IDEAS FOR EFFECTIVE ONLINE INSTRUCTION

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1 IDEAS FOR EFFECTIVE ONLINE INSTRUCTION JANUARY 2012 Tips from the Pros Managing High-Enrollment Online Courses By Rob Kelly Online instructors are being asked to accommodate an increasing number of students in their courses. The challenge is to manage the workload associated with these high-enrollment courses. In an interview with Online Classroom, Susan Fein, elearning consultant/instructional designer at Washington State University, offered some advice on how to do this. Replace written activities with objective knowledge checks. One question that instructors can ask is, Is there a chance that I can replace one or more written activities like a discussion forum or paper with some style of objective questions such as quizzes? Fein says. Quizzes or any objective-style assessment is very good for a couple of things, but the easiest slam dunks are facts, figures, terminology, historical events, who discovered what, definition of acronyms, basic foundation concepts stuff that has a right and a wrong answer. Use peer review. Instead of the instructor being the only person who does all the grading, consider doing some peer review activities. Perhaps students could review a first draft of a final paper and provide feedback. Peer review will not work if you don t provide a rubric. The rubric needs to clearly outline to all the students the criteria they need to look at and how to judge the quality of those various criteria, Fein says. Use TAs effectively. When teaching high-enrollment online courses, instructors often have teaching assistants who can help grade assignments. One of the challenges of working with TAs is that they often interpret the quality of work differently than the instructor. As with peer review, a rubric is an excellent way to ensure accurate and effective assessment. Implementing a rubric, even if it s just for TAs, can be an excellent way to delegate the workload and to make sure the interpretation of the quality of the work is consistent. This minimizes disputes with students over grading concerns where one student got a better grade than another for comparable work because their work was graded Understand the Costs Associated with Instructional Technologies Cost is an important consideration when selecting technologies to include in an online course. In a recent Magna Online Seminar, Tony Bates, a distance learning consultant, recommended considering the following costs when selecting instructional technologies: Planning the process of going through deciding how you're going to teach a course and what technologies to use for teaching that course. Course development instructor time, instructional support time, and media production. One of the interesting things from the very limited research that's been done on this is that you would think that adding instructional designers and Web designers will actually increase the cost. In fact, if you take the cost of the instructor time, it often reduces the cost, because without that support, instructors are often spending more time on preparation than they would do without that team Continued on page 2 >> Continued on page 7 >> In This Issue 3 Using Student Facilitators in the Online Classroom 4 Online Teaching Fundamentals: Designing Good Online Learning Activities Turn DOs into Activities 6 Teaching Online With Errol: Make 2012 a Productive New Teaching Year! A MAgnA PublicAtion

2 President: William Haight Publisher: David Burns Managing Editor: Rob Kelly ADVISORY BOARD Randy Accetta, PhD Mentor-in-Residence, Communication Toni Bellon, PhD Professor, Middle/Secondary Education North Georgia College & State University Jennifer E. Lerner, PhD Associate Vice President for e-learning Northern Virginia Community College B. Jean Mandernach, PhD Professor & Senior Research Associate Grand Canyon University John Orlando, PhD ELearning Director National Life Lawrence C. Ragan, PhD Director- Faculty Development World Campus Penn State University Online Classroom (ISSN ) is published monthly by Magna Publications Inc., 2718 Dryden Drive, Madison, WI Phone ; Fax: Website: One-year subscription: $177 (Multiple print subscriptions and Group Online Subscriptions are available. Call Customer Service at ) Photocopying or other reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. POST- MASTER: Send change of address to Online Classroom, 2718 Dryden Drive, Madison, WI Copyright 2012, Magna Publications Inc. Submissions to Online Classroom are welcome. Please review article submission guidelines located at online-classroom/ Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use of specific clients is granted by Online Classroom for users registered with the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) Transactional Reporting Service, provided that $1.00 per page is paid directly to CCC, 222 Rosewood Drive,Danvers, MA 01923; Phone ; For those organizations that have been granted a photocopy license by CCC, a separate system of payment has been arranged. << From Page 1 by different TAs, Fein says. Use threaded discussions judiciously. One of the things that kind of happened in the evolution of online learning was that we got very focused and rightly so on creating community and collaboration and having a lot of interaction. All those are absolutely valid, and I would never suggest that they should go away. But at the same time, I m not so sure that threaded discussion didn t get overused to a certain degree. Sometimes educators feel compelled to include discussion forums for every single lesson when in fact that may not be the best way to get the outcomes that you re looking for. Use them selectively, Fein says. Resist the temptation to read and respond to every discussion post. Fein offers several ways to achieve this. One approach is to assign students to facilitate the discussions on a rotating basis. Another is to state in your syllabus that the students are obligated to post a minimum number of original and response posts throughout the semester and that you are going to select and review a random selection of these posts. Because they don t know which of those posts you are going to look at, they ll need to give it their best throughout the course so that they are not graded on that one discussion in which they slacked off, Fein says. Another approach is to scan a sample of posts to get an idea of where the discussion is headed and post a high-level directive rather than responding to individual students or conversations. Streamline feedback. One of the objections some instructors have to automatically graded objective quizzes is that they do not provide students with useful feedback. However, most learning management systems have a feedback feature that allows instructors to program responses to wrong answers. This feedback can point students to resources in the course where the concept was addressed. That takes a little bit more prep time, but now you re using that prep time to reach a lot more students, Fein says. Instructors often use a set of common phrases when giving students feedback on their assignments. One way to reduce the amount of time it takes to provide feedback is to have a document of stock phrases from which the instructor can copy and paste them as needed rather than having to type them each time they re used. Some instructors find that providing audio feedback to assignments is less timeconsuming than other formats, Fein says. For more on the topic of managing high-enrollment online courses, join Susan Fein on February 7 for the Magna Online Seminar Strategies to Manage High Enrollment Online Courses. For information, see 2 Online

3 C O U R S E M A N A G E M E N T Using Student Facilitators in the Online Classroom By Rob Kelly If you re trying to get your online learners more engaged in online discussions, consider turning over the facilitation responsibilities to your students. This approach, says Walter Woolbaugh, a professor in the master of science in teacher education at Montana State University Bozeman, empowers students, increases participation, and improves learning. Why have students facilitate? There are several compelling reasons to have students facilitate. First, it engages students both the individual who facilitates and the other students. Those who facilitate are typically more engaged than they might be ordinarily because they bear the responsibility of starting the discussion, keeping it on track, and putting it in the context of the course. It s a really nice engagement technique. When we release power to weekly facilitators, we re bringing them into the class. We re engaging them. We re making them the instructor. We re giving them the chance to offer their viewpoints, Woolbaugh says. In addition, facilitators tend to learn more. People will probably understand the content more as they work at a higher level. I think of my [previous job] as a plumber. When I had a beginner plumber I was teaching how to do things, I was at that higher level. I asked myself, Why do I solder this way? Why do I hold it this way When students are doing some of this teaching, they end up learning it really well, and they end up presenting it in ways that many of the students in the class pick up on better than if the teacher presents it. I think it goes to the foundation of the research on cooperative learning and how many times the benefit is not only to the facilitators but [to] the other students as well. Despite our best attempts as instructors, we can t get ideas across as effectively as student colleagues can. I ve found over the years that a lot of students respond more positively to one of their own than they do to an instructor. My facilitators are a great way to put my content before participants in a very collegial manner, Fein says. In addition, rather than turning to the instructor for the definitive answer to a question, students tend to work out the answers among themselves when a discussion is facilitated by a fellow student. Preparing students to facilitate Woolbaugh has each student take a turn as facilitator throughout the semester. He begins the semester by modeling good facilitation. He also provides detailed information on the facilitator s responsibilities, which consist of the following three functions: Start Begin with a posting prior to the opening of the discussion and making several posts throughout the week that get the conversation going. Steer Ask engaging questions that guide the discussion to a higher level. Redirect the discussion when it gets off topic. Summarize Copy and paste the week s main points in a message titled summary to try to bring closure to the discussion. The summary is essential for some learners. They need to know, Where have I been? What should I have taken from this discussion? That s where the summary comes in. Woolbaugh remains active in discussions even when they are facilitated by students. He sends an to the student facilitator the week before the discussion begins, suggesting some possible points to address in the discussion. Some facilitators do not need any guidance beyond this initial . Others require more support. A great many I m steering behind the scenes as the week goes on: You might do this You might have this happen Some facilitators are overanxious and keep posting. When that happens, I send that behind-the-scenes that says, We might want to wait a day or two before we post anything else, Woolbaugh says. Although he wants students to take control of the discussion, he still maintains a presence and participates in the discussion. They defer to me because, of course, I know the content, and I ll answer those questions. It starts out that way, but they eventually see that I m really a participant, not a leader, in the discussion. Many times my posts don t get a lot of hits, Woolbaugh says. Maintaining a presence is essential, Woolbaugh says. The instructor cannot walk away from the discussion. That s a disaster. That s not what facilitating is about. Students have to realize they can put in the middle of a post, Walt, is this right? and I ll be back there within 24 hours with a comment on that. I think that s really important. Contact Walter Woolbaugh Online 3

4 O N L I N E T E A C H I N G F U N D A M E N TA L S Designing Good Online Learning Activities Turn DOs into Activities By Patti Shank, PhD, CPT One of the problems with the design of too many courses is that they are too simplistic and are too often divorced from real-life activities. Course activities are where most of the learning happens, so they need to be meaningful. Last month I talked about analyzing the DOs, the real-life activities that people DO when engaged with a given topic in a course. DOs are the real-life activities that you want students to be able to DO in the real world. All the activities and media in the course come out of this exercise. Last month I analyzed the DOs for two specific course topics for two different courses. The first one was for a computer applications course and the second one was for an introductory statistics course. Notice that I filled in the applicable DO types for each topic only. This month I ll add the activities that go along with each DO for each course. Topic: Adding an attachment to an Outlook DO Types DOs Activity 1. Recall facts What an attachment is Multiple-choice questions about using attachments 2. Find and make sense of information, often with the aid of tools, resources, etc. Using help to troubleshoot file attachments Multiple-choice scenario questions that require student to use help to troubleshoot two specific types of file attachment problems 3. Understand underlying concepts File size Bandwidth constraints Considering respondent s bandwidth when sending attachments Multiple-choice scenario questions related to: File size Bandwidth constraints Considering respondent s bandwidth when sending attachments 4. Know how a process works 5. Complete needed steps Open a new Find the Attach File button Browse for file to attach Attach file Complete needed steps to send two attachments to instructor 6. Determine which course of action is needed 7. Create a product or produce a specific result Determine if file attachment is too large to send Options if file is too large to send Part of 5 8. Troubleshoot and fix problems Determine what to do based on error s Part of 5 Continued on page 5 >> 4 Online

5 << From Page 4 Topic: Describing the center of a distribution of numbers DO Types DOs Activity 1. Recall facts What are measures of central tendency Mode Median Mean Questions about mode, median, and mean 2. Find and make sense of information, often with the aid of tools, resources, etc. 3. Understand underlying concepts Compare measures of central tendency Advantages of each measure of central tendency Questions that compare measures of central tendency Questions that compare advantages of each measure of central tendency 4. Know how a process works 5. Complete needed steps Calculate mode Calculate median Calculate mean Questions with calculations of mode Questions with calculations of median Questions with calculations of mean 6. Determine which course of action is needed 7. Create a product or produce a specific result 8. Troubleshoot and fix problems Select when it would be best to use mode, median, or mean, based on advantages of each Questions with selections of when it would be best to use mode, median, or mode based on advantages of each Practice activities allow the learner to practice applying what is learned in real or realistic ways via exercises, tutorials, simulations, problems, experiments, and such. As you can see, once you have a list of wellwritten DOs, they are easily converted into practice activities. It is almost a one-to-one process. The table below shows typical practice activities for each DO type. Continued on page 8 >> Online 5

6 T E A C H I N G O N L I N E W I T H E R R O L Make 2012 a Productive New Teaching Year! By Errol Craig Sull For the online instructor, 2012 offers new challenges, opportunities, concerns, and technology. Preparation for this new year is more critical than ever, for not only can it pave the way for a smooth, enjoyable, and revitalized experience in online teaching, but it can also prevent those Oops! and I can t believe I did that! and Oh rats oh frats oh rats! moments (well, most of them, anyway!). The following are my top suggestions for 2012: Get yourself REALLY organized. This is one of those oldies but goodies that is always needed yet too often it goes the way of a New Year s resolution: practiced for about a month, then abandoned. But in the world of online teaching it must be a priority throughout the year, especially when teaching multiple courses for perhaps multiple schools. When you consider all the parts of our online teaching life intimately knowing the online teaching platform(s) we use; student assignments to read and grade; administrative s, notices, and memos to read; individual student personalities and needs with which to cope; professional development activities lack of organization can be extremely hazardous to being an effective and productive online teacher. Planners, software, file cabinets and folders, cubby holes, and bookshelves can help. Do whatever it takes, but start out and then stay organized. You and everyone associated with your teaching will benefit! Seek out new technology and embrace it. The tech-savvy instructor is the go-to instructor for online classroom teaching. Not too long ago cutting edge technology in the online classroom was a somewhat complicated-to-use chat room, but now there is a gaggle of software choices for chats of all kinds, with advanced features that benefit student and online instructor alike. Tossed into this mix are tablet computers, smartphones, and enhanced desktop/laptop We only learn, we only grow when we correct, edit, fix, and build upon what we did. In hindsight, I doubt anyone can look at 2011 (and other past years) and say, Everything I did was perfect in my online teaching I m not going to change a thing! computers as well as additional ways to communicate with students, such as blogs, tweets, wikis, text messages, and IMs. In addition, enhanced online course delivery platforms are just plain fun and exciting to use. Assess what went wrong/what was so-so last year. We only learn, we only grow when we correct, edit, fix, and build upon what we did. In hindsight, I doubt anyone can look at 2011 (and other past years) and say, Everything I did was perfect in my online teaching I m not going to change a thing! In addition to what you know could use some tinkering, start keeping a log of your errors and potential improvements (and this includes a close look at all supervisor and student evaluations from 2011). It s the only way you can be really sure to improve. Pay close attention to rules, guidelines, deadlines, and dictums from your school(s) and follow them. There is closer scrutiny of online schools by the federal and some state governments, new standards for use of copyrighted material have been adopted by most for-profit online schools, the always-needed certification by schools offering online courses to grant degrees and operate as a recognized educational entity has tighter requirements, and a focus on plagiarism and at-risk students has markedly increased. All of these lead to a bevy of s and announcements to their online faculty from online schools. If you don t adhere to what is being required you could quickly be out of a job. Capture all that are important, save them to a folder on your computer, and incorporate each item into a checklist you daily consult. Build onto your course to engage the students and keep them engaged. Never have there been more schools offering online courses, and each is fighting to retain its students. If they don t, fewer classes will be offered, and this means fewer online instructors. No longer can you just do your job as outlined by your school or supervisor. You must do more to help your students. Yes, it takes more effort, but it can go a long way in building a stronger rapport with your class(es), enhancing your students learning, increasing their motivation and thus improving Continued on page 7 >> 6 Online

7 << From Page 6 retention. This extra effort is not that difficult: gather websites, articles, essays, photos, videos, etc. from the serious to the whimsical that support the subject(s) you are teaching. These all help a course come alive, can make teaching a bit more exciting for you, and add strength to any course you teach. Most important, of course, is that it makes your course an enjoyable and productive place to learn. Continually explore new teaching opportunities. While the profession of online education continues to grow exponentially (by the end of 2010 it was estimated that 2.9 million students had taken online courses; by 2015 this figure is expected to double), it can be easy and comfortable to sit back in your current online teaching positions and just assume if you do a good job and receive great evaluations that you ll be continually asked back to teach. Not so fast. Things happen in online teaching over which you have little control or of which you have no knowledge. For example, schools can shift their focus, degrees offered, and the expertise requirements of instructors the list goes on. So don t become complacent, thinking all is good and it won t change, because it certainly can change. Your insurance? Continually explore new or additional online teaching opportunities. Your peace of mind (and perhaps your checking account) will thank you. Create for yourself an environment conducive to teaching. If you want to really enjoy your online teaching and give your students (and thus your schools) your best, it all starts with where you do your online teaching (and this, of course, applies to all who teach online not just part-timers). Look around your base of operations: do you have a surrounding environment that fully supports your online teaching? From what s on your desk to the seating height/comfort of your chair to computer configurations to music to accessibility of frequently used resources, etc. the more these work with you the better you will feel, both mentally and physically, no matter what time of day and no matter for how long a stretch you teach. Choose weekly set-aside time for nonteaching stuff that must get done. This is called balance, and it s the last of the obvious stuff but mentioned because so many who teach online simply don t give it the attention it needs. We can get so wrapped up in our teaching that paying bills, doing reading for fun (or professional growth), watching a favorite TV show, seeing a movie, visiting with friends, keeping involved with a personal interest, and other like items can get overlooked or given less time than you d like. It s important to set aside certain times during the week that are nonteaching times devoted to what you must do and like to do. Not only does this enable you to more smoothly go on with your life as a whole, but it also helps keep you more relaxed and enthused about teaching always crucial! REMEMBER: Rip Van Winkle woke up after a long sleep to find the life he knew had passed him by and while that was fiction, all too often life can imitate art, with sad results; how nice when we can prevent this! Please let me hear from you, including sending along suggestions and information for future columns. You can always reach me at And, as always, with each of my columns I offer a sampling of whatever subject I ve discussed; for this column, if you d like a complete copy of my staying organized and saving time websites, just send me an ! Errol Craig Sull has been teaching online courses for 17 years and has a national reputation in the subject, writing and conducting workshops on distance learning. He is currently putting the finishing touches on two online teaching << Tips From Page 1 support, Bates said. Course delivery This cost obviously goes up, if you want to keep a high level of interaction, it goes up with the number of students. You get up to 30 or 40 students, whatever you cap your classes at, and then you have to hire more instructors, adjunct instructors. So delivery cost very much goes up with the number of students, Bates said. Course maintenance the cost of keeping the course upto-date after you've developed Online 7

8 << From Page 5 DO Types DOs 1. Recall facts Recall facts Classify facts Use facts 2. Find and make sense of information, often with the aid of tools, resources, etc. 3. Understand underlying concepts Locate needed information Interpret information (what does this mean?) Apply information to a specific issue, scenario, or problem Evaluate application of information to a specific issue, scenario, or problem Develop or interpret a concept map Identify examples and nonexamples Apply concept properties 4. Understand how a process works Sequence parts of the process Interpret a model or map of the process Analyze when the process applies and doesn t apply Analyze how the process applies in specific situations 5. Complete needed steps Analyze when to perform the steps and when not to perform the steps Sequence the steps Perform the steps Use a job aid/decision matrix to perform the steps 6. Determine which course of action is needed 7. Create a product or produce a specific result 8. Troubleshoot and fix problems Determine which policies, criteria, and guidelines apply Apply policies, criteria, guidelines to scenarios Analyze when to apply the policy and when not to apply the policy Solve problems that occur when the right course of action isn t taken Evaluate product examples Create the product Create a checklist to determine if result has been achieved Use a checklist to determine if a specific result has been achieved Troubleshoot information resources, processes, procedures (steps), and actions Determine when and where to get help I ll walk you through my thoughts on converting three of the DOs in the Outlook example into a practice activity to the right. See Patti Shank, PhD, CPT, is a widely recognized information and instructional designer and writer and author who helps others build valuable information and instruction. She can be reached through her website and 8 Online

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