Thoughts on Teaching, Taking Stock…

Since my last post I have been thinking a lot about my students that are finishing up the semester and if how I taught them, or should I say facilitated their learning because I really don’t think of myself as a teacher in a traditional way. You know, the kind that sits in front of a classroom and lectures. I actually abhor that kind of teaching because it makes students lazy and comatose. Most of the time they are so bored that they end up looking at more interesting things on their laptops, tablets, or phones. The way I like to teach is when I am off-center i.e. when I make the students take center stage. As a dear friend and colleague used to say when I was a new professor, the lazier the instructor the more active the students. At the time I didn’t understand what she meant, but almost 20 years later I do because with teaching and experience comes understanding.

Of course, she didn’t mean that I should work, what she meant is that I shouldn’t lecture so much and let them do active work. When I say I don’t lecture I mean I don’t sit in front of a group of students and explain how prepositions work in a sentence (although in some instances I have been known to do that as well). Because part of teaching business communications includes quite a bit of grammar instruction since many of my students are ESL and International students that many have a hard time writing a cohesive sentence.

When I teach on campus I begin the week by laying out what the week is going to be about as well as the type of work they are required to do, but I don’t lecture in the traditional sense and that is why I like hybrid courses because they allow me and my students the flexibility to expand the number of activities and learning because there is so much information that you can squeeze into a 50 minute class period. So, a lot of my lecturing happens online via e-lectures for it allows them to view it as many times as they like or practice with the interactive grammar exercises that I have created.

The other thing that I do during this time of the semester especially after I have posted final grades is trying to see if my students have been able to meet the goals, I set out for them. To that end, I use the backward design model by Wiggins & McTighe which believes that learning experiences should be planned with the final assessment in mind. One starts with the end i.e. the desired results or goals and then designs the curriculum from the evidence of learning called for by the standard and the teaching as well as the material needed to equip students to perform’ (Wiggins and McTighe, 2000, page 8)

So finally, as the semester winds down I take time to think about everything that happened and look at my notes and see what worked and didn’t work this time around. How do you end the semester or year?

Katherine

 

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Copyright © 2020 TheAdventuresofanOnlineInstructor.com

Teaching Online… our new reality

This week has been so surreal as I watched the world come to a screeching halt in order to control this virus as my UMass Boston colleagues raced to get ready during our spring break to put their material online.

Luckily all institutions and school districts have great e-learning teams that are helping. Those people are also working hard and a lot of hours to help educators upload their material and are getting slammed because there more teachers than instructional designers.

So, since I have been teaching online for over 10 years at this point and feel at home on Blackboard, I am ready to transition to online teaching and had very little to do this week to get ready for when our courses start up again. As a result, I offered my assistance to colleagues and my son’s teachers in case they needed anything. Such as talk through their ideas and answer any questions they might have as teaching online can be overwhelming and a huge amount of working when you have never taken on such an endeavor before. Also, having someone to talk to when trying to change the way you work can be comforting and as well as a lot of help when brainstorming ideas.

Then I was thinking what advice can I give people I can’t talk to via zoom, skype, and facetime? So here are my suggestions:

For starters, educators that are new to online teaching, please know that there is no way you can upload all of your material for the rest of the semester or year online within one week. At least not the correct way. The reason I say this is because uploading the material you were supposed to use on campus or in a classroom will not necessarily be the best way to teach online. Teaching online is a whole different animal and it is taught very differently. A lot of planning and thought goes into designing an online course and one week is not enough time to do everything.

Second, the other reason you should not upload all of your material at once is you need to wait to see how students are going to react to the way you designed the course. You don’t want to have done all of this work only to have to rearrange or delete materials as you begin to receive angry and frustrated emails from your students.

Third, work in chucks: Put up material for a few days. Then upload material for the whole week and so on.

Fourth, make it user or student-friendly i.e. listen to your students and their needs. I say this because students of all ages get easily frustrated and upset, then they shut down and don’t want to do the work.

Fifth, use interactive material to keep students engaged you can’t have them read a chapter from the textbook or a long article at home and expect them to feel engaged. Remember you are not with them in the classroom so there is no in-class or small group discussion.

Sixth, use as much material as you can that someone else has created because at this point there is no time to learn new software on how to create e-learning videos or interactive exercises.

Sixth, include material that will keep your students engaged. Such as videos, interactive exercises, podcasts, audiobooks, interactive books especially for younger children as well as utilizing the discussion threads, blogs that are available in LMS’s such as Blackboard, Moodle, and, google classroom.

Seventh, make sure to start the week on the same day and all of the homework must be due on the same day every week as it is difficult for students that are taking multiple classes/courses to keep track of constantly changing deadlines. For example, my students know that all homework is due on Friday and it will not for the whole semester, so they never forget to submit their homework.

Eight, remember to be patient and that almost all of the students especially K-12 are not used to being online taking classes so they will also be having a difficult time adjusting to not going to school having to go to an iPad or a computer to keep up with their classwork.

I will also create a page on my blog with resources with links and books I think can be helpful as we move forward.

If you do have questions for me feel free to post them here.

 

Katherine

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Copyright © 2020 TheAdventuresofanOnlineInstructor.com

Beyond the One-Dimensional Page

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 iannotate logo small 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 Growly Notes logoand AudionoteAudioNote logo 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…

 

Katherine

Who Are My Students…

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:

  1. Letting adults know the reason they are learning something
  2. Using their experience as the basis for new learning
  3. Making adults responsible for their own learning
  4. 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.

 

Katherine