During the summer I always reflect on the year that just ended in order to begin working on my courses for the fall and spring semester. As a result, I decided that it would fun to add audio to my weekly overviews. The thought behind it was that audio would add more depth to a one-dimensional page. When you add audio or video to a piece of writing it makes it more interesting and grabs people’s attention. It makes the experience be more like that of an in-class course. I know what you are going to say. Hold on! I thought the whole point was for people taking a course online is to have a different learning experience. Although that is true for many people I have also found that the reason many students in my college register for online courses is the convenience that an online course has to offer. Such as not having to go to class, adapting the course to a work schedule etc. So they want to take a course that is flexible and easier on their professional, and family life.
However since the majority of the students doesn’t know what an online course is all about they think that it is going to be similar to an on-campus course. Hence they don’t know how to navigate in an online course so they get lost and lose interest. On the other hand, I want to make sure that I teach my students the information that I have set out. So if I don’t create material that will motivate my students to log in then I won’t achieve what I have set out to do.
To add audio to my weekly overviews so they I can provide students with the types comments I would make if I was in class with them.
I began by experimenting with iannotate because it is a wonderful app that I have used in the past. Unfortunately, what I found out was unless my students have an Ipad or a tablet and purchase the app then they cannot listen to my audio feedback. As the university doesn’t give them a tablet when they are accepted, it would kind of unfair of me to ask my students to buy an Ipad just for my course so they can listen to my comments.
Then I went on to use Growly Notes and Audionote because you use them on a computer. So I thought it would be easier for my students to use. Both are great note taking apps for the mac, but the audio did not work when I uploaded it to Blackboard Learn.
So then I decided to use MS Word and then convert it to an Adobe pdf file. I thought that since these are such ubiquitous programs that all of my students can open them from any computer or mobile device. The pdf with audio worked well when I emailed it, but when I uploaded the file to Blackboard the audio would not work. At this point, I am assuming that it is a Blackboard problem. My next step would be to call Blackboard and ask them if there is any way I can make this work. If I manage to solve the audio I will report back, so stayed tuned…
As I get ready for the upcoming semester I can’t stop thinking if my course design and the theories I use to reach all of my students. So as I work on my courses I can’t help but wonder who are the students that so bravely decided to take my online course instead of an on-campus version of it. I look at their names men, women sophomores, juniors, seniors; English speaking students, non-English students, and the list goes on. Do I really care if they are seniors or non-native speakers? At the end of the day, no I don’t. What I actually want to know before the beginning of the semester is how they learn. Are they visual learners or do they learn just by reading a textbook. In a nutshel,l how do they retain knowledge?
Another thing I want to know is: Are they internet natives? This is an important question these days as technology has taken over our personal, professional, and academic lives. Being an internet native makes a difference in the way one learns. So in turn, it influences how a course is designed.
How old are they? Do they work? Both of these questions address experience outside of the classroom and the motivation to take a college course is so much different when you are in your 30s versus being in your early 20s.
Unfortunately, I don’t have all of the answers to my questions until a couple of weeks after the semester begins. So since I really don’t know much about my students when I am designing or redesigning a course I look at the feedback I received from the students during the previous semester. I also look at their performance as well as what assignments, video lectures, online discussions worked and what didn’t and change them accordingly.
As the students at my university are older that the average 20-year-old college student and the majority of them work the teaching philosophy that I espouse is Andragogy. It is a teaching theory developed for adult learners by Malcolm Knowles. According to Knowles Andragogy is the art and science to teaching adults. This theory is designed to engage adults to learn by:
- Letting adults know the reason they are learning something
- Using their experience as the basis for new learning
- Making adults responsible for their own learning
- Explaining the relevance and the practicality of what they are learning to their professional lives.
I teaching a business writing course and it super important to make students see that what they are learning in my course are skills that they will need when they graduate college if not sooner as many of my the students already work in the business world and need their bachelors degree to advance in their careers.
So I strongly believe that when designing the course understanding the types of students that will register for it is important to the success of the course as well as of how well the students learn and use the information that they learn. After all being a educator is about transferring what you know to somebody else so they can use it as well.
To be honest towards the end of the semester I tend to get buried under a huge pile of final papers, rewrites, and final exams!
Most students do not realize the amount of time it takes educators to read their assignments and add thoughtful comments on their papers that will help them improve their writing.
To provide my students with feedback on their writing I use a couple of apps that I think work really well because I can hand correct it on my ipad and the students receive a pdf of their homework assignment. The app I like the most is UPad. For one thing it is super intuitive and extremely simple to use.
Once you have the right stylus then it feels as if I am correcting on paper and not an IPad screen. When I am don’t reading and writing my comments and feedback I save the file and export it. The other app I like to use a lot especially if I have a lot to say is iannotate.
This is a more sophisticated app and has a lot of bells and whistles that UPad does not have. It takes a little bit longer to get the hang of this app, but it is still worth using. The feature that I like the most is that I can record my voice instead of writing comments. This app allows me to talk to my students like I did during office hours when they had questions about their papers. Once I am done reading a student’s paper I can save the paper and export it. The process is slightly different, but the end result is the same.
Most students like hand written comments and audio versus the track changes that can be done via Microsoft word. They feel that the instructor cares enough to go the extra mile and provide them not only thought provoking comments but will also hand write them.
I would recommend either app for reading and commenting on student papers. Of course, their are numerous apps out there and I think that it is a matter of personality and preference. So if you don’t like the two I am using feel free to go out there and explore…
Students that take online courses often talk about how lonely and isolated they feel because they do not experience the community feeling they have when they are in a classroom. Many times it is true and that is why I strive to create an online community for my students in my online courses so they do not feel secluded. However, no one really talks about the isolation that an online instructor feels when s/he does not have colleagues around. You are all excited about not having to drive to work and after a couple of weeks you realize that something is missing in this whole set up. Uh oh there are no people around to talk to!
When I began my journey as an online instructor I did not realize how lonely it would be for me and how disconnected I would feel at home. Teaching online has its benefits for sure. For starters, I do not have to deal with commuting back and forth or the weather here in the northeast.
Although teaching online keeps me busy I can’t help but wonder is there anybody out there and what are they up to. By that I mean what do other online instructors do besides work from home? Do they raise a family like me? Do they do research? Write? Travel?