Catholic Distance Learning Network


Module 1 of 4 MODULE 1 OF 4 (¡Ahora en Español! translation by Dr. Carlos Miranda)


In this module, we will discuss the differences between online and classroom teaching and learning, associated basic terminology, transactive vs. transmissive pedagogies, basic course templates, converting documents to PDF, and learning theories and learning styles and their relationship to online courses.


ASSIGNMENTS/ACTIVITIES OVERVIEW (details are listed below)


Essential Elements, Prepare, Design, and Teach Your Online Course, paperback, 114 pages, Atwood Publishing (2002), ISBN-10 1891859404, ISBN-13 978-1891859403




Various LMS include Edvance360 (one of the very best on the market!), Populi, Moodle, WebCt, TopClass, Virtual-U, Lotus LearningSpace, Web Mentor, Symposium, TopClass, Convene, Embanet, Real Education,, E-Web, Internet Classroom Assistant, Softarc’s FirstClass, Serf, Virtual-U, Blackboard, and

Usually all that is needed is a login, password, and the ability to navigate the Web, open, and close windows, save files, and send email and email attachments. Differences between management tool software programs include options such as spell check and editing and maybe blogging capabilities.


Is online teaching easier or more difficult than face-to-face?

Online teaching presents little opportunity for an instructor…

But, online teaching offers an instructor:


The online teacher needs:



Course/Content a Good Fit?
Instructors must determine if a course is suited for online delivery, and students must determine if taking a course online is a good fit for them and their lifestyle. Instructors should also be aware if an online student lacks the skills necessary to successfully complete an online class.

An instructor may have an entire course written and published, for example, and then discover at the end of week one that several students lack basic technology skills and are unable to attach a file. The instructor should revise the course documents and add content to accommodate those students and basically dual teach the same course, at the same time, to students with varying degrees of expertise.

To ensure that everyone is on the same page, suggest students take a survey. There are a variety of surveys available online, free of charge (more on creating a survey later). Another idea might be to simply ask the students to list their skill level in a particular area. As educators we are all familiar with teaching a class of students at varying levels of knowledge or expertise. It happens in online classes too, but in an online course, instructors are unable to read body language or see raised hands; online teaching simply means being more creative and intuitive when writing content.

Student Abilities: Of course the best route is to know student abilities prior to the start of class, but that isn’t always possible. But being aware of special accommodations during week 1 of a course is better than not knowing at all. Below are a few online surveys.

Interventions and Facilitations: Other issues include knowing when and how often to intervene and facilitate, how to increase online student communication, and how to create activities and projects that increase critical thinking skills and encourage collaborative learning. We’ll be exploring these issues as the class progresses.

Considerations, Hints, Suggestions: As a face to face (f2f) instructor, we are able to explain ourselves immediately if we make a student-assumed erroneous statement. In an online class if a student takes something the wrong way, the instructor is not given a chance to explain. A student will very rarely email to ask for an intended meaning, but instead assume that what an instructor states in writing is usually how the instructor feels or believes.

When writing course content, examine words and phrases that might have a double meaning, and use parentheses for further explanations or definitions.

Often online content can be misconstrued, so invite and encourage questions, clarification, through the discussion board and/or via private email.


Making sure that online students read the course documents is, of course, difficult to control. Often the welcome document or intro to the course document goes unread; unfortunate because that document usually contains important information (grading scale, i.e.).

Idea: To ensure that students will read the information within course documents and not move directly to the 'assignment due' area, include a short assignment worth a few points directly within the first document, i.e. 'please send me an email, worth 3 points to assure that email with Blackboard is working properly...' Get creative, maybe ask students to give you an alternate means of contacting them just in case the course site goes down, maybe ask for their level of experience in a certain area.


A course template is a list of items used for consistency. Using a template is helpful for instructors to assure that pertinent course content is not left out and use of a template will help students stay organized and focused (they do not have to hunt for the assignments, class dates, deadline dates, i.e.).

A course template might include the following:


What is a PDF document?

Even though most documents in an online course are html, creating documents as PDF has advantages. PDF documents transfer easily, print without losing their format, and can be read by everyone regardless of operating system or computer platform.

Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free program for reading PDF files, but to create and alter PDF files you will need a separate program. A print option is what allows for conversion of most documents to PDF files.

To convert documents to pdf format, go to ‘file’ ‘print’ – to the right of ‘name,’ in the drop down menu, scroll to find ‘Adobe pdf’ or ‘print to pdf’ - if you do not see either of these then downloading a free program might be beneficial. You might also try right clicking on a Word document to view a list of choices.

PrimoPDF is a free program, easy to download and use, and quicker than Adobe.
Directions to download:

Directions to convert:

might see the primo window as shown below:

choose ‘Desktop’ – click ‘OK’ – every time you convert a document, the PDF document
will be saved to your desktop - you won’t have to search for it.

 PrimoPDF Save As


Learning Style: It is suggested that the way an instructor learns is the way the instructor will teach. For example, if an instructor learns best by listening (auditory learner), then the course content will most likely be designed as auditory, which means that non-auditory learners might become lost, confused, overwhelmed. 

Instructors should be aware of their learning style not only for course delivery options, but so assignments can be varied to ensure that students with learning styles different from an instructor, will not be left out. If all assignments are multiple choice quizzes, rethink! add a few essay or open-ended questions. If all course documents are lectures and written material, add a few graphics to break up the content, or create an audio recording of the lecture. Go out on a limb and do something different, hard to do if you’ve been teaching for years, because why fix something if it isn’t broken, but by varying content all learners will learn.

Knowing your learning style will allow you to take advantage of your natural skills and tendencies. Knowing your students’ learning styles will help when grouping students - it would not be productive to put several of the same learning style into the same group.

When forming groups:

 “Howard Gardner's work around multiple intelligences has had a profound impact on thinking and practice in education - especially in the United States.” From 

Visit this LdPride web page regarding education, linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, musical intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, spatial intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and intrapersonal intelligence.

Visit the Vark-Learn web page and click on ‘questionnaire’ at the left and take the self-test to determine your learning style.

Pitfalls to consider in relation to students working in collaborative groups online:

For more information on understanding student-group interactions, read the article Online Groups and Social Loafing: Understanding Student-Group Interactions by Sherry L. Piezon and Robin L. Donaldson.


“Theory work over recent decades has focused on identifying various perspectives from which curriculum is viewed and the implications of those perspectives for the kind of curriculum that is developed and its implications for learners, educators, institutions and agencies that sponsor educational programs, and society.” From

Three perspectives:From:
Transmission – when the instructor drives the learning
Transaction - instructor provides the framework for learning
Transformation - instructor facilitates autonomous, self-directed, learning

Also important, and relative to creating effective and successful assignments, projects, and activities, is awareness of what adults need for successful learning. Many individuals have contributed to the study of education, but we will mention three: John Dewey's 19th-century progressive educational philosophy that is relevant to 21st-century technology-based classrooms; Malcolm Knowles’ theories of andragogy and effective adult learning; and Eduard Lindeman’s (1956) belief in adults as self-directed learners. Dewey believed that education should be progressive and involve relevant, hands-on active learning. His thoughts were supported by Knowles' demonstration of the value of self-directed, informal education for successful learning.

The constructivism theory relates to how we learn new material by forming relationships and meaning to old knowledge and experiences. Collaborative learning pertains to learning with others in a group environment. Dewey believed that education should be progressive and involve relevant, hands-on active learning. His thoughts were supported by Knowles' demonstration of the value of self-directed, informal education for successful learning.


Submit each of the following using the module 1 assignment post


Suggested, not mandatory, participation – use the module 1 comment post for the following:


Last Updated May 25, 2013.  © Catholic Distance Learning Network.
"The program was excellent. It was a very generous idea to make it available to students. It provides a clear understanding of the advantages and limitations of the online environment. Anyone interested in learning more about distance learning would benefit greatly." - Carlos Miranda, Ph.D. - certification completed in winter 2012 through the graduate program at Holy Apostles College & Seminary (read more)