About Cub Kahn

Blended Learning Coordinator for the Oregon State University Center for Teaching and Learning and hybrid coordinator for Ecampus.

boardwalk2“Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” –Ron Mace, NCSU Center for Universal Design

A fundamental of online instructional design is that learning materials should be accessible to all students. Ecampus works closely with faculty to ensure accessibility of course content for everyone. For example, since some students cannot hear an audio track on a lecture video, it’s essential that a transcript of the narration or closed captioning is provided.

Martha Smith and Gabe Merrell are OSU campus leaders in universal design and accessibility, and frequently discuss universal design for instruction with OSU faculty and staff. Martha is Director of Disability Access Services, and Gabe is Senior Accessibility Associate and Deputy ADA Coordinator in the Office of Equity and Inclusion. They note that the principles of universal design offer guidance for the design of every element of an instructor’s “toolkit,” from syllabi to presentation of content, course activities and assessments.  They point out that universal design benefits all learners. For instance, some students who can hear the audio track on a lecture video find that they learn more if they take a few extra minutes to read the companion transcript.

Gabe and Martha emphasize the importance of considering universal design up front in the development of teaching materials, instructional methods and means of assessing student learning. This is the approach the Ecampus Course Development and Training team takes with online and hybrid course development. As Ecampus serves an increasingly diverse student population, universal design enhances learning in the online classroom.

Ecampus instructional designer Melanie Kroening has created a great guide called 5 Accessibility Tips for “DIY” Course Designers that provides practical techniques for instructors to enhance the accessibility of course content.

To find out more about universal design, speak to any Ecampus instructional designer, contact Martha Smith or Gabe Merrell or visit the Center for Universal Design in Education.

P1090191 - Version 3The 2013 Survey of Online Learning Report was released last week on the Sloan Consortium website.  This annual series tracks trends in online higher ed in the U.S. through use of institutional data and responses from chief academic officers at colleges and universities nationally.  Among key findings of the 2013 survey, three-fourths of chief academic officers think the learning outcomes in online education are the same or better than with face-to-face instruction, but more than 40% of them say that retaining students in online courses is more difficult than in face-to-face courses.

Fortunately, Blackboard has built-in tools to help you monitor student progress.  In addition to the Grade Center, check out the Performance Dashboard and Retention Center in the Evaluation section of your Blackboard course Control Panel.  These tools can be used with no set up, though you do have the option to customize the Retention Center.  The Performance Dashboard gives you a quick overview of each student’s online course activity (for example, days since last Blackboard course access, and level of discussion board participation).  The Retention Center provides a more detailed picture of which students may be struggling or at risk in your course.  A glance at the Performance Dashboard and Retention Center can give you a heads-up at any point in the term about student engagement and success, so that you can take steps to communicate with students about your concerns and offer strategies for improvement.

Beyond this, make sure your students know about the Ecampus Student Success links, which direct students to Ecampus Success Counselors, online tutoring support, Academic Success (ALS) courses, personalized coaching services from InsideTrack, and other services available to OSU online students.

What strategies do you find most successful in retaining online students in your courses?

outcomeswordleOSU’s Curricular Policies and Procedures specify that every course syllabus should include measurable student learning outcomes.  The outcomes are defined as “learner-focused statements reflecting what a student will be able to do as a result of an instructional activity. Each outcome statement should start with a measurable action verb that indicates the level of learning, followed by a precise description of the learned behavior, knowledge, or attitude.”

For guidance in developing learning outcomes, educators have long turned to Bloom’s Taxonomy, with its pyramid of cognitive levels.  Two much newer tools can help you refine learning outcomes for a course or find learning activities and associated tech tools that will align with your course outcomes.

1 – On the Ecampus website, the interactive Objectives Builder, created by James Basore, is a wonderful tool to assist in writing learning outcomes.  It’s easy to use and can do wonders if you’re grappling with learning-outcome-writer’s block!

2 – Allen Carrington’s Padagogy Wheel has hot links to 63 iPad apps, many of which exist in forms for other mobile platforms as well.  Each app is arranged on a wheel to align with learning activities that could be done with the particular app, related action verbs, and the corresponding cognitive domains from Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Brilliant . . . give it a try!

What does the latest research say about the most effective approaches to online and blended learning?  Consider adding one or more of these peer-reviewed journals to your summer reading list:

International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning – The current issue of this twice-a-year journal is a special edition on the hot topic of open educational resources.

Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks – Articles in the latest issue delve into mobile learning, e-portfolios, and student engagement.  JALN is published by the Sloan Consortium, whose website has a wealth of resources about online and blended learning.

Journal of Interactive Online Learning – Recent articles cover learning analytics as predictive tools, the challenge of establishing a sense of community in an online course, and a comparative study of student performance in online and face-face chemistry courses.

Journal of Online Learning and Teaching – The current issue of JOLT (the best journal acronym here!) includes such diverse topics as instructor-made videos as a tool to scaffold learning, comparative usefulness of web-based tech tools in online teaching, and student perceptions of online discussions.  JOLT is published by MERLOT, the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, a great collection of peer-reviewed open educational materials that could be useful in your online or classroom teaching.

Every term a group of OSU faculty participate in the hybrid faculty learning community.  Group members each redesign a classroom course for hybrid (a.k.a. blended) delivery in which a substantial portion of the course learning activity takes place online, and face-to-face meeting time is typically cut in half.

Beyond individual hybrid courses on the Corvallis and Cascades campuses, some entire OSU graduate programs are offered in a hybrid format through Ecampus, such as the College of Education’s doctoral program in Adult and Higher Education.

In what ways are hybrid and online course pedagogy the same?  In what ways are they different?  For more information about hybrid course design and delivery, visit the Hybrid Course Initiative.  And, if you’re interested in participating in the hybrid faculty learning community, see the Request for Proposals for the Fall ’13 program; the proposal deadline is April 30.

Whether you’re a regular visitor to this blog or you just stumbled on it for the first time, you may be curious about where to learn more about the world of online education, particularly from an instructor’s perspective. You could start with a Google search for “online education,” but sorting through the 14 million results would be very time consuming!

To substantially speed things up–so you’ll have time to watch the leaves turn–here are four great sites where you can access a wealth of information, tools and resources about teaching online and the growing field of hybrid (“blended”) learning. Check them out!

  • EDUCAUSE Learning Initiativea community of higher education institutions and organizations committed to advancing learning through information technology (IT) innovation”
  • Merlota free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy”
  • National Center for Academic Transformationan independent non-profit organization dedicated to the effective use of information technology to improve student learning outcomes and reduce the cost of higher education”
  • The Sloan Consortium“a consortium of individuals, institutions and organizations committed to quality online education”

An approach known as “inverted” or “flipped” learning is gaining momentum in contemporary higher education. Inverted learning figuratively flips the traditional lecture-plus-homework format of many college courses on its head. Rather than using class time for the largely one-way delivery of information from instructor to student, the lecture material is made available online for students to study prior to class. Then classroom time can be used for face-to-face interaction that includes clarification, amplification, small-group work, problem solving, review, and assessment of learning built on the foundation of online course content and readings.

As illustrated in Robert Talbert’s presentation, “Inverting the Classroom, Improving Student Learning,” the inverted learning model moves more of the transmission of information outside the classroom, so that class time can be devoted to higher-level assimilation activities. A growing body of research, including a widely publicized University of British Columbia study published recently in the journal Science, points to the efficacy of devoting class time to learning activities other than lectures.

By nature, inverted learning is well suited to “hybrid” courses, which include both regular classroom meetings—with class meeting time typically reduced by 50%—and significant online content delivered via a learning platform such as Blackboard. A pilot program for development of hybrid courses is the centerpiece of OSU’s new Teaching & Learning Technologies Initiative. A request for proposals to participate in this pilot program will be distributed to OSU faculty by early September.