Book Review: A Step-by-Step Guide for Using Uploaded Resources for a Fully Online Course by Betty McDonald

Review by: Dr Kogi Naidoo, Associate Professor & Director, Learning Academy, Charles Sturt University, Australia

A Step-by-Step Guide for Using Uploaded Resources for a Fully Online Course by Betty McDonald

The book is a relevant, desktop guide and self-help resource for the busy reflective academic who aspires to having an engaging and well thought out fully online course. Many readers will be able to identify with my experience of moving my course from face-to-face delivery mode to being offered fully online. From my experience of scrambling to meet due dates to offer subjects online I recall vividly moments of panic and slight embarrassment during the first iteration. The main reasons for the ‘rushed’ and less than perfect course, were inadequate institutional resources to provide appropriate guidance and hands-on support to offer a quality online subject. Having this guide would really have helped me!

You will find this book invaluable if you, like other academics, are wanting to upload resources to create a fully online course or to review or enhance existing online courses. The book offers an easy three step plan for organising already uploaded resources to produce a fully online course: 1) identifying Learning Outcomes, 2) reorganising already uploaded Learning Resources, and 3) adding appropriate Learning Activities. You will have the opportunity to interrogate the pedagogical underpinnings for decisions made relating to Learning Outcomes, the order of Learning Resources and appropriate Learning Activities for optimal learning. You are offered several empirical, evidence-based, step- by-step, practical, strategies to upload apt resources and create online learning activities that result in quality online courses.

This very easy three-step plan to organize your uploaded resources gives you the research-based rationale for why, what and how to plan, scaffold and engage students in their learning. For academics who do not have strong, education discipline backgrounds or qualifications, the book provides an accessible scholarly digest that informs your Design, Teaching and Assessment practices. Besides filling in gaps in knowledge, Betty cleverly highlights issues and challenges teachers and learners experience. Her reference to the literature also provides timely reminder of essential concepts underpinning learning and teaching pedagogy and practice.

Betty uses relevant shareware graphics (there are over one hundred exhibits) and memorable quotations that are both, instructive and helpful keeping you focused and engaged to systematically re-organise your uploaded resources to facilitate student learning and improve your online course.

The book which is a quick and easy reference guide is organized in three main chapters:

In Chapter 1: ‘Defining Online Learning’, the differences between Andragogy and Pedagogy are explored. Then Bloom’s (1960) dimensions of knowledge cognition/learning, attitudes/values and behavior/skills are reviewed relating to the levels of difficulty and ordering of uploading learning resources. Finally Gagne’s nine Events of Instruction are discussed: 1) Create an attention-grabbing introduction, 2) Inform learning about the objectives of the eLearning course, 3) Stimulate recall of prior knowledge, 4) Create goal-centered eLearning content, 5) Provide online guidance, 6) Practice makes perfect, 7) Offer timely feedback, 8) Assess early and often, and 9) Enhance transfer of knowledge by tying it into real world situations and applications.

In Chapter 2: ‘Issues Related to Online Teaching and Learning’ the main issues relating to creating a richer more conducive environment for effective student learning are addressed. These issues include a focus on Multiple Intelligences, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Instructional Design, Expectations and Quality Matters. The focus on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, for example, highlights differences in learner styles and preferences impacting on decisions for uploading online resources. Focusing on the three principles of Universal Design for Learning explores the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of learning.

Several instructional models are also reviewed in Chapter 2. They include: ADDIE and ASSURE models, and others, for example, ARCS, Backward Design, Cognitive Apprenticeship, Iterative Design (Spiral, Rapid, Prototyping), Transactional Distance, TPACK, among others, which provides you with opportunities to reflect, review and align learning resources  to learning outcomes and learning activities.

Finally in Chapter 3: ‘From Uploaded Resources to Fully Online’, the focus on making informed decisions is based on knowledge and understanding from the previous two chapters. There are specific considerations relating to the ultimate desired outcome relating to quality online course. Aspects relating to the Learning Management System, Learning Outcomes, Learning Resources and Learning Activities are focused on that guide the reader to a better course, one designed with systematic thought given to what contributes to the ‘best’ student learning experience.

Highlights in this chapter also include: Taking responsibility for your learning and teaching, Gagne’s Good Guide, making the content accessible to students, making the most of ‘Teachable moments’ and ‘Asking questions’. There are also many hints and tips for layout and design that are provided to ensure your revamped course is vastly improved making your course navigable, accessible with pointers and tabs that are explained upfront. Adopting the ‘consistency’ principle ensures that the learner in your online course is guided at all times. To complete the set of resources provided, templates for evaluation and reflection have also been included to ensure your focus on proposed changes to your reviewed course next time you teach.

My final comment cannot be better said than a quotation from Betty herself: ‘When you know why you are doing what you are doing, you are better able to succeed.’ The book is an accessible, practical must-have for academics and teachers alike, as well as course and curriculum support staff.

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