Reflection paper

I have been teaching and designing training for students for over 25 years. And even so, this series of courses I’m taking @ UW-Stout has given me a background framework that has proved invaluable to my growth as a professional. My formal education wasn’t in teaching, however, that’s where I found myself. I took a job in an elementary school computer lab at a progressive school district near where I lived. Since there was no official NYS curriculum in computers and technology at that time, I was tasked with teaching K-6 students a computer curriculum that I helped develop in collaboration with the High School business and technology teachers. We backward designed a curriculum for K-6 teaching students everything from word processing to spreadsheets, databases, powerpoint, hypercard applications, painting and drawing programs, keyboarding, etc that would prepare them for the skills and applications that they would encounter later in their public schooling. Almost all of the lessons were designed and taught by me, learning as I went how to deliver the information and assess the learning.

I learned a great deal about how students learn, how to motivate them and how to design and deliver training. That being said, I didn’t have the formal theory and research behind me, so when I began working at a university the lack of formal knowledge became more important. No longer were the students required to be in my classes, now I found myself having to learn about my potential learners, understand their motivation and make sure they had the opportunity to discover the value of the content, practice it’s utility and apply it in their own lives to be effective.

The RLO in this unit will replace a 30-min face-2-face session where I introduced the various utility applications, explaining problems they solve, and differentiating the key features that make them valuable in the lab. This enables the students to absorb the materials at their own pace, practice with a matching quiz until they have memorized the content and then applied that information in three scenario-based situations. The module can be completed more than once until mastery is attained. It’s not graded, but is meant to be a self-paced module for the students to guide their own learning.

The RLO will use direct instruction to introduce 6 utility programs frequently used in the DLMC along with their primary function and suggested use cases. Each slide will include the name, location, unique or primary function and one or two examples for when it’s recommended. After the 6 slides, there will be practice with matching the utility to the primary function. Feedback will be presented to students to encourage completion and retrial, if necessary. Multiple attempts will be allowed until student can properly match all 6. After the matching quiz, there will be 3 scenarios offered for the students to apply what they’ve learned with feedback.

Design considerations included the amount of information that the students needed to know to be able to answer the questions that the students brought to the lab. It is not necessary to know each and every function of these utility apps, we can never be experts in every aspect of a program. Technology changes so rapidly and we are in a fairly specialized situation in our lab. I have had 6 years of experience with student’s digital media projects, I have gotten feedback and input from the students over the years on what issues they have faced and what questions keep recurring. That is what this module was designed to address. The colors, number of slides, appropriate graphics all were intended to deliver specific differences so that students would learn the best tool for a few, very specific situations. Special attention was paid to cognitive load theory to ensure that extraneous information was omitted and graphics and narrations were in simple, easy to understand language - no technical jargon. I also included narration of all the content, with optional navigation buttons if folks chose to read the content instead of listening to it. In addition to the narration, I included alt-text for the graphics and multiple ways to navigate the module - giving the learner the ability to drive their learning and skip over the parts they felt comfortable with.

Using Horton’s model of different activities: absorb, do and connect - I designed the materials so that students could review the content as many times as they felt necessary before determining when they would be quizzed on it. I gave them time to practice matching the utility to its key feature with low stakes (no grades) quizzes and included 3 separate scenarios that occur each and every semester in the lab. I also cited specific situations where these applications might be necessary, making those connections for the new staff who may not have faced these situations personally.

I found the usability test valuable because after engaging with the RLO over time, I really wasn’t seeing it with fresh eyes like my partner was able to do. I think the feedback he gave me not only allowed me the opportunity to polish up the rough edges, it gave me a great overview to evaluate the decisions I’d made and make sure that the module was doing the job I had designed it to do.

While I have found the entire series of courses valuable, this particular course on Designing Computer-based Training has been impactful for my work. I am responsible for a Digital Media lab on a liberal arts campus and that covers not only hiring, training and supervising the student workers, but designing the teaching of the various programs that we use for academic assignments. My past practice has been to maintain a website with documentation that I change out frequently, have handouts in the lab, booklets in the lab and online for students working remotely, video tutorials, etc. to cover different preferences of learning by my students. While I’ve used Camtasia extensively for both formal tutorials as well as quick, down and dirty -- Hey I ran out of time to show you this . . . . . videos, creating RLO wasn’t something I had any experience with. I have alway put lots of help out there, but really didn’t have a way to measure its effectiveness or the students’ grasp of the content or techniques. After taking this course and designing this small module to replace just one small piece of my instruction, I am so energized to evaluate the other content to see what can be chunked, packaged, repackaged and explore different ways to perform knowledge checks for the students. Offering this content in synchronous f2f workshops is great, but having modules you can delivery online for students to work through prior to the workshop, or review with after the workshop and especially the ability to offer various ways for them to test themselves so that they can determine their mastery level and need for more follow up is a very different model than I have been used to.

I can truly say that my teaching has been re-energized and I can’t wait to explore other tools and further explore Adobe Captivate to see how I can incorporate more modules like this RLO into my practice here at Colgate University.