E-Learning Math Course Design Process

E-Learning Math Course Design Process

Leszek Rudak
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5876-9.ch007
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In this chapter, the process of designing a math (or science) e-course is discussed. The author suggests dividing it into three stages. The first stage consists of defining the general template of the course in terms of three attributes: organization, communication, and methods of access to course materials. The second stage aims at determining the domain and the scope of the content to be taught in the course. At the third stage, the course designer has to form blocks (i.e. to fill the template produced at the first stage with the units of the content provided at the second stage). The project of any block (e-lesson) should consist of the following elements: specific educational goals, description of rules, manner, and tools of communication, the order of materials and mechanisms of their presentation, and the specification of learning objects with regard to applied media and the role in the course.
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Internet courses must be designed much more accurately and carefully than classroom ones. “The online course should be developed before the course begins. Preparation is more than a syllabus or the outline of projects. A full set of lectures, detailed projects and solutions, readings, and other materials should be ready before the course begins.” (Shell, 2013, p. 27)

We can talk about planning classes on different levels of generalization. Usually we should start with very general assumptions, based on the main rules of didactics. We ought to describe pedagogical framework and subordinate further project to this decision, like the content division, operational educational objectives and finally the teaching method choice. In the description presented here we assume that teacher (presuming that an experienced teacher is the designer of the course) has made these general choices. Practically these choices are not made every time and with every course. This is connected, rather, to the teacher’s outlook and teaching style. Because of that the discussion of these the most general problems will be held apart from this chapter. What we aim for, is pointing the systematic process enabling to realize assumptions of the course, these which are resulting from teacher’s individual beliefs as well as these resulting from the general didactic goal for certain classes, as a full project. The process described here is an intermediary between general “ideological” rules and models of planning particular lessons (like these mentioned in the Background), which can be found in literature. This process makes a frame, including work with limitations and advantages of e-learning, as well as methods of planning certain didactic units.

Distance learning supported by computer technology and the Internet has many advantages. The most important one is asynchronisms, i.e., the student’s ability to choose time and place to learn without the teacher’s presence. Nevertheless, the didactic process is going on anyway. Unfortunately, this great advantage of e-learning has its dark side, too: the teacher cannot supervise his students’ work: “Instead of a student, there appear his posts on discussing forums, solutions of open assignments and other works, test results, system log records, perhaps some mails and an image pinned to the profile […] the teacher does not see the student...” (Rudak, 2010, p. 87)

The nature of distance classes results in the separation of the teacher's actions from the learner's work. Virtually all the course elements: organization, learning objects, teacher and learner activities should be designed separately. Of course the project must consider certain relations, but taking into account the simple fact that the teacher is not in a position to control student's activities, it must not be assumed that they will carry out all work in the order assumed by the teacher. This is especially noticeable in those courses where an asynchronous method prevails. The course designing procedure proposed in this paper takes into account the above named assumptions.

The procedure was elaborated on the base of experience in designing mathematical courses. Certainly it can be used also in other subjects, mainly these, in which the procedural knowledge or knowledge with the strong structure is transferred (like in the science studies). It is formulated in the form of a procedure rather than in the form of general rules.

The first part, of the process is a modification of the procedure described by Bednarczyk, Orłowski and Rudak (2009), while the second (on designing blocks) is an extension that fills in the gap between the theoretical model obtained in stages I and II and the practical e-course design. The “modified lesson plan” for e-learning is provided, since a standard lesson plan, which is enough to conduct a normal lesson in a classroom, is not enough to prepare materials necessary for an Internet course. It must be taken into account that most of the teaching methods are concealed in the learning objects which must be prepared earlier (usually before the beginning of the course).

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