Category Archives: elearning

Online Assessment for Students VIDEO

Tips for online assessment for students

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.

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.

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.

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.

Using Blended Learning in Your Classroom

Blended learning is becoming a reality in education. Many schools now require some sort of online presences not online of the school but also for individual classes that teachers teach. This has led to much more pressure for teachers to figure out some sort of way to get content online to support studnets. This post will take a look at the pros and cons of blended learning and provide tips on how to approach the use of blended learning.

Pros and Cons

Blended learning gives you flexibility. You are not tied to either traditional or elearning completely. This allows you to find the right balance for your teaching style and the students learning. Some teachers want more online presence in the form of activities and submission of assignments. Others just want a centralized place for communicating with their students and tracking academic progress. Whatever works for you can probably be accommodated when employing blended learning.

Communication and documentation is another benefit of blended learning. Announcements and messaging can be handled by the online platform and these forms of transactions are usually logged by the system and saved. This can be useful for referencing in the future if confusion arises.

The drawback to the flexibility is actually the flexibility. When employing blended learning a teacher has to be proficient in both e-learning and traditional teaching. In other words, you have to become a jack of all trades. Without strength in both methodologies, it will be difficult to determine what you want to do online and to determine how the online experiences augment or replace in-class learning opportunities.

Another problem is the confusion over what is done in class and what is done online. When learning takes place in two mediums it increases opportunities for misunderstanding and miscommunication. I have frequently had students confused over what was to be submitted online vs in class no matter how clear I was in the course outline and calendar.

Success in a Blended Learning Context

To have success using blended learning involves doing some of the following.

  • Focus on using the online platform less for learning and more for communication when you initially begin using blended learning. There is a lot for you to learn as the teacher and trying to move everything online will lead to confusion for you and the students.
  • Consider having students submit the final version of assignments online. Final versions of assignments usually require the least amount of feedback because they have already been vetted by you in person. This will allow you to focus on the grade rather than on providing more support.
  • Online activities should support learning and probably not replace it. Blended learning is often more effective if it helps students to understand content in class rather than replace it. This means the blended learning platform is a study tool to scaffold students learning outside of class. If an assignment can be completely done online without having to go to class then perhaps this is no longer blended learning since the in-class part is not needed for support.
  • PLanning is critical to using any web-based resource. Websites are designed in advance before they are set up. Even post a blog requires you to develop a draft or two. Therefore, online activities and expectations must be planned well in advance and not just thrown online at the whim of the teacher throughout the semester. Many teachers fall into the trap of just making stuff up as they go. This is a poor methodology in a traditional classroom and a disaster in a blended learning context.
  • When in doubt go traditional. If you are unsure how to achieve a specific learning goal online it is better to stick to a traditional approach until you can figure it out. In-class teaching is old but it still has a place in the 21st century especially when it is unclear how to do it online.

Conclusion

Blended learning can be a powerful tool for helping students are a major headache that annoys everyone. The secret to success lies with the teacher who understands what they want from the online aspect of the students learning as well as what they want in the classroom. When this is clear is it critical that the teacher determine how to meet these goals through the use of various learning experiences.

Elearning Academic Success

Studying online has become almost an expectation now. Even if you never earn a degree or take a class for credit online there are still many opportunities to train and develop skills over the internet. The role of the teacher is to try and find ways to engage and support their students as they begin their learning experience physically alone with support perhaps thousands of miles away.

In this post, we will look at ways to encourage the academic success of students while studying online. Two ways to support academic success in elearning involve providing feedback and encouraging engagement.

Provide Feedback

Feedback is critical in every aspect of teaching. However, in elearning, it is even more important. This is because the students have no face-to-face communication with you so they have no idea how they are doing beyond a letter grade. In addition, there is no body language to examined or other paralinguistic features that the student can infer meaning from.

Giving feedback requires timeliness. In other words, mark assignments quickly and indicate progress. In addition, if students do not meet expectations it is critical that you point them towards resources that will help them to inderstand. For example, students seem to neglect reading rubrics. When a student gets feedback from a rubric they can see where they were not succesfful.

In terms of a more formative feedback approach, there may be times where it is beneficial to live stream lecture. This allows the students to chime in whenever they do not understand an idea or point. Furthermore, the teacher can ask a question or two of the students and get feedback from them.

Engage Them

Engaging is almost synonymous with active. In other words, students should be doing something in order to learn. Unfortunately, listening is a passive activity which implies that lecturing is not the best way to inspire learning.

In the contest of elearning, one of the ways to inspire active learning is to have the students go out and do something in the real world and report what happens online in the form of a reflection. For example, students studying English will go out and teach English in the real world. They will then come and share their experience. The teacher is then able to provide insights and feedback to improve the students teaching. This provides a connection to the real world as well as a sense of relevance

In a more abstract subject, such as history, music theory, or engineering, students can become active through sharing these insights with laymen or explaining how they are already applying this information at their job or in the home. The goal of using provides the purpose for learning the content.

Conclusion

Feedback and engagement are critical to success in a situation in which the student is primarily learning alone which is found in the context of elearning.

Introducing Google Classroom

Google Classroom is yet another player in the learning management system industry. This platform provides most of the basics that are expected in a lms.  This post is not a critique of Google Classroom. Rather, the focus here is on how to use it. It is better for you to decide for yourself about the quality of Google Classroom.

In this post, we will learn how to set up a class in order to prepare the learning experience.

Before we begin it is assumed that you have a Gmail account as this is needed to access Google Classroom. In addition, this demonstration is from an individual account and not through the institutional account that a school would set up with Google if they adopted tGoogle Classroom.

Creating a Google Class

Once you are logged in to your Gmail account you can access Google Classroom by clicking on the little gray squares in the upper right-hand corner of your browser. Doing so will show the following.

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In the example above, Google Classroom is the icon in the bottom row in the middle. When you click on it you will see the following.

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You might see a screen before this asking if you are a student or teacher. In the screen above, Google tells you where to click to make your first class. Therefore, click on the plus sign and click on “create class” and you will see the following.

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Click on the box which promises Google you will only use your classroom with adults. After this, you will see a dialog box where you can give your class a name as shown below.

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Give your course a name and click “create”. Then you will see the following.

1.pngThere is a lot of information here. The name of the class is at the top followed by the name of the teacher below. In the middle of the page, you have something called the “stream”. This is where most of the action happens in terms of posting assignments, leading discussions, and making announcements. To the left are some options for dealing with the stream, a calendar, and a way to organize information in the stream by topic.

The topic feature is valuable because it allows you to organize information in a way similar to topics in Moodle. When creating an activity just be sure to assign it to a topic so students can see expectations for that week’s work. This will be explained more in the future.

One thing that was not mentioned was the tabs at the very top of the screen.

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We started in the “stream” tab. If you click on the “students” tab you will see the following.

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The “invite students” button allows you to add students by typing their email. To the left, you have the class code. This is the code people need in order to add your course.

If you click on the “about” tab you will see the following.

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Here you can access the drive where all files are saved, the class calendar, your Google calendar, and even invite teachers. In the middle, you can edit the information about the course as well as additional materials that the students will need. This page is useful because it is not dynamic like the stream page. Posted files staying easy to find when using the “about” page.

Conclusion

Google Classroom is not extremely difficult to learn. You can set-up a course with minimal computer knowledge in less than 20 minutes. The process shared hear was simply the development of a course. In a future post, we will look at how setup teaching activities and other components of a balanced learning experience.

Time Mangagement and E-Learning

Time management is a critical component of having success when studying online. However, many people struggle with the discipline to manage their time so that they can complete an online learning experience. In this post, we will look at several strategies that can help a student to complete an online course.

Routine is King

Perhaps the single most valuable piece of advice that can be given is the benefit of routine. Routine is as simple as dedicating a certain time of each day to the class. Routine can also manifest itself through setting aside a designated place for studying as well.  The beauty of a schedule is that you have taken control of what you will do during a given day.

It is important that a student has a dedicated place and time for e-learning studies. Even though e-learning can happen anywhere few people can learn anywhere as they must be in a learning mindset first. Often, the mindset to learn is dependent on the environment which the student needs to control.

One Thing at a Time

Multi-tasking is tempting but does not work. This is an extra special problem for e-learning because a student is on their computer. Being on the computer can allow the student to check emails, chat on facebook, listen to music, while they are also supposed to be learning.

These other activities are only distractions when trying to learning content online. As such, it is important to close these other applications and turn off notifications from various websites when really trying to learn online.

Ask for Help

Elearning can be an isolating experience. A student is all alone trying to maneuver the complexities of a subject. At times, a student may even get stuck and not know what to do.

In such situations, it is important that a student reaches out to a peer or the teacher for support. The feedback that is received can make a difference in completing a course or not.

Something that was alluded to in this section is the benefit of taking an online course with a friend. Having a friend in a course can be a source of encouragement and also a way to share the burden of larger assignments.

Conclusion

The anytime anywhere freedom of e-learning is perhaps the greatest blessing and also the greatest curse of this platform. The flexibility gives people the impression they can study whenever. However, when there is no structure to the learning experience there is usually no progress made either. Therefore, each student must put in constraints in order to function at a high level academically when studying online.

Gamification

The concept of gamification has really picked up steam over the past few years in education. Gamification is the use design elements from traditional games within a curriculum. Examples of gamification include the use of badges, leveling up, progress bars, hit points, etc. As students focus on acquiring the various rewards in the gamification experience they also learn the content. In other words, gamification is primarily behavioral in nature.

The idea of gamification is not completely new. Many adults can remember earning stickers and or points for excellent behavior as a child. Gamification, however, tends to be focused on the online/ technology context. Instead of earning stickers like students in the 1980’s and 90’s today’s students can earn badges online in their schools learning management system as an example.

It may be clear that there are some pros and cons to gamification and these will be addressed below.

Pros

  • Engagement-Nothing motivates a student like playing a game. The badges and points in gamification often heighten engagement at least temporarily for many students.
  • Feedback-Through leveling up and earning badges students are provided with instant feedback. If they are unsuccessful it is readily apparent and there is no need to wait for teacher feedback.
  • Technology exposure-Gamification is focused in a technology domain. As such, it is a great way to help students to develop their technology skills.

Cons

  • Attention span-Games are often fast-paced. However, the real world is not often moving at the same speed. This can lead kids to struggle with everyday tasks that have not been gamified.
  • Assessment-Often the game serves as a platform to master a skill. However, the nuanced nature of grading can be difficult to apply to a gamified learning experience. In addition, the game may not always transfer to actual real-world skill, which further impairs grading. The focus on gaming often makes the learning take a backseat.
  • Cost/logistics-The cost of using software and other materials can be high. Even if you use a free system, such as Moodle, there is the logistics of setting up the badge system in your online platform.
  • Work ethic-A critical skill that students need to acquire is how to do something they don’t like to do. Gamification can make almost anything fun. However, in the actual world, there are a little of boring things that people have to do. Students must develop the discipline to engage in an activity because it needs to be done rather than because it’s fun.

Conclusion

The appropriate use of gamification is dependent on the extent to which it is used. Having a progress bar in a course probably will not influence attention spans detrimentally. However, more complex gamification is probably where you will start to see problems as shared in the con section.

Therefore, an appropriate analogy would be to compare gamification to salt. A little bit of salt makes food taste better. However, too much salt can ruin the food and impact the health of the eater. As such, a little gamification can enrich a learning experience but heavy doses could harm learning and perhaps character development.

Videoconferencing in Online Course

Videoconferencing is a standard aspect of the professional world. Most large companies have some sort of video conferencing happening in terms of meetings and training. In terms of personal life, video conferencing is common as well. We probably have all used skype or google hangout at one time or another to talk with friends. However, video conferencing is not as common in education.

Video Conferencing Before Video Conferencing

Before video conferencing became common, many educators would upload videos to their online course or post them on youtube. This allowed the student to see the teacher and have more of a traditional classroom experience but real-time interaction was impossible. Instead, the interaction was asynchronous meaning not at the same time. As such communication was jilted at the least because of the lag time between interactions.

Things to Consider Before Video Conferencing

In order to have success with video conferencing you will need some sort of application that allows this. There are many different applications to choose from such as skype, google hangouts, and even Facebook. However, you want some sort of software that allows you to show your screen as well as control the flow of the conversation.

One app that allows this is called Zoom. This software allows you to schedule meetings. In addition, students do not need to download anything. Instead, the students are sent a web link that takes them to the online meeting. You can share your screen as well as monitor the discussion with the added benefit of being able to record the meeting for future use.

Pros and Cons of Video Conferencing

For whatever reason, video conferencing is engaging for students. The same discussion in class would lull them to sleep but through webcams, everyone is awake and stimulated. I am not sure what the difference is but this has been my experience

The biggest enemy to video conferencing is scheduling. This is particularly true if students are spread out all over the world. The challenges of time zones and other commitments make this hard.

This is one reason that recording a video conference is so important. It allows students who are not available to at least have an asynchronous learning experience. It also serves as a resource for students who need to see something again. Keep in mind you have to post the video either on your LMS or on youtube so that students have access to it.

Conclusion

Video conferencing provides a familiar learning experience in a different setting. It is able to give students who are not physically present an opportunity to interact with the instructor in meaningful ways. As such, the instructor must be aware of possibilities in how to use this tool in their online teaching.

Maintaining Student Focus During E-Learniing

Self-motivation is perhaps one of the biggest problems in e-learning. Students who are left to themselves to complete learning experience often just do not successfully finish the learning experiences prepared by the teacher. For whatever reason, often the internal drive to finish something such as an online class is missing for many people.

There are several strategies that an online teacher can use in order to help students who may struggle with self-motivation in an online context. These ideas include…

  • Brief Lessons
  • Frequency Assessment
  • Collaboration

Brief Lessons

Nothing is more discouraging to many students than having to read several pages of text or even several hours of video to complete a single lesson or module in an online course. Therefore, the teacher needs to make sure lessons are short. Completing many small lessons is much more motivating for many students than completing a handful of really large lessons. This is because frequent completion of small lessons is rewarding and indicates progress which the brain rewards.

How long a lesson should depend on many factors such as the age and expertise of the students. Therefore, it is difficult to give a single magic number to aim for. You want to avoid the extreme of lessons too short and lessons to long.

IN my own experience most people make their lessons too long so the majority of us probably need to reduce the content in an individual lesson and spread it over many lessons. All the content can be there it is just chunked differently so that students experience progress.

Frequency Assessment

Along with brief lessons should be frequent assessment. Nothing motivates like knowing something is going to be on the quiz or there is some sort of immediate application. Students need to do something with what they are learning in order to stay engaged. Therefore, constant assessment is not only for grades but also for learning. Besides the stress of a small quiz provides an emotional stimulus that many students need

The assessment also allows for feedback which helps the student to monitor their learning. In addition, the feedback provides more evidence of progress being made in a course which is itself motivating for many.

Collaboration

Nothing motivates the same as working together. Many people love to work in groups and get energy from this. In addition, it’s harder to quit and give a course when you have group members waiting for your contribution. In addition, interacting with students deepens understanding of the course material.

Communicating with other students online to complete assignments is one way of establishing community in an online class. It is similar to traditional classroom where everyone has to discuss and work together to have success.

Conclusion

Motivated students are successful students. IN order for this to happen in an elearning class studnets need to be engaged through brief lessons that inckude frequent assessment tjat includes social interaction.

Tips for Online Studying

Today it is common for students to study online. This has both pros and cons to it. Although e-learning allows students to study anytime and anywhere it also can lead to a sense of disconnection and frustration. This post will provide some suggestions for how to study online successfully.

Make a Schedule

In a traditional classroom, there is a fixed time to come to class. This regulated discipline helps many students to reach a minimum standard of knowledge even if they never study on their own. In e-learning, the student can study whenever they want. Sadly, many choose to never study which leads to academic failure.

Success in online studying requires a disciplined schedule in which the student determines when they will study as well as what they will do during the study time. As such, you will need to set-up some sort of a calendar and to do list that guides you through the learning experience.

It is also important to pace your studying. With flexible courses sometimes the assignments are due at the end of the course. This temptation leads to students who will do all their studying at the last minute. This robs the student of in-depth learning as well as the ability to complete assignment thoroughly. Learning happens best over time and not at the last minute,

Participate

In a traditional class, there are often opportunities to participate in class discussions or question and answer sessions. Such opportunities provide students with a chance to develop a deeper understanding of the ideas and content of the course. Students who actually participate in such two-way dialog usually understand the material of the course better than students who do not.

For the online student participation is also important and can render the same benefits. Participating in forums and chats will deepen understanding. However, I must admit that with the text-heavy nature of online forums reading the comments of peers can in many ways boost understanding without participation. This is because you can read other’s ideas at your own speed which helps with comprehension. This is not possible during an in-class discussion when people may move faster than you can handle.

Communicate with the Instructor

When a student is confused they need to speak up. For some reason, students are often shy to contact the instructor in an online course. However, the teacher is there to help you and expects questions and feedback. As such, reach to them.

Communicating with the instructor also helps to establish a sense of community which is important in online learning. It helps the instructor to establish presence and demonstrates that they are here to help you to succeed.

Conclusion

E-learning is a major component of the future of learning. Therefore, students need to be familiar with what they need to do in order to be successful in their online studies.

Tips for Teaching Online

Teaching online is a unique experience due in part to the platform of instruction. Often, there is no face to face interaction and all communication is in some sort of digital format. Although this can be a rewarding experience there are still several things to consider when teaching in this format. Some tips for successful online teaching include the following.

  • Planning in advance
  • Having a presence
  • Knowing your technology
  • Being consistent

Plan in Advance

All teaching involves advance planning. However, there are those teaching moments in a regular classroom where a teacher can change midstream to hit a particular interest in the class. In addition, more experienced teachers tend to plan less as they are so comfortable with the content and have an intuitive sense of how to support students.

In online teaching, the entire course should be planned and laid out accordingly before the course starts. It is a nightmare to try and develop course material while trying to teach online. This is partially due to the fact that there are so many reminders and due dates sprinkled throughout the course that are inflexible. This means a teacher must know the end from the beginning in terms of what the curriculum covers and what assignments are coming. Changing midstream is really tough.

In addition, the asynchronous nature of online teaching means that instructional material must be thoroughly clear or students will be lost. This again places an emphasis on strong preparation. Online teaching isn’t really for the person who likes to live in the moment but rather for the person who plans ahead.

Have Presence

Having presence means making clear that you are monitoring progress and communicating with students frequently. When students complete assignments they should receive feedback. There should be announcements made in terms of assignments due, general feedback about activities, as well as Q&A with students.

Many people think that teaching online takes less time and can have larger classes. This is far from the case. Online teaching is as time intensive as regular teaching because you must provide feedback and communication or the students will often feel abandon.

Know Your Technology

An online teacher must be familiar and a proponent of technology. This does not mean that you know everything but rather you know how to get stuff done. You don’t need a master in web design but knowing the basics of HTML can really help when communicating with the IT people.

Whatever learning management system you use should actually be familiar with it and not just a consumer. Too many people just upload text for students to read and provide several forums and call that online learning. In many ways, that’s online boredom, especially for younger students.

Consistency

Consistency is about the user experience. The different modules in the course should have the same format with different activities. This way, students focus on learning and not trying to figure out what you want them to do. This applies across classes as well. There needs to be some sense of stability in terms of how content is delivered. There is no single best way but it needs to similar within and across courses for the sake of learning.

Conclusion

These are just some of many ideas to consider when teaching an online course. The main point is the need for preparation and dedication when teaching online.

Blended Learning Defined

E-Learning is commonly used tool at most educational institutions. Often, the e-learning platform is fully online or a traditional model of face-to-face instruction is used. Blended learning is something that is available but not as clear in terms of what to do.

In this post, we will look at what  blended learning is and  what it is not

What Blended Learning is

Blended learning is an instructional environment in which online learning and traditional face-to-face instruction coexist and are employed in a course. There are at least six common models of blended learning.

  • Face-to-face driver – Traditional instruction is supported by online materials
  • Online driver –The entire course is completed online with teacher support made available
  • Rotation – A course in which students cycle back and forth between online and traditional instruction
  • Labs – Content is delivered online but in a specific location such as a computer lab on-campus
  • Flex – Most of the curriculum is delivered is online and the teacher is available for face-to-face consultation.
  • Self-blend – Students choose to augment their traditional learning experience with online coursework.

These models mentioned above can be used in combination with each other and are not mutually exclusive.

For a course to be blended, it is probably necessary for at least some sort of learning to happen online. The challenge is in defining learning. For example, the Moodle platform places an emphasis on constructivism. As such, there are a lot of opportunities for collaboration in the use of the modules available in Moodle. Through discussion and interaction with other students through forums, commenting on videos, etc., students are able to demonstrate learning.

For a more individualistic experience, if the course is blended the students need to do something online. For example, completing a quiz, add material to a wiki or database, etc. are all ways to show that learning is taking place without as much collaboration. However, a teacher chooses to incorporate blended learning the students need to do something online for it to truly be blended.

What Blended Learning is not

Many teachers will post there powerpoints online and have students submit assignments online and call this blended learning. While it is commendable that online tools are being used this is not really blended learning because there is no learning taking place anytime online. Rather this is an excellent example of using cloud sources to upload and download materials.

The powerpoints were seen in class and are available for review.  Uploading assignments are trickier to classify as online learning or not but if it required the students to complete a traditional assignment and simply upload it then there was no real online learning experience. The students neither collaborated nor completed anything online in order to complete this learning experience.

Conclusion

The definition here is not exhaustive. The purpose was to provide a flexible framework in which blended learning is possible. To make it as simple as possible, blended learning is the students actively learning online and actively learning in a traditional format. How much of each component depends on the approach of the teacher.