Behind-the-Scenes Google Site and Two Hashtags for OUGEO

OUGEO

Photo created by Canva

One of the reasons I don’t consider doing my PhD in Japan as a waste of time is that I learned how to define, manage, organize, and track projects.

My PhD project is focused on designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating an EGAP (English for General Academic Purposes) online course, entitled Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO), targeting Japanese learners at Osaka University. Based on a needs analysis, the course was designed and developed guided by theoretical frameworks and models for online course design. OUGEO was implemented in the spring semester of 2017 (April–July), and offered at three levels (elementary, intermediate, and upper intermediate), each level containing 10 online and 5 face-to-face sessions.

To track the project and record what was happening in the process of designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating the course, I created a behind-the-scenes Google site for OUGEO. Here is the link to the site:

https://sites.google.com/view/ougeo

I also used two hashtags on Twitter to microblog about the OUGEO project and share its instructional materials:

OUGEO PRESENCE AT JALT CALL 2017

Poster, JALT CALL

Poster available on academia

In our poster presentation at JALT CALL 2017, Mehrasa and I focused on the design and development phases of an online course of English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP), which we have referred to as Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO).

Initially, we reviewed two mainstream models of instructional design for online course delivery—namely, ADDIE and SAM. The ADDIE model is a generic, systematic, linear, step-by-step process, known as waterfall model, which consists of five ordered phases: (1) Analysis, (2) Design, (3) Development, (4) Implementation, and (5) Evaluation.

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Photo source: https://goo.gl/UxisAn

Unlike ADDIE’s five giant sequential steps, SAM (Successive Approximation Model) is an iterative, cyclical, and agile approach to instructional design which tries to address the roadblocks in the way of instructional designers in repeated small steps.

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Photo source: https://goo.gl/3JF7om

Following that, we explained the intertwined design and development phases of our prospective online course, which include the following: Assessing students’ needs and technological skills, defining the course overall goal and learning objectives, determining online course technologies, requirements, accessibility, connectivity, and support system, developing course syllabus, instructional materials (available via these hashtags: #OsakaUniversityGlobalEnglishOnline #OUGEO), tasks and activities, objective-based assessment, management strategies for team teaching, and formative and summative course evaluation. We also discussed copyright restrictions, the use of Open Educational Resources (OERs), as well as several e-learning authoring tools and their merits and demerits. Finally, we touched upon issues related to quality assurance with reference to the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric.

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OUGEO Presence at Osaka JALT Back to School 2017

Back to School 2017

Despite the rapid growth of online teaching and learning at institutes of higher education worldwide, switching to online courses can pose a great challenge to those involved in creating and administering them. In our presentation at Osaka JALT Back to School 2017, Mehrasa and I tried to simplify, clarify, and exemplify the process of online course design.

We focused on practices that we found successful in designing online English courses based on the related literature and our hands-on experience as online instructional designers.

Under the project title of Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO), we designed and developed, and are now implementing, a blended course of English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP) at Osaka University targeting second-year undergraduate students for a period of 15 weeks, of which 10 sessions are purely online and 5 sessions are face-to-face.

First, we reviewed popular instructional design models like ADDIE and SAM. We also discussed topics such as online syllabus, learning management systems, e-learning authoring tools, online visual design, e-assessment, and e-feedback. Finally, we introduced the most practical standards checklists for online course self-evaluation: The Standards Checklist by Marjorie Vai and Kristen Sosulski (2011) and Quality Matters Higher Education Course Design Rubric Standards, Fifth Edition (2014).

Slides: Online Course Design 101: All You Need to Know to Get Started

Buggy Blackboard

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Osaka University has been using the Blackboard Learn™ platform since 2005, which is known as CLE (Collaboration and Learning Environment). I used to be a Moodler, and I personally prefer Moodle, because Blackboard often gets buggy, which makes the process of online course design extremely slow! That is why many universities are switching to Moodle such as Montana State University, California State University, and Long Beach (Blackboard Learn: Criticism).

Here is the list of major bugs I struggled with during the development phase of the online course, named Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO):

  1. Formatting glitches (e.g., extra spaces were added erroneously to the text, font got changed after uploading)
  2. Unresponsiveness of Bb Student and Blackboard Mobile Learn apps (e.g., large images and some fonts were not shown properly on the apps)
  3. Errors in the process of making tests and assignments

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Moreover, no spell/grammar checker is available on Blackboard. This can cause serious problems in the design, development, and delivery phases of an online course, especially an English course.

Does It Really Take Longer to Create an Online English Course?

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Based on my personal experience, the answer is a big yes, especially if you are offering your English course at different levels. The reason is that you have to label a large number of folders for each week and level, and then you get easily confused about what to put where! It also takes longer to create your online course if the learning management system (LMS) that you are using is buggy, which makes the process of uploading painstakingly longer.

Designing an online course takes a substantial investment of time; therefore, time management is a critical component in creating an online course. That is why collaboration is the cornerstone of online course design, as many hands make the load light. Once everything is in place online, the rest of the work becomes just a little easier! 😉

Online Learning Readiness

Are You Ready

Before the start of an online course, an online needs and skills assessment survey (ONSAS), also known as e-readiness survey, should be completed by the prospective students to ensure that they are ready to take the online course, and decide whether learner training sessions are necessary or not.

My co-authors and I (2017) recently used an adapted version of the Technology Survey, developed by Winke and Goertler (2008) to assess Japanese learners’ perceived e-readiness for learning English online prior to implementing our prospective online EGAP (English for General Academic Purposes) course, titled Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO).

Readiness for online learning can also be measured by SmarterMeasure (formerly READI) which is a web-based tool that assesses learners’ preparedness for succeeding in an online or blended course. You can explore it here, and then try to convince your institution to subscribe!

You can also explore “Student Readiness for Online Learning” bookmark collection on MERLOT.

Some Suggestions on Conducting a Needs Analysis for an Online English Course

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Photo credit: https://community.articulate.com/articles/how-to-do-an-e-learning-needs-analysis

What teachers do online is actually similar to what they do “on the ground” (Ko & Rossen, 2010, p. 12). That is why the first and most important step for designing an effective online course is conducting a needs analysis.

Here is a to-do list for doing an English needs analysis, along with a few suggestions based on a needs analysis that I have done recently:

  1. Choose a needs analysis approach (e.g., Target Situation Analysis (TSA), Present Situation Analysis (PSA), Pedagogic Needs Analysis (PNA), Discourse Analysis, Genre Analysis)
  2. Choose a needs analysis method (e.g., questionnaire, interview, observation, diaries, journals, logs). Try to choose/design a short questionnaire or adapt long ones such as Gravatt, Richards, and Lewis (1997) to make the analysis process easier.
  1. Triangulate the data (i.e., collect data from more than one source using different methods).
  1. Read the whole recent book by Brown (2016), titled Introducing Needs Analysis and English for Specific Purposes, before starting your needs analysis (as suggested by Brown himself in the preface). This book is an up-to-date, step-by-step guide to doing the recursive, holistic process of needs analysis.

Aloha!*

*Aloha, in this very context, means: I don’t live in Hawaii, and you might 😉