The S.I.D.E. Road – Success in Distance Education project aims at assisting current and prospective distance learning (DL) students in having a successful distance learning experience and maximizing their comfort level with DL courses. Developed by the Instructional Technology Development Center (ITDC), the Distance Learning program, and faculty from Learning and Academic Resources in the School of Learning Resources, Teaching, and Technologies at Long Beach City College (LBCC), the project was funded in part by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Fund for Student Success. It consists of a website and an interactive multimedia CD and addresses students in different types of distance learning classes, including online, teleweb, televised, and hybrid courses. The project is available to all LBCC students, as well as to the college’s website visitors online.
S.I.D.E. Road addresses the well-known DL challenges of retention and success by providing students with tools they can use to develop skills necessary for success in a DL environment. At the same time, the project helps students increase their motivation, confidence, and sense of accountability by assigning them an active role in understanding their own responsibility prior to and during their DL experience. The challenges students face may include procrastination, short concentration span, difficulties in following written text and media-generated directions, or insufficient internet or technology skills. In order to succeed, the most significant skills that DL students need in this mode of learning are
The underlying assumption of the instructional design principles applied in S.I.D.E. Road is that any student can succeed in a DL course as long as that student develops the learning and technical skills necessary to succeed. S.I.D.E. Road ensures that students are provided the opportunity to expand their repertoire of learning preferences and acquire the necessary skills to become successful in this type of learning. Students are encouraged to access and use these tools before they begin their DL experience and revisit them whenever necessary throughout the course. Additionally, S.I.D.E. Road highlights success stories of students who completed DL courses at LBCC by providing filmed student testimonials that prospective students can view to assess their own level of readiness in a personalized environment, and to increase their motivation in acquiring skills they may lack.
Description and Development
Many students in technology-based courses find themselves in trouble at the end of the semester, having failed to accomplish what was required of them to complete the course. Student users of the interactive courseware use a time pilot to turn back time to various significant milestones throughout the semester and help them make better decisions that result in excellent performance and successful completion of the technology-based course. When different decisions are made, the students’ grades can be observed changing increasingly from F to A.
The simulative practices introduce Luis (TV course), Mara (hybrid course), and John (online course); each had made a distinctive set of wrong decisions during their DL experience, and each is waiting for the student users to use the time pilot to help them make better decisions.
In making various decisions, students are also given the opportunity to download blank forms of learning management tools (e.g., time management schedule) for use in the real DL courses they are taking. The three modules also include a variety of content processors, hyperlinks for immediate clarification of terms, and links to web pages as part of the overall interface. To account for individual differences in learning styles among users, the hyperlinks woven into the simulative modules are also available through an alphabetical list in a separate module. A post-activity screen allows students to assess their suggested decision and, through individualized and immediate feedback, see if the scenarios indeed helped them to do the right thing and eventually lead them to succeed in the course.
The S.I.D.E. Road CD includes an Overview module, in which students are engaged in a variety of practices to learn about typical DL characteristics, features, and requirements. All practices include individualized and immediate feedback to allow students to learn from their errors and to reinforce their correct performance while interacting with the program. The Overview module consists of six topics:
The S.I.D.E. Road CD is available for sale at the LBCC bookstore for minimal cost to cover duplication expenses. Based on feedback from the pilot evaluation, efforts will be made to make the CD content available on the web, using similar creative strategies when possible.
The S.I.D.E. Road website consists of (1) an interactive checklist to help prospective students and those who have never taken online courses before to prepare for their DL experience prior to and during the first week of the course, (2) practical tools to address specific DL challenges while taking a course, and (3) links to virtual campus resources.
A web-based interactive checklist allows students to assess their progress in preparing for their DL course and ascertain that they have taken the necessary steps to start the course successfully. Students mark various items on the checklist with either Yes or No. If a student marks a checklist item as a No, an explanation of the material included or the process involved is provided, and students are directed to complete the necessary steps, acquire the skills involved, and apply what they learned. If an item is marked Yes, students are given reinforcement information and verify that they accomplished this item successfully. All completed items are checked and all pending items marked with an X to remind students that they still need to work on these items or skills. Items not accessed are not marked at all. A text-based version of the S.I.D.E. Road checklist is available at the Center for Learning Assistance Services.
The interactive checklist includes links to various information pages aiming at personalizing the DL experience, making it less threatening and more manageable. For example, students are encouraged to visit the Procrastination page, where they learn about the causes of procrastination and how to avoid it through a series of student testimonials and tips.
S.I.D.E. Road practical tools and resources include a dynamic list of links, as follows:
Road Pilot Evaluation
Other institutionalization steps were also taken:
For more information, contact
Beach City College
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