Intake meetings, where I met instructors for the first time, is one of my favorite aspects of being an instructional designer because every meeting is so different.  I especially love having first meetings in the instructor’s office and getting a glance at the books adorning their shelves, the art displayed on their walls, their projects, research, and insights on whiteboards, napkins, and notepads.  Sometimes faculty come in with little to no online teaching experience and are not sure where to start; other times they have years of experience and crystal clear ideas on how they want to design their course.  I really feel fortunate to work with brilliant minds from a variety of backgrounds!

But, what makes for the very best of the best intake meetings?  When we really develop a relationship.

It is easy to dive right into the logistics at the intake, because instructors often have burning questions about their courses, particularly if there have been little hang ups that have been irking them.  How does grading this type of assignment work in the LMS?  When are the deadlines for working on the course development?  Do I have to follow the Ecampus syllabus template exactly?  These type of questions are important and I enjoy helping faculty get clarity, so I do, of course, make plenty of time to address them.  But, the best start comes from getting to know you first!

When I get to know you and your vision for your course, I learn about your teaching style.  I learn about the things that make you excited to teach and where your learners sometimes get stuck in your courses.  I learn about why you use certain sorts of assessments and not others, what “keeps you awake” when you think about your course and what would make you really proud of your work when we are finished with our development.

I also learn about ways of partnering that energize you and ways that drain you, which helps me to figure out how I can best use my skills to enrich your course design.  You are without a doubt the expert in your subject – frankly, intimidatingly so at times.  My goal is to find an approach to collaborating that taps deeply into your expertise, while leveraging my knowledge of students, andragogy, design, online tools, accessibility, and the like.

The knowledge I bring to the table sometimes requires me to challenge you, which can be uncomfortable.  I sometimes have to ask questions like, “is this an appropriate assessment for the learning outcome?  Would you consider structuring this activity in another way?”  I do this to advocate for students and their learning – not just to be a nuisance.  Having an authentic working relationship helps us to discuss these aspects of your course openly and genuinely.  There are times I need you to push back and let me know that the existing structure is important to you and why.  And, there are times that I need you to trust my skills as a designer and be open to exploring a new approach.

The sooner we can get comfortable with one another, the deeper we can dive into your course and the more time we can dedicate to the optimizations that makes your course easier and more enjoyable to deploy in the long run.  We are fortunate to use a two term development cycle so we have plenty of time to iron out and revisit snags that will lead to a lot less work during the actual facilitation of your course.  My strongest courses come from faculty that I have met with multiple times, developed a real partnership with, and now share cohesive and motivating goals.  I invite you to really “lean into” your relationship with your instructional designer – ask questions, get curious, be vulnerable, take time – your course design (and your ID) will thank you for it!

We schedule asynchronous coursework to provide flexibility for online students balancing multiple commitments. But asynchronous interaction is not ideal for achieving some learning outcomes. How can students learn to converse extemporaneously in another language, for example, through entirely asynchronous exchanges? If the outcome we want is the ability to engage in an unplanned spoken exchange between interlocutors engaged in social interaction, we can’t expect to achieve it by structuring learning experiences that are entirely self-paced, independent, and asynchronous. For this reason, many Ecampus world language courses require students to hold synchronous study sessions via videoconference software with other students who serve as conversation partners. This communicative approach to instruction provides for immersive experiences, frequent interaction in the target language, and improvisation.

The remainder of this post outlines how to structure this requirement for maximum flexibility and participation. While the focus is on application within world language courses, the general assignment protocol is applicable for facilitating synchronous study sessions in any course in which students would benefit from regular, live interaction.

Matching

During the first week, facilitate a sign-up process that matches students based on availability schedules and study habits. Allow the students to choose their own partners and to outline study session guidelines so that both parties feel respected. Provide suggested videoconference software along with alternatives, and encourage students to install and test the software in advance of their planned study sessions.

Planning

Once students have identified their study partners, require them to commit to a meeting schedule. Share the approximate dates by which their meetings should occur and give an estimate of how long students will need to meet in order to complete each assignment successfully.

As you plan a synchronous component, be cognizant of the competing demands on your students’ time. Depending on your student population, requiring even a weekly study session may be unrealistic. Also be aware that, like with any independent group activity, you will need to intervene in the case of student attrition, incompatibility, and conflict. For this reason, you might stage new partner matching twice in a term or require study groups of three students each so that no student is left without partner or is consigned to a bad match for the entire term.

Monitoring

Before each synchronous assignment, prepare students to complete a clear task and then follow up to see how it went. For example, students might design a presentation on an assigned topic or play different sides of a conversation using assigned vocabulary and grammatical structures. If there is a deliverable, like the presentation, you’ll have some evidence of how well the study session went. If the deliverable is intangible, like conversation practice, consider asking students to record and submit a video of their meeting. Part of the assignment might require students to re-watch their conversation and identify several strengths and areas for improvement. This makes the recording beneficial for the student on top of its utility as a monitoring and assessment measure for the instructor. There is a limit, however, to the volume of recorded study sessions you’ll want to watch and grade, so you might also consider appealing to students’ academic honesty to ensure that the study sessions truly take place. For example, assign a periodic 1-question quiz that requires the student to attest to having met with their partner and then leave the study sessions otherwise ungraded.

Benefits and Extension to Assessment

Synchronous student study sessions allow you to capitalize on student-to-student learning. Although the language learners themselves will not be able to provide each other with entirely accurate target language input, nonetheless each partner will offer different skills and resources for resolving conversational challenges. On a practical level, the scheduling of student study sessions is usually more flexible than instructor-to-student meetings, because students can choose from a range of partners with varied schedules at the outset and then renegotiate meeting times as needed. You can then assess conversational skills developed through the study sessions using higher-stakes, synchronous social interactions that require more planning. For example, is the student able to converse synchronously in an oral exam with the instructor? What about speaking with interlocutors in their own community? Can the student talk with others online, outside the confines of the course?

At Ecampus, some instructors facilitate synchronous conversation with native speakers by connecting students to the online service TalkAbroad. The instructor provides TalkAbroad’s trained conversation partners with general instructions and then reviews the resultant conversation recordings on the TalkAbroad platform. Because students pay $10-$15 per conversation, instructors are mindful of the cost. For this reason, a TalkAbroad activity is usually a culminating assignment at the end of an Ecampus language course. The practice students have had in synchronous study sessions earlier in the term prepares them to get the most value out of the TalkAbroad assignment, and it reduces students’ anxiety about speaking with a more fluent interlocutor.

With this assignment protocol in mind, are you ready to try out synchronous student study sessions in your course? Ecampus world language instructors would be glad to discuss it with you further – asynchronously, of course! Synchronous discussion will require a bit more planning. But sometimes, that’s the only way to get the job done.

Resource

Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation | Group Work: How to Create & Manage Groups

So you’ve scheduled your first video shoot with Ecampus. Great! We can’t wait to work with you. Here are answers to a few questions we commonly receive from instructors.

How can I prepare for my video shoot?

Rehearse! And this doesn’t have to be a bunch of work, just run through your piece once or twice before the shoot.

If you’d like for the finished video to include any additional graphics, photos or video, please let a member of the video team or your instructional designer know in advance of the shoot so that we can plan accordingly.

Should I write a script?

Maaaaaaaybe. It’s up to you. Some people prefer to work from a teleprompter, others prefer to wing it. We always suggest going with your comfort zone. If you would like to work with a teleprompter, please send your script or bulleted list to ecampus.productions@oregonstate.edu at least one day before your shoot.What should I wear?

Wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good about yourself…that’s the priority. Feel free to show off your personality and have fun with it.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Avoid wearing plain white. It’s distracting against a black background, and gets lost in a white background.
  • If you’ll be filming against a black background, you’ll want to avoid wearing black, lest you appear to be a floating head and arms in your video. Also, black or really dark clothing can sometimes cause more shadowing on the face, accentuating wrinkles and aging the subject.
  • Instead, you might consider a medium-dark blue or gray. Or even better, go for a rich, solid color.
  • Also, avoid tight lines and patterns. These types of patterns cause a distracting optical effect called moiré where the pattern appears to move. Larger patterns, like plaid, look fine.
  • Finally, please avoid noisy jewelry and accessories as the microphone may be able to pick up the noise.

Oh gosh! Now that I’m here and I’m on camera, I have no idea what to do with my hands.

Think of the camera as another person. How do you move when you’re talking to somebody? If you tend to gesture when you speak, then please do! The movement will add energy to the video and help to convey your excitement about the topic.

Another option is to hold a prop. Just be sure that your prop is relevant to the video so that you don’t confuse the viewer.

If you prefer to be more still, that’s also great. Just be sure to maintain open body language and avoid crossing your arms in front of you or behind you.

This terrific Wistia article talks about the science behind why your gestures look so awkward on camera and dives into the hand thing a bit more, explains why we feel so awkward on camera, and suggests some ways to feel more comfortable at your video shoot.

That’s A Wrap!

If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas to share, please contact the Ecampus video team at ecampus.productions@oregonstate.edu. Looking forward to working with you!

 

PowerPoint Template Use In Developing Course Content

In online course development the production of narrated lectures that serve as course content if common. Often faculty turn to presentation software, such as PowerPoint, as the foundation of their presentation.  Using PowerPoint for narrated lectures means faculty must consider developing presentation slides that are accessible, attractive, and visually focused. This is not an easy task without some guidance in these areas of presentation design. This is where PowerPoint template use comes in handy.

The Ecampus design team at Oregon State University has produced a series of PowerPoint templates to assist faculty produce effective, accessible, and visually attractive presentations. The templates are available via the PowerPoint Guidelines and Templates website that provide not just the templates but also best practices in template use.

 

How Does This Work?

On the site Ecampus faculty can find templates developed with seven different designs. Each has an application for a given area of the university or function. To illustrate this point I have placed an image of a template title slide for the College of Forestry design.

College of Forestry PowerPoint template title slide.

Using this template faculty can edit the text and background image to create their own custom PowerPoint design. Below is the entire College of Forestry design series. In it you can see that there is good variety of slide types and design layouts.

The slide series from the College of Forestry PowerPoint template. Produced by Ecampus.
The slide series from the College of Forestry PowerPoint template. Produced by Ecampus.

Adapting Templates

Adapting the template for other course uses if fairly straight forward. Simply collect the images you wish to insert into the template and add the pertinent text. Below is an example of an adapted series of slides turning what looks like a forestry presentation into an organic agriculture presentations.

Image of six slide showing an organic agriculture theme to a PowerPoint presentation.
New organic agriculture slides created from College of Foresty template. Images provided by Unsplash.

With seven different templates to choose from faculty have a wide range of design options for narrated lectures using PowerPoint. These designs are also accessible and are visually consistent. Slide types vary to allow faculty to focus presentation attention on the subject at hand. This can save faculty time and effort in narrated lecture production. If you are an Ecampus faculty and you would like to learn how to edit and utilize this templates resource, ask your instructional designer.

The Ecampus PowerPoint Guidelines and Templates website is another example of how faculty and students benefit from the dedicated team of designers and multimedia producers at the Oregon State University Ecampus.

 

 

In a time when ideas and technology are rapidly changing within online education, it can be increasingly challenging to determine what students truly value and how to measure what impacts their overall success. Research has shown that online learners who are engaged with the material, intrinsically motivated, possess self-regulation, and have a positive or growth mindset have preferable outcomes – yet the correlation between these areas has not been thoroughly explored (Richardson, 2017; Diep, 2017; Sahin, 2007). Emerging from the intersection of positive psychology and higher education is a new vision for student success that encompasses these areas called thriving.

Created by Dr. Laurie Schreiner, Chair and Professor in the department of Higher Education at Azuza Pacific University, the Thriving Quotient measures the characteristics of thriving, and has been used with thousands of students in hundreds of institutions around the world. Schreiner defines thriving students as those who are “engaged in the learning process, invest effort to reach educational goals, and are committed to making a meaningful difference in the world around them” (Schreiner, 2010).

The five factors of thriving are grouped as:

  • Engaged Learning
  • Academic Determination
  • Positive Perspective
  • Social Connectedness
  • Diverse Citizenship

Thriving students deeply value their education, possess the self-efficacy and determination to persist towards their long term goals, feel connected to their institution, faculty, and other students, and want to make a positive impact on the world. While all five factors of thriving are connected and crucial to student success, the area that instructors and instructional designers may most directly impact is Social Connectedness. Social connectedness refers to the support networks we build, the relationships that are cultivated, and how connected we feel to our community. Social connectedness can span the areas of student to student connection, student to instructor connection, and student to administrator connection. Student interaction with other students and instructors has been determined to be fundamental to their experience as an online learner (Symeonides, 2015; Rust, 2015; Vianden, 2015; Cole, Shelley, Swartz, 2014; Allen, 2008).

Within this context of social connectedness, the research on social presence and creating a sense of belonging contribute to the understanding of how relationships may contribute to online student satisfaction. In Jörg Vianden’s study on what matters most to students, students were asked to report on their most satisfying and dissatisfying experiences. For both categories, they focused primarily on their interpersonal relationships (Vianden, 2015). In regards to how these impacted students’ interactions, the most common dissatisfaction regarding faculty relationships was disrespect and unresponsiveness. Students not only desire positive relationships with their faculty, staff, and peers, but it is exceedingly important in predicting their academic outcomes. Social presence and connection with others was found to be exceedingly important in predicting student satisfaction and perceived learning (Richardson, 2017). The connection is even furthered with the assertion that social presence should be the foundation of critical thinking and learning objectives for students (Garrison & Akyol, 2013).

What does all of this mean for instructors?

As an instructor, you are often the primary and most valued relationship and connection that an online student will have in their education. While students have additional support from academic advisors, student success professionals across departments, and other student-facing roles, these individuals will not have the daily interaction and impact that an instructor has with their students. In partnership with instructional designers, instructors have the ability to positively create spaces for connection through teaching preferences, course design, resource choices, and communication policies.

Some common guidelines for creating connection within your classroom include:

  • Utilizing videos or screencasts so that students can feel more connected to their instructors and create a more welcoming and personal environment
  • Responding to student inquiries in discussion boards and by e-mails in a timely manner
  • Completing grades for assignments promptly so that students feel comfortable with knowing their progress and any adjustments that might be needed
  • Providing opportunities for students to connect with their instructor and one another using tools such as videos in the discussion forums, FlipGrid, or WebEx/Zoom conferencing for recordings and lectures.

Below are some comments from our most recent student survey that speak to the importance of connectedness for online learners.

“I would encourage professors to hold an optional “live” WebEx meeting with their classes at the beginning of each term. This would help build a better connection between the students and teachers and allow students to ask any questions they might have about the course ahead of time.”

 

“Don’t be afraid to communicate with your teachers. They are usually very accommodating and sincerely wish to help you achieve academic success.”

Please know that you can always reach out to the Ecampus Success Counselors with questions or to refer students that may be struggling or not participating. We appreciate the great work you are continually doing and value the critical role you hold in educating, guiding, and empowering our online students.

Many online instructors create video lectures or include existing videos to model new skills and to expose students to new content. But how do you know that your students are engaged?

To make video watching an active learning experience, add Kaltura’s interactive quiz feature to your lectures or to YouTube videos. You can access Kaltura’s simple quiz tools from Canvas’s My Media tab, or provide Ecampus with quiz questions and let us build the quizzes for you.

Features:

  • Add multiple choice questions with 2-4 answers to any point in your video
  • Accompany the quiz with a pdf viewing guide containing all quiz questions
  • Graded and ungraded options
  • Integrated with the Canvas Assignment tool and Gradebook

How would you like students to interact with your videos? Depending on your needs, you can set Kaltura interactive video quizzes to:

  • Prevent students from advancing the video until they’ve answered each question
  • Prevent students from changing their answers
  • Reveal or withhold answers upon quiz submission
The question appears at the top of the video screen. Three answers are below, along with the option to "Skip for now" and a tally of the number of unanswered questions and an indication of which question this is.
Grammar question embedded in SPAN 211 video

In recent Ecampus courses, world languages faculty have embedded Kaltura interactive video questions at different points in videos to achieve different aims. In Second Year Spanish, grammar lectures conclude with questions that test students’ application of the grammar rules discussed earlier. The placement of questions at the end of the video holds students accountable for watching and understanding the entire lecture.

French author interview with questions interspersed along video progress bar
Numbered hexagons 1-6 indicate the placement of quiz questions in the video’s progress bar

In Introduction to French Literary Studies, interviews with authors are interspersed with questions that confirm students’ listening comprehension of topics directly after each topic is discussed. When students are unable to answer a question, they become aware of gaps in their French language listening skills and can rewatch the segment they misunderstood. Engaging in repeated listening is a critical second language learning strategy that instructors aim to foster in their students (Berne, 1998). Kaltura interactive video quizzes are a simple and fast method that get the job done.

This tool’s usefulness isn’t limited to world languages faculty. Speak with your instructional designer about how to apply this tool to lectures and videos in your own academic discipline.

References and Resources

Berne, J. (1998). Examining the Relationship Between L2 Listening Research, Pedagogical Theory, and Practice 1. Foreign Language Annals, 31(2), 169-190.
Interactive Video Quiz Canvas Gradebook User Guide
Interactive Video Quizzes Guide for Creating Quizzes

“…expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes.” – Daniel Kahneman

Students are eager to receive meaningful feedback quickly. With hopes of improving their class performance, timely and substantive feedback is essential to helping students get on track before it is too late. Yet, knowing this doesn’t change why feedback and grading sometimes gets put off, despite our best intentions – it can appear daunting and time consuming.

8 ideas on how to take the sting out of providing feedback:

Self-checks

Not all feedback requires your intervention or even a grade. Can you set-up an activity where students can check their understanding and get immediate feedback? A simple solution is to create a short practice activity (e.g. multiple choice quiz, drag and drop interactive) which provides immediate results. The prompt feedback supports students to move on to more challenging work with confidence. In some systems, including Canvas, you can provide comments for wrong answers that clues them into where they could find the right answer.

Screencasts

As a student, I really enjoyed a course where the faculty member used screencasts to give feedback. I never had to schedule time during her office hours to feel like we were sitting down and having a conversation about my work. Her tone was approachable, I could rewatch the feedback to make sure I understood it, and it was so personal. It was also a nice break from reading text.

When I later heard her share at a faculty training event that she used this method because it was faster than providing text feedback, I was shocked – that had never occurred to me as a student! She has found that by using screencasts she doesn’t have to labor over editing her words to make sure what she is trying to convey doesn’t get interpreted the wrong way. She saves a lot of time by making them intentionally brief and informal, all while providing students an experience that feels relatable and relaxed.

You can check out this Faculty Focus article on Using Screencasts for Formative and Summative Assessment to learn more.

Campus Partners

Could you require students to see a campus partner, like a writing center, to review a first draft of an assignment? Of course, you will want to discuss your idea with these offices before designing your assignments. If they are willing, they can help you by catching a lot of simple errors in students’ work, so you can focus more of your grading on the content in a later iteration. Also, feedback from multiple people broadens the scope of perspectives a student receives, which deepens their learning.

Here at OSU, you might contact the Ecampus Student Success Counselors, OSU Library, Math Learning Center, Online Writing Lab, or other offices to chat about options for partnership.

Self-assessments

You might be surprised how honest students will be about their own work if they are given the opportunity to grade themselves. Providing a rubric and asking students to respond to each criteria can be a helpful way to encourage students to take a moment to step back, reflect on what they have done, and provide suggestions to themselves on how they could improve.

Group feedback

Providing group feedback quickly allows the ‘go getters’ to get started with at least some advice from you while you are finishing giving more specific grades and comments. While you want to use group feedback sparingly, because students need personalized feedback that relates to their specific work, it can help you to prevent a lot of individual email questions. If you are able to offer group feedback that notes class-wide trends more quickly than individual feedback, it shows that you are reviewing the work and paying attention to how students are doing.

Text expanders

Do you often find yourself writing the same types of comments for students over and over? Text expanders allow you to write a small string of text and it expands into a larger piece of text. Some ideas:

  1. APA => Please review the APA in-text citation guidelines at Purdue OWL.
  2. Rubric => See the rubric requirements regarding this section.
  3. Great => This is great work – way to go!
  4. Research => What research are you using as a basis for your claim? What evidence can you provide for this claim?
  5. Replies => This discussion forum required two replies. Please make sure to post at least two replies in subsequent discussion forums to receive full credit.

If you are unsure where to start, check-out this instructor video You Type Too Much! Use a Text Expander To Save Time from Cengage Learning (duration 01:59).

Social pressure

Consider leveraging social pressure through assignments that are public, like e-portfolios or blogs. It’s amazing how much our work improves when we think it will be viewed by others. If students are presenting their work in a public forum, they may take more ownership over the quality, which reduces how much effort is required by you to grade. You will want to check with your instructional designer on how to do this while still adhering to FERPA.

Chocolate

I hate looking at finances, so when it is time to go over my budget, I put on relaxing music and treat myself to a favorite chocolate. If grading is painful, creating a positive ritual around it can make it easier to engage. Are there ways you can make your environment more inviting and focused?

If you are interested in exploring any of these ideas in more detail, contact your instructional designer to discuss what could work for your course and your teaching style. Remember, meaningful feedback will help your students focus on the learning, rather than just the grade.

By: Amy Munger

Fall term is in full swing, and right now students are at their best in terms of motivation and anticipation of a good term and academic year ahead. In a few weeks, however, the motivation that students started out with in September may change to disengagement as the term progresses. Some students, for example, have the misconception that online courses are easier than face-to-face courses. This misunderstanding can cause them to feel overwhelmed and disengaged when they realize that their online courses are just as rigorous as their face-to-face courses. Now is the time to get a jump on ways to spot disengaged students — and what to do about it — before they give up and drop that fabulous online course that you are working so hard on. Here are some key takeaways from a recent workshop on this topic that I attended through the Online Learning Consortium: Strategies for Increasing Interaction & Engagement Self-Paced Workshop

Signs that a student is disengaged:

  • Discussion posts are too short
  • The student rarely logs into the course
  • Little or no time spent participating in activities or interacting with other students
  • Missing or late assignments

Disengaged students may feel isolated and reluctant to reach out for help. Here’s what you can do:

  • Connect with students early and often at the beginning of the course.
  • In your communications with students or in your welcome video, convey to students a sense of community and that the course is a safe space for learning.
  • Encourage students to post their own introductory videos to help everyone get to know each other better.
  • Assign tasks that involve teamwork, which can encourage the development of student relationships that keep students engaged and are essential for learning.
  • Remind students of the many resources that they have through Ecampus, such as the Student Success Team, which include student services, exam proctoring, and success counseling.

What have you experienced in your own courses? What has helped keep students engaged, and what have you done when you have noticed disengagement?

 

Resources on this topic: 

Engagement Matters: Student Perceptions on the Importance of Engagement Strategies in the Online Learning Environment (Martin & Bollinger, 2018)

Online Learning Consortium, Workshops

OSU Ecampus Student Success Team

The eLearning Dilemma: Engaged vs Unengaged Learners by Karla Guitierrez

Great places to find answers to this question are the Lilly Conferences on Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning held annually at six sites from coast to coast. These conferences invite participants to engage in lively dialogue about the scholarship of teaching and learning, share best practices and hone teaching skills. Lilly Conferences are not specific to any course modality; they cover classroom, hybrid and online teaching. I found the three topics from August’s Lilly – Asheville Conference of particular interest: alternative approaches to traditional grading, faculty and student empathy, and strategies to enhance the effectiveness of lectures.

Alternative Grading Systems

Michael Palmer,  director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Teaching Excellence, challenged conference attendees to address the question “How does grading influence learning?” He then encouraged examination of alternative approaches to traditional grading practices, and explained specifications (“specs”) grading, which he personally uses. Briefly, specifications grading involves:

  • Grading assignments and assessments on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis, where mastery (passing) is set at a “B” level or better.
  • Bundling assignments and assessments together and allowing students to select these “bundles” based on the final course grade they are seeking. Bundles are aligned with specific course learning outcomes. Higher final grades require students to do more work and/or more challenging work.
  • Building in flexibility by giving students a few tokens at the outset that they can trade in for an extension on an assignment or an opportunity to revise/redo an unsatisfactory assignment.

Advocates of specs grading tout its effectiveness in motivating and engaging students while restoring rigor, providing actionable feedback (Palmer gives audio feedback) and supporting deep learning. To learn more, see Linda Nilson’s book Specifications Grading. Regarding ways to provide feedback that enhances learning in online courses, see Wanted: Effective Instructor Feedback.

Empathy and Student Success

Katherine Rowell of Ohio’s Sinclair Community College spoke eloquently about “The Importance of Teacher and Student Empathy in Student Success.”

  • She noted that positive faculty-student relationships are a principal factor predicting student success. In fact, the 2014 Gallup-Purdue survey found that college graduates were far more likely to be engaged in their work and thriving in key areas of well-being if they had one or more positive relationships with faculty.
  • Rowell encouraged the audience to learn more about the role that empathy plays in student success, and to look at how empathy—by both instructors and students—is manifest in the college classroom, including the online classroom.
  • She recommended Christopher Uhl and Dana Stuchul’s book Teaching as If Life Matters which encourages teachers to nurture students in ways that make learning beneficial for a more meaningful life. In this regard, OSU Business instructor Nikki Brown’s recent post in this blog on meeting students where they are is a excellent place to start.

Improving Lectures

Todd Zakrajsek of UNC-Chapel Hill presented evidence-based strategies to enhance lecture effectiveness. His message can be applied to asynchronous online learning as well as to on-campus courses:

  • Lectures and active learning are not mutually exclusive. Using lectures, including short online lectures, plus active learning can reach more learners better than using either technique in the absence of the other. Think of strategies to get learners to interact with the lecture content!
  • “We have to stop thinking there’s only one kind of lecture.” Just as there are many varieties of active learning, there are multiple kinds of lecturing!  The classic college lecture model is continuous expository lecturing, which can effectively stifle student engagement when delivered non-stop in one-hour doses! It’s useful to consider how other approaches such as case-study, discussion-framing, and problem-solving lectures can be used in online and hybrid courses.
  • We all benefit from examining the research on how learners learn, and applying this knowledge  to inform course development and teaching, including lecture design. For more on this, see The New Science of Learning, co-authored by Zakrajsek and Terry Doyle. Also consider meeting students where they are.

What are your experiences with these topics: Have you explored alternative grading systems? How do you use empathy in your teaching? What are some strategies you use to improve lecture effectiveness and incorporate active learning? Please share your ideas here.

 

Whether you are a new or seasoned online instructor, understanding how to establish and maintain instructor presence is a commonly shared challenge. What is known about online learners is they want to know their instructors are engaged and regularly interacting in the course. Students also express how important it is to know that their instructors care about them.

There is a natural distance inherent in online classrooms which necessitates purposeful actions and intentional structures to prevent isolation and to foster connection. There is great news… this distance can be overcome!  Moreover, research has indicated that instructor presence has a relationship with perceived student satisfaction and success. Being there for your students can make a difference!

Being present goes a step further beyond students perceiving that their instructors are there. By definition, instructor presence is “the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social process for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes.” This may sound like a significant undertaking, but rest assured that you can craft your presence over time and that you have ample support from the Ecampus team. We can help bring your ideas to life!

Keep in mind that curating instructor presence will be an evolution. Learning environments and experiences are dynamic. In addition, the composition of students will change each term, so learner needs and wants will continually shift. Strategies used within a specific context may not work for another, and that is okay.

Let’s get started!

Try starting out small by exploring different ideas. Don’t be afraid to change directions if one approach doesn’t work. With all that said, what are some strategies for establishing and maintaining presence which can be leveraged today?

Establishing presence

  • Welcome announcements
  • Instructor introduction video
  • About your instructor page
  • Course overview video
  • Virtual office hours or individualized virtual sessions to connect with students
  • Personalized language to humanize the learning experience

Maintaining presence

  • Non-graded community building spaces to connect around complex learning activities
  • Announcements to send regular updates, reminders, and check-ins
    • Tip! Announcements can also be leveraged to share and highlight valuable connections, expand upon those insights, and provide relevant resources for learners to explore.
  • Monitor learner progress
    • Regular and timely feedback which is clear and actionable
    • Outreach to learners who are struggling or engagement is lacking
  • Present content in diverse ways
    • Module overview videos
    • Audio recordings (e.g. podcast)
    • Screencast demonstrations
  • Engage in course discussions
  • Solicit student feedback
    • Tip! Consider adding a short anonymous survey in the middle of the course.

As ideas begin to percolate, please do share those with your Instructional Designer so that together you can explore different strategies and tools that will work best for you.

References

  • Budhai, S., & Williams, M. (2016). Teaching Presence in Online Courses: Practical Applications, Co-Facilitation, and Technology Integration. The Journal of Effective Teaching,16(3), 76-84.
  • Ekmekci, O. (2013). Being There: Establishing Instructor Presence in an Online Learning Environment. Higher Education Studies, 3(1), 29-38.
  • Jaggers, S., Edgecombe, N., & West-Stacey, G. (2013, April). Creating an Effective Online Instructor Presence. Retrieved from https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/effective-online-instructor-presence.pdf
  • Ladyshewsky, R. K. (2013). Instructor Presence in Online Courses and Student Satisfaction. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 7(1). doi:10.20429/ijsotl.2013.070113
  • Sandercock, I. (2014, October 14). The Importance of Instructor Presence in Online Courses. Retrieved from https://teachonline.asu.edu/2014/10/important-instructor-presence-online-course/
  • Smith, T. (2014, September 30). Managing Instructor Presence Online. Retrieved from http://teachonline.asu.edu/2012/08/managing-instructor-presence-online/#more-1069