Redesign of Educational Technology Course for Undergraduates

Author Information
Author(s): 
Dr. Janet Welch
Author(s): 
Anwen Burk
Author(s): 
Sherri Fricker
Author(s): 
Carol Tonhauser
Author(s): 
Kim Peacock
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
University of Alberta, Faculty of Education
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

In 2012 the mandatory educational technology undergraduate course in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta underwent a significant redesign. Approximately 800 students go through this course in one year. This redesign was driven by a number of goals. First, the course content needed to meet the needs of 21st century teachers. Second, we wanted to increase flexibility for how our students interacted with and moved through the course. Third, we wanted to build a course in which we modelled effective technology use in education. In order to meet these goals we worked as a team with a variety of educational and professional backgrounds to build a course which has reduced face to face class time, deepened student interaction with the course content and uses a team approach in its delivery.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

EDU 210: Introduction to Educational Technology (formerly called EDIT 202) is a mandatory undergraduate course in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. A recent redesign of the course incorporates the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) NETS for Teachers and the Alberta Education’s Information and Communication Technology Program of Studies outcomes to prepare students to meet international and local standards for their technology use in their Introductory Professional Term (IPT), Advanced Professional Term (APT) and careers as educators.

The face to face section of EDU 210 has been redesigned as a blended course. The original course consisted of 3 hours/week each of face to face lecture and 3 hours/week of lab time.

The face to face lecture time has been reduced to 1.5 hours/week. The remaining 1.5 hours/week is spent on asynchronous activities such as discussion boards, interactive digital stories, pre-reading and peer assessment. The face to face lectures are called Interactive Lectures and students are required to bring their own device. We have moved away from traditional lectures and make use of polling software, social media and other web 2.0 tools for group activities, to test understanding and gather student feedback.

The extensive incorporation of technology into the lectures has enabled us to make large classes interactive, gather feedback from students in real time, check on student understanding and progress and model successful integration of technology into a synchronous classroom. The other 1.5 hours of face to face lecture time has been replaced primarily by resource exploration, dialogue through discussion forums and knowledge checks through interactive digital stories. This has lead to an increase in student to student interactions. It also means that students need to do some of their own research on the lecture topic and demonstrate that they have more than a superficial understanding of the topic. Online groups are formed that are replicated in the face to face environment. This allows students to build community online, but carry it through to the live environment.

The 3 hours/week of lab time has been replaced by FlexLabs. The FlexLabs are asynchronous activities which require the exploration, creation and reflection on a variety of tools and types of technology that may be used in the K-12 classroom. They are designed to take approximately 3 hours/week and are matched with the topics and content from the interactive lectures.

Support for the FlexLab activities is provided in an open lab space by members of the EdTEch Services team. Students can also receive help via live chat. This has replaced the need for scheduled lab time, has freed up lab space on campus and allowed the students who need the most help to receive one on one assistance.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Responses from a survey completed by the students in the course revealed the following.

Compared to typical face to face courses they had taken:

43% of respondents indicated increased engagement in this course
75% of respondents indicated that this course required more time and effort
62% of respondents indicated the course improved their understanding of key concepts
44% of respondents indicated an increase in their interaction with other students
43% of respondents indicated improved quality of interactions with other students
81% of respondents indicated that this course offered the convenience of not having to come to campus as often
62% of respondents indicated that the course allowed them to reduce their total travel time each week and related expenses

In addition

75% of respondents indicates that they would choose a blended course format over a fully online or fully face to face format
82% of respondents indicated that the course experience improved their opportunity to access and use the class content.
An article written for the Faculty of Education magazine (EDIT 202 students learn skills that will help them engage the 21st century learner) contains interviews with two students who took the course. Here are a couple of quotes from these students.
“Once I started seeing what the EDIT 202 course was about, once I realized the impact it was going to have on my future teaching career, I began to get excited. I remember sitting in the first class and being handed an iPad to use for an assignment and feeling this rush of excitement. I was sitting on the edge of my seat. Suddenly everything was interesting again. Good lessons do that to you.” - Shaun

“I know that learning how to use tools like this is a big step in the right direction in terms of connecting with students in my future classroom. I am filled with confidence and excitement when I think about integrating technology into my future lessons. I have EDIT 202 to thank for that.” - Samantha

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

This practice relates most strongly to the pillars of Student Satisfaction, Learning Effectiveness and Scale.

Student Satisfaction
The survey results and anecdotal evidence indicate that in many ways students preferred and were more engaged in the blended delivery of the course. This shows that the integration of online components has not just met the standards set by face to face learning, but has exceeded them. Student feedback has also indicated that the outcomes for the course are being met and students can see how they can use technology in their teaching.

Learning Effectiveness
Again, the survey results and anecdotal evidence suggests that the blended format for this course often exceeded the expectations students had for their face to face learning. We made extensive use of our Learning Management System (Moodle) to design a clear course path and provide a “one stop shop” for students.

Scale
One of the things we are especially excited about is that we have managed to reduce face to face class time while improving the quality of student engagement even in large classes. We have also been able to leverage the support of teaching assistants and other staff in the department to build capacity and support instructors.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

Learning Management System
Access to Web 2.0 tools

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

The most significant cost consideration is staff. Both the redesign of the course and the support team while the course is running needs to be considered. No additional equipment or software needed to be purchased with exception of Poll Everywhere (approximately $700/year).

References, supporting documents: 

Alberta, G. 2013. Alberta Education - Information and Communication Technology. [online] Available at: http://education.alberta.ca/teachers/program/ict.aspx [Accessed: 28 Aug 2013].

Brandon, D. 2013. EDIT 202 students learn skills that will help them engage the 21st century learner | Faculty of Education University of Alberta. [online] Available at: http://beditionmagazine.com/edit-202-students-learn-skills-that-will-hel... [Accessed: 29 Aug 2013].

Iste.org. 2013. Nets Standards. [online] Available at: http://www.iste.org/standards [Accessed: 28 Aug 2013].

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Dr. Janet Welch
Email this contact: 
jewelch@ualberta.ca
Effective Practice Contact 2: 
Sherri Fricker
Email contact 2: 
stfricke@ualberta.ca
Effective Practice Contact 3: 
Anwen Burk
Email contact 3: 
anwen@ualberta.ca