EDTEC 540 Job Aid and Report 

Online Instructors' Job Aid for Fostering Learner Engagement


EDTEC 540 Educational Technology

Educational Technology Dept. at San Diego State University

Prepared by Su Tuan Lulee, Summer 2006

Introduction

Ten student instructors have problem to perform as good as they used to be in classroom teaching. Their students have lower scores in performance assessment and lower satisfaction with the experience. In my performance analysis report, I have pointed out that poor performance is heavily caused by insufficient online teaching skills, furthermore, I have identified causes of unsuccessful online instruction in four areas – pedagogical, social, managerial, and technical --. My proposed solution system includes training program, job aids, and the reinforcement of technical support system. The training program will help new instructors constructing the concepts and principles in their long term memory and job aids will provide just in time sidekicks and planners that need only be reside in their short term memory to support their performance. In this job aids report, my hypothesis is that the new instructors have identified learners, designed and developed a clear sequence of events in a clear syllabus, designed objective articulated learning activities, setup necessary norms and policies for course process, divided learners into small groups, familiarized themselves with content management system and communication tools they will use. In this case, if instructors could get learners engaged in the course, learner performances should be more than acceptable.

Analysis

Topics for online instructors’ job aids can cover a wide range from analysis checklist in pedagogical area, moderating tips in social area, policy document samples in managerial area to assessment templates in technical area. Among them, most of the conceptual and principle knowledge, such as role changes and leadership abandoning, are more suitable to be provided through training program while most of the facts and procedures knowledge, such as quizzes creation and content delivery, are more effective to be supported by right-size standard or tailored job aids.

Base on the hypothesis above mentioned, I analyzed online instructors’ activities in order to answer the question: what job aids will be helpful for online instructors? The result shows the following nine categories of job aids are helpful:

  • Checklist for readiness of instructors
  • Sample activities for different stages of group process
  • Templates for norms and policies
  • Flowchart for building and organizing groups
  • Combinations for fostering learner engagement
  • Array for communication skills
  • Decision table for managing conflict and problem behaviors
  • Steps for synthesis and presentation
  • Samples rubric for evaluating group activity performance

        The considerable quantity of them, make it impossible to be completed in this job aid report. Since ‘collaborative group learning/discussion’ has been acknowledged as the most valuable thing in online learning by many educators and experts in the field I select ‘fostering learner engagement’ as the most critical category and then design this job aid to serve that purpose.

Objectives

By using this job aid, new online instructors will be able to,

  • Name at least two principles for course design that can increase learner engagement.
  • Name at least two skills for facilitating group activity, such as inquiry, comment, and intervene.
  • Name at least one incentive that can increase learner engagement.
  • Identify at least one tool for online idea sharing.
  • Write at least two topics for social interaction.

Process of creating the Job Aid

Before designing the Job Aid, I drafted a concept map based on my understanding about the topic then searched over internet to find existing resources. I wrote down helpful items to enrich my schema and to add leaves to my stem.

Format selection. I chose a checklist-like format to create my job aid because it “does not follow sequential steps”, it’s “new and ambiguous”, and it “requires the user to consider many factors”. This format let me easily “provide a range of suggested approaches” and “help the user to exercise good judgment” (Rossett, Allison & Gautier-Downs, Jeannette, A Handbook of Job Aids, 1991).

Media selection. After trying several tools, I finally chose Microsoft Office Live and create the first draft because it provides templates for creating web pages that free me from technical mess. 

Job aid development. I created an online FAQ base on my concept map in a short time, then I thought users might like to have a hardcopy so that they can print out, stick it on the walls and browse through it when they are not online. Thus, I post my concept map at the bottom of the FAQ. As a result, my job aid has two parts, an FAQ in HTML and a Quick Reference for print out. Some FAQ questions contain several hypertexts that link to other resources. Users can decide whether or not to go any deeper for more insight any time. The Job Aid can be found atWeb4learn.

Survey creation. Base on Kirkpatrick’s four levels evaluation model, I created a 10-question-survey that covers first three levels with an online survey tool. The survey combines both quantitative and qualitative method. The survey can be found athttp://FreeOnlineSurveys.com/rendersurvey.asp?sid=d1t4bvm1xao53lp212959

 

Method for pilot test

       The pilot test was carried out over internet. I sent 20 emails. 10 of them were sent to 10 old classmates who are currently teaching or preparing to teach online at colleges or universities in US. The rest 10 emails were sent to student instructors who wanted to improve their skills for online instruction. In the email, I included the URL links of my Job Aid and survey questionnaire. If anyone of them would access the Job Aid website, they will be led to the survey website and leave their feedback easily. A supplementary test was attached to the emails for student instructors. The purpose for attaching the test is to find out what they learned from my job aid.

I have only three days left for receiving responses by the time I completed the Job Aid development. Fortunately, 17 testers gave their feedback in time.

 

Results

  • All pilot users found the Job Aid useful in an average of 4.5 out of 5 scales.
  • All except one tester checked that they will use it and will recommend the Job Aid to their colleagues.
  • All student instructors took the supplementary questions and all of them gave correct answers to all questions. However, I didn’t have the chance to observe whether or not the Job Aid improvements the performance of new online instructors.
  • All pilot users like to have more job aids like this.
  • Two testers gave suggestions on the language of survey questionnaire.
  • Two testers commented on language nuances of FAQ.
  • One tester suggested adding more linking to examples.
  • One tester suggested modifying the Quick Reference chart.
  • One tester suggested designing another job aids for experienced online instructors.
  • The most useful section selected by testers is the Idea Sharing Tools.

Revision

       I made two modifications after pilot test:

  1. Review and rewrite some sentences in the FAQ.
  2. Re-design the Quick Reference chart to improve the visualization. I add two more Quick Reference charts for different learning style learners.
  3. Correct the defects in questionnaire after due date of survey.

       I didn’t add more examples to the Job Aid because the real examples for fostering online learner will be lengthy recorded discussion data. If I had more time, I will compile exemplary activities by copying key paragraphs that present the scenario from real discussions and re-edit to form the examples. The revised Job Aid can be found at http://web4learn.net/FAQ4OnlineLearnerEngagement.aspx 

 

Conclusion

       Job aid is a performance support tools. It’s best to be tailored according to the needs, the situation, the time, and the learning preferences of users. When tailoring becomes impossible, creators must be capable of predicting the insufficiencies of users and design the job aids to cover every possibility that, just in case, users might need.

As Dr. Rossett said in her A Handbook of Job Aids, “the distinctions among systems, training, and documentation and the distinctions between work and training will blur”, job aid design could play a distinguished role in future study on how people get what they need to know to do their jobs well.

 

Appendix

Appendix A  Matrix of Knowledge types and roles areas

 

 

Appendix B  Revised Job Aid

Job Aid for
Fostering Online Learner Engagement
in Group Activity

 

Now you have known your learners, structured a course plan with clear syllabus, designed objective articulated activities, setup necessage norms and policies, divided leaerners into small groups, and familiarized yourself with learning management system (LMS) and communication tools, you think it's time to start the online course but are you sure your learners will join you in the journey? Check these out before you go!

  • Have you designed the course that pulls learners to engage in learning?
  • Have you built an open comfortable environment?
  • Have you prepared to play your part while activities are on going?
  • Have you provided convenient tools for idea sharing?
  • Have you offered incentives to encourage participation?
  • Have you create opportunities for social interactions?

Need a quick reference charts? Please take 3 minutes to provide your feedback(see Appendix C) on the Job Aid, thanks.

Q: Have you designed the course that pulls learners to engage in learning?

There are several tips that can used in course design to increase learner engagement:

Always include time for orientation to the course and to the environment

  1. Make your activities product driven and ask learners to submit outcomes weekly 
  2. Give threaded question for each discussion 
  3. Set deadlines for each activities 
  4. Include response quality and rate to your grading policy 
  5. Arrange your course activities from structured activities to open activities 
  6. Take peer review as one of your multiple assessment tools 
  7. Announce your office hours and feedback timeframe 
  8. Let learners have content to preview before joining discussion 
  9. Anticipate learners' needs & questions and provide resources

Q: Have you built an open comfortable environment?

 

Learners can speak up more easily if they know they won’t be attacked, teased, or criticized personally. Here are things you can do:

  1. Create sense of community: open, interdependent, trust, and secure 
  2. Be supportive while expressing the disagreement or challenge: 
    -- Empathy 
    -- Offense - focus on the original message 
    -- Reason - objectively 
    -- Give examples 
    -- Open to further discussion 
  3. Be patient. Wait, before urging for responses

Q: Have you prepared to play your part while activities are going? 

 

Here are things you could do:

  1. Present frequently
  2. Ask questions for
    -- Clarifying
    -- Advancing coherence
    -- Inviting deeper thoughts
    -- Following up on neglected points
    -- Encouraging participation
    -- Challenging mildly
  3. Comment for
    -- Linking other parts of knowledge
    -- Appreciation
    -- Setting models
    -- Correction
  4. Intervene when
    -- Discussion is flamed out
    -- Misinformation is spread
    -- Personal criticism takes place
    -- Participants' being rude
    -- Too many irrelative discussions
    -- Someone dominate the discussion for a long time
  5. Post additional questions or send emails for individuals to
    -- Break the silence
    -- Increase individual's self-confidence
  6. Arrange intersection mini-summaries at least once a week
  7. Inject humanizing elements, enthusiasm, humor, or friendliness by posting
    -- Very short stories
    -- Wisdoms
    -- Jokes

Q: Have you provide convenient tools for idea sharing?

 

If learners can change ideas, co-write essays, and work together on projects like they were in face-to-face classroom, the engagement will increase naturally. Here are free tools you could use:

  1. Tools for collaborative writing: 
    --  WIKI: WikiSpace, SeedWiki
    -- Web-based word processor: GoogleDocs, WriteBoard
  2. Tools for journal:
    -- Chronological recording tools: BLOG  
        -- Blog for individual presentation: Blogger
        -- Blog for course: Elgg 
  3. Tools for mapping concepts: 
    --  Cmap
    --  
    FreeMind
  4. Tools for file sharing:
    -- eBookmarking tools: Del.icio.us, Technorati
    -- Media sharing tools: Yahoo 360, OurMedia,
    Odeo

Q: Have you offered incentives to encourage participation?

 

Incentives that you used in classroom instruction might work in online courses as well. For instance:

  1. Give credit for participation
  2. Acknowledge contributors of critical perspectives for intersection summaries
  3. Record numbers of elaborative postings

Q: Have you created opportunities for social interaction?

 

Social interaction helps moving the learner from feeling like an outsider to feeling like an insider. Here are things you could do:

  •  Build social conversation sections. Topics for social conversation could be:
     -- Current news
     -- Critical or controversial issues
     -- Tips for solving certain works
  • Give metaphorical name for the section, such as,
     -- Coffee Corner
     -- Tea House

Quick Reference Chart 1

 

Quick Reference Chart 2 

Quick Reference Chart 3 

Appendic C Revised Survey Questionnaire

 

If you like, please leave your name here.

  1. To what degree that you find the Job Aid useful?
  2. Do you find the Quick Reference Chart useful
  3. How possible will you use the Job Aid while facilitating an online activity?
  4. Will you recommend the Job Aid to your colleagues
  5. How will you rank each section of the Job Aid in term of usefulness?
  6. What will you suggest to enhance the Job Aid?
  7. What additional information will you recommend to add into the Job Aid?
  8. Would you like to have more job aids like this one?
  9. Any other comment?

Appendix D Supplementary Questions of Usefulness

For Student Instructors 

Please answer the questions without referring to the Job Aid.

  1. Please write at least two principles for course design that can increase learner engagement.
  2. Please write at least two skills for facilitating group discussion.
  3. Please write at least one incentive that can increase learner engagement.
  4. Please write at least one name of tools for online idea sharing.
  5. Please write at least two topics for social interaction.