Online learning is not new for some schools and universities. The abrupt shift to distance and remote learning last spring had some institutions continuing as normal while others fell behind. Districts that were unable to provide Internet-based education to students–due to a lack of technology, access, or other barriers–often ended up making paper and pencil packets to mail home or drop off with a bus. This left some students isolated while peers in other districts were able to continue as normally as possible, video-conferencing with teachers and classmates and completing assignments digitally. The pandemic brought to light a longstanding issue in education – equity.
One remote learning solution being piloted in some states is the use of datacasting to provide students with Offline MultiModal Instruction (OMMI). With this model, students are provided packets of data through broadcast signals and can then learn and work safely offline. The concept of OMMI, presented at the SITE Interactive Online 2020 Conference, was conceived by several CMU faculty, graduates, and students. The authoring team of the paper and presentation was Dr. Kathryn Dirkin, Adam Hain, Megan Tolin, and Dr. Ashley McBride. According to Dirkin, the initial inspiration for OMMI came from a presentation she attended regarding the potential for datacasting and the struggles some rural districts were having to provide online instruction to all students. This conversation combined with documents her graduate assistant had created sparked the beginning of the OMMI model. Her goal, then, was to include other voices in the design of the model to make sure it would be broadly accessible to teachers. These four authors not only named OMMI, but offered three basic components of a successful offline datacasting lesson.
Dirkin recognized that while the goal was “to provide all students high-quality curricular materials, there was not a structure for producing those lessons.” Thus, OMMI was born with its basic structure to guide offline learning. The first requirement for OMMI is an anchor document, similar to a hyperdoc, that gives students an instructional pacing guide for their learning. All links and ideas contained within the doc link to files and places that are contained within the local data file. Educators can design docs that link within themselves as well as to locally downloaded videos and audio. This design of the anchor text leads into the second component of OMMI which is to creatively repurpose existing software for offline use and deeper understanding. Finally, the last piece of OMMI is the use of a balanced assessment structure. Working offline asynchronously, students may not receive immediate feedback from a teacher but can still use self-assessment as a learning tool. Further, offering students options for their authentic project-based and performance-based assessments allows them to create meaningful projects within the context of what is available to them at home.
As summarized by the paper itself, “The OMMI approach couples the affordances of datacasting with an intentional consideration of the instructional design principles that best facilitate student learning. These technologies hold the potential to provide equity to disparate communities lacking broadband access from urban centers to rural communities” (Dirkin et al., 2020). Educators can benefit from the design of the OMMI model, especially those who teach in areas where students are struggling to interact in online environments. According to Dirkin, the ultimate goal was to “make sure students’ needs are met with offline learning.” Additionally, she was encouraged by the response from DET grads and students who wanted to put together something that could have some really important implications for both teachers and students.
Dirkin, K., Hain, A., Tolin, M., & McBride, A. (2020, October). OMMI: Offline MultiModal Instruction. In SITE Interactive Conference (pp. 24-28). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).