Note: November 2016 – As noted in “update 2” at the bottom of this post, I’ve now officially completed the E-Learning Certificate. What follows is an informal review and thoughts about the program.

Well, I guess I’m officially a career student. I’ve returned to college/university studies three times in the two decades since I graduated university (in 2001 for a TESL teaching certificate, and in 2009 for a Design-Media diploma). Most recently, in fall 2015, I enrolled in the first course of the E-learning Certificate at the University of Toronto Continuing Studies Program. I completed the course in December and I decided to write about my experience on this blog. I’ll describe my background, why I decided to take the course, and my thoughts going forward (I intend to complete the certificate and add more notes here as I move forward through all five courses by end of 2017).

Course #1 – E-Learning Program Planning and Implementation

This course is a good introduction to the administration and management of e-learning programs. I have enjoyed the text which is the “Really Useful E-Learning Manual,” edited by Rob Hubbard. It’s a collection of essays by various thinkers in educational tech / e-learning. Our class mostly works on the structure of week by week readings and writing assignments. There is some discussion and a few links to external media. The highlight for me are the readings and connecting what I learn with my own ongoing research.

The LMS is Blackboard which is a standard in post-secondary education. It isn’t the prettiest system but it gets things done. I’ve occasionally used the Android app to access my course but mostly use my laptop. I have been disappointed that the mobile site does not always have mobile-friendly formatting and that when someone replies to me in the discussion thread I am not specifically notified (all I see is a notification showing there are “new comments”). Ideally if someone comments on your post it seems to me that the system should have an option to email you. I don’t believe that exists the way it’s set up.

Overall I’m quite satisfied with the course. It’s been a good kick-start for obtaining some further understanding of the world of ed tech and and online courses, and I’ve used it as a push toward starting and completing a few of my own portfolio and research projects, including Scots to Canada.

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Update 1: It’s now June 2016 and I’ve half-way through my second course. This time it’s “How to Design an E-Learning Program.” I’m continuing to enjoy the course, particularly the assignments, which allow me to learn more about education, technology and areas like media editors and assessment tools. This brings me to an announcement coincidentally. I had been thinking of publishing some essays and blog posts and I’ve been asked by professor Paine to share my recent assignment. So as was mentioned, please check out my article on “Media Editors and Assessment Tools.” I look forward to expanding the Scots to Canada online course materials by the end of course in late July. Stay tuned for more updates and writing.

Update 2 – It’s November 2016 and I’ve completed the program and received my certificate! Yahoo! Now it’s time to put all that study and portfolio building work into action. I’ve got my hands full with a new job at Sheridan College in Oakville but I’m keen to develop Ancestry Project – an online educational project that will launch in 2017.
Some have asked me about the value of the U of T E-Learning Certificate program and I have come to the conclusion that I can recommend it with some updates and qualifications.
First of all, I really enjoyed the two courses I took with Janet Paine. She’s a great instructor and the course contents (Program Planning and Implementation and How to Design an E-Learning Program) were mostly worthwhile. The courses are in need of a refresh but fairly solid overall (as is the case with many education sites many links or content resources more than a couple of years old can sometimes be outdated). These courses provide a solid foundation in e-learning practice and theory. Because of my design and media background I received a PLA exemption for Visual Design and User Experience – but I can say that I heard from a classmate that this course was also worthwhile.
All in all, I recommend this program and suggest that students consider serious investments of time outside of the courses in developing hands-on experience with real world applications. If you want to gain experience with authoring tools like Storyline or learning management systems (LMS) or website creation tools you’ll not currently find much of a practical aspect inside the course offerings. That may change when they revamp the courses in 2017.
Note: As of 2016, the program certificate requirements have changed from 5 to 3 courses so overall the program is streamlining its offerings.

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Links

E-learning Certificate at U of T

Ancestry Project РOnline Education Project for Canada 150
“Ancestry Project: Sharing Canadian Culture. Creating Digital Stories”