Trends in Online Education
Online education is defined as globalization of human ideas and acts through technology (Tompkins, 2011). It involves the use of personal computers and the internet to connect the world in matters of education.
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Distance learning is propagated through a wide range of technologies that aim at reaching out to many students at a distance. The main distinction of this type of learning from the traditional and normal class attendance by a student and a teacher is the separation in space between them. Neither of them is forced to travel to a fixed place for the purpose of learning.
Advantages of Online and Distance Learning
Both the learner and the teacher are spared from the cost of having to travel to a fixed place for educational interaction. This convenience affords participants in online education an opportunity to juggle education with other matters of life, both personal and professional.
Armed with a computer and internet, one can take studies from any part of the world. This gives a student unlimited choice of courses from the various colleges offering online education. In the ordinary scenario, one could be forced to forego a dream career because a relevant course is not offered in the college of choice.
Online education exposes one to the use of internet and computers and as a result leads to a gain in skills and knowledge in technology. The process also allows students to learn at their own pace depending on their learning ability.
Disadvantages of Online Education
There is an accompanying cost that a student bears in terms of technology gadgets required in online education (Tompkins, 2011). Technology gadgets such as computers, internet and live communication may not be always available or fully reliable when they are accessible.
There is also lack of direct feedback as could be received in a traditional classroom setting where a teacher and a student interact face-to-face. Face-to-face interaction provides a teacher an opportunity of direct assessment through questioning and testing to gauge the level of understanding (Tompkins, 2011).
As a personal take, online education is more convenient in terms of course choice, institution of study and time. It is more flexible and allows students to learn in accordance with their learning ability.
Assessment Goals for sixth Grade Communication Arts Students
These assessment goals target students in sixth grade; the first goal is to raise the score of proficiency in comprehension reading from 65% to 75% in the first five weeks of learning. This goal will be measured by a common decisive assessment comprising of a ten question test to that will be administered on February 20, 2012.
The student will obtain coherent writing skills relevant for professional and personal expression in written form; this goal will be assessed through a formative test. The test will be based on two essays that will test both professional and personal expression.
The student will demonstrate ability to make public presentations in both formal and informal settings. This will be assessed through personal presentations of students to the class based on assigned topics.
This unit will also aim at equipping students with good listening skills. Listening is an active process of paying attention to a speaker in order to follow and understand their message. Listening skills acquired by students will be assessed in a session that will involve listening to a pre-taped speech and there after making notes on the speech.
Formal Assessment of the Unit
The formal assessment based on the goals described in this unit will include; oral presentations based on assigned topics, essay writing, reading and listening. Tests set out for the purpose of this assessment will be marked and results used to grade the students ability in performing the test tasks.
Informal assessment instrument to be used in this unit will be based more on the teacher’s observation of the student’s behavior change as a result of learning, followed with a one-on-one discussion on how to improve.
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The feedback elicited by the student will be used to gauge their understanding particular learning concepts. In essay writing, the student will be expected to write well flowing essays free of grammatical and spelling errors.
The student should be able to read with average speed and pronounce words correctly. For listening skills, the student should be able to listen to a pre-taped speech and thereafter describe the story setting and make notes from the speech.
The Curriculum Unit of Choice
A curriculum unit describes learning activities and lessons planned on a particular theme. This is usually planned over a long period of time and is desired to develop specific skills and in the learner. The curriculum unit specifies the effective instructional and assessment approaches that should be used guide a learner through the unit. This project will be based on the curriculum unit of communication arts for the sixth grade.
The unit outlines various activities and lessons for a sixth grade student aimed at creating awareness and developing analytical skills in poetry. Fiction and non-fiction stories will be used as teaching and learning resources while exploring the theme.
The theme will be studied through examination of relevant stories and articles, in which the learner identifies vocabulary that relates to the theme. The study procedure will involve reading, taking notes, writing summaries, identification of figurative language used. Other resources such as magazines, videos, photos, plays and websites will also be used for further investigation of the unit.
Activities outlined in this unit will present the learners an opportunity to gain knowledge and skills in multiple fields such as; art, communication skills, reading skills, computer skills and story analysis.
Learner Analysis Template
When designing a curriculum unit, it is important to assess the learning needs of the student to determine the content suitability. Analysis of the students learning needs should be based on a template so as to exhaust each learning need captured on the template. The template below shows the steps I will follow to carry out the analysis.
A Learner Analysis template for Communication Art in Sixth Grade
|Learner Role||Learner’s job||Prior knowledge||Familiarity||Learning conditions||Level of skills|
|Active participant||reading |
identify figurative language
|basic literacy |
knowledge of common natural disasters
|natural disasters |
|2 hours class lessons |
Group discussions and individual reflection
|Average cognitive skills|
|Active participants||watching videos, photos |
|basic literacy |
|Watch videos and photos on natural disasters||Average cognitive skills|
The template outlines basic characteristics that are assessed prior to filling the template and actual formulation of the curriculum unit. This ensures that the template created is tailored to the actual characteristics of the learner rather than basing it on expected learner characteristics. This template helps identify gaps in the learner’s skills, with this knowledge, a teacher can device suitable strategies to address the learning needs.
Data collection methods such as questionnaires, interviews and focused group discussions will be used get the correct information about the learners regarding familiarity and prior knowledge. This will ensure that the curriculum unit so formulated addresses the measurable learning needs of the targeted learners.
Educational Goals and Instructional Objectives
The notion of educational goals was copied from the military training during the World War II by educational psychologists. Psychologists Benjamin Bloom and his group outlined the “taxonomy of the learner behavior” (Al Hurwitz, 2011). The taxonomy of the learner behavior was later adopted in development of educational curriculum for public schools.
List of Educational Goals and Instructional Objectives
The learner should be able to apply reading skills. The instructional objectives for this goal will include
- Student will use decoding skills to get the meaning of unknown words in the process of reading
- The student will demonstrate fluency, accuracy of word pronunciation, fast rate of reading and expression.
- The learner will identify vocabulary used in terms of synonyms, homophones and words with multiple meanings.
Teach skills of comprehension, analysis and evaluation of fiction, poetry and drama. The instructional objective, for this goal will include
- Identification of text features; the student will be able to use tables of content or glossary to locate particular content in the book.
- Use the content to classify different literary works in appropriate genre
- Identification of literary devices and explaining their meaning and purpose in the work.
Apply writing skills to compose a story. Instructional goals for this goal will include
- Apply writing skills to develop a draft of a story
- The learner should demonstrate the ability to proofread the draft and built a flowing text free of grammatical mistakes.
The learning Activities
The learning activities set out for this study unit include; reading, writing, watching movies, group discussions, internet research and note taking. Reading as a learning activity will be conducted by allowing the learner to read in prose from particular sections of the story loudly before the other students. The teacher will listen to the reading and make recommendations on reading speed, pronunciation and fluency.
The teacher will evaluate the student’s writing skills by assessing their written assignments on various topics. Evaluation of writing skills, will based on the ability to write flowing text without grammatical mistakes, students’ handwriting, use of figurative language and aligning ideas to the given topic.
Watching movies related to the theme of the study unit will enable the learner gain insight in the topics contained in the study unit. It is believed that the movies will provide clear information on the topic. The learner will gain skills of analyzing the script for the desired information.
Group discussions give the different learners an opportunity to share information on what they understand about the topic. It provides the learners an opportunity to challenge one another in seeking more information about the topic.
How the Learning Activities Maps to the Set Objectives
One of the instructional objectives in this study unit is to use decoding skills to find the meaning of difficult words. Through text reading of fiction and non- fiction the learner will be exposed to a wide range of vocabulary comprising of both simple and complex words. This will give a learner an opportunity to investigate and find out the meaning of difficult words encountered in the process of reading.
Through group discussions, the learners are able to share ideas with fellow students under the guidance of the teacher that relate to the set objectives (McArdle, 2010). The discussion will centre on identification of text features, and how to locate particular content in a book.
The writing exercises organized for this unit in terms of assignments will expose the learner to different writing styles. It will also give the teacher an opportunity to evaluate the students’ handwriting and give appropriate recommendations.
The learning Theory
The study unit is based on the learning theory that recognizes differences in learning abilities among students. The theory recognizes that we all have different rates of cognition, that even two identical twins cannot have same learning abilities. As a result, each individual should be given chance to learn at his or her own pace (Al Hurwitz, 2011). Fast learners to be allowed to learn fast as slow learners are given more time.
Discussion groups will be created in a way that allows mixing of learning abilities. This will give the learners an opportunity to learn from each other’s experience. Writing individual assignments will be used as an evaluation tool for the teacher to find out how each student is fairing on.
The learning Resources for each Activity
Selection of learning resources should be based on the learner’s level of comprehension (McArdle, 2010). For the purpose of teaching of this unit, the teacher proposed the following general resources; work books, fiction and non-fiction story books, unit study guide, computers, DVDs, charts and picture.
Reading as an instructional activity will make use of books on poetry, drama and plays. The goal of learning this unit will be to investigate literary elements such as; character traits, figurative language and the setting.
The learning resources will comprise of work books and chalkboard. Workbooks will be selected carefully basing on the level of cognition, relevance of content to the set objectives. The chalk board will also provide an invaluable form of visual resource for writing.
Overhead projectors and transparencies will be used in group discussions. In each group, members will work together and investigate a selected literary works to identify aspects of figurative speech, character traits, setting, and other literary styles. After all is identified, the learners will again in a group prepare slides and make presentations in class for discussion purposes with other groups.
Computers, internet, televisions and DVDs will be used for watching videos and internet research. The content of the DVDs will be for e-books that are relevant to theme of the study unit. The students will watch the e-books and identify various characters, their character traits and aspects of figurative speech.
Televised books of plays and drama will expose learners to more comprehensive content and help them comprehend more easily the parts they could not understand through reading. Listening to the DVDs will also help in developing correct pronunciation; use of internet for research purposes develops the students’ research skills using the computer.
Preferred Instructional Methodologies
Instructional methods refer to ways in which the learning content is presented to the students. In general terms, these are classified as either teacher-centered or student centered. Teacher centered instructional methods are often criticized as treating a student as a passive participant in the learning process (Al Hurwitz, 2011).
This study unit will be delivered through student centered learning methods in which the learner takes a center stage in the learning process as the teacher plays the role of a facilitator. Case studies will be used as a major study method in this unit. Case studies will be discussed in groups. It is expected that the students will be presented an opportunity to apply new sets of knowledge and skills to solve case issues.
Cooperative learning; this instruction method involves students of mixed learning abilities grouped together to work on particular tasks. It is expected that every student in the group takes an active role but at the same time tries to work independently.
The active participation of each student causes the group to achieve its objectives. The method ensures that every member in the group is accountable in terms of his or her efforts towards the success of the group and promotes team spirit among the student
Discussion and discussion boards; this method of instruction develops students thinking and interpersonal skills (Tompkins, 2011). In the modern era, apart from the normal class discussions, students can also host an online discussion through the various online discussion forums.
In the ordinary scenario, teachers utilize discussion boards to post questions and students encouraged to post comments to the question at different times. The teacher plays the role of a facilitator and is tasked with guiding the students in the discussion and awarding the students with bonus points as a way of motivating them to participate in the discussion.
Curriculum assessment needs to be continuous, inclusive and genuine, assessment types can be classified into two categories; formal and informal (Ivers and Pierson, 2003). Whether formal or informal, any assessment should be goal based. For this unit, the following will be the assessment goals to aim at; develop learning with particular emphasis on communication competence.
The learner should be able to appreciate literature, the dynamism of technology and develop a personal habit for reading. Assessment for this goal will be through assigning students to an advisor to assist in completion of class projects. Students will also be assessed in oral presentation of their research work.
The oral presentation will be subject to cross-examination and criticism by fellow student and teachers. The student will be rated based on presentation and response to questions during cross-examination
The second assessment goal emphasizes observed learning that prepares students for the next study unit. Students will be asked to complete a survey to determine their feelings about the unit, the mode of learning and their recommendations.
They will be provided a questionnaire that aims at investigating the value of the study unit to the learners in terms of their communication skills, computer skills and interpersonal skills. Positive comments and ability to apply skills in communication, interpersonal relations and use of computer will be used to rate the student in this case.
The third assessment goal will aim at investigating how students evaluate information and learning resource. The students will be required to write a text based on some scholarly resources for evaluation. The students will be deemed to have acquired skills in reading, writing and listening. Communication skills are life-long and are important for the student in pursuing the goals of life.
Formal assessments provide a logical way of evaluating students’ progress in a curriculum unit (Ivers and Pierson, 2003). At the end of the study unit, the students will be given a test based on the theme of the unit. Students will be expected to attempt the questions in the test and hand in their answers for evaluation. The teacher will them evaluate the students basing on their reading and writing skills.
Students will also be tested at the end of the term on the theme unit to evaluate their skills retention on the topic. This type of testing will also aim at comparing a students’ performance as compared to others in the same grade (Tompkins, 2011). The formal test administered will help the teacher in classifying the students based on learning abilities so as to be able to develop strategies to address each individual’s learning needs.
Informal assessments make use of informal class activities that aim at measuring the students’ change in behavior as a result of learning (Ivers and Pierson, 2003). For this unit, students will be assessed in oral presentations and group work as part of informal testing. Activities for informal testing will be based on classroom assignments and reading logs.
Assessment of learners can be administered using a variety of testing tools; a combination of different testing tools provides effective and reliable results. The aim of carrying out assessment is to determine if the instructional objectives are being attained.
For this course unit, both pretest and posttest assessments will be used, pretest assessment will be administered at the beginning of the study unit while posttest assessment will be at the end of the study unit. Pretest assessment will be administered to determine the readiness of the learners for the content in the study unit.
Both posttest and pretest assessment in this study unit will be in form of written tests, oral presentations and group assignments. Information gathered from the student’s performance either in group or as an individual will be used to rate the student. The information will also be vital determine the level of attainment of the unit objective and how prepared the learners are for the new content.
For pretest assessment, students will be required to attempt a short quiz aimed at providing them a clear picture on the content to be covered. The test will also evaluate their ability to apply the skills to be learnt.
Post tests will be in form of tutorials which will refresh their memories about what has been covered. Students will also be required to attempt a graded test that apart from testing behavioral change as a result of the learning process will test their speed.
Al Hurwitz, D., M. (2011). Children and Their Art: Art Education for Elementary and Middle Schools. New York: Cengage Learning.
Ivers, S., K. and Pierson, M. (2003). A teacher’s guide to using technology in the classroom. New York: Greenwood Publishing.
McArdle, E., H. (2010). Instructional Design for Action Learning. New York: AMACOM.
Tompkins, T., P. (2011). An exploratory study of assessment philosophies and practices of visual art. New York: ProQuest Information and Learning Company.