zen stones

The demands of teaching an online course doesn’t have to leave you feeling overwhelmed. In an eLearning Industry article, Dr. Liz Hardy suggested a few easy steps to help replace the feeling of constant pressure with a calmer, zen-like mindset that will make teaching online easier and more enjoyable. Dr. Hardy’s suggestions are:

Define “urgent”. As you look through your To Do list, determine which items need your immediate attention and which items can be taken care of further down on the list.

Explain your standard time frames. Set expectations for your students so they know what your communications and assignment turnaround policies are.

Come out of the tunnel. When you’ve spent a long time on a task, take a moment to step away from the task at hand. This can help to rejuvenate and recharge you.

Create a sense of achievement. Your morale gets a boost when you can check items off your To Do list. These time management strategies may be able to help.

Revisit your positive feedback. Revisit compliments and positive comments that you’ve received to help lift your spirits.

For more information, read Dr. Hardy’s article Zen and the Art of Teaching Online.

Photo Credit: Zen Stones | CC0

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by Karen Nichols

Campus has been quite lonely without the students, but they'll be back next Monday.  You'll see many of them plugged in, texting, posting on SnapChat and participating in various social media.  But do you talk to your students about their digital footprints?

digital footprint

Dawn McGuckin wrote an article for the December 5, 2016 issue of Faculty Focus--"Teaching Students about Their Digital Footprints."  She gives presentations around the country to educators so that they can in turn help their students realize the lasting effects of their social media posts and how their actions can impact their future, especially when they enter the job market or are applying to graduate school.

She gives several suggestions for having this conversation such as showing students examples of people who have been fired for what they posted on such sites as Facebook.  Of course, employers are suspicious of people who have no internet presence, so just staying away from social media may also be detrimental.

Having students Google themselves is another way for them to see that anyone can easily obtain information about them.  Once they see what can be found, they may be more open to your suggestions of setting strict privacy limits, or in some cases, completely deleting certain accounts with questionable photos or tweets.

In addition to talking to your students about the negative impact of their digital footprints, also offer them some positive ways that would make them attractive to future employers or graduate school programs.  For example, have your students set up a LinkedIn account in order to start making good connections now.  Dawn even has her students link to her so that she can be one of their first professional contacts.

Please share with us the results if you do have this conversation with your students.  And, have you Googled yourself lately?  You may just want to make sure nothing negative about you is out there for your students or others to see!

 

CAT+FD Online Teaching Resources logo

In a US News and World Report article, Ian Quillen identified six signs of a bad online instructor. The list included things like a syllabus that is unclear, no set timetable for responding to emails, and simply converting print resources used in the face-to-face class. Ian’s article was intended to help students access the quality of an online class and be able to withdraw if necessary. However, this list can also be used to help online/hybrid instructors recognize where their course may be in need of improvement.

Additionally, we have developed an online teaching resource to help faculty develop or improve their online and hybrid courses. Check out our new CAT+FD Online Teaching Resources and let us know what you think.

by Janice Florent

12 Apps of Christmas 2016 logo

The Learning, Teaching & Technology Centre at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin is conducting a professional development opportunity for persons interested in mobile learning, specifically the potential mobile apps hold for teaching and learning. The 12 Apps of Christmas 2016 is a short free course that will be held over twelve consecutive weekdays, starting Dec 1st.

This is the third year for the 12 Apps of Christmas. The 2016 iteration of the course is a collaborative effort. Educators from Ireland, UK, and America have come together to produce twelve (12) case studies, each one showcasing a different mobile app with descriptions of how they have integrated it into their own teaching, learning, and assessment practices. It is hoped that reading and reflecting on these real stories will inspire participants to explore mobile apps that might be of interest to them and their students.

You should register for this professional development opportunity if you want to connect with like-minded individuals, have an opportunity to expand your personal learning network (PLN), and start powerful conversations with others interested in this emerging field. To get more information and to register go to 12 Apps of Christmas 2016.

NDLW logo

November 7-11, 2016 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 2016.

Download Conversation #48

Jane Compson

A conversation with Dr. Jane Compson of UW-Tacoma, on implementing a contemplative pedagogy in an online course.

Dr. Compson got her PhD in Comparative Religion from the University of Bristol, and more recently got her second Masters in Philosophy, concentrating on bioethics, from Colorado State. She currently teaches classes in Comparative Religion; Philosophy, Religion and the Environment; Environmental Ethics; Biomedical Ethics and Introduction to Ethics. She’s working on projects related to self-care and stress management for healthcare professionals as well as documenting local efforts for environmental justice, as well as mindfulness theory.

Links for this episode:

by Janice Florent

laptop computer and cup of coffee on the top of a desk

Are you thinking about how to deliver your online course for maximum success? In an Inside Higher Ed blog post, Andrea Zellner provided some strategies to make your online teaching better. Andrea's strategies are:

Technology should help and not hinder.

Expect things to go wrong, and do as much as you can to help your students help themselves. For example, provide links to help and how-to documents so that students do not have to go on a wild goose chase to find this information. You can minimize your time answering student questions by using the “three-before-me” rule, which pushes the responsibility of locating an answer to frequently asked questions to the student.

Anticipate difficulties.

Learning in an online environment can be a lot more difficult than learning it in a face-to-face class. Students report that taking an online course can be an isolating experience. Avoid straight lecturing as lectures can be dull when delivered online. Here are a few ideas to keep your online course interesting.

Incorporate synchronous opportunities.

This follows directly from anticipating difficulties. You should find the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. Additionally, be sure to include well-timed synchronous virtual office hours. Include the virtual office hours during weeks when you know the content is likely to be confusing.

Don’t be stingy with your feedback.

Students want detailed feedback and the feedback needs to be timely. You should give students feedback that helps them learn and you should be as effective as a fitness band.

Humanize your course.

Humanize your course by adding a little personality. This can go a long way in making students feel comfortable approaching you for help and can make them feel more engaged with the course.

Encourage self-directed learning.

Research on self-directed learning has shown that people who take the initiative in learning, learn more things and learn better than people who sit at the feet of teachers passively waiting to be taught.

Use gamification in your course.

Gamification is making a boring process interesting by using fun elements from games. Gamification is a motivation tool. Here is some information on using gamification in your courses.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in Andrea's Strategies to Make Your Online Teaching Better and my Seven Deadly Sins of Online Course Design blog posts.

Photo credit: computer and coffee | Creative Commons CC0

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by Janice Florent

pile of letters with two feet sticking out and you've got mail on computer monitor in the background

Unlike face-to-face instructors, online instructors are generally inundated with questions from students by way of email messages. It doesn’t take long for an online instructor to feel like they are drowning in student emails.

In a recent eLearning Industry article, Dr. Liz Hardy provided five tips to help you manage student email to avoid a flood of student email. Those tips are:

1. Make communication time frames clear.

Tell your students what to expect when communicating with you. When your students understand your communication rules, they are more likely to work within those rules.

2. Prevent unnecessary student emails in the first place.

Set up your Blackboard course to be as learner-friendly as possible. If your students can find the information they need without extensive searching, they’re less likely to email you for help with simple questions. By encouraging self-directed learning, you find that student email more often relates to valid questions - rather than multiple queries about when the next assignment is due.

Consider using the “three before me” rule, which pushes the responsibility of locating an answer to frequently asked questions to the student. The student must prove to the professor that he/she has attempted to obtain the answer from three different sources prior to contacting the professor.

Additionally, you can minimize emails by utilizing Blackboard for assignment collection. The Blackboard assignment tool is an efficient way to manage and collect your student’s individual and group assignments digitally and can help to unclutter your inbox.

3. Scan your inbox before you answer even one student email.

Scan your inbox first. Are there messages from colleagues or administrators you need to answer first? Is there a reply from a student you’ve been waiting to hear from on an urgent issue? Deal with those messages first. Then you can look for patterns – are there any students who have sent you several emails since you last checked? Try reading email in reverse date order. You may find the student has answered their own question. In this case you can send one email back to the student with a single-line response.

4. Don’t multi-task.

It’s actually more efficient to deal with each student query in full, completely, and then move onto the next. What seems like saved time through multi-tasking can actually lead to a lot of backtracking and cross-checking, as you try to make sure you’re matching the right answer to the right student.

5. Answer student email in blocks.

Check your email messages two or three times a day, in blocks. Avoid checking at other times. Mute your speakers so you won’t hear that demanding bleep every time email arrives in your inbox.

These practical approaches will help you take control of your inbox, and get on with your teaching day. If you would like more information, read Dr. Hardy’s article "5 Ways To Survive A Student Email Avalanche."

by Janice Florent

it's in the syllabus comic strip

In a recent Inside Higher Ed blog post, Travis Grandy, PhD student in Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, writes,

Do you ever feel like you want to get more out of your syllabus? Sure, it plays center-stage during the first day of class, but does it really have to end there? Perhaps it’s a matter of presentation.

He goes on to express his frustration of writing a carefully detailed syllabus only to see his students tuck it away never to be seen again; assuming they read the syllabus in the first place.

After seeing an article on creative approaches to the syllabus, Travis felt his syllabus had a design problem as his syllabus had over the years ballooned to over two thousand words, single-spaced, with a few bullet points.

Travis redesigned his syllabus to not only make the content more useful for his style of teaching, but also easier to use and visually engaging. His revised syllabus ended up being full-color, using illustrations and visual metaphors to convey content, and was intentionally designed help students more easily find the information and get excited about the core purposes of the class. It is important to note that to make his syllabus accessible, Travis made his syllabus available in other formats as well.

Travis’ strategies for a syllabus redesign and ways to better integrate the syllabus into teaching and learning are:

Have Your Syllabus Reflect What You Value Most

Design elements to draw attention to the things about your course that you most want to stick with students. This should not come at the expense of being detailed about your classroom policies or meeting institutional requirements for what should be listed on a syllabus.

Tips for the Design Process

  1. Start from a Template: Templates can include great options like two-column newsletter style or a table of contents to make your syllabus easier to reference. MS Word and Google Docs are easy to intermediate skill level tools you can use to create your redesigned syllabus. A few intermediate to advanced skill level tools you can try are Smore, Populr.me, and Tackk.
  2. Get Visual: A visual doesn’t have to be elaborate, but strategically using images, shapes, or flow-charts can be an equally effective way of drawing attention to the most important parts of your syllabus.
  3. Design with Accessibility in Mind: You want to make sure your syllabus is accessible for all students. This should include providing your syllabus in multiple formats and also using easy to read fonts and high contrast colors.
  4. Build Your Design Knowledge: Educate yourself on effective design practices and visual rhetoric.

Beyond the First Day of Class

Use the syllabus at key moments: A great time to ask students to look at the syllabus is when you transition between major units or assignments of the course. You can turn this into a class activity such as having students write a short reflection about how their work in the previous unit helped them develop competencies or achieve course outcomes.

Reinforce concepts from your syllabus in assignments and grading: Use concepts from your syllabus consistently in other course documents including assignment prompts and grading rubrics.

If you do decide to redesign your syllabus keep in mind that accessibility is very important. Don’t assume that a full-color syllabus is accessible to all students. For accessibility, provide multiple options for students to access the content so they can choose what works best for them. This can include printing in color or black and white, sharing the syllabus as a PDF (with character recognition), and using alt-text and captions for images and diagrams.

For more information read the Inside Higher Ed blog post, Give Your Syllabus an Extreme Redesign for the New Year. Another great article on syllbus redesign is Writing Syllabi Worth Reading.

Additional resources you may find helpful:

Interactive syllabus examples:

by Janice Florent

silhouette of a head with numerous educational images within it

Research on self-directed learning has shown that people who take the initiative in learning, learn more things and learn better than people who sit at the feet of teachers passively waiting to be taught.

Self-directed learning is especially important for student success in online classes.

Educators have an important role to play in assisting students to acquire the skills for self-directed learning. So how can educators help students develop their ability to direct their own learning, while ensuring that they develop the skills and integrate the knowledge they need to be successful?

In a YardStick blog post, Dr. Tai Munro provided a few suggestions that educators can do to help students to become self-directed learners. Those suggestions are:

  • Give learners control
  • Make the course relevant
  • Focus on actual problems and scenarios
  • Recognize what they already know
  • Help learners reflect

If you are interested in getting more information you should read Dr. Munro’s blog post, But how do I help learners be self-directed?