October 19, 2017

Online Learning and Personal Change: the Movie

Vancouver Community College organized a stimulating faculty development workshop in April called ‘Technology Trends and the Courage to Adapt’, about the challenge technology presents to instructors. This involved two presentations, one from Gary Poole, of UBC, who focused on personal issues in dealing with change, and one from me about the changes needed in post-secondary teaching.

The whole 90 minute session is now available on YouTube, in 15 minute ‘chunks’, from here.

Some of you have already downloaded my slides from this session under the heading of’Designing Online Learning for the 21st Century’. If you haven’t already got the slides and would like a copy after seeing the videos, send me an e-mail.


Technology isn’t letting up. In addition to new technologies outside the LMS, such as blogs, wikis, e-portfolios, and mobile learning, now LMSs are undergoing some radical changes. What does this mean for the faculty member? In this session, we look at a few of the more significant developments, in particular how some instructors have incorporated some of these technologies, and suggest some simple steps or strategies for instructors to be innovative without getting overwhelmed by the changes in technology. Put simply, change takes courage – to step outside our comfort zones, to risk the uncertain, and to embrace the unfamiliar with our students. In this session, we will look at why change can be difficult, both individually and institutionally, with the hope that we can approach change more constructively and thoughtfully.


Designing online learning for the 21st century

Quebec students demonstrating against higher tuition fees

This being the time of year when many Canadian post-secondary institutions offer faculty development opportunities, I have been busy the last two or three weeks giving lectures at the Université de Sherbrooke and Université Laval in Québec, and also at Vancouver Community College. Although the presentations have varied a little depending on the context, the main theme of my presentations has been fairly consistent.

A new paradigm for post-secondary teaching

I have been talking about how new web 2.0 technologies are beginning to change the dominant teaching model that has been around  in our post-secondary institutions for the last century and a half. The slides are available as pdf files, in both English and French. Because of the size of the files (31 MB), you will need to access them by Dropbox. Please send me an e-mail and I will give you access.

I provide below a short summary of the main points. The slides provide many examples drawn mainly from post-secondary institutions in British Columbia and Ontario.

Drivers of change

I suggest that there are several forces driving change:

  • a move to a system of mass higher education, that results in greater diversity of the student body, larger classes, and less funding per student
  • consequently higher fees which in turn drive students to part-time work and hence a need for more flexibility in access (this ‘driver’ was particularly pertinent in Québec, where massive student demonstrations and strikes against proposed increases in tuition were occurring while I was speaking)
  • the development of a knowledge-based society with a strong demand for what might be called 21st century skills
  • rapid technological development and adoption outside the academy.

Despite these changes though our campus-based teaching has changed very little, mainly adding new technologies such as lecture capture to the traditional model of teaching, thus increasing costs: we’ve added GPS and stereo sound to a horse and cart, but it’s still a horse and cart. Meanwhile, distance education has rapidly advanced, and is grabbing an increasing share of the post-secondary market.

The challenge then is for campus-based teaching. What is the best way to use the campus experience when students can learn mainly online? How can we make the best of both worlds as a teacher?

21st century skills

Although I don’t like the term, it is a handy way of describing the kind of skills that need to be embedded within a discipline area, if learners are to function effectively in 21st century society. I argue that these are not generic skills but skills that need to be directly adapted and integrated within a particular knowledge domain. For instance, problem solving in medicine is different from problem-solving in business. Skills require opportunities for practice and development. The core 21st century skill is knowledge management, the ability to find, evaluate, analyse and apply information, although almost as important is independent learning. These are skills that can be taught, or perhaps more accurately, facilitated.

A small design team contracted by Volkswagen

Changing technology

I described the following changes in technologies:

  • LMSs are changing, moving from a ‘course in a box’ to a loose collection of tools from which an instructor chooses (see: Why learning management systems are not going away)
  • examples of the use of the following:
    • WordPress, blogs, wikis and e-portfolios for learner-generated content;
    • video and audio to help learners move between the concrete and abstract and back again;
    • open educational resources, which challenge our conception of curriculum and ownership of content; and
    • virtual worlds.

Features of web 2.0

  • learner authoring and control
  • collaboration and sharing
  • collective intelligence
  • low cost, adaptable software
  • rich media
  • portability and mobility

Educational implications

  • learners have powerful tools
  • personalization and individualization of learning
  • open access, content, services
  • development of knowledge management skills
  • a power shift from instructors to learners

A new paradigm for learning: from e-learning 1.0 to 2.0

Stephen Downes’ articulation of e-learning 2.0:

  • learning managed by the learner
  • peer-to-peer collaboration
  • access to open content
  • learning demonstrated by online multimedia assignments (e.g. e-portfolios)
  • development of 21st century skills

© Tony Bates, 2012

Role of instructor

Three possible roles (at least):

  • none (Downes; Siemens): students are autonomous/self-directed
  • guide on the side
  • in control

What kind of course? How to decide

Four deciding factors:

  • teaching philosophy
  • students you want to reach
  • nature of subject matter
  • resources available

© Tony Bates, 2012

‘Advanced’ online course design

  • knowledge management
  • open content within a learning design
  • student-generated multimedia content
  • assessment by e-portfolios

Who decides what kind of course?

  • instructor; program team; senior management?
  • decisions at program level; a progression from dependent to independent to inter-dependent learning
  • could we design one course/program for all types of learners in various delivery modes?
  • what process/mechanisms does the institution have for making these decisions?


  • we know how to teach well online; follow best practice
  • however, we also need to innovate: incrementally and evaluate
  • innovation in teaching needs to be rewarded more
  • systematic training of both instructors and senior administrations is essential for success

Lastly, in all the institutions I went to the audience in general agreed that:

  • we are not teaching in ways that fully engage learners
  • instructors are not fully leveraging the potential of technology for teaching
  • instructors are not adequately trained or skilled in using technology for teaching.

There are clear signs though that the revolution is beginning to happen: vive la révolution!

Online course showcase for Vancouver area

The Justice Institute of BC and Vancouver Community College are co-hosting an online showcase for post-secondary institutions in the lower mainland to showcase their “best” online courses.

Where and when: November 30, 2011 | 9:00-3:30 p.m. JIBC Theatre, McBride Avenue, New Westminster, BC.

For this year’s showcase proposals are invited that focus on design decisions that are made because of the particular needs of students in the following categories:

1.  Accessibility:  Proposals are requested  that demonstrate design considerations of students with specific needs in terms of learning, mobility or physical challenges. Proposals that focus on design considerations that take into account student’s technological, geographic or life/work/education constraints are also invited.

2.  Mobile learning:  Proposals that demonstrate how we are designing in consideration of the growing space that mobile learning occupies in conjunction with or independent of desktop learning.

3.  Online courses in post-sec and beyond:  Proposals that demonstrate your “best” with a focus on design considerations made because of the particular needs of students.

Note. Proposals are also invited from the private training sector, non-profits, and NGOs to capture a broader range of students.

Proposal Submissions:  deadline November 15, 2011

Register to Attend (FREE!):  http://bit.ly/qbry2P 

Submit a Proposal:  http://bit.ly/nhVPUk

For more information go to: http://onlinecourseshowcase.wordpress.com/

I went to last year’s showcase and there were several presentations of really innovative and relevant applications of technology for teaching. Get your faculty/instructors to come if you can!

Innovative e-learning in the Vancouver area

I worry about the often negative tone of many of my posts. It was therefore a great pleasure to attend the joint Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) and Vancouver Community College (VCC) ‘Online showcase’ at JIBC in New Westminster, just south-east of the City of Vancouver, and see demonstrations of some great uses of e-learning for education and training.

The showcase provided an opportunity for local universities and colleges to demonstrate what they are doing regarding online learning. There were presentations from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, British Columbia Institute of Technology, University of British Columbia, JIBC, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and VCC. I wasn’t able to see all the presentations, so my apologies to those presenters that I missed.

JIBC: Emergency management

JIBC is a unique education and training institution, Canada’s leading public safety educator. It provides training for police, paramedics, prison staff, probation officers, and so forth. It is partly funded by a grant from the BC provincial government and student tuition fees, but most of its revenues comes from training contracts with its main clients. The JIBC offers a range of applied and academic programs that span the spectrum of safety – from prevention to response and recovery. The JIBC’s main campus is located in New Westminster, but regional campuses allow students to study closer to home. It has a long history of using technology for the content and delivery of its programs.

The JIBC’s Emergency Management Division offers over 50 courses in this area, covering topics such as Incident Command, Emergency Operations Centre, Exercise Design and more. The Winter Olympics in Vancouver provided a challenge in terms of emergency response preparation, involving over 20 municipalities, several local police forces and the RCMP, fire and ambulance services, the Canadian (and US) military, and a host of other agencies, depending on the nature of the eventual emergency.

Jerome Rodriguez and Rosamaria Fong gave a demonstration of the materials created not only for the formal courses in emergency management offered by JIBC, but also made publicly available over the Internet and through mobile technology, such as iPhones and iPads. These resources enable all services involved in emergency response to have common and shared information about procedures, contacts and terminology. Indeed, you can see these materials by logging in to My Emergency Management Resources. The mobile learning component was assisted by a grant of $130,000 for the Inukshuk Fund, but a condition was that the material must be open access.

The Emergency Division has created open access resources such as downloadable forms that need to be completed in emergency situations, short 2-3 minutes videos of the various functional units in an Incident Command System, interactive walk throughs of a virtual emergency scene (clicking on ‘bubbles’ around the scene describes the functions of each of the units represented by bubbles), and some short video news reels of accidents or incidents to be used in training exercises. Some of these materials can be repurposed – for instance, the fire in the virtual walk through below could be moved to a high rise building and the ‘bubbles’ reconfigured.

A virtual walk through of an emergency scene © JIBC, 2010

The Division also offers WCDM 2010 – an “Immersive Simulation Technology” Workshop. Although delivered in a classroom, the immersive simulations make use of technologies such as mock video newscasts, Blackberry messages, and plotting first responder movements into GIS-enabled smart-phones using Google Earth. None of these reseources replaces the formal training provided by the JIBC, but these are low-cost, open access materials that are now available for use by training organizations across North America.

JIBC: Corrections

The Corrections and Social Justice Division trains professionals who work with adult and youth offenders in institutional and community settings, to manage the risk they pose to the public. It also trains individuals who work with families going through separation and divorce.

Rob Chong emphasised in his presentation the importance of context in designing programs. Part of the mandate of his division is to train 500 probation officers and 1500 prison guards scattered across the province. To do this, the division uses a mix of online and face-to-face learning.

There are three elements to the courses: self-study, with learners interacting with Blackboard, JIBC’s LMS; guided learning, with learners interacting with an instructor; and cohort learning, with learners interacting with other learners. Learners generally access their materials in the workplace, in prisons and local probation offices.

One example he gave was of personal safety awareness training for probation officers. Short video clips are used of simulated/acted situations, and in a self-study mode, learners are asked for how they would respond to the situation. These posts are collected then the learners meet with their managers in local offices to discuss the scenarios. As well as Blackboard and video clips, 360 degree interactive images are used, so the whole context can be seen (for instance, the design of the reception area in a probation office to highlight security). Also used are Webinars via Adobe Connect, for instance for training in interview skills. The aim is to ensure that the design and delivery of the teaching matches the context in which the learning will take place.

UBC: Using social media in a formal course


One of the courses in UBC’s fully online Master in Educational Technology is ETEC 522, Ventures in Learning Technology, taught by David Vogt and David Porter. To enable students to understand the success of entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial ventures involving learning technologies, the course provides an online immersion in global learning technologies products, services and initiatives in public and commercial domains. ETEC 522 is delivered from a venture and market analysis perspective, with a particular focus on emerging markets and real-world ventures. Jeff Miller, the instructional designer for the course, gave a presentation on ‘Creating coherence with social media.’

Quite apart from the subject matter, there are a number of innovative elements in this course. First, even though UBC is the home of WebCT, this course does not use a learning management system, but WordPress and MediaWiki, because the students as much as the instructors are creating content. Second, student’s ‘final’ work is public. Their final assignment is a multimedia ‘pitch’ for an e-learning product, service or business. These ‘pitches’ may take the form of slide or video presentations. Some of the videos can be found on YouTube. (Jeff made the interesting comment that ‘universities should be like kindergartens: students’ work should be posted on the wall.’). The ‘open’ part of the course can be seen here.

One of the challenges Jeff mentioned is drawing the line between open and closed aspects of the teaching. Although the ‘scholarship’ is public, non-registered viewers can ‘see but not touch’. The interaction between instructors and students is private; the finished work is made public. Another challenge  is archiving students’ work in a secure way while enabling it to be used by new students in the current  version of the course. For instance, the course makes use of students’ work in earlier versions of the course. (I will be writing a review of a new book on ‘Content management in E-Learning’, which looks in detail at the question of content management in e-learning.)

It is clear that moving away from a learning management system offers lots of opportunities for student engagement and student generated content, but there are also challenges in ensuring coherence and the management of their workload. This course is truly dynamic, changing each year, and continually pushing the frontiers of e-learning.

UBC: Designing online courses in science for non-science students

All UBC Arts students must take at least six credits in science as part of the Bachelor of Arts. This results in large classes for a limited number of online science courses. Most popular are the courses in Earth and Ocean Sciences, some with over 200 students per course section. Each course will have a senior instructor, usually a tenured faculty member, supported by up to four teaching assistants (usually graduate students).

The design challenge is to create science courses for students with little or poor numeracy and quantitative skills for large online classes. Chris Crowley, Josefina Rosado and Sunah Cho from UBC’s Office of Learning Technology described how they used Flash 3D images and animations within Web CT Vista to help students understand the scientific principles that explain coastal upwelling in oceans.

The senior instructor role was identified as facilitator, stimulator, monitor, subject specialist, and evaluator.

Despite the value of using interactive graphics and simulations to improve understanding, I had many questions, both about the policy (good intention but can you really train someone in science in two one semester courses?) and the design. For instance can you teach science without an understanding of and experience in experimental design?

Emily Carr University of Art and Design: Science 202

Jane Slemon offers an interesting online version of a course also offered on campus called: Heart, Mind Health: Learning from the Human Body. This course offers comprehensive understanding of the shape and function of the organs of the human body and invites creative consideration to the metaphors relative to the body that abound in culture, language and design. She showed some of the outstanding student work inspired by their understanding of human biology, reflected in metaphors of asthma, dyslexia, autism, HIV, and other areas of human suffering.

Vancouver Community College

Karen Belfer presented on VCC’s online automotive collision repair course for unqualified apprentices in the work force. (Fewer than 50% complete full-time apprenticeship training in BC, resulting in large numbers of unqualified tradespeople in the BC workforce.)  VCC used to offer this program over seven weeks on campus, requiring 30 hours a week of class attendance. This caused many problems for both apprentices (who often lost wages and unemployment insurance and would have to travel to Vancouver) and employers, who had to manage without staff during this period. The course, which is 80% theory and 20% practice/hands-on), was redesigned for study over 16 weeks online (mainly while learners were at work) and the last two weeks full-time on campus in Vancouver. Here they are tested in their practical skills, and assessed on their knowledge.

Although VCC used its Moodle LMS for this course, it found apprentices are not prepared for large amounts of reading, so efforts were made to the use industry standard online content with a high graphics, video and audio content, and to reduce the amount of text through the use of audio, video clips, graphics and cartoons, with a good deal of online interaction with materials, such as moving online objects. This hybrid course has proved to be very successful, bot with employers and learners.

Some reflections on the showcase

1. I find such ‘show and tell’ sessions extremely valuable. They reflect what people are actually doing now, and you need to see what has been created and how the program works to fully evaluate it. Such sessions are also extremely valuable for showing faculty and instructors what is possible using learning technologies. Unfortunately, there were not many instructors present during this showcase, most being instructional designers.

2. The session also emphasised the value of having learning material publicly available. Open resources provide a good indication of the quality of the course or program. I think all institutions now offering hybrid or fully online courses should have ‘sample’ resources of each course on their course web sites, so potential students can be better informed about the courses they are having to make decisions about. Also, the open educational resources in both the Emergency Response and ETEC 522 courses are very different from the very didactic and lengthy OER’s offered by MIT, Carnegie Mellon and the Open University, or from meta-tagged learning objects, and hence, in my humble view, are very much more re-usable.

3. In almost all the cases, the course designers were ‘stretching’ the functions of an LMS, or, in one case, going outside it altogether. Flash animations and short video clips were evident in several of the cases. Video now is cheap and easy to make, and adds considerable value to courses, particularly where process or procedures need to be demonstrated or where authenticity is required for training purposes. LMSs are still useful for helping students and instructors to organize learning, but they need increasingly to accommodate more multimedia functions. The main limitation of LMSs is that they require time-consuming adaptations or additions and specialist multimedia staff if students are to freely create and organize their multimedia learning. However, going without an LMS and relying entirely on web 2.0 tools presents challenges in enabling both students and instructors to manage their work within a formal course structure.

4. These cases showed a mix of approaches to the design of courses, and emphasised in particular the importance of designing for the context of learning. The diversity of learners’ needs, and the wide range of technologies now available, challenges the idea of ‘standardized’ course design, such as the traditional ‘ADDIE’ model of course design. The most innovative of the cases (Emergency Response training and ETEC 522) both used very dynamic, almost ‘on-the-fly’ course design, taking advantage of learning opportunities, new technologies and changing contexts as they arose. Interestingly, though, these courses still used project management and instructional designers.

5. The only thing missing for me in these cases was some formal evaluation of their success, partly because they were often work in progress. It could be argued that building in evaluation from the start would slow down innovation, but if the ‘system’ is to change, it will be really important to have good data and information about the success or otherwise of such projects.

I would like to end by congratulating Tannis Morgan (JIBC) and Karen Belfer for organizing this showcase. It’s made me much more optimistic about the future of e-learning heading into a new year. I believe that BC Campus has recorded the showcase, and if so, I will let you know how to access this when it is ready.

For other excellent posts (well, theirs are excellent) on this showcase see Tannis Morgan’s:

Showcase Wrapup – Extended LMS

Showcase Wrapup-Instructional Design

and Leva Lee’s Online Course Showcase

Workshop: online course showcase in Vancouver (BC) area

The Justice Institute of British Columbia and Vancouver Community College are hosting a one day workshop on November 24, 2010 at the Justice Institute of BC in New Westminster.


The purpose of this event is to bring together post-secondaries in the lower mainland to showcase their “best” online courses.

Each institution has picked 1 or 2 examples of their best in one or more of the following categories (total 2 submissions/institution):

1. Best extended LMS: how do you extend your institutional LMS to create a well-designed online course? Or, do you have a best example of a course built outside of the LMS?

2. Instructional Design: show your course that is your most creative instructional design or addressed a challenging teaching and learning context problem.

The format

Each presentation is 20 minutes, with a collective 30 minute discussion at the end of each category. There will also be a final 30 minute discussion following the category sessions that focusses on what we saw from a design/look and feel perspective and its importance to instructional design. Refreshments and lunch will be provided.

If you’d like to attend the Online Showcase at the JIBC in person on November 24 2010, registration is open over here. Catering will be ordered on Nov 19, so cut off for registration is Nov.19 at NOON

For those of you outside of the lower mainland, there will  likely be some sort of webcasting/capturing of at least the presentation part of the showcase.

Want to know more?

More details (including a tentative schedule) can be obtained at http://onlinecourseshowcase.wordpress.com/event-schedule/