I just recently returned from a conference and was intrigued to find that a presenter didn’t particularly like the idea of using modules in his hybrid course. In fact, he said that “all that extra junk” was confusing to students. I was assuming all the “extra junk” was referring to some of the standards Quality Matters suggests we add to our course in order to have quality. I often find that many online courses don’t bother to list course objectives or link them to the learning, something many students couldn’t care less about. But even if there is just one student who wants to know why they are doing a particular assignment, we should make the effort to tie it all together for him/her.
Basically this instructor had a problem with the modules option in Canvas and avoided setting up a modules page in lieu of a front page with links to weekly pages. In the weekly pages, which could be considered mini modules, he posted everything the students would do for that week. I failed to see how that was better than using the modules. In fact, you can create the same effect in modules.
The whole concept behind using modules is it benefits students; first by providing consistency. “By incorporating the same types of components in each course module, students quickly pick up on the course’s rhythms and patterns and have a better idea of what to expect than if the course were designed using a varying structure,” says Rob Kelly in his article in Faculty Focus titled “A Modular Course Design Benefits Online Instructor and Students.” He goes on to quote Andrea Henne, dean of online and distributed learning in the San Diego Community College District, who said, “Often online students get a little bit lost, and they don’t understand what they’re expected to do. But if the course follows a format that’s recognizable and comfortable, then the second week and subsequent weeks are consistent.”
For me, I use the end of a module to trigger major assessments like an essay and/or a module quiz. I want to evaluate students to see if they are ready to move on to the next sequence or module. I have smaller assessment in each week (assignments) to keep student actively learning and building skills for the larger assessments. But when my students move to the next module, they can expect the same pattern, smaller assessments, lessons, discussion, major assessments (quiz and essay) at the end. Take a deep breath and move on to the next.
Consistency should follow through within the week pages as well. For my class, Read more
Most students hate online discussion. It’s true. Ask them. I don’t blame them. I hate it too. Ha! Yep, I just admitted that. It’s not the idea behind asynchronous discussion that I dislike. It’s how it is implemented in most online courses. It’s almost as if it’s an after thought. Oh wait, I need some student to student interaction, so I’ll throw a few questions in a discussion forum and be done with it. There’s no clear purpose. Then 24 students all jump in and try to manage what can quickly become unruly or worse boring and meaningless. First, my horror story. How do 24 students “discuss” this question: What was the theme of the story? Yes, I’ve seen that discussion question in an online course. Well, after the first student nails the answer, and it didn’t take long in this case. Everyone waiting 4 days until the one brave soul responded with the correct answer. Done. What was everyone else supposed to say after that? Not much and the discussion was a flop. Twenty-four students echoing the same response. And I’ve seen worse.
There’s a lot that goes into creating successful asynchronous discussion in online courses. I talk a little about some of it in the video at the end of this post. Instead of elaborating on that further, I’d rather share with you a very rewarding asynchronous discussion going on right now in my ENG102 online course. Discussions don’t have to take place in a traditional discussion forum. That’s the first lesson. In this case, my real goal, aside from getting students to interact with each other, was to have students help each other out with their writing by offering some valuable feedback. This discussion begins in Connect Composition where students submit their latest essays. I set up a peer review assignment and put students in groups of 3. Their goal at this stage is to review the other two papers in their group and offer feedback based on the 6 questions I set up for them to answer.
The objective is twofold: Read more
I’ve been teaching online literature courses for four years now. My lit of choice is ENH295: Banned Books and Censorship. I’m still scarred from traditional American and British lit from college, and those courses were already in the capable hands of my colleagues who also teach literature online at GCC. So I went for Banned Books. Makes me feel like a rebel or something, but I like it and the students seem to as well.
Many often wonder how we make online literature courses work when the core element in the face to face class is discussion. We read, analyze and discuss. Well, we also have to write, so moving a course like this online is quite simple actually. We use discussion forums and blogs. This was problematic in the past with our LMS, so I moved the course over to a WordPress blog years ago. I’ve since moved the core content back to our new LMS Canvas, but the blog still remains a central part of the online course. I only moved the core content back for a secure gradebook. I was always nervous about having my grades in the cloud of a non-approved web service in past.
So let’s talk about this blog and how it works for the online lit class.
I like to tell people that I’ve been designing an online course that I’ve been teaching for over 10 years. I say this because I feel that there is always room for improvement, and with the ever changing landscape of technology tools and LMS tools available, a good online course should never really be “finished.” It’s just ready for the next go round. Well, this next go round, Spring 2013, the ENG102 online course is due for a major upgrade. It seems only appropriate since so many others in Maricopa are going through their own redesigns as they move courses over from Blackboard to Instructure Canvas. I made the move a year ago, but now that I’m there or here, I’m ready for some major upgrades.
So like any good instructional designer would do, I did an analysis and came up with a list. The focus of the redesign is to make the course a little more engaging. I want for students to have more video and interactive lessons and less reading of handouts and texts. And when students do read the textbook, I want to give them more guidance for reading and remembering the concepts in those chapters. Here’s a quick preview of part of my list:
Creating an online class orientation is very important when teaching online. A good introduction to your online class could make or break the course for some students. If they can manage the orientation it’s a good sign for both of you that managing the class is possible. This video shows you how I’ve set up my online course orientation for a freshman composition course based on the QM rubric standards. You can download a copy of the QM Rubric from their website.
Today was a typical Monday for an online teacher, at least typical in the sense of how I like to have my Mondays go. I literally sat at my home office desk for 11 hours straight, and I got so much done. I wouldn’t want to spend every day like this, but today was a day that clearly defined what online teaching is all about. There are many important elements that need to be managed to have a successful online class. Here are a few of the important things that need to accomplished.
- Weekly podcasts – Having an audio and/or video announcement at the start of each week to get students started with the week’s work. You can make connections in the readings and assignments, clarify current readings and assignments, and personalize the course. Using audio and video is important to me because it gives the course a face and a voice. And as Jill Schiefelbeing (@impromptuguru) would say, it gives the online class a “human touch.”
- Grading – feedback is a powerful motivator. “Extrinsic motivation is motivation to perform and succeed for the sake of accomplishing a specific result or outcome. Students who are very grade-oriented are extrinsically motivated” (Kirk, 2012). I feel it’s very motivating for students to grade their work in a timely manner, but also it’s important to give feedback on the work. This can be the most challenging part of teaching. Most of today was spent grading, writing feedback, and challenging students to do more. I have some great tools to help with that. I’m using Cengage’s InSite with TurnItIn tools and rubrics, McGraw-Hill’s new Connect Composition 2.0 with a great diagnostic, personalized learning plans and online handbook, and Canvas LMS with their rubrics. All these tools make keeping up with the grading a lot easier than in past semesters.
- Interactions – Often the missing part in online classes is student/student and student/teacher interactions. Last week I invited students to call and talk through research proposals with me if they didn’t have their proposals approved yet. I got four calls today and four students approved. Two other students called to work through problems they were having with the technology. I also spent some time reading and adding comments in the discussion forums in ENG101 and ENH295, but I try not to make that the only interactions students have. Last week’s assignment in ENG101 asked students to share rhetorical terms in a Google Doc to create a glossary for the class. This week I’m encouraging them to go back in and pick their favorite terms based on how well the student explained the function of the term. To pick a term, they have to leave a comment explaining how the poster made the term easy to understand. Today I had to go in an organize the document to make sure it was ready for this activity.
- Mechanics – Even though the site worked when you put it together, it’s always good practice to revisit at the start of each week to make sure everything still works. I like to review each class from the perspective of a student and anticipate areas where students might need extra help. I usually have some students who get started early, and they are usually not shy about pointing out things that are not clear. Today I only had one such issue, where an embedded Google Doc form was not displaying results like I thought it would. I also rewrote a few instructions on a few assignments in Canvas and created a new rubric for an assignment in InSite. Everything is ready to go.
That doesn’t seem like much, but with four online courses and one hybrid, it can take up a good chunk of time. And after 11 hours, I still didn’t get it all done. Tomorrow I will have to find time to create the weekly podcast for ENG102 online and the hybrid online class. Everything else is ready in those courses. It’s the instructor that makes a successful online course. You can’t just build it and expect it to run itself.