Let the course management system drive your thinking

Now this is an area dear to my heart. I am intensely curious about how faculty go about the course planning process. Do they start with the course description that is published in the catalog? This description for courses in a major, is in fact, the legal description of the course “accepted” by the faculty as the key descriptor of what content and skills will be included in that particular course. Some university curriculum committee’s do examine other aspects of the course when proposed, but what guarantee does that committee have that the course will in fact be implemented as initially designed? This is particularly problematic when the course is “handed off” to others to teach.

Consider for a moment, a course that has several sections and several instructors. How does a university ensure the integrity of the course is maintained with such variance (in design and implementation?)

Just yesterday I created a new way of designing courses that allows faculty to draw direct lines of alignment from outcomes to activities; monitor the placement of formative assessments, and identify a grading model most likely to be fair and equitable for that particular course design. The template was designed for U-Engage instructors who teach their classes F2F. I am curious whether it will also work with hybrid course design.

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Mike Jager on Pitfalls

It was thoughtful for the author to limit the number of pitfalls of teaching to just 5. More might have been scary. The class I am moving toward a hybrid profile (with Carmel) is entitled Digital Storytelling and involves instruction and practice in creating iBook digital textbooks. The class process challenges many of the tried and true teaching and learning mechanisms we grew up with and intuitively deployed as classroom instructors. The class fervently embraces the power of digital media, tools and processes to move beyond the dominant binary / lateral teaching and learning model to one of layered and communal sharing of expertise.

We are trying to use innovation to return to the basics of teaching and learning. Instead of being (exclusively) sages on the stage we become coaches, conductors and facilitators for authentic and active research, inquiry, assessment and collaboration. Where we were once a singular source for knowledge, authority, and assessment our emphasis has shifted to an environment where students emerge as rotating resident experts generously contributing skills and competencies to a collective pool of talent and productivity. We become enthusiastic ‘old dogs learning new tricks” – models of teachers striving with confidence and competence to shift tactics, priorities and tools for more effective teaching and learning.

We incorporate a digital learning and teaching style that takes advantage of universal and ubiquitous access to knowledge, information and communication.  Students move from passive recipients and witness of media to active, engaged content producers and contributors to the stream of knowledge, cultural and social consciousness. It moves their hand held devices from possible elements of distraction to tools for gathering, curation and processing of content into media rich, engaging and compelling storytelling mechanisms. It anchors their place firmly in the unfolding stream of history.

Allowing students to use digital tools expands the expressive capacity to those who might not participate more actively in class – or on-line discussions. Further it better matches the tools and abilities for those with limited proficiency in language, writing or expression, or differently abled learners. Lastly, the process has created a sliding scale menu of credit and options for students ranging from limited engagement and commitments (1 credit) to those who wish to fully engage in an immersive Capstone leadership position (6 credits).

Moving what has thus been a F2F workshop experience into a hybrid model will allow students to process and practice skills and learning in a supportive but amorphous setting away from campus. Bi-weekly in-class workshops will afford students face to face connections for up-close reflection, peer review and shared decision making about design, content selection and task delegation. Students learn about content, learn about each other and learn and gain marketable skills in digital fluency and workplace collaboration.

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Avoiding the pitfall of ignoring the ways students learn from each other

Not too long ago I had a conversation with an older instructor about technology in the classroom (iPads and smartphones specifically). Defying certain stereotypes of age and technology use, he supported the use of technology in class, while I opposed it. At the time, I thought the use of technology distracted from the learning experience and impeded students’ language acquisition. For these reasons, I avoided the use of technology in my classes. But something the older instructor said resonated with me, and still does. He posited that the students were going to use these technologies regardless of our classroom policy. So, was I going to hold tight to my rules in the class, and choose to ignore the blatant relevance of these technologies in students’ lives? Or, was I going to figure out meaningful and authentic ways to these for students to develop their language proficiency using such tools?

While I still believe technology can distract students from achieving certain learning goals, I have toned down my absolutist mentality. My colleague was right, ignoring the relevance and importance of technology in my students’ life would be to project my own beliefs and values on them, rather than acknowledge, embrace and utilize theirs. I would be ignoring the fact that most of my students communicate through social networks such Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And that it represents an important part of their lives.

While certain aspects of educational theory remain relatively static, like Bloom’s taxonomy, I think it is important to remember that a learner’s cultural, generational, and technological distinctions create an ever-changing learning environment, and that it is part of the educator’s responsibility to be aware of these distinctions. Awareness of such distinctions allows us to strengthen our connections with students, broaden our teaching and learning skills, and provide students with the most effective learning experience.

Since our chat a couple of years ago, I have watched students share wonderful pictures, stories, and opinions through familiar technological devices and applications I would have otherwise dismissed as irrelevant to their learning experience. I have also watched them learn using these tools–and teach. I had remember that true learning occurs when the learner is motivated and feels what they’re learning is personally relevant. I had to remember too that education is not separate from life.

Lastly, when reflecting on my changing thoughts about how students learn, especially from each other, I also think about humbling my desire to be the sage on stage is also critical. When I quiet my sage on stage qualities, albeit difficult, the stage light broadens to encompass everyone. Again, the vast and varying personalities and experience of the students are able to flourish, becoming the details of our ongoing learning story.

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On Being a Sage on the Stage, and Not Being One, and Poetry

How can I avoid being the “sage on the stage,” Pitfall #3? As I think about this question, I can’t help but think about the poetry class I taught—on campus—yesterday afternoon. We were talking about imagery, and how a poet’s job is to make the abstract concrete, and I have to be honest: This is a topic that I absolutely love. I had a twenty minute stretch, walking up and down the aisles of the class, where I definitely felt like the sage on the stage. And I won’t lie: It felt great. There are nearly seventy students in that classroom, and I know this is probably delusional, but I felt like I had them all. So, that’s the background for this topic in my mind: Being a sage on the stage actually does feel really good—when it’s working, and when you can convince yourself that the students are benefiting from your presentation.

But I’m comparing that lecture, and that feeling, to what’s happening in my online poetry class this term. It’s the same class, ENG 106, and I teach it both online and on campus regularly. Online, I am not the sage on the stage. Not by a long shot. And I think part of that is that I’m hyper-aware of the fact that my “students may be Googling [my] lecture topic… finding sources that update or improve [my] presentation” (St. Germain, “Five Common Pitfalls of Online Course Design”). I know the online class has a lot about it that’s good, but I also am keenly aware of the fact that my passion for poetry has a harder time coming through. And this might be a bit simplistic, but I think passion can go a long way in the classroom, to inspire and to encourage learning.

So, here in this post from St. Germain, I’m realizing that avoiding this sage on the stage is actually advised—hooray! I suppose I’m coming at this assignment from a different angle, but this realization leads me to this: How can I utilize my role as a “content curator” (I love that terminology) to do what I think teacher-centered teaching (for all its faults) is good for, to inspire and to convey passion for the material? Is it as simple as collecting and presenting the best of the material available online? Is it a heightened awareness to what’s being advocated for in Pitfall #4, to ask and enable students to create rather than consume? To encourage more student-student learning, as encouraged in Pitfall #5? To allow students themselves to function as sages on stages at least in certain guided lessons?

So interesting. I’m here in this community to work on my grammar course as a hybrid, but I’m actually ending this assignment thinking more about both my online and on campus sections of my poetry class. Wow! Thanks for reading! Any thoughts appreciated!

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Sustaining momentum, building resilience

The five pitfalls of all classes can be summed up with the question of how to sustain momentum. Usually we do this by having students in class; now we have to do by not having them in class. One thing that always troubles me is the midterm slump, which can last from the third to the eighth or ninth week, when students arrive exhausted from all-nighters, and sit, glassy-eyed, present physically, mentally absent.



With fewer class periods and more structured activities, I’m hoping students will arrive with definite objectives, ready to engage and move forward on the project we’re all working on.

One of the things we’re tinkering with this class is having a mid-week check in, when homework is due, rather than having it be due the day of class. A week is a long time between classes, homework that isn’t due for a week can get pushed to the end of the to do list.

Another way to sum up the pitfalls is to recognize that multiple contacts and assignments that link and connect can build a resilient online community. Resilient communities are able to withstand disturbance. A class needs to be a web of connections, with multiple points where students can interact, with me, and with each other. The stronger the web, the more opportunities for learning. That’s chaotic, so I’m going to have to be aware that I need to sustain my own momentum, as I build a class that that I hope will be a learning experience for everybody.

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Geo350: Population and Environment – in a nutshell…

Geo350 examines the impact of human population dynamics on individuals, societies and the earth’s physical and biological environment. Beginning with an analysis of some of the general issues associated with human population change over time, we will move toward a deeper analysis of the associated environmental consequences, and the social, economic and philosophical dimensions of a growing, and often more consumptive, human population.

This is a “Hybrid” version of Geo350, meaning it will be balanced between on-campus, traditional class sessions and intensive online activity and interaction. The hybrid model provides an opportunity to borrow the best from both traditional and more recent online learning strategies: classroom lectures and active-learning exercises will benefit from face-to-face discussions and interactions, while the online component provides flexibility and promotes the use of web-based tools for learning.

After the introductory classroom meeting, students will be responsible for reading and watching online lectures and videos, taking quizzes and conducting mini-research assignments, and bringing their research to our in-class sessions.

The nine classroom sessions will be built around an active-learning exercise associated with a specific weekly topic. Topics will be purposefully broad and abstract—things like “Culture,” “Health,” “Agriculture,” “Consumption,” “Environmental Change,” as examples. Classroom sessions will focused on three primary goals: 1) to assess the state of knowledge on a topic through student research, 2) to examine the spatial aspects (patterns, processes, changes, etc.) of the topic, and 3) to help students gain a sense of their individual values or ethics related to the topic. As a result, classroom and online learning will be linked through preparation for, participation in, and reflection about face-to-face exercises and activities.

This class is often a very diverse group: majors include chemists, physicists, engineers, public health, forestry, agricultural science, earth science, and nearly every other possible discipline at OSU. My framework is deliberately aimed at giving students from a wide variety of backgrounds and majors a chance to not only understand the trajectories of human population change and its impacts, but to gain research and critical thinking experience applied to basic but fundamental parts of life and society.

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Design of SED540 as a hybrid class

When people think about science they commonly conjure images of chemistry and physics. White-coated, white males, white lab walls. White. At least that was my imagery as a lad. Studies show that these impressions still persist today. Of course, it has changed and at least there are edges that now have some color. It is the space part, the white lab walls that I will attempt to break through with my hybrid class. And provide a great learning experience as well.

I have always loved being outdoors and, along with the strong sense of community that geology afforded me, was what drew me to the science of geology. And I think there is a huge deficit and advantage of getting kids outdoors and participating in more inductive scientific adventures. It is not all about hypothesis-ladened processes; sometimes there is observation, intuition, struggle before that most excellent hypothesis is determined. This non-linear scientific process lies at the core of field-based worked and is an experience that few K-12 students and teachers engage.

In my course I aim to provide a combination of distance-delivered learning experiences with a multi-day field project to build content and field-based scientific skills. My course will be aimed at teachers-to-be and classroom teachers. It will hover around the next science standards (called the Next Generation Science Standards), it will provide an authentic doing science opportunity and it will be fun. I hope to attract at least 12 teachers each summer although the more the merrier.

The content and field-work focus will be on earthquakes. Specifically earthquakes of the Pacific Northwest. Online learning experiences will include learning about: basics of earthquakes; geologic setting of the PNW, EQ mitigation and EQ preparation. There will be an abundance of hands-on experiences that can be modified for the K-12 (but probably more like the 6-12) classroom use but are also excellent learning experiences for adults. Learning will be assessed through discussion boards, small projects and a culminating group field-based project. Participants will also practice field skills such as data collection, organization, and presentation.

Fieldwork will be the face-to-face component of the hybrid and will be a combination of show-and-tell and data collection. What data will collect? In short, evidence for ancient earthquakes in the PNW shows itself by the presence of sunken and dead forests (called ghost forests) and layers of tsunami generated sands that cover organic-rich layers of former marshes. We will be investigating areas that are inland from estuaries that contain these features in order to evaluate the extent of tsunami run-up within the different river and estuary systems.

The link back to the online learning experience will be realized during the second half of the class where participants will further examine the data and produce a report on findings. This work may be publishable in regional and perhaps national journals! Additional learning experiences outside of analyzing and organizing data may be part of the second half of the online learning.

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Course Redesign – ART 446 – Documentary Photography

The course I am redesigning is ART 446 – Documentary Photography. This is a course that was previously taught using 35mm film, so I am in the midst of a complete redesign of the course (and I will also have to submit a Cat II proposal). As this is a studio class, the regular meeting schedule for the class is six in-class hours per week. As a hybrid course the students will meet for three hours in-class and therefore students will be able to dedicate an additional three hours to taking photographs in the field.

This course requires students to self-select a documentary photography subject and pursue that subject for the entire quarter. It is a 400 level course, so some self-sufficiency as well as previous photography experience is expected. Students have to pitch their project ideas at which time the other students give feedback. Following the ‘pitch’ discussions revolve around access, ethics and feasibility.

The plan is for the students to shoot and edit their images outside of class. In-class sessions are spent entirely on group critiques, discussions and some ‘how-to’ lectures. There are only twelve students in the class and the class meets in-class once a week for three hours. During the critiques, each student has to make, share and then defend their choices in making the work. My job is that of a discussion facilitator and to ensure that the discussion remains constructive and that each student gets equal time. The discussions can be very involved and discouraging at times. However, as each project develops, the discussions and results become increasingly rewarding. It is an intense experience – these are personally selected projects and the students become increasingly engaged.

Outside of class the students are expected to spend at least three to six hours in the field taking photographs and then editing these photographs. In addition they need to post weekly to the discussion board. This post reflects on that week’s online material which may consist of reading, watching videos, or self-directed research. Readings and responses cover topics such as aesthetics and beauty in documentary photography, ethical issues, and the use of text. In addition, the students blog their project progress – in this way I am kept up-to-date on project progress (or non-progress).

Towards the end of the quarter (around week 7) the focus turns to finalizing the project, editing and sequencing the photographic series. Finally, the students start working on their audio-slideshows – which will accompany the project.

The goal is that the students prepare their projects as if they were submitting an application to the Alexia Foundation – this is to encourage and to prepare students to apply for grants to support their work. In addition, they create an audio slide-show as another form of presenting the same material.

The hybrid formal works very well for this course as the students should be working with a great deal of self-sufficiency at this stage of their college career. Teaching in the hybrid format gives the students more time in the field. In addition, being able to read and respond individually to the weekly discussion board responses is very enriching as a teacher.

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Advanced Academic Listening and Speaking Hybrid Course

The course I am designing as a hybrid is ALS 161, an advanced Listening and Speaking course for international students in the INTO OSU Pathway programs.  This is currently an on-campus workshop style course offered every term for three credits, and normally it meets three times a week, for two hours for each class meeting.

The course is required for all Graduate Pathways students and two-term accelerated Undergraduate Pathways students and is the pre-requisite for these students to take COMM 111.

Enrollment in ALS 161 has grown as INTO OSU has grown. The course enrollment fluctuates throughout the year, mostly because of the limited start dates of the graduate programs. In the current fall term, more than 300 students are enrolled in the course (in sections of around 18 students), though the total number drops to about half of that in winter. The main objectives for the course are to improve comprehension skills and note-taking abilities for lectures in an academic format. Students are also building skills related to giving individual and group presentations. Additional instruction is given in cross-cultural communication styles, non-verbal communication, questioning techniques, and clarifying information.

I have chosen to make the course hybrid to make more efficient use of the students’ and teachers’ time. Language is learned through practice and time, and that’s where I believe a hybrid course will excel for my students.  In ALS 161, one of the main objectives is to improve students’ academic listening skills. This means listening to extended clips of academic lectures multiple times.  For students learning English as a second language, they often need more time to review the materials and form their responses. Also, because various academic majors are enrolled in the same section, the specific needs of each student vary greatly. Instead of spending valuable class time partaking of listening activities that have been generalized to suite every major, why not give students the tools to customize their learning and practice these very individual skills on their own via online technology?  This will also serve as an additional connection to what students are practicing in the face-to-face portion of this class and other classes at OSU.

A hybrid course would also serve the speaking needs of students in terms of practicing pronunciation and speaking skills through web-based recording apps and give the teacher more time for individualized feedback before students complete an in-class presentation.

Additionally, some self-directed learning is also expected of students at Level 6 (the highest INTO OSU level), especially since many of the courses they will be completing at OSU are now being hybridized. Thus, a hybrid course would encourage student autonomy and give students a push to continue enhancing their language skills outside of the classroom while also preparing them for the latest technology methods being utilized throughout the university.

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Pre-Internship Hybrid Course Design

The course I am designing as a hybrid is H407, the Pre-Internship Seminar in Public Health.  This is currently an on campus course offered every term for two credits, and it meets currently twice a week, 50 minutes for each class meeting.  The course is required for all undergraduate Public Health Majors, with options in either Health Management and Policy or Health Promotion and Health Behavior.  The course is also required for students minoring in Environmental Safety and Health.  The course enrollment is usually approximately 60 students, with the majority of them being seniors with most of their coursework completed.  The purpose of the course is to prepare students for their internship and includes internship sites as guest speakers, information on professional resumes and cover letter writing, interviewing skills and professionalism.

I chose to make the course hybrid to make it more beneficial to the students and make it more tailored for each student to really be involved, through more assignments offered online.  With the large range of internship interests, having each student actively participate online instead of listening to lecture, will provide students with the ability to explore their interests,  skills and develop professional documents to really be prepared for the internship.

The hybrid design of this course would consist of 50% of the time being in class meetings, which equates to one day a week and then the other 50% online which would also equate to one day a week.  The online content will consist of students developing cover letters, resumes, participating in peer review assignments, discussion boards, and an online exam at the end of the term.  The class meeting times will be used for guest speakers, who will be current internship sites.  The class meetings will also include activities  based on the online assignments and discussions, to blend the online learning with class time, and making the topics link  together to be cohesive.  For example, a lot of guest speakers who talk about their internships, discuss professionalism, and I can then create a  discussion board, to further explore professionalism as a topic and blending in the guest speakers points from class.  Another example would be resumes and cover letters, which would be covered in class and then the students would go online and complete peer reviews based on what was covered in class.  The online final exam will serve to cover both online content from the term and in class content to bring it all together.  My hope is this hybrid design will provide the students with a high degree of personalization, in which they end the course fully prepared for their internship.


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