About a month ago I began moving materials into an online learning management platform called Schoology.com. If you have tuned in lately you would have read about it in previous posts on this site. Schoology is easy to use and quite simple, which helps a “newbie” feel confident right away. The course design in Google Tools Workshop is morphing into something more straightforward than its original design. The sheer act of creating the course helped my see where the design was cumbersome in its original layout so I consolidated the course work, which helps it flow better.
Challenges of Online Courses
The downside of creating an online course has been having to learn all about the shortcomings of the program at the same time as learning the nuances of pulling together a worthwhile course. I have discovered a few important things along the way. First, a skill based course can require a lot of background knowledge and learners may not realize what they are missing until they are knee-deep into the course. In a face to face course, the instructor would likely recognize what’s missing and bring the learner up to speed in real time. Not so with an online course. If the learners are missing prerequisite information, it will show in their frustration but the live instructor won’t know about it until the next face to face visit.
Next, what could be quickly taught in a face to face meeting may get lost when the learner has to rely on YouTube videos created by someone other than the instructor or the course creator. This can be especially challenging when the information the learner needs to know to be successful using the new skill is based on the environment in which it will be used. Unless the instructor/creator makes all the videos and resources, important information may be missed.
What’s Great about an Online Course
On the other hand, online courses that teach skills are very valuable to reluctant learners. This choice is especially helpful for teachers who lack skills but are among peers who are well versed in using technology. The online information helps the learner not only gain the skills, but do so without feeling inadequate. A blended learning course, which the Google Tools Workshop is designed to be offers a good balance for reluctant learners. They can work at their own pace and still receive the personal support they need.
The overall design of the course is described in the first half of the course post under the Projects tab called Assessments and Activities in Schoology. Below is a quick look at what will make up the second half of the course. Each week learners will also spend time with a support person learning and practicing, face to face. All weeks are designed with an instructions page and directions for using the remaining resources. Learners watch videos, presentations (where indicated), and follow up with an assessment.
Second Half of the Course
Week 4 Features and Functions in Google Drive
In week 4 learners will encounter explicit instructions on using different features within Google Drive. They begin with a short presentation and watch 8 minutes of a 20 minute video resource that walks through using parts of the Google Drive app. A large amount of time is focused on Google Drive in this course because it is the center of the Google Suite, from which many other application can be reached. A short assessment targets what learners must know to be successful as they move through the remaining weeks.
Week 5 Converting Files
Converting files is a catch-all phrase that encompasses moving information in and out of Google, including sharing it, so it can be used by others, and used outside of the Google platform. Because so much information is explained in this week, the content has been broken up into small, manageable pieces. Several older resources have been included. Google Tools have recently been redesigned however most of the video tutorials online are still showing the old format. Learners need to recognize that operations of Google Tools are the same even though the look of the platform has changed. Otherwise, they will struggle when using other learning resources.
Week 6 Sharing
Sharing documents is one of the most useful features of Google Tools. In this last week, learners will use resources to learn about several different methods for sharing document. The instructions for sharing have been mentioned a few times in earlier videos, but this week learners will actively share a document with the instructor. The spiral nature of instruction has been included intentionally in both the presentations and videos so learners can review and learn new information from week to week.