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hourglass in the foreground and a clock in the background

Managing your time when teaching an online class can be a bit of a challenge. How do you manage time when there are no set course hours and when the classroom is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week? Online instructors need to develop effective time management behaviors to be efficient and not just busy.

In a Faculty Focus article, Dr. Deborah A. Raines shared ten strategies she uses to manage her time. Those strategies are:

  1. Roll call – Take attendance on the first day. A simple discussion board with a response of “I’m here” alerts you to who has not found the classroom site.
  2. Syllabus quiz – Give a syllabus quiz during the first week. This quiz provides an opportunity for students to experience the online testing environment and provides an incentive for students to read the syllabus and other important information.
  3. Ask the class – Create an “ask the class” discussion area where students can ask general questions and encourages students to respond to each other.
  4. To-do list – Create a to-do list as the first item in each module. This item provides an introduction to and guidelines on how to approach the material in the module.
  5. Establish rules and expectations – Disseminate clear and consistent rules and expectations such as when to turn in assignments, the beginning and ending date of units, turn-around time for responses to questions or feedback on assignments.
  6. Private office – Create a dropbox or private journal function for students to communicate with you on confidential matters.
  7. Roadmap to success – Write a clear and concise document of student expectations, responsibilities and accountability for learning.
  8. Take advantage of tools and technology – Use online tools within the learning management system such as student tracking, testing automation, self-grading or rubrics added to assignment dropboxes, to increase your efficiency. In general, handle each item only once—if you open an item, do something with it, don’t just peek and plan to come back later.
  9. Establish a routine – Set your schedule. Get in the habit of going to your online courses at consistent times and know what you are going to do while at the course site.
  10. Don’t re-invent – Use existing resources. There are a number of quality learning activities available on the web. Using existing resources can reduce the time needed to develop similar materials.

For more information you can read Dr. Raines’ blog post Be Efficient, Not Busy: Time Management Strategies for Online Teaching.

Photo credit: time is money by ewvasquez2001 | CC BY 2.0

online classroom management

One key to a successful online course is instructors’ ability to manage their online classroom. Yet many online instructors don’t realize that the best practices in traditional environments should not be discarded simply because the participants are interacting online. The students still need to be managed as a cohesive group of learners.

In an Edutopia article, Heather Wolpert-Gawron provided suggestions for successfully managing online classes. The article was written with a K12 audience in mind. However, her suggestions can be used in a higher education environment as well. Heather’s suggestions for successfully managing your online class are:

  1. Build an engaging online environment. Build an online environment where students want to come back week-after-week.
  2. Build community. By building community right from the get-go and encouraging it throughout the course of the class, you’ll save yourself from some issues later on.
  3. Curate answers in an organized way. Find ways to curate resources and responses to questions so that participants can find them easily. Consider a Q&A discussion forum or develop FAQs.
  4. Be present. Make sure students know you are present in the course.
  5. Establish norms for office hours and video conferencing. Have a dress code when meeting virtually (e.g., no pajamas if you are participating via webcam). How should students ask questions without interrupting the current speaker?
  6. Don’t group randomly. Create group assignments where students can self-enroll and other assignments where students are randomly assigned to groups.
  7. Teach about plagiarism. Use strategies to ensure the student’s work is original or cited.
  8. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Stay on top of issues as they arise.
  9. Use various means to contact participants. Contact small groups of students and also the whole class routinely, but know when it’s time to do a behind-the-scenes intervention and email a participant directly.

For more details on Heather's suggestions for online classroom management, you should read this Extending Classroom Management Online article.

Additionally, check out these CAT FooD blog posts related to online teaching:

each of the seven deadly sins depicted by an eye that has makeup in a different color to reflect the deadly sin

In an Edvocate article, Daniel Stanford listed his seven deadly sins of online course design from a faculty developer’s perspective. These resonated with me; and I thought I would share Daniel's seven deadly online course design sins with you.

#1. Overwhelming Discussions

“Post to the discussion board, and then respond to three classmates’ posts.” Sound familiar? These are often the instructions for online discussions even though it would be impossible to replicate this level of participation in a face-to-face class. The result is a massive number of posts that instructors and students dread sorting through.

#2. Lack of Scannable Text

Staring at a computer screen trying to read the information is tiring enough as it is. Don’t make it worse by writing long paragraphs that lack visual interruptions and organizational cues. “Chunk” the content to make it easier to scan through.

#3. No Progress Indicators

Within seconds of entering a course or a specific unit of content, students should know what they’ve completed, what is incomplete, and when the incomplete items are due. The worst nightmare of any online student is to think he or she has met all the course requirements for a given day or week, only to stumble upon additional ones after a critical deadline has passed.

#4. Bad Narration

There are two reasons most instructors create narrated PowerPoints.

  1. They believe it will be faster to deliver a lecture verbally than write it out.
  2. They believe it will be more engaging for students than reading.

Both of these motivations have their pitfalls. First, faculty are often surprised how long it takes to produce an effective narrated presentation. Second, delivering information via audio with no text alternative makes it difficult for students to control the pace of their learning. Also, audio-only approaches to instruction can be challenging for ESL learners (English as a second language) and a deal breaker for students with disabilities.

#5. Buried Leads

Don’t make students read through or listen to several minutes of non-essential fluff before you get to the good stuff. Burying the lead wastes students’ time and hurts your credibility as a curator. As a result, students will struggle to find the part where you finally say something important. Worse yet, they might begin to ignore your emails, readings, or videos altogether.

#6. Digital Hoarding

Face-to-face courses come with limitations that encourage instructors to prioritize what they share with students. Examples include the number of hours in each class meeting and the number of photocopies the instructor has time to print. In online courses, these limitations are removed or relaxed, which makes it tempting to share every interesting reading, video, and website you’ve ever encountered. All too often, the result is a course site that feels like one of the homes on Hoarding: Buried Alive, but with more scholarly journals and fewer cats.

#7. Faceless Professor Syndrome

Online courses provide limited natural opportunities to reinforce that you’re a real human being and help students put a face with your name. Don’t squander these opportunities by obscuring your identity and increasing your anonymity on the discussion board and in your self-introduction. Humanizing your online courses improves the learning experience as well as student success and retention rates. This Humanizing Tool Buffet developed by Teaching and Learning Innovations at CSU Channel Islands has a collection of emerging tools just right for humanizing your online course.

If you are interested in knowing how Daniel Stanford suggests you atone for these deadly online course design sins, read his Edvocate article “Seven Deadly Sins of Online Course Design.”

Taking an online course can be an isolating experience for students, but it doesn’t have to be. Humanized learning increases the relevance of the course content and improves students' motivation to log-in to the course week-after-week.

buffet

Are you looking for ways to humanize your online course? Check out this Humanizing Tool Buffet developed by Teaching and Learning Innovations at CSU Channel Islands. In the buffet, you will find a collection of emerging tools just right for humanizing your online course. Peruse the buffet, click on the links, and sample what looks intriguing and helpful to you!

Often instructors are looking for images to use in their courses because images can liven up the course and help students understand the course material.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but it might also be worth a thousand dollars if your school gets hit with a copyright violation claim. —Eric Curts

There are many high quality pictures that can be used without any licensing concerns. These can include images that are released under creative commons, or are in the public domain, or simply are copyright-free.

Eric Curts compiled a list of free image sites and tools for schools that you may find helpful in your search for free images.

free image sites for schools

Additionally, you may find an image you want to use, but you would like to make changes to it. You can find image editing software suggestions in the Xavier University Library Digital Humanities Toolbox. Just make sure the image copyright gives you permission to modify the image.

ICYMI, read my blog post on Digital Copyrights for copyright information.

Link

I recently fielded a question that seemed so basic, so fundamental, that I thought it deserved a blog post.

Many faculty today are cognizant of licensing restrictions. They diligently hunt for content published under Creative Commons, or in the public domain, to use in their courses. That's a good thing: they don't want to infringe anyone's copyright.

Sometimes, though, that perfect piece of content is out there on the open internet, tantalizingly available, but published under plain old-fashioned copyright with all the encumbrances and restrictions that implies.

You don't want to embed a copyrighted video (for example) in your online course materials. But is there a workaround? Can you, perhaps, just share the link, send your students over to YouTube, let them watch the video over there, instead of on your course website or in your LMS?

In a word:

YES

But don't take my word for it. Here's what the "boutique law firm" InfoLawGroup LLP has to say about it.

A recent federal court decision confirms that, without more, merely providing a link to copyrighted content is not direct infringement of the copyright in that content.

For more details, read the full article, "Does Linking to Content Infringe Copyright?"

The distinction, as I understand it, is that embedding a video is like republishing it. You wouldn't republish a copyrighted book without permission, right? But sharing a link is like sending your students to the library to check the book out on their own.

Happy linking!

Photo credit: "Link" by Aarthi Ramamurthy. Licensed under Creative Commons, of course!

Individuals lined up to form the letters NDLW

November 6-10, 2017 is National Distance Learning Week (NDLW). In association with NDLW, the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) is offering free webinars on a variety of topics related to online teaching and learning. A few other organizations are offering free webinars during NDLW as well.

For more information on the activities and to register for the webinars visit NDLW 2017.

Many teachers have been using YouTube to share videos with their classes, and for good reason. YouTube offers a lot of conveniences that make it a very attractive platform for delivering video content.

However, most teachers with whom I've spoken do not want to be YouTube superstars. In fact, most of them don't want anyone watching their videos — except, of course, their students.

For this reason, I've recommended setting the privacy of such videos to "unlisted." An unlisted video is essentially invisible to anyone who doesn't have that gnarly and convoluted direct YouTube link. The only other options are "public" and "private," neither of which would seem to do the job — at least, not at first glance.

But there is another way, which may be better, at least sometimes. Let's take a second look at that "private" setting. A private video can normally be seen only by you.

[screenshot]

Click on that "share" button, though, and you open up a new dialog. Here you could enter individual email addresses to allow specific people to view. That's kind of a pain, but (now that Xavier is a Google campus) you also have the option to enable viewing by "everyone at xula.edu."

[screenshot]

You'll still have to share the link with your students, of course. Additionally, your students must be logged into YouTube using their xula.edu account. If they are logged in with a personal account, they won't be able to view the video.

In most cases, the "unlisted" setting is sufficient, perhaps even preferable. But if you are especially sensitive about who might view your video, this option is worth considering.

(As always, I urge teachers to consider doing the extra work to make your content fully and legally public.)

A tip of the hat to Asem Abdulahad of the Department of Chemistry for this pointer.

Often instructors are looking for images to use in their courses because images can liven up the course and help students understand the course material.

magnifying glass clipart

Be careful using a Google search for images. Many of the images that you find in a Google search are copyrighted. Images you use for your courses should be free of any copyright restrictions.

There are several sites that I like to use to find free images that are either in the public domain or covered by licenses that allow you to reuse images under certain restrictions. Those sites are:

You may have found an image you want to use, however, you would like to make changes to it. You can find image editing software suggestions in the Xavier Library Digital Humanities Toolbox. Just make sure the image copyright gives you permission to modify the image.

What’s your favorite site(s) for finding free images? Let us know by leaving a comment on this blog post.

ICYMI, read my blog post on Digital Copyrights for copyright information.

pitfall street sign

In my blog post on using gamification in your courses, I wrote about why educators are using gamification in teaching and learning. If you are considering using gamification in your courses, beware of pitfalls.

In a recent eLearning Industry blog post, Srividya Kumar wrote,

When gamification is not thought through and designed well, it can have the exact opposite effect of what was intended.

Srividya indicates that gamification can be like walking a tightrope in order to get it right. She goes on to provide some pitfalls to watch out for. The pitfalls she suggests you avoid are:

1. Superficial Engagement

Having learners fall over themselves to earn goodies, or compete to achieve top position on a leaderboard is great, but if these are the only reasons that spur learners to perform the desired behaviors, then it’s not going to last very long. Extrinsic motivators can only go so far to engage and motivate. Make sure to have more intrinsic motivators than extrinsic motivators.

2. Unintended Consequences

Think long and hard about the motivators, rewards, and consequences. While encouraging and rewarding the right behaviors does definitely motivate people, sometimes unintended, and even undesirable behaviors can be the side effects of a gamification initiative, as evidenced by the cobra effect.

3. Rewarding the Wrong Behaviors

Avoid Kerr’s folly, rewarding A while hoping for B. Your reward structure shouldn’t undermine your goal. You should be clear about the goal and the outcomes you are aiming for. Measure and reward what is important, not what is easy.

4. Rewards That Learners Don’t Find Valuable

You may have received a gift that you really didn’t like or could not find much use for and struggled to tell the person that you did not like or could not use the gift. That’s exactly what would happen if you throw a bunch of worthless badges at learners, without thinking about whether they would find these badges valuable. Avoid this situation by thinking about whether your learners will find your rewards useful/exciting.

I’m sure you can think of other pitfalls to avoid. Please use the comments below to let us know your thoughts on this topic.

If you are interested reading more about these pitfalls, refer to the “4 Gamification Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them” blog post.

Photo Credit: Pitfall Str | CC BY 2.0