Asynchronous IT Course:
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- Students choose pace;
- Adaptable schedule;
- Sufficient level of technical literacy;
- Flexible adaptation to the current market demands.
The following is a set of instructions on the asynchronous online course intended for developing advanced IT skills and aimed at specialists of the developing markets. The asynchronous method implies that the student does not necessarily receive information when the teacher delivers it. This allows the students to choose their own pace, which is a preferred variant as the populace oriented towards IT sector has sufficient skills of online means of communication, both software, and hardware, and can easily incorporate the tasks of varying difficulty and length.
Learning Management System
While simpler means, like the e-mail and discussion forums, can be used for the asynchronous learning, usually the dedicated software is utilized, like the Learning Management System, or LMS (Kats, 2010).
- Interactive content.
Physical Optical Discs (possible, but not recommended):
- Can be costly.
In the case of the online course, about 80 percent of the content is delivered by means of the Web (Burns, 2011). The online material may be in audio format, like the podcasts on iTunes, video format, like the preloaded lectures, and the interactive content. The latter is especially crucial for the IT course, as the interactive Web-based content is essential for the majority of the topics on the matter. Such approach is known as Web-Based Training (WBT) and is available through LMS and similar platforms (Driscoll, 2010).
The delivery via physical storage media, like the optical discs, is not recommended, as it takes up much time and will be ineffective when dealing with the international students.
- Generalized IT knowledge;
- Irrelevant specialized knowledge;
- Does not meet the market demand.
- Specialized knowledge relevant to the market needs;
- Meeting the students’ aspirations.
As the course will be aimed at the students from countries with developing IT markets, the average learner is expected to have the generalized knowledge and possibly the specialized knowledge which is not currently in demand on the market. Thus, the course will be aimed at people seeking to get the skills relevant to the current market needs, and therefore it is absolutely necessary to make it student-centered.
- material triggers discussion.
- competitive group task (requires team work).
- sharing experience.
The dominant part of online learning is based on active learning methods, so the student participation is crucial. Thus, all the material should be organized in a way that triggers discussion and asking questions. At the same time, the environment must be open for interaction, i.e. students must feel their questions are welcome. A good example of a collaboration technique is a small competitive task that can be done by the small makeshift groups formed on a spot. Student engagement can also be triggered by a simple inquiry to share their previous experience on the topic.
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- Materials, instructions (learner direction);
- Means of feedback (instructor direction).
- Create the suitable environment (Student-only message board or chat).
- Several formats (increases accessibility);
- Minigames (evaluation and involvement).
The center of the traditional education is the learner – instructor interaction. Besides the material itself, the instructor should provide the students with means of reliable and timely means of contacting him. He or she is also advised to respond to any feedback in the shortest time possible. The learner-learner interaction is also an important part of online courses. A good way of promoting is the creation of a student-only discussion board. Finally, the learner-content interaction, the core of the student-centered education, can be achieved in the multitude of ways. The key to good L-C interaction is the approachability of the material, so it is a good idea to provide it in more than one form: text and audio, for example. Engaging quizzes and minigames as means of quick assessments are also recommended.
- Forming a relevant skillset;
- Expectations boost performance.
The student participation expectations should be set from the beginning of the course to assure the timely assessment of progress and define the necessary corrections. In the case of this course, students are expected to form the relevant skillset. Usually, when students know what is expected of them and have a clear goal, they are more likely to participate and show positive results. Kelly (2014) recommends a structured approach of 3Rs (respond, react, reply) during which student form a connective stance which improves performance.
Possible Difficulties and Solutions
- Virtually non-existent.
Lack of participation:
- Very likely. Monitoring and intervention by instructor.
- Very likely. Detected by the variety of digital means.
- Mostly irrelevant in the context. Can be addressed later, if need arises.
The benefit of asynchronous learning is the almost universal absence of the class disruption phenomenon, as the class is virtually non-existent. The mischievous activities on the student-only chats and message boards are an almost sole example, but since they do not interfere with the process, they can be ignored. On the other hand, the lack of strict regulation of attendance may lead to the decline in participation, so the monitoring is required from the instructor’s side. The student plagiarism may be an issue, as the online nature of the course gives the relatively broad opportunities for unauthorized data usage. Fortunately, the IT segment boasts the abundance of tools for plagiarism detection (Zeidman, 2004), so timely usage of such tools can help detect the borrowed code or text. The student accommodation is not applicable to this course, as the course is heavily specialized and intended for boosting the employment skills.
- Timely reviewed;
- Timely addressed;
- Relevant and practical;
- Contains real-world examples;
- Not overly formal.
The feedback must be provided in a timely manner. Ideally, all feedback must be tied to the real-world examples of the issue in question: the outcomes of the wrong techniques should be reviewed, the possible alternatives should be highlighted, and the most likely implementations should be provided throughout the course, as the students need to associate the process with the real demands and requirements. Whenever possible, the feedback should include examples of material in question. If the time allows, the feedback should be personalized.
Can be averted by instructions and guidelines from the instructor.
- Unlikely to be addressed during the initial phase.
- Can be reviewed on later stages, when course proves popular.
- Hardware-based (unsupported PCs, insufficient system specifications).
- Software-based (different versions of software, unsupported formats).
Must be taken into account from the beginning of the course.
Most of the common obstacles, like computer literacy and the lack of motivation (Kumar, 2015), are not applicable to this course. However, the important difficulties still arise. The course is oriented at international students, so the language issues will arise as no all of them know English. This can be mended by localizations as soon as the course will prove popular. The equipment may also hamper the progress: different PC configurations and software versions may serve an additional source of errors in exercises. An advanced level of control should be introduced to maintain the standards. Finally, poor time management can slow down the process, so additional advice on time management from the instructor may improve the situation.
Burns, M. (2011). Distance education for teacher training: modes, models, and methods. Web.
Driscoll, M. (2010). Web-based training: creating e-learning experiences. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Kats, Y. (2010). Learning management system technologies and software solutions for online teaching: tools and applications. New York, NY: IGI Global.
Kelly, R. (2014). Structure and expectations can improve student participation in online discussions. Web.
Kumar, S. (2015). How to overcome 5 common problems faced by students in eLearning. Web.
Zeidman, B. (2004). Detecting source-code plagiarism. Web.