2013 Fall Global Conference on Education | UNIVERSITY of RIVERSIDE

PROGRAM & CALL FOR PAPERSNovember 15 – 16, 2013 – Ontario, California USA (Los Angeles Metro)

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Ontario Airport HotelFormally Ontario Hilton700 N Haven Ave.Ontario, California  91764 USAPhone (909) 481-1743Fax  (909) 941-6781
May 2 – 3, 2014 (Los Angeles Metro)August 8-9, 2014 (Los Angeles Metro)
The Global Conference on Education is an international refereed conference dedicated to the advancement of the theory and practices in education. The Global Conference on Education promotes collaborative excellence between academicians and professionals from Education.
The aim of Global Conference on Education is to provide an opportunity for academicians and professionals from various educational fields with cross-disciplinary interests to bridge the knowledge gap, promote research esteem and the evolution of pedagogy. The Global Conference on Education invites research papers that encompass conceptual analysis, design implementation and performance evaluation.

deanhcc 2013-10-04 03:09:26

Thank you, Jim, for revisiting so many interesting posts in your blog: http://jimifac.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/tomooc-fishing-in-week-4/

I was especially interested your review of Julio‘s posts.  Thanks, Julio, for such thoughtful posts! :

1) I, too, worry about the audio file/voice message not leaving a paper/typed trail.  In fact, that’s my biggest concern.  However, the way I use the audio files just sort of complements or emphasizes the written feedback the students receive on their essays.  If I were a student, I would definitely need the written feedback trail.   And, I agree with you that discussion forums with audio files would leave me feeling at loose ends.  After Heather’s (?) presentation about allowing students to use a variety of tools (audio, visual, etc.) to introduce themselves, I thought maybe audio would a great option. But now, I definitely pull back from that idea.

2) I’m trying to wrap my mind around your really insightful comment, Julio:

I can’t help but feel that teamwork, like some other strategies (such as webinars), are carryovers from F2F learning contexts. In other words, in classrooms with 20-50 students, small groups or teams are a practical alternative to everyone shouting all at once. Online, the conditions are different, and the purposes for certain strategies that are useful in onground classes may not be as relevant online. Perhaps we ought to reverse engineer the practice of teams: begin with the purposes of teamwork then explore purely online strategies for achieving them. In this way, form follows function.

I was really struck by that last line.  I often feel like something genuine is missing in a lot of the group work.  Like the tail is wagging the dog.  This comment struck me fully this week because, in my f2f developmental writing class, I decided to try something new.

In the past, the course has been designed because of dept guidelines in way that created this pattern:  Assign an essay.  Teach a mode (eg., compare/contrast) and read sample essays. Give students a few sample topics and let them explore their own (eg., two bosses you can contrast, two social media tools, two places, (yawn!)etc.)  Put them into random groups (some ability based, some content/topic based, etc.) to prewrite and peer review.  It has always seemed so flat to me.  Where ‘s the true motivation to share, inquire, explore, and write vigorously?

Yesterday,   I flung open the doors at the beginning of the process, telling them they would have to discover any common interests or experiences they have, group themselves, and then talk about various “ways in” to discovering their specific topics within that group and, ultimately, get around to figuring out how to use compare/contrast as a mode to further their thinking and their writing.  So, I asked: Anyone interested in traveling? Anyone have a regret they could write about? Anybody a driven athlete?  Anybody think about technology a lot?

Then, I left them to discover each other, to discover what they would possibly want to work on as a group that could generate different perspectives and interesting dialogue.

I hope to see individual essays emerge in each group under the umbrella of one common broad interest and the essays will sort of end up being anthologies that can then be shared with the other groups. But, who knows what they’ll do.  They may actually start writing in reaction to each other.  That would be great!  I always talk to my students about the need to see their college writing as additions to the academic conversation that exists around them (rather than as downloading and regurgitating information), so that’s my hope here — for them to start  senses what it feels like to be in an academic community and  conversation.

Anyway, the essays may end up looking the same as they always look from semester to semester, but these students need a chance to take control of their group-making and discussion and become more “alive.”  So, there you have it:  That’s why Julio’s comment about the form following function really struck me.  I hope that makes some sort of sense! ;-)   Hard to describe, but it feels like a significant shift in empowering the students to create group work — rather than be assigned to groups — and to see it as theirs and as meaningful exchange.

Now, I have to think about what this means for my online writing classes!  Hmmm…

Mahalo! -Tanya

TOMOOC Fishing in Week 4

Tanya, in Week 3 catch-up/ thank you’s & Techie Questions about Voice Messages (10/3/13), tested Veronica’s ideas re audio feedback on student papers/projects. She tried TurnItIn’s “new voice message tool,” “Adobe Pro’s voice embed tool,” and ScreenCastOMatic. Re the last, she says, “I’ve tried both ScreenCastOMatic options of QuickTimePlayer and WindowsMedia MP4s and AVI files. I’m also experimenting to find out if Laulima/Sakai limits the size of the attachment sent via Messages.  I think it does.”

Thanks, Tanya, for doing this! It saves me and others who are interested a lot of time and effort. My feelings re audio in this role is torn. On the one hand, I realize it does give a more human “face” to comments, but I’m not totally convinced that text doesn’t do the same, though in a different way via tone, persona, etc. On the other hand, part of the review process is to create a log of past performances to guide future growth and to measure growth, and for this, text is very efficient. The result is a performance continuum (or record) rather than isolated bits of feedback. I’d think audio comments, even if only a few minutes long, might take time to review — for the teacher as well as students. For example, I can scan a text transcript quickly for info I need, but searching a video or recording is a hassle. Thus, even if the technical issues could be worked out, audio recordings may not be worth the extra effort they require. When the purpose is to convey info on problems and strengths in a student’s paper, perhaps the best medium is the one that’s quickest, easiest, and most effective. However, this decision may be a matter of teacher preference, and buy-in may be a critical factor in student success.

Sara, in Week 4 Activity Post — 10/3/13, says, “I find that students don’t know how to think critically.” In the context of her post, I understand where she’s coming from. However, I don’t think she means that “students don’t know how to think critically.” Of course they do — but maybe not in the areas and in the ways that we deem important in our fields of study. The fact is, the vast majority of human beings are excellent critical thinkers. The key, for teachers, is to tap into that natural ability by helping students connect it to the teacher’s topics. Students may need to learn new labels for what they already do, and they may need to learn how to refine their thinking, but we shouldn’t forget that teaching is often reminding students about what they already know and showing them how to transfer prior learning to newer contexts. In short, ignorance is relative.

Sara mentions a problem in Dr. Elder’s session: “I felt like most of  [the] 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.” Most teachers are familiar with critical thinking principles in F2F settings, so their interest is in implementation in online contexts. She leaves us with a comment that I’d like to echo: “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.”

Ida Brandao, in “MOOC How to Teach Online” (9/28/13), says, “I must confess that I have great difficulty to follow synchronous communication, for professional reasons, for reasons that one forgets the timings. So, most of the synchronous events I watch as recorded sessions.” I’m like Ida. While I’m watching the linear real-time progression slowly unravel, I keep wondering, Couldn’t this have been provided in text, for me to review at my own leisure, at my own pace, in my own way? Then again, I may be asking all the wrong questions.

Julio C. Castro, in “Suggested Reflections (week 3)” (10/2/13), says, “It is a tricky situation when you have to put together teams of students who have not met before in a on-site course. But to do it in an online class, it is even more difficult. My take on this is that, even though many instructors practice this, the students have to figure out themselves how to pair up, the instructor only needs to create the right environment.” I agree that teamwork in an online class is “even more difficult.” I can’t help but feel that teamwork, like some other strategies (such as webinars), are carryovers from F2F learning contexts. In other words, in classrooms with 20-50 students, small groups or teams are a practical alternative to everyone shouting all at once. Online, the conditions are different, and the purposes for certain strategies that are useful in onground classes may not be as relevant online. Perhaps we ought to reverse engineer the practice of teams: begin with the purposes of teamwork then explore purely online strategies for achieving them. In this way, form follows function.

Julio, in “Activity Reflection (week 3)” (10/1/13), says, “It got me curious because I thought that maybe this is just some kind of resistance to the use of new technology or maybe there is indeed no foundation on the usefulness of this system in online learning. So, I think I have found a problem I liked to explore possible solutions to, that has really excited me.” Good point, Julio. My guess is that audio is simply not as efficient as text in forums. In discussion forums using text, we have a visual sense of the parts and the whole. If all were in audio, we’d lose that sense of location and finding and tracking individual posts would be baffling. Still, I applaud your spirit of inquiry and encourage your exploration.

Julio says, “I guess the big questions is whether discussion forums gain anything from implementing audio threads, here at UF there is no guidelines on how students use the tool, I think this time I will spend some effort on creating these guides to help students create a truly engaging community through voice and text.” I’d begin with this big question, too: Do “discussion forums gain anything from implementing audio threads”?

Leanne Riseley, in “Making Sense of Connecting with Learners and Creating Community” (10/1/13), says, “I created a new page with all of the technologies we use in the course on a single page. This page has video tutorials, resources, and links to tech support. In the past, I had the technology listed in my course syllabus and throughout the course modules, but now it is all in one place.” I slowly came to this “solution,” too. I use WordPress blogs for course info and developed a separate blog called “course resources,” a central location for info that’s repeated in all the separate course blogs. Course maintenance and info flow has become much more efficient.

Leanne says, “I’ve used teams in my online course for the last four years, constantly reviewing and revising the process each semester. A small change that I will be making –  I have always named my teams 1, 2, 3, etc. and encouraged the teams to pick their own names.” Please see my comment, above, to Julio re teams.

Mshin11, in “The best resources are your colleagues” (10/1/13), points to the Northern Arizona University site, an excellent resource for practical rubrics, for example:

Example 6: Wondering what you should do for the participation portion of our class?
What do I mean by a substantive post?

The following are some ideas to set the stage for substantive participation for the development of your critical thinking skills:

  • Ensure that the posting contributes to the overall discussion thread that is being developed. Your response must contain some reference back to the original discussion question.  Stay on track by always referring back to that original discussion question.
  • Try to use your posting to add value to the discussion. This is more effective than simply responding to meet a requirement.
  • Check to see that the posting expands on the main theme (in the discussion question, or assignment posting).
  • Make sure your posting is at least 75-150 words.

Other Ideas for Participation

  • Share a related experience.
  • Comment on others’ experiences.
  • Ask students questions about their ideas/experiences.
  • Consider an idea being discussed, and offer a different perspective on it.
  • Describe an interesting idea from the week’s reading, and explain what insights you gained from it.
  • Ask the group a question about the week’s reading.
  • Disagree (respectfully, of course) with a point that someone else has made.
  • Discuss a related issue on which you would like some feedback.
  • Describe how you have applied the recent course concepts to your personal/professional life.
  • Share another resource you have used as you explored the course topics.

For Those of Us Who Beg Students to Use E-mail

I thought I’d share this NY Times article about how and why college students do not use e-mail: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/fashion/technology-and-the-college-generation.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Interesting — they feel it’s antiquated!  Aaagh! I AM old! ;-)   I take to heart the additional comment in the article that some students who might consider using e-mail shy away from it because they worry about the etiquette (eg., what do I put in the subject line? how do I address my instructor? etc.) .  This made me think I’ll add a little lesson about that at the beginning of each semester.  The authors go on to say how many of us veteran e-mail users do not composing effective  messages, so how can we expect our students to use this tool effectively?


Week 3: A Late Wrap Up

  1. First, I want to thank the facilitators for a great Week 3. I found all of the materials really thought-provoking and informative.  I will have to revisit them after this busy semester!  I am inspired to share key ideas with my online colleagues here at the college.
  2. Discussion Questions:


  1. I thought a lot about the social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence concepts.    I really like the idea of exploring how students are present in these three ways.  How can I encourage more student-student teaching and problem-solving.   I also appreciated the reminder that the social presence is critical.  I am very aware of needing to create a safe place for my students and now I also want to encourage the interpersonal connections between students more.   Simple things like having them post their questions to the class  can help. I do want them to become greater resources for each other.

I also liked Heather Farmakis’s take on introducing herself to her classes. http://facultyecommons.org/building-rapport-establishing-relationships-in-online-courses/   I’d love to do something like this online, and I like the idea of telling students about our own educational journeys.  When I share parts of my experience as a student, they are all ears.

I reflected on the “sense of puzzlement> info exchange> through “applying new ideas” quite a bit and realized that sense of puzzlement is so quickly passed over at times.  Students need to puzzle, resist puzzling, and don’t really realize that’s what’s happening.  Instead they just feel uncomfortable and fearful.  I’d like to highlight this sequence for them and help them understand, “It’s all good!, ” but if they get stuck there in the puzzlement and it’s not generating the next steps of learning, they have to reach out for help.

Greg, thank you for this reminder on the effectiveness of questioning. http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/tomorrows-college/lectures/rethinking-teaching.html
It reminded me of a time when another mom turned to me and said, “You ask your son (5 at the time) a lot of questions! I love that.  How do you know to do that?”  I was really taken aback.  I guess I just found it so fascinating to engage him and hear from him.  I have to keep that alive with my students!
And, lastly, I bookmarked rubrics for discussion posts to adopt/adapt later.
So what? and What changes did you make?
  1. As students posted their first round of responses to a reading this week in a discussion forum, I went in and highlighted their salient points and I commented on each with a greater focus on asking them follow-up questions and directing them to other students’ posts (eg., “Oh, that sounds a lot like what Jenny said.  Is it?” or “This goes along with what Mitchell wrote in a way? What do you think?”  I noticed several student went back in and responded to each other this time… It’s building!  Also, on the announcements home page of the course, I wrote a little blurb with bullets like:  “Please go back to the Discussion forum where : ~  Jenny asked for help with her thesis. ~ Mitchell made a really interesting point about xyz ~ Pam gave Alice a great pat on the back. etc.   Gee, it’d be fun to move over to students doing this sort prompting!

And, I added a thought-provoking image to my home page with some questions to prompt their thinking.  I change it up weekly or every other week, but now, I just have to figure out if it’s too much to ask them to respond to such images as well or to give them a place where they can voluntarily discuss it.  I’m finding anything voluntary doesn’t get attention.   Sometimes, enough is enough.  Students are so busy!  Just putting the image and question up there for now may be just fine.

In my f2f readingn class, I introduced a blogging assignment — “A Reading Together Ritual” based off of these two touching NY Times articles that promote the idea of reading as a social act.

We talked about how can you really begin to id yourself as a reader?  Make it part of your social identity.    They’re responding to it well.  The students are sharing all sorts of interests and reading experiences.  This week I threw it out to them: “How do you want to continue with this blogging experiment? How can we sustain your interest and expand your interactions?”   This is new to me… I want this to become their baby; we’ll see if we can make it happen.

Enough for now!

Week 3 catch-up/ thank you’s & Techie Questions about Voice Messages

I was hit by a nasty, nasty cold this week, so I’m a bit behind, but I want to thank Rachel, Greg, Veronica, Sara D., Dawn and others for responding to my blog and offering tips on discussion forums,etc.  As a new blogger,I have yet to figure out how to respond directly to your comments without e-mailing you. (I don’t want to set up an edublog account just to be able to respond to those of you using edublog.) Two of my to-do’s take-aways is to add a rubric for discussion posts and more clearly define my expectations for their responses to each other.  I do provide exemplars and I chime in to applaud students’ worthwhile posts and to ask more questions to prompt further thinking.  And, I do grade their posts, but these two additions may help. Mahalo!

Veronica, thank you as well for your post on using audio recordings to add the “human touch.”  This became my focus this week.  It raised a lot of questions and some techie frustration.  Here, I’ll launch into a how-to discussion that may not interest most folks (especially since you’re all on Week 4!, but I thought I’d put it out here:

I find my online writing students love my audio comments. Ones that had been lurking also seemed to become more engaged. I started using them when TurnItIn.com offered a new voice message tool last year.  It gives an instructor 3 minutes of recording time, so I had to get used to being concise. I also liked it because I found myself focusing on positive feedback more and I felt more personally connected to my students.  In addition, I found it saved me from additional wrist and back aches because I wasn’t typing as much.  (Ahhh!  The hazards of this kind of work! ;-)

This week, however, I returned to experimenting with other voice tools since I’d like to interact this way  outside of TurnItIn.com.  I experimented with using Adobe Pro’s voice embed tool and I thought, “This is slick and easy!” I saved their essays as pdfs with my comments and just clicked Insert voice memo.   Nope!  Several of my students couldn’t see the speaker icon in the pdfs.  I researched this but got completely overwhelmed because it seems students with different hardware and software will experience different luck with this.  Forget it!

So, then I tried ScreenCastOMatic which is also easy and slick. ( I had contacted my instructional tech team about all this and they recommend it again.)  I loved it because I could scroll through the essay on the screen and talk my written comments, etc.  But, I’m hearing from students who say they can’t open it with  their media players.  Harrumph!  I’ve tried both ScreenCastOMatic options of QuickTimePlayer and WindowsMedia MP4s and AVI files.  I’m also experimenting to find out if Laulima/Sakai limits the size of the attachment sent via Messages.  I think it does.

So, these are the challenges that instructors face when experimenting.  If anyone has any tips, I’d love to hear them!  I don’t want to give up on this.




Activity reflection – week 4

I read the text of the website and some other articles of the readings (and the secondary literature) whose titles interested me. Then I made a sensemaking artifact, consisting of a mindmap with the ideas I found more practical for my professional scenario.
So what?
When it comes to technques and strategies to make my job as a teacher better, I rather synthesize than analyze, that’s why I chose a mindmap. I feel satisfied because I can access and read it in case I will need it. I created a practical tool for me.
I learn two things: first a new tool to make online mindmaps (gifly) and also to identify when a threaded discussion does not promote critical thinking.
What now?
⁃    What changes did you make?
Since I do not teach online, I couldn’t change anything.
⁃    What will you do differently in the future?
I will definitely promote learning through questions in case I teach online.
⁃    What do you still have to learn?
How to make good questions. I have no experience.

Suggested Reflections (week 3)

  1. In your blog share some of your reflections of what you have learned this week.
    One of the things I have learned this week relates to team building in online settings. It is a tricky situation when you have to put together teams of students who have not met before in a on-site course. But to do it in an online class, it is even more difficult. My take on this is that, even though many instructors practice this, the students have to figure out themselves how to pair up, the instructor only needs to create the right environment. Maybe the instructor leaves breadcrumbs that students could follow. One way I envision doing this is by first start the course with a simple discussion introduction or a simple poll that could give details about what the students are interested about in the course. Then I would set up forums for them to come and start discussing topics that interest them. The first post would come from me and then I will let them know I am paying attention to their conversation so that they know I am present and interested in what they have to say. I will post encouraging comments to them so that they can keep discussing possible projects together.
  2. In particular, reflect on your experiences of two different facilitation styles or strategies for promoting critical thinking. What are the implications for the facilitation of online courses?
    In my experience in the classroom and the online environment the use of case studies and questions with not a definite answer can be effective as promoters of meaningful thinking. The case studies I have designed included images and in some cases, video. Then I would ask questions about how they use the data provided to come up with a solution that they can justify and defend. For the open-ended questions I would clarify that there is no right or wrong answer but their thinking process will be evaluated. In all these cases, I would establish in the guidelines that the best way to approach their response is by providing external resources they used for their research (I think there needs to be a clarification that I don’t expect them to complete the activities in one sit). These activities can be implemented in the classroom in a faster manner because the students and the instructor are in one place and the communication includes body language, voice tones, verbal cues, etc. In the online environment this is not possible, so the guidelines have to be designed carefully so that no loose ends will create confusion and discouragement on the students. The instructor has to make sure that the students feel that he/she is present in the forums, from time to time by making comments or by asking questions to the students. The students need to know that the instructor cares about their work and values their ideas express in the discussions.

I’m not (quite) dead yet!

Hello all,

Well, my participation in the course has dropped off significantly. I am bummed, because when I engage I find it really valuable. Ironically, it has made me give more attention to the online course I am teaching, which takes time away from this course! I basically have way too much on my plate- just moved into a fixer-upper, I have 2 jobs, working on my PhD, and being the primary caretaker of a 3 year old. I may just have to tune in when possible and pore over the archives over winter break!


Activity Reflection (week 3)

Please post a reflection that addresses what you did this week, why you did what you did, and what you would do differently in the future. Your reflection will be framed by three broad questions: What? So what? What now?
  1. What?
    1. Briefly describe what you did.
      This week’s subject on making learners connect to each other has made me consider the application of audio and web 2.0 technologies like Voicethread, to discussion forums. If we establish rules for making posts of this type, I believe it can work. There is little research on this area yet, but I think the evidence is building up on the usefulness of these technologies in online teaching.
  2. So what?
    1. Describe why you did what you did. What are your feelings about what you did?
      I got curious after Dr. Farmakis presentation when I asked if she had used audio for discussion forums, then came a series of posts in the chat from some other attendees that leaned on the drawbacks of using the technology in the discussion setting. It got me curious because I thought that maybe this is just some kind of resistance to the use of new technology or maybe there is indeed no foundation on the usefulness of this system in online learning. So, I think I have found a problem I liked to explore possible solutions to, that has really excited me.
    2. How will this help you?
      The use of web 2.0 technologies for online learning is developing fast and I want to be a part of this inquiry. This new task is going to help hone my research skills in education research, which requires different methods than the ones I have used in engineering.
    3. What did you learn from the experience?
      That I should not be afraid of using new technologies for creating engaging and interactive activities in the discussion sections of my course. I also learned that there is still little research on the use of these technologies in online learning, maybe this research is being conducted now, but there a few papers out there already published. This is a fertile area for research, which I am hoping to conduct at some point later in my career.
  3. What now?
    1. What changes did you make?
      I will start making some activities that include the use of presentation tools such as Voicethread. One way we can implement this is by letting the students use a different identity if they choose to. They can also choose the using of the audio system only, we will have to create netiquette rules so that the postings do not get confusing to other students.
    2. What will you do differently in the future?
      I think I will start considering using web 2.0 tools, even though there is not enough research to support the effectiveness of many of these tools. Since I am interested in doing research later on, I think I might be able to find a topic here. I guess the big questions is whether discussion forums gain anything from implementing audio threads, here at UF there is no guidelines on how students use the tool, I think this time I will spend some effort on creating these guides to help students create a truly engaging community through voice and text.
    3. What do you still have to learn?
      I think I need to work on the guidelines and instructions for conducting audio postings for discussion forums. This is basically uncharted territory for me but I am excited about this possibility. In addition, there are other web 2.0 tools that I think can be used for online learning. I am especially interested in finding a good use of that app called Vine, maybe it could work for creative activities related to the arts and social sciences. The roadblock here is that this App is not integrating on any LMS so far, but I think this is going to change soon.

Making Sense of Connecting with Learners and Creating Community

I fell behind with creating my artifacts for the MOOC, but have been reading through the resources, viewing the webinars, and reading the discussion posting. I have tried to apply some of what I have learned by modifying the online course I teach. Here are a few things I have done and why.

  1. Getting Started Module – I revised my Getting Started Module. Although I had one before, I revised it with clearer prompts – What you should do first, what you should do next, when is the first assignment due, etc. Although all the information is in the course syllabus, I wrote it out clearly in the Getting Started Module. I revised this as a result of taking a step back and deciding how I wanted to teach this online course -part of Tony Bates’ webinar and 9 Steps to Quality Online Learning. I also read what others do to “orient” students to their courses and found some great ideas in the discussion posting.
  2. Technology In This Class – I created a new page with all of the technologies we use in the course on a single page. This page has video tutorials, resources, and links to tech support. In the past, I had the technology listed in my course syllabus and throughout the course modules, but now it is all in one place. I created this as a result of what Dr. Melissa Kaulbach said during a webinar that she is not tech support to all of her students. At times, I tried to be, but found that it was frustrating for both the student and me. It is much better to provide resources to the student and have them contact tech support to work out their computer problems.
  3. Connect with learners – I revised my introduction activity and my own introduction. I had been using Xtranormal to introduce myself. For those who are not familiar with it, Xtranormal was a free online animation tool that created movies that were posted and could be shared. I used to have students create one of their own as their introduction and they seemed to enjoy it. This past summer, Xtranormal closed. Based on the MOOC discussion, webinars, and content about creating community and connecting with learners, it seems connecting in the beginning is very important. It seemed important for students to “see” and “hear” the instructor and each other. I will be using Fotobabble to create my introduction and have students do the same. Fotobabble allows you to use a picture and your own voice for a short introduction. I will have them include their Fotobabble link as part of the written introduction on the discussion board. I also added two questions they could pick from to help them with their introduction posting. I learned from how Greg has structured this MOOC, that it is helpful to have prompting questions.
  4. Building Relationships – I revised my About Me information. Based on what Dr. Heather Farmakis shared, I revised and will continue to revise what I share with my students. In the past, I only shared minimal personal information and a photo of myself. However, based on what I’m learning in this MOOC, I can see how my story can encourage and positively influence my students. In addition to the Fotobabble, I am sharing how I started my career and took several turns to end up in education. I will share how my past experiences have shaped the way I teach, what I have learned, and why I enjoy teaching the course. Currently, my story is on a webpage, but I’m thinking of making it into a Prezi as Dr. Farmakis did or a Powtoon to experiment with using Powtoons.
  5. Teams – I’ve used teams in my online course for the last four years, constantly reviewing and revising the process each semester. A small change that I will be making –  I have always named my teams 1, 2, 3, etc. and encouraged the teams to pick their own names. Most teams never changed their name. Based on what came up in one of the webinars, I will change the team names to colors. I had always thought that it wasn’t good to name the first team Team 1, so I started forming the teams backwards (starting with Team 5 and ending with Team 2), but that didn’t work very well. I like the idea of using colors.  I also liked what Brent shared in one of the Weekly Roundups on how he assesses teamwork. As a result of what he shared, I created a Google Form for students to give me feedback at the completion of each project on how the teamwork went. I will give students a team grade for the project they turn in AND an individual grade based on their feedback of how the teamwork went. In the past, I only gave them a team grade for the project and assessed teamwork at the completion of all the projects. However, based on what I have learned in this MOOC, I will make a small change and assess teamwork after each project as well as after all the projects.
  6. Create a natural critical learning environment – I have used Problem-Based Learning (PBL) for the last four years and by using PBL students need to uncover/discover information on their own, use critical thinking and communication skills to synthesize the information into a meaningful product, and apply computer skills to present their findings. What I would like to incorporate more into the course is the questioning strategies brought up in this week’s MOOC. I would like to give students the opportunity to process questions and develop written responses to these questions. Greg has modeled well the power of reflection and asking thought-provoking questions and I need to think further about how that could be incorporated into my course.

I feel like I had a pretty good course before taking this MOOC, but making changes, tweaks, and additions will be improve the course and benefit the students.


Online learning 2013-09-30 21:56:00

Did we miss the point.  After watching Walker's recorded weekly wrap-up session - it floated into my mind.  Why are we talking about discussion forums and social presence/content presence when really we would probably all learn a lot more if this course about online learning was within a LMS and someone was modeling these techniques rather than hearing gurus talk about the "art" of online learning.

The part from this wrap-up that probably moved me onto this vein was  the statement of "modeling social context, interactivity and a sense of privacy".   After hearing this, I wrote the phrase down and put ???  in the margin and I am still pondering this. What does this look like - could someone show me it in an actual discussion forum?

"Teaching and social presence is basic learning but cognitive presence takes learning beyond the basic towards application and appreciation." This is another one that needed me to go back over the definitions. So here we want to find out whether the learners have had critical discourse reflected on what they were discussing in the forum and have they constructed personal meaning and confirmed our mutual understanding. Another aught moment.

The one thing that this week has done for me is underlined that teaching on-line and especially the discussion board/forums are an enigma.  Even after going through the course materials this week and participating in Dr. Healther Farmakis' Blackboard presentation and listening to the weekly wrap-up t I was still thinking I was a fish out of water. I reviewed some on-line learning articles I had found a couple of years ago when I was keen on improving my on-line discussions.  CREST+ Model: Writing Effective Online Discussion Questions, (2007) Akin & Neal this article talks about types of discussion questions from problem based to literature-based to an experiential element.  The thing that I still think is missing it is that it is fine to talk in the abstract but if you are new to on-line learning it would help if there were samples of these types of discussions and responses. I appreciate Vanessa Paz Dennen's articles in Distance Education, "From Message Posting to Learning Dialogues: Factors affecting learner participation in asynchronous discussion" (2005)as the article has specific examples of what is being discussed and how it was being used in the discussion forums.  What I gathered from analysis is that the more personal or relevant to the participants lives they more likely they are to expand in the discussion forum. The other article by her that I found very informative was "Lookinf for evidence of learning: Assessment and analysis methods for online discourse (2008).  In this article she makes the point that if participants are engaging in an activity it should "somehow enhance the learning experience" p 206 (2008)  The question then becomes how does this look or as an online facilitator how do you ensure that this experience happens? What I appreciated here was that she provided a couple of discussion board samples and then proceeded to analyze them.

Moving forward I think that without marks attached it is not likely you will have the entire class participate.  Lurking is not valued in the online environment whereas we appreciate students coming to class even if they do not actively participate in class discussion.  If your course lends itself to current events then capturing these events in the discussion forum will enhance the discussion. Another way to enhance the discussion is to create roles ex.) white hat, black hat, critic etc. The art of being online is to create a discussion forum that really is a discussion.

Akin, Lynn & Diane Neal CREST+ Model: Writing Effective Online Discussion Question, MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol 3, No, 2, June 2007
Paz Dennen, Vanessa, Looking for evidence of learning: Assesment and anlaysis methods for online discourse,  Computers in Human Behavior 24 (2008) 205-219.
Paz Dennen, Vanessa, From Message Posting to Learning Dialogues: Factors affecting learner partiipation in asynchronous discussion, Distance Education, Vol 26, No 1, May 2005 pp127-148

Lilly Conference on College & University Teaching – California

For 33 years, Lilly Conferences on College and University Teaching and Learning have provided opportunities for the presentation of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. This interdisciplinary teaching conference includes faculty, administrators, and graduate students from across the United States and abroad. Participants are given the opportunity to exchange ideas, build a repertoire of skills that can be put to immediate use, and to network with colleagues.

Discussion Questions (week 3)

  1. How does teamwork in an online class change the course dynamics?
    The dynamics change because now the learning objectives become a common goal for the group as opposed to individually achieving the same goals. There is the added advantage that a group will pool the strengths of each individual member to make a more cohesive group, one individual would not have all the strengths that a group has. Plus the collaboration between individuals create a stronger bond that can last for a long time beyond the duration of the course.
  2. How do you prepare, help and facilitate learners to work in teams in an online course?
    What I have use in the past is an activity that the students complete at the beginning of the course. This can be in the form of answering some questions in the discussion forum or filling out a survey. The idea here is to collect data on why the students are taking the course, their motivation, which subjects they are interested in learning more, and maybe their backgrounds. Based on this, I created forums with subjects collected from this activity and the I invited students to join whichever they wanted. At this point I laid the rules for the forum and them let them work together on a project of their choosing. I would monitor the discussions to make sure they were making progress on their projects and would ask questions when necessary. I will try to use this same approach in my new course, but I will also add the progress presentation so that I can have a better idea of what they are doing.
  3. How do you move the community through the phases of learner engagement and evolving expectations?
    The first two weeks of the class are very crucial because this is the time when the student will decide that the class is worth the effort. How can we engage the student during this time? I think I can design a few activities such as posts answering questions about the material or questions from other students, or from the me, the instructor, that I would ask the students from time to time. Thus, it is very important that the activities in the beginning of the course are designed around interesting questions about the material and subjects being exposed in the lessons. One very useful tool is designing case scenarios where they can apply what they just learned. During this activities I expect the students will ask questions about the scenarios, which will add to the discussion. I think we can also add questions about some of the resources provided in the lesson, which hopefully will bring more questions from the students. At some point after the second week, it would be important to ask the students to start discussion sessions among them, I could be also monitor these sessions making sure they stay on topic.
  4. How do you use prompts to move discussion through the cognitive phases, of Triggering event > Exploration > Synthesis > Resolution?
    I think I would like my students to post initially what they are interested in the class, if I identify some that may not have a clear idea of what they would like to post, I will initiate the forum by explaining some of the key parts from the class structure. Then, for those who actually expressed an interest in some subject, I would provide another post with some key explanations and resources they could use to start exploring. Then I would start posting questions oriented towards applications of those subjects mentioned in the first postings and I will monitor the following week to assess the response from the students. I will try to keep the conversation towards the research they are doing at this point, I will post questions related to their findings to assess if they are actually doing research. Then in the following week I will post questions where they can apply what they have learned from the research process, case scenarios, examples, applications will help the students apply their new knowledge. Finally, I will ask them to propose new applications where they think their new knowledge would apply.
  5. How would you facilitate and guide students who are “lost or off track” to help them reach the stated course objectives and outcomes?
    The first thing I would do is arrange a one-on-one session with each student, either by webinar or by phone. I will ask them if they are aware that they have fallen behind the course, and then I will listen to the reasons they have fallen behind. Depending on the reasons for this, I will help them create a plan to move forward, they can start drafting a plan that suits them to catch up with the course. If they are not motivated by the course, I will ask them what was the reason that made them sign up in the first place, if they are finding the course not what they were expecting, I will write down their reasons and take note for future improvements, and then maybe leaving the course would be a better option for them. It might be that they are finding the material difficult to assimilate. In this case, I will develop supplemental material that will help them understand the material in the course.
  6. Discussion Forums
    1. What were the characteristics of online discussion posts that you thought were of exceptionally high quality?
      I think I can point out first to the characteristics around the format and layout areas. The best posts I have seen contain no grammatical errors (I wish I was that good), and you can tell that the author spent a deal of time going over different versions of the post until the right one finally came out (another thing I wish I could do better), also the post is easy to read because the author made sure the sentences were short and the paragraphs contain a few lines only. Regarding the layout, in the best posts there is always the issue being presented in the first lines, then come the supporting arguments and finally a way of conclusion showing why the author was either agreeing or disagreeing with the first post. Then finally, the best posts have the best content (references, supporting material like videos, links or images). The most important characteristic of them all is that the you can tell the author is not just vomiting words to fill out space, and I think anybody can tell a post with this issue, you can follow the author’s line of thought and understand instantly his/her position on the issue at hand.
    2. How would you create a discussion to elicit deep meaningful learning?
      The best way one can create such discussion (and I have seen it being used here) is to create a series of questions from the lesson content that the students may have not considered before. For example, we could look at a different point of view on the subject, other than the one presented in the material. Or we could pose a question in which we ask the students to think about a case in which the presented material would apply. Another type of question is to use a case that seems to contradict what was presented as the general case, we can ask what is wrong with the case and if it in fact derails all what was exposed in the lesson. My favorite one is when we can ask a question about what would happen if a rule, law, principle did not exist and how that would affect the presented cases or examples in the lessons.
    3. What criteria would you use in a rubric for assessing a discussion?
      I think the first one would be a minimum number of words, then I would add in the rubric an item for “were all the questions answered?”, if the post is related to an opinion I would add a criterion for the side of the issue they were on, especially if it was clear which side they were abrogating. Another criterion I would add is related to follow up to initial post so that a conversation is happening. Of course, another rubric would pertain to their attendance, if they just post once in awhile they should not be getting a grade for it.
  7. Live Interaction
    1. What are the benefits and limitations of emerging types of synchronous online learning?
      I think the best advantage of synchronous activities is that the instructor has close contact with the students, and if the instructor is willing to grant the microphone to the students, it add human touch to hear their voices. The students also get to know the instructor because he/she can make sure to use icebreaking introductions to ease the students in the session. The instructor also gets to present supplemental material not included in the lessons posted online. If the instructor also has a webcam, the students have the opportunity to meet the instructor in person, the same goes to the students who have a webcam. The limitations on the use of synchronous tools seem to fall on the technology side. If the student has bad internet connection, the experience can be frustrating. On the same topic, students that are not technology savvy will have difficulty using the technological tools used in synchronous learning. Another disadvantage of synchronous tools is that students may not have enough time to digest the material being conveyed, and collaboration from the will be limited because they have not had time to analyze the content.
    2. How can asynchronous and synchronous e-learning complement each other in learning online?
      In many cases it is related to how fast a response time the student needs while working on a class activity. Most of the lessons and content are posted for the student to review at their own pace, but then if they have questions or clarification in a particular subject, then the synchronous session will provide the opportunity to ask questions to the instructor. On the other hand, the student can send emails to the instructor, the instructor may decide that the answer will require a live explanation, in this case it makes sense to have a synchronous session to review the questions. In collaborative projects, the students may decide to use the discussion forum to keep updated on the progress, or they may decide to use a live session to have a more dynamic interaction. It seems to me that most of the activities in an online course can be made asynchronous one way or another, but the synchronous version may be adequate in some circumstances when the activity requires immediate feedback.

The Vulnerability Imperative in Online Learning: A Response to Julio

Julio C. Castro in “Essential question (week 3)” (Momenta Learning 9/24/13): “A great way to help my students [put] themselves out there and at the same time, help them generate creative and innovative solutions is by inviting them to create a blog where they can express their ideas and bounce around possible solutions and scenarios with others. The discussion forums I will create for the students to manage on their own while they work on their projects, will include directions on how to set up a blog and I will add that all of the participants interact with those blogs by visiting them and comment on the posts from the author. My hope is that some of them will eventually use the blog as a creative tool later on, on a permanent basis. I will also invite them to create a profile in systems similar to LinkedIn (professional associations) because this exposes you to others that can take a look at your work and provide feedback. Creating projects that can later be shared with others online is a great creative process, at least [it] is working for me so far”1 (emphasis added).


Greg and his staff posted a quote from Brené Brown in the activity description: “I define vulnerability as emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty. It fuels our daily lives. And I’ve come to the belief … that vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage — to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be honest. So let me go on the record and say, vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. To create is to make something that has never existed before. There’s nothing more vulnerable than that.”

Courage, plain and simple, means risk taking. How do we teach courage? This is a tough question. Some would argue that it’s genetic — but I disagree. I think it’s teachable. It begins with parents, but if it’s neglected in the home, then schools and colleges have the responsibility.

When I say to my students, “Have the courage to risk new ideas and to question the status quo,” I’m also saying “Think!”

In my schooling, the best teachers encouraged and became excited by students who took risks in the world of ideas. For them, it wasn’t “my way or the highway” but “take us on the freeway for a ride in your car.” The goal in discussions wasn’t “how to figure out the answer in the teacher’s head” but “to share what’s new in all our heads.”

How do we teach courage? Perhaps the simplest answer is to model it. In an earlier post, I mentioned my freshman comp teacher, A. J. Alexander. He was my first encounter with an authentic teacher, and the impact on me was life changing. He didn’t say be courageous. He was courageous. (Some might even say he was crazy.) In our first session, he sat on the desk in front of the class. Behind him, above the chalkboard, was a “NO SMOKING” sign. He lit a cigarette, smoked it, killed it on the side of the desk, walked over to the waste basket and tossed it. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his “Miss May, will you please shut up.” She sat in the front row and was quietly talking to the person next to her while Alexander was lecturing.

Shocking behavior for a teacher. But for a 17-year-old straight out of high school, it was mindblowing. And he was like this, consistently, in all phases of the course. He turned a bunch of us into English majors that fall — students who would’ve said “no way” if you asked us a few months earlier. Literature and writing suddenly became real, pulsing with life and energy — like rock ‘n’ roll — far from the dull gray words stained on yellowed paper in the outdated textbooks we used in high school.

I later learned that courage didn’t always come in piss and fire but also came in subtler packages. But the common denominator was the eyes that lit up when they heard authentic thinking from a student. That connection between student, idea, and teacher is powerful stuff.

We all have built-in crap detectors, and in students they’re probably cranked all the way up. They know BS when they hear it, and for many BS is synonymous with getting good grades. So the first step in courage making may be to be honest. Sounds simple, but hard to do when reward lies in the opposite direction.

When we’re honest, we allow others into the secret places in our minds, and we feel vulnerable. But the alternative is . . .

Being honest, taking risks, having courage — it doesn’t mean posting a photo, video, or bio or being outrageous for its own sake; and it doesn’t mean pouring your heart out or being stupid and putting yourself or others in danger. I think we all recognize it when we see it. We’re engineered by nature to value it. It’s in our DNA. So the answer is within each of us, i.e., if we care to take a look.

1 Julio is responding to the question related to the “Video of the Week“: “If vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change how can you teach your students to be more creative using the Internet?” The video: “Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability,” TED, YouTube, 1/3/11.

‘Community’ As a Relative Structure: A Response to Rachael

Rachael in her reply (9/26) to Sarah’s “Week 3 – Activity Reflection“: “In another semester I used blogs instead of discussion boards. Students worked in teams to create an artifact (of individual artifacts) to answer an essential question that was general enough to allow them to choose how they wanted to approach it. They posted to their team blogs and commented on each other’s blogs. It worked out well because they were creating artifacts that were purposeful and contributing to the online community instead of it staying in a ‘closed garden’ in the LMS forums” (emphasis added).


I never actually thought about why I prefer to set up my courses in “public” WordPress blogs and ask my students to do the same for publishing and sharing their drafts. Thus, as I browsed the conversations in our TOMOOC community, Rachael’s comment above jumped out at me.

In a sense, communities are relative constructs without borders, at once a group of people sharing a single space and time as well as a network that’s linked to countless other networks that transcend space and time. It’s difficult to wrap our heads around the idea that the largest community of all is the web, which links billions of people throughout the world in a single Network that comprises all the networks on Earth.

The overwhelming image for me is the individual, via smartphones, tablets, and notebooks, connected to every one of the 2.5 billion people as well as the countless sources of information on the internet.

With this link to the world in our pockets and backpacks, I can’t help but feel that the “‘closed garden’ in the LMS forums” where we, as educators, construct our interactive sessions may be stifling for students and teachers. Why, I wonder, do we build walls around learning when the world’s resources are all around us.

Surely, to prepare our students for the 21st century, we need to make sure that they are capable of creating, sustaining, and leveraging their own presence in the worldwide online community. For them, to be is to be equally at home onground and online.

In a way, what we’re practicing in TOMOOC is a model for the power of learning when it’s open and connected to the internet. In the recent stats shared by the staff, we can see that our conversations are reaching a much wider audience from around the world. In last year’s MOOC, for example, I mentioned Dave Cormier1 in one of my posts and actually received a comment from Dave himself — who wasn’t directly connected to the MOOC.

In an earlier post, I responded to Rachael’s comment re authentic learning. The idea was that learning ought to be as “real” as possible for students, and Rachael’s comment here re “closed” versus “open” learning spaces is a another side of that same coin.

1 “The term MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island and Senior Research Fellow Bryan Alexander of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education in response to a course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (also known as CCK08). CCK08 . . . was led by George Siemens of Athabasca University and Stephen Downes of the National Research Council” (Wikipedia).

Week 3 reflections

This was a very busy week for me at work – three blended learning courses started last weekend and one more started yesterday – and as usual there are always so many things to finalise, especially since I’ve been able to incorporate some of the things I’m learning on this MOOC into my course design. [...]

Week 3 reflections

This was a very busy week for me at work – three blended learning courses started last weekend and one more started yesterday – and as usual there are always so many things to finalise, especially since I’ve been able to incorporate some of the things I’m learning on this MOOC into my course design.

What I did this week:

I finally got round to watching the last part of Sue Water’s webinar from week 2 on blogging and to posting a description of how I provide audio feedback on my blog – was in response to Jim asking for more details. And thanks to all of you who wrote back – yes, it really is encouraging when you get a response J I also listened to a recording of Monday’s webinar given by Heather Farmakis, read lots of blog posts throughout the week and responded to some. In a way, I was relieved that Sue Water’s blogging webinar was cancelled (postponed?) – it meant I had less to do/catch up on! My reading was very selective due to lack of time, so I skimmed a few of the suggested resources and only read a couple in more depth (from Jim,  Jennifer,  Sara and Anita) – these were related to discussion boards & grading, something that particularly interests me.

So what?

  • All in all, I’m pleased that I was able to do so much despite having to do all the other things I had to do!. But I’m feeling pretty exhausted, in need of a break (the weekend is coming and I’m not going to do anything connected to work/this MOOC etc – but I think I’m not the only one who’s very busy at the moment!
  • It was reassuring to discover that what I’ve been doing till now to get my learners to connect was fine – some of these I did intuitively, some by trial & error and reflecting on what didn’t work and adapting. But it was always clear to me that to get students interacting on forums the tasks had to be relevant, meaningful and manageable.

What I’ve learnt/was reminded of this week:

  • I loved Heather’s idea of using her own online learning experience to introduce herself to her students – will definitely try this out with my next group of new students.
  • I’m now far more aware of how important it is to write and use rubrics to grade students’ contributions to discussion boards and of informing students in advance of what my grading rubrics are. I have a kind of system either in my head or written on a piece of paper in my file but till now I haven’t really informed the students about what this is, unless someone asks.
  • I think it’s a great idea to give student examples of exemplary, mediocre and poorly written posts.
  • Yes, give some marks for participating (always did this), but only full marks for a valuable forum contribution.

What now? Changes I’ve made/what I’ll do differently in the future:

  • I’ve put together some tips on communicating online (including some of Rachael’s discussion triggers to encourage more meaningful responses) and have posted these on the VLE – will be interesting to see what difference this makes!
  • I’ve been more specific about what students should include in their forum posts, e.g. 3 things you’ve learnt, one thing you agree/disagree with and why, 3 similarities and/or differences etc.

What now? What do I still have to learn?

  • I’m still very keen to learn more about setting up and grading forum posts, since like, Heather Farmakis mentioned in her webinar, I also believe that online discussion boards are “the heart of online courses”.

Enough for the moment and I’m now looking forward to the weekend and then to week 4!

7 Strategies for Building Community in Online Courses

Loneliness and a feeling of working in isolation is one reason why some online students eventually choose to drop a course. You can combat this attrition by building community in your course. Building a learning community and a sense of social belonging doesn’t happen by accident, you as the designer, developer and instructor of your online courses have to plan to build a learning community. Here are some ways that I have found useful to accomplish this task:

1. Set some ground rules on day one of the course (see my previous post).

2. Provide two non-graded asynchronous discussion forum in the course.
Social Forum - actively encourage learners to introduce themselves and to perform a simple ice-breaker activity in the 1st week of class. Explain that this forum can be used to socialize and to post about current events during the semester. This forum should not be used to contact an instructor or a TA.; however, the instructor and the TA can participate informally in the social discussions.

General Q&A Forum - this forum should be monitored regularly by the Instructor and the TAs. It is a place for the learners to ask questions about course materials. Other learners should be encouraged to answers questions posed by their peers. Work to foster a dialogue around each question posed in this forum and take the time to post addition resources in the context of the questions being discussed.
3. Create a balance between individual and group work activities in the course. If learners will be working in groups, explain when/how the group rosters will be formed. Provide each group with its own private discussion forum. Provide some guidelines on effective virtual team-work. Include a confidential peer assessment of group work component, for all graded group-based assessment tools.

4. Design the course with the appropriate balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities that work for the learning outcomes in your course.

5. Provide netiquette and guidelines on how best to participate in the graded discussion forum, if applicable.

6. Post a weekly summary or weekly welcome message. Highlight aspects of the course that have just occurred or are about to be developed in the coming week.

7. Ask learners for feedback early in the course (about 25% of the way through). This early feedback can help inform minor course modifications that may have a high impact on learner satisfaction. It will show the learners that you care about the quality of their experience.

So there’s my list. Do you have any good points that can be added to this? Leave a comment below.

Authenticity in Online Class Discussions: A Response to Rachael

In her 9/26/13 TOMOOC response to Munwah, Rachael I. said: “. . . To support the needs and aspirations of adult learners, we need to help our students engage in collaborative and authentic learning so that learning is meaningful and purposeful and utilizes their previous experiences. I’m interested in learning more about authentic learning activities instructors incorporate in their college courses. Do you do any in your classes?”


The focus in TOMOOC’s third week1 is interaction in online discussion forums, and Moore’s2 classification may be a good place to start. He identifies three types of interaction: learner-learner, learner-teacher, and learner-content. In my mind, learner-content is not a true interaction and should perhaps be lumped together with learner-teacher. Thus, the two main categories are learner-learner and learner- teacher.

In VCU’s3, Weaver’s4, and Ragan’s5 rubrics, the overwhelming pattern seems to be student-teacher, with student-student receiving little or no attention. And even when student-student is mentioned, the standards appear to be vague, almost an afterthought. Here’s an example from the VCU rubric: “The best discussion posts are made in time for others to read and respond.” In Weaver’s scheme, a successful student “constructively responds to classmates postings” and “participates in all module discussions.” Ragan’s list reads like a bunch of criteria for an essay test, with interaction limited to student-teacher.

Thus, the implication is that discussions are primarily “tests” to indirectly measure learning, an evaluation tool rather than a student-student medium for building a community of learners.

The heart of an authentic discussion activity is real-world outcomes — and I don’t mean grades. That is, students need to know that they’re not simply posting whatevers that will earn them a good score from the teacher. They need to know that their ideas will be useful to others in their learning community, that they’re not engaging in busy work just to make the teacher happy.

A simple way to do this is to design (1) writing assignments that require quotes from classmates as well as from published sources and (2) forums that generate postings that could be quoted by classmates. In short, the discussion activities need to be tied to the writing in such a way that they provide a source of content.

The most critical element in the design is the topic.  It must have a built-in potential to grab every student at an affective level, and it must be in the realm of knowledge that is both familiar and new at the same time. Furthermore, the familiar can’t be so overdone that it’s dead, and the new can’t be so unfamiliar that it would take weeks to grasp the bare essentials. (Hint: Incorporate YouTube videos!)

The interaction in this scenario is student-student, students writing for classmates and quoting them in return. The authenticity is in the real-world purpose and consequences. Ideas are quoted and argued in papers, and papers are published in blogs for all to read. The sense of community is in the common purpose and value of everyone’s words in the creation of artifacts for sharing within the community.

1Week 3: Create community: Connect learners with each other (Sept. 23-29).”
2 M. G. Moore, “Editorial: Three types of interaction” (The American Journal of Distance Education, 1989) in Steve Wheeler’s “Interactions of the fourth kind” (Learning with ‘e’s, 4/8/12).
3Using Discussion Boards in Online Classes” (Virginia Commonwealth University, 09/22/2009).
4 Chris Weaver, “The Discussion Board Book” (2005).
5 Larry Ragan, “Best Practices in Online Teaching – During Teaching – Assess Messages in Online Discussions” (Connexions, 8/21/07).

Audio feedback and human touch?

This posting was triggered by Jim asking me how I use voice recording to provide audio rather than written feedback on student assignments (in week 2). I’ve been doing this for about 6 years now and the feedback from students is overwhelmingly positive – I’ll describe this in more detail later on. I think voice recording is particularly relevant in online teaching because it adds an element of presence – the so-called human touch, which is often lacking in an online environment. So here goes:

Voice recording tools: I use a digital recorder, an Olympus WS-311M, which has an in-built microphone and USB port for easy uploading to a PC/VLE); my colleague prefers her mobile phone. PCs/Macs with voice recording functionality can also be used for recording audio feedback; software and apps include Audacity, Vocaroo, Audioboo and Voxopop (just Google them).

  • How? The procedure we have found to be most practical is the following. After reading through the assignment, inappropriate parts are annotated with the corresponding correction symbol (for language problems), and numbers are added to help the student identify which part the tutor is later referring to in the audio feedback (AF). Each recording then starts by the tutor personally greeting the student, followed by a brief, task-related, encouraging comment. The tutor then outlines how the feedback is organized (depends on the marking rubric) and talks the student through the assignment i.e. tips as to how the he/she could improve content, language, and organization are given, referring to the symbols, numbered parts or paragraphs to help the student pinpoint the part being discussed. As in normal speech, incomplete sentences, repetitions, slips of tongue, fillers such as ehs & uhms and pauses occur and can be ignored. The intention is to be as spontaneous and natural as possible, simulating a face-to-face situation. A final, positive, constructive remark concludes the recording. Audio files (with the consent of the students) are then uploaded to the VLE together with the annotated assignments for students to access. After listening to the feedback, they edit their assignments accordingly and re-submit for final assessment, thus hopefully benefiting and learning from the feedback received.
  • Why? Compared to written feedback, students value the fact that audio feedback is more detailed, more personal and thus more helpful. Our other usages of audio feedback are to comment on tasks and reflections students submit in connection with their SDL, to provide pronunciation feedback on spoken tasks done during online phases, and to record our reflections on end-of-course evaluations.

Screencasting: The other audiovisual tool I use to provide feedback is Jing (http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html). Jing is free screencasting software which enables you to make a short video (maximum 5 mins/no editing whilst recording possible) of what is on your computer screen.

  • How? We have been using Jing to provide digitised group feedback to our students on language errors (documented in a Word file) from their online forum postings. This means that students are able to watch a video of the tutor talking them through and simultaneously onscreen correcting the errors in the opened Word document. The link to this screencast (saved on the Jing server) is embedded in the course outline on the VLE for the students to access whenever and as often as it suits them; it can also be mailed to them. We have also used screencasting to show students how to use technology and to virtually introduce an ESP course that started with an online rather than a F2F session.
  • Why? Our rationale for using screencasting is three-fold. Firstly, providing feedback in the form of a screencast that can be viewed during an online phase frees up valuable F2F time for other activities. Secondly, explaining while visually highlighting and correcting errors on-screen helps students to understand the feedback more easily than just posting a copy of the answers. Finally, screencasting allows students to watch the feedback again. Here’s a great video tutorial on how to use Jing: http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/Jing/index.html

All in all, I feel that by using voice recording and screencasting tools, we can now provide more personal, more meaningful and more effective instruction in an acoustically and/or visually supported manner. Intonation and voice tone both help to convey feelings, which in turn really help to create tutor presence and build rapport (the human touch). Finally, since students can decide when, where and how often they listen/watch, an element of choice is added, an important step towards promoting learner autonomy.

What do you think? Would voice recording/screencasting be feasible in your teaching situation? I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has some experience of providing audio and/or video feedback.

Week 3 — Activity Reflection

1. What?

This week I was another crazy one in my life.  I had planned on doing much more, but I only was able to respond to a few blog posts and attend the one webinar, which I found to be quite informative. 

2.  So what?

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

As I previously stated I was able to respond to a couple of blog posts, although I didn’t get around to reading as many of your posts as I had hoped.  Also I participated in Dr. Heather Farmakis’s webinar about Creating Community.  I found this presentation to be quite helpful and I felt quite positive about approaching discussion boards differently after I sat through this session. 

2.  How will this help you?

I think what I learned I can easily implement into the trainings I design and hopefully the instructors in these trainings will take upon these cues and implement these ideas into their own classes. I think that by doing things such as presenting two discussion options will encourage and increase trainee participation because when presented with options, they students will be able to pick a topic they feel comfortable writing about.  Also I can see myself using more group projects after I heard suggestions about creating discussion boards for individual groups.  I think that this might be a way I could implement groups into an asynchronous class.

3.  What did you learn from this experience?

I learned that what works in one scenario doesn’t necessarily work in all scenarios. I’m not sure that matching protocols and aligning due dates among instructors such as was suggested in the webinar is something that will happen at my institution, it does occur loosely simply due to the way in which our online classes are designed.  At my school all of our online classes follow a basic course shell and are designed so that each class is presented in 8 modules.  We do this so that the material can easily be broken down into 8 week (1 module a week) or 16 week (1 module every two week) sessions.  With this in mind, many of our instructors have similar due dates, but if we were to align all the due date exactly as I understood Farmakis to propose, I think it would meet with a great deal of opposition from instructors who believe such an alignment would  infringe on their academic freedom. 

I also learned that giving the students options — such as having two discussion board forums for a student to choose from allows students freedom and encourages participation while at the same time meeting course objectives. 

3.  What now?

1.  What changes did you make?

2.  What will you do differently in the future?

I think that among the changes I will be making as I design future trainings will be to include multiple options when it comes to discussion board postings.  Students may not feel comfortable writing about a particular subject and having options allows them to feel that they can more freely express themselves.  I also am going to take something learned last week and change the introductory discussion post that I ask for in each training (and was discussed as a good practice in the webinar) and have the students present that in a video format to allow students/trainees to get to know each other a little better. 

3.  What do you still have to learn?

I feel fairly confident now when it comes to discussion boards.  I do, however, still need to learn more about using other collaboration tools such as wikis and blogs (especially wikis).  I’m anxious to hear how others use these newer communication tools in their online classes. 


Essential question (week 3)

Essential question: If vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change how can you teach your students to be more creative using the Internet?
I was struggling a little bit understanding the question. The reason being that I was taking on it on the technology side, that is, how can my students use the technology out there on the internet to come up with creative and innovative solutions? Then I realized that the point of the question is not to break fears that many of us have on fully using the technology that the internet offers. I think the point lays in the definition of vulnerability: to put yourself out there completely and honestly, with no regard for the judgement and criticism that your work will surely garner. A great way to help my students putting themselves out there and at the same time, help them generate creative and innovative solutions is by inviting them to create a blog where they can express their ideas and bounce around possible solutions and scenarios with others. The discussion forums I will create for the students to manage on their own while they work on their projects, will include directions on how to set up a blog and I will add that all of the participants interact with those blogs by visiting them and comment on the posts from the author. My hope is that some of them will eventually use the blog as a creative tool later on, on a permanent basis. I will also invite them to create a profile in systems similar to LinkedIn (professional associations) because this exposes you to others that can take a look at your work and provide feedback. Creating projects that can later be shared with others online is a great creative process, at least is working for me so far.

I work at a library that specializes in audio visual collections…

I work at a library that specializes in audio visual collections so for Banned Books Week we are playing the film adaptations of previously banned/challenged books. We’re popping popcorn to accompany the movie and Lord of the Rings has even drawn a small crowd. Of course none of this would be possible without the help from my library’s amazing staff and students. Heart. Swoon. 

Create Community and connect learners with each other

At first glance, when I read the blurb on the three types of learner interactions I thought, “Yes, that’s the same as in F2F!” I may be very new to online, but I am not new to teaching. The elusive target of having a beneficial, productive, and engaging learner-learner interaction is the goal of every teacher because it is the epitome of “teacher smarter, not harder.” To allow the students to take the lead saves us time, bring in new, fresh ideas and perspectives, and keeps it on a level of interest pertinent to the students. That said, as most know I think, it is very difficult to accomplish. Getting students to participate, equally (or close enough), and getting them to produce insightful ideas can be a battle. I love, as any teacher would, when the classroom is rife with electricity and we are on a roll and they are grasping the concept and throwing out real world examples or analogies and then someone brings up a point I never thought of. Some classes this happens often. Others it is a battle to the last day. So, when I read about goals for learner interactions with online classes, I figure the obstacles would be the same.

Here is the breakdown of the types of learner interactions from the MOOC website:
The first, is learner-teacher interaction. Social media, and other forms of digital communication, have opened new ways for the learner and teacher to connect through meaningful online interactions. The teacher (or subject-matter expert) stimulates learners interest/motivation, presents, demonstrates, guides learners’ application of what is being learned, evaluates learners’ progress, and supports/encourages the learners.
The second type of interaction is learner-content. Learner-content interaction is when the learner interacts with the contents of the course. The online learner is isolated and by him/herself and learning is mainly self-directed.
The third type of interaction is learner-learner. Learner-learner interaction is between the learner and other learners with or without the instructor present. This type of interaction encourages open thinking, deep critical engagement with the topic and with each other, debate, analyzation, collaborative learning, and much more.

THEN, I read on and considered the benefits of an online discussion. I figured it would lack that energy–that “in the moment” buzz of when a discussion is flying in the classroom. And it might. I don’t know; I am not teaching online yet. But the benefits to an online discussion do seem plentiful. To be able to let EVERY student have time to think of something to contribute is a HUGE plus. Obviously in the F2F class, shy students have trouble speaking up and are often “steamrolled” over by overzealous or simply confident ones. It is nice to know that every one has to participate, they can do so at their own (within reason) pace, and I have a definite record of it. This record is also a huge boon. To be able to go back and “keep” the really insightful ideas that came up or to allow students time to produce links that showcase what they are getting it is simply awesome. Now, following all those links sounds like it will take up a lot of time–way more than confining a discussion to class, so I need to think about how to balance encouraging sensemaking artifacts and bringing in ideas, exploration, and links of their own with the practical binds of time.

The level of engagement, or opportunity for it, does seem so much better though I do worry a bit about “misleading” comments. What I mean is–students get to comment, respond, and review straight to one another–great. EXCEPT, it reminds me of when we peer-edit papers in class. I usually collect the peer-edited papers and then write my comments and edits straight on that same copy. This allows me to 1) see how well the peer-editor did and 2) correct any mistakes they “corrected.” Many times students will suggest something or correct something and it is either (technically) wrong according to the rules of grammar or kind of misleading and just adding more confusion to a student who is trying to focus their paper. I have even (only twice) had to correct Brainfuse because they edited something wrong and the student blindly followed it (hard to blame them) and then they got those grammar mistakes marked off on their paper…and they even had it correct in THE FIRST PLACE and changed it due to Brainfuse’s suggestion before turning their final in. Now Brainfuse is just one entity and a professional one. But say you receive 10 comments/critiques/corrections from your peers. Sometimes, too many comments–too many ideas–can be overwhelming. If students are really responding and commenting and helping with ideas and suggestions, then the student receiving those will really need to know which ones are actually helpful and which to disregard. Is that a real-life skill? Yes! Does that mean it is easy to do? No. I was trying to buy baby bottles recently and there are five gajillion choices, each with their own little tweaks, and with all these choices I have no idea which way to go. I just want three to choose from. Three to really look at and figure out. But how do I get to those 3 out of 5 gajillion?

I hope this is making some sense.

Anyway, here are MOOC’s reasons why online discussion boards rock. I am mostly posting it for my own record so that I can just check my own blog when the MOOC is done for things I liked :)
extending the time allotted for discussions beyond regular class time to allow for in-depth reflection on comments
requiring students to move beyond listening to a lecture, stating their thoughts, engaging in well-articulated argumentation and critical reasoning
allowing each student to participate and join-in the conversation, rather than one or two outgoing communicators in the classroom
providing an outlet for students to pose their questions and receive feedback from not only the instructor, but also other discussion board participants
allowing students to reference and bring external sources of information into the conversation (e.g., “according to this web site…”)
storing a record or archive of conversations for use by future classes, researchers, others
allowing discussions to include perspectives from individuals outside of the original class (i.e., one engineering class at Virginia Tech, one at Purdue, and one at Georgia Tech, all discussing the same topic, perhaps including two or three professionals working in the field)

Discussion Questions (Week 2)

  1. What tools/techniques/strategies/approaches are you considering to connect with your learners? How will your choices impact student engagement, intellectual development, and develop personal connections?
    I am planning on using BigBlueButton for live interactions, since I will probably be running my course using a WordPress site, I will use the Disqus system for discussion forums. We will also exchange communication using e-mail. I will probably try to arrange a phone conversation with each student at some point during the course run. One of the things I want to implement is the class project. I am planning on asking the students to post, on a special forum I will create, on what is that excites them about this field of online teaching. Then I will probably try to get groups together with common ideas and preferences by introducing each student so that they can form groups or work alone, if preferred. I will arrange their work forum and let them work together without my constant monitoring, I will ask them to present me what they are doing in a live session later on. I will post once a week questions related to the material they will be reviewing for the week, but I will not be asking them to cover many topics since I am more interested in them spending time in their projects.
  2. Rapport is not something developed by announcement. Rapport is developed by actions—the results from things you do. How can you actively apply the following 5 factors to build rapport with your online students?
    1. Respect. Teachers and students must show respect for each other, for the learning process, and for the institution where it is occurring.
    2. Approachability. Students have to feel comfortable coming to faculty and faculty must be willing to speak with students, during office hours, via email, on campus.
    3. Open communication. Faculty must be honest. There needs to be consistency between what faculty say and what they do.
    4. Caring. Faculty must care about students; they must see and respond to them as individuals. They also need to care about learning and show that they want students to learn the material.
    5. Positive attitude. Faculty should have a sense of humor and be open to points of view other than their own.
    I am very curious about this rapport concept. What I have seen in the university setting is that students look up at these old professors because they are experts in their field, it seems to me that is the only respect they have earned from the students. In many cases, classes are so large that it is almost impossible the teacher will ever be able to see all the students one by one, and he has to rely on teaching assistants to run the course. This happens in the online setting as well. So, the students get to know the TAs (teaching assistants) most of the time and relate to them more than to the instructor, some may even never set foot on the instructor’s office. On the other hand, when classes are small (usually at higher level courses) the instructor does get to know the students, talk to them in an informal manner, conduct classes in a more participatory way. I think at this level the student is mature enough to understand why they respect their instructor in this class, they feel they can approach the instructor at any time, there is usually open discussions that lead to great interaction, and the students get to understand that their teacher actually cares that they leave the class knowing something else. I think the first action I will take when online course opens is to conduct a live session where the students can participate and ask questions about the course and about me. I will present for 15 minutes on my background, why I am teaching the course, why the subject fascinates me, why I expect from each students in the form of class participation, this first interaction will help to show the students information on how to contact me during the day. I will make it clear they can call me when I am in the office, or e-mail me at any time. I will make the point that I am interested in knowing each student and I will make an effort to memorize their names so I can address them by their first name. I will make the case that no question is unimportant and that they need to speak up when they have not understood something from the material or the instructions to the class. I will make it clear at that point and during the semester that I will following the progress of each student to pick up any problems when I see that they are lagging in the course. I tend to be something like the devil’s advocate in many situations, always trying to account for extreme possibilities, which usually tend to be negative. I am changing that for my online class, I will carefully craft my responses to students so as to not sound negative or gloomy on my assessment on their work, or when they present to me their current progress in their projects.
  3. Describe the challenges you have building rapport with online learners. Describe how you build rapport between yourself and your online students? Does it work? How do you know?
    I think my personality and the way I usually communicate might present a challenge to me but I am working on changing that for a more adequate style for the online environment. I am learning to be less judgmental when reading posting from students, I am always trying to read between the lines, maybe there is nothing there. I think the best way to build that rapport is by showing them that I respect their opinion and their ideas, I would express this in replies to their posts, after carefully reading their post I will try to ask some questions that will help me understand what they are trying to accomplish, but if it clear to me, I will praise their work, thank them for their effort and let them know I am looking forward to more postings from them. The best way to know if this is working is by monitoring the forums and see if the students respond to my comments, my questions, if the amount and depth of their posts is increasing and so on. I think I have to establish some kind of protocol to determine the success of my approach.
  4. Surprisingly, it’s often not the energy, the appearance, or the mannerisms of the teacher that make us want to listen and engage, it’s rather whether or not we felt connected. How do you invite learners to connect with you in a shared mental space in ways that stimulates them to learn?
    I think the best time to achieve this is during the introduction process when the course is starting. I have to reach to each student to understand what they are expecting from this course and me. I would like to address all their questions at the beginning, talk informally about what they expect from this course and from me, and reassure them that I am here to help them in any way possible. This is also the time when I would set the ground rules for discussion participation. I want to create an introductory video about myself and why I think this a great course to take. Again, showing past experiences and interesting cases would create at least some amount of curiosity in them, which hopefully will compel them to start working on the course activities and materials.

‘Lacking in Technical Details’ – A Response to Mshin

Mshin, in “Discussion Questions” (9/22/13): 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 now 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!!!


Mshin, you’re asking good questions, which means you’re already identifying the critical issues for yourself. As it turns out, these are basic universal issues for anyone teaching or planning to teach online.

Mshin: [If I teach online,] what are my resources and how do I use them?

You’re already publishing in a blog, mshinblog. Consider what that means. By sending its URL (mshinblog.wordpress.com) to colleagues and friends, you can easily share your essays beyond the TOMOOC audience. And this is the cool part: You could easily create another blog for, say, an English 200 class and call it mshin200 with mshin200.wordpress.com as the URL.

The moment you send the URL to your students, you create a teaching platform. You could publish a syllabus, schedule, assignments, activities, resources, etc., and each of these posts would have a unique URL (or permalink). Thus, in an email announcement to the entire class (more on this below), you could ask students to read the syllabus and turn the word syllabus into a hyperlink. Students would open the email, read the announcement, click on syllabus, and be taken directly to your syllabus.

You could insert the syllabus reading exercise into the course schedule in your blog. Students would click on the word syllabus and find themselves on the syllabus page. Apply this hyperlink principle to readings, guidelines, assignment descriptions, and the universe of online resources and you begin to realize the power of a “simple” blog.

For an example of what’s possible with blogs, consider that our TOMOOC hub, How to Teach Online, is a blog. It’s a lot more complex than yours, but that’s only in degrees. You could easily learn how to post photos and videos on your blog, creating multimedia learning resources for your students. You could also learn how to use the sidebar (area on the right of the mainpage) to insert additional info links.

One of the organizers’ strategies is to ask participants to create personal blogs devoted to TOMOOC activities. As a teacher, you could do the same with your students, i.e., ask them to create their own blogs to share their papers, projects, etc. with their classmates and you.

You mention Laulima, the University of Hawaii’s LMS (learning management system), and this means that you have access to its features. The mailtool allows you to quickly send eblasts (email announcements) via UH Mail to an entire class. If you’re teaching multiple sections of the same course, you can easily combine them into one so that you set up only one Laulima learning platform instead of, say, three. This means one eblast goes to students in all three classes; this also means only one blog for all three classes.

The other great feature of Laulima is the discussion forums. Once you get comfortable with it, you’ll learn how to set up interactive discussion forums for different activities that inform, support, or serve the writing process. TOMOOC’s week 3 is devoted to the problem of creating dynamic and educative discussions.

You’re already using UH email, and all your students will have UH accounts. This means you have a uniform, standard, and secure means of communicating with them privately, 24/7. Think of email as your office and hallway chats with individual students.

Mshin: [If I teach online,] how do I grade?

In your blog schedule, you can post assignments. For example, you could ask students to post preliminary drafts of a paper in their course blogs and to log in to their classmates’ blogs to review their drafts and leave comments. (The blog URLs would be shared in a Laulima discussion forum.) You could then ask them to use the peer comments to publish revised drafts that serve as their final drafts. You would then log in to their blogs to read and evaluate their final drafts as well as the preliminary draft and comments. You could then email your comments and scores to each.

You could also require certain levels of participation in Laulima discussions, and simple rubrics could be used to evaluate and grade student performance.

Mshin: [If I teach online,] how do I manage the class?

You could use an Excel spreadsheet to keep records, and email to contact individuals to praise or encourage. The amazing advantage of online classes is the “paper” trail. Everything is archived: all drafts, comments, posts, email, etc. You could mine this data for instructional purposes. For example, when reviewing a student’s current paper, you have instant access to all her/his previous drafts as well as your and her classmates’ comments on those drafts.

More on resources and how to use them:

With a Twitter account devoted to your online classes, you could easily tweet reminders and tips to students. This is also a quick and effective way to share interesting comments from discussions or memorable lines from student papers.

With YouTube, you and your students have access to literally millions of videos, and you can easily share them with one another for various purposes.

Technically, the whole wide world of the web is the classroom for you and your students, 24/7, and it makes even the grandest MOOC look like an ant in comparison.

In time, I think you’ll find that you no longer need a required text for your course, saving students a bundle. It’d be easier and even better to pull together resources from the web to form your own course text, and you could even ask students to contribute useful links to it.

Thus, re feeling “lacking in technical details,” I think you’re actually not lacking at all. You’re already using the basic technology and simply need to figure out how to remix and repurpose what you already know to develop and deliver an online course.

At this juncture in deciding whether or not to take the plunge, perhaps the most important question is “Why?” Why do you want to teach online? The fact that you’re taking this MOOC and participating in a big way (you’ve written a LOT in your blog!) tells me that you have a why, that you think this may be an important step for you.

I don’t know what your reason is, but I’m guessing it’s a gut feeling that online may be a better way to learn or at least it may offer advantages to strictly F2F approaches. I’d suggest taking the plunge in going completely online with a course — rather than going blended. Blended is like slowly entering the ocean. First a toe, then a foot, ankle, etc. but stopping short of diving in and getting completely wet. You’ll never experience the joy of swimming and diving, the graceful feeling of flight, the sense of weightlessness.

No matter what they say, those standing knee- or waist-deep in water are not swimming. Those teaching blended classes will never know or experience the freedom of completely online courses — freedom from the time and space constraints that have kept us chained to brick ‘n’ mortar campuses for hundreds of years.

Okay, swimming and education are like apples and oranges, and the analogy can only go so far. By the same token, comparisons between online and blended, too, are like apples and oranges. They can only go so far. These are different modes of teaching and learning. To argue the merits of one over the other is pointless. Perhaps the only sensible view is to say that they both have their merits, and leave it at that.

Thus, the most important question for online teaching may be: What are the truly authentic strategies for teaching online? And I think this is the question that you, Mshin, are asking.

Mshin: Online Classrooms seems like a lot of juggling plates in the air and having to remember to 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!

I like this analogy! Blows my mind, too, and I’m guessing that this comparison isn’t completely negative for both of us. Multitasking — good or bad? I think good, despite “research” that seems to show that performance suffers when we try to do more than one thing at once. In my mind, thinking itself is a multitasking phenomenon, remixing and repurposing continually across wide ranges of data and information. Thus, tools that help us to multitask are aids to thinking — not obstacles.

In the context of online education, we’ve taken teaching and learning out of the single-tasking teacher-centric mode into the multitasking student-centric mode. Students can read their email while pausing in a jog at the beach, complete a class reading at Starbuck’s during a lunch break at work, post a draft to their blog while watching a football game, and participate in a class discussion while traveling in China.

The Art to being on the Online Yellow Brick Road

The 'Art' aspect of being an online facilitator is starting to take shape.  It has been an interesting week of readings, webinars and reflecting on what has been occurring in my online course.

I was outlining my post when I realized I had started the week reading about Ken Bain's book, "What the Best College Teachers Do" which I read a number of years ago.   How was it that all this common sense information didn't seem to translate for me into the online world.  I was so deeply entranced by how the webinars I had either participated in or watched discussed presence and being present. Lost to me was anything to do with Bain's book and the article, "What the Best Online Teachers Should Do", (2011).

Presence - John Thompson showed a slide on teaching presence, cognitive presence and social presence but really never went into any depth on any of these.  I wasn't there to ask why mention if you aren't going to discuss?

His discussion revolved around common sense that is people want to know  to know that you care so, for example, use their name in discussion postings or move deadlines if there are issues occurring in their lives.  He also threw out there www.voki.com and http://Present.me.com as two ways of creating an online presence.

Whereas when Larry Ragan from Penn State discuss presence I wrote down standards, frequency and classwork however his lead-in to this discussion was "Don't worry about me . . . (I'll check in once a week.).  So I guess I am taking away from this discussion is that an online facilitator needs to consider what their interpretation is to online presence and let your participants know.

Is online presence - 24/7 as John Thompson talks about or what Larry Ragan says, "Check in a minimum of once a day but more like 2 or 3 times a day."  Personally, I have been teaching for over 20 years in a traditional setting and I can understand why some people balk at the hand holding in online courses.  I do give my participants my contact numbers for weekends since most of them will be working on their course material on the weekend and encourage them to phone if they run into difficulty since I absolutely ban myself from looking at work email during the weekend (too much other stuff that can get into your head if you look at it). If I was going to sum this up - tell people what your expectations are and then make sure that you are modeling them.

I appreciated Larry Ragan's flooring analogy and the fact that on-learning is not like moving from carpet to hardwood but really a transitional shift more like teaching blindfolded: Here is the course go for it.  Considering the research shows that most instructors teach like they were taught (the model factor or like they like to learn) it is amazing that institutions put people on-line without any type of training (except perhaps on the LMS).  Perhaps even more amazing is that we muddle our way through trying to get a sense of what excellence works for.

Perhaps John Thompson's quote, "Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." sums up this week in the sense that we are people and we want to know that we matter.

The one factor that never went far enough for me was the "excellence in 'online' teaching"  Bain talks about it in the classroom as "sustained and deep understanding, a fundament change in the student's world view and mental models, a desire to learn more, and effective communications."  If we were going to be pushed to be excellent "online instructors" is the human touch the only key?

Rapport is not a four letter word


Nothing much bothers me more as a student, parent, principal or fellow teacher, than an instructor who ‘allows’ you into their domain. Face to face or online. They feel that they must be totally ‘in control.’ Control is sometimes shown through the use of sarcasm, a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude, or concern may be seen as a sign of weakness.

Several years ago I was introduced to something called “Love and Logic.” Basically, it is a philosophy which helps a person gain control by giving it up. I noticed it uses many of the same ideas that are discussed this past week.

Mr. Myagi style

Okay, so I learned a lot from Mr. Myagi. When it comes to connecting with students, here are a few good ones I got from Sensei.

1- 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 builders 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.

2- Mutual respect is important. I call them by their first names, so I ask them to call me by mine. Did Mr. Myagi do that? Not really, huhn. Well, calling the kid Danielle-san always sounded really familial to me, like Mr. Myagi was calling him “son”. I know that it’s really just my bad understanding of Japanese, but 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.

3- Repetition is good. I lucked out and get to teach composition, and I know that 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? So 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, 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. So we repeat and wax on and wax off and wax on and wax off.