DEOET TIG Week: Tara Shepperson on the Many Aspects of eLearning, eTeaching, and Educational Technologies

Hello! I’m Tara Shepperson, Chair of the Distance Education and Other Educational Technologies (DEOET) TIG of AEA, and Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at Eastern Kentucky University. Over the past two years, several issues have converged leading this TIG in a more focused direction:

Growth of elearning is focusing our members on the big topics around teaching and learning using technologies. No longer is it about the latest technology. We have all learned that is in a constant state of change. So, we are now exploring those larger elements that encapsulate managing, teaching, and learning across space, both in real time and at the time of participants’ choosing.

This week of tips will include some ideas how as evaluators we may consider a host of perspectives that impact teaching, design, resources, and learning. These revolve around what I like to call the six S’s: strategies, structures, spaces, students, styles, and sources.

With fewer or no face-to-face interactions, teaching strategies change. Instructor lectures, student discussions, and the give-and-take of traditional classrooms take on new forms and demand new strategies. Structures from the syllabus to presentations must be reworked to better meet the interactive and more visual designs of new learning spaces. With these new forms, comes increased student-control of learning and the need to reconsider how teaching accommodates diverse learning styles. Finally, the availability of sources for course content and student referencing must be considered.

Lessons Learned: Distance learning and educational technology is about much more than the technological tools. It is not an either-or. Rather, interactions take place on a broad spectrum from fully remote and student-centered to blended or hybrid (with some face-to-face or other real time interaction).

Lessons Learned: Distance learning and educational technology also includes a growing list of multi-media options for class work, meetings, or teacher-student conferencing that influence learning and training experiences.

Hot Tip: Be thoughtful about the types of information you seek in an evaluation. Often course online formats and end-of-course surveys or the same throughout a district, college, or university. If you want answers about course development or teacher/student experiences, the availability of that information may be more challenging.

Rad Resource: An ongoing forum about teaching and especially online learning, the Faculty Focus Newletter offers suggestions to instructors and ideas for evaluators.

Rad Resource: JOLT– the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching provides peer-reviewed articles on web-based instruction.

Rad Resource: The non-profit organization EDUCAUSE focused on the role of instructional technology at college and universities, covering research, security, and other issues relevant to Higher Education.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating DEOET TIG Week with our colleagues in the Distance Education and Other Educational Technologies Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our DEOET TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

3 thoughts on “DEOET TIG Week: Tara Shepperson on the Many Aspects of eLearning, eTeaching, and Educational Technologies”

  1. Hi Tara,

    I was intrigued by how relevant your article is in 2020, especially during the pandemic. My main reason for reading your article is that I am drawn to the concept of e-learning and instructional design.

    The point you made about no longer needing to know the latest technology is a very important point. I think many people shy away from teaching online because they are afraid of the ever changing technology. I agree with you, in the sense, we shouldn’t focus on the latest technology, when it comes to teaching, but rather what works for the students and their diverse learning styles.

    Also, I believe that instructional design is a very strong component of elearning. This type of design allows us to present information and discuss course material in engaging and interactive ways. I think that if teachers are required to shift their classrooms online, they should be taught some of the skills required for instructional design so that it opens avenues and allows them to really discover the online teaching platform.

    I am currently enrolled in a Program Inquiry and Evaluation course and we have been learning about ways to collect qualitative and quantitative data. The surveys that students usually get at the end of a course are a good way to get quantitative data, but it isn’t qualitative. I think that there needs to be a “uniform” way of collecting qualitative data that can help evaluation in terms of the course, the students and the teachers. For example, the questions in the end of the year surveys may be suitable for science students but not for students in the humanities, therefore the data collected may not provide the quality of information required to make changes for the betterment of the institution.

    Overall, I enjoyed your article and look forward to seeing more views on elearning.


  2. Thank you for your post!
    I am currently a distance education student working towards a post-graduate degree that is fully online without a face-to-face component. I also agree that evaluators need to consider the impact of technology on teaching, design and resources and how that ultimately impacts learning. The online component creates a different learning environment where collaboration with online discussion boards and multi-media platforms is integral to an overall positive experience in the class. I prefer expressing my thoughts and opinions on a internet discussion board at a time that is convenient to me, as opposed to the pressure of articulating an opinion in front of a traditional classroom. It is much easier to “listen” and learn from your classmates when you are not concerned with participation marks distributed for speaking up in a lecture hall. Your comment about “student control” of their learning truly resonates with me, and what I have seen so far in my personal education journey.
    Also, as an employee of a post-secondary school institution, we distribute KPI surveys to our students to determine how that program and the college is functioning systemically. These are online surveys that are tedious (to say the least!) to get the students to complete. We switched to an online version to better gather and analyze the data, but to administer them presents a challenge with low completion rates compared to the paper version. Additionally, the timing of when the surveys are administered makes quite the difference in completion and accuracy rates. Certain technologies can ease evaluation pain-points however, they can also uncover their own set of challenges.

  3. I found your comment on how the key to eLearning is not having to keep up with technology but exploring methods of delivery intriguing. Even though I like to think I am up to date with my technology I am overwhelmed with the constant stream of new program choices. Luckily when I taught online courses the school board used the same source that I use in my own eLearning courses but I was unfamiliar with many of the multi-media options available to the students. Usually I was able figure it out but with some submissions I had to ask students to change the medium in which it was submitted simply because I could not view it.

    While I do agree with your lesson learned about using multi-media sources, my own experiences leave me hesitant to expand too much. As a student I keep it simple and do not face many problems but as an instructor it was difficult to manage the submissions from my students. It was easier to have multi-media tasks online verse in-class, because students could choose their method/resource of delivery. However it made it more difficult to help with technological problems and often frustrated students when they needed assistance. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can over come this problem? Putting regulations in place may help cut the issues faced on the teaching end of eLearning but it cannot always accommodate student technology access and ability.

    Your RAD Resources will definitely be a resource I use when designing a unit/class that accesses eLearning on a regular basis. JLORT seems like a source I can easily use in the moment when I am facing an eLearning problem. I do not know many people with eLearning experience so having this wealth of knowledge is a comfort.

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