Tracking Online Education in the United States, 2014

Grade Level:Tracking Online Education in the United States is the twelfth annual report on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education. The 2014 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group and co-sponsored by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), Pearson and Tyton Partners, reveals the number of higher education students taking at least one distance education course in 2014 is up 3.7 percent from the previous year. While this represents the slowest rate of increase in over a decade, online enrollment growth far exceeded that of overall higher education.

Key report findings include:

  • The year-to-year 3.7% increase in the number of distance education students is the lowest recorded over the 13 years of this report series.
  • Public and private nonprofit institutions recorded distance enrollment growth, but these were offset by a decrease among for-profit institutions.
  • The percent of academic leaders rating the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face remained unchanged at 74.1%.
  • The proportion of chief academic leaders reporting online learning is critical to their long-term strategy reached a new high of 70.8%.
  • Only 28.0% of academic leaders say that their faculty accept the “value and legitimacy of online education.”
  • The adoption of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) is reaching a plateau, only 8.0% of higher education institutions currently offer one, another 5.6% report MOOCs are in the planning stages.
  • The proportion of academic leaders who believe that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses dropped to 16.3%.

Read the Press Release

My First Badge for the cMOOC Teaching Online

A great way to end an incredible learning experience - my first badge to certify that I successfully finished my first cMOOC How to Teach Online! It is one thing to have been reading all of the discussion out there about MOOCs - are they good, bad, etc, etc... - and quite another to actually participate in one. I am happy that I chose a cMOOC, as my inauguration to this kind of online learning and look forward to continuing my personal growth and professional development using this format in the future. In addition to regular participation in the course, the final task to qualify for the badge required completing a final reflection that responded to the following questions:
I. How will you apply the “fundamentals of online teaching” in your own teaching?
In past years I have taught instructional design using the ADDIE framework. As I consider the question of how to apply the Fundamentals of Online Teaching, I believe this model integrated with Bates’ Nine steps to quality online learning provides a structure for how to think about this. 
So, for example, as I get ready to develop a course – OL and/or Blended – starting with the first step, ANALYZE THE CONTEXT, I will ask myself the following questions:
What are the environmental considerations for this course and how will the online components work?
Who are my students and what kinds of strategies do I think would best suit their needs?
Are there any colleagues I might be able to work with to develop and/or teach this course?
What resources do I already have and what’s missing?
Are there any new technology tools or strategies that I want to infuse into the course and, if so, how will I prepare to make sure I’m ready to use them effectively?
II. How will you “build rapport” with your distance learners?
I liked the 5 Factors for Building Rapport and put them into an acronym, of sorts, called PROACtive:
POSITIVE ATTITUDE: I will establish this right from the start in my introductory video and model throughout the course
RESPECT: I will both model and clearly articulate my expectations for this in the course environment guidelines.
OPEN COMMUNICATION: I will emphasize at the beginning that I believe in an open communication approach and establish regular virtual office hours
CARING: I will follow up with students who are missing classes or seem to be having trouble in the course. Use a quick STOP, START, CONTINUE survey on a regular basis to let students know that I care about their learning experience and use their input to improve the course.
I value and currently work hard to develop these factors in my F2F teaching and understand that online, where students can feel alienated, it is particularly important to be intentional about building rapport. In addition to modeling these attributes in my teaching, and using some of the strategies mentioned above, I think paying attention to online attendance and having regular synchronous meetings with students – both team and individual – should help to establish and maintain a good level of interaction and communication
III. How will you “build community” in your online courses?
I am familiar with the COI model and appreciated having a chance to explore more specific ideas about how to implement it in a course. I think the power of this model is that it can used to inform good OL teaching practice and it can be integrated into basically every stage in the ADDIE instructional design process:
ANALYZE: use to frame and develop the questions I listed in the fundamentals section above.
DESIGN & DEVELOP: use as a way of organizing and framing rich social interactions – i.e. levels of interaction: learner to teacher, learner, content, interface – content, and instructional strategies to help engage and build community.
IMPLEMENT: use as a quick formative check for how well the dimensions are being addressed and developed throughout the course
EVALUATE: Use the framework to analyze how well the course supported the cognitive, social and teacher presence dimensions, as well as what areas would need shoring up in a subsequent implementation.
In addition, technology is a major factor in building an infrastructure to support community. For example, tools like email, chat, café forum, bookmarking and web conferencing can reinforce networking and communication within the learning community [i.e. learner-teacher and learner-learner interactions], while the LMS, as the central hub, and a social bookmarking tool like Diigo, or Flipboard can be used to strengthen learner-interface, learner-content and learner-interface interactions.
IV. How will you create a “natural critical learning environment” in your online courses?
I have always been a fan of the Socratic approach and understood its benefits, but was not familiar with the other critical questioning types. While planning I do refer to Bloom’s and so liked that these questions map onto the cognitive levels providing a means for promoting higher order thinking. I think using critical questioning effectively takes some effort time before it becomes a regular habit of practice. This is particularly true for educators who are used to delivering content as opposed to taking students through the more difficult task of getting them to express their understanding [some students just want the easy way out – tell me what I need to learn to pass].
Using a blog as an inquiry journal to document and process students’ learning is a great way to develop critical thinking. From a teacher perspective, another strategy that I have occasionally used, but will be more intentional about in future, is starting off lessons and units with clearly marked thought provoking essential questions or statements to get their attention and hopefully hook them in. In addition, I’ll work to develop divergent and evaluative types of questions to encourage more interactive discussion forums. I've also been thinking that I might have student teams help develop questions and moderate the discussions to tap into topics that are relevant to the their peers and get them more actively involved.
V. How will you create “active, authentic learning environments” in your online courses?
Authentic Learning all the way! This is the area that I plan to focus on most over the next weeks. I believe that infusing authentic learning activities that are experiential and problem based will enhance the cognitive, social, and teaching dimensions of the online community. Like others in the course have expressed, I also think technology can be used to foster authentic learning experiences and, if designed well pull together all of the elements that have been identified in this course as effective OL teaching.
I already integrate a lot of technology into my practice and because of this don’t feel as nervous or intimidated about trying out new tools. Transitioning to authentic learning across all of my courses, however, is going to be much more of a challenge. In my technology course, which is currently my most successful authentic course, my goal has been to help students understand some current trends and get them engaged in action research projects involving a technology implementation in some area that will benefit either their professional development or classroom teaching. Students love this course and constantly tell me how much they have learned.
My goal now is to see if I can create a similar level of authenticity in my other courses. Ed Psychology, for instance, is a dense course that can be dry and overly theoretical. I will use the process I have outlined above to re-evaluate how I am currently teaching this course and then start unit-by-unit [baby steps] to infuse authentic learning activities. My hope is that some day I will be smart enough to create a problematic scenario that encompasses all of the concepts for the entire course, and brave enough to actually do it. I think that would be totally amazing!

Teach the Web: The Web Literacy Standard for You & Your Students

The Web Literacy Standard is a map of competencies and skills that Mozilla and our community of stakeholders believe are important to pay attention to when getting better at reading, writing and participating on the web. Keep up to date with the latest changes to the Web Literacy Standard on the wiki.


 Mozilla has  creative ways to help anyone teach web literacy, digital skills and making. Use our free tools, activities and lesson plans. Or make your own – with help from our global community of educators, techies and mentors like you. Webmaker —is  a Mozilla project dedicated to helping you create something amazing on the web. Our toolsevents and teaching guides allow webmakers to not only create the content that makes the web great, but — perhaps more importantly — understand how the web works. With this knowledge, we can make a web without limits. That’s the philosophy behind We’ve built everything so you can see how it works, take it apart and remix it.


The importance of authenticity and commitment

Fern growing on Land Rover

Making the most of the environment or, you don’t always find what you expect.

This is my last reflective post for the ‘How to Teach Online’ MOOC (or TOMOOC to its many friends). You might not know it from my abysmal level of participation but I have valued being part of this cMOOC and have learnt from it – though as I now look back on the course some of my learning has been unexpected and tangential to the expected outcomes.

One very personal time management / motivation type lesson I will take away is that trying to engage with a cMOOC (and I suspect that an xMOOC might have been different in this regard) whilst navigating through potential redundancy / redeployment and starting a new job is not a great idea. Although I read other people’s blog posts, commenting on them soon gave way to writing job applications and preparing for interviews. I think we all came to realise that to get the most out of a cMOOC you need to put a lot in and on this occasion I just wasn’t able to do that – sorry.

My second lesson relates again to my motivation but also to the issue of authenticity which came through strongly in the later stages of the course. I do not really think of myself as someone who ‘teaches online’ in a straightforward sense. I do create online resources from which I hope people learn, but that is not exactly the same thing (my earlier blog post on hybrid teaching discussed this).

I signed up for this MOOC because I wanted to learn about teaching online so that I could pass on what I had learned to academic colleagues who are doing more ‘hybrid teaching’ than I am and may in the future want to explore fully online modules. I should have known better. When I run a workshop I always offer opportunities for participants to relate the material to their own context and wherever possible sessions revolve around learning-by-doing. The tutors of this MOOC had taken a similar approach so I found myself in a dilemma. I either had to do mental gymnastics and try to put myself in the position(s) of imaginary faculty colleagues as I went through the various activities, or tackle them from my perspective in which case they were not only trickier (see above) but promised less in terms of useful lessons for the future.

At least I took something positive from approaching an authentic learning experience in an inauthentic way – knots of inactivity but lots of reflection on the importance of real, authentic, problem-based, practice-based learning.

I also took on board some important principles for teaching online, though there was no ‘great secret’ there. Good pedagogy is good pedagogy wherever it happens, but you do have to think about that context / environment and plan the teaching and learning to make the most of the environment and tools at your disposal (see image).

I have encountered lots of interesting material (which I have tagged and stored for future reference) in recorded webinars, the set readings and on participants’ blogs and G+ posts.

My PLN has been positively enhanced and I hope to carry on sharing with many of you via social media channels in the future (you can find all my links at

Overall then, I have learned some valuable lessons about my learning, about teaching online and offline and about cMOOCs.

Many thanks to everyone on the course team and behind the scenes and to everyone who has participated in this community of online learning.

Week 5 reflections

Yes, still catching up, but getting there slowly but surely. I watched a recording of Jan Herrington’s webinar on designing productive tasks in authentic learning environments. As a reminder, the nine elements of authentic learning:

  1. Provide authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used in real life
  2. Provide authentic tasks and activities
  3. Provide access to expert performances and the modelling of processes
  4. Provide multiple roles and perspectives
  5. Support collaborative construction of knowledge
  6. Promote reflection to enable abstractions to be formed
  7. Promote articulation to enable tacit knowledge to be made explicit
  8. Provide coaching and scaffolding by the teacher at critical times
  9. Provide for authentic assessment of learning within the tasks.

Applied to the wine marketing students I teach:

Re 1) Authentic contexts: attending and participating in meetings, webinars, fairs and conferences, socializing with colleagues, business partners, customers e.g. at welcome events, dinners, wine tastings; writing emails/text messages/reports/press releases, translating brochures/websites; telephoning; negotiating prices/discounts/deals; in winery selling wine

Re 2) Authentic tasks/wine marketing students: present your winery, wine region, your country’s wine at a fair; conduct a wine tasting; organise a dinner with tasting menu and wine; start-up/ investor/ dragon’s den; present your wine marketing plan/your project at a meeting; present your thesis at a conference; make PowerPoint slides; write emails, business correspondence, translate documents/websites

 Memorable moments:

  • Online courses where the task IS the course – I will take another look at these later on.
  • The biggest danger: simplification, i.e. guiding/supporting the students too much; don’t be afraid to make them think/challenge them.
  • Think about what students can do with the product/task when it’s done – can it be published or shared somewhere, e.g. on YouTube?
  • What is an ill-defined problem? Like a real life problem! Give students an opportunity to decide how they’re going to tackle the task.
  • Re expert – teacher can be the expert
  • A reflective exam can be an authentic task because it forces students to review the whole course: likewise, a portfolio.

Questions to check whether a learning task is authentic:

  1. What do the students do?
  2. Who uses the technology? (should be largely in the hand of the students)
  3. How long does it take?
  4. Is there collaboration?
  5. Is there a polished product?
  6. Is there a showcase or forum for the product?

 I’m definitely going to use this grid to help me analyse tasks I’ve designed and to identify which of the 9 elements need reviewing.

Closing remark in response to this question: How do you know authentic, real, meaningful, passion-filled learning is happening before your eyes?   “You’ll know it when you see it”

The panel discussion, Using problem-based, real-world activities in online classes, was about online classes taught by the panel members. Memorable moments/comments:

  • PBL encourages students to take responsibility for their learning; very engaging; students have to look for information rather than expect to be given it
  • The largest barrie rsto using PBL & creating active learning environments? TIME; it’s more work initially; but it really engages students.
  • Recommendations if you want to start creating an authentic activity for your online class?
    • Start small – rethink one idea from your course
    • Work together with another colleague who’s also interested in PBL
    • Consult an industry expert
    • Just do it! Then revise/improve; don’t be afraid to experiment! (reminds me of Sue’s tip in connection with blogging!)

Closing remark : The future? “Online hybrid is the way to go” (Peter Leong). This caught my attention because this is the way I currently teach my courses: 50% F2F; 50% online. Personally, I feel it combines the best of both worlds. I used to teach only F2F classes but have never taught purely online, so I can only compare F2F with blended/hybrid.

The postings on the community wall: I read most of the blog posts and responded to only to a couple. One which very succinctly summarizes why students don’t participate in online discussions was posted by Debbie.

From my online teaching experience, I can relate to the following: Students

1) Aren’t clear on the expectations: where to post, what post should include (length, content, links, etc.) and/or deadline for posting

2) Feel they have nothing to contribute— are shy, reticent

3) Experience technical difficulties and/or novice user

6) Inhibited by timing of due dates for initial discussion posts, interfere with students’ work schedules

7) Discouraged by discussion questions that appear unrelated to course goals, and/or questions are vague and unfocused

8) Inhibited by certain students that appear to dominate

9) Students’ initial posts and/or responses to classmates are shallow and brief

10) Students’ are just not into it

 Fortunately these have never occurred; maybe because my students have actually met each other F2F:

4) Are offended by fellow classmates’ post, or response to his or her post

5) Poor discussion etiquette


What I want to do with all the above input? Here’s a semester task I give my Master’s students in 4th semester which I intend to review using the framework  to check how authentic it is.

Knowledge Management News Broadcast

The aim of this activity is to provide you with an opportunity to use/extend the vocabulary and apply the skills you’ve acquired in the first three semesters. It is an on-going project which you will do with three other students. It is part of your participation grade.

Here are the guidelines:

  1. Your news broadcast should last between 10-15 mins.
  2. The features should somehow be related to knowledge management.
  3. Each person in the team should have roughly the same speaking time.
  4. Roles for your team can be: anchorman/anchorwoman, roving reporter with eye-witness live reports, foreign correspondent etc.
  5. Give your news station a name and have a poster with your logo behind your news desk.
  6. Create a jingle for your news broadcast – if possible, produced by the group.
  7. Have lots of short but snappy features. If contributions are too long, it can get boring.
  8. Don’t forget to intersperse your news broadcast with 30-second commercial spots.
  9. Include a VIP interview either live or recorded, but keep who you have chosen as your VIP top secret from the other groups.
  10. Show evidence of the language and skills you have acquired over the past 2 years in your news broadcast (broad range of vocabulary & word partnerships, grammatical accuracy, presenting/moderating skills, and last but not least, excellent intonation and pronunciation).

The viewers you have in mind for this news broadcast are people interested in knowledge management – they could also be potential KM students. At our next F2F session, your speaking activity will be an editorial meeting with your group.


  1. Start thinking about what you could include in your group’s news broadcast – make notes/add ideas to your group’s Wallwisher wall (to be created by anchorwoman/man).
  2. Editorial meeting with your group in F2F 2 to discuss your ideas and put together a plan for who’s going to work on which tasks during the next online phase.
  3. Review your progress in the next editorial meeting in F2F 4 and decide who will present which part of your news broadcast, how and when. Upload recordings/ videos/ materials to one source e.g. an ePortfolio (top secret!), a Glog (http:/
  4. Live news broadcast in our last F2F session (June), where each group member has to participate (live and/or recorded). A video of each news broadcast will be made (souvenir!).

 Here are some useful phrases – pls incorporate some into your broadcast:

  • We have with us in the studio Mr….., who has just ….
  • Ms…… – welcome to the studio!
  • We welcome to the studio Mr…..
  • This is ………… reporting from …… Can you hear me?
  • Yes, loud and clear. Go ahead!
  • Sorry, Judy, but you are breaking up. We’ll get back to you later.
  • And now over to ….
  • And now back to the studio…
  • This is ………. returning you to the studio.
  • This was …… reporting for CNN.
  • Our special correspondent John Smith is currently …and we’re connected with John via Skype.
  • Reporting live from …
  • We’ve just received word that …
  • And now it’s time for a commercial break.
  • Stay tuned.
  • … an exclusive interview with …
  • Thank you for joining us.
  • Thank you for tuning into …
  • So, until tomorrow, same time, same place …good evening!
  • So, from all of us at the CNN studio, have a nice evening!


One thing which definitely needs rethinking after listening to all the discussion about rubrics is assessment. Till now, if students produced a news broadcast i.e. actively participated though out the semester and were involved in the final product (live or recorded), they got full marks.


What I did this week:

I adapted an online forum task (wine marketing class) and have now incorporated some triggers for responses (thank you, Rachel!). What do you think?

1) Post a comment on the marketing forum by 4 Nov – state the article title (+link/reference), 3 things you learnt, and one thing you found particularly interesting or surprising. When posting: make sure your subject line accurately reflects the title of the article.

2) Follow up: Read some postings from classmates who read a different article to yours. Then select one (preferably one that has not yet been responded to) and reply to that person by 18 Nov. When responding, try to go beyond a “yes” or “no” or “I agree”, and really engage with the person’s comment, e.g. ask questions to clarify something you’re unsure about, suggest alternatives, extend on an idea, offer a resource link for more information. Useful starters: I was intrigued…; When you mentioned that… it made me wonder….; Have you thought of…; What about…?


I also put together some tips on communicating online and have posted them on the VLE:

TIPS for online communication

  • Make sure you check the platform regularly – for news/updates, forums for new postings etc. Twice a month is not enough!
  • Check whether there’s anything in the handouts folder that you need to print out in preparation for the next F2F session a few days before your class – see handouts folder & the appropriate sub-folder for that F2F session. Otherwise, make sure you have access to these materials on your tablet/laptop in the F2F session.
  • Online task descriptions – see them as a kind of “To Do” list – ticking things as you do them is satisfying! But careful – these descriptions will be updated & linked as the course proceeds, so make sure you’re always working from the current version linked to the course outline.
  • Deadlines are set so that tasks are coordinated. It also means that there’s enough time for your tutor to read your postings/assignments and provide timely feedback. Pls stick to them! But if there’s a problem, get in touch with your tutor and ask for an extension.
  • Email – only if there’s something very private you’d like to discuss with your tutor; otherwise post on the corresponding forum – then everyone will benefit from your query and the response.


  • This is where you apply what you’re learning, where you communicate with your classmates and tutors and basically, where we all stay in touch/help each other during the online phases. The forums are monitored by your tutor, who will remain in the background unless something needs to be clarified. Your postings are a wonderful source of knowledge and are also the basis for valuable tutor feedback on language and task achievement. They are part of your participation grade.
  • There are designated forums for the tasks you are assigned, so pls don’t make new forums; use the ones that are there, just make a new thread within those that exist.
  • New forums will be created (by tutors) to accompany the online phases when the time comes.
  • Post comments in the appropriate one, e.g. help forum – for any queries you have with your SDL, online tasks, language and to share/communicate with the community.

 When posting

  • Read through your class mates’ posts first and try not to duplicate theirs.
  • Write a subject line that is a keyword summary of the content of your posting, e.g. IT/can’t upload file; KM article/where?
  • Create lengthy texts in Word and then paste into a forum. This will alleviate any potential loss of your writing should there be an IT problem. And it means you can also spell-check/edit your text before posting. This is important because you won’t be able to edit your forum contributions after you publish.
  • Linking materials/websites to your forum posting:
  • Activate hyperlinks so that readers can access the URL with one click.
  • Connect content on the platform by inserting the Factline ID – but always enter the .0 version.
  • When responding, try to select classmates’ postings that haven’t already been replied to – it’s motivating for everyone to get a response.
  • When responding, try to go beyond a “yes” or “no” or “I agree”. Give advice, ask questions to clarify something you’re unsure about, suggest alternatives, extend on an idea, offer a resource link for more information, or otherwise engage with one another’s comments. Useful starters: I was intrigued…; When you mentioned that… it made me wonder….; Have you thought of…; What about…?


So what?

It’s time to implement some of the ideas I’ve been exposed to over the last 6 weeks and working out what these are exactly will be the focus of my end-of-course reflection, which is the next (but not last) thing I’m going to do :-)



Week 5 reflections

Yes, still catching up, but getting there slowly but surely. I watched a recording of Jan Herrington’s webinar on designing productive tasks in authentic learning environments. As a reminder, the nine elements of authentic learning: Provide authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used in real life Provide authentic tasks and activities [...]

Weekly Roundup

For the Computer Science Principles classes last week I had them define Computer Science . The Wordle below is from their definitions after Unit 1. I am planning on having them do this each unit and see how our collective definition shifts as we layer on more material. I think this might make a good writing prompt later int he year.
Other things I've been looking at:

  • Been using this site with my Algebra I kids: I am hoping to incorporate Scratch and Graphing
  • Curious to Try this: as the AP Computer Science Principles classes start on the Internet and HTML
  • Rereading As We May Think by Vannevar Bush - this document, from 1945,  first suggests hypertext. Beyond the reading level of most of my high school kids, but some good nuggets
  • As the computer club keeps working on their 3-D printer I am looking forward to trying Blockify 
  • Interesting Video recruiting for AP Studio Art:
  • And, we just found out our CSTA chapter will get 100 Finches to play with next fall! Cannot wait.
  • And lastly made my hotel reservation for SIGCSE 2014. The one thing I learned coaching debate - make the hotel reservation early!

Fostering an Online Learning Environment for Student Success

Welcome to the first of a series of presentations on how to design and foster an online learning environment for student success. In this first part, I will introduce the purpose of this series, identify the importance of Fostering a Positive Learning Environment and relate this to the Community of Inquiry Model. Part 2 will feature an examination of the 7 Principles of Good Practices in Undergraduate Education and Part 3 will feature an examination of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy as it relates to establishing a positive online learning environment. 
If you would prefer, please review the PDF version of the presentation entitled "Fostering an Online Learning Environment for Student Success"

  • Chickering, A.W., and Gamson, Z.F. (1991). Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. Number 47, Fall 1991. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.
  • Drouin, M. & L. R. Vartanian. (2010). Students’ feelings of and desire for sense of community in face-to-face and online courses. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education. Vol 11(3), pp. 147-149.
  • Gravells, A (2007) Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector – Level 3 Coursebook. Learning Matters ISBN 1844451173.
  • Rovai, A. P. (2007). Facilitating online discussions effectively. Internet & Higher Education, 10(1), 77-88. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ796865) Available online at
  • Rovai, A. P., & Baker, J. D. (2006). Community and gender in the virtual classroom. In E. M. Trauth (Ed.), Encyclopedia of gender and information technology (pp. 103-108). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Reference. ISBN: 978-1591408154.
  • Rovai, A. P., & Barnum, K. T. (2003). Online course effectiveness: An analysis of student interactions and perceptions of learning. Journal of Distance Education/Revue de l'Éducation à Distance, 18(1), 57-73.
  • Shea, P., Li, C. S., & Pickett, A. (2006). A study of teaching presence and student sense of learning community in fully online and web-enhanced college courses. Internet and Higher Education, 9(3), 175–190.
  • Swan, K. (2002). Building learning communities in online courses: The importance of interaction. Education, Communication and Information, 2(1), 23–49.
  • Tsai, I.-C., Kim, B., Liu, P.-J., Goggins, S. P., Kumalasari, C., & Laffey, J. M. (2008). Building a Model Explaining the Social Nature of Online Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 11(3), 198–215.

Please feel free to share your feedback on this presentation on the following comment page.

MOOC The Future of Storytelling

A new MOOC on The Future of Storytelling is about to start on the 25th October 2013, by the Univ. Potsdam –

What to Expect

Together with a whole network of media researchers, creators and students we will:
- learn storytelling basics such as antagonist/protagonist relationships, narrative/narrated time, …
- have a look at exciting current media projects
- analyze how they are designed and executed based on aforementioned basics
- and discuss how (and if) new online tools and formats change the way stories are told and perceived.

The 8-chapter course starts on October 25th, 2013 and ends on December 20th, 2013.

MOOC Digital Tools for the K-12 Educator

A new MOOC on Web tools for schools has started on the 7th October

Course Outcomes

    1. Explore different online tools that can be incorporated in the K-12 classroom
    2. Examine the uses of the online tools for both teacher-led and student driven activities
    3. Identify good practices for implementing tools in the classroom

Twitter hashtag- #k12mooc  and a Facebook Group

Introduction video

WK5 – Not with a whimper but a bang?

The Community Wall is looking pretty quiet, but I feel compelled to add my last response. Too little too late – apologies for that – but I take solace in that I still made it by the last day of WK5!

Loved this week’s topic and enjoyed the Morrison and panel webinars! 
This is something I took from Barrel, PBL: A Foundation for 21st Century Skills. His focus and examples are K-12, but the chapter provides a good overview along with the following practical guidelines for Developing Curricula for PBL:
1.  Identify a Topic
2. Map out the concept
3. Consult & integrate standards [if applicable]
4. Generate set of intended unit outcomes or objectives & specify essential questions that demand students engage in 21st Century skills – questioning, problem solving, critical/creating thinking, hypothesizing and reflecting – i.e. complex thinking

5. Design a problematic scenario that will spark students’ interest and provide a structure for the entire unit. Incorporate knowledge and understanding of the essential concepts of the unit into the intended outcomes
6. Formulate strategies that include inquiry approaches like KWHLAQ for observing artifacts and generating good questions. Students are actively involved and should lead this process.
7. Assessment. Use problematic scenario as a summative assessment. During unit, assess quality of students’ understandings using short-answer quizzes; essays, brief research reports; writings in inquiry journals. Inquiry journals contain initial questions; and daily, weekly, and/or final reflections on important ideas learned, process of inquiry, application of ideas to other subjects, new arising questions, and how ideas correspond to their own lives.

There was also some great discussion on the community wall, and I particularly enjoyed posts by Jims & Leanne related to the question of why authentic learning isn’t more common. Jims threw out some great ideas: maybe AuthenticLearning Isn’t More Common – Because It’s Too Common? or because we don’t really know what it is; and that perhaps authentic learning should be approached as attitude toward teaching that “makes the most of the instructional environment to simulate real-world conditions.”  Leanne added“perhaps it should involve more than attitude. Shouldn’t authentic learning be a movement in teaching where the instructional environment approaches real-world conditions?”

I would add that perhaps the artificial, disconnected manner in which our educational system has evolved has distracted us away what authentic learning really is. Or, for those educators who have not forgotten, maybe they feel they have to cave in to the pressure of teaching to the test or other institutionally imposed demands? Or [and I think this is where I fit in] perhaps there is a fear that if we go purely authentic learning, students might not ‘get’ it all. Of course the other side of that is that they will likely get it all plus so much more! This week provided some great insights into how we can still remain true to our responsibilities as educators while adopting more progressive practices that will better prepare our learners for the real world. 

I know that there is a big hole in my current practice and have always been a believer of authentic learning - love the Experiential/PBL ideals. As I started reading the materials, one of the first things that came to mind was the WebQuest – an activity that some of my students like to do as their final project in my educational technology course [which, by the way, is the most authentic of all my courses. Why? Because I am helping them to develop technology skills that they will be using in their future professional development and practice!]. I’ve created my own version for my Ed Psych course, called a BrainQuest, where I set up a scenario and have students look through various resources, etc. I now realize that though my spirit has been in the right place, this activity is in essence a traditional activity disguised in a want-to-be authentic wrapper. It needs a serious overhaul as does, I'm currently feeling, most of my coursework.

The theme of authentic learning really strikes to where I think I need the greatest change. I also sense that it is going to require the biggest conceptual shift; more so I suspect, than transitioning from F2F to OL [I've always bought into the importance of technology integration]. This will require a leap of faith, and truly rethinking the WHY I do what I do while focusing a little less on the WHAT [hearkening back to the Sinek Ted Talk].

One step at a time, right? I'm feeling inspired to revaluate my practice and to infuse what I’ve learned and ‘relearned’ through this course. As I start writing my final reflection, my goal will be to outline a practical strategy and timeline for doing this. I’m thinking I will use some of the frameworks explored in this MOOC to do an analysis of my courses and identify where the big holes are. From there I'll decide where I want to start.  The timing for this couldn’t be more ideal as I am currently on sabbatical and, for once, feel that I will actually have time to adequately work on this before resuming my teaching in the New Year.  Thanks everyone for a great learning experience!

2013 Reform Symposium Conference

2013 Reform Symposium E-Conference (RSCON)

The Highlights

Chadi's Nomination

Chadi and I met while participating in a MOOC: Designing a New Learning Environment (DNLE). Chadi was a University Professor in Aleppo, Syria. We never met in person, just on-line and not only did we share interests and built a friendship, but also planned and implemented educational projects for developing countries. We focused on Syria which was suffering the effects of a massive war, a war that did not beat the life out of the hearts of the people. Despite all the difficulties people continued to live and not only go to University but even try, and often happily, new educational strategies and methods.

Our goal in educational design was to assist learner engagement, encourage positive interactions and foster a learner centric environment using collaborative learning.

Chadi and his Syrian students are truly inspiring considering the obstacles his students and he faced. No matter the barriers they gladly forged ahead embracing new learning strategies. He is a passionate and devoted educator. His persistence and raw courage to overcome adversity is truly incredible.

Chadi's friend once said “It is one of the miracles of life that people living thousands of miles apart, can meet, share interests and build friendships”

Chadi and his family successfully fled Syria to France and he is presently teaching at Université Lille 1.

EdInspire Honorees:

On Sun., Oct.13th, 10amCDT/11amNYC (more time zones, ), the Reform Symposium E-Conference will have a special ceremony celebrating EdInspire Honorees. The EdInspire award identifies extraordinary contributions to education by inspiring individuals. Educators nominated an individual and wrote 200 words describing that individual's contribution to education. Each honoree received the EdInspire badge and a personalized e-mail. During the ceremony, they will be honored and we will hear about their amazing work. See all honorees below. The ceremony will begin with a Keynote from Josh Stumpenhorst, 2012 Teacher of the Year and 2013 Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow. 5 of the honorees will receive year memberships to SimpleK12. We will announce them during this ceremony.

Congratulations, you earned it!

#RSCON4 I have just got an EdInspire badge and it is on my blog!
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Congrats to my friend Chadi Aljundi who will be honored Sunday with the EdInspire award nomination and maybe the award (I am crossing my fingers). This award identifies extraordinary contributions to education by inspiring individuals.
Join us for the 2013 Reform Symposium E-Conference #RSCON4 October 11th - 13th
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EdInspire Ceremony

This year the Reform Symposium E-Conference introduced the EdInspire Awards. The EdInspire Awards identifies extraordinary contributions to education by inspiring individuals. Educators nominated an individual and wrote 200 words describing that individual's contribution to education. Each honoree received the EdInspire badge and a personalized e-mail. In addition, 5 individuals were selected to be recognized live during this ceremony. The honorees will receive certificates and prizes. They will also give small speeches about their work. Help us celebrate them.

The Winners:


Session Highlights

Plenary: Dr. Sugata Mitra 

The Future of Learning In this talk, Sugata Mitra will take us through the origins of schooling as we know it, to the dematerialisation of institutions as we know them. Thirteen years of experiments in children's education takes us through a series of startling results – children can self organise their own learning, they can achieve educational objectives on their own, can read by themselves. Finally, the most startling of them all: Groups of children with access to the Internet can learn anything by themselves. From the slums of India, to the villages of India and Cambodia, to poor schools in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, the USA and Italy, to the schools of Gateshead and the rich international schools of Washington and Hong Kong, Sugata's experimental results show a strange new future for learning.

Jake Duncan

I believe that gamification has tremendous potential for education. My students have shown increased engagement, seem more motivated to participate in class, are more willing to take risks, and have become self-driven problem solvers since I began my attempts to gamify my classroom. I am excited to share simple ideas that I have used in my attempts at gamification with limited technology and no budget. Free web tools that include ClassDojo, Habit RPG, Plickers, Zondle, GameSalad, Edmodo, Captain Up, and ClassBadges have proven to me to be simple to integrate in class and have made a huge difference in my teaching this year. Our physical learning space has begun to resemble a video game and has become a welcoming environment for my students as a result. I’m excited to share how gamifying my classroom has had such a profound impact on me and how I relate to my students. Come power up with us!

Keynote: Chris Lehmann

Chris emphasized care for the learner and not for the technology. Focus on the learner. Collaboration, peer learning and personally attend to the learner by leveraging technology. Learning should be Inquiry based, Learning by talking and listening. We should work toward fully empowering the learner to be a "Citizen of the World"

Keynote: Steve Wheeler

Learning should include:
Connection, Context, Complexity and Connotation.

Learning 2.0:
The learner goes from:
Skills > Compentencies > Literacies > Mastery

Self Organizing Learning Spaces
Ipsative Assessment = Self Assessment
Suggestions for panel:
  1. Don't forget who is important - the learner
  2. Try and take risks and don't be afraid to fail
  3. Amplify - think outside by expanding from the:
    • norm
    • obvious
    • classroom
    • time and space
    • peers
    • community
  4. Find areas where you can make a difference or a change and spend your energy there.

Here is a list of weekly twitter chats:
Weekly Twitter Chat Times

Keynote: Angela Maiers & Mark Moran, Choose2Matter

Plenary: Salome Thomas-EL, Principal EL 

Time to make sense of the chaos

Response to Weeks 3 & 4

I've been busy working on another project but happily all things have been interconnected, and so I have been applying and thinking about a lot of the topics we’ve been looking at. I’ve gone through the Community Wall and added a response here and there.  My head continues to spin with all of the materials and postings in the course. I worry that I wont be able to do it all justice, and that time is running out. In spite all this, it has been great to be part of this MOOC. The different perspectives, insights, and experiences shared make me feel that I’ve been a part of something very special! 
We’re near the end and I still have to create my Week 5 activity and final reflection to go for that badge [it will be my first!] So here is a combined response for Weeks 3 & 4...

Wk 3: Create Community: Connect Learners with Each Other 
COI Model - appreciated the review and the discussion helped to embed it more in my mind and also gave me some good examples for each dimension

4 Levels of Interaction
-> Teacher; -> Learners; -> Content; -> Learning Environment interface

Interactive Discussions - lots of food for thought, great ideas, and exemplars

Wk 4: Create a Natural Critical Learning Environment
Bain – What Makes Teachers Great
Hook -> intriguing question or problem
Buy In -> students understand the significance
Self-Directed -> students solve problem or question
Get their attention and keep it
Start with students
Get commitment
Be available out of class
Interdisciplinary approach - real world

Sinek TED Talk
- Not about the WHAT but WHY [beliefs]
- Those who lead inspire and encourage others to follow for their own beliefs

Elder: Taking Ownership Through Thinking
- Content = Thinking
- Help students to understand a discipline using the thinking structures within that discipline

Wilson (2002) 4 Critical Questioning Strategies
- Convergent: Blooms lower levels; CFU
- Divergent: Blooms upper; discussion forums
- Evaluative: Blooms upper cognitive & affective
- Socratic: best strategy for promoting critical thinking

I am constantly struck by how familiar I am with many of the concepts introduced in this course, as well as how many connect to the learning theories and principles I teach in Ed Psych. But then that leads me to TWO questions:

Q1. If we know all of these things why aren't we all amazing teachers? This is similar to the point that bmcpherson makes “However, if becoming an outstanding teacher merely entails implementing recommended best practices, then there would be many more outstanding teachers than there currently are. Clearly, there are good and bad (or more and less effective) ways to implement these practices. There seem to be things that cannot simply be borrowed, copied, or plugged into courses. I am wondering what are these less tangible attributes that are the essential characteristics of the best teachers.” in his post Given the differences between teaching face to face… 

This got me thinking about what I call, in my comment to his post, the recipe approach. We are all looking for those elements that will make us great teachers – that’s why we’re taking this MOOC right? – but what I am starting to think is: a) having all the right ingredients doesn’t necessarily result in the ability to make an outstanding cake – there is something that each individual instructor brings to a course that is unique; and b) do we really all want to be making the same cake anyway?  I think that’s why the Sinek video on focusing on the WHY – our beliefs and passions – and not on the WHAT –  outcomes, something our educational system seems to thrive on – really resonated with me. Yes we need to be student-centric, but we also need to start with ourselves, our passions and our beliefs. Maybe that's the difference?

Q2. Of all of the things we have talked about in this course, how much is really only applicable to online teaching? As I’ve been reading the materials I find I’m constantly saying to myself, “Well that's just good teaching!” Clearly there are some things – like developing technology skills – that are paramount for successful online teaching. But I keep asking this question, "What really is the difference between good F2F and OL teaching?"

I'm at the point where I need to sort through the reams of notes, synthesize, and process to make sense of it all. I’m feeling like it’s time to transition out of the random sampling I've been doing and into pulling things together into some sort of coherent framework. That sounds quite traditional and academic, but that's the only way I know how to sense out of the chaos - make connections, look for some patterns [so that, as in the image, I can distinguish what's camouflaged]. And then knowing me, I'll probably try to turn that into some sort of visual summary.

What’s the hype about Problem Based Learning? (Panel Discussion Remix)

While listening to the recording I decided that perhaps I should try Jim's method of remixing and recognizing that I too do better in a written context where I can pick and choose where I can focus my attention. Here is my attempt to capture the discussion.

Peter Leong and Lani Uyeno provided insight into how they have integrated problem-based learning into their online courses. Lani's course Eng. 211 Autobiographical Writing and Peter's course 668 Quantitative Research (graduate level).

Authentic Context
Lani's course:  The student's work on a published journal and thus are more interested as they see an effect of their work on others.

Peter's course:  Fictitious consulting company doing educational research

Response to Tony Bate's point-'bringing in the world to your teaching'
Lani: writing memos, letters in response to clients requests; the fact that they are online: they spend more time in revising and editing their work
Peter: the course material (quantitative research/statistical research) is dry for most students so the fact that they are using research methods to help their client oppose legislation & from their analysis of the data, bring forward conclusions helps bring the material alive for the student

Authentic activities in PBL How do they differ from traditional learning activities?
Lani: publication means that revision and editing of work is more important than it is in person
Peter: in f2f small problems were not contextualized so difficult for the student to learn how to apply; online the students are better able to apply the material

Online students are more responsible: the material is there but don't pay attention to it; the team leader more responsible and ensures re-reading and understanding what is there

PBL effect on student learning & motivation
Lani: have to become more motivated; grow in communication skills; seen students who are quiet given a voice online; students are more professional in their interactions; when Lani gives her thoughts on their deliverables - do revisions before handing in
Memoirs content: teams Lani posts which team is critiquing which team; uses rubrics
Drafts - Lani prepares a power point slide what works; what needs more work; whole team usually shows up

Peter: Working with graduate students you still see a shift from them expecting you to give them all the material to them learning that they need to look for the information
1) Formulate & operationalize research questions
2) Select research design & statistical analysis method
3) Perform the statistical analysis and draw conclusions
4) Presentation
Rubrics for each task.  Peer evaluation at the end of the project (done separately by each team member rate their peers).
synchronous meeting once a week

Using technology to support active learning among & between students
Lani:  BB Collaborate - good interaction with students and they can ask any questions
Peter:  endorsed Lani's thoughts on BB Collaborate; added blogs to reflect on their experiences; 2nd Life; interesting to read blogs to see where they start and where they end - they are in charge of their own learning

other technology: brainstorming on white board; separate groups; polling function; chat function

Largest Barrier to PBL & Active Learning - TIME
Lani: commit the time to shift from lecture to PBL; once it is done the material is impressive to student because of the time and thought you have put into the course; students more involved in their learning
Peter: Time to convert to PBL - once it is done what was once dry engages students online - they can see how it works in real life

Recommendations (how to start)
Lani: start small; rethink one idea or concept from course; work with a colleague as the back and forth really helps
Peter: authentic - talk to industry expert; make sure you have a real world/work problem - Just Do It! - don't wait for the perfect idea

Example of a first baby step?
concept - context for presenting it
invite guest speaker on subject matter

Resistance from students:
*** so hard - used to be on the receiving end - no research themselves
- after first deliverable - less resistance as other students are there to support

PBL on-line
- gives students a sense of the whole - where you are going as all the material is online - they can go and revisit or go ahead
- students take it upon themselves to tell others to revisit the material

Overall the benefits of PBL are too great not to be using!

Need-to-Know News: Role Reversal of Teacher & Students, A Revealing MOOC Scorecard & New Take on Robo Grading

This ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series features noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform traditional education as we know it. 1) Role Reversal: Students and Teachers The … Continue reading

Week 6 Self Reflection

Week 6 is for self-reflection. If you chose to earn a Letter of Completion and Badge, you will need to complete a SELF-REFLECTION , on how you will apply what you learned.  Take your time. You have the entire week to reflect. Your goal is to create a plan that describes specifically how  you will apply the weekly topics to your online teaching.  You will have a specific plan for teaching online that includes;
  1. How you will apply the “fundamentals of online teaching” in your own teaching.
  2. How you will “build rapport” with your distance learners.
  3. How you will “build rapport” with your distance learners.
  4. How you will create a “natural critical learning environment” in your online courses.
  5. How you will create an  “active, authentic learning environments” in your online courses
Earn a Letter of Completion and Badge (Active Participants and Community Contributors)
To receive a Letter of Completion and Badge each participant must submit a SELF-REFLECTION 


We will begin processing the Letters of Completion and Badges during Week 7, (October 21st- October 25th).

We would greatly appreciate it if you would complete the How To Teach Online Survey
Just click on the box below.

Undergraduate Students and Technology 2013 [INFOGRAPHIC]

The Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) have released their Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology for 2013. They surveyed over 100,000 undergraduate students at more than 250 college/university sites in 14 countries. The full text of the 49 page report can be found here. However, if you only have a few minutes, then this infographic does a good job at giving you the high points. What do you think about this information? Does it resonate with you in your profession?

PBL/Authentic Course Example: Peter Leong’s ‘The Akamai Consulting PBL Scenario’

Updated 10/10/13

Lani Peter Webinar

Week 5 Panel Discussion Webinar: Using Problem-Based, Real-World Activities in Online Classes 10/9/13, featuring Lani Uyeno and Peter Leong, moderated by Leanne Riseley.

The following 4:20 video of Peter’s hybrid graduate course, quantitative research in ed tech, was added to YouTube by ikaikamiles on 2/16/13.

Website for Akamai Consulting Group - Market Research Scenario. Click image to visit site.

Website for Akamai Consulting Group – Market Research Scenario. Click image to visit site.


I watched the TOMOOC video of this webinar this afternoon. Both presentations provided excellent examples of authentic course designs for blended classrooms. The panel format was dynamic, with Leanne asking questions and panelists responding with quick replies. The Q&A segment following the panel was, as usual, very good, with some very tough questions re online features of their courses.

In this quick review, I’ve chosen to highlight Peter’s course instead of Lani’s only because I began my web search with him and quickly found a brief 4:20 YouTube video and a website clearly describing his course. (See above.) I haven’t had a chance to research Lani’s course, and I apologize for this especially since Lani is an old friend and former department colleague. She was at Kapiolani CC many years before transferring to Leeward.

The overriding impression that I got from both panelists is that successful authentic courses require planning, planning, planning, tweaking, tweaking, tweaking. But it seems to be a labor of love, and the quality of these courses testify to that. Their excitement about what they’re doing is infectious.

For the students, the learning experience seems very realistic and engaging — but the key is that this realism and interaction takes a lot of planning. Still, watching the webinar, I got the impression that this is all doable. Peter and Lani take the mystery and fear out of the process and expose the process for what it is: an imaginative and exciting student-centered alternative to traditional teacher-centered approaches that’s fun for both teachers and students.

The learning outcomes, I’m sure, must be outstanding, with students getting a holistic, hands-on, personally relevant view of the skills and concepts they’re not only studying but constructing.

The issue of adapting these approaches to completely online courses was beyond the scope of this panel so I won’t go into it — except to say that I believe it can be done very effectively. However, that’s another story. As blended approaches, these two are outstanding. Once again, thanks, Lani and Peter, and the TOMOOC team.

Update from Leanne (10/10/13): Lani developed [two scenarios] for English Composition: Ka Hui Ho’okolokolo ( and Halia (…. If you are interested in other PBL scenarios, a library of them are available at:

Responding to Authentic Learning Isn’t More Common

Thank you, Jim, for your thought provoking response to the question of “Why isn’t authentic learning more common?” with your post “Authentic Learning Isn’t More Common – Because It’s Too Common?” (10/10/13). 

I agree with your conclusion that people (and we as educators) don’t know what “authentic learning” really is. We can come up with a common definition, we have models (some really great ones were shared this week) which are a sliding scale/continuum of elements, but when we come down to it “authentic learning” means different things to different people. Something authentic to me, may not be for you.

You stated, “Perhaps a better way to approach authentic learning is to say that it’s an attitude toward teaching that makes the most of the instructional environment to simulate real-world conditions.” and I agree, but would like to add that perhaps it should involve more than attitude. Shouldn’t authentic learning be a movement in teaching where the instructional environment approaches real-world conditions? Just a thought…

Authentic Learning Isn’t More Common — Because It’s Too Common?

Leanne Riseley, in “Moving Toward Authentic Learning” (10/7/13), raises a question asked by Marilyn Lombardi in “Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview” (Educause, May 2007): “Why isn’t authentic learning more common?”

This is a good question because the approach has been around for a while — plenty of time to go viral. But it hasn’t, and perhaps its origins provide a clue. It began in the medical field and seems to thrive in similar highly technical settings. One of my writing courses is technical communications, and for this course I’ve naturally incorporated authentic features. In courses with less defined real-world counterparts, such as English and history, the incorporation may be tougher.

I don’t have a quick answer or even a good one, but I’ll take a shot and share a relatively long, twisting, and awkward one that may or may not be in the ballpark.

The theoretical underpinning for authentic learning is transfer. Schools are training grounds, and the assumption is that what students learn in classrooms will transfer to the real world. The obstacle to transfer is the gap between school and reality. Thus, the instructional issue is how to close the gap, and the assumption here is: the smaller the gap, the better the transfer.

From this perspective, on-the-job training, or apprenticeship, offers the smallest gap. In between lies a continuum of arrangements that are progressively removed from the real world. Thus, at the other end is a classroom in a school that has little in common with the authentic environment.

The question for schools, then, is how to close the gap — short of moving into apprenticeships. (It could be argued that apprenticeships aren’t fully authentic.) Authentic learning is the compromise. However, “authentic” in this context is a misnomer. This approach is actually a semi-simulation (or semi-real) or hybrid, part pretend and part real.

The real-to-school continuum leaves a lot of wiggle room in between, which translates to difficulty in assigning “authentic” to any strategy. In a sense, nearly all approaches are authentic to some extent. It’s similar to attempts to define “blended” learning. Since it’s difficult to imagine any course that’s not somehow connected to the internet, it’s probably safe to say that if a course isn’t fully online, then it’s blended.

Thus, an activity is authentic if students address problems or are exposed to readings or videos by or featuring practitioners in the field. We could argue that it’s not authentic because it’s missing real-world conditions, feedback, or collaboration, but the counter could be simulations, rubrics developed by experts in the field, and input from classmates in the role of practitioners.

If we question the absence of a finished product that’s shared with the public, we might hear that presentations were recorded and shared on YouTube or final reports were published in one of the school’s journals.

The point is that when a term such as “authentic” loses its capacity to discriminate, when it becomes too inclusive, it becomes less useful in the sense that it can be made to apply to almost any strategy.

Thus, to answer the question, I’d say “authentic learning” isn’t more common because people don’t know what it really means. On the one hand, nearly all learning is authentic; on the other, all learning, short of full engagement in the field, is not authentic. All that gray stuff, that terra incognita, in between is the problem.

Perhaps a better way to approach authentic learning is to say that it’s an attitude toward teaching that makes the most of the instructional environment to simulate real-world conditions. In this view, “instructional environment” is variable and comprises a wide range of factors.

OK, that’s my shot. I’d like to hear yours.

Catching Up

I know this post is late, but I thought to try and catch up any way.  I took notes on all the webinars for last week.  The time difference makes it difficult to attend, but I like to watch and pause to take notes, so that's alright for me.  I found it interesting that there might be such a thing as using a human touch in an online learning learning environment. The concept sounds a little dichotomous to me.

The main point of all the discussions was to try to build relationships between the instructor and students and between students as well. It is not enough to just get students to enroll in classes, it is important to help them finish their programs. While the online environment is ideal for some students, there are drawbacks.  One big issue is that the retention rate of students in an online environment is lower than that of face to face. There could be many reasons.  They may lose interest  or the learning pace that instructors might set might be too difficult.  In order to try and maintain the interests of the students, Professor John Thompson of Global Learning Institute Inc., suggested many ways to engage online students, the most important of these is to keep the lines of communication open with your students.  He makes some suggestions that are not difficult to implement, but can mean a world of difference in building rapport.  One suggestion was to use audiovisual tools.   Dr. Kaulbach of Sarasota University also suggested the use of video to communicate with students.  The two agree that the best way to promote learning and engage students is to foster a rapport with students, establish best times for student-teacher communication, provide guidance and examples of work to encourage student productivity, and most of all to communicate, communicate, communicate.

What type of student enrolls in an online class?  Most are older adults, employed, and busy.  I fit into that category.  They may register for online instruction because the hours are more flexible than face to face instruction.  I think that more and more students will be taking online courses and these students will be undergraduates just out of high school.  Maybe they will take the courses because they like the flexibility in hours, but I also think they will take online courses because they are used to communicating in a digital world and might prefer learning that way. 

Quick Review of ‘Examples of Authentic Online Learning Activities’

Greg and TOMOOC staff, mahalo for “Examples of Authentic Online Learning Activities” (10/9/13). As a writing teacher, I naturally gravitated to “Composition I” and “Introduction to Creative Writing.” I reviewed the projects with the template that I describe in “Remixing Reeves, Herrington, and Oliver’s 10-Point Criteria for Authentic Activities” (10/8/13).

Composition I

I. Plan
A. Roles: Social forecasting team (4 members) for the state of Hawaii.
B. Problem: Publish a paper in an anthology, Hawaii 2050. Narrow the topic.

II. Development
A. Open: Conduct a survey.
B. Networking: Consult with two experts in the field.
C. Sustained: semester long

III. Implementation (tangible outcome)
Multimedia presentation to the “public.”
Submission of research paper.
Publication of all the groups’ papers and presentations in an anthology.

IV. Evaluation
Phase 3 and 5 in the report.
Consult with instructor in phases 1-4.
Dear Diary entries in phases 1, 2, 4, and 5.

Introduction to Creative Writing

I. Plan
A. Roles: Small group of “emerging” poets.
B. Problem: Publish a poem in Ka Mana’o, LCC’s fine-arts magazine.

II. Development
A. Open: “Consult an expert or editor as to whether piece is ‘ready’ for the world”; “Consult ‘experts’ to select model works to read”; “Search for, and explore, unfamiliar publications and/or performances/readings.”
B. Networking: “Group action plan to help each other”; see IIA above.
C. Sustained: 3 weeks

III. Implementation (tangible outcome)
Post/perform poem.

IV. Evaluation
Week 2 group meeting with coach (“in-person or virtual”).
Peer feedback to/from classmates.
“Individual, small-group, and full-class reflections.”
Submit poem to Ka Mana’o.


I’m impressed with the creativity in both designs, which place critical real-world decisions in the hands of students and provide procedures for real-world input and feedback to aid in those decisions. I’m especially impressed with the outcomes, publishing to a real-world audience.

This is a far cry from students working in isolation, receiving input from teacher-provided resources and feedback from their teacher only, and producing outcomes that are read and evaluated, again, by the teacher alone.

The choice is a no-brainer.

Webinar TODAY- Panel Discussion: Using Problem-Based, Real-World Activities in Online Classes

Wednesday, October 9, 2013, 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM Hawaii Standard Time (HST). World Clock 

Join this panel discussion for an opportunity to hear from several faculty who have taught online using Problem-Based Learning where they use real-world activities to engage students in a collaborative learning process. Participants will have the opportunity to ask panel members specific questions on their experiences teaching this way.

Examples of Authentic Online Learning Activities



Throughout the 2011-2012 academic year, 13 Career and Technical Education (CTE) faculty members, from the University of Hawaii Community College (UHCC) campuses, met online each week to create authentic learning activities where students apply their knowledge to solve “real world” problems.


Below are videos of each faculty member describing their authentic learning activities. The presenter was asked to describe their project, and describe the ways in which the AOL activity meets or exceeds each of the 10 Characteristics of Authentic Learning activities. Beneath each video is a link to the activity.

Remix and Reuse

Please feel free to remix and reuse any of the learning activities. To make a copy of the activity first click on the link to the activity website. How to make a copy of the activity website

Authentic Learning in Online Courses

The library at my school has a book entitled A Guide to Authentic e-Learning by Jan Herrington. Unfortunately, it is currently signed out.
A guide to Authentic e-Learning
However, Jan had a brilliant idea! She made a series of short videos that describe each of the steps in her authentic learning model: Authentic context, Authentic task, Expert perspectives, Collaboration, Articulation, Reflection, Coaching & Scaffolding and Authentic assessment. The videos are all accessible from the website devoted to the book so even without access to the book at this moment, in about 30 minutes time, I have gleaned a reasonable amount of comprehension about her process. The website contains more than just videos. One very interesting item is a link to a shared Diigo group on Authentic Learning where people can share resources on the topic together using social bookmarking. Great idea. Another very useful document on Jan’s website is an evaluation matrix so that you can evaluate your course activities in the continuum from non-authentic to authentic. I like it a lot. Do you have experience conducting authentic tasks in e-Learning contexts? If so, tell us about them in a comment below. What are your favourite tips, tricks and strategies?

Thinking about authentic learning

After last night’s webinar I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about authentic learning.  I have an assignment that I’ve used in F2F classes for both speech and composition that I think I could adapt to the online learning environment which would provide an authentic learning experience. Additionally I think it will implement some of the other tools we’ve learned in this MOOC such as implementing collaborative work and enhancing critical thinking.  I’m anxious to hear from about what you think of this assignment.  The assignment is used as I teach persuasive speaking/writing and was developed as a way to get students to not only use the skills I’d been teaching but to also make them think about the world around them and how they could be more involved in that world.  It is designed in this way:

First I go through newspapers and find a wide selection of editorial columns that address issues on a variety of levels from international to national to local issues.  Next I split the class into groups and have each group select an article of interest to them (collaboration).  Each member of the group is to read the article.  For the next step, I set up discussion boards for each group where they can discuss the article.  I provide them with some guidelines as to what to look for and things they should be able to identify such as what the argument is, what type of reasoning is used, what persuasion techniques are used and what if any faulty reasoning has occurred in the article (critical thinking about the article and the topic both).  Also, they are asked to, as part of their group work, locate information defending or opposing what is said in the article (using technology).  After having given them time to thoroughly discuss the article, usually a week or so, the group will be asked to create a presentation about the article they read and what their group discovered when analyzing the article (using technology/polished product #1).  They present this via a link to a discussion board set up for this assignment (technology).  Finally to add an individual element to the assignment as well, I ask them to write a letter to the editor of the paper the document was taken from either in support of the article or in opposition to it.  In their letter they are to use valid reasoning, valid resources to support their belief (teaching researching skills), additional persuasive techniques, and avoid faults in their reasoning (polished product #2).  They are to post this letter along with a link to their article in the class blog which I have set up (forum for project).  Students also have the option of submitting their letter to the editor of the respective paper for possible publication (showcase for project).  The goal is to have this entire project completed within two weeks time.

Because students have to think critically about the topic being discussed to thoroughly understand what is being written about I feel like this project encourages them to become more involved in the world around them, at least for the topic at hand.

From my understanding this project would serve well on a variety of levels.  It would encourage critical thinking on multiple levels, it encourages writing for transfer in that they are encouraged to take the skills they’ve learned an apply them to a real-world situation (responding to the article), and it provides them with an authentic experience.

I’m anxious to hear if others feel like I’m on track with my thinking.  I’d like to hear what you think about this assignment — do you think it’s good, bad, or just plain ugly?  What changes would you recommend I’d make?

Also I’d like to hear what kind of assignment you use to fulfill some or all of these goals.  I’ve seen lots and lots of ideas during this MOOC but I haven’t seen a whole lot of examples of specific examples. BTW if you like my idea, please feel free to use it — in my opinion, sharing is how we get some of our best assignment ideas.


Remixing Reeves, Herrington, and Oliver’s 10-Point Criteria for Authentic Activities

I decided to remix the Reeves, Herrington, and Oliver criteria1 to better represent the phases and subphases in the overall process of developing authentic learning activities. This shrinks the list from ten to seven items, with the “extras” embedded in other items. The result, I think, is a more familiar and systematic problem-solving process.

I. Planning

A. Simulation of real world roles: “Authentic activities have real-world relevance.”

B. Problem definition: “Authentic activities are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to complete the activity.”

II. Development

A. Open approach: Authentic activities (1) “provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from different perspectives, using a variety of resources”; (2) “can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and lead beyond domain-specific outcomes”; (3) “allow competing solutions and diversity of outcome.”

B. Networking: “Authentic activities provide the opportunity to collaborate.”

C. Sustained effort: “Authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time.”

III. Implementation

A. Standalone outcome: “Authentic activities create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something else.”

IV. Evaluation

A. Review: Authentic activities (1) “provide the opportunity to reflect” and (2) “are seamlessly integrated with assessment.”


The wild card that runs through this entire process and makes it manageable for teachers in a wide range of instructional environments is scalability. The process has to be viewed as downwardly scalable, based on factors such as grade level, subject matter or field of study, ability/achievement levels, teacher-student ratio, instructional resources, time frame, etc.

Two other characteristics of this process is that the phases aren’t discrete and the progression is recursive rather than linear. The phases overlap in many interesting and dynamic ways, and students will return to and revise earlier phases based on formative evaluations.

Online technology can be an integral part of all phases, but its greatest advantage is probably in IIB, networking. With the web, opportunities for collaboration are expanded beyond space and time limitations, and this advantage can be applied to all four phases.
1 Thomas C. Reeves, Jan Herrington, and Ron Oliver, “Authentic Activities and Online Learning,” HERDSA 2002 conference.

Week 6 Self-Reflection

Week 6 is for self-reflection. If you chose to earn a Letter of Completion and Badge, you will need to complete a SELF-REFLECTION , on how you will apply what you learned.  Take your time. This is not a race. You have the entire week to reflect. We will begin processing the Letters of Completion and Badges during Week 7 (October 21st- October 25th).
Earn a Letter of Completion and Badge (Active Participants and Community Contributors)
To receive a Letter of Completion and Badge each participant must submit a SELF-REFLECTION 
Self-Reflection Questions
  1. How will you apply the “fundamentals of online teaching” in your own teaching?
  2. How will you “build rapport” with your distance learners?
  3. How will you “build community” in your online courses?
  4. How will you create a “natural critical learning environment” in your online courses?
  5. How will you create “active, authentic learning environments” in your online courses?


May I ask a question?

What I have my learners engaged with the material and thinking critically about what it means to them and their subject area? Now the kicker is if you can do it in a regular classroom you are one of the select few but to do this all online that is no small task.

As I think about my experiences in the online education world, as I have been teaching online for seven years and in the past four years I have taken a few online courses, I cannot say I have ever been as engaged as I have been as in this MOOC. So what is the difference?

I find the newsletter very impressive and it comes to me (I don't have to go looking for the website or the material - oh who knew it would keep me on track.).  There are synchronous sessions - which are linked to a world clock that actually works (well I did have one time wrong) its just been too bad that I couldn't make all the sessions since I find them rewarding - people actually talking about this online world and even more astonishing is that they are enthused and excited to be involved (most of the people I engage with see it as a necessary evil). The links to the reference material - yes I am a person who actually wants to read the original just to be sure I understood it all.

This week I went through the course material - which really I have done every week since I find the compilation of materials a definite resource.  I participated in Debbie Morrison's Blackboard discussion and I basically listened to Linda Elder lecture on critical thinking (I had hoped to listen to her presentation again this week thinking I must have missed something.) I watched the weekly wrap-up and wished I could ask a few questions.  I realize that there was a minimum of people present at Greg's session but I could really have used the examples.  I am always asking my students to provide examples as in my mind (and I think in theirs) it helps to clarify my thinking am I getting the message that they are sending.  Personally I wish Greg had put in a number of examples for each of the points since as I am watching the recording I have no way of knowing if I am really getting the point.

Synchronous online is more appealing and engaging to asynchronous online in my experience and this course also underscores it for me.  If I had participated in the roundup I would have been able to ask my questions.  If this course was in a LMS I would have posted my questions in the forum under the discussion and hoped that I would get a response sometime down the road.  My other thought is that with synchronous session you are more likely to be able to capture some of the interests of your students - I am not sure how that actually translates in the asynchronous world that I inhabit.

This brings me to another realization is that the synchronous part of this course is what pushes me forward to do the readings and search through my mind for the other material that I have sifted through.

Questions.  I was more than happy to see the material on questions as I spend part of last year trying to get myself asking solid questions or at least questions that were divergent.  The book Thinking through quality questioning, although written for a different audience provides ample material to give you some pause to think - what kind of questions am I asking. Lots more work to do in this area as people need to feel that they can respond.  Perhaps we are so socialized to answer convergent questions that anything else makes us leary?  Going back to the weekly round-up Greg put up a slide on "Questioning Behavior . . . " I didn't get the information down (another I have to go back) but I did get the nugget are you giving verbal rewards (Great question!).  I found John Hattie's Visible Learning for Teacher's last year and although not for this audience he does a good job on how to give feedback - The article that actually gave me the nuggets to go forward was Educational Leadership: Feedback for Learning: Seven Keys to Effective Feedback

All week I kept thinking I am missing something major here - but what is it?  I have been ruminating on how to figure out what is a realistic workload for instructors taking a blended course.  I would definitely appreciate a discussion on workload - we have talked about the discussion board however I might have missed what is the standard or is there a standard - one discussion posting per week or 1 per two weeks or is there any guidance. Lots more questions hopefully they are of a higher order ;-).

Moving Toward Authentic Learning

I enjoyed reading Marilyn Lombardi’s “Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview”. I thought it was very well written and agreed with the points she made in the article. One question she raised toward the end of the article is “Why isn’t authentic learning more common?” She goes on to state “The reliance on traditional instruction is not simply a choice made by individual faculty – students often prefer it”. If students prefer traditional instruction, what are key motivators that would encourage faculty to move toward authentic learning? How do we foster an environment where authentic learning is the norm?

Mshin: An Authentic Question at Last

Mshin, in “How to keep their attention during a video or voiceover?” (10/7/13), says:

I am having trouble paying attention and staying interested when having to watch the [TOMOOC] webinars. And if I, who am very invested to pay attention, am having trouble keeping interest and not being distracted, then I imagine this is a problem for the general student populace.

Mshin, trying to pinpoint the problem, says, “It is too slow for me most of the time,” and nails it. Sitting and listening for an hour as a lecturer moves from point A to point B is mindnumbing. One fact is that we, as educators, are excellent readers. And unless we’re reading a novel, we seldom ever begin at the beginning and slog through a book, one word at a time, from cover to cover. Even before we go to the contents, we go to the jacket blurbs, intro, or conclusion to see what’s new or “information.” We then go to the contents to find relevant sections and scan them for key paragraphs then sentences. In quick order, we get to the gist, the specks of gold hidden in the rubble of other material.

From there, if we feel it’s necessary, we backtrack to identify key background info. Again, we don’t read but we scan, knowing intuitively where and what the keys are. And we do this quickly, in 5 to 10 minutes, regardless of the size of the book. We use a similar process with articles. Given the transcript of a webinar presentation, we’d work the same way. In a few minutes we’d know what, if anything, is new and worth pursuing, and in a few more minutes we’d be able to pinpoint the key background info. If we’re watching a video recording instead, this process takes a lot longer. If we’re at the live presentation, we’re stuck in the presenter’s mindnumbing pace.

Thus, ironically, the simplest medium, text, is a lot more efficient and effective than a live or recorded presentation — at least for those with efficient and effective reading skills. (And maybe there’s the rub.)

Mshin says, “While someone is talking about a part that is on a totally different subject matter for me it is so tempting to toggle over to check my email.” Yes. With TV, we all turn off during commercials and do other things, or during portions where the content doesn’t interest us, we tune out and tune in to other things around us. To do otherwise would be insane.

If we were in a one-on-one conversation with the presenter, we’d begin with a question that matters to us re the general topic of the talk. If the response is useful, we ask more questions. If the response is a rehash of what we already know, we say thank you and leave. We don’t hang around for the hour-long presentation.

Back to Mshin’s question: “How to keep their attention during a video or voiceover?” The simple answer is “We don’t.” And the implication is that this isn’t the right question. Perhaps we ought to be asking, “How do we give students the information they need in a way that isn’t boring?”

If we insist on lectures, perhaps, as Mshin says, fear — fear of being caught dozing or checking email might keep them awake. Or jokes. Or moving randomly around the room or screen. Eye contact. Wild gestures. Costumes? Powerpoint! Or how about something simple like a digital text transcript — or even better, perhaps a clear, one-paragraph post-it-size summary of the gist of the talk with hyperlinks to relevant info.

As educators, we need to pick our battles. Do we use up all our students’ energy with hours of mindnumbing information consumption before they ever get to the front lines or do we simply toss them into the thick of the battle and say “Fight!”

The “jump in first and figure things out later” approach may sound crazy, but it won’t be boring. Students aren’t stupid. Heck, we were all once students. (And some of us still are.) They’ll quickly search for or devise weapons to win. And they’ll value anyone who can help. Since they’re all in “real” (OK, “authentic”) danger, it’s in everyone’s interest to work together and find the best possible weapons to, first, survive, then win.

The question, ultimately, may be, “How can we make learning so authentic that adrenaline takes over and learning becomes indistinguishable from living?”

How to keep their attention during a video or voiceover?

So, I can’t say for sure how good a teacher I am (only my students know, I guess), but I am (have been in the past?) a very good student. I’ve always been a very attentive and diligent student. With that being said, I am having trouble paying attention and staying interested when having to watch the webinars. And if I, who am very invested to pay attention, am having trouble keeping interest and not being distracted, then I imagine this is a problem for the general student populace.

My problems with staying on task during webinars or video lectures or voice overs in presentations:
1) The tone. They speak clearly, they enunciate, they have good pace…and yet it all feels kind of droning and monotonous. It is too slow for me most of the time. I know they are trying to speak to let it “sink in” but it sure doesn’t sound like how “people talk” and there is something alien about the voice most people use in webinars.
2) Lack of physical interaction. I rely on the teacher moving, pointing at me, walking near me, holding up a paper, shaking their fist to emphasize a point, running to the board to write a good response down, etc. MOVEMENT seems to help a lot of me. It is a constant reminder to pay attention and in webinars (and the like) it is usually a close up of a face with someone sitting and there is very little movement.
3) My computer. In class, it is just me and a notepad and my book. I never take a laptop. If I ever did, I assume I would just type notes in it because of upcoming point #4. However, for these webinars, I have to watch them on my tempting, tempting computer. Oh, while someone is talking about a part that is on a totally different subject matter for me it is so tempting to toggle over to check my email. And now I am distracted.
4) Can’t get “busted.” In class, I don’t want to be disrespectful or get busted. Thus, I pay rapt attention and participate. The pressure is on because eyes are on…me! Alone in my office it is too easy to start grading a paper while “watching” a webinar.

So, I’ve pinpointed what is distracting (or not engaging) me, but, with the exception of #1 and maybe #2 I am not sure how to solve this for students….

Yes, sure you will eventually “get busted” because your grade is bad because you didn’t pay attention or because you kept checking out other things on the computer, but that requires forethought and long term planning, which–if every student had–are jobs would be so easy they would be rendered nearly obsolete…..

Teacher Presence is Essential to Promote Quality Mental Engagement

“Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.” 
― John DeweyDemocracy and Education

Today I was taking an online quiz in a MOOC (a massive open online course) and although I knew the correct responses, the quiz was marking my responses wrong.  After reviewing all the related lectures and the corresponding readings for a second time, I was really puzzled.  I was now 100% confident that the responses were correct.  

My next step was to review the Discussion Forums to see if anyone had a similar problem.  Yes, I discovered a few students expressing their angst over the inaccurate grading of the quiz.  You see, the question had not been framed correctly on the quiz and the students were indeed submitting a correct response.  Now students were really frustrated with the fact that we could not contact the instructor personally.  There is no option for emailing a private mail message or the staff managing the course.  So students resort to the Discussion Forums pleading for assistance with a problem such as the situation I had encountered.  

Consider for a moment, as a teacher in the traditional classroom, would you simply walk into the classroom and introduce a topic with a brief 10 minute talk, then post a question on the board.  After which you would then just walk away from the classroom.  Never! Then why is it that so many online instructors believe it is okay to disappear from the virtual classroom? In the case of several Coursera MOOCs, the instructor does not engage in any discussion or one-to-one communication. When there is a situation that requires the teacher to decide the answer, we may need to wait several days or even a week.  In the case of the quiz situation I shared above, the answer did not come until well into week 2. Unfortunately, the same thing happened with the Week 2 Quiz . . . which could have been avoided if the instructor had been aware of the situation with Week 1 Quiz. 

There is a clear absence of the teacher from the active conversation of the course.  I have been in several MOOCs and each seems to have the policy that the instructor posts the weekly lesson, a few recorded lectures, and posts a question in the discussion board (occasionally). In the case of one course, the weekly lesson related board is simply a one sentence . . . "Discuss your questions regarding this week's lesson here."  

Teacher presence stresses that the teacher is not only responsible for the design, facilitation and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes, but ensuring the students are comprehending the subject matter and progressing at an acceptable rate. My experience has shown that students prefer to have an exchange with the teacher rather than having to communicate through a staff member.

The teacher should be posting probing questions that require critical thinking rather than a generic discuss here mandate. Without this involvement, the discussion posts are equally generic.  The majority of comments are "I agree" and "Thank you for your response" type messages. 

Teacher presence requires the active engagement of the instructor as a role model and in order to measure the "pulse" of the class. Whereas, I understand that instructors cannot manage receiving 10,000 to 18,000 personal emails, but why can they not review the discussion posts.  I have been active on the boards and I typically review all new posts once a day.  It does not require more than an hour to comment on each of the discussion threads.   

Webinar Tuesday: Designing productive tasks in authentic learning environments

Tuesday, October 8, 2013, 3 PM – 4 PM Hawaii Standard Time (HST). World Clock 

There is no more important pedagogical role for teachers than the design of learning tasks and assessment. An authentic learning approach enables educators to design tasks and assessments that are authentic because they are ‘cognitively real’, and they focus on students collaboratively creating genuine products that are polished and professional. Authentic learning can be very challenging to design because of this need to create such all-encompassing tasks that effectively form the basis of a whole topic or unit of study. In this presentation, I will focus on the importance of creating a real product as an outcome of an authentic task, and discuss with participants some of the difficulties and benefits associated with this challenge.

By Jan Herrington

Dr Jan Herrington is a Professor of Education at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, where she teaches in the educational technology area in the School of Education, including a compulsory first year unit in the BEd called ‘Living and Learning with Technology’. She has been active in the promotion and support of the effective use of educational technologies in learning in schools and universities for over two decades. In this time, she has co-written or edited a range of books specifically for teachers in higher education on a variety of technology and teaching-related subjects, including Authentic learning environments in higher education (with Anthony Herrington), and most recently, A guide to authentic e-learning (with Thomas C Reeves and Ron Oliver) which was winner of the AECT Outstanding Book of the Year Award in 2010.

Jan’s current research focuses on authentic learning, the design of effective online learning environments for schools and higher education, and mobile learning. She has led two ARC grants investigating authentic tasks and the design-research approach. She has published over 150 refereed journal articles, conference papers and chapters. She was the Project Leader on the ALTC funded project: New technologies: New pedagogies (2006-2008), which investigated pedagogies appropriate to mobile learning. She is a former Fulbright Scholar who, in 2002, conducted research in authentic learning environments at the University of Georgia, USA. She has won many awards for her research including the Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT) Young Researcher of the Year Award, and several Outstanding Paper awards at international conferences, most recently at ascilite 2010, Global Learn 2011, and IADIS, 2012.

Given the differences between teaching face to face…

Given the differences between teaching face-to-face and teaching online, how can we faculty members capture the best parts of “what works” in their courses across different delivery modes? How can we demonstrate in online course delivery the characteristics of the most effective teachers? How can online faculty members best “make a difference” with their online students?
Most of the literature I read about on online pedagogy focuses on “best practices” (e.g., Keengwe & Kidd, 2010). Since the early days of online learning, there have been suggestions about how technologies can be used to enhance collaborative learning opportunities (Chickering & Ehrmann, 1996). More recently, reviewers have identified several best practice principles related to communicating clear goals and expectations; incorporating multiple active learning opportunities; providing frequent, prompt, and constructive feedback; and creating teacher support resources (e.g., Berge, 2002; Grandzol & Grandzol, 2006; Puzziferro & Shelton, 2009).
All of these best practice suggestions make good sense and are useful for online teaching. These include efforts to provide constructive and individualized feedback to students; facilitating student interaction, involvement and learning; and paying attention to how a course is organized and how teacher presence is enhanced. In all of these efforts, exemplary teachers strive to convey their expectations for the students.
However, if becoming an outstanding teacher merely entails implementing recommended best practices, then there would be many more outstanding teachers than there currently are. Clearly, there are good and bad (or more and less effective) ways to implement these practices. There seem to be things that cannot simply be borrowed, copied, or plugged into courses. I am wondering what are these less tangible attributes that are the essential characteristics of the best teachers.
In addition to a focus on the use of specific tools or techniques, I would like to know more about the ways that online teachers can create the kinds of learning environments and experiences that characterize the best teachers.
Bernie McPherson

Here s an update from my blog for…

Here s an update from my blog for the course, still catching up for week four but have been inspired to change my main blog through all the learning on this course and have a load of new followers so am heartened that I am making progress in this brave new virtual world of learning ! Thank you for your oh-so-generous course.

Students constructing their own understanding

How could we use questions or problems to assist in helping students construct their own understanding?
"Education research has shown that an effective technique for developing problem-solving and critical-thinking skills is to expose students early and often to “ill-defined” problems in their field. An ill-defined problem is one that addresses complex issues and thus cannot easily be described in a concise, complete manner. However educators are also required to have specific objectives and outcomes for students to reach. Often students stray from or miss the path you would like like them to take to reach your objectives and outcomes. How would you facilitate and guide students, during a project, who are “lost or off track” to help them reach the stated course objectives and outcomes?"

My homework for Week 4 is to consider the above.  It goes perfectly with what I found from last spring, when organizing photos from a recent trip: a video of students working in groups to answer a complicated math problem.  

I interviewed the students as they were busily using and creating representation of items in the problem. The question involved how many given items would be divided equally into 3 baskets. There were many different ways to solve the problem, especially since 2nd graders had limited exposure to formal lessons on division.  I interviewed a boy who had flat checked out, and was designing a basket with blocks.  It was interesting listening to myself try to get him back on track.  His partner had solved the problem without him, and he didn't care.  I think if he had seen himself in the video, he would have paid more attention in the next opportunity to shine mathematically.

Others had divided the problem evenly into tasks, having no idea how to mentally solve it without concrete objects.  So they were all super busy, but they took so long creating the visuals that they ran out of time.

Another table had self-divided into two groups who were attacking the challenge differently.  One GT student quickly mentally calculated and colored in a graphic, then back tracked to show a more hands on explanation.  The others used blocks instead of laborious other means of creating manipulatives.  They also discussed and paid strict attention to the tally marks.  This table was entirely successful.

All of the students in the class were successful in some way.  Was the teacher successful?  I think the follow through was missing.  I wished I had highlighted the successful and unsucessful efforts through showing the video, and asking the students to evaluate and propose suggestions for each group.

What is needed for my future problem-solving and critical-thinking opportunities is time.  I need time for the set-up, the exploration of a solution, the solving and explaining, and then the sharing and evaluating with a relevant audience.  

Being a Fish in the Online Education Fish Bowl – Reflections on TOMOOC Week #3

I have a three hour layover at the Detroit-Metro Airport and I am determined to be a productive bee and utilize this time to get caught up on Week #3 of the How To Teach Online MOOC (#tomooc).  This week’s information (which was actually last week’s information) on building an online community is particularly relevant […]