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    Bonnie Anderson

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    Great post, Shaun! I am an Instructional Designer in the Office of UMSL Online. We partner with faculty in the design, and redesign, of fully online courses. Part of this effort includes encouraging a consistent interface, or course structure, for all courses offered online by the University.

    Just as users of well-designed websites can focus on searching, shopping, or playing, rather than on navigation issues, online students should be able to count on a consistently intuitive “look and feel” in online courses. They should not have to worry about getting lost in a fresh maze of buttons and links each time they begin a new course. When we reach a point where the only significant difference between two high quality online courses is the content itself, the students will win. They can focus their energies on learning the unique content and material in each course, and they can engage the instructor with content related questions instead of “where do I click?”.

    The evolution of online teaching and learning has suffered from an overemphasis on the technology at the expense of instructional strategy and information design. Online learning is a critical context for bringing together the concepts of user-centered design and learner-centered teaching.

    Your post is timely and well researched – again, great job!

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    Christa

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    My mom wants to take online courses to get an accounting degree. She spends most of her work day on the computer, but she feels that she would not be able to keep up with online classes because she doesn’t have ‘computer skills’ that would be used in the courses. Even after an extensive ‘lesson’ in computer basics (like those mention in your article–attaching a doc, finding a doc, powerpoint, etc) she was overwhelmed and frustrated. I am frustrated because as a teacher I am not able to facilitate her acquisition of the skills necessary. I too, feel that the focus of online courses should be the content of the learning and not the technology used.

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    Carl Wood

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    Shaun, your post is well-written and equally well-thought out. Even as a high school teacher, I find that I often over-estimate the technological-savviness of my students. I would love to hear suggestions for accounting for such deficiencies. I find myself spending enormous amounts of time teaching students such simple skills as cutting and pasting word documents and attaching documents in email. I’m convinced that most of my students are Facebook-savvy, which is just not the same as tech-savvy.

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    Rose Davidson

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    I agree with you Shaun, I have experienced several situations like this with my own students. At my school the freshmen are required to take a digital literacy type of course where they learn the skills necessary to use their laptops. One postive note is that the digital natives are very open to asking for help and for giving each other help without ridiculing. It is very common for a student to ask, “How do you save a movie?” and another student to jump up and help them. I don’t hesitate to ask for help when I hit a technological wall either. This atmosphere of cooperation comes along with the technology use, a far cry from the humiliation, ridicule and competitiveness of the recent past in the classroom.

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    Chris

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    very nice article.

    “Here are the steps to attach a file to an email”–I have that conversation at least 10 times a semester. But I think that as technology becomes more and more integrated into our daily educational activities, not acting as a liaison between the technology and the student is a naive desire. With new and helpful tools come new responsibilities and I think teacher must get comfortable with playing the role of tech-support just as much as the role of teacher.

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