Designing Your Course for Student Success

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1 3 Weeks till Spring Semester The number 3 is the number of good fortune. This and many more concepts of the number 3 can be found at: Ok, you get what I mean Designing Your Course for Student Success There is an ongoing discussion comparing success rates between online courses and face-to-face courses. Often, it seems as an attempt to demonstrate that online courses are inferior to traditional courses. More likely, the statistics demonstrate that we are not designing our online courses as effectively as we could for student success. This week I want to share some strategies that can help

2 improve our success and retention rates. And by the way, data from our district indicates that in 2007 LAVC was about 9% less successful online than in face-to-face classes. I would, however, like to see more recent data as I believe we have improved. Course Map This is probably the number one tool Etudes has to help increase your success rate. Course Map is a one stop, single location where your students can see all the tasks that are required of them. There are other parts of your class where Modules, Discussions, and Test/Assignments are individually listed, but this is the one place where you see them all. Now the students can see exactly what tasks they need to complete each step of their class. The better organized your Course Map, the better chance of student success. When they complete a task, they see a big green check mark. If when you set up a discussion you indicated they need three posts in a discussion, then they will not receive that check until they have contributed all three posts. Their scores for quizzes, assignments and discussions will also be shown on the Course Map. Remember, the scores then become a hot link that when a student selects the score, they go to your comments. Tip: remind them that if they click their score they can view your comments on their work. They may not know this, especially if they are new to online learning and Etudes. Other systems may have tasks listed, but Etudes goes one step further and charts a student s progress.

3 The Week 5 enewsletter described the Course Map in greater detail with several ideas for developing an effective Course Map, including a video overview. Make sure you recheck that enewsletter for ideas. All the past enewsletters can be found on the Virtual Valley website located at: tml Activity Meter This is the second tool that is very useful in seeing how our students are doing. Besides viewing their individual progress, we have a quick check on which students haven t checked in for seven days. You can then create one that will go to all of them individually. Often a simple nudge at the beginning of class is what they need. I have received more than one thank you for giving them a reminder to come to class. Also, think about the tone of our message to them. Is it threatening or encouraging? Let them know you look forward to seeing them be a part of the class instead of threatening them with penalties for not showing up. Think about it, if you were a student, what type of message would you rather receive? Great Modules One reason students show up to an online class, like any face-to-face class is that there is something interesting to see once they get there.

4 We have explored Discussions (enewsletter #9) where students get to interact with each other, but Modules hold your content. How interesting are they? In enewsletter #4 we looked at the organization of your modules. Remember, they have a beginning, middle and end. Now, we should look at the content of your modules. There are some key resources you can use to add to your modules such as: Intelecom, a video depository of very useful videos. You can create your own personal list of videos. They are captioned and very useful. Tip, if you have used them in the past, check your links. The embed code has changed and I had to go in an re-embed the videos. For complete access to all their videos you will need a userid and password: Username: lavc Password: zp9ab2y Those of you who are receiving this newsletter and are not from Los Angeles Valley College, check your school for your Username and Password. Edustream is not only a video depository, but also a place where you may upload your own videos. The site is password protected, but we have attempted to upload your names and create passwords for you. Try this site out. Just go to the link below and for your password, use the following information. If you are having trouble logging in, send me an . Edustream: Userid: same as you use to log into your campus Password: 1234pass Additional Video Sources There are many sources for videos that you can use to make your modules more interesting. Take a look at the selections of videos at:

5 YouTube: Khan Academy: Ted Talks: Freedocumentaries.org Documentary Film Network Annenberg Media Public Broadcasting They are free to use and will move your online class away from just a text presentation. Powerpoints Powerpoints are another way of breaking up text in your modules. But be careful. Just placing a publishers powerpoint into a section may be less effective than text you write. Tip: Integrate the powerpoint into your module, not just a stand alone presentation. When you embed a powerpoint into a section, put some text before it introducing the powerpoint. What is it you want you students to notice or focus on? After the powerpoint, put in a summary or conclusion. Powerpoints are generally designed to accompany your verbal presentation, and if presented all by themselves, may be ineffective. I will send more information about using them next week, but for now, check the following site for examples of Powerpoints that you could use or inspire you when you create your own. You may also signup for a free place to store your own Powerpoints. Slideshare is like YouTube for Powerpoints.

6 Slideshare: Key to a Successful Module Use your voice. When you lecture your personality comes across. In a module have your personality come across in your writing. Have your module sound like you are really talking to your students. Connect with them. Be You. Virtual, Virtual Valley Don t forget, for many more ideas on creating your modules, check out the sample online course we are creating. To access the class just go to your opening Etudes portal page and use: Userid: Password: guest Random Tips Unpublish your class. Students will be loaded in a couple of weeks and if you are not ready to have hem see your class, you will want your class unpublished.

7 Adding students online has begun. Admissions informed me that they would be adding students beginning three weeks before the semester so now would be a good time to begin sending them add requests. When creating discussions, check the reply only option if you just want students to respond to your initial post. This will keep them from starting new topics. Set the number of posts you expect from your students. That way they will not receive a green check until they have written all the posts you expect from them. You can set the number of posts required when you set the grading parameters of the discussion. The Winner of the Tag Galaxy.de Contest Steve Sachs for identifying the.de as Germany. His prize? The undying admiration of Etudes instructors.

8 Big Digital Textbook Announcement Just a few moments ago, Apple announced a new tool for creating digital textbooks. This is going to be big. Really Big. ibooks Author is a free software tool that allows drag and drop to create interactive digital textbooks. You must see it to believe it. Easy to use and a great tool for education. Good News Free software ibooks Author to create the digital textbooks ibooks 2 an update for ibooks that will allow you to read these new books. There is a free sample of two chapters of Life on Earth that you will want to see. itunes U app a great app that gives you very easy access to all the free courses and lectures from colleges and universities. You can find this app by going to itunes and then to itunes University. It will direct you to download the app. Bad News Can t use ibooks Author. If you are using a campus Mac, you cannot download ibooks Author to begin creating these new texts. It requires the most current operating system and our IT Department has yet to approve it for campus use.

9 For a complete coverage, go to the link below to Engadget. I am guessing a video of the presentation will be up on Apple s website soon. Textbook companies Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have partnered with Mac on this and have begun offering high school textbooks at $ This is going to be really, really big. Thought Piece for this week Below is an excellent overview of online teaching and how it is the same and is different from a traditional face-to-face course. It is well worth reading. Lessons Learned Teaching Online George Siemens Teaching online is a unique experience in a unique medium. Many of the skills and attributes of effective instruction in a classroom translate well to effective instruction online. At the risk of sounding fairly absurd - teaching online is very much like, and very much unlike, classroom teaching. Processes & Core Objectives of Teaching Many of the tasks and functions performed by an instructor online are similar to classroom. For example, regardless of medium, learning is

10 still the goal...and learning happens through communication. Communication happens on several fronts - student to student, student to teacher, student with content, and in online learning, the addition of student with the interface of technology. The critical aspects of learning (brain-compatible classroom, learning styles, multiple intelligence, and emotional intelligence. See don't vary from online or classroom. So what changes online? If the process (communication through variety of interactions) or core objectives (increased student learning) don't change from classroom to online, what does? The biggest change is the role and function of both the teacher and the student. The teacher needs to shift perspective from the "provider of knowledge", to a "facilitator of knowledge". The student needs a similar shift - from passive learner to active learner. Teaching online involves acquiring a new set of beliefs about what it means to be a teacher. The teacher's role online is to guide, direct, and equip students with the skills and abilities to provide for their own educational needs in the future. "Teaching online involves acquiring a new set of beliefs about what it means to be a teacher". The most effective way to experience the differences of online learning is to actually teach online. The following summarizes the lessons I ve learned: 1. New students need time to acclimate to the environment. Before students learn content, they learn how to access content through technology tools. This process can be accomplished through effective introductory tutorials or pre-course work teaching how the software tools of the course work. Course designers should focus extensively on how the first module (first impressions!) welcomes and orients students. 2. Connect emotionally first. The most common complaint of students taking online or distance education courses is the sense of isolation or loneliness. This is very unfortunate. The Internet medium, when properly utilized, is about connecting, not isolating, people. Ice breaker activities like asking students to post a picture of themselves,

11 their pet, or a favorite cartoon help to create a sense of connection. An instructor should always post a picture of him/herself with a welcoming introduction. This introduction should not focus at all on the course work or content it should introduce the person on the other side of the course. This warm fuzzy approach may not appeal to all students, but most will find it very helpful. 3. Explain the environment. New online students have spent years listening to lectures and expecting teachers to tell them what to think and do. This doesn t happen online but new students don t know this. If a student is not aware of the self-motivated, everyone has a valuable opinion, knowledge is created, not communicated, aspect of learning online, she or he will be very frustrated. It is the responsibility of the teacher to communicate the environment to new students. 4. Less content, more interaction. Online learning is not about content communication it s about interaction. The content is communicated through the interaction. 5. Sometimes, passivity is great! In a classroom, a teacher provides a large part of the motivation to learn. Online, students typically have to provide 100% of the motivation. This is a reality of the medium. Effective online courses, however, need to provide some passive learning activities. These activities may include slides with audio, video presentation, Flash demonstration, or synchronous presentations (like or These activities help to increase student motivation by providing a short rest before moving to more actively engaged exercises. 6. Encourage reflection. Learning happens during reflection. A student actively engaged is generally not focused on reflection. Reflection occurs during down moments. Reflection needs to be considered during both design and teaching phases of online courses. Reflective journals can be included to allow instructors the opportunity to evaluate student learning. 7. Simplicity. Keep things simple. One place for all memos. One place to post assignments. Too many tools and multiple processes can overwhelm new students. The student should not spend too much time

12 learning tools, especially at the expense of content and interaction. 8. Account for the soft side. Give students a place to complain. Most often, a student s frustration is minimized when he/she feels understood by the instructor. Instructors should contact students fairly early in a course and ask for comments, concerns, and frustrations. I ve been in online courses where other students have dialogued about frustrations using under the radar of the Instructor. End result if an environment isn t created that allows for venting, students will create it privately. 9. Variety. Variety. Variety. Students crave variety. Plan for different forms of content presentation, student activities, group work, and individual exercises. When learning online, a change really is as good as a rest. 10. Experiment. An instructor should constantly be experimenting. Student feedback should be solicited throughout and at the end of a course. These comments are then used as the premise for instructor experimentation to make the online experience more effective. Word of caution: As critical as experimentation is online, it needs limits. For myself, I set boundaries of experimentation to those activities that do not impact the student s learning unless a group of students agrees to a pilot outside of the scope of a course. This is how I initially began using The lessons learned were invaluable for eliminating inefficiencies for my first live Groove class. 11. The instructor as an active facilitator. This is the biggest change for most instructors. Teaching online is a facilitative process. The notion of I provide knowledge, and students learn needs to be replaced with I guide and direct students to a variety of resources and encourage critical thinking and reflection about the concepts encountered. As well, an instructor needs to be active. Regular discussion posts, personal s, supportive statements, and challenging questions let students know that the instructor is accessible. 12. Centering Point. A classroom is the centering point for traditional students. This is where they go to ask questions, find out where they are in relation to the course objectives, get feedback on work, or generally get clarification on virtually any subject. Online, a

13 similar centering point needs to be created. It may be a detailed course schedule, a blog maintained by the instructor, or a dedicated discussion forum for posting reminders and notices to students. The highest objective of education is to improve the quality of life for students and to create a better society. This may be achieved through student self-awareness, learning through exploring new concepts, connecting previously unrelated field of knowledge and increased confidence. Online learning has much to offer in achieving these ideals. However, in order for the potential to be fully realized, instructors and educators need to dialogue about what constitutes effective learning online. What is different? What is unique? What is the same? The goal in teaching online is to retain the best of classrooms and improve the worst.

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