The principles that I have learned

The course went by faster than I thought it would! Working in the course and on my own course I have learned a lot about the process of developing a course and working in an online course. The reading, Seven Principles of Effective Teaching: A Practical Lens for Evaluating Online Courses, sums up and hits a lot of the points that I have experienced and learned throughout ‘my journey through teaching and learning.’

Principle 1 and 5: Good Practice Encourages Student-Faculty Contact and Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task

–        We have all heard the horror stories of online courses, where the students cannot contact the professor or the instructions were not clear enough to complete the assignment effectively. After participating in this course I have a good basis of how I want to communicate with students in my course. Establishing with them upfront what my expectations are for the course and providing them with plenty of ways to communicate not only with myself, but with the rest of the course.

Principle 2: Good Practice Encourages Cooperation Among Students

–        The discussions in our course were informative and helpful in facilitating communication between students. After participating in them weekly and seeing examples of discussions in the courses for observation, I learned that a good discussion is not based on the content but how we share the information and effectively communicate with each other. Having Alex facilitate the discussions in the beginning, asking questions, telling us to dig deeper showed me how an instructor can participate in the discussion but not control the discussion. As the discussions progressed you could see Alex’s participation slowly fade and we were becoming the dig deepers and the question askers.

Principle 3: Good Practice Encourages Active Learning

–        I don’t know where I would be without the feedback from the other students in the course. At first when I was developing my course I used a lot of drop-boxes that had students submit their work just to me and that was it. After some ideas from Alex and being able to view other students work in this course, I saw a lot of value in doing this. Working on the course reviews and reading the feedback from other student’s, I was able to see things that I had missed and things to work on. Changing this in my course, I started thinking of how students can use each others work for discussions or feedback. One assignment I had them originally doing was watching a video on population in China and if population controls should be used, write up a summary and then hand it in. Instead, I changed this to a summary and a discussion of these topics. It would be more beneficial to have students discuss this as it can be a highly debatable and thought-provoking conversation.

Principle 4 and 6: Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback and 6: Good Practice Communicate High Expectations

–        In our course, Alex provided a great amount of feedback that yielded a lot of results. Giving us examples of how other students completed their work and how students provided feedback was helpful. As you can see in each of our course designs the courses are remarkable with content, design and different practices that will engage students and foster a community. I have found that the feedback needs to be a mixture of information feedback and acknowledgement feedback. When I received my course reviews, it was rewarding to see that my hard work and time spent was appreciated. This helped me want to improve the course even more to make sure it was effective and engaging for students with the recommendations in the reviews. Being a students and feeling like my work is getting noticed and valued is a tremendous boost in wanting to participate in the course and in my course design.

Principle 7: Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

–        This would characterize our individual courses that we have designed. Even though we had the same guidelines and expectations for our courses, we were able to add our personal touches and communicate our own voices in what we were presenting and teaching. Having us do this I gained so many ideas and inspirations from the courses that I have looked at.

 

Overall I can’t think of anything negative or that hindered my learning in this course because every experiences was something I have learned from. The course was developed in a way that the harder you work and the more you participate the better the experience and the more you will get out of it. I can guarantee that all of us were nervous and scared the first time we entered this course. The first day we knew that it was going to be a challenging, but we have made it to the end with a lot of rewarding experiences and a lot of lessons learned along the way.

 

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The learning process has change…for me

Throughout this course and working on my own course I have thought a lot about how I am learning and what it means to learn. Being in this course was a new experience for me in many ways: first online course, learning in a different way (student-centered) and thinking about how others learn and how to have them achieve the most. The articles, audio and videos in the course has given insight on how we learn, both as a group and on our own. With a lot of help from Alex, I was introduced to so many new ideas and ways to look at education. Honestly, after I was done with my undergrad I was deflated, not wanting to be involved with the education system and how it operated because I could not see how I could work creatively with students and follow the standards that are put in place.

After watching, The Machine is (Changing) Us, it made me think about how education has changed and how it is being shaped. Like Mike Wesch did in his own course, he used technology as a teaching tool and encouraged students to think outside the box and think critically on how they can use this as a benefit. Using YouTube, we learn that people all over the world can connect and share ideas, but it has become way more of a teaching tool. People are using this to reflect on themselves and the world around them. One student mentioned how they saw this as an inner thought process: how others would perceive them and how the conversation became inner-mediated. With the activities that we have in the course, the discussions, and blogs we learn to become self-sufficient learners. Not only through the reflective process, but in the activities geared towards the process of learning and why it is important to learn and help each other learn.

Through the self-reflecting process, I couldn’t just hand in an assignment or complete a project and move on and forget about it (like many other courses I have worked in). I had to stop and think. Think about my process, my strengths, weaknesses and how this helped me grow. One example was my contribution to discussions. I was completing them and adding to the topics but was feeling disconnected and wasn’t sure why. After writing in my blog and actually thinking about what was holding me back, I put in to blog that I would concentrate on it more and work harder. Having this self-assurance and confirmation in writing that I would work on it made me think about it more and want to better my abilities in this area. I believe if I didn’t have this opportunity to reflect, it would have been a thought but I would not have acted on it. At first I thought blogging and journaling was just busy work and I wasn’t too excited to do them, but I have found great benefit from thinking about how I learn, why I learn and how I can use this to improve my contributions as an educator and student and that deflated feeling is going away with every week that passes and it is renewing my faith in education and where it is headed.

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Time to kick it out of the nest, and watch it fly

I didn’t think I’d see the day, but my course is complete! I have been working all week, changing, reviewing, almost panicking and learning so much about course design. Part of the process that I have been reviewing this week is, are there too many assignments per module? For myself, our online course is the first and only course I am taking this summer and there is a lot of work involved, but I have to remember that this course is most likely going to be taken by a freshman level student who is taking more than one course, so balancing is something that I might need feedback on so I don’t overload and push students away from the course.

During the development of my course I would have to say the most surprising aspect is how time consuming creating the links, labels, and flow of the course. Once I changed one thing, like the way the title was displayed (font and color), I would then have to go back and forth changing it in every module. I may have created a lot of work for myself, but I wanted to make the look uniform and the navigation easy for the student, so this wouldn’t be a distraction and they would know how each module worked and progressed.

I hope that this course gets students thinking about how the world works. They start by introducing themselves and getting comfortable working with each other and they then will dive in to the world around them. The students will have to think about how they react to the world, hopefully during the assignments like the Regional Misconceptions and Are There Too Many People in the World? They can use what they learned in the readings, articles and videos to change their perspective and converse with the class to learn new things about topics they never talked about out loud before.

We did it and I can’t wait to see everyone’s course! Great Job!

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The light at the end of the tunnel is starting to appear

I am continuing to work on my course on a daily basis. I have an outline and structure to how I want the course to look and now I am working on adding directions, rubrics and how I want students to interact and submit their work. What a time consuming, but eye-opening experience. I feel like having the technical background working in ANGEL and Blackboard helps with add different aspects like links and documents, but I just started integrating outside sources like feeds and widgets. I love that I can add these components into my class because I touch on a lot on current topics and issues and having students see news feeds and twitter updates on the course page will hopefully draw them in to explore their interests and what is going on in the world, adding to the social presence in the course.

I have completed the first four modules in my course and plan to have the next four done by the end of the week. As I finish or update one thing in my course I then end up adding to my list of what I want to change or add or complete. I definitely understand now the research is true, it will take me over 100 hours to develop my full course. I could not see how an instructor could develop on the fly, I like having everything complete up front so I can see how my course will progress and make my big adjustments in the beginning. One thing that I am working on and feel that I need to improve on are the rubrics for the assignments. I think that they are too simple or do not give enough detail. After talking to Alex, I have looked at a few examples from Diane’s course and from Bill Pelz’s course and I am starting to get an idea of how I want to structure them and what I need to add to make it more clear to the student’s what I am expecting of them. In Online Community of Inquiry Review: social, cognitive and teaching presence issues, it is stated that, “that in order for the highest-level collaborative processes to occur within an OAD [online asynchronous discussion], there must be explicit strategies or techniques aimed at promoting these processes.” Building on the basis of teaching presence I want to make sure that I am providing direct instruction by giving examples and narrowing in on what they are expected to present to the class and work in the course.

One thing that I found I had to adjust was the amount of time I am giving to students in the modules. I may have put too many activities and discussions in to each module, but cannot decide to keep them or to take out projects to cut down on overload. I extended the modules from two weeks to two week and three days, hopefully this can help alleviate the stress they might encounter when working on a module, but I will probably not know this until the course is actually taken by students.

Good luck to everyone as they finish up developing their courses!

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Don’t be shy!

I feel like I have grown a lot in a week. My course is coming along and it is an eye-opening process. At first when I was developing the modules and learning activities I was concentrating more on the layout and how it looked to students if they are navigating through the course and different pages. I think this is because I look through so many courses all day that I want to make sure new students do not get overwhelmed by content. Trying to make it uniformed and navigable was my first obstacle. Now that I have the outline of how I want students to work through the course I have been changing the way the assignments are going to be presented.

During my experience of being a student in the classroom, I have had different approaches to course work. I’d have to say the ones that have stood out as being the most engaging and memorable are the ones where the professor’s let the students openly discuss topics and have us teach the class. Being a student that, doesn’t particularly like to read (sorry to those that do); I didn’t really enjoy English classes. I did enough to get by, but never gave extra effort. In my senior year, I had a teacher who wanted us to teach the course. At first, I didn’t like this idea, because I didn’t want to do the extra work. She would assign different stories to a couple students and it was their job to create questions, present the story and engage the class in conversations about the topics we thought were important. I did a total shift on my views on reading and teaching after my first turn at this. I loved being able to openly discuss what we were learning and it gave us more control on our learning. I would actually get excited when it was my groups turn and I ended up doing really well that year and it was part of the reason why I wanted to become a teacher. I want to accomplish this in my online course, I want to have students become the teachers and engage each other.

Thank you for bringing this question up, ‘what has challenged you the most in this course?’ Ever since I saw this and responded in my last blog post, I have been concentrating more on my posts in the discussion and not being shy to share my response. I was nervous in the last discussions because of my lack of experience, but after thinking about it, talking to Alex and a few co-workers, I have more experience than I thought. So I concentrated more on my discussion posts this week in the module and I feel a lot better about my responses and conversations and learned a lot from my classmates, especially on including grammar and spelling in the rubrics for my course. I am starting to feel better about being part of the community in our class. Lesson learned: don’t be shy and it is ok to ask questions! (Seems like a simple concept, but was a hard one for me to learn). On to the next module!

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First is the Worst

It is now 11:30pm on a Friday night and I can say that I am officially sucked in by my course. Starting to build the module assignments, directions, order, and links has been a process that feels like a tennis match, and it’s only the first module! Listening to Alex’s comments on my course, I have decided to change the way I present most the assignments and discussions. I was using a lot of assignments that had students just hand in a paper to me. It made me think of what I am used to in a traditional classroom setting. Complete a paper and hand it in for the teacher to read. What fun was that? Now thinking of the assignments that I had for this course previously, I want to make most of them accessible to the other students in the course, and also more interesting than a black white written paper.

In my first module I had students using a discussion to use clues to guess where they live. I am changing this from a simple discussion to a VoiceThread activity where the students move from one thread to another giving there clues, seeing students’ guesses and explaining their clues. Students can carry one a conversation using a form that they are comfortable with (text, voice, or video). They will have a fun atmosphere that will help them meet each other and mixes in themes of geography. Creating the directions for the assignments has proven to be the most difficult for me so far. I want to make sure they are thorough and clarifying. This is why I am glad that we have an area for questions and concerns. I can use this section to see what is unclear to students and re-write the instructions for later modules and courses clearing up these confusions. I am starting the like the online format because of this reason, I can make changes when I need, and cut down on

The hardest thing for me in this course, is the discussions. Being my first online course ever, I was a little intimidated by the type of discussion because of the requirements. I feel like I am not using my ‘voice’ like the other students in the course. A lot of the discussions between the other students are based off of prior teaching experiences, which I only experienced during student teaching, so most of my posts are more research and article based and it is hard for me to respond to the other posts. I am happy that I am getting the experience to develop a course though because it definitely has put my teacher hat on and going through a lot of different process to make it learner-centered and engaging.

The process continues!

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How Social Presence is Shaping my Module Design

During the creation of my modules, I started to think about my tone and social presence in the course. I want to make sure that I am creating a space where students feel comfortable and able to discuss different topics and ideas.

After watching Alex’s videos on the three elements that comprise of social presence, I have been trying to module these in the design of my course. I liked the idea of using the voice thread in the beginning of the course to have students communicate in different mediums to bring in affective expression. By writing, speaking or creating a video, students can use what they feel comfortable using in communicating their introductions and thoughts about their experiences and expectations for the course. I enjoyed seeing how each student used a different form to express themselves, because it gave me an idea of who the person is and help connect a face or voice to the person typing and communicating in discussions. I am thinking of changing the first introduction activity from a discussion to the voice thread to build this sense of community early on in the course because allowing students to interact in multiple ways that is comfortable for the student is something that usually cannot be achieved in the face-to-face classroom.

However, being able to see student’s reaction in the face-to-face course is a quick way a professor can tell what the students are thinking and if they grasp the material being presented. When reading and engaging in discussions, I want to make sure that I am acknowledging each student and bringing the ones who have not responded in to the discussion by prompting feedback and using follow-up questions. The other facet of social presence that fosters this is open communication. I will need to model the types of communications that I want to achieve in the course and to do this I need to create a dialog with 1. Follow-up questions 2. Use students’ names when speaking to them 3. Forster a discussion where students help each other and provide feedback 4. Model quoting of students responses for examples 5. Give complements and acknowledge their contributions.

Lastly, creating group cohesion helps bring a sense of community to create meaningful discourse. Working on this, I am thinking of creating a section of netiquette in the course and having students look it over before starting the discussions and the course. Also I want to pay close attention to the icebreaker discussion and the first module, because this is where students build their course voice and sets the tone for the rest of the discussions and projects. From the video, I have to pay attention to 1. Modeling examples of communication and students responses 2. Support your assertions but be respectful  3. Acknowledge points of view 4. Have students peer evaluate 5. Build trust. I want students to be comfortable stating their positions and be able to disagree about topics and ideas when they feel they need to. In our course I enjoy reading someone’s post and exploring their opinions and research what they are presenting even if I don’t agree with what they are saying, because being in an online course I am able to springboard off their ideas and research and become a knowledge seeker.

A busy, crazy, fun, thought-inspiring two weeks it has been! On to the next two and excited for what they have to bring!
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Setting the Climate for Learning

As I start to organize my modules and choose how the layout will form, I have been making changes to how I structure assignments and which order will fit best. It’s motivating to see the course process progress from step to step. I am starting to build my actual ‘physical’ course in my shell and just the process of creating the course documents seems to slow me down(in a good way) and makes me think of how this will communicate to the students. Being a very visual person, I tend to pay attention to continuity and formatting so I am using this to make sure my content is coming across effectively. The course is an introduction course, so want to use it for students who are beginning online learning. Students can use this course as a sort of student orientation to online learning.

I like the idea from, Over-Communicate-Weidman, where students need explicit directions and outlines continuing in the course. I need to communicate to students in multiple ways. When I was setting up each document I then thought that students might not want to use the back button, or not know how to use the breadcrumbs, so I began adding links for the documents at the bottom of the page so students can navigate in more than one way.

Aside from the technical side of my course and trying to create a learning-centered environment, I am starting to look over my assignments and course work and re-wording my instructions and topics for discussions. After reading, A Preliminary Investigation of “Teaching Presence” in the SLN, and the section on Facilitating Discourse, I want to make sure that my icebreaker activities and module overviews are direct and explicit enough, but at the same time allow for students to become the ‘teachers’ and create meaningful dialogue. I have learned that the icebreakers, which are a great way to get students used to the program, are crucial for the tone of the course and for future assignments. I don’t want to make it a critical area where students need to perform at the highest standards right away, but I want them to learn and grow from the start.

This is something that I will have to work on, giving constructive feedback in assignments and discussions. I like the idea from the article in the Facilitating Discourse section and ‘making the discussion interesting or provocative” and trying to ‘spur some controversy or interaction.’ I feel like I am being too nice in my discussion topics, which might cause the block or wall of meaningful discussions. In this course, it was a lot of help during the icebreaker activities to have Alex pose different questions after our posts, and point us in directions that helped us ‘dig-deeper’ on topics, and I couldn’t believe how much I learned in just the first two weeks. I will take note of this as we discuss learner-centered activities and discussions.

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Compassion and Empathy Means Never Giving up on Students

After reading the article, Do Online Students Dream of Electric Teachers? It helped me think of a lot of aspects in my own course. As I started thinking of the modules and the activities that I would have the students do, I was thinking of how I would imagine being a student in my course. Using what I have experienced and what I would like to see. There are a few sections of this article that stood out to me and are things that I would like to use in my course.

“Whenever possible I like to adopt a conversational tone in online course materials, even making use of humor, where it is appropriate (and sometimes even where it is not), to make the non-interactive aspects of the course more welcoming. It is also important to address the student directly (as you) rather than in the abstract and to say please and thank you. Additionally, providing interactive elements within the course materials is helpful in creating a less alienating learning environment.

I like the idea of using the direct format when speaking to students. Since we cannot see our students we need to make the experience as personal as possible. After listening to John Prusch’s narrative about his course, I loved the idea of him using videos and recordings for students to listen to. I, personally respond well to videos and audio files. Since online courses use a lot of written work and readings, it is something that I am not used to since I have only had courses in the classroom. I think that is why I use a lot of videos and projects in my course. Using resources like YouTube, National Geographic and the History Channel, I can let students explore and see places around the world. Hopefully I can also start using more humor in my course, maybe some fun videos incorporating geography? I will start to look.

“Additionally, I like to provide a public social space, in the form of a course “coffee shop,” which provides students with an outlet for “off topic” chat. This also allows them to engage in before class and after class chat, an experience which they would otherwise be denied in an asynchronous online format. Sometimes the professor even drops by for a virtual “cup of joe.” only consideration.

This is something that I brought up in one of the first discussions, which is allowing students to have a space to communicate where it was not graded, but students can use this to learn more about each other and bring the sense of community that is lacking from bringing a course from face-to-face to online. It is not something that I have added yet, but may use this ‘coffee shop’ space idea to allow students to ‘escape’ from the rigors of the online course and share personal stories and ideas.

“I also try to be reasonable about setting deadlines and granting extensions for written work. Some students may take advantage of this. However, the price to be paid for being overly fastidious about deadlines is plummeting morale. Many students choose online learning because of its flexibility.

One idea that was brought up in the article was being more flexible about grading and due dates (except for discussions). This is something I am unsure about doing. As a first time ‘teacher’ with the online environment and also the first time online I want to make sure that I am flexible yet assertive. I think the challenge will be finding that balance because it will be an introduction course I don’t want to scare students away from this experience and at the same time I want it to be the same ideas in the face-to-face course, where students have set dates to hand in their work. I think this is something that will come with time and more experience

As I add more to my course, I am getting more excited about the possibilities and what I can achieve. I end up making changes, and adding new things to enhance the experience of the different aspects of geography. I might even start recording sections using Voice Thread to announce the activities for each module, so students have something to look at and also listen to.  Let’s keep going! The skies the limit

“Compassion and empathy (either in an online or in a traditional course) means never giving up on students.”

I Can Do This, Confidence is Key!

With the feedback coming in from the first module, I am starting to make adjustments to different areas of my blog, course information and I am thinking more about making changes to my course that I want to teach. A few things that I have been considering (and thanks to Alex): I need to show my enthusiasm for this course I want to teach, more student-centered and collaborative activities, and organization. I have a lot of ideas that I want to use in my course and want to make it one that students will love to take, but also really learn and benefit from. Right now my enthusiasm is a little lost in my nervousness about creating a course for the first time, and becoming the teacher and leaving the student role behind. It was reassuring listening to the professors like Beth Harris, experiences in the observation courses explain the hardships that they encountered at first, and are still experiencing as they teach each semester.

The course observation area was very informative with the commentary from the instructors. I have met Bill Pelz before and he has a lot of great advice and the campus he works on has a great online learning department. His description of how he has changed from the beginning of online teaching to now makes me feel a lot better about the process. We share a lot of the same ways of thinking in regards to teaching the student how to ‘give them the most freedom possible to determine their direction.’ I would like to apply this to my course and use his ideas for student-centered learning, and use the idea of having students create the questions for the discussions based on the readings and module work is something that I will use for my course.

One thing that I am working on is creating rubrics for the course, since this will play a big part of how the students earn their grades in discussions and different assignments. I want to make sure the directions are explicit enough but also leave room for the student to be creative and responsive to the posts that they write and read. I have been looking at the ones in our course, in the observation courses and in addition to different resources online. A few references that I am looking over include: Understanding Rubrics, Using Rubrics to Grade Online Discussions, and Online Discussion Boards and Rubrics. I like the idea of having students assess their own posts against the rubric, because this can help make sure that they are providing their best work. In the Understanding Rubrics article it gives great information for what kind of aspects I can include in my rubric for not only discussion but the work students will be handing in.

My experience in the course is getting better and the overwhelming feeling, which is still there, is not as consuming. The feedback that I am getting is helping me think more about areas that I have had difficulty with, and being able to read other students’ outlines have helped me consider new ideas and approaches. Working with Moodle is challenging at times. As someone who is very familiar with ANGEL, now getting used to Blackboard, and as a very visually and organized person, it’s hard to keep everything in order and find things (again this will probably be easier with more usage), and would like to put the course modules on different pages if that is possible. Since I am still using work from module 1 and then moving to the next module, I assume that the modules will then keep opening and the rest will stay opening, making it a large page to scroll up and down for navigation.

As this is getting long, more observations and challenges will be added to my next post later this week!

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