So today and tomorrow Randy LaBonte and I am attending the Bring IT Together 2015 conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  While this is a general educational technology conference, with a provincial focus here on Ontario, we did want to blog some of the online and blended learning sessions for members of the CANeLearn.

The first session that we are blogging is:

eLearning Can Be Awesome!

by Tim Robinson and Peter Anello

You’re an eLearning teacher, you’re getting more comfortable with using an LMS with your students, but you’re feeling that the course isn’t as engaging as you’d like it to be. You feel a strong desire to take your eLearning teaching skills to the next level so that your eLearning courses can be an amazing learning experience for your students. This session will help by sharing seven key ideas to improving your eLearning practice, as well as providing an opportunity for eLearning teachers to share their insights and discoveries with each other.

This session was presented by Tim Robinson, someone who was one of the district eLearning specialists in Northern Ontario.

At the beginning of his session, he reminded us that great elearning teachers are not born…  Teaching in an elearning environment is something that needs to be practiced, worked on, and can be developed over time.

The other point he wanted up front was that elearning began as a way to solve logistical needs (e.g., how do we get certain courses for certain students).  But now it is a far more potentially powerful way to address unique student needs.

He focused his session around 7 ways to improve your elearning teaching.

  1. Believe that elearning can be awesome.  Basically, teachers need to believe that elearning is a positive way for students to learn – as opposed to approaching it as a necessity or something that is a last resort.
  2. Build, foster, create, and encourage community.  While this is important in any educational context, within the elearning environment it is critical – maybe even more important than the content itself.  Tim referenced a quote from Garrison about the importance of social presence.  In order to accomplish this community, elearning teachers MUST humanize themselves (including not being so serious all of the time).  Humanizing one’s self as a teacher, also models it for the students on how they can project their own social presence.  One strategy for doing this is to keep a file on student interests.  Another strategy is to notice which students don’t participate in the early – more social – kinds of activities, as this is usually a warning sign that students might not engage in elearning.  While collaboration can be more challenging in an elearning environment, it does foster greater learning through social constructivism.  Finally, remember that the human dynamics are still present in the elearning environment, they’re just harder for teachers to pick up on. 
    [Note that the length of notes on this one is due to the fact that Tim spent over twenty minutes on this one.]
  3. Take control of your content.  In Ontario, most of the teachers are using elearning content that is provided to them by eLearning Ontario.  So elearning teachers need to take control of how students interact with this canned content to personalize it (and not personalize in the US, neo-liberal sense), but elearning teachers can edit the canned content, have students spend more or less time on each portion of the content based on their content expertise (in much the same way that teachers traditionally use more or less of the textbook based on what they know about the course), etc..
    [Note that he also spent eight minutes on this one, meaning Tim only had eight minutes for the final four points.]
  4. Center learning on students.  While the LMS can be limiting and the content is often canned, it is important to give students some control over their learning.  One strategy for accomplishing this is to allow students to design their own assessment that meets the same objectives/requirements of the rubric.  Another strategy is to get feedback from students.
  5. Create your own digital classroom space.  The idea behind this is that the structure – and clunkiness if you will – disappears and the learning environment is seamless or intuitive.  LMSes often limit this, but the more you can try this, the better. One strategy to use is to incorporate more whitespace in the page, (i.e., not to clutter things up).  Basically, does the text or image or learning object add to the understanding or use of the content.
  6. Try these tips.  This was where he basically asked the audience for additional tips – but there was no time for this.
  7. Connect with other elearning teachers.  Essentially, network and build a community of others who are doing what you are doing.

This was basically it…

This entry has been crossposted at
https://virtualschooling.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/bit-2015-elearning-can-be-awesome/