Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Help Me Design Synchronous eLearning

I am working on a project for my Ed Tech class at SDSU which is putting me a little out of my comfort zone. The project requires the design of an eLearning course including a synchronous portion where the facilitator and learners meet online using web conferencing software. I have a lot of experience creating asynchronous "self paced" eLearning courses but rarely have the opportunity to work on eLearning courses with a synchronous session involved. I am excited about the opportunity to try something new and would love your input on the design of the course especially when it comes to the synchronous online meetings at the beginning and end of the course. Below you will find the syllabus which summarizes the design I have come up with so far and the direction I am headed with the project. Help me earn an A+ on this project by posting any suggestions, ideas, or questions you may have about designing synchronous elearning as a comment.

Excerpts from Syllabus
Course Description:
This course introduces Moodle, the Learning Management System and how it can be used to create an online course site and learning activities. Course participants will take a "Hands On" approach to learning Moodle by completing a project based lesson which requires the development of a Moodle course site. Through the development of this project, participants will learn how to take advantage of the Moodle features described below and finish with a course site that can be used for their own courses:
  • Customize course site settings for your specific needs
  • Add text and graphics to your course site
  • Add resources such as web sites or documents to your course site
  • Create graded online activities such as quizzes and self paced online lessons.
  • Create social learning activities such as Forums, Chats, Wiki's, and Blogs.
The course starts and ends with synchronous online discussions while the majority of learning will take place asynchronously using resources available on the course site to complete the project. The online discussions will get you started on the project and provide the opportunity to receive feedback while learning the basics of Moodle through the development of your own course site. Because the majority of the course is completed independently, it is important that you take advantage of the forums on the course site to ask questions and complete your weekly progress reports. Don't wait until the last minute to ask a question, be proactive by posting any questions or concerns on the forums so that you can build the course site of your dreams.

Course Site and Resources:
You are not on your own when it comes to completing this project. By completing weekly assignments, communicating with your instructor and classmates, and taking advantage of resources found on the course site you will learn a lot about Moodle and walk away with a finished product that you can be proud of. Everything you need to attend online meetings and complete the project is found on the course site. Prior to attending our first online meeting, familiarize yourself with the course by reading through each section on the course site.

Course Schedule:
Week 1:

  • Online Meeting
    • Accessed through course site
    • Topics - Moodle overview, Project overview, Discuss project ideas
  • Post your idea for project in progress report
    • Use the "Progress Report" forum on the course site
    • Summarize the purpose and content of your course site. Outline what content, resources, and activities will be included in your course site.
Week 2:
  • No meeting
  • Create project course site and begin adding text using resources in section 2 of course site.
    • "Add a new course" using resources in section 2
    • Assigning participants to the "Student" role
    • Add instructions for students and outline content of course using resources in section 2.
  • Post Progress Report
    • Use the "Progress Report" forum on the course site
    • Summarize what you have done so far, lessons you have learned, and any questions you have.
    • Post link to your project site in forum posting.
Week 3:
  • No meeting
  • Add resources and activities to course site using resources in section 3 of course site.
    • Add a resource such as a web site or document using resources.
    • Add a graded activity such as a quiz or self paced lesson using resources.
    • Add a social activity such as a forum, chat session, wiki, or blog
  • Post progress report
    • Use the "Progress Report" forum on the course site
    • Summarize what you have done so far, lessons you have learned, and any questions you have.
    • Post link to your site in forum posting
Week 4:
  • Online Meeting
    • Accessed through course site
    • Topics - Project Presentations and feedback
Any Feedback??:
So, what do you think? If you have any ideas, questions, or suggestions please let me know by posting a comment.


Jenise Cook said...

Hey Joe!

I know there are a few articles published by The e-Learning Guild, some in their Learning Solutions magazine.

I don't have the URLs, but the articles should be easy to find on their site.

I'll keep pondering...

@jenisecook on Twitter

Ken said...

There are two great web conferencing tools that integrate with Moodle so they appear in the drop down menu for Activities. The first is Open Meeting - ( an open source web conferencing tool. The second is DimDim web conferencing tool (

Of course you can just put a link to join the web conference in the course topic without having to embed the tool in your moodle site.

Joe Deegan said...

Thanks Ken, I have experimented with DimDim but never Open meeting. I'll have to check that out, thanks for the tip.

Maria said...

Hi Joe,
If possible, try to have a co-moderator at the synchronous sessions. He/She should help to answer some comments at the written chat, can solve some technical problems during the meeting.

Anna Sabramowicz said...

Hi Joe,
I am actually participating in a course that is using asynchronous and synchronous components. I suggest you maximize on the times when your students are in a virtual space together by making it impossible not to participate. They have to see the value of synchronous sessions. For the first session it seems you have an overview planned, this to me indicates a broadcast. A broadcast does not need synchronous participants. Pre-record an overview with narration(Articulate, or Captivate etc) then have students watch it prior to your live session (embed in course) During live session, move right along into a group activity, or discussion or brainstorm. I have used Elluminate, WebEx and Adobe Connect, for virtual sessions (costly) try WizIQ for free virtual classroom space.
Frequency of sessions also counts. I suggest making them a weekly event. In a self paced course it is easy to lose people. But that may be out of your hands.
Take care and hope that gives you some ideas.

Joe Deegan said...

Thanks everyone for the tips to help improve my course. I dove into the details of the synchronous portion of the class and will be posting that in a follow up blog post. Using your tips and some good tips from the "Synchronous eLearning" ebook from eLearning guild as Jenise recommended I have come up with a decent lesson plan for the introductory synchronous session. I'm still hoping to refine it even further so let me know if you have any more suggestions in my follow up post.

Link to "Synchronous eLearning" ebook from the eLearning guild: