Tag Archives: e-learning

A Strong Backbone for your Course

Ever taught a course and wondered half way through where you’re going with it? Perhaps at the end you’ve been a little bemused as to where you came from? These thoughts might be particularly common with courses that you’ve adopted and didn’t design from the beginning. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this at the moment and I’ve decided that course alignment might be part of the problem and solution. Course alignment is when learning objectives are planned at the beginning, lessons and course materials are then designed to support learning towards these objectives, and finally assessment is used throughout the course in order to assess student learning (among other things). Course alignment is the backbone and gives structures to learning and teaching.

Learning objectives are essential as learning, content, materials, pedagogy, and assessment will all be guided to varying degrees by the objectives. Notice that learning is mentioned first because learning should be the center of the class. Teaching without learning is just plain egotistical. Learning objectives are the foundations to the course and must be understood by the teacher for further instructional design and also by the students to fully understand the learning journey they should be on (as opposed to the one they think they’re on). Learning objectives are crucial to online learning contexts when learning can be more learning can be individual and learners can feel more independent and, at times, isolated.

Content materials shouldn’t be chosen and materials or resources shouldn’t be prepared just because of the course’s name. This misguided practice can aid a teacher to stray too far from the learning objectives. Call me old school but activities, materials or resources used in lessons and learning that don’t meet learning objectives really shouldn’t be used in a course. Here with online learning, teachers may just throw up links on a CMS or pose questions on a discussion board for students to reflect upon. Whilst there may be room for this to a certain extent, if these aren’t going to help the learning process towards the objectives, then the teacher must evaluate it before assigning it to students.

Assessment. The rose petals or the rose thorn? If the learning objectives are aligned with the content, materials, and resources, then chances are you’ll have an easier time designing assessment. I’ve been thinking about course alignment ever since I started designing, planning and teaching a new course recently and my view of assessment changed. I no longer felt the thorns but looked past them to the petals. After deciding on my objectives, I almost thought of content and assessment simultaneously and I believe that there was a synergy between the learning that took place and the way I assessed that learning. I integrated principles and practices of blended learning into my new class and found that it was easier because of the alignment running through the course. I was constantly aware and reflecting on this alignment to ensure quality learning and teaching would be the result.

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A Reappropriation of Propaganda

a single microphone

Key Features

Podcasts are downloadable multimedia (audio or video) digital files made regularly for listeners. Anyone with a microphone and internet connection has the ability to make a podcast but Propaganda is software that easily produces quality podcasts. The biggest feature of Propaganda is the timeline which is intuitive and beneficial for extra quality productions. The layout of the panels ensures users can organise their clips and users can edit the sound levels, include transitions, add background effects or music, and split and edit clips. For pair or group projects, each clip can be labeled systematically so that multiple users can record and add clips into a single Propaganda file. When exporting, users can choose to save as an mp3 or upload directly to a website via FTP.

In 2010, it was reported that 45% or over 12 million American adults have watched or listened to a podcast (Webster, 2010) and it is estimated that between 34,000 – 100,000 people make podcasts to make their voice heard (Mahalo, n.d.). Very few people actually make them and in the academic world, I imagine that very few podcasts are student-made and it is professors who are posting lecture podcasts online.

Potential & Recommendation

Podcasts do offer agency to the user so teachers must decide with whom they want the agency to lie: teachers or students. Lazzari (2009) reports that students have competitive agency when they produce podcasts in higher education classes as they work harder towards producing podcasts that are perceivably better than their peers. It was also reported that students were engaged in and encouraged by podcasting and this resulted in social-constructivist learning as students effectively became teachers and their zone of proximal development was increased (Vygotsky, 1978).

These signs are certainly encouraging to the integration of podcasts projects but giving students free production reign, as Costello (2009) states in his theory of transactional control and argued above, is worthless without knowledge of how to use it.

Propaganda is only software and teachers must reflect carefully on the substance of a podcast; a podcast with weak content in terms of structure, organization and development is weak no matter the quality of the podcast (Keery, 2011). Therefore, making podcasts is not necessarily so far removed from the traditional written essay as the podcast still needs in-depth research and a script that is structured, organized and developed. From a social-constructivist viewpoint, listening to one podcast from a lecturer is limiting. Listening and experiencing a number of students’ podcasts will give more diverse opinions and information with which to make connections, reach unique conclusions, reformulate their knowledge, and reflect (Gould, 2005).

Costello, E. (2009, 27-28 August). Teaching and Participatory Media. Paper presented at the Fifth International Conference of the All-Ireland Society for Higher Education, Maynooth, Ireland.

Gould, J. S. (2005). A Constructivist Perspective on Teaching and Learning in the Language Arts In Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives, and Practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Keery, P. (2011, April 5). Good-bye Essay, Hello Podcast. Retrieved September 02, 2011 from http://dialogueonline.ca/goodbye-essay-hello-podcast-new-literacies-21st-century-skills-1482/1482/

Lazzari, M. (2009). Creative use of podcasting in higher education and its effect on competitive agency. Computer & Education, 52(1), 1-13.

Mahalo (n.d.). How many podcasts are in iTunes? Retrieved September 8, 2011 from http://www.mahalo.com/answers/how-many-podcasts-are-in-apple-itunes

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambrdige, MA: Harvard University Press.

Webster, T. (2010, December 13). The current state of podcasting. Retrieved September 8, 2011 from http://www.podcastingnews.com/content/2010/12/edison-state-of-podcasting-2010/

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Can Podcasting Play a Role in e-Learning? Part 2

The Action Research Series 02


This is the second blog post for the same action research project. See here for part 1. The survey investigated following two research questions:

What are the characteristics of student created educationally beneficial podcasts?

Could podcasting be one component in a course to reduce feelings of isolation in e-Learning?

This reflective blog will focus only on the use of podcasting as a media to reduce feelings of isolation.

Since the development of distance learning in higher education, a common problem has been a lack of social interaction among students and instructors and the resultant student feelings of isolation. McGettigan (1999) spoke of the need to reduce the isolative barrier that makes some students feel like second rate students; a course of action being instructor training in the use of information communication technologies. Lee and Chan (2007) that podcasting has potential to be one element used to reduce feelings of isolation and studies have shown students’ positive reactions towards building online learning/social communities who interact and engage (Croft, Dalton, & Grant, 2010; McInnerney & Roberts, 2004). It is my hypothesis that podcasting could be used as an engaging medium in which students actively interact with the course material, instructor(s) and students.

From the respondents (n=11), 64% felt that misunderstandings in communication and a lack of social contact and academic engagement with students and instructors contribute to feelings of isolation. Full-time or part-time employment was also considered a factor by 54%. However, only four indicated they had felt feelings of isolation during their e-Learning. These four respondents confirmed the above elements as factors but also generally responded that lack of university support, technical difficulties, poor structure of e-Learning and that students’ lack of experience with e-Learning could contribute towards feelings of isolation.

One hypothesis was that the text-based environment of typical e-Learning courses may have an impact on students’ feelings; a “death by document” that is commonly associated with a monoculture of text readings, text support and text communication (Sutton-Brady, Scott, Taylor, Carabetta, & Clark, 2009). However ten of the eleven respondents disagreed with this evaluative statement.

One respondent gave extensive feedback in the open-ended additional comments section which may summarise the results. As an educator, this respondent identifies that podcasting may have potential to be one beneficial medium through which to complete study and to diversify the learning experience through a different learning style. However, from a student’s perspective, some may experience podcasts as being uncomfortable or in a contrived way to interact synchronously online.

To decrease students’ feelings of isolation in e-Learning, podcasting may be one feature. Whilst these views are not indicative of all students, they do add to our understanding and can be used to guide further research.

My gratitude to those eleven who took my survey. Thank you.

Blogged Originally: October 8, 2011 http://www.digitalemerge.net/#/podcasting-in-e-learning-2/4556152588

Last Updated: October 8, 2011


Croft, N., Dalton, A., & Grant, M. (2010). Overcoming Isolation in Distance Learning: Building a Learning Community through Time and Space. Journal for Education in the Built Environment, 5(1), 27-64.

Holmes, B., & Gardner, J. (2006). e-Learning: Concepts and Practice. London: SAGE Publications.

Lee, M. J. W., & Chan, A. (2007). Reducing the effects of isolation and promoting inclusivity for distance learners through podcasting. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 8(1), 85-104.

McGettigan, T. (1999). Virtually Educated: Student Perspectives on the Distance Learning Experience. Radical Pedagogy, 1(2).

McInnerney, J. M., & Roberts, T. S. (2004). Online Learning: Social Interaction and the Creation of a Sense of Community. Educational Technology & Society, 7(3), 73-81.

Sutton-Brady, C., Scott, K. M., Taylor, L., Carabetta, G., & Clark, S. (2009). The value of using short-format podcasts to enhance learning and teaching. ALT-J, 17(3), 219-232.

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