Every teacher who designs an online course goes through similar planning steps or tasks. A disciplinary process has developed over the past decade or two that provides structure to this planning – the process of instructional design. Various models have emerged that offer guidance to teachers involved in designing online instruction. The most common, even most popular model is called ADDIE, short for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.
The process covers the entire instructional design process, albeit, in a rather linear way.
The instructional designer identifies the gaps between the learner’s current knowledge, skills, and behaviors and the desired or intended outcomes. If planning to teach adults, it is important to consider experiential knowledge and how this can be utilized in the planned instructional materials. When planning for distance learning on the Internet,consideration of the learner’s level of computer expertise is also important. This is the time in the process to think about who your learners will be – their age range, their existent level of education, their accessibility and expertise, and the purpose of the instruction. Often concept maps and mind maps are used in this phase to outline the steps to take to progress to the design phase.
Learning objectives and outcomes, assessment processes, learning activities and content are planned. Objectives are usually set for three domains, popularly designed as cognitive(thinking), psychomotor (doing), and affective (being or attitudes) behaviors (Benjamin Bloom). Other considerations in this stage of the process include choosing activities that specifically capitalize on the nature of the online or distance environment. This includes the choice of media: if online, this can include the use of virtual journals, forums, chatrooms, quizzes, multimedia presentations, videos, audio and so on. Storyboards, human-computer interfaces, and instructional strategies are all ways that instructors can effectively plan this phase of the process.
The actual content components are developed for the online milieu,specifically designed to meet the learning objectives and encourage active learning whether the study is occurring through the Internet or via printed correspondence courses. Storyboards,detailed user interface design, multimedia element design continue in this phase. A detailed plan of action is applied to create a complete learning environment. All of the text, visuals,multimedia components of the instruction are created or collected. In essence, the course is prepared and finalized, ready for testing.
The content is put into action with real students within the learning environment. Expert educators incorporate adult learning and effective learning theory such as constructivism, self-directed learning, and metacognition into the instructional design to encourage high level learning and successful meeting of the specified learning objectives. This stage begins with any necessary preparation and training of the instructors, and field testing the learning environment for completeness, user-friendliness, and quality.
The developed content is evaluated for effectiveness in meeting the learning objectives and meeting the learners’ needs. Evaluation is done to determine both learner success and effectiveness of the actual designed content and process of instruction. Both formative and summative evaluation are necessary (of both the instructional content and the student’s achievement), and though this is considered the final step in the instructional design, it is best if done during each stage of the process.
“Because the nature of Dialogue is exploratory, its meaning and its methods continue to unfold. No firm rules can be laid down for conducting a Dialogue because its essence is learning, as part of an unfolding process of creative participation between peers.”
from “Dialogue – A Proposal” (1991).
Open and clear communication in learning is a key to success in the modern world. Dialogue, a strategy for promoting creative, high quality communication is becoming popular in distance learning. Dialogue can help your work group and class communicate in powerful and effective ways, putting you at the cutting edge of success.
The notion of using dialogue to create meaning and share ideas started back in the time of Socrates and Plato. Insights were shared with students using what is now called Socratic Dialogue. Modern day genius, David Bohm renewed an interest in dialogue and showed how it could boost our ability to communicate in the modern workplace and learning environment. Bohm proposed that people adopt an air of collective inquiry. This would help them to pay attention to the hidden motivations, assumptions, and beliefs of what people feel and think as they express themselves in conversation.
The word “dialogue” comes from two root words, “dia” meaning “through” and “logos” meaning”the word”. It gives an image of a flow of meaning that emerges as people share and truly listen to one another. Dialogue is unique from other group meeting conversations. Dialogue has no fixed agenda other than to support and create meaning and insight among the people talking.
Dialogue can transform communication within groups of people. It represents a new way to look at how groups of people think, make decisions and choices, and how they learn together. In contrast to discussion, which means “to break things down or apart,” dialogue tends to bring people together in new ways.
Certain communication skills are necessary to join in dialogue.
active, engaged listening
an open questioning technique of inquiry
sharing feelings, biases, assumptions
a relaxed and open attitude
no need to achieve a solution
a cohesive, equal power climate for all members
mutual respect and positive regard for all
Dialogue Creates Culture
One of the key results of active dialogue is the development of a bonded and supportive group culture. Culture always exists within any group, yet may contain division, competition and power struggles. A strong culture can be built by spending time in the exchange of words, metaphors,ideas, beliefs, values, points of view and self disclosure through dialogue.
The practice of dialogue or “the way of meaning” is a conscious activity. It requires openness,sensitivity, empathy, maturity, intelligence, and respect. It also requires a suspension of normal reactions to words and the willingness to listen to others without dismissing their view if it is different from our own.
Dialogue Supports Diversity
Dialogue is a tool uniquely suited to the support of the diversity in any group. Dialogue makes the differences between people clear without making them “wrong”. The rich talents, experiences and reflections of people are shared and valued as part of the uniqueness of the group. A strong culture and rich diversity are gold to modern organizations.
Dialogue is a way of talking together that can make a work or study group feel close to one another which supports positive group dynamics. Using dialogue can build a dynamic team and group togetherness, both very important for business and educational success in the 21st century.
National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation
A global organization dedicated to fostering dialogue between the earth’s citizens in the 21st century, available at: https://ncdd.org/
Education and the Dialogue of Humanity
Neil Phillipson offers a thoughtful overview of the importance of dialogic pedagogy in helping learners “to gain and make sense of knowledge, to appreciate its significance and relevance and to believe that they might have a role to play in its continued development. It will also enhance them as human beings, making them concerned and able to come to understand different perspectives and enabling them to engage in critical, caring, collaborative and creative dialogue with ‘the other’ in whatever form they encounter it.” Available at: http://21stcenturylearners.org.uk/?p=1105
There are several advantages to taking online courses and programs, including 24/7 access, flexibility, greater fluidity in combining school with work and family, and the potential for interaction and experiences with other students and teachers from all around the globe. Not to mention COVID-19!! But, as with anything else,there are also some drawbacks. Learners need to be keenly self-directed and independent, it is very easy to get distracted and not keep up with your studies, and some learners feel isolated and/or frustrated with using a computer or technology in general to learn.
There are some proven strategies that teachers (like myself) can share with learners to help make the online learning experience more enjoyable, manageable, and can support you to complete your course or program successfully. Here are a few suggestions that you may find useful as you undertake your online learning journey.
Set Up Your Computer
The first step in preparing yourself is to ensure your computer meets the requirements of the course. It is highly recommended that your computer is reliable, has plenty of hard drive space available, and can handle downloading files, video and audio recordings, and multiple windows can easily be open simultaneously without crashing or freezing the whole system. It is also very helpful to have a strong broadband connection. Life will be much much easier with this simple intervention. If you can afford to have your own private computer, all the better. There is nothing more nerve wracking than living in fear that your loved ones may erase or somehow damage your precious school files. If you can back up your folders and files in a cloud or other online drive – do so! As well, having a private, pleasant place to work on your computer also boosts your ability to study quietly and with as little distraction as possible.
Prepare your Course Files
The second step is to prepare your online workspace. First, make a special folder on your main computer drive (probably Drive C) and name it to match your course. If you are taking multiple courses, it is helpful to make a separate folder for each course. Then, make a similar folder in your email program to store emails from your instructor, classmates, or files you have sent to yourself (readings, references, etc.).
Prepare your Paper Files
Many students who take courses online like to have a hard copy of course materials, references, assignments, etc. Purchase some three ring binders and some computer paper (and ink) and a paper punch so you can easily and neatly store your printed materials.
Set Your Study Schedule
It is important to set some regular time for your course(s) and to resolve to stick to it. It can be very easy to be distracted. Within reason, refuse to let anything stand in your way. This may take some negotiation with family members, but if you are determined, usually loved ones will get used to the routine and may even help you to abide by it. The best way to choose this special time is to evaluate your current schedule and select, say, three two-hour blocks per course that fit into your weekly routine well. You also need to consider your own body and mental rhythms. What time of the day do you feel the brightest and most alert? For some, night time is the best time…for others, early morning is best. Or maybe for you, mid-afternoon is the high point of your energy cycle. Figure out when your most productive time is, then try to capitalize on this.
Participate in all Interactive Activities
You may find it a little intimidating at first, but it will really help your feeling of belonging, plus help you to learn the course content, if you make sure that you participate in all scheduled or assigned forums, journals, chats, email discussions and other interactive activities. Do not hesitate to interact with your instructor as well – they are there to facilitate your learning. A good instructor will encourage student participation and individual interaction.
Organize your Work
Even if the course you are taking is self-paced, try to do some work every week. If the course is based on weekly assignments and activities, resolve to keep up. Learn to deal with procrastination so that you don’t fall behind in your readings, interactive activities, weekly assignments, or studying for tests and exams. It helps to have an online or book journal organizer and to record your goals for each week in it. Remember to write or type out due dates, exam dates, etc. so that you avoid a mad dash to get things done. This will help you to feel both control and enjoyment as you move through the material.
All of these strategies will help you to move through your online course with confidence, and to enjoy the journey. And again, remember your teacher is your guide – don’t ever be afraid to approach them with questions, and requests for directions or clarification. You have invested in this course experience, and have the right to ask for help or support. Happy Learning!
ePortfolios are versatile platforms that support nursing education in a variety of ways. ePortfolios can be used as assessment, credential, learning and showcase spaces where artifacts can be collected to produce an impressive body of work by the time students finish their degree. These artifacts can include aesthetic creative work, practice journals, case study analyses, and other assigned work. “The contents are selected, recorded, organised and presented in a meaningful way over time, to be used by the student in their reflective considerations, with tutors and peers where appropriate, and as a means for presenting themselves with greater depth and individual richness to others (e.g. research funders, potential employers). It is a place for constructing and telling myriad stories to diverse audiences” (O’Toole, 2013, p. 3).
ePortfolios reinforce professional development, by helping students learn to use their profiles, resumes, achievements, and artifacts to promote nursing competencies and demonstrate life-long learning. Nurses are expected to engage in personal and professional development on an annual basis as part of licensure maintenance and renewal. The interface provides valuable practice to enable this ability post-graduation. Students have commented that seeing their work develop over each semester has given them a deeper appreciation of what they have learned and how they have developed over time. This awareness is invaluable for current and life-long learning.
PebblePad offers software capabilities that reinforce the importance of ePortfolios in the educational e-scape through its versatile “Learning Journey Platform” interface. A long list of features has been defined including:
Portfolio tools support the ability for any user to create beautiful, shareable portfolios to showcase experience, skills and capability.
In-built templates support the capture of (and reflection on) experiences as they happen, promoting lifelong and life-wide learning.
Fully customisable templates and workbooks support the creation and ongoing management of fit for purpose frameworks. Typical uses range from the creation of workbooks to support placement through to the rollout of entire onboarding and competency frameworks.
Open standards and an integrated platform make it easy for organisations to put PebblePad at the heart of a learning culture and offer a range of authentication methods. Individual users benefit from greater flexibility with out of the box integration with third-party applications and single-sign-on.
Any time, any device working makes it easy for learners to record their experiences and reflections on any device – even when they’re offline.
Assessment and feedback are fully supported through PebblePad’s seamlessly integrated assessment engine, ATLAS. The platform facilitates timely feedback and conversations, as well as a host of clever tools to support formative and summative assessment, including integrated rubrics, feedback templates, scorecards, peer review, multi-level approvals and much more.
Comprehensive support from a dedicated team of experts that has successfully supported hundreds of customer implementations – combined with reliable and cloud-hosted software – is a sure-fire way to guarantee a successful implementation, no matter what the scale of use. (PebblePad Learning, 2019, p. 2).
Adding Structure to PebblePad
The creation of an ePortfolio for nursing takes some thought and planning. Nursing students can learn to structure their ePortfolios into a cohesive layout to facilitate grading and interchange with faculty. The beauty of PebblePad allows learners to nest portfolios within portfolios and add pages, blogs, and other assets to any of these layers. A good way to begin is to create a primary ePortfolio as a central hub then nest sub ePortfolios within it, one for each semester of a program. Figure 1 displays an example of a structure implemented for undergraduate degree students in an eight-semester program.
Students first create an initial Portfolio by clicking a button in PebblePad called “Create a Portfolio”. Everything uploaded or created in the PebblePad space is called an Asset and is visible in a student’s Asset “store”. Students are guided to name all of their Assets concisely, wisely and meaningfully so they know what they are at a glance since they will store many over time. For instance, they save this first portfolio as “My Primary ePortfolio”.
The first page of the Primary ePortfolio is the student’s Profile page. They begin to customize this Profile page by first setting up the Banner. To truly personalize this main entry page to the ePortfolio, they are told to find or snap a photograph of something or somewhere that is meaningful to them and change the default banner image to their own image. Then, they change the title of the banner to “My Primary ePortfolio” and their secondary header to their name (Figure 2).
Students begin to build their Profile by adding information about their self. The first asset they add is a Quick Snapshot description of who they are accompanied by a head shot photograph. It is easy to add text boxes, images, videos and other assets to their page. The PebblePad system features drag and drop features to add assets and also drag them around the page for final organization. The interface gives a Word-like text editor ribbon along the top as they work with text, add links, centre content, and so on. Students pick up how to use the system quickly since it uses layouts and functions that they are familiar with from using other common software and social media. The students flesh out their profile page by adding more content below their initial snapshot. This can be anything they wish to share such as awards, recognition, showcasing a hobby or an ideal or particular viewpoint. The PebblePad interface allows them to also add quotes they like as assets that are showcased attractively on the page.
Certificates Display Page
Students can also add a second page to their Primary ePortfolio to showcase their practice related certificates such as CPR and First Aid for their practice instructors in all semesters to easily see. PebblePad makes this easy – they simply click the small + tab to the right of their Introduction tab along the top of the main banner then select “Add a new page here”. They gather the certificates they have on hand, scan them if necessary or take a high quality photograph of each one with a camera or tablet to have a digital copy and then display them in a gallery-like format. As they earn other certificates within courses from various health regions, students add them to this certificate page. This gives a handy way for students to prove they are ready to practice each semester, rather than having to carry paper copies to practice to show to their practice faculty. Students can easily share this page with each of their practice instructors in all semesters (Figure 3). A full example of a Certificate Page can be viewed by clicking this link.
Adding Semester Learning Spaces
The easiest way to add clustered space for each semester is to create a separate Portfolio for each of them that is added as an asset to the Primary ePortfolio. To do this, students follow the same process they used to create their initial Primary ePortfolio and save each one as a semester such as “Semester 1”. They name the front page of each sub portfolio accordingly as “Semester 1 ePortfolio” with their name as subtitle, rename the first page as “Overview” in the top tabs and add an introduction to the courses within it and a link to their Certificate page. They then add a page for each semester course they are enrolled in. When done, each of these semester sub ePortfolios are easily added to the Primary ePortfolio which lists them neatly as tabs along the top of the main banner as well as in a side menu for easy navigation. This makes it very easy for faculty to find the right page to view when grading course work and allows the student to reflect on their work throughout the program.
PebblePad as Reflection Space
“ePortfolios are not a thing, although we often speak of them in such manner. They are variously, a pedagogy, a curriculum, and a way of thinking, of knowing, and a mindset” (Rhodes, 2018, p. 87). In nursing education, PebblePad and other ePortfolio software are often used as reflection spaces, artifact repositories, and personal learning spaces.
PebblePad allows students to easily add blogs as assets to use as a classic blog or as a course journal. A blog is used because it allows consecutive entries that are time stamped and chronological and provides an aesthetic landscape for reflection and critical thinking. “Blogs are perfect for recording any time based or ongoing activity such as a project or a placement. Blogs are made up of posts or other records and these are displayed in chronological order” (PebblePad, n.d.). The students can add a blog as an asset in any of the semester sub Portfolios so that it is clearly visible in the navigation structure (Figure 4).
PebblePad can also be used for practice and theory related reflection. Praxis is a key component of most practice courses in nursing programs, where students practice with clients or in labs to master nursing skills, then engage in reflection-on-action, reflection-in-action, and reflection-for-action with their fellow classmates and faculty instructor. Dialogic journals are used frequently within the ePortfolio to encourage critical and meaningful reflection by students and responded to by faculty to encourage praxis reflection.
PebblePad also provides an accessible and permanent space for students to reflect on work they have done using other technological layers, such as tablets and apps or in SIMs lab practice. For instance, students can begin to use nutrition and fitness apps on their tablets in early semesters, then reflect on their progress over time on their PebblePad course page.
The blog and journaling capabilities also foster reflection by allowing users to easily write their thoughts, respond to assignments, share their experiences, and generally reflect on their personal and/or professional development. Privacy settings allow full control over each individual page and asset thus users can determine who they wish to share their ePortfolio with. Sharing ranges from full public view to self only access. Permissions are easily modified at any time, so the user has full control over their ePortfolio.
PebblePad as Repository
PebblePad serves as a file repository in a very user-friendly and sophisticated way. Pages are easily created, organized into sub Portfolios, and populated using an upload then drag and drop approach to organize the various sections on each page. Each uploaded document, image, video and so on has its own special compartment that can be easily shifted and dragged around the page to reorganize content.
These characteristics cater to users with a range of technical know-how: from a beginner who needs easy to use drag and drop, to the experienced developer who wishes to customize how content appears by coding individual compartments with html.
PebblePad as Personal Learning Space
PebblePad provides the tools to support reflective and personalized learning for students or expression for practicing professionals. Users can decide whether they want to write a journal or blog that is easily showcased on any page in their ePortfolio and shared with whomever they wish. It provides excellent tools to showcase one’s resume and personal /professional profile that can be shared with teachers, existing or potential employers, or even licencing bodies.
PebblePad offers lots of support for creative as well as scholarly and professional work. Galleries of images, photographs, and other artwork are easily displayed, complete with headings and descriptions. Writing can be displayed, entered directly as text or displayed as uploaded files (for instance, as pdfs, Word, or Open Office documents) or as links to writings on other web sites. Assignments can also be uploaded (and marked) within PebblePad pages. Over the semester, each page blossoms into a living testament and medium to showcase their work and engage with their instructor and fellow students.
PebblePad is an evolving ePortfolio system that is both engaging and beautiful. The finished product is very professional looking, it is user-friendly, and easily structured for compact, yet comprehensive showcasing of student work and learning (Figure 5).
O’Toole, Robert (2013) A report on e-portfolios: design features, uses, benefits, examples & emerging trends. Working Paper. University of Warwick, Coventry, UK: University of Warwick. (Unpublished). http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/54586