Hello? Is anyone out there? Interaction is key to online teaching – Lori Rietze

First, I applaud the point offered by this site http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/2012/10/02/22-secrets-from-the-most-successful-online-educators/ (Thank you to Dawn MacDonald!):What students can teach each other is just as important as what the professor teaches. I wholeheartedly agree and in this course, I am most interested in how to use technology to support active learning among and between the students.

Based on that learning objective, I will add to the conversation about this week's discussion questions.

My teaching Philosophy:
My beliefs are deeply rooted in constructivism. Defined by Dunn (2005), constructivism is an orientation where “individuals create or construct their own understanding/knowledge through the interaction of what they already know and through the ideas, events, and activities/experiences that they encounter” (p. 230). More specifically, social constructivism resonates with my philosophical views of the learning process as seen by Lens Vygotsky. In Vygotsky’s view, learning is a result of the interaction between the learner and the social environment, by way of reflection and meaningful discussions (Dunn, 2005; Pratt & Paterson, 2007; Vygotsky, 1978; Young & Maxwell, 2007). Like Vygotsky, I too believe that learning is enhanced when the material is meaningful to the students (Beatty, Leigh, & Dean, 2009; Vygotsky, 1978) and when social interaction is integrated into class activities.
 Some scholars argue that social interaction functions to increase the student’s awareness to social phenomena and new ideas. Kersten (2002), Schutz (1932) and Van Maanen (1983) suggest that people do not have the ability to see and understand the complexity of a scenario without pre-knowledge or a stock of knowledge that provides an awareness to the presence of social phenomena. Without a stock of knowledge in a particular area, the student requires another individual to help them notice things in which they lack experience. I believe that students have a stock of knowledge upon which educators can build, but I also hold that the role of the educator (and that of their peers) is to expand the student’s thinking, to notice the unnoticed.
Deciding and describing the ‘mix’ of face-to-face and online learning will be best for my course:
For my course, it is institutionally mandated that the delivery format will be a hybrid of face-to-face and online; the first week will be face-to-face and the subsequent weeks are online. I think my role will be to build their stock of knowledge and then by way of peer interaction, reflection and meaningful discussions, students will 'play' with the content and enhance their knowledge. As adult learners, I will be clear on my expectations related to postings and student contribution. I am interested to learn more about how I can embrace technology to stimulate discussion, critical thinking and peer learning.  I think that it may also be useful to contact some nurse leaders in the hospital setting and gain their perspective of the course content (these would be stakeholders). Perhaps I might do this by entering their comment into a twitter? How would I do that? Is this advantageous over a blog post? Perhaps I could ask students to download twitter on their handheld device and the message would be more immediate?

Hmm, it is tricky (but exciting) to intersect accessibility and course content. :)

Reviewing Chickering & Gamson for online teaching

Week 1 of the #tomooc gave pride of place to Chickering & Gamson’s 7 principles for good practice in undergraduate education. This is great to see because it is also at the heart of our face to face PGCert in teaching in HE. It reminded me of how it is both a useful evaluative lens through which to review a course and a useful course design tool.

With this in mind, and following on from Dr. Dreon’s article, I thought I might use it to explain my thoughts on the First  Steps into teaching in HE MOOC (#FSLT13) we ran earlier this year and plan to run again at the start of 2014.

1. Encourage contact between students and faculty.

One of the key design principles we embraced was to make sure learners got responses when they posted discussion. To help with this we used volunteer ‘expert’ participants in addition to tutors (see the forthcoming issue of JOLT vol.9, no.2 article by Waite et.al for details). We also feel it is important that, just as in a face to face classroom, tutors pose challenging questions in the discussions to enhance learning and understanding. The key flaw I think we need to address for FSTL14 is in making sure that the ‘experts’ do not dominate the discussions.

Like many MOOCs we also used regular webinars to allow real time contact between tutors and learners.

The idea that Dreon mentions of ‘office hours’ is interesting but the challenge there is how to deal with a global audience. For example, the #tomooc webinars occur at about 1am for those of us based in Europe (now I like to start my work early so staying up until that time is a bit beyond me!) So i think we have favoured asynchrony (with a quick response time) as the preferred mechanism for contact.

2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students.

One of the big challenges that I see with cMOOCs is that often student – student contact is encouraged but expected to happen organically. Learners are supposed to organise themselves. I remember a colleague who could not find partners to work with her on a topic during one MOOC, which meant she ended up working alone.

Would we do this in a face to face classroom? I think we should, as tutors, help learners to connect and design our courses accordingly. With this in mind FSLT13 organises live sessions for group work. We ask learners to sign-up for working with groups to share their work with peers. Learners do not have to sign-up but at least it provides an opportunity for connection without in any way excluding organic connections.

3. Encourage active learning.

For this, we have a weekly discussion and weekly tasks (which links into the design for student – student contact). Active learning is crucial but we must not forget that reading and thinking about what you read can also lead to learning. How active do we need to be, active reading on your own seems part of ‘active’ to me.

4. Give prompt feedback.

For us, this is a crucial aspect of 2 & 3 above. We want learners to produce a wide diversity of tasks that were not suited to computer feedback, therefore the need for human feedback. But how do you scale that up from a classroom of 30 to possibly hundreds or thousands. For us the answer we went with was peer feedback. I feel that peer feedback is massively underused for university education. On the FSLT MOOC students can get 10 UK credits on work entirely marked by peers (although moderated by tutors.)

5. Emphasize time on task.

I find this a tricky one because we are all busy and have competing demands on our time. Personally, I would characterise my use of the internet as ‘snacking’ which I don’t think is conducive to really transformative learning. MOOCs seems to include a huge range of content (try to justify their existence?!) that can’t possibly all be consumed. I think this can encourage a surface form of learning even when there are tasks that specifically draw upon that content. I think there is a fine balance to be made.

6. Communicate high expectations.

Always but again  communicating this online can be difficult. There is a risk that the workload and content can feel like too much for some. So they drop out. I think going back to point 1 really helps. When you teach face to face you inevitably explain an assignment because not even the best assignment briefs can pick up the nuances of what is required and the expectations of the tutors. I think webinars offer a good way of communicating high expectations.

7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning

I think of all the seven items this one seems almost to be built into the notion of a good online course and MOOCs. The multimedia aspect of the web seems to encourage tutors to think more about diversity than they might do in their face to face teaching. So a diversity of content; text, audio, video etc and a diversity of tasks / assignments for learners.


So overall, I’m pretty happy with what we have done in the past. They all still pose challenges for the next run and further discussion and tweaking but I think we are on the right lines.

Response to ‘Uncomfortable with MOOC’

Online Teacher, in her 9/9/13 post, “Uncomfortable With MOOC” (TOMOOC), says:

I’m an experienced online learner and teacher, but seem to be having difficulty understanding WHAT to do in this course so far. Anyone feeling a little lost? Are we supposed to post here? On our individual blogs? Where does the interaction take place? When we find out how to comment on others’ blogs? Do we need a gmail address (someone mentioned Google+)? It looked like things were organized until I started trying to DO them.


The web is ultimately a massive publishing platform. Thus, one way I get a feel for a particular course (MOOC or whatever) is to quickly scan the publishing footprint. Let’s take your post, for example.

As a TOMOOC participant, you published ”Uncomfortable With MOOC” in your Teach Online Course blog:

Online Teacher's blog post.

Online Teacher’s post in her blog.

It was automatically fed via RSS to the TOMOOC site . . .

Your post on the HowTOL site.

Your post on the TOMOOC site.

. . . and FlipBoard . . .

Your post on FlipBoard

Your post on FlipBoard

. . . and shared via email:

Your post in a HowTOL email announcement.

Your post in a TOMOOC email announcement.

It could also be mentioned in the TOMOOC Twitter feed via the #tomooc hashtag:


Twitter feed option.

When your post is mentioned by fellow participants in their blogs (and other social media platforms), it is further distributed. When it’s absorbed by search engines and listed in searches, the circle expands exponentially.  And this process is ongoing.

Thus, when you ask, Where does the interaction take place?, most would find it tough to answer. I suppose one answer is that it takes place on the TOMOOC site, but that answer would be misleading. The site is the hub for the MOOC, but the action takes place throughout the fluid and ever-expanding network (and embedded subnetworks) that forms the course.

In a sense, the answer is in the word “MOOC.” TOMOOC is a massive, open, and online course. Like a massive open superhighway, you decide when and where to onramp and offramp. Destination and speed differs for everyone, determined by personal needs, resources, and preferences.

Greg and his team are showing us strategies that we might consider incorporating into our online courses. By doing, by jumping in, we’re learning. “Real” learning is by definition challenging, and at its best, scary. It’s a departure from the familiar, from our old constructs of reality, and it invariably involves failure and confusion, stumbling and mistakes. We could save ourselves a lot of misery by simply dropping out or sitting on the sidelines, but we also wouldn’t learn.

You’ve asked a good question: What’s in it for me?

The problem is that you‘re the only one who can answer that. This answer may sound like a copout, but it’s the only one that makes sense. You have to decide if this process, which is frustrating to some extent for everyone, is worthwhile.

Is this MOOC approach effective pedagogy?

If you’ve worked with technology for a while, you know that an important part of the “best” approach or practice to learning is determined by the task. The problem is that, in the world of technology, tasks worth learning are complex, and we quickly realize that simple linear or rote approaches just won’t work. Thus, instead of giving students fish for a day, best practice is to teach them how to fish.

Learning how to learn is the pedagogy, and the bottom line is constructivism. Jump in and see what happens. Build your version (repurpose) of the course with your posts — posts that reflect who you are and what you’re learning. Add or remove (deconstruct) features as you go. This is all part of the active learning process.

I think you’re already far ahead of most of us in constructing your presence, sharing your thoughts, generating discourse, shaping others’ thinking, contributing your expertise and experience, etc. You’ve made me question MOOCs and why I’m here, and you’re changing my construct of the course.

Virtual Piazza


I found myself thinking about #metaliteracy the other morning while the boys watched TV (in Korean) and I had my coffee. Educational studies is a pretty “meta” field to be a part of. As a Communications instructor I am ostensibly employed on the basis of my content knowledge: proficiency in English (and English itself is also pretty meta). But my background and the field I’m part of is education and, increasingly, educational technology. What is the content of education? Teaching and learning. What does this basket hold? Other baskets. From my highly formative survey of cMOOCs thus far, it seems that a high number of these courses are devoted to studies of education and targeted at professional educators. Is this format viable for other disciplines? Will “non-educators” become interested in courses which adopt this highly diffuse, networked structure? Is the younger generation more inclined to learn this way naturally? Everytime I try to envision the future of teaching and learning, I invariably think about my kids who will be in the public school system beginning very soon. What does the next decade + hold for them? More of the same, or are MOOCs and other types of eLearning catalysts for real change? My boys are growing up in a different country from either of their parents. Can online technology be used to redefine where learning takes place in K-12, and extend the learning environment beyond  geographical boundaries? These are a few of the questions which are guiding my involvement in these MOOCs and also in the UCalgary Ed.D program… and in a few days I’m sure these will be replaced (or perhaps more accurately over-run) by others.

Sneak Peek: Best Practices in Online Course Design for Higher Education

I am assembling a set of best practices for online course design in a higher education setting. It’s hard to do. I started about two weeks ago and almost every day I add something to it. It now measures about four pages in length. Now I find myself wondering if the document is getting too large? Will people read it if it is that long? Hmmm. I will have to think about this.

So far I have categorized the document into six major sections:
Section 1. Overall Elements of the Online Course and Learner Support
Section 2. Course Outline
Section 3. Course Material
Section 4. Communication, Engagement and Activities
Section 5. Graded Assessment
Section 6. Accessibility
Do you want a sneak peek into Section 1? Sure you do. Here are my top 5 items that fit into the first section - Overall Elements of the Online Course and Learner Support:
  1. Brand the course website to be consistent with your Institution and/or Faculty. Have a unique image (with Course Code and Course Title) on the main page of the course website that provides differentiation from other courses in the same Faculty.
  2. Ensure simple and intuitive navigation in the online space.
  3. Provide learners with an effective orientation to the course including an instructor introduction. The introduction should convey the instructor’s enthusiasm for the subject and be encouraging to learners that this course will be rewarding.
  4. Provide the learner with links to: technical support, library, writing center, academic policies, etc.
  5. Provide as much of the course material as possible for the 1st day of class.
What do you think of those five items in Section 1? Do you disagree with any of them? Do any of them resonate with you? Leave a comment below.

My best teacher

We were asked to consider our best teacher.  I had many great teachers, but I certainly regard my high school Latin teacher as a true inspiration. I attended a very large public high school and she had three full sections of 9th and 10th grade Latin. Imagine that.  We all wanted to take her class.  She was spunky and energetic, and yes, the guys drooled over her, but I think we were all captured by her passion and obvious intelligence.   I still remember chanting noun endings: us, um , i , o, o , i, os, orum, is, is!  She was incredibly rigorous, but she made us feel like reading the Aeneid in Latin was absolutely do-able.  She made us care about the human stories in great literature, while also teaching us how to translate with incredible attention to detail.  And, she combined the learning with fun; she held huge Saturnalia parties each year (togas and Cesear salads) and had us make mosaics out of painted broken egg shells.  In 11th and 12th grade, we stuck with her, filling her two AP Latin classes and scoring remarkably high on the AP tests.

The fact that I went off to college as a Classics major speaks volumes.  When I returned to visit her one Christmas break, she burst out enthusiastically, “I am engaged!”  No… she was not re-marrying after years of being a single mom; rather, she was referring to her intellectual engagement.  She had been in Rome on a Fulbright scholarship that previous summer. Her research was making her hum, and  her teaching remained electric.  I remember the way she beamed.  “That,”  I thought, “is why she is a great teacher.  That’s the kind of teacher I want to be.”

So… how does one convey that kind of “teaching like your hair is on fire” in the online environment?  I try… I think I succeed to a degree.  But can it really be shared in an online learning community??  Can students feel a teacher’s “burning to create” attitude and approach online?    Hmmm…

How to Teach Online MOOC: Aloha Discussion

Author: Mathieu Plourde {(Mathplourde on Flickr)
This week marks the beginning of the How to Teach Online MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). What is a MOOC you may ask? According to the Mooc-List.com, a repository of MOOCs across the web,  MOOC is "an online course aimed at large-scale participation and open (free) access via the internet." A MOOC is very similar to university courses but typically do not offer course credits.

This will be my first time participating in a MOOC, and I'm excited that it is being offered through my local community college, Leeward Community College!

The first activity of this MOOC is to introduce yourself to the community, so here it goes!

1. What is your intention for this course (why are you here)?

My intention for participating in this course  is first to get an idea of how a MOOC works. I've heard of MOOCs in the past and have heard about some great MOOCs that have been offered. If you check out Mooc-List.com, there are some great MOOCs being offered all the time, for many different categories and professions. My other intention, of course, is to become more familiar with the concept of Online Teaching and the tools available for being an online teacher.

MOOC Crib Sheet created by Jeannette Shaffer
(for a 2011 ISTE Workshop)
2. What issues do you think are important?

I think, first and foremost, we need to have an open mind about Online Teaching. Many universities now offer degrees online, but we are still slowly venturing into the world of online teaching/learning with younger students, especially in elementary and middle school. There are two sides to the concept of online teaching for younger students, but I feel there are many benefits to this option.

3. How will you contribute?

I feel it is extremely important for anyone to be an active participant and a community contribute in their Professional Learning Network and in any MOOC. Because a MOOC is free and typically doesn't offer any sort of credit, most people that choose to participate are there because they want to gain new knowledge and meet new people in their profession. To get the most of your PLN or MOOC, you have to be active and you have to contribute. You won't get much out of the experience or if you are a lurker.

4. How would you like to see the community develop among participants?

I want to see deep, rich conversations about the topics of this MOOC. Only through these conversations, will this MOOC be successful and participants come out of it with a deeper understanding and plethora of resources for Teaching Online.

5. How will you overcome the fear of learning in the open and the frustration of using new technology?

I find it amazing that 90% of the people that register for a MOOC, usually don't even participate. For me, learning and gaining a better understanding of my profession is a passion and a driving force. We have to be more comfortable with new technologies, because they are constantly arriving almost on a daily basis.

It's not too late to register for the How to Teach Online MOOC yourself!

Week 0 – Intentions

  1. What is your intention for this course (why are you here)?

I am fascinated by the ideas behind MOOCs and I want to catch a glimpse of where education is headed online.  I teach expository writing online for a community college, creating all of my own course work, etc., using Sakai (Laulima).  I find the tools helpful but limited and often glitchy.  I hope this experience helps me understand the online learning experience as a student and its potential for motivating students to create and explore.

  1. What issues do you think are important?

I am interested in the idea of re-purposing and re-mixing and having students make their own connections.  I also like the idea of breaking open access to free education — Where could this lead for college students as well as K-12?

  1. How will I contribute?

I have to see.  I suppose I may be asking a lot of questions.  ;-)

  1. How would you like to see community develop among participants?

I’m not sure what this is asking, so I’ll say I hope we see each other as resources and stay in contact afterwards if we make a neat connection with other like-minded educators.

  1. These types of courses are new for most people. In fact about 90% don’t even participate. How will you overcome the fear of learning in the open and the frustration of using new technology? How do you plan to courageously work through any setbacks, and not give up?

I watch my online students do this every day.  They are remarkably resilient.  I’ll try to model their behavior!  Learning in the open is odd for me, but increasingly more and more comfortable.    I had one other experience with “learning in the open” and supervisors were present and somewhat participating (lurking?)… Now that was odd!


Week 0: How to Teach Online – the new MOOC on the block

After a nice long holiday, it didn’t take long for me to get back into work and into an organisational restructure.  However despite all that, life goes on.  Despite turbulent times in Learning and Development, it’s a good time to continue learning and do a MOOC or three.


(a)  Teaching with Moodle (started on 2 September)

(b) How to Teach Online (started on 2 September)

(c) Exploring Personal Learning Network MOOC (starts in October)

The first two MOOCs may have some overlap with content (my assumption is the first MOOC will focus on the Moodle platform itself so that we can learn its functionality but the second MOOC will focus on the ‘how’ to teach online regardless of the platform.  These two MOOCs balance each other out).***

Where possible, rather than repeat blog posts or activities of both MOOCs, I will meld them and capture the learning for both MOOCs into the one activity.  Working full-time and doing two MOOCs at the same time will mean that I need to be creative in my reflecting activities. Maybe less waffling? More ‘doing’ and ‘creating’?  Possibly more mind mapping or bullet points, sketches or animations?  I need to get my point across simply.


So with that, I’ve decided to do a “video podcast blog blend” for our first week activities shown on this slide.  These are quite painful for me to do – more comfortable with a keyboard than a camera –  but I did this in one take so it’s better than nothing at all.

And these are some of my do’s and don’ts when I have facilitated online.  Truth be told, there’s always a bit of nervous excitement before each one goes ‘live’ – in that way, it’s similar to public speaking.

Dos and Don’ts of Teaching Online

What did I learn this week?  

I had to scratch my head on this question but these things come top of mind:

(a)  I advertised and promoted this MOOC to my fellow colleagues on Yammer (our social networking tool) and there were a few people interested (and then I panicked because I could have put them into the deep end by doing a cMOOC over a less overwhelming xMOOC).   I also learned that people actually read my Google + posts as a couple of additional people from my circles registered for the course when I promoted it through G+.  That was a nice surprise!

(b) People are really interested and want to learn more about live online learning.  We’ve had this service for 4 years now but it only seems that the volume is picking up now.  There seems to be a slow reaching organisational wide, “A Ha” moment filtering across the departments as people realise the potential for live online learning and meetings in doing their work.

(c)  I had a realisation this week while talking on the phone with a Learning Conference Co-ordinator that not everyone in my field has the same motivation as I do for learning and their own professional development. To some, it’s just a job to pay the bills and any professional development must only occur within the hours of work and to be paid for by the organisation.  I don’t know why this made such an impact on me but it did.  It stopped me dead in the middle of a conversation and dare I say it, an attack of the guilts came over me because it made me self reflect on my behaviour and how I am perceived by others.

(d)  That we all deal with organisational change and uncertainty differently.

(e) I learned more about the history of England and Scotland.  Ever since coming back from holiday, I’ve been devouring history books.

(f) I learned that my favourite shop in the UK Pret-a-Manger was owned by MacDonalds (thanks to @dajbelshaw for that bombshell).  All hope and wishes to get it to Australia is now lost.

(f) I have a morbid fear of forgetting what MOOC I signed up for and created my own word for the state of mind it’s put me in “scattermooc”.

So that’s my first entry for the How To Teach Online MOOC. Phew…

Right, what’s next? 

Have I missed another MOOC?


*** This is just an observation on the explosion of MOOCs that are out there on the internet.  Everyone seems to be madly developing, creating and promoting their MOOCs at the moment and rolling them out.  I’m now seeing that there are multiple MOOCs around similar topics so there’s plenty of choice out there.  

In my experience, MOOCs are slowly being used as professional development in our company where staff undertake them to further their own interests, passions or to support their own workplace learning.  However the concept of a MOOC in corporate workplace learning context is really not new.  We’ve been calling it ‘blended learning’ and we have the platforms (LMS or Sharepoint or Enterprise Social Networking sites) to house them but it’s just that the organisation may have locked down the functionality and in so doing, lost the ‘mooc-like’ environment.  Added to that, the L&D community may not have the skills to design and develop in this environment; or the learners to have the skills or inclination to contribute in forums.  Ryan Tracey wrote an excellent post answering the question, “Is the Pedagogy of MOOCs Flawed?” which covers these issues of MOOCs in a corporate context.

Filed under: TOMOOC Tagged: 2013, August, August 2013, cMOOC, MOOC, professional development, Teach Online