Beauty is everywhere and in every moment, if we pay attention. I saw this beautiful sunrise driving by Eureka, Nevada on Highway 50, the loneliest road in America, during the tail of my one-week road trip vacation. Similarly, good teaching practices are flourishing in OSU online courses as we discover from our talks with Ecampus instructors. To inspire you to expand your teaching toolkit, here are some ready to use online teaching tips from the book “Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning” by James Lang.
Online Teaching Tips
Weekly reading journals
Frequent quizzing such as quizlet practices or weekly quizzes
Pretesting with immediate grading and immediate feedback including exposure of content teaching;
Role play: how might a person in a different role approach the problem?
Asking students to predict what will be covered in next week’s lesson/reading, etc..
Open or close each class session with small opportunities for students to retrieve older knowledge, to practice skills developed earlier in the course, or to apply old knowledge or skills to new contexts.
Weekly mini review session applying that week’s content to some new question or problem.
Stagger deadlines and quiz dates to ensure that students benefit from the power of spaced learning.
Solicit the prior knowledge of your students at the beginning of the term or individual lesson (such as private journaling or public introductory discussion)
Ask students to create concept maps that answer questions or solve problems; use concept maps multiple times throughout the semester with different organizational principles.
As much as possible, offer examples or cases from everyday or common experience but also – and more importantly – give students the opportunity to provide such examples on their own.
Before the semester begins, brainstorm a comprehensive list of cognitive skills your students will need to develop to succeed in your course. (Identify Learning outcomes)
Prioritize them; decide which ones students will need to develop most immediately and which ones can emerge only after they have developed some basic skills.
Review your course schedule and decide where you can make space for small practice sessions in key skills prior to your major assessments; mark those sessions on the syllabus schedule.
Prior to any major assessment, ensure that students have had multiple opportunities to practice the skills they will need to do well, from creating slides or writing paragraphs to answering multiple-choice questions.
For online homework or readings, create spaces for students to self-explain while they work;
When students are demonstrating their homework, create a regular schedule of opportunities or requirements for them to self-explain their process.
Use Peer Instruction: students provide an answer, pause and explain it to their peers, and then revise their answers.
In all forms of self-explanation, push students to tie their knowledge of information, principles, theories and formula to the specific task they are completing.
Spend time to get to know your students; learn about their lives and their interests, creating a positive social atmosphere in the virtual class space.
Open each lesson by eliciting student emotions: give them something to wonder about, tell them a story, present them with a shocking fact or statistic. Capture their attention and prepare their brains for learning.
Consider how practitioners in your field, or the skills you are teaching them, help make a positive difference in the world; remind them continually about the possibilities that their learning can do the same, from the opening of the course.
Keep the overarching purpose of any lesson/ learning activity in view while students are working. Make it clear why they are doing this activity.
Show enthusiasm for your discipline, for individual texts or problems or units, and for your hope that they will find them as fascinating as you do.
Provide early success opportunities through assignment sequencing or assessment design;
Consider offering some reward for effort or improvement in the course (heavier weighting of your assessment toward the latter half or through a portion of the grade set aside for that purpose)
Provide examples of initial failures or setbacks in your own intellectual journey or in those of famous or recognizable figures in your field to demonstrate that such failures can be overcome.
Give feedback to students in growth language; convey the message that hey are capable of improvement, and offer specific instructions on how to achieve the improvement.
Ask top students to write letters to future students about how they succeeded in the course; select and pass along the ones that highlight the power of effort and perseverance.
Include a “Tips for Success in this course” section on your syllabus, and refer to it throughout the semester.
Commit to reading at least one new book on teaching and learning every year.
Subscribe to an e-mail list from Faculty Focus or Chronicle of Higher Education
Create a personal learning network on Twitter.
Attend a conference on Teaching and Learning in higher education (the Teaching Professor or the Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching)
Attend events on campus sponsored by Center for Teaching and Learning.
In online education courses, providing effective feedback is essential. It’s can be easy to provide students with a number or letter grade on their assignments, but it is the additional feedback where the opportunity for student growth occurs. While there are many forms of effective feedback, there are 5 elements that can help you provide more meaningful and effective feedback regardless of the method of delivery.
Give Timely Feedback
Timely feedback to students sends the message that you are engaged in the course and the student’s work. Having just finished an assignment, the student is also going to be more open to the feedback you provide because their work is still fresh in their mind. They have the opportunity to immediately incorporate your feedback into the next assignment, improving their overall performance going forward. Students in a master’s degree program were more likely to ignore feedback comments on their written work that were not provided promptly. (Draft & Lengel, 1986) Including a statement in the syllabus about your expected time of feedback on assignments, and sticking to it, helps students understand your timeline and will reduce questions to you later on.
Start with a positive message
Creating a feedback sandwich (compliment, suggestions for correction, compliment) for your student pairs together both specific positive feedback and any elements the students should work on. The positive feedback encourages the student and prepares them with a positive outlook when hearing about areas that need improvement. Finishing again with positive feedback such as “I look forward to seeing your next assignment” tells the student that even though they have corrections to make, their work is still valued and that they can improve on future assignments.
One of the best tools that can be used are rubrics. A detailed rubric sets clear expectations of the student for that particular assignment. While completing their assignment they can constantly check their work against what you expect to see in their finished work. Another benefit to creating the rubric is that you can use it to analyze their papers with that same criteria. Some instructors have found that by using a rubric, it helps to be more consistent and fair with grading. No matter if it is the first paper, the last paper, or if you might be having a good or bad day, the rubric helps.
Give personal feedback and help the students make the connection between the content and their lives
Connection is key. Providing personal feedback to your students while helping them see the connection between the content and their lives will show that you have taken time to personally respond to them instead of using “canned responses.” Students who don’t feel as if the content in the class will ever relate to their lives now, or in their careers later on, will often lose interest in assignments in general as well as feedback because they don’t see the connection. Getting to know your students at the beginning of the term assists in giving good personal feedback while helping them see the connection between the content and their life.
Consider using alternative formats of feedback
Students are used to getting feedback in written form and while that format can be very effective, using an alternative way to provide feedback can be equally or more effective. They enjoy the personal connections that can be created through audio and/or video feedback. Students appreciate receiving specific feedback relating to the grade, rubric, and overall assessment. In fact, some students say that: “..video encouraged more supportive and conversational communication.” (Borup, West, Thomas, 2015) Give it a try!
By employing these strategies, your students will be appreciative of the feedback you provide and you might just get some fantastic feedback yourself. In one case, an instructor shared a great comment from one of their students comparing past courses to the instructor’s:
“…I never received personal feedback [in some other courses]. Your course however has been wonderful. Thank you for putting so much time into each of your comments on my writing. I can tell you really made personal feedback a priority. You don’t know how nice it was to really know that my professor is reading my work.” The student goes further to say; “Thank you for taking your teaching seriously and caring about your students. It shows.”
Getting personal and effective feedback like this should inspire you to begin or continue that great feedback!
Borup, J., West, R.E., Thomas, R. (2015) The impact of text versus video communication on instructor feedback in blended courses Education Tech Research Dev 63:161-184 doi: 10.1004/s11426-015-9367-8
Draft, R.L. & Lengel, R.H. (1986. Organizational information requirements, media richness and structural design. Management Science, 32(5), 554-571
Are you looking for ways to bring active learning into your online classroom? Some might suggest that active learning is more difficult online, but we offer examples of Ecampus courses that do a great job of increasing student engagement, boosting interactive participation, and improving outcomes through implementation of active learning strategies.
This blog focuses on tools, techniques, and approaches originally designed for the face-to-face classroom that have been successfully adapted into Oregon State University Ecampus classes. Feel free to steal!
Marking events in time or identifying the chronology of significant milestones is important in many disciplines, but especially vital in history classes. An American History professor felt that merely listing events sequentially was not particularly interesting or creative, even for his in-person class. When asked to develop an Ecampus course, he wanted to stimulate and inspire students. The solution? Timeline JS, a free tool from Knight Lab, developed at Northwestern University. Timeline JS allows students to build an image-rich chronology, add descriptive text, and work collaboratively. The result? A highly interactive, hands-on activity where students more easily formed connections, identified important patterns, and analyzed relationships. The instructor reported that Timeline JS helped his students to “understand the interrelation of topics and events more deeply.”
As noted in an infographic by Top Hat, print textbook “prices have spiraled out of control.” Since 1977, textbook prices have increased more than 1,000%, and a whopping 65% of students skip buying textbooks due to cost. The number of print books sold in the U.S. during the past 11 years has declined by 125 million! Clearly, students are looking for less expensive options. Enter the interactive digital textbook. And saving money isn’t the only benefit. An interactive textbook changes a dry, passive task into a media-rich, engaging, and appealing experience. Filled with visual elements and engrossing practice, the digital textbook goes well beyond being a mere repository of information to offering a complete, immersive experience. The Geography department at the University of Oregon embraced Top Hat, with tremendous success. Hear what they have to say about increased student engagement and learning outcomes. Visit the Top Hat website to learn more.
We will bring you more examples of active learning online in future blog posts. In the meantime, if you have questions or ideas, please post your thoughts in the comments section, or reach out to Oregon State University Ecampus directly. We’re happy to help!
Secondly, it is well documented that instructor-student interactions and quality and timely instructor feedback in online learning are prominent faculty behaviors that impact student retention and student satisfaction of online learning (Riedel, Dinauer, Jobe, Lenio, And Walsh, 2016; Bawa, 2016; Shaw, Burrus, Ferguson, 2016; Boling, Hough, Krinsly, Saleem and Stevens, 2012; Liaw, 2008).
How do we humanize online learning?
Think of the task for humanizing your students’ online learning experience as building a house. And there are three major pillars to this house, namely, Presence, Empathy and Awareness.
Here are a few strategies for building/improving online instructor presence:
Instructor self-introduction video/message/page
Weekly message to students through announcements, emails, weekly overview pages, weekly video, etc.
Discussion forum interactions with students (greet each student in first week’s class introduction discussion, pop in whenever appropriate to confirm, compliment, encourage, redirect, etc.
Comments in grades center and encourage students to take action on your comments (revise writing and resubmit; study and retake quizzes, etc. )
Communicate to your students as a whole group, in a small group, or individually whenever appropriate.
For improving online instructor empathy, it is as simple as 1 and 2:
Admit your vulnerability: “I am new to online teaching. I welcome your honest feedback to help me improve this course so we can all have a meaningful learning experience.” “I am human. I make mistakes. help me if you spot one.”
Clear reasonable communication policy for the online course: “I am human. I have a life besides my online teaching. I will respond to students questions within 48 hour business day. Do not expect me to respond to you late hours or 20 minutes before an assignment is due.”
Fuller (2012) summarizes eight themes for building empathy in online teaching:
Theme 1. Instructors provide a “tips for online course success” document prior to class beginning.
Theme 2. Empathetic interactive instructors use synchronous chat rooms, besides the asynchronous announcements and email communications and discussion forum postings.
Theme 3. Instructors used a conversational tone.
Theme 4. Interaction is promoted through careful facilitation in the discussion boards.
Theme 5. Empathetic presence is practiced. Instructors related that they practice the use of presence so students know the instructor is there but more so than this. This is accomplished through selective discussion board postings, but also through frequent email contacts individually and to the group, usually responding within the same day or a few hours of an email.
Theme 6. Design “think forward type lessons” that offer clarity for student understanding. Instructors provide a high degree of redundancy and consistency of structure so concepts and instructions are clear. Lessons and modules are laid out similarly from week to week, so students get used to a consistent easy to follow format that allows them to focus on content and not waste time figuring out what to do or where to go in the LMS. Each weekly format allows the students to think ahead as to what is expected and required for success and learning to occur.
Theme 7. Instructors will frequently check that learning is occurring and that students understand structure by opening up a dialogue about an area or issue as they deem needed (i.e. formative assessment).
Theme 8. Instructors make a personal connection at the start of class. ” In the opening introductions (as students introduce themselves to the group through a discussion board) I make a concerted effort to respond to each student’s posting making a positive personal connection with something the student posted.”
Several strategies for building awareness in online courses:
Survey students at the start of term: what can I do to help you be successful in this course? Do you have personal challenges that might hinder you from successful completion of the course?
Through formative assessments
At the end of each assessments (summary; Just-in-time teaching; Personalized teaching)
Fuller, R. G. (2012). Building empathy in online courses: effective practical approaches. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education. 8.4. (October – December 2012): p38
The instructional designers at Ecampus held a Research & Development Day recently to explore the topic of user experience (UX) design as it applies to Ecampus courses. As part of that day, fellow instructional designer, Dorothy Loftin and I explored how Canvas functions when used on Mobile Devices. Below are some findings from our testing.
Generally, we found that iPads work great as long as a student accesses the course through a browser. It was using the Canvas App (necessary on a smart phone) that presented changes and challenges in functionality. The good news is that many of these can be addressed with a few additions in course design. These additions should not significantly alter the experience for students who are using desktop and laptop computers. Today, I will present one of those strategies.
The most significant impact we experienced in using the Canvas App is navigation, how a student gets to content, activities and assessments. It can take quite a few clicks or taps to get to a specific page in Canvas using the mobile app, or to get from one page to another, and the navigation can vary depending on the device used. This may negatively impact the student user experience, distract, and generally increase cognitive load.
One strategy to improve navigation is to provide alternate links for students to jump to commonly needed items in your course. Turns out, this can also benefit students who are on desktops or laptops.
The Home Page that I often use is immediately available for users on all devices. I have added links and buttons so students can jump directly to important sections of the course from here. This turns the Home Page into more of a landing page with quick links.
Page View in Desktop Browser
Page View on iPhone
The buttons take a student to the Module Page for a particular week. Module Pages, on the App, present students with links to all content and activities for that week. I limited the buttons to 3-across to make clicking them on a phone easier. As you probably notice, the App translates buttons into links. So, simply providing a list of text links would also work on multiple devices.
This Strategy to improve navigation can be used on any page where you want a student to be able to move quickly to new material, reducing frustration and cognitive load by making the navigational journey more immediate.
If you are considering developing an online course with Ecampus, you may be curious how you will translate your lectures to the online format. There are several effective online lecture presentation formats available to faculty. They differ in the type of video recording required and the kind of post-production work required after the initial recording.
Each of the presentation formats can be effective, however the more complex types can offer additional advantages for your students. Why should you consider producing the most challenging of the five online lecture formats? To answer that question, we need to understand what exactly an interactive video lesson is. Let’s start by first looking at a sample interactive video lesson used in a fall 2017 course titled The Biology of Horticulture (HORT 301). You can watch a four minute excerpt of the twenty-minute interactive video lesson by selecting the image below:
As is seen in this excerpt the interactive video lesson has as its foundation a video recording of a Lightboard presentation. Layered over that recording are interactive elements that control video playback—sometimes pausing, other times auto-advancing to specific clips—or to progress through the lesson, trigger a student’s input of feedback, and, most importantly, increase the amount of student engagement in the lesson. In the case of HORT 301 the interactive element prompts the solving of a temperature indices formula. The base video could have been used by itself. However, it is the melding of the Lightboard presentation with the interactive feature that makes the interactive video lesson a highly engaging presentation for the online environment.
The model below proposes how the elements of personal and mediated communication immediacy are brought together to make an interactive video lesson a compelling experience.
In this project instructional design, in conjunction with visual design, video staging, and interaction design, was focused on solving the issue of how to teach a self-paced formula-drive lesson in the online environment. The result is an interactive video lesson that presents as a unified visual space that fosters an actual “see through” psychological perspective. Although clearly a media production, this approach to online lesson presentation implies an unmediated learning experience.
It is enhanced by the camera literally seeing through the Lightboard glass to the instructor conducting the lesson fostering a sense instructor presence. This type of interactive lesson design is desirable because it presents classroom-like learning in a student-controlled online environment. The result is an interactive video lesson that is new in design format but familiar experientially.
Is Interactive Video For You?
A decision to adopt this approach to lesson design will likely be successful if you have a lesson that is formula driven. Certainly math subjects and many science subjects might benefit from this approach. Is it also applicable to humanities courses? Can you imagine teaching language, music, or poetry with an interactive video lesson? If you can, contact Ecampus. We would be glad to help you adopt this approach to lesson design for use in your online course.
You may know that OSU is a subscribing member of Quality Matters (QM), a nationally-recognized program focused on online learning course design. Its mission is to measure and guarantee the quality of an online course. QM uses research findings to recommend best practices in online course design.
As an instructional designer (ID), I use and apply the QM rubric and quality assurance principles when working with faculty to design Ecampus courses. About a year ago, I took the first QM workshop, called Applying the QM Rubric or APPQMR.
By the way, this excellent training is offered through Ecampus each quarter. If you haven’t yet participated, take advantage of it. For more information, contact Karen Watte.
Not Just for Beginners
I had nearly nine years experience as an ID at another PAC 12 land-grant university, so I considered myself quite knowledgeable. Frankly, I didn’t expect many significant insights from this entry-level training. Boy, was I wrong!
A few months ago, in September, I presented at the annual QM conference in Fort Worth, Texas. I presented what they call a “Quality Talk,” which is a five-minute structured slide show, where each screen automatically advances every 15 seconds, so precise timing was essential. The title is “An Ode to QA: Teaching an ‘Old’ ID New Tricks.” Meant to be lighthearted and lyrical, I hoped the audience would not mind my non-traditional presentation using a rhyming poem.
The content is my reflection of how QM principles improve online learning. The poem bases each stanza on the letters from the phrase, QA Collaboration Works.
Enjoy the Show
Before you watch, these points about QM are important to know:
• QM principles are called “general standards” and each has a number, such as 2.1 or 4.0.
• Each general standard includes detailed notes and examples called “annotations.”
• The primary principle behind QM is that course content and activities must align with the learning objectives.
• Instructors who want their course certified by QM go through a rigorous peer-review process.
I refer to these and other ideas in the poem, so if you’re not familiar with QM you might not recognize all the connections.
And now, for your viewing and listening pleasure, here’s “An Ode to QA” (cue the drum roll).
Each term brings upon us an entirely new group of students. Getting to know your students in an online class takes work. An introduction discussion board is used and students are asked to tell us who they are, where they came from, why they are taking this class, and to maybe upload a picture.
Why not take it further? You can bring in critical thinking skills and have the students learn about one another in a different fashion. A class here at Ecampus that has chosen to do just that. ANTH 332: Archeological Inference. came up with a creative way to not only introduce the students to one another but to bring in skills that will be used later in the class.
The exercise goes as follows:
Part 1 – gather at least 10 personal possessions that reflects activities, interests, or personal biography. Students are reminded that even the most mundane objects are perfect because it’s those everyday things that archeologists often find. Describe the items in detail and give a context as to where the items are kept. For example, a backpack or a purse with these items in it, and where in it, would work well.
Part 2 – students examine the descriptions that others have given and try to come to a reasonable conclusion about their activities and interests, where they might be from, what age they might be, etc. to post as a response.
Part 3 – the original poster then gets a chance to “correct” the record and provide additional details if they so desire.
This activity is well received by students, and with an average of 3 significant posts per student in this discussion activity and is deemed a success.
Many thanks to Jeremias Pink and Brenda Kellar for their inspiring discussion activity!
The just-released 2017 Horizon Report from the New Media Consortium identifies adaptive learning technologies as one of the most important developments in technology for higher education. The report notes that adaptive learning technologies“can adapt to a student in real time, providing both instructors and students with actionable data. The goal is to accurately and logically move students through a learning path, empowering active learning, targeting at-risk student populations, and assessing factors affecting completion and student success.”
Are you interested in finding out more about the possibilities for adaptive learning in your online and hybrid teaching? Suggested resources:
View recordings of demos by each of the providers at last spring’s Open House on the APL Task Force blog.
Learn about evaluating and implementing adaptive courseware from Dale Johnson’s workshop slides.
Check out two excellent resources for faculty and universities considering the adoption of adaptive courseware: the Courseware in Context (CWIC) framework and EdSurge’s Higher Ed Product Index to search for, learn about and evaluate digital courseware.