The past nine weeks have been busy… really busy… and stressful; to say the least. I recently completed my third MALAT course; Program Planning and learned a lot about the process of creating a program plan for adult learners. I used Caffarella and Daffron’s (2013) interactive model as a guide for developing a TML program plan and read Bates and Sangrá’s (2011) Managing Technology in Higher Education as a reference for examining strategies and actions that support the integration of technology into universities and colleges. I ended up creating my own Technology Mediated Learning (TML) program plan for an open source blended certificate called the Open Source Technology (OST) Web & Mobile Development program. As I learned how to integrate TML within an adult learning environment, there were many valuable lessons that I learned such as structuring program goals and learning objectives, systems of power, marketing and critical success factors.
In my mind, one of the biggest things I’ve learned about program planning is that it’s all about the people.
For example, I learned that stakeholders who are either directly or indirectly involved in the development of a program plan can have a positive or negative influence on the program outcomes and experiences of learners, educators and organizations (Beard, 2003; Cervero & Wilson, 1996, 1998, 2006). Everyone involved—from the board of governors to external industry partners—play an important role in providing a quality learning experience and environment that suites the needs of the learner… But, enough about that. I won’t bore you with what I’ve learned academically. However, I’d like to share my perspectives on what I’ve learned about myself over the past nine weeks and insights on what I thought were important takeaways during the course.
Infrastructure is Important.
I remember the day Moodle went down… it was like reliving the Blackout of 2003. Since our program is centred around education and technology, there is an emphasis placed on the importance of accessibility and infrastructure when it comes to connectivity and the availability of technology to all parties involved in education. To create a successful program for online mediation there has to be a solid foundation of support and technological infrastructure that allows learners to gain access to resources and information at all times regardless of location, time and other external factors. In the digital age, we rely on our devices and trust in the stability of an internet connection to be available at all times. When we lose access to either of these, we seem to lose our senses. During the course, we were scheduled to have an online collaboration meeting and our Learning Management System (LMS) went down. Everyone was scrambling to find a fix and went into a panic because there was a sense of being lost or disconnected from everyone who could help them in their time of need. I started to wonder if something like this happened during the delivery of a synchronous lesson, MOOC or paid webinar/informative session, what would be the impact on the learner, educator and institution? A poor infrastructure could lead to a poor experience for the learner and could have a dramatic affect on their learning outcomes and the goals of the program.
Should I Use SAMR, TPAK, or The SECTIONS Model for My TML Program?
Yup, I was asked this question. I was confused at first as well. I thought the whole point of the course was to create a program plan that integrated technology. I didn’t know I neded to justify a requirement. Defining program planning and identifying the stakeholders for my program was the easiest part of the course. It was almost common sense at some points. Once we got into developing strategies for utilizing Technology Mediated Learning (TML) within our program plans and researching the finer details that would help make our plans successful, the course began to get challenging.
Planning for a TML program should consider the intended audience and incorporate technologies that fit the needs and skill levels of their participants.”
— Cafarella and Daffron, 2013
Understanding your audience is key in creating a solid program plan. Knowing who your intended learner is allows program planners to identify the needs of the learner and identifies what the main objectives and goals for the program should be. Along with knowing who the intended learner of my program was, I had to discover how they would benefit from learning in a TML environment. Where would they go to access internal or external support and what roles would the institutions hierarchy of power play in providing these contextual factors? The contextual factors that are taken into account for TML appropriation within a program are the human element, the organization, and the external factors of the wider environment (Caffarella & Daffron, 2013).
Along with discerning our contextual factors, we also had to discover various approaches for delivering a TML program such as the SAMR model, SECTIONS and TPAK (Puentedura, 2009; Bates & Sangrá, 2011, Koehler & Mishra, 2006). I decided on a method that best suited my program plans goals and outcomes. The model that I gravitated towards the most was the SAMR model by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. I personally liked the model because I was familiar with it. Although, my familiarity was more indirect, I found that I had inherently been applying this model within my own classes over the years. However, there were parts of the SECTIONS model that I incorporated within my program plan.
SAMR Model Exemplar:
The SAMR model is geared towards helping teachers develop transformational learning with the aid of technology. An example of using the SAMR model would be if a science teacher asks his or her students to write a paper on space exploration.
- Substitution: Using Google Docs instead of traditional pen and paper methods for writing.
- Augmentation: Students can use Google Doc’s features to format their document, check spelling errors or use text-to-speech functions to improve legibility and efficiency in writing.
- Modification: Students can use Google Docs to share, collaborate and receive feedback on their paper from instructors and peers in real-time.
- Redefinition: Students can post their paper to a blog while sharing their information and making connections through social networks with the aid of various multimedia formats.
Moodle and Oodles of Posts.
184 unread posts! Within the blink of an eye our discussion boards would blow up. Just when I thought I’d caught up to everyone’s posts and replies, I’d wake up the next morning to an alert saying “72 unread posts.” There was no way I could view all of those posts and it seemed like a daunting task to even start replying. With the majority of my degree program being instructed online, I had to keep up with discussion forums, posts and replies to various topics from my instructors and peers. I have to admit it was pretty stressful trying to keep up. On a brighter note, during the course we were placed in groups to complete various assignments and smaller group discussions. I enjoyed being in a small group environment as it helped me learn at a greater pace and gain interesting perspectives from my peers. I enjoyed being in a group dynamic and the group discussions were engaging and insightful. Plus, I met and worked with some really great people. 🙂
Keep Calm… Don’t Panic, Procrastinate.
Having to juggle between researching and writing a paper while maintaining group obligations was not an easy task. I did have trouble keeping an even balance between work and school, but I managed to pull through, once again. There were some days that I had to force myself to take a break to keep my sanity. I started this course off with a full plate. I began teaching a full course load again in September, I had freelance projects that needed to be completed, began moving into a new home and also had family obligations to keep. This was definitely not a time that I could afford to procrastinate. However, I did. I took a few days off throughout the middle of the course to synthesize what I was learning. I had to take in how these lessons applied to my work and what it meant to my future goals within education and technology. It seems like the courses are going by so fast and I never really get time to sit back and soak in what I’m learning. I realized that it’s better to set aside small time blocks each day to complete my school work rather than trying to cram everything into one or two days during the weekend.
Work Hard, Play Harder.
There were many days I spent locked up in my room or at a library studying, reading or writing drafts of my final paper. I knew my social life and personal hobbies would take a hit while taking this program but having a balance is what I would prefer. I’ve recently developed a schedule that allows me to get my work done and still maintain some sort of a social life. I started to go for my regular morning jogs, then go to work and come home early enough to get my lesson plans done for the next day. In the evenings, I dedicate my time to my family and then read a chapter or two before going to bed at night. I also reserve a few hours each weekend for completing assignments and take time out for other activities. Being able to maintain a consistent balance between home, work and school is really important to me. Even though it might seem difficult, I don’t think I would be as productive without maintaining that balance.
Strength = Success. Not Weakness.
Now that the course is over, I feel really confident about what I’ve learned and I look forward to applying my knowledge in my role as an instructor and program lead/coordinator. However, not everything went smoothly during the course; I mean, why would it? There were many obstacles, time constraints and mishaps that I encountered and had to overcome. However, that’s what makes this learning experience so valuable for me. After each course, I come away with a greater sense of how far I can push myself beyond my threshold. Overall, I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished so far in the MALAT program and I can’t wait to begin my next course, LRNT 504 — Instructional Design (iD). Instructional Design is a field that I always wanted to get into and was one of the reasons behind choosing the MALAT program. After a week off in between courses, I’m ready and excited to begin learning all about instructional design and I look forward to the challenges ahead… So, bring it on 504! 💪
Update: I Got an ‘A’ on My Final Paper! 💯
Bates, A. W., & Sangrà, A. (2011). Managing technology in higher education: Strategies for transforming teaching and learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=K1VUa1q815sC
Caffarella, R.S., & Daffron, S. (2013). Planning programs for adult learners: A practical guide. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=a9ZtL6aJfvsC
Koehler M. J., Mishra P., & Cain, W. (2013). What Is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)?. Journal Of Education, 193(3), 13-19.
Naughton, J. (1984). Chapter 3: An overview of the Checkland methodology. In Soft Systems Analysis: An Introductory Guide (pp. 17-47). Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Reprinted by Athabasca University.
Puentedura, R. R., (2009). Learning, technology, and the SAMR Model: Goals, processes, and practice. Retrieved from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/learningtechnologySAMRModel.pdf.
SECTIONS (Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, UBC (n.d.).