Training Educators to Design and Develop ODL Materials/Methods of Delivery/Various Kinds of ODL Materials
In ODL the learner depends on the adequacy, reliability and accessibility of learning informational resources. As distance educators you should be competent and committed in compiling and delivering the course information to the distance learner at the right place and time. Planning and deciding on delivery methods and the resources required to support the delivery of a course is a crucial factor. What are these methods of deivery? As distance educators we need to carefully decide on appropriate methods of delivery. The following methods of delivery are used by ODL institutions. We need to assess each one and decide how useful it is to the delivery of ODL courses.
Print - Print-based courses, or 'correspondence courses' are perhaps the oldest delivery method for distance education courses, having been available to students and learners for well over 100 years. Print courses are usually delivered via the mail, but some also have email or fax options to enhance communication between student and instructor. The more traditional print courses are provided entirely on paper.Printed course book, course guide, letters, comments on assignments are some examples.
Advantages of Print Materials
- Extremely portable.
- Print materials can be used in any location.
- High comfort level.
- Most students are very comfortable using print materials to learn.
- Cost effective.
- Print materials can be created and duplicated with little expense.
- Readily available.
Disadvantages of Print Materials
- No interactions.
- Print materials do not generally provide built-in interactions. Additional technologies, such as e-mail, must be supplemented.
- No audio/visual elements.
- Print materials are static and are not appropriate for teaching languages and visual concepts.
- Require reading skills. If the learners are non-readers or language skills are required, print materials will not be effective.
- Time delay. It may take days or weeks for printed matter to travel between student and teacher.
Guidelines for Incorporating Print Materials
- Distribute print materials well in advance. Although the mail system is generally quite reliable, issues may arise if the print materials are not distributed well enough in advance.
- Include clear directions for use. Students need to know exactly which print materials they are responsible for reading and the specified timeline.
- Require interactions. Print materials are inherently non-interactive. Therefore, you must design for the required interactions. In some cases, this may mean a specified timeline for e-mail messages, or a required number of postings to a listserve.
- Specify a timeline. Distribute a timeline for students to help them organize their study learning activities.
Advantages of Audio Technologies
- Inexpensive. All of the audio/voice technologies are relatively inexpensive.
- Easily accessible. Almost every home in the United States has a telephone. In addition, most students have access to an audiotape player in their home or in a car.
- Easy to use. Almost everyone is comfortable using a telephone and an audio cassette. With voice technologies, there is no software to install and no hardware to configure!
Disadvantages of Audio Technologies
- May require scheduling. Some of the voice technologies (such as audioconferences) are synchronous, meaning that they must be scheduled at a convenient time for the students and teacher.
- Not conducive to visual information. Many students find it hard to focus and learn strictly through audio input. In addition, audio-only format restricts the content that can be conveyed (abstract concepts are very difficult to convey through audio).
- May be impersonal. With audio-only interactions, there is no eye contact and no body language. Students may be "turned off" by a talking box.
Guidelines for Incorporating Audio Technologies
- Distribute visual materials in advance. If an audioconference is scheduled, handouts or other visual materials that might be of value during the presentation should be distributed well in advance.
- Set communication protocols. Since the participants will not be able to see each other, it is important to agree on protocols to help identify the speaker in an audioconference. In most cases, it is advisable to instruct all speakers to state their name before making comments. For example, "This is Mary, and I would like to comment about..."
- Encourage interaction. In an audioconference, interactions should be built into the format. For example, instructors should call on specific students, instruct students to take turns asking questions, and make sure that one student is not allowed to monopolize the conversation. With both audioconferences and audiotape delivery, students should be required to use e-mail, fax, or voicemail to engage in further interactions with each other and the instructor.
- Record audioconferences on audiotapes. It is very easy to record an audioconference. That way, you can distribute the tapes for students who were unable to participate in the conference and for those who would like to review the content.
- Get to know the students. If possible, seek ways to get to know the students, such as visiting the remote sites, gathering the students together in one place, or exchanging photographs or videotapes.
Advantages of Computer Technologies
- Allow self-paced instruction. Computers allow learners to proceed at their own pace, receive feedback immediately, and review as often as they like.
- May incorporate text, graphics, audio, and video. With the trend toward digital audio, digital video, and computer animations, it is easy to incorporate various media into computer programs.
- Allow high levels of interactivity. Computer technologies allow embedded questions and interactions, as well as online collaboration.
- Provide written record of discussions and instruction. Computer logs can easily be generated for computer interactions in distance learning.
- Inexpensive. With access to the Internet, it is relatively inexpensive to participate in computer technologies for distance learning.
- Worldwide access. The Internet can be accessed by millions of people throughout the world. There is no other way to reach so many people for so little money.
Disadvantages of Computer Technologies
- Require hardware and software. At a minimum, a computer and Internet connection are required for most distance learning options that involve computers.
- Generally rely on written communications. Although it is possible to include audio and video in computer-based distance learning, most of the communications are in the form of text.
- Require substantial planning . E-mail and other asynchronous computer technologies require a great deal of planning and preparation on the part of the instructor.
- Computer viruses. If students send assignments via a computer, there is always a risk of viruses -- especially if they send programs or attached files.
- No guaranteed performance. Computer networks are notoriously unreliable. If students wait until the last minute to check their e-mail messages or search the Web, there is always the risk the server may be down or the Web sites may have moved.
Guidelines for Incorporating Computer Technologies
- Provide adequate structure and guidelines. The most successful asynchronous projects include deadlines and a structure.
- Provide timely feedback to participants. Since the communications in computer-based distance learning are more impersonal than video-based delivery, it is extremely important to provide quick and relevant feedback to students.
- Get to know the students. If possible, try to meet the students, either in person or through video. In some cases, the students may be able to meet once or twice; if not, videotapes can be sent to students to increase personal communications.
- Ensure sufficient technical support. In a perfect world, the computer and the technology would be invisible to the students. It is very important to provide sufficient technical support so that the students can get help when they need it.
Advantages of Video Technologies
- Allow both audio and video communications. Video technologies can provide the visual and audio realism of a face-to-face class. It is generally considered the "next best thing to being there."
- Facilitate personal feelings. Video technologies enable students and instructors to see facial expressions and body language, adding personalities to communication.
- Enable high levels of interaction. Most video communications are synchronous, allowing high degrees of interactions, questions and answers, etc.
Disadvantages of Video Technologies
- May be expensive. Cameras and editing equipment can be expensive. In addition, the infrastructure at each site and the links between sites can be costly. For example, in Florida the rate is $400 per hour for satellite time.
- Require a great deal of planning and preparation. To be effective, the camera crews and the instructor must practice and become a team. Faculty members generally need practice and training to be effective in this domain.
- Must be scheduled. Most videoconferences are not spontaneous. Instead, they must be planned and the necessary resources must be scheduled.
- Require technical support team. Because of the complexity of video recording, mixing, and transmission, a technical support team is required. In addition, site facilitators are necessary to ensure the equipment works properly at the receiving stations.
Guidelines for Incorporating Video Technologies
- Avoid the "talking head." "The early days of distance education witnessed the inclusion of the worst aspects of the old passive/lecture paradigm, which were even more deadly from a distance than in person" (Parker, 1997, 10). Talking head refers to simply videotaping the instructor while she or he is talking. Instead, try to vary the camera angle, include still images of appropriate graphics, and encourage student interactions.
- Practice with the cameras and the crew before the lesson. It is important to plan practice times for the instructor and the camera crew. By working together, they can anticipate each other's needs and provide the best possible transmissions.
- Encourage interactions. Interactions can be added to video-based delivery in many ways. If the lessons are two-way, questions and other types of interactions can be included. If they are one-way video, interactions can be added through e-mail messages or the telephone.
- Use the best cameras possible. The old saying "garbage in; garbage out" is very true of video. The very best possible quality equipment should be used.
- Ensure quality audio. Losses in audio quality will be noticeable long before losses in video quality. Always ensure good recording, playback, and speaker quality.
Video Conference A videoconference is a two-way interactive event where video and audio is simultaneously transmitted to individuals at sites in different locations. A videoconference can be 'point to point' which connects just two sites together, or it can be 'multipoint' where individuals located at many sites can see and hear those at all of the other sites. These virtual classrooms and meetings can take place across the campus or across the world.
Television - scheduled television slots on key portions of the course.
Radio - Scheduled broadcasts for various subject areas.
Satellite - Courses offered via a satellite network require students to travel to a specified location in order to view and participate in various courses.
Video cassettes - VCs are mailed to the students who can then view the course information with a video cassette recorder (VCR). Audio Cassettes
Face to face sessions (at local tutorial centres)
Blended Learning- Blending Learning can be described as the use of more than one delivery method in a single course. For example, the instructor of an online course may wish to have students meet once a week via an audioconference to discuss the last assignment together; or a videoconference can be combined with multiple media: text and graphics can be transmitted with a document camera; computer graphics, web sites, and videotapes can be transmitted and viewed by all students. Blending different technologies together in one course often provides a more dynamic learning environment and allows for different options and expressions of educational materials. Each learning institution plans, develops and applies its own delivery methods and mechanisms. This depends on context and manageable resources available.
A brief description of each delivery method is given below:
Videoconference: Interactive videoconferencing allows students and faculty at multiple locations to see, hear, and interact with one another.
Cable/Public Television: Some classes are broadcast on cable systems and/or public television channels, generally on regularly scheduled days and times on a designated channel. Stations may replay the courses at varying times to enable participation with greater convenience, and of course, it's always possible to record the programs for later viewing.
Computer CD-ROM/Disk: Some classes are offered on computer disks, CD-ROMs, or, more recently, DVDs. The disks and study materials are mailed to your home. You need access to a computer to view the course materials.
IHETS Interactive: IHETS Interactive is a Web-based application that supports live video and audio as well as other types of interaction and collaboration. Students watch and listen to the instructor using a standard Windows PC and interact with the instructor and one another using the application’s audio and text chat features. IHETS Interactive classes can be taken at any location with a networked PC meeting the minimum technical requirements, including from home or work.
IHETS Television: IHETS Television courses (commonly referred to as "IHETS courses" or "IHETS TV" courses) are delivered live to designated locations. Students watch and listen to the instructor on a large television monitor and interact with one another and the instructor using a telephone-like device.
Internet: Courses delivered over the Internet often, but not always, use the World Wide Web. They may include material to read online, exercises to complete online using interactive forms, discussion forums to exchange ideas with the professor and other students in the class, and many other types of instructional activities. Most Internet courses are asynchronous, meaning there are no live sessions or fixed meeting times, which makes this method especially attractive to working adults with busy schedules. Students can participate from any computer with an Internet connection.
Live Video Streaming: Video streaming is a common method for distributing live or stored video over the Internet. For live streaming, the instructor's lectures or presentations are digitally encoded and distributed over the network in real time. Class members can watch and listen to the instructor using a networked computer and media player software, such as Windows Media Player or RealPlayer. Some video streaming classes have a toll-free telephone number so students can call in with questions. Live streaming classes adhere to a fixed schedule of meeting times. Some are also archived, which means you can watch the video at a later date and time if you happen to miss a session.
Print/Correspondence: Correspondence courses, the earliest form of distance education, are still quite popular today. Students taking correspondence courses receive class materials and return completed assignments by mail, or, in some cases, by electronic mail.
Videotape: Courses available on videotape mean that videotapes will be shipped to you at your mailing address. To participate, you need access to a television equipped with a VCR.
Meeting Student Needs
To function effectively, students must quickly become comfortable with the nature of teaching and learning at a distance. Efforts should be made to adapt the delivery system to best motivate and meet the needs of the students, in terms of both content and preferred learning styles. Consider the following strategies for meeting students' needs:
Assist students in becoming both familiar and comfortable with the delivery technology and prepare them to resolve the technical problems that will arise. Focus on joint problem solving, not placing blame for the occasional technical difficulty.
Make students aware of and comfortable with new patterns of communication to be used in the course (Holmberg, 1985).
Learn about students' backgrounds and experiences. Discussing the instructor's background and interests is equally important.
Be sensitive to different communication styles and varied cultural backgrounds. Remember, for example, that students may have different language skills, and that humor is culturally specific and won't be perceived the same way by all.
Remember that students must take an active role in the distance delivered course by independently taking responsibility for their learning.
Be aware of students' needs in meeting standard university deadlines, despite the lag time often involved in rural mail delivery.
A videoconference is a two-way interactive event where video and audio is simultaneously transmitted to individuals at sites in different locations. A videoconference can be 'point to point' which connects just two sites together, or it can be 'multipoint' where individuals located at many sites can see and hear those at all of the other sites. These virtual classrooms and meetings can take place across the campus or across the world. Videoconferencing is not limited to a single technology, as bridging services allow ISDN, ATM, and/or IP to join together for a single event. IP Videoconferencing (VOIP) requires the use of Internet and a computer which has been specifically set-up for videoconferencing. Satellite delivery is also a form of videoconferencing, but it is not two-way video, in that the program is downlinked to participating locations.
Webconferencing is the combination of using a web browser for visuals and an audioconference for discussion. Students and instructors can show and receive graphics, draw, type, demonstrate web sites, share documents and use web chat. Basic technology needs are a computer, a web browser, an Internet connection, and a telephone. To participate in a web conference, you simply dial in to the telephone conference call, and point your browser to the pre-assigned web site. Only those who log-in can share the content and communicate with each other. All program visuals are available to all participants at the same time. You can communicate, collaborate, and receive real-time feedback. Participants connect from offices, homes, meeting rooms or anywhere else with access to the Internet and a phone line.
Online courses, also often referred to as web courses, are usually defined as courses which are offered over the Internet. Basic technology needs are a computer, a web browser and an Internet connection. Program and course providers will identify the specific technology needs of a specific course (e.g., some courses may require the use of a certain browser version or type of computer). Some, but not all, online courses are offered at 'anytime and anyplace'. This means you and are not limited to traditional semester start and end dates and you can take the course from any location (home, office, etc.) with the proper connections. Other courses may have scheduled meeting times where students and/or instrutors are online at the same time. Many terms are used when referring to online distance education programs and courses. These include: 'e-learning', 'web-based training (WBT)' or 'Internet courses'. Also there are products (called Course Management Systems or CMS) used to design an online course. Example brand names of such products include 'WebCT', 'Blackboard' and 'Desire2Learn'.
Print-based courses, or 'correspondence courses' are perhaps the oldest delivery method for distance education courses, having been available to students and learners for well over 100 years. Print courses are usually delivered via the mail, but some also have email or fax options to enhance communication between student and instructor. The more traditional print courses are provided entirely on paper. Although obviously not 'print', correspondence courses can also be offered via tape, CD, or DVD. These differ from online courses because the need for an Internet connection is eliminated.
Audio is often thought of as the most important part of any kind of teleconference. Audioconferencing is sometimes considered a conference call, but with many optional features available and an almost limitless number of individuals being able to simultaneously participate in the same event. Basic technology needs is simply a telephone. Audioconferencing is an easy, economical way to bring many people together to meet, learn, and teach.
Blending Learning can be described as the use of more than one delivery method in a single course. For example, the instructor of an online course may wish to have students meet once a week via an audioconference to discuss the last assignment together; or a videoconference can be combined with multiple media: text and graphics can be transmitted with a document camera; computer graphics, web sites, and videotapes can be transmitted and viewed by all students. Blending different technologies together in one course often provides a more dynamic learning environment and allows for different options and expressions of educational materials.
Meanings of Learner Support A 'support system' underpinning material and learning task provision. This defines learner support as the means through which individuals are enabled to make use of institutionalised provision. Learner supporters are 'intermediaries', able to talk the language of the student/learner and to interpret the materials and procedures of complex bureaucratic organisations (Sewart, 1993). While course production might work within a management model appropriate to manufacturing industry, Sewart likens learner support to a service industry, in which the needs of customers are paramount. Learner support activities are produced and consumed simultaneously, a process in which the learner/consumer must participate actively, as well as the tutor/supporter