Category Archives: Education Concepts

Types of Change and Schools

Change is a part of life, and one thing most people have in common is a dislike of change. This post will look at change and its relationship with the organization of schools.

Types of Change in an Organization

There are at least three ways that an organization, such as a school, can change. These three ways are structural, technological, and cultural.

Structural change relates to redesigning how the school is organized. For example, a school might add or remove departments, change job responsibilities, and or create new positions within the institution.

Technological change refers to having to make adjustments to the use of various electronics. It is common for there to be resistance to changing technology because people generally do not want to waste time learning new things. Technology can also, at times, lead to downsizing, which is something people do not like as well.

The final form of change is cultural change. This form of change has to deal with how people think about the organization. In other words, cultural change causes a shift in the beliefs and assumptions about the company and how things are done. Each school has its unique way of seeing the world and teaching and helping students—cultural change involves modifying these views.

Points to Ponder

The scope of change can affect people’s willingness to accept it. For example, suppose a school hires an additional teacher because of the overload of the current teachers. In that case, there will probably be little resistance to this form of change because the current system was so intolerable. However, if the change calls removing teachers, it is safe to assume strong resistance.

This same line of thought applies to the other forms of change, technological and cultural. Minor changes will be tolerated, and significant changes will be tolerated if they relieve a significant problem. However, if the changes are unpalatable due to their size or inability to solve a problem, resistance is more likely.

It is also important to realize that all of these types of change can happen simultaneously in a school. For example, a technological change such as incorporating e-learning could lead to a need to change things in terms of the organization. For example, it may be necessary to restructure the IT department by splitting responsibilities and hiring additional people. In addition, cultural changes may also be affected by e-learning adoption through the need for the organization to be more receptive to the rapid changes of the IT world.

The point being made here is to remember that change cannot happen in a vacuum. Unfortunately, when change comes, it will affect things that the leadership did not want to be changed. This has led in part to disdain by many leaders of change. It is not so much the change that is the problem but the unforeseen consequences of the change that bothers many educational leaders.

Conclusion

Change will always be a threat to a school. However, when it is time to make a change, leaders need to know how change can impact an organization.

Online Academic Dishonesty

Cheating has always been a problem in education. Students struggle to learn content, or perhaps they are too lazy to put in the effort, leading to temptation. When this happens, some students decide that getting the answer in any way possible is better than knowing the answer themselves.

As teachers, there is an obligation to make sure that students know what we say they know. If a student can complete a course or degree through dishonesty, it reflects on the student’s incompetence and the institution(s) that the student was able to deceive. As such, there are several ways to address cheating in the online context.

Authentic Assessment

In a traditional classroom, it is common for teachers to use traditional forms of assessment such as multiple-choice, fill in the blank, etc. There is nothing wrong with this form of assessment in the appropriate context. However, when students are taking assessments online, it is easy to collaborate, share and answers, and copy from one another.

There are several ways to address this. One is to avoid traditional assessment altogether and have students complete various authentic forms of assessment. Examples can include projects, presentations, papers, etc. In other words, create assessments that match the real world and even may encourage collaboration.

Even though traditional assessment is an acceptable form of gauging a student’s knowledge, almost nobody makes a living taking tests and quizzes. The real world is based on collaboration in which somebody has the answer, and the real test is finding resources to accomplish something. This is where the beauty of authentic assessment becomes so practical in the online context.

Writing papers is another tried and true way of assessing students’ knowledge of a given subject matter. However, there are practical problems if the class is really large, and of course, plagiarism has been a problem before online assessment was around. For large classes, writing papers may not be practical unless the teacher wants to spend all of their vacation reading student papers. As such, each teacher needs to set their upper limit of how many papers they are willing to read.

For plagiarism, there are already many different websites and software that can detect plagiarism. However, if plagiarism is detected, the teacher needs to investigate the paper personally as computer algorithms are never 100% accurate. Remember that this is a student’s grade, and there must be care in any accusations of dishonesty and negative effects on the final grade.

For Traditional Assessment

If the only appropriate way to assess a student’s knowledge is through traditional means, there are ways to still maintain academic integrity. Some teachers have chosen to monitor students’ desktops during an exam. This is not the most efficient way of proctoring, but the psychological impact is often enough to deter cheating even if the teacher cannot see everything the student is doing.

Another strategy is to have a pool of questions rather than have each student see the same questions. For example, perhaps the teacher creates 40 multiple-choice, but each student only sees 10 of these questions. In addition, the letter answer for the same question can be scrambled so that for the same question, one student would mark “A” for the correct answer, and another would mark “B.”

Cheating can be further discouraged through something called individualize timed assessment. This technique involves giving students sections of the exam at certain times rather than giving them all of the exam at once. For example, you can make several separate assessments that students have to complete during the exam time, such as the following

  1. Multiple choice
  2. Matching
  3. Short Answer

You can set things so that maybe one student completes each section at a time or multiple students. For example, some students might start with a short answer while others start with matching. It is completely up to you. In addition, you set a time limit for each section, such as may be students get 20 minutes per section before they have to move to the next one.

You can be even more specific in some learning management systems where you can set a time limit for individual questions. Doing this in combination with a pool of questions, scrambling the correct answer, and using individualize time assessments makes cheating much more difficult.

Conclusion

Students will continue to evolve new ways to beat the system. Despite this, teachers must be ready with their own bag of tricks to discourage students from going down this path.

Microlearning

Microlearning is learning that is done in small, short pieces. In other words, microlearning is essentially a form of chunking of learning material. The rationale behind microlearning is that it helps a worker to digest material as part of their job. This approach to teaching is widespread in industry as well as in education from kindergarten through graduate school.

Benefits

Microlearning has been claimed to be highly effective at helping people to retain information learned. In addition, microlearning allows people to continue to work while being trained, at least in the working world. The information that is shared is learned just in time for workers.

Students experience many of the same benefits with the added benefit of focusing on less content at one time. Given that students are often taking several courses at once, information overload is a common challenge that must be addressed.

Microlearning in E-learning

An example of microlearning in the context of e-learning is the making of short videos to share content. Naturally, no two people agree on what “short” means when making a video. However, generally, most would agree that a short video does not explain an entire topic in one video/

Another example of microlearning in e-learning could be infographics or podcasts. Again, an infographic is a visual summary of a large amount of data. A podcast is just a verbal form of instruction whose length can vary.

Cons

Microlearning is not for everyone. When everything is given in small pieces, it can make seeing the big picture complicated. For students who need to see the larger framework, this can be frustrating. In addition, because the content is supposed to be small, there is a danger of neglecting deep thought and fostering critical thinking skills. The focus seems to be on speed over depth generally.

In addition, microlearning may even be boring for some students. The piecemeal approach to it may not have enough depth to it for intellectual students. Therefore, the tool to use teaching begins with the students require

Conclusion

Microlearning is another tool available to the educator to help students. It doesn’t matter how students are taught as long as they know that they have learned something and can use it in an appropriate context.

What Teachers Hate about E-Learning

Hate is a strong word, but everyone has things that they dislike. The explosion of e-learning has left many teachers frustrated trying to determine what is going on? In this post, we will explore some of the significant changes that teachers hate about elearning.

Technology

The greatest enemy in e-learning for most teachers is technology. Everything must be in some sort of electronic format. Forums, chats, assignments, videos, powerpoints, etc., all must be upload to the mysterious LMS (learning management system.

Speaking of the LMS, it could Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas more something else. It could be something offered by Google, Microsoft, Zoom, loom, or else for video streaming. The average teacher has to learn some of this technology in a relatively short amount of time. However, all of the things mentioned so far relate to software. There are also concerns involving hardware.

Is the internet fast enough for streaming? Is the camera compatible? Is there a way to write on the screen? Many teachers also cut corners when it comes to their own personal technology devices. The laptop from 2012 problem won’t be helpful for teaching online (I’ve seen this attempted). This means spending money to update dead tech to teach in the 21st century.

Another problem is that if the larger institution doesn’t have a clear plan for teaching online, it leads to everybody doing whatever works for them. This torments students who have to adjust to 30 different websites for grades, ten different websites for videos, five websites for uploading material, etc. Each teacher borrows from some other teacher a neat idea, and it leads to an assortment of unique styles that tortures everyone connected to the institution.

Planning

The second great enemy of online teaching for teachers is planning. This is especially true for experienced teachers. When a teacher starts to become more experience, there is an immediate drop in planning because you just “know” what to do based on prior planning. However, online teaching is not as forgiving as improvisational teaching based on experience.

Units have to be planned and set up on the website in advance. Links must be there, along with instructions and additional resources. This cannot be set up during a live teaching session as it must be there preferably before the semester. What makes things even more frustrating is that the planning is slightly different in the context of online teaching because of how communication takes place, which is discussed below.

For someone who no longer plans or who was always bad at planning, this is discouraging. It takes a great deal of discipline to look ahead and plan in such a manner when you are used to a more informal way of doing things.

Communicating

The human element of teaching is almost totally lost when teaching online. The looks of confusion, the smiles, the laughter, even discussion are lost partially online. Discussion is lost because we all know what happens when more than one person talks over the internet. This loss of interaction makes teaching and learning difficult for the teacher. It is hard to tell if the students are learning because many of the cues that we have used in the past as formative assessment are hard to use in the online context.

Another problem is the need for everything to be in the text. Whether it’s messaging, assignments, or grading, communication is through typing and not as much through talking. This can be draining for even the most enthusiastic typists.

Returning to planning, a teacher will often lean on student questions and discussions to clarify things, whether in the classroom or outside of it. For example, a student might come to your office, or you bump into them in the hallway. Whatever you reexplain is often shared with others. These random moments of informal communication are lost, and this obscures the communication process in social interaction is not possible.

Conclusion

Adapting is part of life, but the pace at which e-learning has become a standard teaching tool is remarkable. As teachers struggle with this new experience, there are naturally going to be concerns and complaints.

What Passive Students Hate about Online Learning

Educators have constantly been searching for ways to engage students in the traditional classroom. With the push towards e-learning, the focus has switched to finding ways to engage students online. What may surprise some teachers, or perhaps not, is that not all students want to be engaged and active in the classroom. Thanks in part to laziness or poor teaching, some students prefer to be passive in the classroom. This is even true when these students are online.

This post is going to discuss some of the teaching strategies passives students hate when studying online.

Interactive Videos

Interactive videos allow the student to click on things for various reasons, such as answering questions about the video. Passive students hate interactive videos because it forces them to pay attention. The problem is that every student has to answer the question rather than the student the teacher calls on during a Zoom meeting if teaching synchronously.

In other words, interactive videos compel participation for an individual who does not want to participate. There is no excuse for being shy because the student answers a question that the server grades. However, a passive student does not want to be engaged. Instead, they want to watch the video while doing other homework, surfing the web, or simply putting their head down. With the questions and the grading, the student has to be active, which leads to anger. There is no zoning out during interactive videos unless the student wants to keep watching the video over and over to get the points.

Forums

Forums are another enemy of the passive student. It follows the same thinking as interactive videos. Forums force everyone to participate and not just the one student a teacher may call on in class or during a Zoom meeting. However, what makes forums even more frustrating for the passive student is that the question has to be graded by a human generally. What this means is that the question can be more open-ended and involve critical thinking.

Passive students despise critical thinking because they cannot copy and paste an answer from the internet or repeat what the teacher said, like in an interactive video. In other words, critical thinking forces them to think, and they never thought they would have to think at school because they have never thought before (this applies even to university students). In addition, thinking takes time, which angers the students because they have other assignments that they need to complete through memorizing. They don’t want to have to form an opinion since there is no way to know if it’s right or wrong immediately.

It is okay to compel a class to think critically face-to-face or even synchronously because the teacher cannot engage every mind simultaneously. Since the teacher cannot check everyone every time, the passive students can hide or just say anything when working in groups. However, asynchronous online learning forces a higher level of participation in which the passive student cannot hide, which can be a source of complaints about the teacher.

Due Dates

Passive online students also hate due dates. This is because they don’t understand how to manage their time. For some reason, these students are convinced that online assignments should be submitted almost whenever as long as the assignment is not “too late.” However, for the teacher, students submitting work whenever means that feedback and grading are done whenever. When this happens, the teacher has to continuously check and add grades to the grade book, and students never really know how they are doing because everyone is doing what they want.

A key component of online teaching is communication and feedback. Students need to see their grades go up and, when necessary, go down as assignments are marked. This motivates students to continue doing the right thing or to reflect on their actions and make changes. When assignments are submitted chaotically, this crucial component of online learning is lost, which is celebrated by the passive student who wants more time to waste time.

Misunderstanding of Time

A major hurdle that I have encountered online is the passive and maybe even the active students’ misunderstanding of time. Since students have to be active online, they develop the impression that online learning takes more time. In reality, the time is the same, but the activity level has increased. This means that the student is mainly responsible for their learning while the teacher has become a facilitator or a coach rather than the sage on the stage. Since the student has to go through the material, it is now “heavier.”

Again passive students do not enjoy being active. They desire to be passive. They want the teacher to share the content while they memorize it for the exam. This teaching style is possible online, but it is hard to be passive in the real world. Active workers are the ones who get and keep employment.

Conclusion

Everybody has their preferred learning and teaching style. Online educators need to be aware of the pitfalls of dealing with passive students. When passive students are held responsible for being active, there will be some frustration and complaints. This means that teachers need to be prepared for this when they try to help students learn in a manner they are not comfortable with.

Intro to Critical Race Theory

Critical race theory is a framework used by many to see the world in terms of race and power. Based on postmodernism, this concept is a significant influence on how many people see the world today. Primarily this relates to the difference in power and privilege between people who are white and black.

Tenets

Some proponents of critical race theory believe that race is a social construct developed to maintain the supremacy of white people. In addition, color was also at one time used to justify slavery. However, many also say that race is central when dealing with any issues of power and oppression. A significant problem is that it is difficult to define precisely what critical race theory is, and as with all definitions, there is no consensus.

Other significant tenets of critical race theory are the idea of white supremacy and white privilege, which means that people who are white have certain advantages due to their skin color. Another tenet is the need to give people of color a voice. By voice, it may mean being a part of decision-making and sharing grievances from oppression.

A final central tenet of critical race theory is the idea of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the idea that a person can be a member of more than one oppressed group. A classic example of this is a black woman. Such a person may experience oppression due to their race (black) or sex (female). As such, you can add more and more groups if a person continues to fight them based on the traits that are a part of their being.

Types

There are at least two types of critical theorists, and these are the materialists and the postmodern. The materialist look at how economic, legal, and politics affect race and may be considered to align more with communism. The postmodern focuses more on linguistics, deconstructing discourse to find power imbalances, and searching for implicit bias. Examples of what the postmodern critical race theorists do is look for things as microaggression, hate speech, cultural appropriation. These terms are used every day to attack people on social media. For example, being surprised that someone who is black is married because of the high out of wedlock birth rate would be considered microaggression by some and maybe even hate speech by others. The postmodern camp is generally more common today.

Both of these schools of thought have in common that they both dislike or even hate liberalism with its focus on incremental change. For example, many view Martin Luther King Jr as a liberal because he wanted to downplay color and focus on character. In critical race theory, it is all about color first and then some consideration of character.

Another trait of agreement is the view of knowledge as a social construct. This means that the marginalized groups determine what is true and not some external standard such as science or religion. To determine who is right, look for which group is more oppressed in a particular situation. This can be insanely confusing if it is taken seriously.

Even when there are attempts to end racism, this is viewed with suspicion by critical theorists. There have been accusations that white people give rights and opportunities to blacks only when it benefits them. In addition, legislation that is anti-racist supports racism. If these two beliefs are commonly believed, it makes it difficult for there ever to be any solution to justice and oppression.

Conclusion

Critical race theory is one of many schools of thought that has seized the minds of many. People who adhere to this worldview see race and oppression in most aspects of life. When a person sees problems of oppression everywhere, it is natural to wonder how they can have any sense of happiness or peace.

Independent Learning through Asynchronous Instruction

The current state of education has provided educators with an opportunity to teach in a whole new way. Most teachers have decided to teach remotely, which involves primarily teaching through a video conferencing tool such as skype. However, some teachers have chosen to be a little more adventurous and use asynchronous learning through prerecorded videos, which allows students to learn independently.

This post will go over the pros and cons of using prerecorded videos and tips for how to be successful when using this approach.

Pros

There are several benefits to going entirely into e-learning with prerecorded videos. The most substantial benefit, and this post’s theme, is the benefit of students becoming totally independent learners. When students are expected to log in, watch videos, and complete assignments without supervision, it provides them with an experience of being almost totally in charge of their learning. For many students, this is an unusual experience. Most students are used to the teacher being right there to share content, motivate, and provide instantaneous informal feedback. As such, students cannot learn on their own in many situations.

For many teachers, education aims to develop students who can learn independently without the teacher after their students. People are looking for individuals who can acquire information and judge its validity based on their thought processes. Developing these skills needs to be guided, but there is also a benefit to a sink and swim experience.

A second significant benefit of prerecorded videos is the avoidance of zoom fatigue. Remote learning has its own set of challenges and among them is how draining the experience can be. When students are expected to sit through a live lecture online, it is hard to stay focused. We have all fallen to the temptation of checking emails, surfing the web, or even merely logging in and walking away during online meetings or video conferencing.

With prerecorded videos, this is no longer a problem. Students watch 10-15 minutes worth of videos, complete some activity and move to the next video. If they want a break, they can take it whenever they wish in-between videos or even during the videos by hitting the pause button.

A final benefit of prerecorded videos is the engagement. When making prerecorded videos, it is often possible to insert questions during the video that the student has to answer. Having to answer these simple questions forces a student to pay attention and be engaged. In a regular classroom, a teacher might ask one student a question while everyone else is disengaged. With prerecorded videos, everyone is asked the question and responds appropriately to earn the points they want for their grade.

Cons

There are naturally some drawbacks to an entirely asynchronous experience. The biggest problem may be student frustration. Most students have never had such an experience, as mentioned earlier. This can lead to a shock experience for students who are new to this. They may conclude that the teacher is not doing their job or does not care etc. However, when the experience is over and everything is explained, students are often more supported by this type of learning when they see the skills they have developed.

A common problem for the teacher is not having a strong sense of how the students are doing. Of course, the teacher marks assignments, but something is unnerving of not answer questions directly or seeing that look of confusion on a student’s face when they do not understand. Many teachers cannot tolerate this and will use videoconferencing just to be in “touch” with the students. This is not wrong, but a unique opportunity for developing autonomy is missed in such a situation.

Another problem is that students take longer to do everything when they have to do it themselves. This leads to a perception that the teacher has given more work when the content is asynchronous, even if the teacher timed how long it should take to do something. It is important to remember that now all students have to do everything themselves, and this heightened responsibility gives the impression of more work. This needs to be explained to the students, so they do not overreact to the autonomous learning process.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is something that mainly affects the teacher, and this is the massive amount of preparation that goes into planning and developing prerecorded videos. Unless you have help, a teacher will have to do the following to make prerecorded videos

  • Plan all content for each video
  • Determine the approximate length of each video
  • Edit videos when necessary
  • Make sure not to go over the lecture hours in a given week of the syllabus
  • Upload videos
  • Embed videos into the LMS
  • Insert the questions into the videos to encourage interaction
  • Mark all related assignments

Most of this is already part of the job. However, with videoconferencing, there is more of a free flow to completing much of this as it is happening in real-time. AS such, the amount of prep work can be too much for many people to do alone. However, once it’s done, the content only needs minor revisions and can be useful for awhile.

Tips

Here are some tips to help students have success with asynchronous learning.

Set a schedule. Encourage students to study during the regular class time that was set aside in the course schedule. They are already used to this, and it will help them to manage their time. Of course, they can complete assignments whenever they want as long as they complete them before they are due.

Be Strict. The teacher must make sure the students are moving together through the content. This means that assignments need to be submitted on time. It is easy for students to be spread out with different people working on other chapters or weeks in the course, and the teacher has to keep track of people who are all over the place. In addition, once a student falls behind several weeks, there is little hope they will catch up.

To alleviate this, assignments from last week should be submitted during the current week so that students are up to date. Therefore, a ruthless late policy is needed to motivate students to stay current on assignments. It is also necessary to contact students when they do not complete assignments so they know they are being held responsible.

Give feedback quickly. Students are alone and isolated. They want to do how they are doing, and it is the teacher’s job to provide this. Therefore, the teacher has to be updating the grade book weekly as this serves as a form of communication with the students. This helps the teacher know how everyone is doing so that struggling students can be contacted through messaging or email for follow-up.

Communicate Frequently. Constant communication is needed when teaching 100% asynchronously. When students ask questions, they should be answered immediately, especially during regular business hours. The teacher also needs to provide frequent announcements to the class about major assignments are adjustments to the course. Teaching online means being at your desk and dealing with inquiries in real-time because this establishes a presence in the online learning environment.

Fix problems Fast. If something is not working in the LMS or the course, the teacher needs to immediately deal with this. Remember that frustration grows fast when students are alone like this, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure everything is running smoothly. Let the students be your eyes and ears for broken links and other tech problems while you address how to solve them.

Conclusion

Online learning provides an opportunity for students to learn in a way that is unfamiliar to them. A natural extension of this point is that online learning is a new experience for many teachers. This medium of instruction provides students with a chance to learn independently and for the teacher to focus more on being a facilitator of learning rather than the controller of it.

Theories of Motivation and the Classroom

Motivation is a crucial driver for success in education. This post will look at two theories of motivation and briefly connect them when appropriate to the classroom. These two theories are Manifest Needs Theory and ERG Theory.

Manifest Needs Theory

Henry Murray developed a theory of motivation called Manifest Needs theory. For Murray, needs are divided into two broad categories called primary and secondary needs. Primary needs are physiological needs, such as food, water, shelter, etc. Secondary needs are needs that people acquire or learn about through life. Examples of secondary needs are achievement, affiliation, etc.

This theory assumes that people are driven to satisfy these needs. If a student is talkative, they probably need affiliation. If a student is hard-working, they probably need achievement. People’s behavior is often an indication of what they need. There is an exception to this, and this is what Murray calls a latent need.

A latent need is a need that cannot be inferred by a person’s behavior. This is probably because the person is not able to satisfy this need. For example, a student may be disruptive because they are bored in class. The behavior indicates a need for affiliation, but the real need is achievement.

The point is that the behavior of a student can often be a clue to what motivates them. However, this comes with exceptions, as was already discussed.

ERG Theory

Clayton Alderfer took a different view of motivation. Alderfer proposes three categories of needs, which are existence, relatedness, growth. These three categories are where the acronym ERG comes from. Existence needs are physiological and material in nature, such as food, water, safety, etc. Relatedness needs are social and include esteem and interpersonal opportunities. Growth needs are related to personal development and include self-esteem and self-actualization.

These categories are ranked. In other words, existence needs must be met first, followed by existence, and lastly by growth. There are four different ways to move or stay in a particular category. Satisfaction progression involves satisfying the needs in one category and then focusing on the next category. For example, if food, water, and safety are taken care of, many students will focus more on relationships.

Frustration happens when people want to satisfy a need but cannot satisfying the needs that belong to a category. This can lead to over-focusing on the need. For example, a student needs attention and interaction but is told to be quiet in class. Being forced to be silent makes the need for socializing even stronger.

The third form is frustration regression. Frustration regression happens when a person cannot satisfy higher needs, so they double down on satisfying lower needs. If a student is not allowed to talk, they may focus on eating or drinking or asking to go to the bathroom. Since socializing is blocked, there is a greater focus on existence needs such as food and hygiene.

The final form is aspiration. This form explains the inherent satisfaction in growth. As people are allowed to grow, they become more and more satisfied with growing.

Conclusion

People are motivated by similar things, but there may be a difference in their behavior and how they satisfy their needs. As teachers, we need to be able to look at our students and determine ways to motivate them to succeed.

Brief Intro to Critical Theory

Critical Theory is a difficult concept to explain and understand. Some will say that it is an amalgamation of other theories, while others will reject this. It would not be possible to explain all the nuances of Critical Theory in a single blog post of several hundred words, but an an attempt will be made to provide basic ideas concerning it.


Critical Theory is an extension or perhaps a reaction to the ideas of Karl Marx and communism. Marx was pushing for a proletarian revolution of the working class rising up against the bourgeois. However, except in a few places, this never happened. This left supporters of Marxism frustrated, and they began to explore why this happened. Furthermore, many began to despise Marxism because of its failures.


One conclusion that they made was that Marxism was generally a disaster. The average person does not want to live in a communist state. On paper, it looked good, but in practice, it was often worst than capitalism. This led the early shapers of critical Theory to conclude that people fear freedom, which led to the rise and success of fascists governments over communists ones.

What needed to take place was that people needed to be awakened to their oppressed position in life. Marx had more of a deterministic view of the world in that revolution was inevitable because of the suffering. Critical theorists proposed that people needed to be woke to the oppression they were living under, which happened through people becoming critical.


By critical, it is generally meant to criticize the existing domineering culture. Examples of the West’s dominant culture would be male leadership over women, white leadership over minorities, heterosexual leadership of homosexual, etc. By questioning these imbalances in power and accepted norms, people would call not for an economic revolution but rather for a cultural one. All oppressed classes need to rise up and push for change.


The people who formed the foundations of critical Theory were naturally scholars. Therefore, their views began to permeate universities slowly. This long march through the institutions has been compared to Mao’s long march through China. One of the surest ways to have a long career in academics is to find a problem (the significance of the problem is irrelevant) and announced to the world through papers, media, and conferences how your problem is a big problem and how people need to pay attention to this and the solutions that are being proposed. Generally, people are good at finding problems; however, we tend to get into trouble with the answers we implement.


Critical Theory began to question such ideas as perceived privilege differences between groups (privilege has been defined as normalizing one group’s behavior at the expense of another). Other concepts are attacked, such as objectivity, hard work, and even the reasoning process that people use. These ideas were claimed to be cultural constructs of those with power who then impose their worldview on the oppressed. There are even suggestions of implicit bias, which is a form of bias a person has without even knowing it. For example, there have been accusations that some people are racist strictly because their skin color is the majority group’s color. In other words, guilt by DNA rather than by actual evidence.


The conspiratorial bent of Critical Theory is a powerful way of explaining all suffering within a given context. Another way to look at this is that one can say that Critical Theory can function as a narrative that explains where most suffering comes from for minority groups. Can’t get a job; it’s oppression. Can’t buy a car; it’s oppression. You can’t pass your classes; it’s oppression. This may not have been the intention of the original developers of critical Theory. However, students always extend the ideas of their teachers in the wrong direction. The idea that people are not responsible for the situations they are in but instead, it is the dominant group’s fault is an example of a poor application of the worldview of Critical Theory.

Postmodernism and Meta-narratives

There are questions about life that are hard to answer. Some of these questions include why are we here?, where are we going?, why is the world like this? This post will explore the ideas behind meta-narratives, which often play a role in attempting to answer these philosophical questions. We will also look at meta-narratives in connection with postmodernism.

Meta-narrative

The term meta-narrative is a rather young term with its existence being dated from the early 20th century. A meta-narrative is a narrative or story about the stories/narratives in a society’s culture that attempts to give meaning to life and experiences. In many ways, meta-narratives try to provide answers to the big philosophical questions about life examples of these questions, along with the branch of philosophy they may be derived from are as follows.

  1. What is real (metaphysical)
  2. Where did I come from (axiology)
  3. What is true (epistemology)
  4. What is right and wrong (ethics)
  5. What is beautiful (aesthetics)

The answer to these questions help to provide legitimacy for a society and or religion. Many meta-narratives attempt to answer these questions along with others. For example, Christianity provides answers about reality, the creation of man, truth, strong position on morals and more. Within Christianity, there is a belief in God along with a teaching that the world will eventually end with some living for ever. The ideas of this meta-narrative has led to billions choosing to claim this meta-narrative as the anchor of their beliefs as well as a church structure that has been around for over 2,000 years.

Another example of a meta-narrative, at least for some, would be the theory of evolution developed by Charles Darwin. This meta-narrative has its own explanation of the creation of man, perhaps an implied meaning of what is moral, what is true, and a denial of a higher power that shaped the world. The denial of God in evolution is due to a lack of evidence that meets the criteria set by empiricism. Since the existence of God does not play by the rules of science in terms of how to know what is true, this it implies that there is evidence that perhaps God does not exists. What both religion and science have in common is a desire to try to answer some of these big questions will approaching them from different angles.

Postmodernism & Meta-narratives

Postmodernism is an enemy of meta-narratives. This is partially due to the fact that postmodernism is suspicious of who provided the answers to the questions in meta-narratives. Whoever provided the answer is asserting authority over other people who either choose to believe or were coerced the accept. In addition, by what authority do the people who provide meta-narratives have the right to provide these answers? Religious meta-narrative are grounded in the belief of a higher power and or spiritual experiences, in other words, the source is authoritative. Evolution is grounded in empirical data collected in a scientific manner. However, for the postmodern thinker both of these are tainted ways of knowing because the people who have the power are the ones who provide the answers within the meta-narrative.

The idea of rejecting all meta-narratives, whether spiritual or scientific is a meta-narrative it’s self. Postmodernism’s answer to the big philosophical questions about life is that there are no universal answers to these questions, which is a universal answer against universal answers. It is impossible to say that there are no universal truths without the statement “there are no universal truths” being universal. In addition, it is hard to provide such a statement true without any external authority whether it’s spiritual or empirical.

Within postmodernism, the idea of truth is a cultural construct. What this means is that all the questions that meta-narratives address are answered at a local level only. This is because there are barriers to knowing what is true. However, if we takes these thoughts to one conclusion we would need to ask ourselves why the postmodern response is anymore superior to the religious our scientific one. By what authority or evidence is postmodernism able to make this claim?

Some may claim that lived experiences are the source of knowing in postmodernism but this is not unique. Religions are founded based on the lived experiences of apostles, prophets, disciples. In addition, scientific experiments are highly controlled lived experiences in which an observer watches carefully what happens in a certain controlled situation and then this experience is repeated by others. Rejecting the claims of modernism which involved science and reasoning by using reasoning to reject reasoning seems strange. Claiming that there are no answers or purpose to life with no other authority than confidence should not be enough to move people from the meta-narratives they already have that are also based on confidence.

Conclusion

People want answers to questions and one of the biggest problems with postmodernism is the answer that there are no answers. Instead, postmodernism offers the ideas that there is a power struggle over what people belief that perpetuates a system of darkness without most people even being aware of it. The tenets of postmodernism are just another way of viewing the world without much indication that it is superior to priors models.

Work Attitudes of Teachers

A teacher’s mindset is a powerful driver in the quality and commitment of their work. When things are tough, it is possible teachers may not give their best effort. This post will cover a variety of topics related to teachers in the workplace. We will look at job involvement, job satisfaction, and institutional commitment, among other issues.

Job Involvement 

Job involvement is a measure of a person’s interest in their job. For teachers, involvement can vary as with other occupations. A common enemy for teachers is burnout, which is a sign of overwork and perhaps over-commitment to teaching. Burnout symptoms can be fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, and or pulling away from social gathers. It is common for people’ who are highly involved to experience burnout because of their passion for teaching.

Naturally, teachers should be highly involved and engaged in their job of helping young people. However, it is also equally important to avoid the trap of burnout. If a teacher is overworked and fatigue from being too involved with their work, they will not support and help students to the level they should.

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is a closely related term to job involvement; this construct is the emotional state a person feels towards their job. For teachers, this can be seen as how much they love their work. A person can be highly involved with their job and hate the situation they are facing. For example, many teachers love teaching, but the stress of misbehaving students can take the emotional joy out of a job they are highly involved with.

Other factors affect job satisfaction. Pay can play a critical role in satisfaction. It is common knowledge that teachers are generally paid poorly compared to other professions.

Supervisor support is another factor. For teachers, this can vary from place to place. Some schools have highly supportive administrators who mentor and help teachers with challenges. However, the opposite is also the case, and that is the administrator who comes when there is a problem.

Lastly, coworker interaction can play a role in job satisfaction. Teachers spend the majority of their time only in the classroom. However, there are still plenty of opportunities for positive and negative interactions with colleagues. Meetings, lunch breaks, workshops, field trips, etc., are all opportunities for encouragement and backstabbing from other teachers.

Institutional Commitment

Institutional commitment is the strength with which a teacher identifies with their school or organization. This can involve accepting the school’s goals, exerting effort for the organization, and a strong desire for maintaining a connection with the institution. There are three components to the institutional commitment: normative, affective, and continuance commitment.

Normative commitment is a teacher’s sense of obligation towards their school. This can come from family, peer, or some other form of socialized pressure. Teachers may stay at a school because it is not socially acceptable to people in their social group to quit the job or move on to other opportunities. For many, this is the wrong reason to stay committed to an organization.

Affective commitment is the emotional attachment a teacher hast towards their institution. As the years go by and the memories increase, teachers can often develop a fondness for their employment institution regardless of the negative factors. Affective commitment is often the most valued because it will usually encourage a teacher’s hard work and effort.

Continuance commitment is a teacher maintaining allegiance to an institution because there are not any better opportunities. The teacher is strictly working at that particular school for the money. Many administrators are not fond of this type of commitment, but the reality is that people have to work, and there are times when they are waiting for other doors to open.

The various ideas discussed here do not only apply to a commitment to an institution. Some teachers love teaching and are committed to that regardless of the institution in which they work. They may love teaching or may be pressured to be a teacher, maybe they are waiting to change careers, or it could be a combination of all three.

Conclusion

The attitude and commitment a teacher has towards teaching and even where they work can vary from person to person. What motivates and drives any individual to do anything is a complex process to understand. The purpose here was to provide some ideas into what affects a teacher’s view of their occupation and place of work.

Social Perception of Students

Every day a teacher steps into a classroom, they are being judged by their students on many factors. This experience is called social perception. IN this post, we will look at social perception and its role in the classroom.

Social perception is how we interpret the people around us through the impressions we make of these people. Students also develop social perceptions of other students as well as teachers. Several categories in which a teacher is perceived socially and several of them are explained below.

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

What a teacher says to students and how they say it is a part of verbal and nonverbal communication. The tone of voice a teacher uses communicates the emotional state of the teacher. For example, if the teacher is yelling, it may indicate anger at the students, while a teacher who speaks in a hesitant tone may communicate a lack of confidence.

The precision of the language indicates to many students the level of professionalism of the teacher. For example, a teacher who uses slang may be trying to encourage an informal atmosphere. In contrast, a teacher’s highly formal use of language may be an attempt to set a serious tone in the classroom. Accent also plays a role, but a teacher will have a more challenging time controlling their accent than the precision and tone of voice.

Nonverbal communication is also critical in maintaining a positive social perception. Smiling vs. frowning is a form of body language. Both of these are appropriate in a specific situation. In addition, such things as posture, eye contact can communicate confidence. A slouching teacher who does not look students in the eye may have a greater difficulty in maintaining authority compared to a teacher with erect posture and strong eye contact. This is especially true when students are disruptive. A teacher needs to look like they are in charge even if the situation is out of control. The calm, confident, steady hand of a firm teacher can prevent a lot of problems.

Assigned Attributes

Some of the interpretations students have of a teacher are made merely from the position of the teacher. For example, the occupation of teacher often has high-status in the eyes of students as the teacher is the direct leader and supervisor of students. As such, students will often treat the teacher differently from the janitor due in part to the teacher’s position in relation to the janitor.

This can even be more complicated. Older teachers or teachers who have been at a school longer also have certain credibility that new teachers have to earn. Students know the more senior teachers personally or have heard of them through friends, and this will often make the teacher’s job easier or harder depending on what the students think of them.

Other Factors

Students own personality influences what they notice. Confident people tend to have a more positive view of others. In addition, students who have a better understanding of themselves are often better able to read others. Lastly, students who are comfortable with themselves are more likely to see other people, such as teachers, positively.

Conclusion

A teacher needs to be aware of how they are perceived by others, even students. This does not mean that a teacher should radically change their approach to please students. Instead, understanding this can help a teacher know their strengths and weaknesses in terms of what the students think.

The Perceptual Process and Students

It is common for a teacher to see students staring off into space when they should be paying attention to the teacher. In this post, we will look at perception and its role in a student’s ability to focus in the classroom.

Perception 

Perception is the process by which a person gives meaning to what they choose to pay attention to. This can be the words in a book that a person sees or the conversation a person hears while speaking with a friend. A student’s perception can take in information from peers, the teacher, or other sources such as a cellphone in the classroom.

Perceptual selectivity is the process of picking a specific stimulus to focus on among several competitors. As teachers, we want our students to focus on learning and or instruction when they try to determine what to focus on perceptually.

To further complicate things, different students will focus on other things, even when they are focused and paying attention. For example, if the teacher is demonstrating how to use lab equipment, some students will focus on the equipment while others will be focused on the teacher’s words. Those who focus on the equipment do not focus on the teacher, while those who focus on the teacher’s words do not see how to use the equipment.

Once a student has focused on the stimulus that a teacher desires, the student enters the next stage, perceptual organization. At this stage, students attempt to make sense of what they are focusing on. This can be instructions from the teacher or an assignment as examples.

Several factors influence what a student will focus on, and these can be grouped into two broad categories: physical properties and dynamic properties.

Physical & Dynamic Properties

Physical properties include size because the larger something is, the easier it is to focus on it. This is why visuals need to be large so that the students can focus on them. A second physical property is the use of contrast or opposing characteristics such as light and dark or small and big. Contrast also relates to visuals. A third physical property is novelty. Nothing will get a student’s attention, like doing something unexpected.

Dynamic properties involve things that change or have an order to them. Two examples are motion and repetition. Motion is self-explanatory, but one example of this for a teacher is to move about the classroom while teaching. This may help some students to focus as the act of motion prevents the zoning out of focusing on a static object. Repetition is another prominent dynamic property. If instructions are repeated several times, it helps with retention.

The properties mentioned above are external factors. However, there are also several internal factors, such as response salience and response disposition.

Response Salience and Response Disposition

Response salience is the habit of focus on objects that relate to immediate needs and or wants. This means that a student needs to be persuaded that focusing on an assignment and or the teacher is meeting an immediate need or want. Often, a student will not pay attention because they do not see the need to. Therefore, teachers need to make sure that they can connect whatever they need to do in the classroom with some immediate relevancy.

Response disposition is a person’s habit of noticing familiar objects faster when compared to unfamiliar objects. Naturally, familiar objects will be things that a student has already learned and or be exposed to. In the classroom, sometimes students will hear what they think they hear when the reality is that they are replacing what the teacher said with something they are more familiar with. For example, it is common for students to mix up directions and or complete assignments incorrectly. Math assignments are often done incompletely because students use the wrong tools to complete a problem. The tool they select is often from ones they are already familiar with rather than the new one they just learned.

Conclusion

It is easy for a teacher to jump to conclusions when a student is not paying attention and focused. However, a teacher needs to familiar with the processes that people, including students, use when deciding what to focus on in the classroom.

Course Design Consistency in E-learning

It is common for schools to allow teachers a great degree of latitude in designing their online courses. Providing such freedom is good as many teachers are professionals and know what they want to do. However, when you scale this level of autonomy over dozens or even hundreds of teachers, it can lead to chaos for several campus stakeholders.

I say this because if everyone is doing what they want, everyone is adjusting to what everyone else is doing. Given that communication is more problematic over the internet because of the loss of body language and other informal means of communication, allowing everyone to teach as they see fit is administrative chaos often.

This post will look at how institutions need to have a general format for presenting and interacting online to reduce the variability inherent with human nature. One particular way of designing courses will not be encouraged. Instead, the point is that the institution needs to agree on a general way of sharing content online. When institutions have an agreed-upon general instructional design approach, it helps

  • Students to focus on learning
  • Teachers to focus on teaching
  • Support staff to focus on supporting

Students can focus on learning

In the online context, the students may be the most vulnerable to stress and failure of all parties involved. It is their job to perform through passing assessments and completing assignments. Therefore, students should focus on the content and not adjust to every teacher’s unique instructional design style.

If every teacher has their online course setup in radically different ways, students have to spend time just figuring out how a course is set up. One teacher has a link for attendance; another teacher post videos externally on youtube; some teachers communicate through the LMS while others use Facebook. This teacher uses online quizzes, and another teacher has students take a picture of assignments they have taken (this is not a joke). With all the different ways, the students’ cognitive capacity is wasted on something that has nothing to do with learning and interacting.

Again, the stress of the student can be significantly reduced from merely having a general format for the course. The use of standard blocks and activities despite content could help. Having some basic order of the presentation of activities may be beneficial as well.

Teachers can focus on teaching

Sometimes freedom can be the enemy of efficiency. When teachers can do whatever they want in online teaching, they may struggle with making decisions about doing anything. If their options are limited in a helpful way for their own benefit and that of their students, it allows the teachers to focus on becoming familiar with this new context of online teaching.

Having a general format presented by the institution provides training wheels for inexperienced teachers and restrains experienced teachers from departing to far from a standard. Of course, we all want to support freedom and innovation, but the stress of a crisis may not be the best time to have the authority to do whatever you want.

A cookie-cutter approach to teaching online may not be exciting, but it is efficient, and it removes the strain of unnecessary decision-making when there are so many other things to be concerned about.

Support staff can focus on supporting

If all the teachers are doing whatever they want online, it can strain the support staff, such as IT. IT is now being forced to provide custom-made support for every teacher’s unique ideas. Having a general approach that is agreed to can allow IT to conserve resources and work with common problems rather than individual and distinct issues.

For example, I once had to check the course design of teachers at an institution. Fortunately, it was during summer school at a small university, but it was still about 50 courses, which was about one per teacher. If I had had to provide the same support during a regular semester, it could have easily been almost 200 courses. However, if all the teachers are sharing their content in a similar manner, it speeds up the supervision process because the level of scrutiny is lower. In addition, people can be trained the distinct university style of designing and can provide feedback and that of the support staff expert.

Conclusion

The challenges and concerns of teaching online mean that there is a need to streamline the process so that everyone involved can focus on what they need to do. Naturally, there should be some flexibility in the design of courses as different teachers, subjects, and students have different needs. The point here is to make sure there are agreed-upon boundaries to limit the variability from course to course.

Providing Feedback in an Online Context

Often feedback is automated in the online context. This can include the use of multiple-choice, matching, true and false, etc. Since there is only one answer, the computer can score it, and a highly ambitious teacher can even provide automated feedback based on the answers the students select.

However, a lot of assessment cannot be automated. This means that the teacher must provide feedback manually to such assignments. The purpose of this post is to provide strategies for providing feedback in the online context.

Feedback for Individuals

The ways to provide feedback for students at the individual level are similar to how you could do this in a face-to-face teaching setting. Here, we are going to provide online equivalents of standard forms of intervention.

After checking an assignment, a teacher can message a student to provide feedback. Most LMS have a form of messaging, so this should be possible. In addition, most LMS provide some way to provide feedback to all the assignments and activities in the system, which is highly convenient for most teachers. If this does not work, another option is to send an email. If email is used, you can also attach a rubric for the student. This is time-consuming but highly doable for the weakest at technology.

Among those who hate to type, recording short videos explaining how you marked the assignment can be highly practical. Often you can provide much more detailed feedback to the students. Of course, this is a little bit more technical challenge, so it may not be practical in all situations. However, you can show the assignment on your screen and do a play-by-play of the student’s progress.

Feedback for the Whole Class

Students often make the same or similar mistakes. Therefore, instead of giving individual feedback to each student, you can share feedback with the entire class. The tools mentioned above apply in this setting, as well. When marking assignments, you look for common mistakes and explain them to all students in one message or video.

General whole class feedback is highly time-efficient. It satisfies most students who are generally happy with a general idea of how they are doing rather than a detailed report of every shortcoming.

Other Options

Of course, you can do a combination of the two strategies above. For example, students who are doing well may only receive general whole class feedback. Then for struggling students, you may opt to provide more detailed feedback to help them pass the course.

Peer evaluation is also highly popular but challenging to do online. Just like teachers, students do not like to provide a lot of written feedback. It can also be challenging to monitor this process and make sure students are trying to help each other.

Conclusion

Providing feedback is essential, but it is highly time-consuming. Giving feedback can be even more tedious in the online context if you are trying to do it the same way as in a traditional classroom. However, making some small adjustments, such as giving feedback only to those who need it, can make this experience less painful.

Pros and Cons of Live Streaming Teaching

Online teaching is all the rage now. This has led teachers and institutions to try and determine how to support students in the online context. One solution that many individuals and institutions are adopting is the use of live-streaming their classes. In this post, we will look at the pros and cons of live-streaming classes.

Pros

One advantage of live-streaming your teaching is the authenticity of doing this. Here you are live trying to instruct and connect with your students. This is hard to do in a prerecorded video, which should generally be perfect because there is time to fix problems. With live-streaming it is similar to the classroom in which all the warts and flaws of the teaching experience are there for everyone to see.

Another advantage of live-streaming instruction is the chance to address and communicate with students in real-time. This allows you to address questions while they are fresh in students’ minds and provides an opportunity to get to know one another. Again, this personal touch is not possible when making prerecorded videos.

Cons

Technical issues are probably the biggest problem with live streaming. Technology is impressive but often unpredictable. The microphone you’ve been using for weeks all of a sudden does not work. The internet connection is down or slow. Or maybe the students cannot see or hear or even cannot log in if required. All these things and more can happen when live streaming. In addition, these are all problems that need to be solved in a matter of minutes before students get distracted or give up with learning at that particular moment. If you do not have a strong technical background, it can be impractical to wait for IT to come to the rescue as you struggle to figure out what is going wrong.

To do quality live streaming incurs a moderate to high cost. You will need a microphone, streaming software, camera, and more to do this well. If you only want to sit in front of your computer, this will lower cost and quality. However, if you’re going to move around the room while teaching, you will need cameras that can follow you and a microphone to pick up what you are saying.

If moving through the classroom is a goal, you will need a cameraman to man the camera. In addition, if you want to interact with the students, you will need someone keeping track of any chat messages coming in through your platform or whatever messaging system you are using. If you are only sitting at your computer and live-streaming, it isn’t easy to keep track of the messaging and chats while teaching at the same time. Even a system that notifies you of questions is hard to notice because you are focused on your content. Of course, you can just let students jump in when they have a question, but this may not be practical for large classes.

The point is that quality live-stream comes with a cost. Sitting in front of your computer is much more cost-friendly than moving about in a studio or classroom. However, if the live-stream is going to be good, there will be some financial investment in equipment and software

Engagement can be challenging with live-streaming. The temptation is to lecture for the time that everyone is together. Teachers do this despite knowing that lectures are horrendously dull. If the lecture is prerecorded, students can skip around or play it back at double speed, which is beneficial for the faster students.

The engagement issue means that the teaching has to be good. This means having clear lessons, high expectations, and a strong knowledge of the subject. If you are sitting in front of your computer, it means you need to know when to show the content and when to move the camera to show your face. Cycling back and forth like this helps keep students awake rather than only showing the content or your face. Visualizing ideas by making pictures also helps. By drawing ideas using some software, it helps to keep students engaged.

The final problem with live streaming is something that isn’t the teacher’s fault, which is time zones. If students are spread out all of the country or world, this means there is no convenient time to live stream. I have heard of cases of students having to watch classes at 1 am because of live-streaming. This was hardly convenient for them.

This implies that live streaming may be limited to specific geographic regions near your institution. Of course, if you allow students to watch the video later, this will solve this problem. However, the option of watching the video latter means many will skip the live stream for the convenience of watching it later. Sadly, for many students, watching the video later means never watching it at all.

Conclusion

Live-streaming is for pros. If you are new to this, you need a lot of help, or you need to develop your technical skills to handle emergencies. You also need to make sure that you can teach in an engaging way, so people do not start surfing the net while trying to teach. This is an excellent tool for a particular type of teacher, and anybody can live stream and do a lousy job. For most of us, we need the flexibility of prerecording to iron out whatever problems we face when trying to transition to online teaching.

Common Teacher Misconceptions about Online Learning

One of the biggest challenges many teachers have with online teaching is seeing teaching asynchronously. Asynchronous means not at the same time. By extension, asynchronous learning means learning that does not take place at the same time. Most teachers have years if not decades of synchronous teaching, which means they are use to all their students being in the same place and learning at the same time. In this post, we will see how this misconception can begin to creep into many different aspects of online teaching.

Attendance and Seat Time

When a teacher moves to online teaching, they expect to be able to something as simple as taking attendance. However, it doesn’t make sense to take attendance because the students are not all in one place simultaneously as in a traditional classroom. Therefore, students’ attendance is not kept through presence but rather through completing activities and assignments.

Another common problem connected with asynchronous learning is the concerns of meeting a certain number of lecture hours. Again, in online teaching, it not about hours but instead demonstrating competency by completing appropriate forms of assessments. In other words, the work completed is proof that the lecture hours have been met. In addition, because students can work at their own pace, there is no way they will all spend the same amount of time in the course. This means that assessment is more critical than lecture/content in an online course because it is hard to control the amount of time needed for individual students to learn.

Live Stream vs. Prerecorded

Many teachers that I have worked with over have wanted to live stream their classes. Again, this goes back to the idea of trying to duplicate the synchronous learning experience online. Live streaming is not a bad thing, but you must be able to solve technical issues quickly, and you need adequate equipment. The equipment can include a camera, computer, microphone, and someone to control all of this stuff. To live stream your class through your laptop or tablet for students is a poor learning experience.

Prerecording is a superior choice because you do not have to worry about solving technical issues immediately. This approach is also consistent with asynchronous teaching. You record the video, fix any problems, and upload. Students can watch the video whenever they want, which provides them with the flexibility they may need in a faraway timezone.

Assessment and Cheating

When it is time for significant assessments such as final exams, teaches often want all the students to take the exam simultaneously. Again, this is another example of synchronous thinking in an asynchronous context. It is reasonable to have all students take an exam simultaneously if they are in the same place. However, if the students are all over the world, it is not practical.

Generally, traditional assessments such as quizzes and finals are avoided when teaching online. This is because the temptation to cheat is so high. Instead, projects in which the students have to apply the knowledge is the preferred way when possible so that the students have to use what they learned rather than repeat it.

If traditional testing is necessary, you can employ several a question bank from which the exam pulls one of several questions. You can also scramble the correct answers within a question.

Conclusion

Change is difficult, and when teachers are forced to move to a different teaching platform, it can be challenging. The assumptions of synchronous teaching are not wrong until they begin to impact the students’ learning experience in an online setting.

Developing Curiosity in Students

Young students, generally less than 11 or 12, seem to have an endless supply of questions for their teachers. They are always looking to learn something, even if this is not reflected in their academic performance. However, as students grow older, it is common for them to lose interest in learning more than the minimum. In other words, curiosity often dies as compliance becomes stronger with time. This post will look at ways to maintain are strengthen curiosity in students using the following strategies.

  • Questioning
  • Employing active learning/leading
  • Modeling

Questioning

Asking questions is one way in which a teacher can inspire curiosity. Questions stimulate thinking as the student finds the answer or realizes they do not know the answer. Often, if students do not know the answer to a question from the teacher, they will want to know it.

It is hard to say what makes a good question suitable. However, open-ended questions usually encourage deep thinking. Examples of open-ended questions often involve the use of such phrases as “what if,” “why,” and “suppose.” Teachers need to try and use open-ended questions when possible. In addition, teaching the skill of asking questions is highly valuable in a world that is demanding critical thinking. It is not enough to ask good questions as teachers need to teach students to ask good questions as well.

Asking great questions will allow students to interact with each other and with the teacher will provoking stimulating discussion. This ability to have deep stimulating conversation is a skill that is rarely found in the world today.

Active Learning

Active learning involves having students do something to learn rather than receiving information passively or without action. It means putting them in charge of their learning as students. It is difficult for a student not to have any curiosity when they are the leader in their learning. One way to encourage this would be to employ self-direct learning in which students pick for themselves how to complete a project.

A simple example of this is having students share current event articles. The students have to select and then share the article. Finding an article takes some curiosity as they explore the internet looking for material. Sharing information also requires the development of thinking and communication skills.

Modeling

Being an example of curiosity is probably the most critical strategy. Imitation is a primary way of learning for students. As a teacher, you have to be the one who demonstrates what curiosity is. This involves asking questions, showing what active learning looks like, listening carefully when others talk, and more. It may also include making mistakes in front of the class to show that curiosity is sometimes about failing.

Modeling may be the most potent tool for encouraging curiosity because this is a primary way in which people learn and that is through the watching and imitating the behavior of others

Conclusion

Curiosity is alive outside of school. If you doubt this, look at how students figure out their cellphones, tablets, and games. However, once inside the classroom, students seem to lose interest in being curious. As educators, we need to find ways to help students bring their curiosity into the classroom.

Logistical Challenges of Online Group Work

The surge in online education has led to questions about group work. This post is going to avoid talking about all the basics of group work such as setting expectations, dealing with lazy students, setting deadlines, etc. because these are principles that apply offline as well as online. Instead, we are going to look at the unique logistical challenges of online group work. Some of these challenges include

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Presentation

Communication

Finding ways for group members to communicate is a major challenge when working online. However, it depends on the context. Students may need to communicate synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous means everyone is together and talking at the same time such as during a conference call. Asynchronously means people communicate but not at the same time such as through a forum/chat.

If all the students are in the same time zone are neighboring ones, it is easy for them to communicate synchronously. However, if students are spread out all over the world finding a convenient time to discuss and work on a project together becomes difficult.

As mentioned earlier, forums/chat are a way for group members to communicate when it’s convenient for them. However, for some, working like this doesn’t feel look group work. This is s subjective view but is something to bear in mind.

A general recommendation to make is that the closer students live near each the more complex the project can be because of the ease of communication (synchronously). However, the converse is also true that the further away students live from each other simpler the project may need to be because of the challenges of communication (asynchronously).

In terms of the tools to use for communication, it’s probably better to have official channels worked out beforehand for the students to lower confusion. Again this is much more important as the students are more spread out geographically. Have all the students signup for whatever tool you pick and then have them use this one. There are so many different tools to choose from that this can be better decided between you and your IT staff.

If the communication is asynchronous, it might not be necessary to use any external tools as most LMS have forums and even a chat feature. If the current tools do not work again it is recommended to consult your IT staff.

Collaboration

The word collaboration in this post means some sort of document(s) that a group has to work on to complete the project. This can be a serious headache if you do not put in place some sort of system through which students can share document(s). What you really want to avoid are students emailing each other copies of the document which quickly falls apart. Another problem that you want to avoid is one student pasting together several documents from different people because there was no collaborating happening when this takes place.

Depending on your school there may already be tools for document collaboration. For example, Google or Microsoft both provide tools for institutions to share documents. The problem is that you as the teacher must learn how to do this and then explain and train all of your students, which is extremely difficult. This is probably one reason why group work in eLearning is talked about but rarely done.

Presentation

Often, when a project is completed it is shared with the class. Again, if all the students are geographically near each other a live class online is feasible. However, in a situation in which students are spread out this is not possible. This leads to the question of how to have students share what they learned.

The simplest solution is to have students prerecord there presentation. This is then linked inside the LMS so that other students can watch it. You can even require that students leave comments as proof that they watched the presentation. Unfortunately, doing this means that normally only one person gets to present in a group because of the challenges of communication.

Conclusion

Group work online is challenging, however, it can work in certain circumstances. People may disagree but the main challenge is differences in time zones that can impede live communication. When this is missing a lot of critical interaction is missing that is a part of the learning experience. Therefore, online projects are better if they are simply rather than highly complex.

Getting Students Online

In this post, we will look at getting students online for the purpose of learning. Moving students online requires some training for the students and clarification for the administration in terms of what they need to share and this post addresses both of these concerns.

Traits of Successful Online Learners

Online learning requires highly autonomous students. This means students who are self-motivated and organized. They must have the drive to work to achieve a goal. The reason for this is that social relationships are warp in the online context and it is hard to rely upon friends for encouragement and even the teacher for structure.

Online students must also possess the ability to read and at times find instructions for completing assignments adhering to due dates etc. Text is a primary vehicle fo instruction in online learning and students who do not like to read and or are aural learners may have a hard time in the context.

Perhaps the most important trait online learners need to possess is the willingness to ask help from the teacher or IT staff. It is difficult to survive online if a student is too shy to ask for help when they are confused. Again, this has to do with the inability to socialize with peers adequately online. Without the initiative to call out for help students will quickly become overwhelmed and lost.

These traits mentioned above are traits that students should possess before studying online. It is difficult if not impossible to develop these abilities while studying online. It is also equally challenging for the teacher to try and teach these skills. This means that online learning is not for all students.

To determine if students are ready for online learning it may be necessary to assess their skill set before online studying. Assessing study skills, time management, etc can at least help to flag students who may be at risk.

Tools for Online Learning

The tools for online learning are rather obvious but sometimes students do not seem to understand this. For example, a steady internet connection is necessary. This seems obvious but sometimes I have seen students try to study in public places are in a noisy home with many competing devices on the network.

There are also things to consider about the hardware. Students must have some sort of way to back up their data. This can be cloud storage or an external hard drive. Many students have computers that crash and leaves them without there assignments. This can be avoided for as little as $10 for a decent thumb drive.

Students also need to have the browser that your site supports as well as specific plugins for individual courses (adobe reader, Zotero, etc). However, be careful with adding more and more software as it can lead to difficulties for students who lack the technical knowledge or technology.

Student Orientation

The orientation to online at your school should deal with all the ideas addressed above along with the traditional topics your school deals with during their orientation.

In addition, you need to lay down expectations about communication, academic integrity, and the time commitment of online learning. Other topics include using the LMS, study tips, as well as handling online assessments.

Generally, the orientation is fully online. However, if the program is new it can be fully face-to-face or a hybrid model. This is because a new program may want to focus on students who are on-campus to work out the bugs and kinks of starting a new program. If you go live all over the world without any preparation it could lead to a lot of surprises.

Conclusion

Preparing students for online learning has a lot to do with the students being prepared beforehand. Online learning works for those with the discipline and motivation to work independently. If a student lacks this trait it doesn’t matter what the training covers.


E-Learning & Support Staff

Many think e-learning is only about teaching. In reality, there is an entire army of people working behind the scenes so the teacher and student can shine. In this post, we will look at support services and how they can be made ready to support e-learning

Defining Support

The support staff is all of the people involved in the online learning experience whose primary function does not involve teaching or leadership. Examples of support staff can include information technology, academic services, finance, student services, and marketing among other possible individuals.

A common problem with support staff is that like many teachers they have never studied or taught online. This means that they may not be familiar or comfortable with supporting students virtually such as in the context of an online experience. In addition, even though they do not teach support staff needs to be familiar with the LMS and other online tools so they can at least communicate basic information to students when it is necessary.

To put things as simply as possible, even the secretaries should be familiar with e-learning ideas an concepts not for the sake of teaching but for the sake of being able to understand students and even teachers’ questions and concerns as they provide support for them. This can only be done through training and some experience.

Information Technology

The IT team has the advantage of being thoroughly comfortable with technology. Therefore, learning about the technical aspects of e-learning is not much of a challenge for them. The problem with IT often is that they constantly want to add more and more technology to solve various problems with the existing technology that you are using. When this happens the new technology clashes with old technology causing bugs and the learning curve to use the LMS grows. This discourages students and teachers from using the system employed by the institution. Therefore, it is important to limit the expansion of technological tools employed for e-learning for the sake of simplicity.

Other problems facing IT is the selection of the LMS. Generally, you want them to be a part of this process to win their future cooperation. If you pick it without them and they know what you picked was bad they will resist supporting the lousy system with 100% commitment. However, if you pick a bad system together you will get full cooperation because of the IT’s ownership in the bad decision.

When deciding on what LMS to pick the choices are essentially free (moodle) and commercial (Blackboard). Free is not free as you have to provide extensive support to get the LMS working which may require hiring additional people. Commercial cost more but is already fully functional.

The choice of LMS also has to consider supporting the system. This includes standard procedures for updates/archives, the appearance of website, security, and how to address technical support. These are all basic IT concepts but they need to be worked out for the e-learning context.

Academic Services

Academic services will need to determine if the Student Information System is going to integrate with the LMS. This is primarily so that information in one system is simultaneously available in the other. Examples of information that may need to be in both systems include grades, student ID, student names, majors, faculties, etc. Doing this is simple for IT (most of the time) but there are security issues that need to be addressed.

It is also important to have all the standard academic policies adapted for the online experience. For example, addressing issues involving plagiarism and cheating need to be adapted for e-learning. Lastly, the academic office needs to think of how tutoring and remedial support can take place in the online context. For example, proficiency exams for entrance, writing support, and additional forms of tutoring needs to be addressed in the online context.

Library Service, Finance & Student Services

The library needs to establish a strong online presence by acquiring ebooks and electronic databases. The staff of the library must also becoming comfortable helping students online rather than face-to-face. For example, library staff may need to make a video recording of how to use online library services which means the staff has to be familiar with technology.

Finance needs to determine the cost of learning online. Students expect the fees to be lower than on-campus because there is no room and board involved. Therefore, there is intense pressure to keep costs down in e-learning.

In addition, contrary to what we see with MOOCs, online classes should be the size of traditional classes at your institution. Teaching 500 students at once cannot be done with 1 person even with all the technology. Students need the individual attention that comes with moderately small classes. With a large class, the institution is forced to higher TAs that quickly start to eat up the budget. Therefore, finance needs to be sure to treat online classes like regular classes financially.

Student services can involve such things as counseling and social activities. Therefore, it is left to Student Services to develop these tools in an online context. Students require emotional support like anybody else.

Another project is for the student service team to develop ways for online students to socialize and get to know each other. This may be done by breaking students into social cohorts who have to interact synchronously at times.

When thinking of all these services, they can be shared by the online program with the university or they can be separate. For example, the online program can share financial services or have its own financial services. There is no right or wrong but what works best for you.

Conclusion

There is a lot involved in support staff to have a quality online experience. Everyone needs to work together for the sake of the students to learn. If anything is neglected the online experience will be negative for many.

Online Teaching Competencies

In this post, we will look at teaching from the perspective of three different areas of competence. These areas are

  • pedagogical
  • technical
  • administrative

Skills in these three areas indicate a teacher who may find it easier to be successful in the online learning context.

Pedagogical

Pedagogical skills that an online teacher should possess include the following.

  • Content mastery
  • Responds to students inquiries (within 24 hours)
  • Provides feedback
  • Communicates
  • Monitors progress
  • Demonstrates presence
  • Instructional variety

Content mastery is the expertise a teacher brings to a subject. Generally, this is acquired through university studies and is not acquire while learning to teach online.

Responding to student questions and providing feedback all deal with the idea of communicating. When teaching online, messaging is a primary tool for reaching students. Therefore, responding to concerns and providing feedback on assessments promptly are key skills in successful online teaching because this is the primary way of interacting with students one-on-one

Monitoring progress is similar to providing feedback. However, monitor progress is about watching the students while they work rather than checking their progress after working. For example, many LMS systems have a way to know when students last logged in to the course and can even tell you what they clicked on. If you notice that a student has not logged in for a while you may want to contact him to see what is going on.

Demonstrating presence means providing students with evidence that you are watching and monitoring the class and know what is going on in the learning experiences. This can be done through the use of several skills already discussed. When students know you are there and watching it can boost motivation.

Finally, instructional variety means having different ways of providing instruction. Nobody enjoys only lecture-style teaching or maybe even exclusive group work. Rather, what people enjoy are different forms of experiencing the learning content.

Technical

Technical competency may be one of the biggest challenges for teachers. To demonstrate technical competency teachers must have strong computer knowledge. This can include fast typing skills, various forms of software, hardware, and even coding (i.e. Html). It may also be necessary to develop video editing skills for lectures and knowledge of different forms of social media for sharing content. In addition, all the tools mentioned are upgraded over time requiring a teacher to refresh their skill set. In other words, you never stop learning when it comes to technical competence.

The LMS is another highly specific that has to be mastered to a certain degree. No matter what your institution chooses (Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, etc.) there will be a learning curve to figure out what to do. A teacher will be responsible for grades, communication, course display, and even helping students with minor technical questions.

Larger institutions may have dedicated tech support for moving a class online while smaller institutions may not. Technical challenges are perhaps the top complaint of online teachers. Therefore, technical skills must be developed. Personal experience shows me that the only way to develop technical skills is to play with the software/technology involve. Large training sessions are fun for socializing and being together but people generally don’t develop the ability to do or use something in such settings.

Administrative

Administrative competence is highly similar to the pedagogical competency. Some of the administrative competencies include the following

  • Classroom management
  • Academic integrity
  • Course revision

In terms of classroom management, teachers need to make sure the syllabus/course outline is available, that the course is available from the official start and end date set by the institution, communication is taking place, student progress is being monitored, etc. As you can see, there is a strong overlap between pedagogy and administration.

Academic integrity is another important competency, particularly with older students. The policies for defining this behavior need to be explained in the syllabus/course outline and available to students. In addition, penalties need to be explained for violation of academic integrity.

Course revision is using feedback from students to improve the course. Usually, a course will have some sort of an evaluation that students complete for course improvement. However, student feedback in only one source of information. The teacher should always be looking for ways to improve their courses by incorporating new material, teaching approaches, and or technology.

Conclusion

Competencies help people to determine where they are at and where they need to be in terms of their skillset. Being deficient in a competency does not mean incompetence (no pun intended). Rather it is an opportunity to grow and something that may not be natural.

Roles in Online Teaching

Online teaching requires the teacher to be able to wear several hats in teaching online. These different hats are symbolic of the work and roles online teachers have. The following is a list of some of the main roles teachers have when teaching online

  • Course Designer
  • Facilitator
  • Manager
  • Expert
  • Mentor

Course Designer

Course designing was discussed in a prior post in this blog. For simplicity, course design is curriculum development in an online context. You must develop objectives, assessments, and learning experiences while aligning them.

Facilitator

The role of the facilitator involves supporting the students in the completion of the course. This can be achieved through the use of the following strategies

  • Contacting students regularly
  • Holding office hours
  • Present in discussion forums
  • Providing timely feedback
  • Modeling online participation for students
  • Motivates

Most of these strategies are self-explanatory. Contacting students helps to establish a connection with them which is critical in helping students to develop the resilience to complete a course. Holding office hours lets students know when you are available for impromptu communication. This will not wok all the time given the differences in time zones. However, the point of office hours in the online context is to advertise availability and not necessarily practicality.

Showing presence in online discussions demonstrates active engagement in the course. A facilitator needs to respond to comments made in forums to show and demonstrate participation. In other words, this simply a matter of prompt communication.

Timely feedback means that assignments are graded as quickly as possible to communicate academic progress to students. Without this feedback, students can quickly lose focus and become lost.

Modeling online participation was already alluded to in establishing a presence in the online discussion. Teachers need to set the example of proper online behavior/participation as determined by the institution. This can mean such things as frequent logins, messaging, discussion, and providing feedback.

Completing all these behaviors as already mentioned can help students with the motivation to complete a course. A main factor in poor performance online is the student feels isolated and alone and simply does not see any reason to finish a course.

Course Manager

The course manager role involves providing content for a course. Examples may include videos, text, links, etc. In this role, you maintain the maintenance of a course and make sure it functions properly.

Over time, it is common for an online course to have a breakdown in functionality. This means that you need to check the technology employed in a course periodically in order to ensure that the course is in proper working order. This is not hard, however, if you do not enjoy the technical aspects of online teaching you could struggle with this.

Subject Matter Expert

Naturally, if you are teaching a course you are an authority in the field that you are teaching. This means having a deep knowledge in you and staying abreast of the latest developments. Students are coming to you to develop expertise so you must possess this first.

Expertise can demonstrate through the development of activities, learning experiences, and assessments. If these things align, they will provide the students with a comprehensive knowledge of the field and convince them of your expertise. Expertise is not only knowledge of one’s field as it also depends on your ability to communicate efficiently.

Mentor

Mentoring involves advising students, This can involve academic and at times even personal matters. For academics, a mentor needs to advise students on studying, class selection and seeing how the current course is preparing students for the real world.

For personal matters, it depends on the context and the openness of the students and teacher. In the online context, the willingness to give life advice is useful in establishing connections & relationships with students. These relationships are critical to making students comfortable in a distance setting.

Conclusion

The many roles of online teaching can seem overwhelming. However, with practice, we can all learn to juggles these hats in a successful manager to support and help online students.

Developing an Online Course

Online course development is becoming more and more popular every day. In this post, we will look at one approach to designing a course and there are at least 5 steps involved

  1. Needs analysis
  2. Learning objectives
  3. Assessment
  4. Learning experiences
  5. Evaluation

These steps are essentially a modified version of Backward Design.

Needs Analysis

The purpose of a needs analysis is to determine the concerns the stakeholders have regarding the course you are developing. You take these concerns or “needs” and try to meet them in the course. For example, parents might be concerned that their kids need to develop problem-solving skills. This means that in the course you design there should be elements of problem-solving to meet this need.

How to conduct a needs analysis is a topic in its self. The primary goal is to collect data from stakeholders and this can be done through surveys, interviews, observations, etc. For those of you who are familiar with accreditation, it is often required that your institution do a site report before the visitation. This is done in part so that you know what you “need” to address to make your institution better.

Learning Objectives

Learning objectives identify what the student will do to learn. How many objectives to make depends on such factors as the needs analysis, the length of the course, general requirements, and the views of the teacher.

The main point to consider when making objectives is that they involve the student doing something to learn. If you, the teacher, are doing something then this is not an objective for the student but for you. An entire post on the details of learning objective development was already written at this blog and is available.

Assessment

Assessment is the evidence of mastery of the objectives This can take the form of assignments, quizzes, tests, exams, papers, projects, etc. that are used in teaching. Most forms of assessment that are done in a traditional setting can also be completed in an online setting. The challenge is having the teachers think a little differently.

For example, many teachers struggle with having students do presentations online. However, this can be achieved by having students record their presentation and then provide a link inside the LMS for the teacher and or other students. You can even embed the link in a forum and have the teacher and students provide comments within the forum.

Quizzes are another concern for many teachers online. Instead, of using quizzes for a grade teachers can use quizzes to get feedback in terms of their understanding. For example, a quiz can be developed just for learning and not for correct answers to help students prepare for future assessments. By removing the points there is no need to worry about cheating.

Learning Experiences

Learning experiences involve content delivery to learn new material. Examples of this in a traditional classroom can include such things as lectures, discussion, readings, etc. In the online setting most forms of learning experiences can be reproduced.

For example, video lectures can duplicate traditional lecturing. In addition, forums can be used to duplicate discussion. The purpose of the learning experiences is to experience learning. This means that active rather than passive learning should be the goal if practical.

Evaluation

Evaluation has to do with getting feedback about the course to improve it. Most courses at the tertiary level already provide some sort of way for students to give feedback about the course and the teaching.

Conclusion

Course development is a key skill in online learning. A teacher must know what the major concerns are from the stakeholders and address these concerns as they develop the objectives, assessment, and learning experiences of the course. If you are successful with this it is then necessary to determine what the students think about the course. This is the process of improving and developing a course

Getting Faculty Online

There are similarities between teaching face-to-face and teaching online. We all can tell that both involve teaching. However, online teaching is a new context in which teaching takes place. Therefore, some basic adjustments need to be made to have success in the context of online learning. This post will try to clarify some of the things faculty may need to know before they can teach online successfully.

What is Excellent Teaching?

One of the first things I try to clarify with teachers I am trying to support is to point out what excellent teaching looks like in a traditional classroom. I do this because many teachers at the tertiary level have no formal training in teaching. This often means that if they are good at teaching it is at a subconscious intuitive level. Teachers need to know what excellent teaching is because they need to duplicate this when teaching online.

Excellent teaching includes the following traits

All of these traits have been explained before. The goal is to make teachers aware of these traits and to duplicate them in the online context.

Online Empathy

Another experience that online teachers need is the experience of being an online student. This will allow the teachers to understand what the students go through when they are trying to learn in this manner. This experience also helps teachers to realize what they need to do as they teach online

Being a student first also allows for teachers to learn by doing. Many of us struggle to learn through presentations. Therefore, consider guiding your teachers learning experience through the use of such activities as being an online student first.

What to Teach Them 

There are many different topics and ideas teachers need to learn about when moving to online instruction. Below is only a partial list

The list above are things that most teachers are already familiar with. However, the difference is the context. As the online leader, you need to provide the institutional answer to each of these topics. Otherwise, your teachers will find their own answers which can lead to administrative chaos as everybody starts to use different platforms and ways of teaching online. This places a heavy burden on the students as they have to use multi-platforms because they have multiple teachers.

All of the topics above were discussed in prior posts and videos on this blog.

Conclusion

Moving faculty to online teaching is a tremendous challenge. It requires a look of work and sacrifice to find ways to move teachers online in a way that they are willing to cooperate to see success among students. Despite this, teaching online has quickly become a standard in education and teachers need to take notices of this.

Terms Related to Online Education

In this post, we will look at several terms used in the field of online education that are commonly confused and even at times misused. The purpose is to try and clarify these terms for times when details matter.

Online Learning

Online learning is the general mother term for all the other terms referred to in this post. Online learning encapsulates distance learning, e-learning blended learning, and virtual learning.

Online learning is simply learning that takes plus via technology over the internet. This is a broad and vague definition and essentially captures almost all learning over the internet. This is not to say that this is wrong. Instead, if we want to better communicate are intentions as educators we may need to be more specific at times.

Distance Learning

Distance learning is often seen as the same as online learning. The main difference is that distance learning is focused on students that are geographically separated from the institution that is offering instruction.

This essentially means that distance learning was a marketing term to attract students far from the university or institution. Again, this is not to say that having such a term is bad. Rather, the goal here is to explain the source of the many terms that are used in this context today.

E-Learning

E-learning is traditional education happening through an electronic medium over the internet. With e-learning, there is normally a student-teacher relationship in which they interact with each other. Online learning in general does not require this. The students and teacher may also be in the same physical space, such as a campus, but still teaching and learning online. This would not meet the definition of distance learning.

The term e-learning is also commonly associated with completing a degree or some sort of set curriculum. The planning can be rigorous and there are clear start and end times in terms of progress. For example, most e-learning experiences involve the use of a learning management system such as Moodle, which provides a framework for course delivery. In other words, e-learning is often more structured then general online learning or distance learning.

Blended Learning

Blended learning is a combination of any of the examples above with traditional classroom instruction. However, blended learning is generally associated with e-learning. This means that there is some combination of face-to-face and e-learning happening in a particular educational experience.

The ratio between face-to-face and e-learning will vary based on the course, teaching style, student preference, and other factors. For example, some teachers use the e-learning aspect of their course only for posting learning materials and not really for instruction. Other teachers flip their classroom and post lectures online and have discussion and feedback take place during class. There are lots of different flavors to this experience and finding the right combination is something every educator should explore.

Conclusion

Even though it is common for people to mix these different terms when speaking about education in an online context there are times when it is important to know which term to use. Naturally, there are other terms and even other definitions concerning this topic but that is a conversation for another time.

Challenges with E-Learning Implementation

Many, perhaps almost all institutions are wrestling with the implementation of e-learning at their campuses. This means that change is already here or at least coming. Generally, change does not work at the organizational level. Leaders talk about change, workers listen and agree but never do it, and the leaders never follow up with the implementation of the change.

In this post, we will look at several reasons why change implementation may fail in the context of e-learning implementation.

Change for What

Many times, leaders will try to bring in e-learning to provide evidence of their leadership rather than for a practical purpose. This leads to the implementation of complex technology and pedagogy without clearly establish goals/objectives. If there is no vision for e-learning there is little hope for success.

For many, e-learning is being forced upon them because of the rapid changes in the world today. Even though many have to teach online if there is no coherent plan in terms of what are the objectives of this experience people will wander about causing educational chaos with their students.

Resistance from Organization

When it is time to implement change, people love to talk about it. However, when it is time to implement and do things differently people often will quietly disappear and or disobey. This is because moving from theory to practice is difficult for people who already have a way of doing things.

The simplest way to deal with this problem is to have in place clear metrics to make to provide feedback in the implementation process. When progress is stalled it will be clear where the problem is and what should be done. When problems arise a mitigation plan must be enacted to get the organization back on track. This may involve things as unpleasant as holding people responsible for their actions. Having clear objectives with measurements can prevent a lot of this when people know that their behavior is being tracked and recorded.

IT Tools

Another unique problem with e-learning is the temptation to just teach the teachers all the latest technology and send them on their way. This is commonly done at the behest of the local IT experts at the institution who often believe the more technology the better.

More technology is often better for IT lovers but not for teachers. Learning every tool in Moodle or Blackboard is overwhelming. There are often 5 different ways to do everything and this is confusing for the average non-IT person. This does not even take into account the students’ need to learn the technology on their side. A simplified approach o learning just enough to get started is better Interactive videos are fun and can be engaging but perhaps a simple video with a forum is a simpler approach for a new teacher.

This is yet another instance in which having goals and objectives can prevent overzealous IT lovers from wrecking the e-learning implementation. Of course, those who are more comfortable with technology can do more advanced things. What is needed is a minimum expectation of what teachers should be doing in the e-learning context, not a maximum.

Conclusion

The ideas presented here do not all apply specifically to e-learning. Despite this, whenever we want to bring change, we have to have clear goals, a way to measure success, and to avoid the excitement of over adopting technology.

Motivation in E-Learning

This post will provide some ideas on how to engage students online in a practical way. Therefore, there will be no discussion on theoretical ideas but rather some ideas for best practice that might work in your class.

Be Organized

An online course must be well designed and structured. This is even more important than when teaching in person because it is hard to rearrange an online course in the middle of teaching. By organized it is meant that there is a coherent and consistent layout of the course. In addition, there are clear objectives for what the students will do as well as some way for communication to take place between the students and the teacher. This will vary from institution to institution but it needs to be agreed upon and adhered to within a course.

If a course is disorganized it can be highly demotivating for students. This is because the students shave to spend all their time trying to figure out what the links do, what the directions are, how this or that works, etc. This is one reason why a course should be peer-reviewed and or beta tested by students before it is used. This feedback can help to determine what makes the course disorganized so that solutions can be developed.

Get there Attention

A course can be well-organized but boring. This is also a problem and is similar to a well-prepared lecturer who puts you to sleep with their delivery. Perhaps the next step in online course design is finding ways to engage the students. This can be done by making the course visually appealing through the use of pictures, colors, and other forms of visual stimuli. Remember that the visuals need to serve some pedagogical purposes and not only an aesthetic one.

Interaction is another way to improve engagement. This can happen through developing multimedia such as interactive videos in which students respond to questions during the video. In many LMS you can assign the responses to the videos points that count towards the grade.

One more tool that can help is developing thought-provoking questions for forums. For students, the more controversial generally the better. By developing questions that challenge students thinking it may help to get them to invest mentally in the course as they look forward not only to your response to their post but also to the responses of other students. When students discuss and learn without you is when a course can be considered motivating.

Make it Fun

Fun can happen in many different ways. Interaction is essentially one form of fun. Other ways to make a course fun can include using humor. This can happen when communicating with students or through how the course is setup. You have to be careful with humor as it can be a double-edged sword because what is funny to one person is an offense to another.

Games can also be incorporated into an online course. Some authoring tools include games that can be employed such as H5P. Another approach would be to point students to educational games at other websites that are related to the course.

Having a good time knows no age limit. However, the younger the more important that there is some joy to the learning experience. Therefore, be sure to include ways for students to enjoy themselves especially for the younger ones.

Something inline with games but not really a game is gamification. Gamification involves putting in a game like feedback into the course. Examples can include being awarded points and or medals for completing various tasks in the course. This can be highly entertaining for students and it is amazing what even adults will do to earn one more point or badge by completing a forum.

Communicate

Communication may be the most important tool for motivation in an online course. Through the bridge of communication, the teacher and students can develop relationships with each other. This means that a teacher needs to send messages to students and respond to messages from students promptly. Failure to do so will be highly demotivating for many students as they are seeking guidance and not getting it.

Feedback is another critical tool in communication. When students complete assignments they need to know how they did and quickly. Therefore the teacher must communicate academic progress through marking assignments and posting grades. This allows students to make corrections to their mistakes and lets them know that someone is monitoring their progress.

Conclusion

The tips mentioned here are only scratching the surface of motivating students online. You must find strategies and techniques that work for you and your students. However, the ideas mentioned here will at least help to get you started.

Making Videos for Online Learning

Making online content is difficult. Without the interaction of the classroom, it’s easy for students to lose focus and struggle. However, with some basic help, teachers can make some small changes to their delivery approach to make videos that are more engaging for students.

Your Teaching Style

Before preparing your videos for your online class, you need to be honest with yourself about your teaching style. You need to ask your self how interesting you are as a teacher. The temptation is to think that you are an interesting and engaging teacher. However, personal experience has shown me that most teachers are terribly boring when they have to lecture in person and they are even more boring when they have to teach through a video online.

It is not a criticism if you are a boring teacher. Knowing this is important because it shapes how you approach the delivery of content when teaching online. An interesting teacher will be able to do things online that a boring teacher could never do.

If you cannot determine your style of teaching, you can consider the following options

  • Recording your face to face teaching and watch it
  • Examining course evaluations from prior teaching experiences.

If you choose to record yourself, ask yourself if you would really pay attention to what the teacher is saying if you were a student? If the answer is no, you need to determine what it is that is such a turnoff.

Guidelines

Once you know how engaging you are as a teacher, keep in mind the following to developing engaging online videos.

Keep it Short

Online videos should be between 10-15 minutes give or take. The reason being is that longer videos begin to put students to sleep and shorter videos become irritating because you always have to click for the next video. Another reason is that through watching television, people are already trained to pay attention for about 10-12 minutes at a time because that is how long a segment of a tv show lasts before a commercial break. If you talk for much longer than this you are not meeting the students’ preconceived expectation for how long they should receive content.

Whether you are closer to 10 minutes or 15 depends on how engaging you are as a teacher. A boring teacher should speak for 10 minutes or less while engaging teachers can go beyond 15 minutes because they know how to connect with their audience.

A general guideline to help you with timing and your PowerPoint slides comes from a Japanese presentation technique called PechaKucha. In this approach, you share 20 slides and talk for 20 seconds on each slide. This leads to a total presentation time of 6minutes and 40 seconds. This approach helps a presenter to talk less and show more which helps with engagement

7 minutes might be too short for your presentation. The point is not to adopt all the rules of PechaKucha but to use it as a guide to shape your presentations. Generally, you don’t want more than 30 slides in a presentation as things begin to bog down when teaching online.

More on Powerpoints

Powerpoints are a useful tool. However, the problem is that everybody uses them and this can be torture for students. If a student is taking 5 classes, he or she is probably experiencing 5 PowerPoint presentations every day. This is highly disengaging because of the ubiquity of PowerPoints.

An alternative to a PowerPoint is to use an on-screen whiteboard. This can be something like a simple paint app or an online tool such as Microsoft Whiteboard. By drawing are writing the concepts on the screen while recording can help to keep students much more engaged. This is due at least partly to the mental break students get while you are drawing/writing.

Of course, you can also have too much of a good thing. For example, if you are teaching math, it can be torture to have to wait for the math teacher to finish writing down the equation before solving it. In such situations, pre-written content can help to keep the video moving.

Naturally, I do not have to mention how you need to avoid reading your PowerPoint slides. Slides should be short and bulleted and should serve as a reminder of what you want to say rather than as a reading prompt.

Communications

There are also some tips for communications. You want to avoid highly formal language. This is because people tend to get lost when the language is dense. This means using 1st and 2nd person rather than third, which means speaking directly to the audience. When you talk directly to someone it forces them to pay attention at least a little bit.

A second suggestion is to avoid too many details. Experts love to share their expertise. However, most of our time is spent with non-experts. Therefore, every detail about every theory and concept is not always necessary. The amount of detail needs to match the expertise of your audience. College freshmen need fewer details than grad students. Generally, no matter what you are teaching, there is a good chance that the students will have another opportunity to learn it. This means it is not necessary to tell them everything if it causes them to fall asleep.

Whenever possible, try to wrap the content in a story. Storytelling is engaging and helps people to have a contextual frame in which to remember details. The stories don’t have to be that creative. It could be as simple as a story of when you first learned about the topic you are lecturing about. The point is to mix the theory with some form of reality that people can relate to.

Lastly, asking questions can also be beneficial. Of course, you will not be there to hear the response. However, when you speak directly to the audience and ask them what they think they have to pay attention to. If possible you may be able to make your videos interactive, which would allow you to post questions students can respond to during the video.

Beginning Middle and End

This is probably obvious but keep in mind that you need to introduce what you will talk about, present what you are talking about, and then summarize what you talked about. Many teachers can sometimes skip this. Doing so can lead to confusion for students at times.

Conclusion

Making videos online can be difficult. However, some basic tools can help a teacher to develop efficient and interesting content. It’s important to understand how you teach so you can maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses as you help students.

Assessing Students Online

Assessing students online is a major concern for many teachers. Generally, traditional tools may not work because of the ease in which students can cheat. However, there is a place for traditional assessment if they are used for feedback rather than for points. In this post, we will look at assessing students online

Before the assessment

When planning the assessment you want the students to do you need to first consider the objectives of the course/unit. In addition, you need to think about what kind of assessment are you trying to conduct. Is this going to be a formative or summative assessment? Will this be a product or process type of assessment? Finally, you also need to think about whether this will be a traditional or project-based assessment. Keep in mind that traditional assessment is often for formative purposes and projects are generally for summative purposes in an online context. What we have discussed so far deals primarily with curriculum questions that do not have much to do with technology yet.

Speaking of technology, you also need to consider what tools are available for you to use in the online setting to achieve your objectives. With enough creativity, almost anything can be done in any learning management system. For example, I once had my students do presentations online. Rather than watch them live (which is generally boring) I had the students record their presentations, upload them to YouTube, and past the link inside a forum on Moodle. By doing this, students did not have to watch every presentation but just the ones I assigned them. In addition, because the presentation was inside the forum I could assign a score and even provide feedback in the forum. This saved me a lot of time.

In a different situation, I had students do peer reviews of their papers through Moodle Every student was made a “student-teacher” in the assignment activity. Two or three students would then upload their paper to the “student-teacher” assignment activity and the “student-teacher” would provide feedback. I was able to see the feedback and could grade the teacher for their participation in providing feedback.

These are just two non-traditional ways of using your learning management tools. It really boils down to creativity and a desire to determine a way to get something done. Moodle in particular was built for all of these workarounds to support students.

During the assessment

Once the assessment is determined it is time to implement. At this point, clear communication is critical for student success. All directions and expectations must be written down and communicate for student success. If anything is left unspoken students may become confused and this could be a major problem.

There are at least two additional ways to alleviate anxiety students may face. One is to make sure you respond quickly to questions. The second is to provide some sort of an example of a finished product. Providing examples is especially important for project type assessment as students can you use this as a springboard for their own. This assumes that you have prepared a rubric for a project-based assessment.

Technology has a bad habit of failing. This means that you need a plan for the random disaster of internet access. If students are taking a quiz and the server crashes what will you do is a question you need to consider. If the students need to submit a project, how hard will the deadline be? For projects, my approach is to have a recommended deadline and a hard deadline. The recommended deadline might be 24 hours before the hard deadline. This means that students who have technology problems have 24 hours to find a connection to upload their projects. If students miss the hard deadline this is when the negotiating begins

After the Assessment

Now is the time to determine if the students have achieved the objectives of the course/unit. This is based on their actual performance of the assessment. For example, if students did well with a quiz, it indicates that it is time to move on. If they struggled then reteaching may be necessary. The reteaching can be done by sharing a message explaining the common mistakes that students made and or responding to individual quizzes when marking them. Quizzes should be mainly for formative purposes because it is hard to tell if the student was honest during the assessment

For a project-based assessment, the same principle applies. You can respond to mistakes individually and or share common misconceptions through the development of a message for the entire class. The message can be written or a short video. Off course, since projects have rubrics, you will be sure to make the completed rubric available to the students as well

Conclusion

Planning, communication, and execution are the main steps to keep in mind when assessing students online. Whatever creative or boring idea you have can be accomplished if you share your expectations with the students and provide tools for them to do it.

Online Classroom Management

Almost anyone who has significant experience with teaching will know that there is more to teaching than simply sharing content with student. There is a whole other world of grading, planning, and other tasks that need to be address so that learning can happen when it is time to teach. However, in my experience these other tasks are often neglected when people have to teach in an online setting. Therefore, we will look at some of these management task that need to be dealt with online just as they are in a face-to-face setting. These management task are

  • Communication
  • Task monitoring
  • Time management

Communication

Communication probably appears to be an obvious thing to do when teaching. In the classroom, this is true. This is because students can ask questions and the teacher can try to clarify things if students look confused. The ability to see each other helps to encourage communication in many situations. However, in an online setting, I have seen teachers wait for students to contact them and then the teachers are slow to respond if they respond at all. For some teachers, if there is silence it means that the students are ok. This can lead to disengaged or highly anxious students who do not know what to do are what is expected of them.

When teaching online it is important to be proactive with communication. A teacher should not wait for students to come to him but should post messages to the whole class and individual students. For example, a teacher might send a message to all the students in a class every morning just as a way to check in by expecting the students to respond to the message. This helps students to believe they are a part of a class and not just socially isolated.

In addition, struggling students need additional support. An online teachers needs to contact a student when the fail to complete an assignment. In a face-to-face setting, a teacher might talk to a struggling student. However, in an online setting this form of intervention can be forgotten which will generally make the situation worst. This type of support must continue through contacting the student to try and assess the source of difficulty for the student.

A second form of communication is providing feedback through timely grading of assignments. This is often ignored when teaching face-to-face but this can be a real disaster when grading assignments is neglected in an online setting. The feedback from the grades is another way to connect with the students. Since in person communication may not be possible it is doubly critical that students know their academic progress or lack thereof.

Task Monitoring

Task monitoring has to do with the students being able to see which assignments they have completed and which ones they still need to do. How this can be done varies from lms to lms. However, most lms have a way in which the system will place check marks next to completed assignments. In Moodle, this is done by setting up the activity completion feature inside a course.

For tracking progress for the entire course, it may be possible to setup some form of a progress bar that students can see. As the bar nears completion it can help to motivate students. One tool in Moodle is the the activity completion block that tells the students how many activities the have completed as well as the total number of activities in a course.

What both of the two suggestion above have in common is that they don’t require a lot of work by the teacher. Once there setup, these two ideas take care of themselves. Instead of watching the activity completion, the teacher should be encouraging students to look at these tools and followup with students who do not complete assignments.

Time Management

Time management is another task that is monitored naturally in a traditional teaching setting but is ignored in an online setting. It is common in my experience for new online teachers to provide too much content and assignments. This is due in part to the fact they are not cognizant of how much time an assignment or content should take for students to absorb or respond to.

One tool that can help with this is to use the calendar that is available in the lms. When this is done the teacher can see how much they want the students to do on a certain day. It is also beneficial to make a mental note of how long a teacher thinks something will take to do when teaching online.

Another tool that can be consider is using some form of tool that announces assignments that are due soon. For example, Moodle has a block called “upcoming events” which shares the assignments that are closes to being due. This helps students to prioritize what they need to be focusing on. It is important to note that at least in Moodle that the upcoming events block will not work unless the calendar is being used. Using the calendar is not hard but requires a great deal of discipline to constantly update which is hard to find in most people.

Conclusion

Classroom management online takes awareness from the teacher to understand the large amount of structure that students require in order to learn. Putting the mechanism here in place can help to reduce some of the anxiety that students have when learning online. This anxiety comes from the lack of connection they have with the teacher and others in the class. By communicating, monitoring, and managing time effectively students can have success when learning online.

Scheduling & Tracking Challenges in K-12

Time management is a constant problem in teaching. How long should class periods be? How often should students meet for one class? These are just some questions that need to be addressed.

Despite the challenge and confusion, determining how much time students spend with a teacher has some flexibility to it. In this post, we will look at options in terms of scheduling the time that students spend with teachers.

Looping

Looping is a scheduling strategy that involves the teacher moving to the next grade or subject with their students. For example, if the teacher is a multi-subject teacher at the primary level he or she may move from 1st to 2nd grade with their students. If the teacher is a subject teacher they may move from Algebra to Geometry with their students. This experience can last anywhere from 2-5 years for the students and teacher.

One of the main benefits of this is the relationships that develop between the teacher and students. The students benefit from the continuity of expectations. The teacher does not have to reestablish routines and procedures every year and can move straight to teaching rather than classroom management. Lastly, the teacher also knows the strength and weaknesses of all the students and can adjust accordingly.

Among the problems with this is actually a prior benefit. If the students get along well with the teacher looping can be a fun experience but if the students and teacher do not get along well this can mean spending up to five years with students or a teacher that is disliked. This can lead to serious problems with performance and motivation as well as stress for the teacher.

Another problem is the workload for the teacher. Every year the teacher is preparing new materials, not for a familiar class but a completely new one. This is particularly challenging when the teacher is going through the loop the first time. Essentially it can take up to five years to make it through one loop, which is a substantial amount of time for a teaching career. This kind of context is almost impossible for a new teacher and difficult for an experienced one with constant year-to-year changes.

Block Scheduling

Block scheduling involves extending the time of a traditional period from 50-60 minutes to 80-90 minutes. Essentially, block scheduling involves extending the class period by 50%. This gives the teachers more time to go deeper into content, it reduces the amount of time spent on transitions, and provides students with a glimpse into what class periods are like at the college level.

There are two common variations of block scheduling the 4×4 plan and the A/B plan. The 4×4 plan involves taking four classes in the first semester using the block schedule and a different four classes for the second semester. For example, if a student is taking algebra first semester, using a block schedule they would not take algebra the second semester because they have already completed all the hours they need. This can be a problem because the students would not be exposed to any math for almost a year.

The  A/B plan involves having students take all 8 subjects at the same time. The difference in this approach is that students will have the same classes every other day. For example, if a student is taking Algebra, they may have that class on Monday and Wednesday instead of every day. This allows the class to meet for the entire year, which helps to keep academic skills stronger.

The main complaint about block scheduling comes from non-core teachers. Subjects such as music and foreign languages benefit from meeting every day rather than every other day or for only one semester. The same can be said of PE as students need frequent exercise. Another problem is one similar to looping. If the teacher or students are bad it can be torture to have to deal with them for an additional 30 minutes.

Conclusion

Managing the time that teachers spend with students has several options to consider. There are strengths and weaknesses to all approaches but it is still important to know what your options are when making these decisions.

Computers and the School

As a teacher or even as an administrator, it will be necessary to consider the role of computers in the school or classroom. Some things to consider are how many computers will be available and how the will be distributed within the school. There can also be concerns with cost and supporting faculty and staff in helping students with technology.

In this post, we will look at different options for distributing computers within a school. There are essentially three choices to consider when distributing computers within a school, and they are computer labs, computer clusters, and a single computer.

Computer Lab

Computer labs are probably the most popular choice for integrating computers into the classroom. With the computer lab, students go to where the computers are. The benefit of this is all the computers are in one place which allows all students to use a computer. It also should make it easier to monitor the students as they all have their own resources so it should, in theory, be easier for them to focus. In addition, it is common for the computer lab to have a computer technician who can provide technical support.

There are also problems with a computer lab. There must be a schedule which means that usually, only one class can use the computer lab at a time. The startup cost of a computer lab can be high has well. Buying 5 computers vs 50 can be a big deal for many institutions. Behavior can still be a problem because even though the student has their own computer it doesn’t mean they are using it to learn. Lastly, with numerous computers comes a need to provide technical support through hiring staff.

Computer clusters

Computer clusters are essentially combining the computer lab with the regular classroom. Computer clusters involve having several computers in the regular classroom. How many computers make a cluster depends on the school. If we exclude the teacher’s computer it safe to say at least two computers would be considered the minimum for a cluster.

A variation of computer clusters is computer carts. Computer carts are carts that contain laptops. These carts can be checked out by the teacher for student use. You can think of them as a mobile computer lab. This allows the teacher to infuse their own classroom with technology rather than having to go to the lab. Depending on the school there can be enough laptops for everybody or simply to make clusters. In addition, instead of laptops, the school may have tablets or other technology available.

The benefits of computer clusters are that they are available all the time. Computer labs are book and taken but the cluster should be at the discretion of the teacher. Several students can collaborate on their computers to complete a project or other tasks. The downside is that it is not possible for everyone to be on the computers so there must be some way to manage the students who are not using them. Computers are generally popular with kids, so they will all want to be on the computers when possible.

Single Computer Classrooms

A single computer classroom has one computer. Generally, this is the teacher’s computer and or their laptop. This may seem counterintuitive but having only one computer helps to keep the cost down. However, the use of technology is limited to teach led actions because not all the students can use one computer at the same time. This means using such tools as videos, PowerPoints, demonstrations, etc. Activities that require more passivity from students.

Conclusion

The purpose is not to claim that any of the options discussed are better than the other. The purpose was to explain the options that are available for educators who are training to match their resources with their technology. Any of the choices mentioned here can work with appropriate support and cooperation.

Attitudes of Teachers

Some would say that success in the classroom begins in the mind. What and how a teacher thinks about the world around him can play a role in their success as a teacher. It’s within our minds that our attitudes are formed. By attitudes, we are talking about how one thinks or feels about something. What we think about something could have a serious influence on how we do oi ourselves. In this post, we look at several forms of relationships that teachers often develop attitudes about and these are attitudes towards self,  students, peers, and the subject

Towards Self

Teaching is a profession that requires a lot of people skills and extroversion. However, to reach out to others a teacher needs to understand who they are as a person as well. If a teacher does not keep track of their own mental and emotional health it can quickly lead to burnout. This means that a teacher needs to be aware of their own emotions and stress in addition to the needs of the students.

A teacher needs to also reflect on how they are doing in terms of their teaching. There should be an internal desire to improve to help students to be successful. Many teachers neglect this as they focus on the social side of teaching.

Towards Students

What a teacher thinks about other students matters as well. If a teacher believes a student is dumb that students will often find ways to confirm this as stated by the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy. However, sometimes a negative view of a student will motivate the student to excel in a desire to prove a teacher wrong. This is generally rare as students tend to succumb to the expectations of those around them.

Similarly, it is important for a teacher to consider their attitude towards parents. Demanding parents can have a negative effect on a teacher that can shape attitudes. The same can also be said of parents who are indifferent to their children’s studies. In both situations, a teacher wants to avoid a negative comment because the attitude you have towards a parent can spill over into the relationship/interaction with the student.

Towards Peers

As with any other institution, schools have people who see things differently. Teachers will sometimes get along and will some times try to undermine each other. There will be disagreements and even fights over the use/allocation of resources, responsibilities, teaching styles, etc. Gossiping and forms of passive backstabbing do occur as well.

It is not all negative. There is laughing and camaraderie, sharing of ideas, and support when there are problems. Through the ups and downs of dealing with other teachers, it is important to try to maintain a positive attitude towards the people around and the institution we are working at.

Towards Subject

It is also important that a teacher show interest and enthusiasm for their subject. This is normally not a problem as a teacher goes to school to learn this subject that they like. However, there are times when a teacher’s attitude towards a subject can become negative. If the teacher is asked to teach something they are not interested in or weak as it could cause a loss of enthusiasm. For example, a music teacher who is asked to cover PE. The music teacher might love music but would lack enthusiasm for PE.

Moving a teacher to a different grade or a subject within their expertise could also lead to this. For example, moving a 2nd-grade teacher to 4th grade my influence enthusiasm or moving a geometry teacher to teaching trigonometry. In both these situations, the teacher is competent for the assignment but not interested.

Lastly, any of the ideas present in the previous sections can influence enthusiasm for the subject. Lack of reflection, bad kids, bad parents, bad peers, can all drain the life of a teacher. This can carry over into the classroom and affect the enthusiasm of a subject that a teacher loves.

Conclusion

Success begins in the mind. For a teacher to be successful they must begin with monitoring their attitudes about themselves and the surrounding people.

Last Minute Online Teaching

There has been a surge in demand for online teaching resources due to school closures for health concerns. Many teachers are being thrust into online teaching with almost no notice or preparation. This post will provide educators with an awareness of some of the tools that are available.

To make things as simple as possible, you will need essentially some sort of online presence that allows for the following two things

  • Submission of assignments/completion  of activities
  • Communication

True online teaching can be much richer than this. However, for someone who is struggling with short notice to make this happen this is the bare minimum. We will first look at available platforms before looking at communication methods. As an aside many of the platforms have integrated communications tools, however, sometimes they do not meet the needs for various situations.

Platforms

An Elearning platform serves as a base of operation on the internet. Not all learning has to take place within the online platform. However,  the students’ learning experience often begins here before branching of based on the activities that are involved. Generally, the platform provides a place for submission of assignments and asynchronous communication ie forum posts and announcements. Of course, you can extend the functionality based on expertise and or support. There are several free online platforms that require no support from your IT department. The first we will discuss is Google classroom

Google Classrooms

Google classrooms provides a basic interface for teaching online. You can post announcements assignments and there is a basic gradebook as well. You can post links as much as you want to other places on the web as well. You can also arrange a google hangout with your students through the posting of a link.  This is a great resource for short notice. The functionality is limited for more advance actions but this works in a pinch.

Schoology

The layout for Schoology is similar to Google Classrooms but with more features such as attendance and a great way to organize content using folders. There is a free package and there is also a subscription option. Although Schoology wasn’t specifically designed for higher education it is a superior choice to what Google Classroom is offered right now. One downside is there is no integrated system for face-to-face communication with Schoology, which means you would have to employ some sort of third party communication.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams will not be an option for you unless you or your organization are subscribed to Office 365. Teams is a great resource that combines all the features of Schoology with embedded communication features and the integration of Microsoft products. There is a section for assignments, files, grades, and even a notebook. Students can also be placed into groups for online discussions. In addition, Teams is not limited to the classroom and can be used by the larger organization as well. Since Teams has more features, it can be a little harder to learn initial so it might not be the best choice in a last-minute situation.

Moodle

Moodle my be the mother of online platforms. The question is not so much what Moodle can do but rather what it cannot do. There are so many features and choices that it would be impossible to explain them all. Moodle requires extensive It support as it must be downloaded on the local server with all the other hassles of mandating a website. A such, unless you are already familiar with how it works Moodle would not be choice on short notice.

Communication

Communication in this post is defined as some sort of sc=ycrhonous interaction with at least the teacher providing audio and video. Below are some choices for doing this.

Youtube

Youtube provides the ability to upload videos and to stream. Uploading videos is not that complicated and essentially you make the video and upload it to Youtube. You can share content or communicate about assignment expectations or other announcements. You can also take the link and insert it into whatever online platform you are using

For streaming, it is a little bit more complicated. You will some encoder software such as OBS Studio. The details of how to stream on Youtube are beyond this post’s purpose but your IT or AV support should be able to help you make this happen. There is also a live chat feature now which can allow you to discuss things with students in real-time. The benefit of Youtube is there is a small delay and only the teacher is producing audio and video which helps with slow internet connections.

Another problem with Youtube is that the content is available to everyone. Whoever has the link can see. This can be a problem of there is a desire to keep some information confidential.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is another choice. It does not take a great deal of knowledge to maneuver using this software. The main problem is that only 25 people can participate in one hangout. This means that Google Hangouts is best for smaller classes. Other features allow you to share your desktop while communicating. There is not a large dealy but my own experience shows that student frequently loses their connection and have to keep rejoining the hangout.

Skype

Skype is similar to Google Hangouts except for up to 50 people who can participate. This will work for large classes.

Discord

If you are a gamer you might be familiar with Discord. Discord was designed to allow gamers to communicate online. However, it now has a second life as a communication tool for online learning. The setup is a little weird if you are not in technology and there is also a 50 person limit on this communication tool as well.

Microsoft stream

Stream looks exactly like Youtube but it is software with the Microsoft ecosystem. You can upload videos or stream live if you have the right subscription with Microsoft. The benefit of Stream is that it can be used in collaboration with Microsoft Teams which makes it an absolute plus. In addition, because it is being used within a company the video is not available for all eyes to see which can be a problem with  Youtube videos.

Zoom

Perhaps one of the kings of Voice over Internet platform is Zoom. Zoom allows real-time interaction among up to 100 participants or more depending on the package you signup for. It also allows you to separate students in discussion groups like in a real class. You can share your screen or have the students share theirs. Also, the communication is secured and only available to participants. However, if you want decent service you have to pay as the free package comes with a lot of restrictions. For the Moodle users, there is an extension so that you can integrate it into Moodle.

Conclusion

Hopefully, the information provided here will allow you to explore whatever combination of features work best for you. This is not in anyways an exhaustive list of what is possible. The point to remember is that whatever you do you need a way to communicate and receive assignments from the students.