Synchronous – Helps complete the picture for me

Too many things on the go to get to the two on-line sessions this week but I managed to get myself organized for the Thursday wrap-up or overview.  It seems to me that it helped put some pieces into the picture for me.  I had never heard of the term "substantive interaction" to do with on-line instructions so that was a heads up.  After hearing about interaction meaning : student to content; student to student and student to instructor it has given me something to consider as I am revamping a course I am currently instructing.  (I think I chucked out a lot of the student to student activities as they never seemed to work.)

The other take away was from Chickerings work  - "Emphasize time on task: doing vs. absorbing".  I need to get my head around this concept.  I am not clear on how this comes across in the on-line community but I am thinking I am now absorbing what I didn't get a handle on yesterday and didn't have the consciousness to figure that out until looking over my notes today.

I had figured out the idea that on-line discussion needs to be tied to rewards versus the face to face discussions that happen in class.  I was hoping that I had missed something in the on-line andragogy and that there was a way around the marks issue.

Responses to Veronica, Ida, Sara: 9/13/13

Veronica, “My week 1 journey of discovery” (9/13/13).

My issue/question: One thing I’ve always had a problem with is whether I should really be marking their English in the report – is this really part of their SDL [self-directed learning]. Part of me says yes – they should learn/be able to express their reflections in decent English (the report constitutes 15% max. of the final SDL grade). But part of me says no – the language in the report (as long as I can understand what they’re trying to convey) has nothing to do with their SDL. I’d be really interested to hear your views on this bearing in mind that this is an EFL/ESP class.

Response: I like the way you’ve set off your key points in red. I also really like your question about what to mark up and what not to (and to what extent) — a constant issue with English and perhaps other teachers. My rough rule of thumb is to mark up when the goal is publication — in the student’s blog and possibly in course or campus journals. When the goal is interaction or communication related to the writing process, I don’t mark up. That is, I treat writing related to but outside the perimeters of the actual paper as “talk” about or for the paper and not the paper itself.

Refering to the article we should have read before this webinar – TB [Tony Bates]: Don’t take for granted that students have actually read through assigned materials or done tasks! Question: Should we then spend/waste time on going over it again? Will this not just encourage students NOT to prepare? Or is it a good revision activity?

Response: Good question! I’ve recorded the Bates webinar with plans to extract clips for a brief video of highlights for TOMOOC sharing, but it’s still sitting on my desktop. I’ve already published my take on the 9-steps article and am wondering if I should devote any more time to the video. The issue, for me, is information. What’s new? In her 9/13/13 blog post, “Week 1 Activity Reflection –,” Sara wrote, “While I didn’t necessarily find anything new in much of the information [in the various activities], I did discover that there was more research out there that I thought to back up what I already knew.” I feel the same way about the Bates info. Not enough that’s “new,” at least for me. I’ve also observed Bates at a recent (June 2013) conference

Ida Brandao, “MOOC How to Teach Online” (9/12/13).

I hope next webinars will be more interesting than those of this week. I think that they are too extensive and boring (my black hat). What was told in this first presentation could be reduced to a max. 15min long screencast. As for the blogging tools you get short tutorials in Youtube that are much more efficient to get you to the objective than a webinar of over 1 hour.

Response: I agree. As far as content delivery, these could have been remixed and repurposed for more efficient learning. However, my guess is that, for the MOOC planning team, these webinars are for more than just content. I think they want to create a “live” and more engaging learning environment, and by that they probably mean one that is as close to F2F seminars as possible. Thus, they’re placing a high premium on synchronous and real-time lectures and discussions.

The issue, as far as I’m concerned, is whether or not these “just like F2F” efforts are worthwhile in online courses. On the one hand, it may be necessary for those new to online learning who may need a familiar analog bridge from the old to the new. On the other, it seems to run counter to the anytime-anywhere digital world of virtual learning.

On yet another level, the issue is one of best practice. Are live webinars best practice for online learning? Put another way, is technical sophistication the end all? In other words, would a course (including MOOCs) be less without live webinars? From a purely technical perspective, the technology behind live webinars is complicated and not widely used by or accessible to classroom teachers. Thus, it’s cutting edge for those whose domain is technology. They see their task as demonstrating to the mass of teachers the technology that is still out of reach for most teachers. I’d probably feel as they do if I were an IT specialist.

This technology imperative is understandable, but it may sometimes be in conflict with what’s really best practice for online learning.

Sdreisbach (Sara) “Week 1 Activity Reflection –” (9/13/13).

I’m not sure I will make any changes.  At the school where I currently work we have a very strong online program that provides blank course shells to instructors.  This ensures that all students are getting the same information.  Because of this though, the instructor is actually more of a facilitator and many times is just grading assignments that have already been created for them.  The main thing I can do is present what I’ve learned to our designers and hope that they will incorporate some of these skills into the courses that they are designing.

Response: “Blank course shells” to ensure “that all students are getting the same information” and teachers “just grading assignments that have already been created for them” seems like a nightmare scenario for online teaching — at least to me. I wouldn’t want to, couldn’t, teach in an environment such as this. But then I realize that, perhaps for some teachers, this rote, linear, and formulaic approach to teaching is comforting and maybe even effective. Still, I really don’t think cookie-cutter course designing will work. This is just another version of teacher-proofing as so-called best practice, replacing variation with uniformity and reducing teacher to technician.

The problem centers on the nature of the course designing process. Maslow’s law of instrument seems applicable. If all the designer has is a one-size-fits-all solution, then every pedagogical problem will receive the same fix. In a word (and repeating what Bates says in his 9 steps), the design process must be flexible. Or put another way, the designer must be flexible — and the teacher, too.


Response to Tony’s Step 4: Build on existing resources

With each new semester, I have become more and more convinced that using available resources is helpful and necessary.  When I started teaching writing online, I produced a ton of original content to supplement the textbook.  In a way, it was an important step in my evolution as a f2f and online teacher. Like Greg and Tony mentioned in the webinars, it made me focus, articulate, and refine my goals and strategies.  (Yes, online teaching has improved my f2f teaching greatly!)   However, now, I definitely see the value in “using existing online resources rather than re-inventing the wheel” and  Tony’s other point:  “Indeed, if several of you are developing a program, then there is considerable scope for working collaboratively to develop high quality materials that can be shared.”  Of course, the work involved in further tailor what I have gathered from others can be labor-intensive, but it’s often better than starting from scratch.  For example, our department recently re-purposed and revised a online Library Competency Unit created by the main library staff that is better suited for our students at our smaller branch campus of the college. Now that we have this nice resource, more and more instructors in various departments want to use it.  That’s terrific.  This sharing has also led to valuable questions like : “Wait… in which classes should students be covering this content?  If they encounter the same material in different classes, is that bad or is it positive reinforcement?  etc.”  

Finally, I loved this reminder: “The main question is whether you as the instructor need to find such material, or whether it would be better to get students to search, find, select, analyze and apply information. After all, these are key ’21st century skills’ that students need to have.”   I can see myself doing more of this! Food for thought…

 

 


Helpful Website on “sensemaking and artifacts” and how we already do this in the classroom.

Our moderator, Greg Walker, sent me this link: http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=336

I think I am getting a better grasp of what an “artifact” is and what this “sensemaking” process involves.

Seems to me it can be as simple and isolated as this blog post, or it can be a post that incorporates multiple forms of social media in it–pulling from the various resources to create one, “big” resource that now “defines” the topic and shows “relevance” and understanding to the discussion.

It also seems to be about organization. Sifting through the mass of “stuff” out there and re-organizing it to show your understanding about a key concept.

Traditional Classroom:
It kind of seems like this what we, instructors, already do to create and effectively implement a unit or lesson in our class. If I want to teach an assignment on Op-Ed pieces, I have to scour the internet for tips on how to best teach this type of writing and then search for good examples in reputable newspapers on topics I think the students will enjoy. Then I search our local newspaper for topics closer to home. Then I could see if I can find a “fun” cartoon to start off the conversation or a youtube clip to pinpoint a certain idea and make it memorable and, once I have amassed a huge pile or resources, I weed through them, organize them, and create my actual lesson. Thus, what I give to my students is the result of that process.

However, online, if this is expected every week from the students for every post in order to show “competency” or ability to “prove” understanding, then I imagine it is a huge TIME consumption. Now, maybe for these students it is not. Maybe they are so plugged into media and are already checking 5 different social media sites while routinely viewing clips on youtube and posts on those sites where you just keep reposting picture and tagging them (the fact that I can’t even name one of those sites, wait, Tumbler?, shows you how “tuned in” I am) that, for these students, this process is natural, easy, and preferred. But I am having trouble wrapping my head around it. I don’t see how I can invest the time to browse so many different resources, on a weekly basis, to create one artifact. I am not “plugged” in and spent almost no “recreational” time on the internet or computer–don’t own a tablet–only got a smartphone last month, and this world of data bombardment and being “wired” is kind of overwhelming me…..


About sensemaking and artifacts

Thanks to our classmate Ida and others,  I’m starting to see now how I can use my blog as a record of reflection and depository of other related material I chance upon.  I guess I do engage in “sensemaking” and “artifact” collecting all the time. ;-)   I also gravitate toward having my community college students do so, but sometimes I back away from introducing them to this kind of process because I worry they’ll struggle with the technology (especially my older students) and get distracted or overly worried (they’re already overwhelmed by the college experience and fragile). Or, they’ll get so wrapped up in the fun of the technology (the younger students usually) that they’ll burn excess time in an already crowded semester.  Ex:  I thought about teaching them to use bubbl mind map online to collect quotes from their readings across the semester and represent their connections.  But… can they handle the tech?  Some could do it on paper with pens and sticky notes, I suppose.  It could be up to them.  Or, we could do one massive class bubbl… It starts to feel like there are a lot of possible glitches and things to work through, so I haven’t jumped into it, even though it could be a rich learning experience for us all.   Really, it’s the time pressure created by a tight class schedule that is not conducive to more exploration and unpredictable time-tables (how long will it take students to get started? how much time can they dedicate to this outside of class? if I want to use this with f2f students in a sort of hybrid model, how much time do I have to support f2f students online as well,?etc.)
Tanya


The nine steps to quality online learning…

This week in the course "How to Teach Online," the focus was on the fundamentals of online teaching, and how one would employ those fundamentals in their own teaching practice. In particular, the materials presented focused on concepts that revolve around Tony Bates' "Nine Steps to Quality Online Teaching." For reference, click on the links below.

The Nine Steps of Quality Online Teaching
  1. Decide how you want to teach online.
  2. Decide what kind of online course you and your students need.
  3. Work in a team. 
  4. Build on existing resources.
  5. Master the technology.
  6. Set appropriate learning goals for online learning.
  7. Design course structure and learning activities
  8. Communicate, communicate, communicate
  9. Evaluate and innovate
My first impression with the list, after having read through each of the steps, was that while everything I read was sensible, based on my own experience, something seemed out of place. Let's examine the first step - "Decide how you want to teach online." 

While I agree with Bates that this is probably the most important step of the nine, I don't believe it should be the first step at all. That is, unless you are a master online educator with the skills and confidence gained by knowledge and experience. For the average educator, with limited or minimal experience and skills, you might as well be jumping into the middle of the ocean with no idea where to go. What are the options? How does it all work? What are the tools and technologies available? Are there policy implications? What technical or other issues will we have to face? To paraphrase a certain unpopular former politician - we don't know what we don't know.

The majority of educators I know will look at an XBox 360, or a Playstation 3, or a Wii, and to them it is all the same. To them, those disparate game systems are all "Nintendos." All three may be vastly different, supported by different technological ecosystems, targeted at different audiences, but to a majority of educators that I know, it is a distinction without a difference. They are game machines, kids play video games on them, hence they are all "Nintendos."

I constantly encounter the same attitude and outlook amongst colleagues when it comes to online teaching and online resources. Get into a group discussion about the issue, and you'll hear phrases like "We could use Google," or "why not use SkyDrive?" To the layman, those ideas probably sound just fine. To the more practiced ear, the phrase "please specify" pops into mind. How, exactly, would we use Google or Skydrive? What services? To what purpose? Do we need an LMS? or a CMS? Or both? What about the stakeholders? What sort of infrastructure do we have to contend with? Is this for a class? A subject? A grade? A school? A school system? And that's not all. I could list dozens more questions off the top of my head.

But that's the thing. It's not my first rodeo. I've immersed myself in e-learning for quite some time, and I have had time to come to know what I did not know. I have also come to expect the existence of a broad swath of more things I do not know, but knowledge of which will be of importance sometime later down the road. And as valuable as that is, that knowledge is of little or no use to those around me until they have had a chance to stumble over some of the same bumps in the road. 

This is why, the way I see it, the first step should really be "work in a team." In any group, a very few will be experts, some will be conversant, and the rest will be minimally able, but relatively willing. Once you gather your team, start out with a collaborative task that involves at least some of the tools and technologies you think might be employed. An online unit, for example, including the lesson plans, materials, and assessments. This is where you "design course structure and activities." As this occurs, the team will start to "master the technology" through the process of the collaborative tasks, as they construct materials collaboratively, reflect, edit, ask for help, offer assistance, etc. But that's it. That's where I end the list, at least for round one.

Rome wasn't built in a day. It may be cliche, but it's apt. Your team of educators will spend time struggling through the many issues that will inevitably crop up, as they implement this new thing. Technical issues, complaints, disagreements, worries, ridiculous objections raised by the technical illiterate. As irritating and annoying as these things are, they are a necessary part of the process. And unless and until you confront them, there is little point in engaging the rest of the nine steps.

In the end, I'd say that Tony has it about right, except that I would probably shuffle the deck. My nine steps to quality online teaching would look something like this:

The Nine Steps to Quality Online Teaching (Revised)

Round One

1) Work in a team
2) Design course structure and materials
3) Master the technology

Round Two

4) Evaluate and innovate
5) Build on existing resources
6) Decide what kind of online course you and your students need
7) Set appropriate learning goals for online learning
8) Decide how you want to teach online
9) Communicate, communicate, communicate



 

Use Human Touch to Engage Online Students

By Dr. John Thompson.TODAY- 10 am- 11 am, Hawaii Standard Time (HST). World Clock 

Online instructors first need to be engaged if they want their students engaged. Learn how “human touch” serves to get everyone engaged. Human touch is really all about creating and maintaining relationships. When students sense a trusting, caring relationship on the part of their instructor, students begin to perceive that their online experience is as much about them, or even more so, than the curriculum, projects, and test results. Students feel that their instructor is trying to establish a warm, supportive relationship, their sense of belonging and engagement increases. That’s just human nature.

Week 1 Activity Reflection –

1.  What?

   A.  Briefly describe what you did?

This week I attended all three webinar sessions as well as read several of the posted documents. 

2. So what?

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

            I attended the Tony Bates session because I’m new to the world of MOOCs.  I had hopes of learning more about MOOCs and what makes them different than a Credit Online Class.  While this was a good presentation, I felt like it and the discussion drifted from the differences between the two items into something that more resembled “What is a good MOOC?” 

I attended the Dr. Dreon session hoping to gain additional understanding about the reasons we teach online. I thought that maybe there were motivations other than those I was already aware of such as distance, flexibility, etc. 

I attended the wrap-up session because I thought maybe this might give me an opportunity to catch any information I missed during the week.  This was a good summary and it provided a nice overview of the webinars that were presented.  Additionally it pulled in some of the reading information which I think is helpful to some. 

When it comes to reading the posted documents, the ones I focused on were:  22 Secrets from the Most Successful Online Educators, Implementing the Seven Principals: Technology as Lever, Applying the Seven Principals for Good Practic to the Online Classroom.  Exploring Online Teaching, and Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online.  In regards to these readings, I found that I was already familiar with much of the information contained within them.  Also I felt that each document presented pretty much the same material just using different terminology.  With that in mind, looking back on it, I think I could’ve gotten by with just reading one or two of the documents rather than the whole pile.

B. How will this help you?

            All of these exercises added to my knowledge level about MOOCs in general and teaching specifically.  While I didn’t necessarily find anything new in much of the information, I did discover that there was more research out there that I thought to back up what I already knew.  I did learn how to find some of the articles so that I can provide them to the instructors I work with so that they can see that there is support for what I’m trying to show them. 

C.  What did you learn from the experience?

             I learned more about MOOCs and how they work.  I also learned that a lack of structure causes many learners to become frustrated with using MOOCS. After coming to this realization I am left to wonder if  the lack of structure and the frustration it produces are part of the reason so many students that enroll in a MOOC don’t complete it.  It seems that a defined structure with at the very least defining learning outcomes such as those found in most credit online courses is desirable in a MOOC. 

             Another thought that I didn’t really learn but actually had reinforced was the importance of communication.  Until it was mentioned here, I didn’t realize (or at least never had given much thought to) what the differences were between distance education and correspondence education and that the major difference between the two was the communication level.  However, I still wonder if a student taking an independent study through distance education doesn’t actually fall within the definition of correspondence education since the communication is basically between just the student and the instructor. 

3.  What now?

A.  What changes did you make?

I’m not sure I will make any changes.  At the school where I currently work we have a very strong online program that provides blank course shells to instructors.  This ensures that all students are getting the same information.  Because of this though, the instructor is actually more of a facilitator and many times is just grading assignments that have already been created for them.  The main thing I can do is present what I’ve learned to our designers and hope that they will incorporate some of these skills into the courses that they are designing. 

      B. What will you do differently in the future?

Again, I think that the main thing I can do is to present the information to our designers and encourage them to increase the amount of communication in the courses that they create.

C. What do you still have to learn?

               I believe I have a pretty sure foothold on the fundamentals.  I would like to learn more about things such as how to get students to participate. Also I want to learn more about teaching techniques such as how others reach out to various learning styles using the online environment.

OVERALL: 

I feel like I’ve come a long way this week.  My understanding of MOOCs has improved to the point where I’m experiencing much less frustration.  I’ve participated with some blog responses that have led to some interesting discussions which got me to thinking about how I do things. I think it’s been a good week and an I look forward to seeing what next week brings.

 

 

 

 

Wizard 2013 Abstract Submission

We invite SUNY IT professionals from all university centers, state-operated, statutory, and community colleges to submit abstracts for presentations.  Wizard is an opportunity for presenters to share with the IT community their best practices and success stories about new trends and emerging technologies that positively impact IT and enhance our ability to deliver the highest quality services to our associated students, faculty, and staff.

Wizard attendees come from throughout the SUNY system and include IT professionals such as campus CIOs, DBAs, System Administrators and technical analysts. Wizard conferences include facilitated sessions, roundtables, panel and informal discussions where SUNY can get together to collaborate and share what is happening on their campuses. 


Week 1 reflections

What I did this week: I watched Tony Bates’ talking about the Nine steps to quality online learning and making notes on what I found memorable/useful for my teaching in my blog. I then scanned the remaining suggested texts and read those I found relevant/interesting/practical. I also read numerous contributions from participants and replied to some (and got replies back – thanks!). I’ve added a widget to my blog – I found out what links are and have now linked a few blogs to mine – great! And I eventually got round to watching the recording of Tony Bates’ webinar Similarities and Differences between MOOCs and Credit Online Courses, and documented my thoughts in  my blog

So what? I did what I did because I was inquisitive, because I wanted to get going, to find out more about online learning/teaching and not to lag behind. But I knew I couldn’t do everything/didn’t need to do everything. I was pretty busy at work this week and at times was a bit frustrated that I couldn’t watch the recordings (still have one more to go) or respond to more posts. I wanted to join the weekly round up – time-wise it would have fitted – 10pm where I live – but friends came round for dinner, which was more fun! Yes, all in all, I feel fine about what I did – was enough! I don’t want this MOOC to get out of perspective, to consume me. Do I really want to be sitting in bed at night reading and answering posts, or doing this at breakfast instead of chatting to my husband? On the one hand, yes – I’m intrigued to know how everyone else is getting on, but maybe my timing is wrong! STOP! I need to prioritize!

I learnt/was reminded of lots – here are some of the things in addition to what’s on my blog. My next blended learning course starts in a week’s time, so I want to be more explicit i.e.

  • Tell students that I monitor forums and respond quickly.
  • Show students IM/ping function – encourage them to send each other short pings.
  • Remind students of deadlines – highlight on start page; maybe send them a short class update/message.
  • Compare the online task outline to a to do list – it’s satisfying to tick things off when done!
  • Remind students of expected weekly workload and to work regularly, maybe to schedule learning times during the week.

And to think about:

  • How to use Skype more in the online phases, e.g. set regular times when students can meet me on Skype i.e. during my office hours; get students to do tasks in smaller groups and then discuss their outcomes on Skype.
  • What this really means: apprentice-like learning – like this expression!
  • Tony Bates/tips – designing student activities is the most critical part of the online design process.
  • Planning a good closing and wrap activity for the course.

I learnt from this experience that setting priorities is important, and that you need to spell things out for students so that they know what to do, when and why. I kind of knew that anyway but this reminder was good!

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

  • I was getting into a bit of a mess not knowing who I’d responded to, which blogs I was interested in etc, so I’m now saving this info electronically (iPad/notes).
  • I’ve changed the first online activities that one class will do (intro to forums, wikis).
  • I’m thinking of making a screencast (using Jing) to demonstrate how to do various tasks – better than long explanations.

What do I still have to learn?

  • I’d like to learn more about the different features/functionalities a blog has – one step at a time!
  • I still want to learn more about designing quality online activities and applying this to my teaching (ESP/EFL).
  • I now know that I want to put together a list of online teaching tasks (i.e. from my perspective as a tutor) – will be my artefact but not for this week/not enough time. But I’m thinking about it all the time! So I want to learn more about this.
  • I still have to learn how to document things more efficiently.
  • I still have to learn how to wear different hats when I comment on artefacts.

Week 1 reflections

What I did this week: I watched Tony Bates’ talking about the Nine steps to quality online learning and making notes on what I found memorable/useful for my teaching in my blog. I then scanned the remaining suggested texts and read those I found relevant/interesting/practical. I also read numerous contributions from participants and replied to [...]

My week 1 journey of discovery

Watched the recording of Tony Bates’ webinar Similarities and Differences between MOOCs and Credit Online Courses and here are my reflections/aha moments and a couple of issues (red) I’m unclear about and would welcome comments on. Refering to the article we should have read before this webinar – TB: Don’t take for granted that students have [...]

My week 1 journey of discovery

Watched the recording of Tony Bates’ webinar Similarities and Differences between MOOCs and Credit Online Courses and here are my reflections/aha moments and a couple of issues (red) I’m unclear about and would welcome comments on.

Refering to the article we should have read before this webinar – TB: Don’t take for granted that students have actually read through assigned materials or done tasks! Question: Should we then spend/waste time on going over it again? Will this not just encourage students NOT to prepare? Or is it a good revision activity?

Online learning: quality of activities often poor. Greg mentioned that instructors tend to focus more on delivering content (e.g. videos of lectures) than on designing good quality, meaningful activities. This IS difficult! Most universities claim they are educating students to be critical thinkers with higher order skills but don’t – they focus on content delivery, which is out of date within a few years.

TB: Focus on being clear about what students’ learning outcomes are. How will I know students have achieved them?How will I assess these? Structure refers to content delivery as well as activity design – both can be strong or loose. Should be no looseness about learning outcomes – what learners need to be able to do at the end; also what learners must do each week. Outcomes should be clear, how learners get there can be loose. Can negotiate/identify individual learning outcomes for each student.

Artefact - creating a piece of work that learners can share with other participants – bit confusing to most people! Mine is going to be on putting together a list of online (language) teaching tasks to share with my colleagues.

Rubrics for assessment of artefacts? – yes – assessment shouldn’t be a guessing game for learners. TB – how assessment is done will radically change, from tests – portfolio, i.e. learners showing what they’ve learnt/can do, and how they’ve progressed. Assess achievement of outcomes e.g. CoP – could be to identify 6 people you will share/network with.

Peer review for grading purposes: According to TB, it has to be monitored, there should be clear rubrics, learners need to roughly at the same level of proficiency for it to be successful. I also get learners to peer review each other’s written assignments online (using rubrics) before submitting for marking. I’ve learnt that if I “sell” the idea/the benefits at the outset, it works better i.e. students are more convinced and more willing to participate (I also give them credit for peer reviewing activities).

How the above applies to my teaching situation and another question (at the end):  A part of the blended learning Professional English classes I teach has a self-directed learning (SDL) aspect, where learners choose a specific area which they want to develop – either language, or skills. They formulate a goal: e.g. By the end of the semester, I want to be better able to understand the gist and main points of journal articles about wine marketing. They do the work, document tasks, time spent (they are aiming to spend in total about 20-25 hrs/semester) and also write a brief reflection on how useful, difficult, easy etc the task was. At the end of the semester, they write a reflective report summing up this learning experience and submit this report and the work done – some of the students do this electronically on their ePortfolios, some on paper, some do a mixture – for grading.  They receive the criteria in the form of a rubric at the beginning of the course. I then grade/give them audio feedback on task achievement in general, and language used in the written report (they get input on how to write a reflective report and are supposed to demonstrate a degree of mastery here). Basically, grading is highly rewarding though quite time consuming since it’s extremely gratifying to read and see what the learners have done autonomously and how pleased they usually are with the outcomes. All in all, the majority see SDL as a wonderful opportunity to work on the English they really need either professionally or privately at their level of proficiency. My issue/question: One thing I’ve always had a problem with is whether I should really be marking their English in the report – is this really part of their SDL. Part of me says yes – they should learn/be able to express their reflections in decent English (the report constitutes 15% max. of the final SDL grade). But part of me says no – the language in the report (as long as I can understand what they’re trying to convey) has nothing to do with their SDL. I’d be really interested to hear your views on this bearing in mind that this is an EFL/ESP class.

I’ll finish off with an analogy used by Tony Bates: a MOOC can be a bit like a journey of discovery – yes that’s what I’m finding too!

Actors in a MOOC

Theatre Masks by biboarchitect
at clker.com
This week I participated in one of the most engaging online conversations I ever participated in (I have to admit, though, that I am only an average user of online courses).  Jeanette (The Online Teacher) submitted a post discussing her confusion due to a lack of clearly defined expectations in our MOOC.

As this, and other, discussions unfolded during Week 1, I believe we all began to "find our way" and community began to develop.  I am guessing this is exactly as Greg and the other facilitators had planned. I noticed community developed because specific individuals did some very deliberate things.  I began thinking that when I have my online course, I would ask individuals to volunteer to act in the following roles:
  • Community Builder: makes connections between different posts
  • Sergeant at Arms: creates order and structure (eg: adds a blog feed, creates a bookmark page, etc.)
  • Interrogator: ask thought-provoking questions to stir discussion
Perhaps these roles can be rotated each week or month.  What do you think about assigning these roles? Can you think of other roles?



Classroom Critical Incident Questionnaire

I saw this post on the course website and I really liked the idea of using this questions as an assessment tool for student learning and teaching feedback.

Week 1 Sept 12 Here is the Critical…

It's basically a list of question to students asking for anonymous feedback on the class.
Questions ask students to identify most engaging, distanced, helpful, confusing, and surprising moments in the class for the week.
I liked that the answers are anonymous and that the collected answers will be shared to the group.

TOMOOC and attention spans

Our attention spans are not very long…maybe 20-40 minutes in front of a computer screen are all we can handle? We all are busy people, so sitting for two hours in front of a webinar can be daunting.
Also, web content should not be long and tedious. I learned in web design that paragraphs should be brief with lots of white spaces to rest the eyes.
Shouldn’t all this pertain to an online class as well?


Our attention spans are not very long maybe…

Our attention spans are not very long…maybe 20-40 minutes in front of a computer screen is all we can handle? We all are busy people, so sitting for two hours in front of a webinar can be daunting.
Also, web content should not be long and tedious. I learned in web design that paragraphs should be brief with lots of white spaces to rest the eyes.
Shouldn’t all this pertain to an online class as well?

Here is an article published by Oregon State…

Here is an article published by Oregon State University about Active Teaching: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/4h/4-h0259l.pdf

You may or may not feel the need to read it- None of the information is particularly innovative, but the article does support the idea that the best way to learn is through doing and/or teaching/speaking.

It’s one article I am considering using as I am developing an online Children’s Theatre course for education majors that I will be teaching in the spring. Anyway, needless to say, the particular course is on my mind as it is the most pressing reason I am in this MOOC. I need to teach this course and I feel strongly about the benefits it can offer the students, but it is a class that is on the border of being suitable for the online format and I have my reservations as I embark on adapting it.

So, I find myself sitting here planning a course that is almost completely dedicated to teaching teachers how to develop truly innovative and active lesson plans in core subject areas. I’ve had a difficult time getting started on this online course in particular because it is an active, project-based class and I’m having a difficult time figuring out how to get it online. I was thinking that if I create videos of my “lecture” and activity demonstrations, that would provide some kind of human interaction. It’s just hit me, though, that the small amount of planning I have done so far was relying on a delivery style that is in complete opposition to the ideas I teach. So here is my problem. When I teach this class F2F, most of the learning should come from the students observing the way I teach and being able to isolate the methodology and transfer it to their topic area (in a K-12 classroom.) I suppose this is why I haven’t gotten very far in developing the course at this point….transferring the class to an online format presents some significant challenges. I do feel, though, that the tiny bit of information I’ve found here has helped me put into words my concerns over how to transfer the class.

In watching a handful of the videos here and in reading through the nine steps, I think my first step needs to be changing the way I view the necessary interaction in the course and feeling more free to establish adapted course objectives. I think I need to refocus myself so that the interaction I am encouraging is interaction with the material rather than with the instructor. I suppose this could end up being a benefit of the online format…rather than the natural tendency to mimic techniques modeled by the instructor, students will need to develop their own from the start… now to figure out how to make that possible for students who do not yet have any acquaintance with the material!

I think this panic is a good sign…one week of “class” and I’ve already realized most of my assumptions about transferring a F2F class to online are inherently incorrect! Here’s to the next five weeks helping me work past the panic stage as I find some clarity!

Response to Jennyrw2013′s ‘How Do I Facilitate Students…’

Update 9/13/13: Replaced “First Syndication Post” with “Jennyrw2013″.

Jennyrw2013, “How Do I Facilitate Students Trying to Create Their Own Learning Experience?” (9/11/13).

Jennyrw2013, nicely put. My perception, too, re focus on skills:

I’m an English comp instructor.  I see my class as a space where students learn new skills rather than absorb content.  I feel like a coach, and I want to create an atmosphere where we think of writing as practice.  I want my students to try new things, make mistakes, wrestle with their gators, open their minds to new ways of thinking, and then walk away with skills they can apply in their other classes and in the outside world.  Thus, I’ve always thought of composition as a skills-based class rather than a content-based course.

Good question re discussion forums:

Because my online students don’t get the benefit of class discussion, I have to find a way to create a forum online.  I’ve used Laulima for blog posts, but I haven’t required students to respond to each other yet.  I just couldn’t figure out how to organize it.  Do I have them make an original post by one date and then have them make one of more responses to classmates by another?  ( I think I just answered my question.)

Yes, you’ve answered your own question. As a follow-up to posting, I ask students to comment on at least three classmates’ posts. (I created a simple and brief [3:30] video tutorial to introduce students to Laulima forums.) Also, the “conversation” doesn’t have to stop at the borders of the forum. I ask students to include quotes from classmates’ forum posts in their papers, with all the necessary documentation. Thus, students see peers as sources of quotable opinions and observations, and the discussion takes on an authentic dimension — what they say matters since they may be quoted by classmates in their papers. 

Responding to student drafts is a critical issue for all online comp teachers:

This idea about letting students go at their own pace scares me some.  I need papers in by certain dates; otherwise, my work load becomes impossible.  How can I be more flexible for online students? Ugh. I have to give them feedback on their papers, so if they turn in assignments at different times, I’ll lose my marbles.

It’s taken me years to figure out a way to technically manage this, and I’m still working on it. I think the key is to minimize the number of steps or conversions in the process. My students publish their drafts in their personal WordPress blogs. They follow up by posting the title and URL in Laulima forums devoted to submitting drafts. In this setup, the teacher’s tasks are:

  • Link to the student’s draft.
  • Review it.
  • Comment on it.
  • Send a report to the student.

In the past, to evaluate each draft, I worked with four windows (Laulima, MSWord, Excel, Gmail) over two monitors. I

  1. Logged in to the Laulima forum for submitting the draft.
  2. Clicked on the student’s thread and clicked on the link to her/his draft.
  3. Copied the draft to memory.
  4. Opened a blank MSWord file and pasted the draft.
  5. Inserted comments in the paper as I reviewed, using a macro app. (One or two keystrokes inserts boilerplate comments.)
  6. Opened the class spreadsheet to record the score.
  7. Copied the draft to memory and saved it in a folder on my desktop.
  8. Opened an email compose window, pasted the draft, inserted the student’s email address on the message, and sent it.

A lot of little steps. Time consuming. Now, I still use multiple windows, but I’ve eliminated the steps associated with MSWord. I

  1. Take the same steps as 1 and 2 above.
  2. Review the draft in the student’s blog.
  3. Open a Gmail compose window and post macro comments in it.
  4. Open the class spreadsheet to record the score.
  5. Insert the student’s email address on the message and click on send.

The key is Gmail. It now serves as my commenting platform and “cloud” archive for all student drafts. I can quickly record comments on current drafts and retrieve/view my comments from past drafts. Also, the Gmail composer automatically renders URLs hot, so I include URLs to course resources in my macroed comments. (My macro app doesn’t allow hot URLs.) When recording comments on a student’s draft, I can open a second Gmail window to view my comments on previous drafts. This way, I quickly see if students are addressing issues flagged in earlier drafts. I use the difference as a measure of learning.

Eliminating MSWord file juggling from the process and shifting the tasks to Gmail saves a lot of time and, thus, facilitates the review.

Good question re timing:

Also, if the class discussions are to help them brainstorm and pre-write, how can they work ahead?  Being more flexible on timing sounds a little impossible right now.

In my classes, the students have the paper requirements from day one of a given assignment. Thus, they’re already planning their papers, often subconsciously, before the main corridor of writing process activities. The activities help to solidify critical parts of the plan as they go. Thus, even before they sit down to write preliminary drafts, the plan has been incubating in their mind. I guess the point is that, even though the process appears to be linear in the schedule, there’s a lot of recursion going on in the student’s head.

Good question re flexibility in assignments:

This idea about letting students create their own learning experience is throwing me a little. too.  Can I create a course where students get to pick and choose which assignments they want to do?  Is that possible?  Perhaps I can create multiple assignments that would satisfy the learning outcomes.  Then, students could pick which assignments to complete.  Is that what it means to let them create their own learning experience?

One option is to design assignments that are flexible vertically rather than horizontally. Thus, instead of two or more different assignments, you’d have one assignment that’s designed to be flexible or more open. The idea is to offer a topic that’s broad enough to allow students to select subjects that appeal to their individual interests. For example, if the topic is “beauty,” you could ask them to explore different categories: people, activities, natural phenomena or artifacts, places, etc. To encourage remixing and repurposing, you could ask them to create a thesis that’s surprising or controversial.


How to Teach Online

Someone was asking “What is an online classroom artifact?”

Practice creating a sensemaking artifact. Sensemaking.

How do we make sense of what’s happening in this workshop? How do we develop a clear view of the topics?

George Siemens writes that sensemaking occurs in many areas of our personal and organizational life, including crisis situations, routine information seeking, research, and learning. Everyday we are engaged in vague problem-solving without a clear path: a parent raising a child, an employee starting a new job, a doctor without a clear diagnosis for a patient, a student deciding what they want to do in life, and so on. Sensemaking is a daily activity we engage in to respond to uncertainty, complex topics, or changes in settings. Sensemaking is not about truth and getting it right. Sensemaking is about continuing to improve and redraft an emerging story until it becomes comprehensible.

Sensemaking Artifacts

Sensemaking artifacts can include a text post, a slideshow, a video, a podcast, a recorded live performance – basically anything that allows you to express how you came to understand something. According to Siemens, sensemaking artifacts serve two roles:

They reflect the sensemaking activity you experienced – the artifact shows how you connected different concepts within this course or how you came to understand the relationship between different entities.
They are a “sensegiving” tool that teaches others. Sensemaking artifacts are valuable for you to use to self-organize around important ideas, negotiate the scope of a topic, correct each other, and curate key ideas.
How do I create an artifact?

Pick and Choose. Find a wide variety of things to read, watch or play with. There may be a LOT of content associated with your course. You are NOT expected to read and watch everything. Even we facilitators cannot do that. Instead, what you should do is PICK AND CHOOSE content that looks interesting to you and is appropriate for you. If it looks too complicated, don’t read it. If it looks boring, move on to the next item.
Remix and Re-purpose. We don’t want you simply to repeat what other people have said. We want you to create something of your own. This is probably the hardest step of the process. Remixing is the adoption, alteration, and recombination of what your read, saw, or heard to create something new. Remember that you are not starting from scratch. Nobody every creates something from nothing. That’s why we call this step ‘repurpose’ instead of ‘create’. We want to emphasize that you are working with what you choose in step 1, you are not starting from scratch.
Share and provide feedback. We know, sharing in public is harder. People can see your mistakes. People can see you try things you’re not comfortable with. It’s hard, and it’s sometimes embarrassing. But it’s better. You’ll try harder. You’ll think more about what you’re doing. And you’ll get a greater reward – people will see what you’ve created and connect on it. Sometimes critically, but often (much more often) with support, help and praise. People really appreciate it when you share. After all, what you’re doing when you share is to create material that other people can learn from. Your sharing creates more content for your course. people appreciate that, you will probably appreciate the content other people in the course share with you.
Practice creating artifacts

Your learning will be about how to read or watch, understand, and work with various forms of content and other people to create your own new understanding and knowledge.Your job isn’t to memorize a whole bunch of stuff. Rather, your job is to practice and use different tools to create artifacts.
you can find help making artifacts at:
change.mooc.ca

The site will show you by giving examples. Watch what they do, then practice yourself.

It’s a wonderful experience

George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier, who facilitated change.mooc.ca, asks you to think of every bit of content you create not simply as content, but as practice creating artifacts.

This will seem awkward at first. But with practice you’ll become an accomplished creator and critic of ideas and knowledge. When the course is working really well, you will see this great cycle of content and creativity begin to feed on itself, people in the course reading, collecting, creating and sharing. It’s a wonderful experience you won’t want to stop when the course is done. Along the way you will get to know each other: better learners interact with each other and with information.

Study well, Bernie


Week 1 Sept 12 Here is the Critical…

Week 1 Sept. 12. Here is the Critical Incident Questionnaire, designed by Stephen Brookfield. I use this in my traditional classrooms, and receive some excellent feedback. I use it to gauge my student learning, and also to improve my teaching practices. I would like to incorporate it for online use.

The Classroom Critical Incident Questionnaire – Stephen Brookfield
Please take about five minutes to respond to the questions below about this weekend’s class. Don’t put your name on the form – your responses are anonymous. If nothing comes to mind for any of the questions just leave the space blank. At the next class we will share the group’s responses with all of you. Thanks for taking the time to do this. What you write will help us make the class more responsive to your concerns.

At what moment in class this weekend did you feel most engaged with what was
happening?

At what moment in class this weekend were you most distanced from what was
happening?

What action that anyone (teacher or student) took this weekend did you find most
affirming or helpful?

What action that anyone took this weekend did you find most puzzling or confusing?

What about the class this weekend surprised you the most? (This could be about your own reactions to what went on, something that someone did, or anything else that occurs).

Please let me know what you think. Bernie

This is embarrassing so just close your eyes…

This is embarrassing, so just close your eyes and forget you read it if you think it is too hopeless. Still, after reading the definitions and examples over and over and over again, I do not feel that I really know what an “artifact” is. Somehow all the instructions I read online are just not sinking into my head. Can someone define an artifact in a “artifacts for dummies” way?
The best I can come up with is it is taking something that already exists (picture, post, whatever) and pulling it, analyzing it, and altering it to fit my educational purposes?

Week 1 reflection: maybe there’s hope for me….

1.In your blog share some of your reflections of what you have learned this week.
This week was pretty helpful, way more than “week zero” where I felt stranded, floating at sea. I learned basic, basic guidelines and tenets for running an online class, which is more than I knew previous to the MOOC. Didn’t even know the words “synchronous and asynchronous” as applied to online teaching tools.

2.You may also want to tell us what you have liked so far this week .
I liked that the coordinators’ posts had links to clear, step-by-step resources and suggestions. I watched part of the blackboard collaborate webinar, however, and found that one very, very long with a lot of “dead” time that, if cut out, might have made the webinar only 30mins and a little more accessible. At first I felt reading the posts on the Community wall to be overwhelming, but now I am getting better at skimming (vs feeling like I need to pay attention to everything) and being able to pick out what applies.

——————————————————————————–
Activity Reflection
1.What? 1.Briefly describe what you did.
I read a lot. A lot of blogs and Tony Bate’s suggestions as well as the Designing for Learning 10 best practices, where I found useful tips and helped wrap my mind around the vast differences between online and face-to-face. I read the 22 tips from successful online teachers, but found some of those to be too obvious. It is like telling some to “work hard” or be sure to “be prepared.” yeah, its good advice, but “duh” to say it frankly. Any good teacher knows that….so give me something specific, outcome-based, and something I can implement in an activity or unit rather than vague, over-arching guidelines.

2.So what?
So, I am still kind of overwhelmed. I had never even heard of Flipboard before, and still don’t really know how to use it. I still feel very uncomfortable with Blackboard. I think this is a situation when I need some face-to-face in order to master these specific online teaching tools. Face-to-face is how I learn best versus watching a video of someone talking slowly online with lots of pauses and I can’t questions because it is a recording.

3.What now? 1.What changes did you make?
I’m learning how to blog better! Never done it before and know I know what a “kitchen sink” is and other tools of wordpress. thank you so much to those who gave me comments to direct me to these answers.

3.What do you still have to learn?
I read a blog post that summed up the way I felt about certain aspects of online teaching. Yes, I want to be student centered and yes online students want more flexibility and independence, but does that mean I have to cater, cater, cater? Should it be all about their needs and wants or what works in a reasonable, manageable way? Unhappy, over-tired, frazzled instructors are not good ones–how does that help students? I have pulled from his post below….

FIRST SYNDICATION POST SAID: “This idea about letting students go at their own pace scares me some. I need papers in by certain dates; otherwise, my work load becomes impossible. How can I be more flexible for online students? Ugh. I have to give them feedback on their papers, so if they turn in assignments at different times, I’ll lose my marbles. Also, if the class discussions are to help them brainstorm and pre-write, how can they work ahead? Being more flexible on timing sounds a little impossible right now.

This idea about letting students create their own learning experience is throwing me a little. too. Can I create a course where students get to pick and choose which assignments they want to do? Is that possible? Perhaps I can create multiple assignments that would satisfy the learning outcomes. Then, students could pick which assignments to complete. Is that what it means to let them create their own learning experience?”

I also still, after reading the definition and examples over and over and over again, do not feel that I really know what an “artifact” is. Somehow all the instructions I read online are just not sinking into my head. Can someone define an artifact in a “artifacts for dummies” way?


Best Practices Online

Lots of material to review on this thought. I think as more and more users are experiencing online learning, better observations and data can be collected. However after looking through the Nine steps to quality online learning by Tony Bates, 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education, and  Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice to the Online Classroom, … Keep reading 

Documenting your learning is good

I was reminded via http://blogs.leeward.hawaii.edu/teachonline/2013/09/11/as-i-progress-through-the-course-i-am/ that it would be good to document my learning. And, apparently, I didn't read something closely, and there is a badge that I could earn from this class, if I have a series of answers to a series of questions. So, I guess I should look again at the beginning stuff to figure out what

How Do I Facilitate Students Trying to Create Their Own Learning Experience?

Image

I’m an English comp instructor.  I see my class as a space where students learn new skills rather than absorb content.  I feel like a coach, and I want to create an atmosphere where we think of writing as practice.  I want my students to try new things, make mistakes, wrestle with their gators, open their minds to new ways of thinking, and then walk away with skills they can apply in their other classes and in the outside world.  Thus, I’ve always thought of composition as a skills-based class rather than a content-based course.  Nevertheless, we study the art of writing and, in that, I’m definitely the expert in the room.  Ha!  Room.  Online everything is different.  

Because my online students don’t get the benefit of class discussion, I have to find a way to create a forum online.  I’ve used Laulima for blog posts, but I haven’t required students to respond to each other yet.  I just couldn’t figure out how to organize it.  Do I have them make an original post by one date and then have them make one of more responses to classmates by another?  ( I think I just answered my question.)

This idea about letting students go at their own pace scares me some.  I need papers in by certain dates; otherwise, my work load becomes impossible.  How can I be more flexible for online students? Ugh. I have to give them feedback on their papers, so if they turn in assignments at different times, I’ll lose my marbles.  Also, if the class discussions are to help them brainstorm and pre-write, how can they work ahead?  Being more flexible on timing sounds a little impossible right now.   

This idea about letting students create their own learning experience is throwing me a little. too.  Can I create a course where students get to pick and choose which assignments they want to do?  Is that possible?  Perhaps I can create multiple assignments that would satisfy the learning outcomes.  Then, students could pick which assignments to complete.  Is that what it means to let them create their own learning experience?


My Takeaways from Tony Bates’s ‘Nine Steps’

I’ve been teaching online college composition courses for many years, so my takeaways may not be the same as yours. I also have pedagogical preferences that have influenced my choices. As expected, much of the information pertains to both online and onground environments. I’ve made an effort to zero in on those that are relevant to online. For your reference, I’ve included the titles of the nine steps plus the intro and “Designing online learning for the 21st century” as clickable links. According to Bates, the nine steps are for beginners and “Designing” is for experienced online teachers. I’ve omitted quotations, but keep in mind that all the statements are direct quotes.

Nine steps to quality online learning: Introduction

Step 1: Decide how you want to teach online 

  • Moving your course online opens up a range of possibilities for teaching that may not be possible in the confines of a scheduled three credit weekly semester of lectures.
  • It is important to design online teaching in such a way that it best suits online learners…. A key requirement for most online learners [is] flexibility…. Online students need to feel that the instructor is ‘present’ online, i.e. interacting with students in discussion forums, directing them to recent relevant articles or events, and responding promptly to questions.
  • Synchronous tools tend to be instructor-dominated (delivering lectures and controlling the discussion)…. asynchronous tools such as an LMS provide online learners with more flexibility than synchronous tools, and enable them to work more independently.
  • Top universities such as MIT, Stanford, Princeton and Yale have made available recordings of their classroom lectures , etc., while distance teaching organizations such as the UK Open University [and Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learn Initiative] have made all their online teaching materials available for free use. Much of this material can be found at Apple’s iTunesU.

Step 2: Decide on what kind of online course

  • Online learning, particularly fully online, requires good self-discipline and good generic study skills.
  • Developing skills online can be more of a challenge…. This would mean identifying the skills needed, working out how to develop such skills (including opportunities for practice) online, and how to assess such skills online.

Step 3: Work in a Team

  • Good course design is essential to achieve quality.
  • Particular attention has to be paid to providing appropriate online activities for students, and to structuring content in ways that facilitate learning in an asynchronous online environment.
  • Good course design not only enables students to learn better but also controls faculty workload. Courses look better with good graphic and web design.

Step 4: Build on existing resources

  • Cut down on ‘conversion time’ by using existing online resources…. specifically developed for online teaching.

Step 5: Master the technology

Step 6: Set appropriate learning goals

  • In terms of online learning design [teach students how to use] the Internet increasingly as a major resource for learning.
  • Students now need to be able to communicate in a variety of ways in the 21st century. Writing and speaking skills remain critical, but increasingly the ability to communicate through modern media such as social media, YouTube, blogs and wikis are particularly important.
  • Online learning, by its nature, requires students to take increasing responsibility for managing their learning.
  •  A key learning goal may be for every student to leave the course competent in the selection and use of relevant digital tools.
  • One great characteristic of teaching online is the opportunity to bring in the world to your teaching.
  • Assessment drives student behaviour. If they are not to be assessed on 21st century skills, they won’t make the effort to develop them. The main challenge may not be in setting appropriate goals for online learning, but ensuring that you have the tools and means to assess whether students have achieved those goals.
  • It is necessary to communicate very clearly to students these new learning goals and how they will be assessed.
  • In some ways, with the Internet (as with other media), the medium is the message. Knowledge is not completely neutral…. Each medium brings another way of knowing. We can either fight the medium, and try to force old content into new bottles, or we can shape the content to the form of the medium.

Step 7: Design course structure and learning activities

  • In a strong teaching structure, students know exactly what they need to learn, what they are supposed to do to learn this, and when and where they are supposed to do it.
  • I [Bates] much prefer asynchronous communication for two reasons. Students are often working and have busy lives; asynchronous messages are more convenient for them. They are permanent and can be accessed at any time. Also, they are much more convenient for me as an instructor.
  • [My] synchronous ‘lectures’ are always optional as there will always be some students who cannot be present (although they can be made available in recorded format).
  • It is a mistake for the instructor to respond immediately to every comment. This prevents other students from making their own contribution; they will wait until they see your reaction.

Step 8: Communicate, communicate, communicate

  • Research has clearly indicated that ‘perceived instructor presence’ is a critical factor for online student success and satisfaction.
  • Research indicates that students who do not respond to set activities in the first week are at high risk of non-completion. I always follow up with a phone call or e-mail to non-respondents in this first week, and ensure that each student is following the guidelines.

Step 9: Evaluate and innovate

  • There is a range of resources you can draw on to [evaluate factors contributing to or inhibiting learning on an online course], much more in fact than for evaluating classroom courses, because online learning leaves a traceable digital trail of evidence.

Designing online learning for the 21st century.

  • 21st century skills… a handy way of describing the kind of skills that need to be embedded within a discipline area, if learners are to function effectively in 21st century society.
  • Despite these changes [development of a knowledge-based society; rapid technological development and adoption outside the academy] though our campus-based teaching has changed very little, mainly adding new technologies such as lecture capture to the traditional model of teaching, thus increasing costs: we’ve added GPS and stereo sound to a horse and cart, but it’s still a horse and cart.
  • The core 21st century skill is knowledge management, the ability to find, evaluate, analyse and apply information, although almost as important is independent learning. These are skills that can be taught, or perhaps more accurately, facilitated.
  • Changes in technologies…. WordPress, blogs, wikis and e-portfolios for learner-generated content; video and audio to help learners move between the concrete and abstract and back again; open educational resources, which challenge our conception of curriculum and ownership of content
  • A new paradigm for learning…. Stephen Downes’ articulation of e-learning 2.0: learning managed by the learner[;] peer-to-peer collaboration[;] access to open content[;] learning demonstrated by online multimedia assignments (e.g. e-portfolios)[;] development of 21st century skills.
  • We know how to teach well online; follow best practice[;] however, we also need to innovate: incrementally and evaluate…. innovation in teaching needs to be rewarded more.

In response to Tony’s Step 1: Decide how you want to teach online

I am really enjoying Tony’s 9 Steps!  I thought I would copy some of his key comments into a Word doc and respond to them as I read on.  Step 1 alone has raised so many thoughts, and I’m realizing I can’t possibly respond to everything I’ve copied! I have been teaching writing online for about 6 semesters and I remain excited and challenged, so  I will also enjoy reading Tony’s posts on 21st learning for experienced online instructors, too. For now, these 9 steps are wonderfully affirming and thought-provoking.  Here are some tid-bits that struck me:

Tony writes, “online students need to feel that the instructor is ‘present’ online.”

I work hard at this and I just got wonderful feedback from a student who said, “You spoiled me!” and went on to explain that her current online class in the same discipline feels impersonal.  She said she doesn’t even know the instructor is there, but she “misses” me.  I am certainly amazed by how close a relationship some of my online students feel they have established with me by the end of the semester.  At times, it’s closer than I feel.

What worries me, however, are the students who do not realize this is an integral part of their online learning (despite my best efforts to help them “acculturate”) – that establishing a connection with their instructor is a good thing and requires they step up and respond to the invitation to interact.

Many of my recent high school grads come to community college unprepared to engage in the learning environment actively.  I love this part of the job – ie, helping them develop an understanding of what it takes to succeed as a learner.  And, the online environment really challenges them on this level.  The hard part is reaching those who have little experience seeing instructors as mentors, coaches, and people who are in this line of work to cheer them on, support them, and respond to them.

 Tony writes, “Or do I see learning as individual development focused around developing in learners skills and the ability to question, analyse and apply information or knowledge? Do I see myself more as a guide or facilitator of learning for students?”

As I am reading this I am thinking about how so many people have said to me , “I can’t imagine teaching writing online.”  However, writing teachers are very accustomed to being guides, facilitators, coaches.   To me, it feels like a very natural fit for instructors who strive to respond to their writing students genuinely and in a timely manner.  The students’ full writing process is all there in full color and it’s very instructive — for them and for me.

Tony writes, “Moving your course online opens up a range of possibilities for teaching that may not be possible in the confines of a scheduled three credit weekly semester of lectures. It may not mean doing everything online, but focusing the campus experience on what can only be done on campus.”

Yes!  This is exactly what I’m grappling with.  My f2f writing classes feel like such a struggle because I only see the students 2x per week for 1.25 hours each session.  The sessions are too short and they are too spread out.  In contrast, online students have access to me 24-7. My f2f do as well, but they are not accustomed to taking me up on my offer to correspond outside of class.  So, more and more, I am creating online opportunities for my f2f students to work, interact with each other, explore, and think about content throughout the week.

On the other hand, I am hesitant, to be honest, to create due dates or invitations for students to create more artifacts online, especially those require attention outside of our two class sessions per week because I need to limit my own workload.   Tony addresses work load later in his posts… Teaching online in an interactive, “very present” way involves exceptionally more time!  (That is something some English colleagues who shake their heads at teaching writing online don’t quite seem to understand.  The online writing instructors I admire spend soooooo much more time with their students and developing their courses.  As Tony says in his later Steps, there needs to be more collaborative sharing perhaps to cut down on this.)

More later…


Online Interaction- Every challenge can make you stronger if you allow it.

Lin, Dyer and  Guo point out that when it comes to task-related concerns, online instructors are most anxious and apprehensive about the “balance of three types of interaction: content – student interaction, instructor – student interaction, and student – student interaction.” Moore and Kearsley … Continue reading

Short mid week reflection Create a sense making…

Short mid-week reflection – Create a sense-making artifact:

As I started participating in this workshop’s discussions, I had to remind myself what I tell my students each semester: It’s not enough to know how to grow a blog, to pick a topic and keep contributing to one’s blog. We must also be aware of the virtual classroom community in which we are learning. Blogging is not about choosing a topic and writing responses for the rest of the term. It is about meaningful, thoughtful engagement with ideas.

I find that for so many of my students online discussions & blogging often becomes a race to publish, to write entries and receive comments. (Most of them measure the success of their blog by the number of comments they receive, and the content of the comment is often not as important as the mere fact that it is there). They rarely look critically at their own writing, preferring instead to judge their own work by the traffic that it attracts to their blog.

The recommended link for change.mooc.ca is loaded with useful resources. Thanks!

Blurring the boundaries of online teaching

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Perry Samson of the University of Michigan gave a very lively and engaging presentation at ALT-C about LectureTools, the software he has developed with Echo360. The session was titled ‘Deconstructing the Large Lecture Environment Through Technology‘ and as Perry talked about students using mobile devices to make notes, ask and answer questions or just signal confusion, the potential of the technology to close the gap between lecturer and learner in large lecture classes was very clear.

He also talked about this suite of tools meaning that students, or even himself, did not have to be physically present in the lecture theatre – raising the possibility of distance learning.

And then it occurred to me that we can no longer really draw distinct lines between classroom/f2f  teaching and online teaching. Certainly where I work we already record lectures and in the interests of inclusivity it is standard practice to post lecture notes on the VLE in advance of teaching sessions. Every module has a VLE site so there is an online component, though the extent to which this is used varies.

The tools being demonstrated today were impressive, but mainly because they brought together things that we already do or could do, in one place: there was the ability to set questions and poll answers from students (as with response system ‘clickers’, Socrative, PollEverywhere etc.) and take questions from students (as with Textwall or Twitter). Students could make notes on the screen side by side with the slides (it looked like videonot.es but was practically the same as downloading a PowerPoint and annotating it). There were a few nice additional features like the ability to put a pin on an image slide,  a ‘star’ icon to mark a particular point as important and a ‘flag’ to signal confusion (enough raised flags would elicit the lecturer’s attention). The whole thing would then be available for students to save and review later.

The fact that so much of this is familiar, albeit in fragments, made me realise just how ‘online’ even our most traditional form of teaching, the lecture, is becoming and how blurred the boundaries are.

This blog post is partly a contribution to the How to Teach Online MOOC and reflecting on this morning’s session has given me a new perspective on what it might mean to ‘teach online’ at this point in the development of UK university teaching.


Excuses, excuses, but I’m on the right track…

I’m unexpectedly away at the ALT-C conference for a few days and also have 2 job interviews this week so it’s a rather intense time and not surprisingly my MOOC reading has suffered a bit. With only my mobile devices to hand I haven’t been able to catch up with the webinars either. I’m now sounding like your worst student aren’t I?
I have, however, been reading some blog posts in odd moments and got as far as the introductory page for this week’s reading, the nine steps to quality online learning;

1. Decide how you want to teach online.
2. Decide what kind of online course you and your students need.
3. Work in a team.
4. Build on existing resources.
5. Master the technology.
6. Set appropriate learning goals for online learning.
7. Design course structure and learning activities
8. Communicate, communicate, communicate
9. Evaluate and innovate

I was struck by how closely the 9 steps mapped against a 5 step model I have been using recently to explain what I see as the appropriate way to approach the introduction of learning technology innovations. My 5-stage model originally went like this:
1. Identify the learning issue (with the teacher and taking into account the intended students, diversity etc.)
2. Work with the academic (tutor / convenor) to discuss and choose relevant available technological options bearing in mind disciplinary context, staff experience, enthusiasm etc. And plan its use.
3. Provide scaffolded support and training for staff and students leading them to learn by doing.
4. Evaluate the innovation.
5. Share / disseminate interesting outcomes and related resources to encourage others to consider trying the approach.

You can see that this matches quite well:
‘Identify the learning need’ becomes ‘decide what kind of online course you and your students need’.
‘Work with the academic’ becomes ‘work in a team’.
‘Build on existing resources’ is somewhat analogous to bringing in the disciplinary context and factoring in staff experience and enthusiasm.
‘Master the technology’ matches up to the ‘scaffolded support and training for staff and students’
This is where we diverge a little, but back at the identifying the learning need and choosing relevant TEL tools stage there would have been an explicit goal for the innovation – to resolve the learning issue. And the use of the technology would have been carefully planned as part of the discussions between learning technologist/advisor and academic.
The last two steps I would do the other way around, evaluating first then communicating.

So before I’ve even read the material I’ll feeling quite comfortable with the approach and as soon as I get the chance I’ll be launching into the materials wholeheartedly. In the meantime I look forward to reading what others have made of it all.

With not much time to catch up before next week’s email arrives in my inbox what do you suggest I look at first?


Old School

Each morning at about 6:00 a.m. with a cup of coffee and a piece of toast or scone, I sit under the shade of our lime and tangerine trees in Kihei, Hawai`i. My chair and table are made of teak. The table is warped at one end because the previous owner left it out in the sun under a hot tub that needed repair. The birds above, mainly mynahs and pigeons, busily gossip on their perches as they eye the geckos that scurry through my orchids and succulents.

It’s the best time of my day. The sun is not yet over the skyline of Haleakala, House of the Sun, and the temperature is cool.

During this time, I write in a 5.5″ x 8″ leather bound book with lined pages whose edges are tinted with gold. Everything goes in there-the outcome from yesterday, what I expect today, my dreams, my frustrations, the things I am grateful for.

As an old school writing instructor at UHMaui College and Kaunoa Senior Center, tomooc is great. I look forward to teaching more online.


Learning as Individual Development

It must be that I am bent on individual development otherwise why would I spend my time trying to figure out the perfect on-line course - or at least quality on-line course.

My big quibble with on-line courses - mine included - is that it is read this and discuss that.  If only I had access to Blackboard Collaborate so that we could do some synchronous sessions that would move my course forward (at least in my eyes).

I work with instructors in a post-secondary institution and the subject material is evaluation/assessment: that is using evaluation tools properly.  That being said there are no real hard fast rules, in many cases, so it is important to get across the flexibility of the situation and that assessment needs to fit the situation.

I have been teaching this course in a blended format - two full-days face-to-face and the rest on-line.  While I have tweaked the course here and there this last two weeks I have been doing a reorganization job: things are not working out the way I expected.

I will have a course designer assigned to me for a couple of weeks of work next month but the course is running now hence I have been using a technical person to help me cut and paste and then working on it myself (as far as my skills go).

I read through some of the on-line materials recommended in this course and thought it was interesting that videos and quizzes do not improve learning since many of my colleagues think that is the way to go.  Personally I would like to get a handle on what is a "workable workload" it seems to be a term out there but no actual research to quantify. I went through Tony's Bates presentation (and set up a drop box account so that I could see it) and I was happy to note that I understood what he was explaining - perhaps I am getting the hang of on-line learning (although I love the interaction of the classroom).

Personally I appreciate the newsletter in my email to remind me to check what is going on - since life is hectic at the beginning of a semester.  I have also appreciated accessing the reference material and reading about the nine steps.  I hope to get in on the Collaborate Discussions but the time zone doesn't work well for me.

As I progress through the course I am…

As I progress through the course, I am maintaining an off-line Word document with the questions and answers that I have so far that are needed to earn the badge and certificate of completion. That way, at the end of the course I’m not left scratching my head and trying to figure out what I did during the past 5 weeks. Just an idea to make that final step of earning your wings easier.

Feedback dialogue: can campus courses learn from online?

ReflectionRola Ajjawi from the University of Dundee presented a session at the ALT Conference this morning on ‘Building new cultures of learning: using technology to promote assessment and feedback dialogue‘ and there were several points from it that I wanted to reflect on and blog about for my own learning in relation to feedback and technology but also in relation to the How to Teach Online MOOC I am currently engaged in.

I’m not going to summarise the session, but you can read more about the innovations that Rola and her colleagues introduced by following the link to the materials on the conference website above. Instead, I will focus on what for me were the things that rang bells and made connections in my mind.

The Dundee example was in the context of an online non-cohort course, but I believe that the basic principles underpinning the innovations could be applied equally effectively in traditional face-to-face or blended courses.

The two significant aspects to the changes that seemed important and powerful were:
1. restructuring the assessment regime to include more opportunities for low stakes formative feedback.
2. adding a reflective stage to turn what Rola referred to as ‘monologic feedback’ into a dialogue between student and tutor.

Each of these innovations could be expected to make a contribution to improving the effectiveness of feedback and students’ satisfaction with it. The first, by increasing the number of feedback points where students could get advice and guidance from tutors before their ‘make or break’ assessment. The second by initially pushing students to think about and articulate how they will use the feedback they receive and gradually developing their ability to self-evaluate.

I found myself wondering whether this sort of thing is easier to do in an online course. I don’t mean the technology because the way it was handled (uploading documents for marking, then using a tutor-student one-to-one wiki template for the student to respond to the feedback) could be done in a VLE associated with a face-to-face class or even by email or on paper. What I mean is that in good online courses there is an expectation that tutors will need to put in place activities like this to provide support, build learning environments and develop relationships with students whereas it is too often assumed that these things just happen automatically if tutors and students share physical space. It doesn’t.

What do you think? Do campus-based courses have some things to learn from virtual ones?