Online Course Evaluation: Intro to Data Analysis

edx_introdataanalysisexcel
Introduction to Data Analysis Using Excel is available on edX. Users can learn how to use the features in Excel to process data. The course is free and self-paced. This evaluation covers unit 1. The rubric that I used is from Quality Matters.

My thoughts: Unless you’re incredibly motivated to learn Excel or are already familiar with the program, this course will be frustrating. The content of the video poorly aligned with the type of questions asked on the quiz and what students were expected to do in the lab exercise. The supplemental reading materials were not that helpful, which were links to Microsoft support for Excel. In general visual references would be more effective if users are not familiar with the program’s interface. As a result, I found the lab exercises difficult to complete. It’s pretty clear that the course designers wanted the users to learn three skills manipulating the data into graphical charts. It would have been more effective to demonstrate these skills using a 3-minute video using a screen recording software and then providing sets of data for users to practice , instead figuring out what the technical terms mean and then guessing how to perform the action. Having the quiz after students had a chance to experiment with the data and charts would seem more logical. Being that this course was self-paced and poorly organized, resolving problems without an instructor were particularly acute.

The course is also accessible though smartphones by installing the edX mobile app. However, viewing the data on the spreadsheet was difficult. I didn’t download the mobile version of Excel to see if the data could be converted into graphs using the touchscreen and fingers. Assuming that it can do that, another recommendation would be to simplify the data for the mobile version and putting each data set on a separate sheet. edX has other courses that are specifically designed mobile devices.

2=well aligned, 1=some alignment, 0=no alignment

Course Introduction Grade

Comments

1.2 Students are introduced to the purpose and structure of course 2 Overiew of the course also includes the purpose and course objectives/outcomes; syllabus
1.4 Course policies with which learner is expected to comply are clearly stated 1 Recommended effort 2-4 hours per week
1.5 Technology requirements 2 Previous excel programs are compatible
1.7 Instructor self-introduction 1 Image with short description
Learning Objectives
2.1 Course objectives and outcomes are measurable 2 Create, represent, calculate, filter
2.2 Module level objectives aligns with course level objectives 2 From what I could tell yes: perform data analysis using tools in Excel
Assessment and measurement
3.1 Assessments measure learning objectives and consistent with course activities and resources 2 Quizzes and lab exercises
3.3 Specific descriptive criteria used for evaluation of learner’s work 1 Stated how overall grades are calculated; No mentioned of how exercises will be graded
3.4 Assessment instruments are sequenced and varied 2 Quizzes and exercises
Course Activities and Learner Interactions
5.1 Learning activities promote achievement of stated objectives 1 The idea is good but video poorly demonstrates the skills that are needed
Additional comments:

 

Discussion boards are provided but designed for students express their opinions; they retitle to Help Board

Unit 1: Introduction to reporting in Excel

  • Lectures are professionally made; also with English subtitles; 8 minute video
  • Quiz not very clear; ambiguous answer choices and video content does not match information covered in quiz
  • Lab is downloadable Excel exercises with data; 3 exercises to practice the skills and learn how to use features in Excel. Problem #1:
For the “Yearly Category Revenue” display the total for each year as a separate line.

Comments

1. Create a total line in the range B7 to H7 Didn’t understand how to do this; not explained in the video
2. Select the “Yearly Category Revenue” chart.
3. The data source for the chart is highlighted.
4. Drag the highlighted selection to include the total row (B7 to H7) Didn’t understand how to do this; not explained in the video

 

Edtech for Faculty Development

This is a course that I created to help faculty develop the skills needed to teach in a blended environment. These are some of skills that the course covers: learning theories and principles, evaulation of online tools, creating a screencast video, developing a rubric to measure quality for a blended lesson, and creating a lesson that utilizes the skills from the previous modules. Link: http://edtechdev.mrooms2.net/course/view.php?id=717

Interactive Video Platforms

Interactive video platform refers synchronous lessons as mentioned in the article from eLearning Industries. They do have advantages as mentioned in the article and from my experience teaching online for four years but they put time constraints on the learner. I felt that my asynchronous graduate courses at Boise State provided plenty of interactions. This was usually done once a week through a discussion board but with many opportunities to view classmates’ comments and share thoughts. After participating for about a month you do get a sense of what that person is like. Sometimes VoiceThread was used instead of a dicussion board and I find this be an effective to personalize the discussion because it allows users to integrate images, audio, and video to communicate ideas.

If online learning is to occur on a global scale I don’t see how live interactions can support people living in different time zones. I see the future being based around asynchronous learning environments that includes different methods of interactions and a community established in their local area where they’ll have opportunities to connect with like-minded people in-person or through live video platforms, for example like an association.

 

Comparative Online Course Evaluation in 3 Days

Two courses that I evaluated were Leaning How to Learn and Memory Through Movies. Both courses were accessed through Coursera from well-known university institutions, UC San Diego and Wesleyan.  The courses were free to enroll but did provide additional services for an additional $49 fee. Their lengths were 4 and 5 weeks respectively. These courses were introductory in level and with students that seemed to be from diverse backgrounds.

A quality course was defined as being organized in manner to facilitate learning. To measure this I used a course evaluation rubric created by Quality Matters and selected specific measuring standards that I felt was most important to learning (click to view online course rubric). A course needed four essential components:

  1. Course introduction to explain what the course was about, skills and knowledge students would learn and how to apply them, and syllabus to inform about sequences of lessons and activities.
  2. Course content which would have the resources and materials to present the information grouped and organized to align with the learning objectives.
  3. Learning interactions which would have the activities and recommendations so that students could develop, practice, and apply their learning.
  4. Assessments using an instrument to measure quality of work. It would provide an explanation of the knowledge and skills students would be responsible for.

Which is better?

After reviewing both courses the main differences that I found were the activities to develop learning and assessments used to check for learning. (Click to view the evaluation rubric.) Both courses utilized automated quizzes to check key points from video lectures. Both used discussion boards to share thoughts related to lesson topics. However, Learning How to Learn had two additional optional assignments. These were beneficial for learning because through choice it took into account differences in learning preferences and levels. It was the answer for students who were more motivated and wanted to work on more academically rigorous activities. The first activity was a reflective essay where learners needed to explain a personal learning challenge, further explain the challenge with light research, and explain the solution following light research. The second optional activity was a project. It gave students the flexibility to do a presentation, writing, wiki, video, or any other creative plan a student might have. The requirement was that it had to connect three themes from the course. Both of these assignments provided an assessment that explained how grading would be done, both required peer reviews with tips on how to peer review classmates, and feedback from the instructor’s assistants.

Both courses gave learners the option to receive a university certificate upon course completion. However, Learning How to Learn gave student more bang for the buck with additional educational services. The added optional activities provided opportunities to satisfy key learning principles not utilized from the discussion board alone. Learners:

  1. Were presented with an authentic ill structured problem
  2. Activated existing knowledge and experience
  3. Applied new knowledge and skills to solve a problem
  4. Presented with activities to support different learning needs
  5. Were provided supplemental authentic learning resources
  6. Given expert feedback
  7. Were allowed to self-direct

The evaluation done by Margaryan, Bianco, and Little showed that courses in Coursera were for poor learning. If you compare it to a regular online course that has tuition and academic credit, I would agree with their conclusion. But considering that these courses are free, students get a professionally organized content from experts in the field with instructions to specifically designed to develop learning. Are all courses equal? No, and so the authors’ concern about quality is justified. An examination of the discussion board showed that to a certain extent it was disorganized with comments that detracted from learning. The discussion board itself was well organized with different sections for different types of discussion, but the problem that I noticed was that students were making unrelated comments or comments without much thought in sections specifically designed for ideas and experiences related to the module learning. It seems that some of the learners were either new to online learning or not aware of the manners for participation. Guidelines for participation were provided but these referred to netiquette such as being respectful, no spamming, understand cultural difference, etc. Adding supplemental guidelines to further explain the topic may help to correct it.

References:

Margaryan, A, Bianco, M & Littlejohn, A. (2015). Instructional Quality of Massive Open Online Courses. Computers & Education, 80(1), 77-83.

Quality matters. (2011-2013). Quality Matters. Retrieved 10 July, 2016, from http://howto.wikispaces.umb.edu/file/view/QM Standards 2011-2013.pdf

A Gamer’s History

After watching Pixel Pioneers, I reflected on the games that I played in the past. They brought many great memories and positive emotions but with an educational value of zero. My first experience started when I received the Atari 2600 in 1980 or ’81. Some of the games that I recall were Pac-man, Space Invaders, and Asteroid. The novelty of being able to play using a computer and TV was very interesting and at that time didn’t really the graphics. It wasn’t until the next series of consoles that I noticed the improvement in graphics. My friend had the ColecoVision and so I often went to his house to play games such as Donkey Kong. The improved graphics made the games more alive. Each updated system improved on this and I think this was part of the reason I was hooked. The consoles that I bought were Sega Master System, Genesis, Playstation, and Xbox. Sega had the games Space Harrier and Out Run, which were my favorites. At this time, I began to notice the music which when matched well, enhanced the game’s playability. For example, in Out Run I imagined that I was cruising in a convertible enjoying the music and fine weather. Space Harrier I found the music made the game more exciting. The graphics for both these games were amazing at that time. The camera perspectives were similar but Space Harrier had a 3D feel to it.

starwars

The arcades also created a lot of excitement. My thinking was that real games were played here. The machines were more powerful which made the games were realistic. I practiced at home and tried to showcase my skills at the arcade. One of the games that stood was the first Streetfighter, which came out in 1987. The graphics and complexity of moves were unbelievable. These games out classed the consoles until PlayStation in 1994. This system created a new standard. Visual and character animations were better than arcades and the games would could allow for more complex decisions with the introduction of virtual worlds using polygon realm. Even motorsports with games like Gran Tourismo allowed for more decision making with cars that could be modified with a number of different equipment to simulate how they would behave based on their make and model. My gaming days came to an end with Xbox. I had many hours of fun and one thing I regret was not setting it up online to see what that experience was like. It will be interesting to see if Second Life can cultivate the emotions brought by consoles. From early indications, it’s hard say. The game is very different from my previous experiences with “games”. I think the complexity of working out problems through a collaborative effort will be one of the incentives that attract users. It will be interesting to see if the game can bring an emotional high in addition to a learning experience. That would make for a powerful tool! Regardless the experience will augment my understanding of games, simulations, and virtual worlds. It’s a fascinating topic to explore. Some of my movie favorites are Total Recall, Ghost in a Shell, and the Matrix.  That said, a new gadget I’d like to test are virtual reality eyewear or headsets.

Learning Together Virtually

Learning together virtually by Clark & Mayer discussed the effectiveness of collaborative learning in computer-mediated environments. Based on the studies, their recommendations include an online lesson that depends on social interdependence, clear outcomes and objectives, heterogeneous grouping, and quality dialog among members.  From experience I can verify that collaboration can be successfully completed in a virtual environment. I worked on a project virtually at Lee Pesky Learning Center in redeveloping their professional online math course for young learners with the staff and university faculty members. We communicated using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous tools. Most of this was done through emails and once or twice a month using Skype. We used Dropbox to store project documents and files where users could access, review work, and make comments for further modifications. I provided multimedia assistance using Adobe Captivate, PowerPoint, Sony Vegas, and Ableton Live. From my experience, asynchronous chat has been just as effective and possibly a little better than Skype.  The reason being that it’s capable of doing everything that a synchronous chat tool could do. This includes group chat, attachments for visual references, discussion threads, the ability to develop social presence, and the added flexibility of delayed responses, which can be beneficial for people with different schedules.  One drawback that I noticed was that in the discussion threads it could be hard to locate a particular item after the development of many comments. It can more challenging with the presence of several different threads with similar topics. One thing that we did at the beginning of each month was create a new updated to do list to provide a fresh reminder. Having a clear subject for each thread would also be helpful or searching for a different web tool to better handle this task.

Applying the Multimedia Principle

The multimedia principle stated that words and graphics used together are more effective for learning.  Several kinds of graphics that can be used depending on what the learning objective is, but avoid decorative graphics because they do not improve learning. When I think about the effective graphics, transformational ones come to my mind. These graphics show the procedure or how something is done. I often use video tutorials when I need to learn how to do a specific thing using a software. Great examples of these can be found on YouTube.  Alternatively these can be done through written direction that puts more emphasis on textual information with static images to support the text.  If you decide to present information using all text, using a numbered list can be an effective way to organize the information so that it is easier to digest.  Providing an outline beforehand or a summary at end can be other options for organizing texts. Based on the evidence presented, ideally it’s best to use graphics and text but in some cases text will be preferable.  Clark and Mayer stated that advanced learners learn well with or without visual cues. Textual information requires the least amount of resources and so this would be a good option for users with limited technology capacity. I use the multimedia principle regularly when helping students with reading comprehension. Big blocks of text are reorganized into manageable chunks using a numbered list or table. Visual aids will be helpful in reading comprehension because the students I work with learn English as a foreign language.  In addition the students read a variety of topics in the reading passages and may lack prior knowledge on some of these topics.  One way that students could using the multimedia principle is to look at sentences and underline words and phrases that they don’t understand and have them work in groups to find images to decode the meaning. Teachers could also prepare images and make comparisons and provide further explanations to students.