As online educators, we strive for a balance of learning activities that incorporate three types of engagement: learner-to-content, learner-to-instructor, and learner-to-learner.  The learner-to-learner component is often filled through discussion boards or group projects, but an underutilized and undervalued option is peer review.

The Rationale

There are many ways peer review benefits students, among them Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation lists:

  • Empower students to take responsibility for and manage their own learning.
  • Enable students to learn to assess and give others constructive feedback to develop lifelong assessment skills.
  • Enhance students’ learning through knowledge diffusion and exchange of ideas.
  • Motivate students to engage with course material more deeply.

More broadly, the authors of The Knowledge Illusion argue that our individual capacity for knowledge is often much more limited than we realize and that our true depth of knowledge is held collectively.  They remind us that, “when you put it all together, human thought is incredibly impressive.  But it is a product of a community, not of any individual alone” (page 5).  In our increasingly complex world, some evidence of a shift towards building knowledge collectively can be seen in research. For example, in the MEDLINE database, “the average number of authors per article has nearly quadrupled from about 1.5 in 1950 to 5.5 in 2014” (page 226).  This is just one of many examples the authors use to illustrate how essential collaboration and relationship skills have become.  In nearly every field, students need to be prepared to be more than individual achievers, but rather to contribute effectively to a group.  Peer review provides students an opportunity to give and receive feedback with the goal of creating a better end product, but it is also an opportunity for students to practice and build their teamwork skills.

Moreover, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 3b emphasizes the need for students to, “evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.”  Peer review is a great way for us to meet this standard and to combat against misinformation, by teaching students to evaluate and challenge claims.  In Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era author Daniel J. Levitin shares strategies for how we can think more critically and evaluate the trustworthiness of what we are being told.  He notes that, “sometimes the people giving you the facts are hoping you’ll draw the wrong conclusion; sometimes they don’t know the difference themselves” (page xx).  If your students are in either of these groups, it benefits them to have an attentive reader review their work and provide respectful suggestions for improvement prior to a final assignment submission.  This may help you as the instructor to avoid catching errors too late in the process when students cannot revise their work.

The Explanation

However, students may not see the value of peer review on their own.  The Teaching Center at Washington University in St. Louis describes many reasons students may express uncertainty around peer review as, “Many students do not perceive feedback from peers as relevant to the process… students are likely to assume that it is only the instructor’s feedback that ‘counts.’”  Therefore, it is important that we explain to students why we are asking them to engage in peer review explicitly.

It can be helpful to explain specifically how this will relate to industry or field of study requirements as a student advances as a professional and scholar – it looks different for a researcher than it does for a project manager, so motivate students by sharing with them how they will engage in similar activities in the future as this gives them an opportunity to practice what Starting Point: Teaching Entry Level Geoscience describes as, “key skills such as abstracting, developing arguments, describing, assessing, criticizing, analyzing, and reviewing.”  As Faculty Focus advises, we can’t assume that students will implicitly understand the purpose of peer review.  When we craft a peer review assignment, we need to think carefully about how we will articulate the benefits of the process to students.  It can be helpful to answer questions like, “Why am I having students do this?” and “Why should students be excited about this process?”  Or, to take it a step further, we can anticipate the questions from our students’ perspective and proactively address the purpose and logistics in the assignment description, by answering questions like, “Why am I doing peer review?” and “How am I supposed to review my peer’s work?”  Make sure the technology needed and processes are clear and that resources are provided for students that need more guidance.

The Process

Remember, knowing why students are peer reviewing and being able to peer review are two totally different skills.  If you are an Ecampus instructor, talk with your instructional designer about strategies that can help your peer review process be more successful.  Some of the best practices suggested by Center for Instructional Technology & Training at the University of Florida include:

  • Clarify expectations in advance
  • Check your students have all the tools they will need
  • Provide enough time in the peer review process so that students can meaningfully engage – this may span more than one module
  • Model the type of feedback you want your students to use
  • Create a quality rubric as a guide

Your instructional designer can also talk to you about digital tools or strategies that can be used to introduce students to peer review. For example, you can discuss whether it makes more sense to use Canvas Peer Review or another tool, like Peerceptiv, which is research-validated peer assessment technology available for Ecampus courses.

Remember, students need opportunities to practice peer review, as they may never have done it before.  That means they have to get familiar with both the tools and the process.  It’s best if they can practice with the technology on a low stakes assignment before using it for a high stakes assignment, so that they can familiarize themselves with a peer review process without the added anxiety of a major grade on the line.  It will also take time for you as the instructor to get familiar with the process, but it is a completely worthwhile investment!

I invite you to consider some concluding thoughts from Levitin, “Information gathering and research that used to take anywhere from hours to weeks now takes just seconds… The implicit bargain that we all need to make explicit is that we will use just some of that time we saved in information acquisition to perform proper information verification” (page 253).  Let’s reinvest some of the time our students saved researching to engage them in verifying claims, evaluating evidence, offering commentary, and incorporating feedback – all of which support the development of a stronger student work and the building of a collective knowledge.

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.

Active Learning Online – Part 2

The first post about active learning looked at how to include active learning in an online course. You heard about how a history professor used an interactive timeline. Each student added images, facts, and descriptions to the timeline, and the result was a visually-rich historical review. Students had fun while learning about facts and events. This is an example of collaboration and active learning at its best. The second example focused on interactive textbooks as an alternative to printed books. The Top Hat product combined words, images, video, and engaging activities to improve learning and make it more active.

In today’s post we look at two new active learning ideas: mind mapping and annotated reading. Although these two technologies are different from each other, they offer similar benefits. Mind mapping requires the student to visually depict a concept, process, or system. Students label relevant parts or steps, show how these are connected, and identify key relationships. Annotated reading, on the other hand, allows students to enter short comments to passages of text, which encourages peer-to-peer interaction and sharing. While reading, students identify confusing sections, ask (or answer) questions, and interact with others. Both methods actively engage students in the learning process and support them to apply and analyze course concepts.

A Picture is Worth…

You know the famous quip about pictures, so let’s consider how using a visually-based tool for active-learning can support online learners. Wikipedia defines mind mapping as “a diagram used to visually organize information.” Similar tools are concept maps and information maps.

Why are images important for learning? Mind maps help students understand concepts, ideas, and relationships. According to Wikipedia, a meta-study found that “concept mapping is more effective than ‘reading text passages, attending lectures, and participating in class discussions.'” One reason is because mind maps mimic how our brain works. They help us see the “big picture” and make important connections. Not only are mind maps visually appealing, they are also fun to create! Students can work alone or in teams.  This mind map about tennis is colorful and stimulating.

If you want to try mind mapping yourself, here’s a free tool called MindMup. There are many others available, some free and others with modest fees. The Ecampus team created an active learning resources mind map, made with MindMeister. Take a look. There are a lot of great ideas listed. Try a few!

Close Encounters

College student with an open textbookMost classes assign reading to students. Yet reading is a solo activity, so it offers a lower level of active learning. But there are ways to raise reading’s active learning value, with or without technology.

Using a technique called close reading, students get more active learning benefits. Close reading is a unique way to read, usually done with short sections of text. With careful focus, close reading helps students reach a deeper understanding of the author’s ideas, meaning and message.

Three students pointing to laptop screenIf you want to add technology, you can make reading even more active! Using an app called Perusall, reading becomes a collaborative activity. Perusall lets students add comments to the reading and see what others are saying. Students can post questions or respond. Instructors set guidelines for the number of entries and discover which content is most confusing. Originally built for the face-to-face classroom, Perusall is also an effective tool for online learning. Perusall is like social networking in the textbook. It helps students engage with materials and be more prepared to apply the concepts and principles to later assignments. Perusall can be used with or without the close reading technique. 

Want to Try?

Let us know if you have questions or want to try an idea. We are here to help! If you are already working with an Ecampus instructional designer, contact them to ask about these active learning technologies. Or send an email to me, susan.fein@oregonstate.edu, and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

References

Images

Susan Fein, Ecampus Instructional Designer, susan.fein@oregonstate.edu

On May 2nd, Ecampus held our annual Faculty Forum which showcases the outstanding work that OSU is doing in online education. Sixteen interactive sessions allowed faculty the opportunity to learn more about innovative teaching methods and share their experiences in online teaching with each other.

This year we were delighted to have Dr. Kevin Gannon, a professor of history and director for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Education at Grand View University, present a keynote address on a very timely and relevant topic for all online educators – designing online classrooms where inclusive discussions can take place while effectively engaging students with challenging or controversial materials.  His presentation – Sea lions, trolls, and flames – oh my! Navigating the difficulty places in online learning – was a thought-provoking and inspiring call to action for online educators.

Guest Expert Video: Post Production

Having a guest expert video in your Ecampus course provides a number of learning benefits. One important benefit is to introduce a second, collaborative voice to instruction (Last, 2015). In Part I of this two-part article series we address interview planning decisions and their relationship to producing an engaging guest expert video.  In Part II we explore the value of instructors collaborating in the post production stage of guest expert interview video editing.

Staging the video capture of an outside expert voice was the focus of the first article on this topic in a previous blog post. Once primary and B-roll video is captured it needs to be compiled and arranged into a coherent presentation for your course. This is where working with an Ecampus video editor comes into play.

Students see an enormous amount of video in their academic experience. Developing video content that is focused, tightly packaged, and presented in an interesting fashion makes your guest expert video worth watching. The ultimate purpose of editing your guest expert video is to ensure it contributes to the learning objectives of your course. This is why faculty, as subject matter experts, become valued collaborators in the editing process.

Editing Is….Editing

Faculty have extensive experience in editing of papers and manuscripts. These familiar skill can translate to video editing. Let’s look at some of the primary roles of a video editor. A video editor…

  • Uses an mixture of artistic and technical skills to assemble shots into a coherent whole.
  • Has a strong sense of pace, rhythm, and storytelling.
  • Works creatively to layer together images, story, dialogue, and music.
  • Reorders and tweaks content to ensure the logical sequence and smooth running of the final video product.
  • Determines the quality and delivery of the final product.
  • Serves as a fresh pair of eyes on shot material. (Wadsworth, 2016)

Instructors are engaged in similar processes when planning lectures or writing manuscripts. They often are making decisions about coherent writing, related pace and rhythm, creative approaches to communicating complex ideas, the logic of a narrative, quality of communication, and have developed a careful eye for the effectiveness of the final product. What faculty may not bring to the video editing process is an understanding of the technical nature of video editing or the language of screen-based video communication.

Instructor as Co-Editor

Once your guest expert interview video clips are recorded Ecampus videographers coordinate the editing process. An Ecampus video editor compiles the final video sequence, optimizes sound, and perhaps music, graphics, and text elements are added. Decisions about these video elements is a creative and interactive exchange of ideas as editors and faculty collaborate through Frame.io. Frame.io is a post production tool that permits precise editing and video annotation at the frame level of a video. A sample of a Frame.io editing session can be seen in the screenshot below.

Using the web-based interface of Frame.io an instructor is invited to contribute comments or edits for specific locations in a video timeline. Ecampus editors then incorporate suggested changes and pose other suggestions. The progression of this collaboration is seen by both participants and the process leverages the skills and knowledge of video editors and content experts. In essence the course instructor becomes a co-editor of the video being edited.

The Final Product

In Part I of this series a course designed by Dr. Hilary Boudet was involved in planning a guest expert video for her course. Dr. Boudet used Frame.io to help Ecampus editors shape the final video presentation for her course. Watch the PPOL 441/541 guest expert video again. Before you do think about the role a video editor plays in creating the final guest expert video. Also consider what Dr. Boudet might bring to the editing process as a subject matter expert. Can you see evidence of this collaboration in the final video product?

In a well planned and edited video production the skill sets of videographer and content expert blend to create a coherent narrative video that presents a focused and quality viewing experience. As course instructors Ecampus faculty are engaged in the planning and staging of a guest expert video. It is in the post production process of video editing that the initial vision of the guest expert video content, as a series of carefully planned video recordings, comes to life and helps fulfill the learning outcomes of a course.

Resources:

  • Laist, R. (2015). Getting the Most out of Guest Experts Who Speak to Your Class. Faculty FocusHigher Ed Teaching & Learning. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/curriculum-development/getting-the-most-out-of-guest-experts-who-speak-to-your-class/
  • Wadworth, C. (2016). The editors’s toolkit: A hands-on guide to the craft of film and TV editing. New York: Focal Press – Taylor & Francis Group.(Available in the Valley Library as an ebook)
  • Frame.io video review and collaboration software.

 

 

Occasionally in my work with faculty I find them wanting to reproduce a brainstorming session activity from the brick and mortar classroom. They want students to ‘shout out’ ideas, arguments, or topics and create a list so that everyone can participate and the best ideas can ‘float’ to the surface. There is value in pooling ideas to generate all possibilities given the varying background knowledge of students.

In OSU’s learning system, Blackboard, there are tools such as wikis and discussions that can allow students to generate ideas but these tools don’t always have the options needed to take the ideas and vote on them and have the class decide which are the best.

Tricider

So one alternative option is the free digital tool Tricider.  Tricider is an efficient online brainstorming and polling tool.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 2.27.11 PM

I stumbled across Tricider as I do many tools by reading popular educational technology blogs and bookmarking my favorites, examine any limitations it may have, and then I use it in my own online classroom.  After the first term of using it, I found that Tricider required few instructions, did not require a login by my students, and was simple and intuitive to use.  Those faculty that use this tool find that it is the only tool that really does what it does.

When would you want to use Tricider:

  • In an icebreaker activity
  • To brainstorm and collect ideas (class or small group)
  • To brainstorm solutions and list pros/cons of each
  • To brainstorm ideas and vote on them so the favorites rise to the top
  • Have small groups brainstorm and share or compare/contrast their ideas with others

How to get started?

  • Go to http://tricider.com, create an account if you want to be able to revisit your “questions”
  • Type in a question and click on Go
  • Change the deadline if you wish it to be open more than 14 days
  • Click on Share and Invite
  • Copy and paste the URL anywhere that your audience can access the link
  • Brainstorm and/or Vote!

Try it out:  http://tricider.com/brainstorming/1GEq1

Melanie Kroening
(Instructional Designer, Ecampus)