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Introduction to Learning Technologies

Week 6 and Feeling the Crunch

(We had Week 5 off.) I'm feeling sorry for all those university students who work full time, many with families, and also attend classes full time. I was at the EDC conference last week (great time), and someone stated that research had shown that most students at her institution (U of Calgary?) are in that situation. Even with only three cats to consider at home, I'm finding it really difficult to keep up with this one course.

Time management and the ways we can support it in online courses has taken on huge proportions in my mind. And it takes extra effort to connect for collaboration (not a bad thing). Our collaboration paper is due this week. What will happen? To be continued . . .

Two Complemetary Events This Week

This is Week 4 of the TOOC. I'm also doing a weeklong Learning Design Challenge with Diane Laurillard—a compressed and focused event. We're using a tool called the Learning Designer that seems to have great potential as a hands-on reminder of design principles for a layperson (non-instructional designer) developing a course. Nice for designers, too. It helps focus attention on the basics.

Meanwhile, in the TOOC, trying to find time to connect with a potential collaborator via Skype. Really enjoyed the Google Hangout session with Virginia Tech instructor John Boyer, AKA the Plaid Avenger. (I like plaid, too ;)). We are also learning about how to use Skype and Google Hangout effectively as educators.

Comparing various Hangout events, I'd give John's two thumbs up. It's really important to have your technical game together for these things. I feel that money invested in a good technical support person is very well spent if you want to be an online educator. Things like using a hard connection instead of wireless and having a good microphone/headset can make a huge difference in the learner experience. These are the details that can support successful adoption of a technology by learners.


Thinking About Less Is More

I'm doing some blogging as part of a University of Saskatchewan TOOC (truly online open course), Introduction to Learning Technologies, from the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness  (January 21–April 15, 2014).

We are blogging, tweeting, posting in Google+, Facebooking, and subscribing to an RSS feed; some are also Skyping on the side, and we get email notices from our facilitator. Some participants have commented on the time it takes to check all of these venues. I can appreciate that since the course is about technologies, maximum exposure is appropriate. At the same time,  I think that in course design I'd want to be really selective in limiting the number of places learners have to go and also take great care in choosing the right tool for a given job.

The TOOC is well organized, but broad in scope. For myself as a full-time learning designer and part-time learner in this TOOC, I need to narrow the scope to a few personal objectives, e.g.:

  • learn how to use the Twitter back channels
  • connect with peers to practice collaborative writing
  • practice making helpful contributions to others' posts

The overarching objective is to gain experience that will help me advise faculty on using social media in course design.

I like the "less is more" approach to design because the Internet is so chaotic and we have so many different ways to access it; it seems to me that one of the most important things to convey as an educator is how to sort things out and focus attention in a way that promotes deeper learning. This is something I hope to explore in future blog posts.


Mary Pringle

Mary Pringle

Learning designer at Athabasca University
About me

I am a learning designer at Athabasca University, and I also do some online teaching/consulting.


  • Anonymous February 21, 2014 - 10:09am

    Hi Mary. Thanks for the heads up Learner Designer tool. Your first post made me think how I should set personal goals in this TOOC. I am wearing two hats (by the way I love your hat!) one as a TOOC student, and the other facilitating my own online course which is participating in this course as part of their assignments. Only time will tell how successful this merging experiment will succeed. I look forward to reading more about your thoughts and practices.

    - diane gusa

  • Anonymous February 24, 2014 - 12:39pm

    Hi Mary, The LD Challenge has interesting goal focus areas. I hope you'll share some of the design ideas as they evolve. About our TOOC, I see the various communication locations as options rather than 'need to go.' But as I've been practicing using open media I avoided in the past, I can verify experiencing the incoherence of the open net. The phrase "less is more" came to mind for me too! Getting clear on personal objectives is a good practical way for doing that. Like Diane, I appreciate that comment. 

    - donna desbiens

  • Anonymous February 28, 2014 - 9:52am

    Hi Mary,

    It's hard to keep up with courses while working! I was at EDC and heard some of the same discussion around the number of students working full-time while going to school (I heard it in the session from University of Lethbridge)--I forget the exact number, but it was extremely high! Definitely something to contemplate in course design. If our students are working, is it better for us to be offering blended elements to courses? Or do those elements just fill their schedules up even more?! Something to think about.

    Good luck on the collaborative paper!

    - Ryan



    - Ryan Banow

  • Anonymous March 1, 2014 - 10:20am

    Hi Mary,

    I did the ISW online in the fall and found the same learning came from it- to really consider why one would use a tool and to try it oneself before putting time/quantity/quality expectations on students. Experiential learning certainly gave me great insights into the use of technology.

    - emma