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!

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

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.

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.

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?

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.   

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 […]

Aloha from Veronica – my week 4 reflections

My reflections in week 4 are a kind of mix of end of week 3 and week 4. So what did I do? I watched a recording of week 3 round-up and it felt like an “aha” moment – yes, I think I’m finally beginning to get my head round the Community of Inquiry theoretical framework  :-) And it’s about time too – I’ve seen/read about it numerous times, but what I found really helpful were all the annoying (!) HOW questions Greg kept on asking: So, how will that look? How can you stimulate learners’ interest?

My to do’s/think abouts/memorable sayings/comparisons from the week 3 round up:

  • Ask lots of how/why questions to encourage students to think deeply.
  • Give students a problem to think about and as a teacher/lecturer move from telling students to letting them discover/uncover.
  • Think about how I could use the following during the online phases of my EFL/ESP classes: case studies, debate, roleplays i.e. each student chooses/is assigned a specific role to play, e.g. using “Hats”; current events to stimulate discussions.
  • Community of Inquiry and the Buddhist parable with the blind men and the elephant. By working together, cooperating, forming a community whose goal is inquiry, they’d be better able to overcome their limited perspectives and discover the truth.
  • “What you teach teaches you!” (so encourage peer teaching).
  • “It (teacher presence) doesn’t just happen – it involves work, careful thought!”
  •  And this was a great website on how to build an online learning community that I want to explore in the future.

Blog posts I read: my two cents to audio feedback/no paper trail & voice threads/discussion forums:         I read most of the blog posts and responded to some– a special thanks to Julio, Tanya, Sara and Jim for their very interesting and thought provoking contributions – 2 comments:

There has been quite a lot of discussion going on about audio feedback not leaving a paper trail – yes, this can be a problem which is why I usually give each student a written feedback sheet with minimal comments (like Tanya) which highlights the main good points/needs work points as well audio feedback. This means that I can also quickly look to see if a student has made any progress when resubmitting work without having to listen to my audio feedback.

Jim & Julio – you both raised a very valid question, namely: “Do discussion forums gain anything from implementing audio threads?” I personally feel they do in my EFL/ESP classes, which is why I include this mode (and not only/always written forum posts). I feel it gives my students valuable speaking practice – German is their mother tongue. It also means I can give them feedback on their pronunciation, e.g. word stress, intonation, connected speech.

Other things that I did: I read some of the suggested articles and listened to a recording of Debbie Morrison’s webinar on how to promote critical thinking in the online classroom, which I very much enjoyed  – thank you, Debbie!

Here are my take aways/some of the things that I totally agree with:

  • Ask how and why questions – YES!
  • Re teacher presence – students kind of know when the teacher is “there”; this maybe makes them try to do better – YES!
  • A lot of work goes into creating the best conditions for students to learn in an online course – YES! It shouldn’t be confusing to students (what we ask/want them to do); any technology used should be in the background and NOT what students are trying to get their heads around – YES!
  • When moderating online discussions: it’s a balancing act; be careful not to take over – YES!
  • Students can be moderators – YES!
  • Use rubrics to grade posts – YES!
  • Provide feedback at the end of a discussion forum – can be a collective or individual comment.
  • Share with the students why you’re having an online discussion – – YES! Shouldn’t just be “busy” work!
  • From Greg: “Failure is an indicator  for learning” – YES!

Some discussion prompts:

  • What would be an example?
  • Where did you get this example from?
  • What is your main point?
  • Can anyone see this from a different perspective?
  • Could you explain further?
  • What assumptions are made here?
  • What are you assuming?
  • How can we find out?

Activities mentioned which I really liked and want to try out soon:

  1. Students introduce themselves and say what their 3 favourite websites are (first modelled by teacher).
  2. Small group guided discussion (recorded): teacher with 3 or 4 students on a specific topic; other students watch the recording and reflect/discuss the points raised.

I also watched Linda Elder’s recorded webinar and totally agree with what she said about content being the product of critical thinking, and that lecturers tend to teach/lecture “this & that & this & that …” Will have a closer look at And Greg’s final comment: Anything worthwhile is not easy; it takes commitment :-)

So what?What I’ve learned this week?/ What now?/What will I do differently in the future? /What I want to remember:

  1. Listening to various presenters talking about the CoI over and over again was a good reminder that it’s a good idea to revise/revisit content more often.
  2. Thinking is driven by questions and not answers, so ask more, especially HOW/WHAT?
  3. Choose triggers for discussion forums carefully: ask more questions; start with a problem; be provocative/controversial.

Yes, we’re more than half way through this MOOC – it feels like a long time probably because it’s been a pretty intensive time and learning experience for me. Thank you, everyone!

Something that could be improved from my perspective (i.e. living in Europe/12 hour time difference) is the times of the webinars. Personally, I’d have preferred anything before 12 noon (Hawaii time zone). Would have meant that I could have joined in more often, which I really enjoyed being able to do on 2 occasions. But it was great that recordings were made – I presume week 4 round up was recorded? I want to watch that too :-) Right, that’s me. I’m probably not going to be around next week, because I’m off to France (poor me!) with 6 girlfriends for a week, and I don’t think we’ll have internet access in the old stone house we’ve rented. But I’m sure that I’ll be able to catch up when I get back. So have a great week 5, one and all! Mahalo!

Week 4 Activity Post —

Critical Thinking — Creating a Natural Critical Thinking

This week I’ve really had to pull out my thinking cap.  I believe that teaching and encouraging critical thinking is one of the most difficult things we do especially on the collegiate level. Often, especially now with all of the required testing, I find that students don’t know how to think critically.  They have spent so many years in a system that has been so focused on teaching to the standardized tests, student aren’t given the tools to think much beyond regurgitating information spoon fed to them. To me this really causes issues on the collegiate level and leaves me wondering just what we can do to overcome this.  I was hoping this week to learn techniques that could help.

With that question in my mind, I selected items this week that I hoped would guide me toward activities I could share with the instructors I teach so that they could in turn use them in their online classrooms to encourage critical thinking.

1.  What?

     1.  Briefly describe what you did.

          This week I watched the two webinars (both the How to Promote Critical Thinking and the Engaging Students webinars) and was able to complete two of the readings.  The two readings I selected were Online vs. Traditional Course Evaluation Formats and Critical Thinking in Asynchronous Discussions.  I chose the first because I feel that the thoughts of our students can better help us design our courses and to determine what those thoughts are we need to evaluate our courses.  I chose the second because I was hoping to discover ways in which we can encourage more critical thinking in the online classroom.

2.  So what?

     1.  Describe why you did what you did.  What are your feelings about what you did?

           Like I said before, I chose these items in hopes of getting more ideas about just how I could implement more critical thinking into the courses being designed and taught by the instructors I work with.  For the most part, I felt a little disappointed in the material covered this week.  I was able to gain a few things from Debbie Morrison’s webinar and from Greg Walker’s article, but for the most part, I felt like most of Dr. Elder’s session was spent explaining what critical thinking was.  I was looking for specific examples about how to implement it into a training or class and how to engage student in that thinking. 

        2.  How will this help you?

              I will be able to take pieces of what was covered in both the Morrison session and the Walker paper and use those as I design trainings and pass the information I’m learning on to the instructors I work with.  The discussion prompts from the Morrison webinar will be most helpful as I can use these as suggested starting points for instructors.  I will use what I learned from Walker’s paper to suggest to instructors how they might create better discussion boards that inspire more, deeper thinking. 

        3. What did you learn from this experience?

            I learned that it’s important, especially on discussion boards, to ask probing, multidimensional questions that challenge students.  I learned that when this is done correctly, students take their learning into their own hands and learn more from the experience.

3.  What now?

          1.  What changes did you make?

          2.  What will you do differently in the future?

                I think the primary change I will make and what I will do differently in the future is to give more consideration to the types of questions I am asking for discussion boards and journals.  I think that with slightly different wording I could make my questions much more effective when it comes to encouraging critical thinking and student learning.

            3.   What do you still have to learn?

                   I would still like to know what others do besides asking probing questions to encourage critical thinking in their students.  I know there must be more strategies out there that would reach out to a more varied audience of learners and I would love to hear about them.

A Gift from Pat — Vanessa Paz Dennen

Pat, in “Did we miss the point” (Online Learning, 9/30/13), shares an excellent resource on online discussions with a decided emphasis on online: Vanessa Paz Dennen’s “From Message Posting to Learning Dialogues: Factors affecting learner participation in asynchronous discussion” (Distance Education, 2005). According to Pat, “The article has specific examples of what is being discussed and how it was being used in the discussion forums.”

Following are excerpts from Dennen — with my comments in italics:

Vanessa Paz Dennen

Vanessa Paz Dennen

The research question for this naturalistic study was: “How does the design and facilitation of different types of asynchronous discussion activities impact student participation in terms of quantity, quality, timing, and nature of messages posted?”

Asynchronous discussions are unique to online learning. There is no traditional instruction method that is truly an analogue to asynchronous discussion, and thus this medium needs to be examined closely in order to generate knowledge that will help online instructors learn and make informed decisions about how to design and facilitate asynchronous course interactions.

Interaction requires “two discussants.” Just because students were composing and posting messages within these classes did not mean that they were engaging in dialogue. In order for dialogue to be present there needed to be evidence of at least two discussants who were communicating in response to each other.

Feedback and assessment are not necessarily the same. Assessment here refers to the assignment of a grade; feedback is a related issue, although feedback and assessment are not quite the same thing. An instructor might provide feedback without assessing a grade, and a grade may be assessed without providing any other feedback than the numerical or letter rating.

The impact of discussions may be found in “other course assignments.” Intersubjectivity among students was evident in many of the transcripts; in courses where actual dialogue occurred students were negotiating meaning relative to course content with each other. By communicating and pooling their shared experiences, they created a wealth of perspectives from which to draw upon in their other course assignments. Students repeatedly hailed these forums as a good place for exchanging and learning about different viewpoints.

Instructor presence can be established outside of the discussion forum. Instructor presence affected how much, and to whom, students wrote their messages in these courses. It could be established either within, or outside of, the discussion forum, and the most favorable presence seemed to be one that let students know that their messages were being read without taking over the discussion. Instructor presence was related to feedback and assessment; when there was no feedback or assessment, there likely was no instructor presence.

More than one way for instructor to be present. Instructor presence, given these observations, seems to be something that is important in moderation, and that can be achieved in different ways. It was established when students knew in one way or another that their instructor was reading their discussion contributions. [emphasis added]

Instructor domination is a no-no. On one end of the continuum was Dr F, whose classes had a great deal of instructor– student dialogue (he posted about half of all messages) but little peer dialogue. Dr F began most of the discussion threads and monitored the Web boards closely when they were open. His level of attention to the Web boards was admirable, yet created an instructor-centered feeling within the discussions. He responded quickly to student messages, which ensured that they received a response but also shut down the potential for much peer interaction, since students would not likely feel the need to respond when the instructor already had. In this class, students looked to Dr F for confirmation; on the few occasions when he was not present, they were upset. Student comments on the post-course survey indicated that his facilitation strategies caused problems, specifically a feeling of abandonment one week when he was ill and less active and a feeling that peer interaction was not appropriate.

Work smart, not hard. More is not necessarily better in terms of presence, and, as Dr B demonstrated, an instructor need not be a frequent contributor to an online discussion in order to have a presence.

Many online students are nontraditional, and their expectations are different from their traditional counterparts. Many of the instructors and students involved in this study, however, responded that for the non-traditional student socialization in a pure or traditional sense may not be an adequate motivator for generating discussion. . . . Students should be told explicitly that knowing and interacting with classmates will be an important part of their course experience.

Prompts aimed at opinions rather than a correct answer are better. The classes that generated lively discussions, such as Drs B’s and D’s, used discussion prompts that were phrased in a way that allowed everyone to take a different perspective or share their own point of view. . . . For example, if an instructor were to post a question with one clear, expected answer on a discussion board, there would be little use for multiple students to reply once the correct answer was given. Additionally, there would be little reason for students to discuss this topic further. On the other hand, if a discussion question allowed for multiple perspectives to be presented, supported, and argued, there is greater opportunity for students to engage in the activity.

Degree of instructor domination is inversely proportional to student-student dialoguing. An instructor taking an “expert” role had a clear effect on the tone of the discussion, with students writing to the instructor rather than to their peers. . . . Conversational treatment by the instructor generated higher quality student contributions

Conclusion. Further complicating the matter, there does not appear to be one correct or better way to teach via an online medium . . . instead, one’s contextual factors should greatly affect the selection of teaching methods and activities, just as they should in a traditional classroom. . . . Clearly, some approaches to group communication on the Web will better serve instructional purposes than others. . . . The experiences of these classes suggest that it is indeed possible to generate principles of instructional design and facilitation that may apply broadly to online instruction, encouraging student participation that ideally will support learning processes.

The best resources are your colleagues

Everyone knows this and it is proven time and time again, but a “thank you” reminder is always nice.  I have been pilfering from all the rubric examples people have posted links to–recently and earlier in the MOOC–and now have a good base to choose from.  The best thing besides having an awesome rubric for online discussion is that, by reading them, I understand the expectations for online discussion posts.  They have definitely been informative to me and I can see the scaffolding of what separates a good comment from a great one much more clearly.

The Northern Arizona University site was a particular favorite of mine as well because it provided “classroom management” tools as well, like expectations for “attendance” and participation and “nettiquette.”

The four methods of Questioning strategies were a helpful read.  I have already, like most teachers, utilized all four (to some extent) in my classroom, but it is nice to see them so clearly defined with key words and examples.  The “Socratic” method was the only one where I knew the actual name to the strategy and I rely on that one a lot–often with quite leading questions when necessary.  In the physical classroom, it is easy to start the “leading question” and then kind of leave it hanging while my facial expression clearly indicates that I expect someone to follow up.   In the online world, I suppose that is what ellipses are for.

Right now the only “online” component to my courses are my announcements on Laulima and my databank of all the materials in Resources.  But next semester I want to take everything I have learned about online discussions and move some of the readings and discussion onto the Laulima discussion board.




Continuing the Discussion on "Creating Effective OL Discussions"

I finally got to review the Farmakis webinar (Prezi presentation, Video recording) and found these tips really helpful: providing clear protocols/guidelines; using subjective or opinion rich questions; and providing rubrics along with good examples.

As we come to the end of Wk 3: Create Community - Connect Learners with Each Other, I'd like to attempt to bring the topic of OL Discussions back up to the top of the Community Wall, because the general consensus seems to be that discussions are the heart of online teaching but yet quite possibly the most difficult element to implement effectively.

I'd like to start by referencing this discussion thread that Ed initiated a few days ago, first because I want to capture it in my blog, but also because I appreciate what he shared. I was hoping that others might consider contributing some practical examples of how they create, facilitate, and evaluate discussions in their courses.

I've just clipped a couple of the examples from Ed's posts. He mentioned that he likes to create discussion topics that promote reflection & opinion, and sees his role as keeping things on topic and connecting in relevant bits of information from the course material that are not coming up in the discussion. Without seeing the rubrics it is hard to get the full picture, but I was very interested in the criteria that he mentioned here:

"Discussion Boards and Blogs Grading Criteria….
1. Demonstration of understanding of the issues involved in the posted question or material.
2. Response incorporates material and/or concepts from the course in a relevant way.
3. Response makes a meaningful contribution to the discussion.
4. Response takes a personal viewpoint that is supported by evidence, facts, and/or especially information from the course.
5. The quality of the writing of the response is appropriate for a 200-level college course. The response is written in complete sentences and paragraphs with correct spelling and punctuation."

and in a follow up post:

"My plan, as a result of the discussion that came up during the webinar, is to use a rubric to give the students a rubric with the criteria for outstanding, mediocre, and poor discussion board postings.  I would also like to use a short assignment early in the course in which the student is asked to apply the rubric to one of their own postings to the discussion board. I think this assignment can increase the quality of the postings and:

1. Help to confirm their familiarity with the rubric.
2. Reduce the amount of intervention necessary to keep the discussion on topic and appropriate by including references to this in the rubric.
3. Allow me to focus my postings and replies on reinforcement, encouragement, scaffolding around the more difficult concepts and principles, and asking additional questions. "

I really like this idea of students self-evaluating their postings. Maybe as a precursor to this, as part of an orientation to the discussion boards, it might also help to demonstrate application of the rubric to some random posting example? This demonstration could even be created using screencasting and included in the reference materials?

Personally, I do not have a lot of experience with creating rich online interactions so Ed I hope you, and others, will continue to share your knowledge and insights. I am always looking for rich examples, and so in that spirit I'll end with a couple of resources I found:

A great example of a discussion assignment from from Garrison & Vaughn (2008) Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles, & Guidelines

A resource from Edutopia Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation which I thought provided some good insights and tips, including this one here for icebreakers

Building rapport – when online can help face-to-face.

pile of stones This week I’ve been thinking about building rapport in the context of blended learning where the learning technology (a VLE) plays a supporting role to a predominantly classroom based course.

In hybrid learning the role of the VLE is often seen as being that of a repository for resources. When faculty start using a VLE they often begin by uploading course handbooks, lecture slides or recordings and reading lists. I can understand that – the physical space of face-to-face classes it’s supposed to provide human interaction, discussion and activity, which leaves the online space to act as an archive and source for further study.

But face-to-face classes are changing. Student numbers are growing and lecturers don’t necessarily have the opportunity to interact with all the students on their module. A convenor may be delivering the weekly lecture while associate tutors are teaching numerous seminar groups. The VLE provides a platform for the lecturer to develop a relationship and rapport with her students between and beyond the lectures.

With the weekly face-to-face contact in the lecture theatre as a basis for the relationship, a module convenor can use various features of a VLE (such as Moodle which we use at my institution) to develop rapport with individuals and the group as a whole. Here are a few examples:

Forum: where the lecturer can introduce herself and students can ask questions related to the lecture or the module as a whole to be answered by the lecturer in an informal, friendly tone. All the students will be able to see the answers and contribute to the discussion with follow-on questions of their own. This online learning space can also be used for questions that arise in the lecture or in seminars. The lecturer can also use this forum to suggest additional useful resources.

RSS Twitter feed: the lecturer could embed their Twitter feed in the VLE and share interesting tweets with students (this might necessitate a separate professional Twitter account).

Online quiz with lecturer feedback: A quick quiz either after each lecture or after a block of lectures letting students check their learning and get automated feedback from the lecturer. This also provides the lecturer/convenor with feedback to inform lecture planning (which topics are students comfortable with, which need revisiting).

Can you think of any other examples of a VLE or other online learning platform being used to build rapport in a classroom based course?

Binary Flippy Do – How To

Today in AP Computer Science Principles we made the Analog Binary Calculator. We have been working up towards binary. I do not start them with the big explanation of This Is Binary.

Instead I do a series of puzzles as warm ups and exit tickets for the week or so before the actual lesson. That way by the time we get to full scale binary they have had some positive experiences and built their own understanding of how binary works.

(Why do I even do Binary? Here you go)

So for example I show them a picture of two light switches and point out they can either be on or off. Working with a partner they have to figure out how many numbers they can store using the light switches. What if we add a third switch, how many then? Without listing all the combinations can you predict how many numbers you could represent with 4 switches? This makes a great warm up activity.

The great thing about the flippy do is it is super easy to translate numbers back and forth. My stronger math kids pick up the number theory behind it quickly, while my weaker math students are successful so they will stick with it rather than tuning out.

If you also cover the full two's comp representation it is also an incredibly easy way to teach the steps.

  • Index cards - 4x6 or larger
  • Markers
  • Scissors 
  • Rulers - helpful, but not necessary


First you fold up the bottom 1/4, draw 8 columns, and cut the bottom flippy things like this:

Can you tell this is my white board?

Second, you label the powers of two. Then put 1's on the back of the flaps and zeros underneath as shown:

Then I have them do a few puzzles:
  • How may ways can you represent 13? 3? 15?
  • Count from 0 to 13. Any pattern with even/odd numbers?
  • What is the largest number this can store?
  • What is 01111111? 00111111? 00011111? - what is the pattern here?
The point here is, if I just tell them that there is only one way to make any base ten number in binary it goes in one ear and out the other. Snore.

If instead they are doing a puzzle, and after a few realize THEMSELVES that there is only one combo per number, they internalize that at a different level. They don't forget it.

After all this we do the algorithm to change from binary to base ten and back. The best part is when the kid in the back, the one that hates math, tells their neighbor "Hey, I actually get this".

Discussion Questions:

Discussion Questions

1. You do not want to just move your face-to-face course to an online version. We suggest re-designing your course to meet the requirements of your online learners. How do you want to teach online? Describe your basic teaching philosophy and role as an instructor. Look deeply and share how you are willing to be open and doing things differently.
I answered some of these in previous blogs. I realized that I would need to be more open and accessible on a personal level due to the distance and purposely weave in some social interaction between the students–at the beginning is best–that allows them to work collaboratively and get to know one another. Right now I do incorporate group work, but I do not use any time for “get to know you” activities. I also liked all the comments I have read on how to do comments! It is important to stress the tone that comes through with writing and that it is just a short agreement or a “good job.” Something new must be added or a more in-depth addition to the idea or a constructive critique.

2. Knowledge is finite and defined. I am an expert in the subject matter who knows more than the students, and thus my job is to ensure that I transfer as effectively as possible that information or knowledge to the student?

It is great to be able to just put all the resources on laulima for them–so that at any point if they lost something or want to know more they can check our their resources and re-see their instruction sheets and rubrics or find the samples that I posted or the websites that I have posted as extra tutorials. Motivated students have a wealth of teacher-picked examples of additional tutorials they can use to get ahead or to help with understanding the current concept.

I liked reading in one of the MOOC’s posts about how we have to say things clearly and concisely. Now, I always tell me students that when they write–do not make it longer than it needs to be! Do not add in superfluous paragraphs! But, as an English teacher, it is easy for me to keep “elaborating” or explaining on and on until I have covered every possible way to define this concept….and lost my audience due to boredom. So pick one or two good procedures, go over them in clear, short steps, and keep the material so that someone sitting at a computer will read. I liked the idea of incorporating 5-10 min videos of me–I can see how that would help with getting to know your teacher and some concepts are best explained.

3. Focus is on developing learners skills and the ability to question, analyse and apply information or knowledge. Do I see myself more as a guide or facilitator of learning for students?
Online I can see the teacher as both depending on the assignment. For discussions, I am hoping to facilitate and let the class take the lead. However when it comes to the actual MLA requirements on this paper and how to find evidence and synthesize it, I think I need to be more of a guide. What I would look forward to is asking students to contribute materials or “sensemaking artifacts” to the announcements or class “board.” I’d love to have a “student wall” where they can post any TIPS or additional materials on whatever we are focusing on that week. Oh, we are learning about comma splices? Cool, someone can post a link to a cool youtube video they found or create a short worksheet and post it. Oh, we are trying to find topics for our big position paper? Cool, someone can post a website of the best pro-con ideas or a website to a really cool magazine where they think students can find a jumping off point.

4.Taking into account the four factors below, decide and describe what ‘mix’ of face-to-face and online learning will be best for your course, and why your “mix” is best.
So, I haven’t taught online yet and don’t know yet if I want to. That’s the main reason I joined this MOOC. I knew absolutely nothing about teaching online before and know I feel I know a lot more about the philosophy and the type of student who signs up, but I feel very lacking in technical details: what are my resources? how do I use them? How do I grade? How do I manage the class? I have no idea!!! If I every do foray into the world of OL, I would like to try a hybrid class first with one day a week of F2F and the other OL. I don’t even know all the acronyms and short cuts–so that takes up a lot of my time. I just learned “F2F” and am just using OL for the online classroom, not sure what the acronym for that is. So, for me, I mix of both would be needed considering how far behind I am in the world of technology….baby steps!

5. I have not taught online yet, thus I can only speculate on how I will manage the class and all the technical details of who commented on what and who posted and what’s going on. Online Classrooms seems like a lot of juggling plates in the air and having to remember toggle between all of them. That part kind of blows my mind. Right now I am only juggling between checking my email and doing this blog!

Presence, ‘Mr. Miyagi Style’ (Artifact 2)

Jenny, in “Mr. Miyagi Style” (Working It Out in the Virtual World, 9/22/13), captures the art of teaching composition.

Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki "Pat" Morita in a scene from "The Karate Kid" (1984).

Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita in a scene from The Karate Kid (1984): “Wax on, wax off.”

She begins with an understanding that many teachers, even after many years, fail to grasp. Writing is a skill, a performance, an art — something that one does, not something that one knows. It’s more a running stream than a block of ice. Furthermore, it’s a communication skill, it’s interactive, it’s done with others. It’s rhetorical.

When we begin with this assumption, the implications re pedagogy become clear:

Students need a lot of practice learning how to write in a logical fashion. They need practice working with sources; they need practice presenting the works of others and practice responding to those ideas. They don’t show up with these skills, and why should I expect them to? (Jenny)

Jenny’s Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid, 1984) clip captures, in a fun and engaging way, the oneness of learning and teaching: practice, practice, practice; coaching, coaching, coaching. This is teaching as shaping rather than teaching as judging. Writing is a performing art, and through constant practice and feedback over a lifetime — not just a semester or even throughout college — one gradually grows.

In Asia, the arts are called “do” (pronounced dough) or “dao” (or “tao”) — the way. One can follow the way, but one can never own it or master it. Everyone is perpetually a student. But it doesn’t stop there. The path is defined by the travelers, the pilgrims. Those behind (kohai in Japanese) seek guidance from those ahead (senpai), and those ahead guide those behind. Thus, everyone is also perpetually a teacher, like yin and yang.

Like yin and yang, teaching is not separate from learning but an essential part. Teaching a skill reinforces, refines, and expands one’s learning. If a person doesn’t learn something new every time s/he teaches a skill, then he’s not growing as a teacher or a student.

In learning any art, failure and ignorance are givens. No one knows everything, and everyone fails at one point or another. The quest for perfection, not the perfection itself, is the way. From this perspective:

Confusion is okay. Students aren’t just allowed to get frustrated and confused- confusion is encouraged. As a matter of fact, I remind them repeatedly that when they get to a point when they’re about to pull out their hair and quit, they’re right where they’re supposed to be- this is where learning happens. Just as a body builder lifts weights to tear muscles apart to make them stronger, we too must tear our old ways of thinking apart so that we can learn, build empathy, and discover solutions to real world problems. (Jenny)

Ignorance, failure, confusion are the doors to learning, and as Jenny says, “When they get to a point when they’re about to pull out their hair and quit, they’re right where they’re supposed to be — this is where learning happens.” And this is the confluence of learning and teaching, the epiphanic moment when authentic question grasps meaningful answer.

The dao defines presence. As writing teachers, our students are fellow travelers. Thus:

Mutual respect is important. I call them by their first names, so I ask them to call me by mine. . . . I think that in today’s student/teacher climate, going out of my way to let students know it’s okay to call me by my first name will help them speak to me more easily. I hope it makes them more comfortable shooting me an email and asking questions. I think it’s working. (Jenny)

Teachers have to be accessible and respectful. In a word, they need “aloha.”

Teachers also have to love the dao. Jenny says, “I lucked out and get to teach composition.” This is a path she chose. Some of the writing teachers I know treat their courses as punishment to endure or hurdles to overcome to get to their first love, teaching Literature. The proof is in the doing. Jenny’s obviously a writer. She writes. And she loves doing it.

Students “get it” in her words — her enthusiasm for the way, the art of writing:

I want them to have communication skills. I want them to be able to listen to others closely, and I want them to have ways to respond. I want them to know that their ideas matter. I want them to have techniques for dealing with people they don’t necessarily agree with when they still have to find a solution to a problem. I want them to be eloquent, just as I want them to understand the beauty of clarity and brevity. (Jenny)

They also get it in her patience:

There’s a lot of repetition of skills on different topics. I have to repeat myself a lot. Some of them get it the first time, some of them might get it after 16 weeks. I hold on. I try not to get frustrated. We repeat. I think of it like building muscle memory so that when they go into other classes, or go to work, or even have to work out disagreements with their families, friends and neighbors . . . . So we repeat and wax on and wax off and wax on and wax off. (Jenny)

We can establish our presence in online classes with a photo or a video, but we can also do it with our words. Our words are who we are. They aren’t just words, but style, and, paraphrasing Buffon, style is the person. Katherine Anne Porter defines it this way: “You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being.”

Students read our words, and through our words, they know who we are, they sense our presence. We and our words are one and the same, inseparable, and getting to know one means getting to know the other.

Am I a hybrid teacher?


My Hybrid Teacher self?

What did I do this week?

I was on holiday for most of this week so I didn’t do as much MOOC study as I could have. Notice I didn’t say should have. I try to remember that the relationships between the physical, emotional and professional / productive aspects of our lives are important and nurturing ourselves is an essential precursor to nurturing our students so I’m not going to beat myself up about neglecting the course.

I also have good authority for not getting too fixated on ‘completing’ all parts of this course. Stephen Downes who spoke at the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) Conference last week advocated viewing cMOOCs like this more as resources than courses as such. Thinking about this made me realise that my approach to this MOOC is one of selective learning and the things that I choose to focus on and what I get from them are unlikely to match exactly what anyone else gets from the ‘course’.

I did sit down on Thursday night and watch two catch-up videos of webinars I missed. (One of the aspects of this MOOC I would change if I could, would be the location – being the wrong side of the globe means that I don’t get to take part in person which is a shame.)

The aspect of Tony Bates’ talk that particularly interests me and relates most closely to my professional practice as an Education Developer / Learning Technologist working with staff teaching campus-based courses, is hybrid or blended learning. In particular, I’ve been thinking recently about the ways in which online components are becoming more integrated into campus courses. Bates referred to flipped classes but suggested that there were more possibilitie. This overlaps with some of the things I was hearing about at ALT-C last week (and blogging about in terms of  face-to-face using online tech and campus courses learning from online ones).

How might my own teaching be, or become, hybrid?

This brings me to reflect on the nature of my own teaching, which is not straightforward:

  • I run some face-to-face workshops for staff in which I try to take a student-centred approach and tailor the content to the learners’ needs. Although classroom based, these sessions are supported with online resources.
  • Far more of my work has been in one-to-one situations with staff taking a professional development course. This involved regular meetings, discussions, observations of their teaching, lots of informal feedback and ultimately assessment of their portfolios.
  • I also produce materials for a website, blog and paper newsletter and collect and curate a lot of resources that I hope lead to informal learning.

This all sounds pretty hybrid, right? But just because my practice is spread across a range of activities doesn’t mean that the learners I work with are experiencing hybrid learning.

Some clear examples of hybrid/blended learning innovations I’ve been involved in would be the use of online quizzes to provide feedback to students on a campus-based course, or the use of Student Response clickers to increase engagement in a large lecture classes. These are the sorts of innovations people like me support and disseminate, but the techniques rarely translate well to the sorts of teaching that we do ourselves, where numbers tend to be smaller and workshops are one-offs rather than part of sustained modules.

I have to reflect, then, how appropriate this MOOC is for me. I want to learn about teaching online because colleagues will increasingly need to think about how to do that, and will want advice and guidance, but I get very little opportunity to put that learning into practice myself. 

Am I already teaching online, albeit in an informal way?

I think that the answer has to be ‘no’. There may be some informal learning resulting from my activity, but can there be informal teaching? In the absence of ‘appropriate learning goals’ and designed ‘course structure and learning activities’ I don’t think that I can claim to be ‘teaching online’ as such. I do try to ‘communicate’ as much as possible and in as many ways as I can, but the possibilities for evaluation are limited so innovation is generally born out of curiosity.

I have written elsewhere about my efforts in Curating and Communicating as possible ‘e-routes to disseminating and sharing good practice among teaching staff’ but although these are intended to stimulate learning and in particular the sort of networked learning that we are experiencing in this MOOC they do not feel like ‘teaching’.

Would the things that I teach formally work online?

That is an interesting question. Many of the workshops I run are introducing staff to using learning technologies and trying to do that online would probably be unhelpful. Face to face and hand to hand interaction is really important when grappling with new equipment or software for the first time. Other teaching and learning topics could potentially be addressed through online modules, but feedback on staff development workshops over the years has consistently shown that the opportunity to meet other members of staff and share experiences has been one of the most valued aspects of the sessions. It seems unlikely that the same level of sharing and peer support could be achieved in an online context unless the topics were tackled as part of a more substantial course where a meaningful community could be established over time. 

So, is my teaching now, or could it become, hybrid or blended?

  • To the extent that the face-to-face workshops I run are supported with online resources they are minimally hybrid/blended.
  • The wealth of online and networked resources I curate and communicate to colleagues provide opportunities for them to get involved in informal online learning alongside / beyond any formal sessions they might attend, but these are not part of any structured hybrid/blended learning design.
  • Some topics that have been taught face-to-face could be taught online, but the benefits of this seem limited when staff are all based locally and sharing experiences with colleagues has been such a valued part of professional development workshops in the past.

But this doesn’t mean that I can’t understand hybrid pedagogy and the best ways to engage in hybrid / blended teaching so that students can get the best learning experience and outcomes. It does, however, mean that I can’t do a straightforward application of my learning on this MOOC and will have to think throughout about how the staff I work with can use the ideas that I encounter – nothing new there then :)