Building Bridges: The “Holistically Focused” meet the “Technically Inclined” by Dr. Selia Karsten
Introduction The Courses The Participants Course Structure
Specific Strategies Asynchronous Contact Project Examples Summary


This presentation highlights strategies used in facilitating two online courses:  "Designing Curriculum Using Technology: Web-Based Learning” and “Enhancing Holistic Learning with Computer Technology”. Both courses were developed and are facilitated by me. Projects created by the participants in these courses illustrate the learning outcomes. Students who participate in these online courses are primarily teachers, graduate students or those who work with training programs.

The Courses

Web-Based Learning is one of six courses in the Seneca College “Designing Curriculum Using Technology" Certificate Program.  The program is a professional development initiative primarily for Seneca College faculty although educators and trainers from other institutions are welcome and have taken the courses.“Enhancing Holistic Learning with Computer Technology” is a graduate level course at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto in the Department of Curriculum Teaching and Learning.

The Participants

The participants in both courses tend to fall into two camps though to varying degrees. There are those who are inclined to teach intuitively, from the heart who have a curiosity about using technology in their teaching but who have had little experience in doing so. And there are those who are primarily interested in computer applications as they relate to teaching and learning but also have an interest in a "holistic" approach.  That is not to say that the participants are strictly one way or the other. Often however, those two characteristics are noticeably present. Some students are quite well versed in the complexities of using computers while at the other end of the spectrum one finds those who have absolutely no confidence in their ability to step through tutorials on how to download software or build web pages.

This combination of the two types of learner turns out to be a blessing as a healthy cross-fertilization takes place. Those who enter with trepidation - new to technology and not a little skeptical of their ability to gain prowess with computers, gain much from the mentoring of those who are more technically experienced. The technophiles appear
to gain from being exposed to a more right-brained and care-giving approach to problem-solving. These participants may observe how good it feels to receive nurturing feedback and realize how simple they can make various complex practices in order to teach those ideas to others.

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Course Structure

Both courses are accessed through a main learning management system with supplemental websites and online tools. CTC203, Web-Based Learning uses the BlackBoard LMS. CTL1799 uses WebKnowledge Forum and First Class. The courses are designed along constructivist lines - that is materials are presented in order to produce learning experiences whereby students build their own knowledge using a variety of courseware and software, communicating synchronously and asynchronously.  Students in both courses are engaged in reading and creating article reviews and in course-related topical group discussions. The core activities are building web-based projects which involve designing and developing both team and individual Web sites inspired by educational models and resources. Learning partnerships are fostered and mentoring is encouraged to promote collaboration (beyond the team work) among the diverse students who populate the courses. This diversity may be found in the following attributes: cultural, work-related, curriculum focus, age, experience, "newbie" and "techie" among others.

Specific Strategies

A course main page or information site anchors each course. This page can be accessed in advance by students who are interested in registering for the course and it is updated with timely notes throughout the course when it is in session. As both courses are substantially contained within learning management systems, the synchronous
and asynchronous discussions are all userid and password protected within the course as offered by the institution upon registration. Those students who are unable to attend a specific chat session can read the archived log of that chat. Substantial resources are available to students and are pointed to as needed throughout the course. Among the resources are the following:

Course schedule: A week by week plan for activities and discussions with due dates for assignments and projects.
    CTC203 - the fall schedule, 2003
    CTL1799 - the winter schedule, 2003

Assignments and Projects: A summary of the main activities and criteria
    CTC203 - assignments that become progressively more complex
    CTL1799 - Course overview for activities and expectations

Resources and Links:

    CTC203 - Resources are organized according to Sessional learning materials (example: Portfolio Resources)
    CTL1799 - The class also uses First Class for e-mail and for sub-conferences - one of which is Resources
Additional Forums or Sub-Conferences include, Resources, Tips and Tricks, Technical Q& A, Cafe

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Asynchronous Contact

    CTL203 - a weekly hour-long chat is held to keep students on track. Each team has a Team Site within the BlackBoard LMS for the course that allows them their own discussion board, chat room, file exchange and e-mail
    CTL1799 - Each team has their own area in the virtual classroom (Web Knowledge Forum is the LMS) in which they have threaded discussions about their project and where they post chat logs (chats are held using First Class)

Special Chat Event

Using First Class, it is possible to have more than one chat open at a time. Utilizing this, I have a special chat event for the 1799 class each semester. They are given information about a guest artist with links related to the artist for each team to explore. Each team comes up with questions to be relayed. Teams elect a "chat captain" who attends the main chat with myself as facilitator and the guest speaker. During the main chat, each team has a chat open where they can relay questions to their captain to ask in the main chat. All may attend the main chat but this keeps the main chat manageable with only a selected number of participants directly involved in writing notes. As a followup, the guest speaker chat log is posted and additional questions are collected and sent to the guest speaker for further response.

Project Examples

Projects produced by students (educators, primarily teachers) in my online classes - some links may be inactive.

Designing Curriculum Using Technology: Web-Based Learning. Previous Projects: login selia.karsten pwd roses
“Enhancing Holistic Learning with Computer Technology” Gallery of Projects


Each time I deliver these courses, I revise the learning materials, finding new strategies for engaging the students. For example, this past semester, I discovered an excellent chapter on Constructivism in an online book available to my students.  Using their university library card to locate this resource, they accessed the reading. Learning partners answered four questions about the chapter after deciding what course they would design using constructivist principles. They presented their discussion of the chapter and the answers to these questions (with an introduction and summary) as a chat log for the rest of the class to view.

I have always believed that by sharing my teaching strategies and learning materials online, I will inspire others. In return, I enjoy the teaching and learning ideas that others share online. I invite anyone engaged in online course development and facilitation to correspond about any of the information found here or on any of my sites and to offer strategies they have discovered in their educational adventures.

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