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TransformingTheChurch's Four Cornerstones of Online Learning

By Bill Anderton
Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientist
TeleWorship Corporation

The four cornerstones of our learning methods are:

  • On-Demand Learning
  • Community-Based Learning
  • Instructor-Led Learning
  • Tutoring-, Mentoring- and Consulting-Based Learning

On-Demand Learning

On-Demand Learning is typically lecture-oriented in which a subject matter expert makes a presentation on a topic. Presentations are usually captured either as full-motion video or audio-graphic presentation consisting of PowerPoint slides synchronized to a recorded voice track of the lecture.

On-Demand Learning is available in the course’s Virtual Classroom for viewing 24x7. Students may view on-demand learning sessions at their own pace including the repeated viewing of sessions, in whole or in part, for full comprehension.

On-Demand Learning sessions are asynchronous because they are self-paced; other students and/or instructors are no necessarily online at the same time.

However, On-Demand Learning can still be interactive (with blended-learning techniques) because questions and answers can be posted, or discussions on each on demand session can occur via other components of the system.

Community-Based Learning

Community-based learning consists of several online learning communities where students, instructors, mentors and guest can meet online using virtual telepresence technologies to interact with each other. Interactions among members of our learning communities lead to discussions, opinion sharing and exchange of ideas. Community-based-learning is very powerful because it can harness the whole community for the learning experience.

Some technologies used in community-based learning are synchronous where all participating members meet online, together and at the same time and in real time. Other technologies used in community-based learning are asynchronous where participating members can exchange messages in a store-and-forward fashion; members can post a question and others can see the question and post a reply when they enter or return to the community. Members of the learning community can use any of these methods to discuss the topic at hand, ask questions of instructors and mentors, ask questions of other students or engage in the other interactions provided by our applications.

Community-based learning simultaneously has elements of both a study group and a colloquium.

Our overall Connect Community is composed of one general-purpose facet and multiple special-purpose facets. Each student can belong one or more of the facets of the communities as needed:

  • Learning Community for Each Virtual Classroom – Each Virtual Classroom has a dedicated community for its class that is composed of all registered students in the course plus all instructors, mentors and guests.
  • The Connected Community Member Portal – All current and former students, instructors, mentors and consultants, as well as anyone simply interested in becoming a student belongs to the Member Portal of our Connected Community. The Member Portal is a general-interest community that is open to all and can cover all topics either formally or informally.
  • Private Communities – Members of special interest groups can join into special purpose-built private communities for unique working groups or specific ministries. Our Private Communities have all of the features of our general-purpose Member Portal. Private Communities can be secured and optionally have vetted membership if desired.
  • Private Consulting Room – Small working groups, multiple members of individual churches, for example, can use Private Consulting Rooms. Our Private Consulting Rooms have all of the features of our general-purpose Member Portal. Private Communities can be secured and optionally have vetted membership if desired.

All facets of the Connected Community use a common set of features and functions and can use any combination of the following features and functions are employed in our Connected Community:

  • Community Notices - Community Notices provide a quick and easy way to check for all updates and community news. All important and late-breaking news about the community will be posted here.
  • Community Calendar - All community events are listed in the online Community Calendar that can be view in a weekly or monthly grid for a date in the past or future.
  • My Conversations - Do you have questions or comments that need to be kept in confidence? In My Conversations, you can have private conversations with the Distance Learning Faculty and Staff. The student's side of the conversation can only be viewed by the individual student (not the class or the community at large) while the Faculty and Staff's side of the conversation can be seen and responded to by any member of the Faculty and Staff.

All facets of the Connected Community can use any of our streaming media features:

  • Video-On-Demand Sessions - The video-on-demand sessions consist of five audio-graphics multimedia sessions. Community members can view each at their convenience.
  • Live Video Sessions - The live session page provides embedded video players for participating in live broadcasts from either desktop sources, large venues or our video conference bridge. Our live video sessions provide everything needed for an event chairperson or any authorized person to broadcast live audio/video events. Anyone can be authorized to be a broadcaster from any location with nothing more than a PC and a webcam. Also, Live Video Sessions can originate from TeleWorship's large venue multiple-camera broadcasting package.

Any of the facets of our Connected Community can employ any of our interactive community features. The interactive features of the community will allow interaction among community members: students, instructors, mentors, consultants and guests. The features allow you to ask questions, post opinions or have on-going dialogs and other interactions.

  • Community Forums - A fully-functional forum is available here to provide a class-wide venue for discussion. Any student with access to this class may read and post new topics for discussion or post comments. If you have questions about any session or questions on general topics, you can post a discussion thread in the Forum and other members of the facet can quickly post comments and/or answers; everyone see the same information at the same time and share in the discussion.
  • Community Basic Text Chat - Community Basic Text Chat allows simple interactive text chat functionality among members of the class. In this simple version of chat, video is not included.
  • Presenter Chat - Presenter Chat provides the ability to control a classroom-like environment in which an instructor or presenter can have a 2-way audio-video-text chat with a group and choose which person from the audience will have the user podium.
  • VideoGallery - VideoGallery is a simple and fun application that gives people the ability to create and view short audio-video messages including such features as Webcam Recording, Thumbnail Video Selection with click-and-play viewing, and it is social media-friendly. Even guests can record their webcams.
  • FaceTime Broadcasting - The FaceTime Broadcasting application allows two live camera feeds to be sent to many users. It is anticipated that the primary use of FaceTime Broadcasting will be one-on-one interviews where the two participants (interviewer and interviewee) are in two different locations with nothing more than a PC, webcam and Internet connection. However, this facility can also be used for round-robin discussions among members of the class. When used for round-robin discussions, the two video slots are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. When someone stops the video feed, the next person to click the broadcast button gets the open video feed slot. Any number of users can view the broadcast.
  • Live Audio Conference Calls - We also provide the use of a carrier-grade audio conference bridge for conducting class conference calls and class discussions.

Live Instructor-Led Learning

Sometimes, traditional instructor-led learning is needed. Rather than replacing Instructor-Led Learning, our system embraces it and extends its effectiveness with our technology. Using the technology tools in our Live Classroom system, we can enable instructors to teach live real-time classes and sessions to any number of students who can be located anywhere. Our Live Classroom technology allows multi-way conversations, shared PowerPoint slides, virtual whiteboards and even desktop video to be simultaneously shared among all participating students, instructors and mentors.

Live Instructor-Lead Learning is synchronous; all students, instructors and mentors participate at the same time. However, travel isn’t required; the class comes to the student rather than the student going to the class. The use on Online Instructor-Led Training can accelerate the speed and efficaciousness of learning and knowledge transfer while reducing disruptions to the work day and lifestyle of our students. The efficiency of our online tools also makes the most productive use of instructors, mentors and consultants.

Live instructor-led learning can be in the form of a physical class component meeting in a specified venue or it can be totally online.

Tutoring-, Mentoring- and Consulting-Based Learning

Sometimes, individual students or small groups need highly-customized and individualized tutoring, mentoring and consulting. Such learning sessions can be as short as a single session or on-going over a long period of time. Our system provides all of our live real-time synchronous learning tools for live meetings as well as all of our community-based tools for tutoring-, mentoring- and consulting-based learning.

Private virtual meeting rooms can be created for a single individual or for a group of any size. These rooms are secure and access is allowed only by password.

Tutoring-, Mentoring- and Consulting-Based Learning rooms are ideal for one-on-one meetings with instructors or mentors. Also, they are ideal for meeting with consulting practitioners.

Blended Learning

In most cases, the best learning environment is one that uses some combination of the four cornerstones of learning; a blended environment of more than one style of learning often produces the best results. Blended learning produces the best and most efficacious learning experience by combining two or more of our learning methods into more-complete and more-powerful learning experiences. Our instructors and course designers can use any or all of our technologies in any of our courses to build the best blended learning experience. While each technique has its own unique advantages, when blended together, synergies result in more effective learning experiences. The specific advantages each learning method can be used to its maximum advantage, efficiency and synergy.

For example, students might begin with the power and ease of self-directed On-Demand Learning for lectures. Then, after viewing the on-demand media, students and instructors can meet together in live real-time sessions for questions and class discussions. Student can ask the instructor questions or to explain things the student didn’t understand the first time through the material. Then, all students and instructors can join into the in-depth discussions that occur with the Learning Communities. Finally, if needed or desired, private tutoring or mentoring can occur for highly customized learning.

Taken together, all of the components are blended learning.