Online and hybrid learning are so commonplace nowadays that many students have experience with them even before they leave K-12. However, with the increasing ubiquity of this mode of instruction, there are certain challenges that we encounter along the road to “teaching a good class.” Looking back to the beginnings of online teaching and learning, the greatest fear many faculty had, and some still do, was that it would be flat, not engaging for students, and that students would lose all sense of a faculty member even teaching the course. Since that time, we have come a long way in trying to allay faculty and student fears that an online course will have less quality and be a “gimme” course and will be much easier than a face-to-face course would be. (Well, that last one is an idea we are still trying to discourage.) A brief look at the distance education/online courses of years past will show how we’ve attempted to alleviate the concerns of student engagement and reveal that it’s still a hidden issue that could use some work.
The earliest kind of distance education courses were correspondence courses. Students would get a book to read and a series of tests to take at a testing location. Tests were mailed in and scored, and afterwards a certificate was supplied to the school for the academic credential. I took one of these courses in high school, and I was the teacher and the student, and because I only read the book to prepare for the tests, I can honestly say I learned little or nothing. Continue reading
Sort of? I can’t claim that the information I’ll share will help you make a case for your department chair or dean to pony up money for this (or to allow you to use any educational funds already allotted to you for this purpose). But, when I’m making a decision to divert the Game of Thrones action figure portion of my paycheck to an expensive tech gadget, coming up with a professional reason to buy a toy always helps ease the stress of the decision.
Disclaimer: So, yes, I woke up at 2:00 am April 10 to put in an order for the Apple Watch. I didn’t make an appointment to see the watch in person – I knew I wanted the Apple Watch Sport, since my primary reason for purchasing it is to replace my FitBit, and I also knew I wanted the smaller watch face size, since I have chicken-leg-sized wrists. A colleague of mine made an appointment with her husband and said it was well worth it, since they both ended up choosing different watch options from what they had anticipated purchasing.
There are many, many reviews out there (some of which will be linked below, and Mashable’s is my favorite) from folks who have actually had this thing on their wrists for a week or so. My focus here is on helping you – and me – justify the purchase as “for my job as a teacher”: Continue reading
Earlier this year, I made a resolution to see a MOOC through to the end and earn a verified certificate of completion. I hoped the experience would provide an opportunity to study something completely new while answering a few burning questions I had about MOOCs. Questions like:
- How hard is it to earn a verified certificate?
- How will Coursera know that I did the work myself?
- Will I have to wear a Clockwork-Orange-style eyeball opener to stay awake through the video lectures?
- How many ideas can I steal and use when designing my own courses?
Here’s what I learned.
How hard is it to earn a verified certificate?
Not hard. So far, I’ve been able to meet the minimum requirements for the verified certificate by putting in one to two hours per week. As long as I get a perfect score on all the quizzes, I can earn a certificate “with distinction” and never participate in a single discussion or peer-reviewed activity. If I could bear the shame of a distinction-free certificate, I’d only need to maintain a B average on the quizzes. It’s also worth noting that all of the quizzes in my MOOC could be retaken once with no grade penalty, and only a minor penalty on the third and final attempt. Continue reading
A recent Wired article by Chris Kohler titled “Hey, Video Games: Please Trick Me Into Thinking I’m Smart” caught my attention between levels of the mind-bending puzzle game Monument Valley as I rode the train in to work one morning. I began to wonder if video games (“real” video games and not the ones designed principally as educational tools) really can make us smarter. And if they can in fact make us smarter, I wondered how I could replicate this in my own courses.
I can admit to having moments in class when I was a student where everyone around me seemed to get an idea with ease and I just stared at the teacher, feigning a smile and hoping my cluelessness wasn’t too apparent. It was similar to moments I had in video games, walking back and forth between the same locations, looking at the same objects over and over and simply not seeing anything there; there was no rhythm or pattern that I could discern to do anything useful or that resembled anything I had done in the game before. Overcoming these blocks was often even more dire due to the fact that I have 3 brothers who are extremely talented gamers, and were often several levels ahead of me as I bumbled my way through the levels at half their pace. (I would be teased relentlessly for missing the obvious solutions. Their favorite was to emphatically say “It’s right there in front of you!” without pointing at anything and letting the anxiety paralyze me.)
What usually solved my gaming issue was changing the angles I used to look at things— standing on a different side of the room, looking down from a ladder, or trying and retrying the character’s abilities or items until something worked. (When all else failed, I usually looked for a cheat-sheet or walk-through, a study-guide-like item explaining each step to take to beat the level.) Within the games—trying and retrying or looking at things from different angles—I often learned a new skill that I was ready to employ later in the game to get the next level.
Within the classroom, I usually didn’t get such opportunities. I would simply admit defeat so that I didn’t fall behind going into the next level, and hoped that I didn’t need that particular skill again later. It had never occurred to me then that some of the same gaming strategies might benefit me in class, and that all I may have needed was a different way to look at and do something. Continue reading
I have been working as a content developer at DePaul for nearly 5 years. In these 5 years, I have heard rumblings about Quality Matters and Quality Matters Reviews, but never really understood what “QM’ing” a course really meant. When asked what I would like to focus on for professional development, becoming a certified peer reviewer was the first thing that popped in my head. I have quality assured many courses and wondered, “how much different is that from doing a quality matters review?” I was in for an awakening.
More than 100 million views in less than 48 hours! This is the growing count of viewing record of Under the Dome, a documentary on air pollution in China, which aired online on Feb 27th. It was produced by renowned investigative journalist Chai Jing, who used her own money—more than $156,000—to fund the production.
After watching this one-hour-and-forty-minute-long recording, I felt that calling it a documentary was overrated. This “recording” does not possess any signs of cinematography–no visual effects, no theme music, and no artistic post production. It’s merely a TED talk with a lecturer in the front and a PowerPoint presentation displayed in the background—in short, a recording of a lecture.
From the instructional design perspective, both methods–the long lecture and the PowerPoint–are not innovative. Yet, I found myself captivated by this presentation not only because of the sensitivity of the topic and the charisma of the speaker, but also by the “ways” that the “instruction” was designed. I call it “instruction” because the producer declared three very clear educational goals at the beginning. Chai Jing’s goals were to educate her audience on the following: 1. What is smog? 2. What caused it? 3. How do we deal with it? From constructing fundamental knowledge, to calling for specific actions, this recording addressed all learning objective levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy: Continue reading
It isn’t uncommon for a lot of time to pass between when you’re trained to teach online and when your online class is actually ready to run–after all, you have to develop the course, a process for which we at DePaul budget two academic quarters. That’s a lot of time thinking about building an online class that you’re not spending thinking about best practices for actually delivering the online class. Here are some tips and reminders for keeping your course running smoothly when you’re ready to deliver it.
Before the term starts—touching base with your students
You should send an email to your students two to three weeks before the start of the quarter. Here are some points to cover:
- Make sure students know they’re enrolled in an online class – This sounds silly, but some students miss that little piece of information in the enrollment system.
- Reenforce that online classes take work – Some students take online classes because they think it will be easy or in addition to a full schedule of face-to-face courses. Let them know that online classes take time and self-discipline.
- Inform them of technology requirements, textbooks, and other required materials – Give students ample time to make sure they meet the course technical requirements and purchase textbooks, etc. This will help them hit the ground running in the first week.
- Let them know when the course site will be available – Your students will worry that they’re missing something if they don’t see the course site in the learning management system. Let them know when it will be available.
Threaded discussions have been part of the online course framework for decades. There are a number of advantages to online discussions for students that differ from in-person. Unlike a face-to-face course, many faculty note that in an online discussion, each student is tasked with responding to a prompt thus providing more individualized instruction. It’s much easier for an introverted student to avoid raising his or her hand in class.
If the online modality creates opportunities to engage students that may not otherwise volunteer to talk in class, how can we capitalize on this?
I took my first hybrid course during graduate school in 2002 via Blackboard. I recall threaded discussions being a large component of the activities that we engaged in weekly. Fast forward present day, much of the pedagogy in terms of the structure of discussion guidelines, prompts, and rubrics have not changed significantly. What remains constant in many asynchronous discussions is the idea of a student posting a response to a discussion prompt, and then responding to 1-2 peers’ responses.
Don’t get me wrong, there can be a rich exchange between students with this type of discussion design, but I would argue that there are more effective strategies to facilitate and encourage critical thinking. Continue reading
Teaching online is always a moving target. If a particular technique or tool worked well in one class, it doesn’t mean it will work well in the next. Technology, student needs, and course materials change often, sometimes incrementally and other times in leaps and bounds. Also, it seems that the more technology evolves, the expectations of students grow as well. Oftentimes, we can get swept up in the magic of a new tech toy and forget to determine if and how it will actually benefit students.
Dr. Ruben Puentedura, former faculty at Harvard and Bennington College, and the founder of Hippasus, an educational consulting firm, introduced a model called SAMR to describe the path technology adopters often take as they develop their strategies in teaching and learning with technology over time. SAMR stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition. The model looks like this:
Which was worse: seeing the message above, informing you of your Oregon Trail traveling avatar’s imminent demise, or shooting a buffalo, only to realize you had no room for additional meat in your wagon?
The question might sound facetious, but I’m not asking it in a joking manner. When playing Oregon Trail, you had to make decisions with consequences: ford the river or pay for a ferry? Buy bullets and waste days hunting, or live more frugally? Go to the fort or to the Green River? Each time you played the game, you likely made different choices to evaluate the outcome, including a round where you set a grueling pace with no food and let the characters (who you may or may not have named after your siblings) die.
One of my favorite websites, Grantland.com, recently hipped me to a subgenre of video game writing: walkthrough/review hybrids of obscure DOS games. I spent many childhood hours playing the Hugo’s House of Horrors series, and reading these pieces prompted me to think about the term “gamification” differently. Continue reading