addition, I want to choose an interface that is open and social so that users do not face a cost barrier and so that users can share in a way that is likely already familiar to them if they use other social media platforms.

I read some articles that offered the pros & cons of the different LMS’. The article that helped me determine my final decision was this article. From reading and perusing the links to all the examples in our weekly schedule, I had narrowed my choices down to Schoolology, Edmodo and Google Classroom. I liked that Edmodo had an interface that looked a lot like Facebook. Again, based on the learners that would be working on improving essential skills, I wanted to choose an LMS that would be as familiar as possible to the participants.

I really like that Edmodo has the “note” feature that would be comparable to sharing a facebook status update and I like that you can connect it to Google Drive. I like the social look of it and when hosting an oral communication course, I envision students sharing videos of themselves giving short presentations that they film with their phones in the Edmodo space and allowing their peers to comment and give feedback. I love the idea that they could relate it to sharing a video on facebook and comment and share in a similar way.

Coralee blogged about the discussion in the Bates textbook regarding the importance of digital media. I believe that having a safe, social, online space is the perfect way to share digital media to develop oral communication skills. Furthermore, the comments could be shared by video as well to create an opportunity for students to practice. I like that Edmodo allows for granular group segregation so that one could break the students off into groups to prepare a debate or to form discussion groups.

My goal for the next week is to dive deeper into Edmodo and figure out how things work. I want to begin to design the class in the Edmodo space and include some of the upcoming digital media tools that we will be reviewing this week.

Alec, from your experience, what are Edmodo’s greatest strengths? What are some of the drawbacks that I should be aware of and prepare for when designing in Edmodo?

I would be happy to hear from anyone who has experience in Edmodo!

Coralee, what have your greatest challenges been when designing couses in D2L in the past? What sugestions could you offer me as I design a course in an online space for the first time?





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Prototype Project

Hello again,

Back to writing my blogs! I do enjoy the time that I spend reflecting and engaging with the content and the flexibility of blog writing. I can work away at it from anywhere which is perfect for a hectic schedule.

As we discussed, I am thinking about creating an online course surrounding one of the nine essential skills, oral communication.

I think that oral communication is one of the essential skills that would traditionally be seen as a skill that has to be acquired in a face to face environment. It is, in fact, for that reason that I have decided that it would be a good skill to develop in an online setting. I would like to challenge myself to be innovative and creative with non-traditional approaches to learning oral communication that can be effective in the online environment.

As I read through the Downes article, I was even more motivated to take a topic that would traditionally be taught in a face-to-face environment. This article motivated me to challenge the traditional views on learning and recognize that the bottom line is that everyone learns differently. To that extent, when teaching essential skills to adults who have varied lived experiences, the fact that everyone learns differently is even more important to maintain at the forefront.

In addition, creating an online learning environment that permits the learner to cater their learning experiences helps facilitate the development of other essential skills like thinking skills, reading and computer use. I believe that giving the students the opportunity to explore will also help them identify their strengths and weaknesses. Downes states: “Ultimately if people are to become effective learners, they need to be able to learn on their own. They need to be able to find the resources they need, assemble their own curriculum, and forge their own learning path. They will not be able to rely on education providers, because their needs are too many and too varied.”

My vision for my prototype is that I create an online learning environment that has “lessons” or “content” that focuses on teaching oral communication and, in addition, embeds learning in the other essential skills into the content.

I took inspiration from perusing the UBC Flexible Learning Initiative. This is an initiative that I want to look into more. In particular, for my own work at the University. I found particular inspiration the recognition in the growing importance of personalization to learners. 

Finally, I have been motivated by the Bates chapter that challenged me to think about the following questions:

  • what kind of course or program should I be offering?
  • what factors should influence this decision?
  • what is the role of classroom teaching when students can now increasingly study most things online?
  • if the content is increasingly open and free, how does that affect my role as an instructor?
  • when should I create my own material and when should I use open resources?
  • should I open up my teaching to anyone, and if so, under what circumstances?

In answer to the first and second questions, I have decided to focus on the essential skills. Based on research,  over 50% of adults in Saskatchewan do not have the essential skills necessary to be successful in employment. If adult education targets essential skills development, the community, economy and job satisfaction of people with low essentials skills would improve.

I believe essential skills can and should be taught in an online environment because online learning and the ability to find information and learn online is an essential skill in itself. Encouraging students who need to improve their essentials skills in an online environment is, in itself, improving their skills.

There is an extensive amount of free content on essential skills and I aim to use free and open content in my course. This is important considering the audience will low skills likely do not have the financial resources to access paid content and I want the program to be as accessible as possible.

I am still working on some of the other questions. More to come!

Thanks for following along.

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