What is QM?

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).

Susan Fein, Ecampus Instructional Designer

Getting to know your students

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!

Want to add an engaging “wow!!” factor to your teaching, on-campus or online? Try using augmented reality (AR). It’s simple, easy, and there is a wide range of educational apps for iOS and Android devices, many for free. Best of all, AR taps into the eager desire many young people express to use technology in innovative ways, including as part of their learning experience.

Per a recent survey from Adobe Education, 93 percent of Gen Z students said that technology in the classroom was essential for their career preparedness, as reported in a 2016 EdTech article. The survey found that “Gen Z students see technology and creativity as important and intersecting aspects of their identities.”

jan17blog_surveygraphic

2017blog_pokemongo

Remember the headlines for Pokemon GO? Maybe you, too, got hooked. If so, you were one of about 21 million users who were playing every day! This is the compelling aspect of AR–it’s fun, engaging, innovative and for some, nearly addictive. The astonishingly realistic and detailed displays of many AR apps, such as those for physiology, add an exciting and engaging dimension to learning. And with AR instantly available in the palm of your student’s hand, there’s no reason not to explore this creative and exciting technology.

(Image by Paintimpact pokemon go)

But AR isn’t just for fun or entertainment. It got serious and life-saving applications as well. AR, and related technologies like virtual reality (VR), are being used in medicine with extraordinary outcomes. In 2015, a baby in Florida was born with only half a heart. Surgeons used a cell phone, 3D imaging software, and a $20 Google Cardboard VR viewer to “peer into the baby’s heart.” The surgeon, Dr. Redmond Burke, said, “I could see the whole heart. I could see the chest wall. I could see all the things I was worried about in creating an operation,” as recounted in How Virtual Reality Could Change the Way Students Experience Education.

Though many AR apps are geared towards a K-12 audience, there are still plenty of ways to effectively include AR in the college classroom. Nearly every discipline has AR apps, including anatomy and physiology, physics, geography, American history, language translation, astronomy, science, geometry, chemistry, marketing and advertising, mechanics and engineering, interior design, architecture, and more! Check out the 32 Augmented Reality Apps for the Classroom from edshelf, or simply do your own internet search for “augmented reality education” and explore.

You might be wondering how to employ AR technology in the online classroom. For apps that make AR targets available online (many do), just provide the URL and have students download and print. Some apps use the natural world as a target; for example, Star Chart uses GPS to calculate the current location of every star, planet, and moon visible from Earth – day or night – and will tell the viewer what they are looking at.

The possibilities are endless! Give it a try yourself. I am willing to bet that you will exclaim, “Wow, that’s so cool!”

Online courses are open 24/7. This is more convenient for students, but it also means they don’t really know how/when to get in touch with you, the instructor. Online courses benefit greatly when the instructor creates a communication plan and communicates it with their students, especially in weeks one and two of the term.

 


Here’s a sample communication plan:

“Please post questions about the course in the Q&A discussion forum so that the entire class can benefit from our back-and-forth. Please reserve email for questions of a personal nature.

I will reply to email and questions posted in the Q&A discussion forum within 24 hours, usually sooner.  I strive to return all graded work, with my feedback, within 5 days of the assignment being submitted. Please do look for my detailed feedback and use it.

If I need to deviate from this schedule, I will [send an email] and let you know. I will usually not be available on Sundays. Most assignments are due on Monday evenings.

Students should [check Oregon State University email, log in to the course] at least three times per week.”


For the last couple of paragraphs – you might prefer to post an announcement, or adjust the course home page. In your communication plan, you may want to address your recommendations for students in setting their own notification patterns in Canvas to suit how you plan to communicate, as well as expectations that students check their Oregon State University email accounts.

Your communication plan may be different, but it should address communication channels (discussion board, email, phone, Skype), your estimated response times for questions, your estimated time to complete grading, and any days when you expect to be unavailable. This might be a certain day of the week, or perhaps a few specific dates during a given term while you give a conference, etc.

Do you ever wonder where your students go once they log into an online course? John Whitmer (Blackboard analytics, blog link) and Kevin Reeve (instructor and director of Teaching and Learning Technologies at Utah State University, Canvas Analytics video link) did some hard work to seek answers to this question. Kevin presented his team’s preliminary results at Online Learning Consortium conference in Nov. 2016. Some of the findings were obvious, some not so.

My question is: what can we do with this information? How can we use this learning analytics to guide our course design practices as online instructors and online instructional designers?

Here is a summary of Kevin’s report and my ideas of course design based on learning analytics of students’ course visiting behavior patterns:

Student course visit behavior Observations from Canvas learning analytics: Course Design Ideas:
Students’ first visits to online courses may be exploratory.

activitiesannouncementdqtodoviewcalendar

Use announcements to connect with students before course start and during course session; Create navigation tutorial video to guide students; Design course homepage, Start Here module, and syllabus for easy navigation and communicate important information with clear instructions.
Some students visit “Grades” early on to view the weighting of grades and other details Have an accurate grade book available from day 1
Some students visit assignments first Put link to learning module, or related learning materials, learning outcomes, instructions etc. in each assignment.
Many visits to course do not start with homepage Design your course homepage to be attractive and put information that students care to read there; Direct student attention to course homepage if you intend to put important information on homepage, otherwise do not overly rely on homepage.
To do list is driving students entry points once course starts. Enter due dates for graded assignments so the assignments will appear on the calendar and to do list.
Syllabus is being missed by some students during the first few visits Make syllabus prominently visible and accessible.

In the same time, put important information from syllabus in multiple places such as course home page, Start Here module, and first assignment directions, in case students visit assignments directly.

If you have ideas for Canvas course design based on the above observations or your own observations of online students course visit behavior patterns, feel free to share with us

Happy Holidays!

If you’d like to adopt group work in your online course, but want to ensure accountability among your students, consider asking your students to create a group contract to guide their work. Beginning online group work with a mutually agreed upon contract creates a blueprint for the project, and it facilitates the process of students establishing norms and expectations within their group. These norms help to remove the instructor as the sole authority figure, and instead give the team the power to hold one another accountable, according to the guidelines they agree upon, rather than just personal opinions or perceptions.

One way to help your students begin to think about what to include in their group contract is to initiate a conversation with your students about their preconceived notions of group work. Have they done group work before? Have they had good or bad experiences? Ask your students to clarify what ideal group work looks like to them and what specific things they hope to avoid. A discussion about their past experiences may also help your students to better understand their peers’ perspectives and what skills they bring to the team. Key areas for your students to consider and map out in their contract are:

  • Roles and participation responsibilities
  • Communication expectations (mode and frequency)
  • Project timeline/milestones
  • Conflict resolution plan
  • Consequences for breaking contract

To get you started, take a look at these sample group contracts that you can adapt to fit your needs:

References

  • Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Additional Resources

Just came back from Open Oregon State‘s Open Education Day and can’t wait to share with you all what I have learned from the meeting: open pedagogy. The keynote speaker for Open Education Day, Rajiv Jhangiani from the University of British Columbia (@ThatPsycProf), introduced open pedagogy as an instructional strategy to promote reusable assignments and turn students from consumers of content to creators of content.

Examples: a book produced by instructor and students from Brigham Young University (2012)a wiki resources of web 2.0 tools created by students from College of Education at Purdue University (2012); a book produced by instructor and students from the Master of Science in Education: Information Technology program at Western Oregon University (2013):

project management for instructional designers book coverinsite project: web 2.0 tools for educationmassively open book

Examples of open pedagogy Jhangiani introduced:

LibrerTexts: Students-built knowledge base for Chemistrylibretexts: students built knowledge base in chemistry

When Wikipedia Is the Assignment, & WikiUniversitywikiversity

Teach and Learn Psychology for free at NOBA noba: teach and learn Pscychology for free

 

Annotate Open source text to teach literaturegutenburg project

free public domain images from rijks museumfree public domain images from rijks museum

The call is for instructors to design assignments that build problem solving skills, critical thinking skills and/or analytical writing skills in students and create assignments that live beyond the lifespan of a course and are useful to the general public, instead of creating assignments that only one instructor will view in order to give a grade.

Have fun design such creative assignments and feel free to share your life-long assignments with us.

feedback
image of man crying after receiving negative feedback

Why Peer Review?

According to a study by Leadership IQ, 26% of new hires fail because they can’t accept feedback (Murphy, 2015). Most students are trained to study for grades and have seldom been given enough training on how to receive feedback and how to make feedback work for them. By the time they enter workforce, they will have a hard time facing feedback from coworkers and supervisors. As instructional designers and instructors, we can help by training students in peer review skills. In doing so, we are preparing our students to be successful in their future career on the one hand; on the other hand, instructors will spend less time grading peer reviewed submissions because of the improved quality of work submitted. It’s a win-win solution. Nothing could get better than this in teaching, right?

How to Create Peer Review Assignments in Canvas?

There are two types of peer review assignments.

  1. Writing assignments with peer review process where peer review effort is not heavily graded. The focus is on improved writing.
  2. Writing assignments with peer review process where peer review efforts is heavily graded. The focus is on training students in peer reviewing.

If your students lack peer reviewing skills, instructors can provide tutorials on how to provide feedback constructively. And instructors can also set up practice assignments where peer review is graded, for at least one or two assignments so that students are given the proper training and practices they need. Here is a video tutorial on how to provide constructive feedback.

If your students have been trained in peer reviewing, I recommend the type of assignments where peer review is not heavily graded. Peer review can be extra credit points, or a small portion of the grade.

To set up peer review in Canvas for an assignment, Log into Canvas course as an instructor/designer, go to the assignment, click “Edit” button to edit the settings for the assignment.

It will greatly help students if you provide clear directions for how you expect students to conduct peer review.

BA 347 International Business
banner image of BA 347 International Business

 

For example, in BA 347 Research Writing Assignment, the instructor provided the following directions: Peer Review Feedback guidelines: As you conduct your peer review, remember to praise, criticize appropriately, and be specific with revision strategies.

  1. Identify and describe three strengths in this draft.
  2. Identify and describe three weaknesses in this draft.
  3. How does this draft meet the requirements of the assignment? If not, what is missing?
  4. What should be revised in this writing? Why?
  5. After reading, I was left wondering….”

To set up details for peer review, first we set up a due date for when the draft writing will be due and enter the date in the assignment “Due” area. Secondly, check “Required Peer Reviews” box to enable peer review, and how to assign peer review (manually or automatically), if automatically, enter a number for how many peer reviewers will be automatically assigned for each submission and enter a date for when the peer reviewers will be assigned in the “Assign Reviews” area. Lastly, enter a date in the “Available from … until” area for a “until” date as the date for when the peer review will be due. And explain to your students what these dates mean if this is the first time you assign peer review assignment in your course.

Peer Review Set up in Canvas
How to set up peer review assignment in Canvas. date 1: Individual draft due date; date 2: Peer Reviewers assigned date; date 3: Peer Review due date and assignment becomes unavailable after this time.

Image 1: Canvas Assignment Peer Review Option Set Up

Grading peer review

Once all of the peer reviews have been submitted, if instructors would like to access the actual comments, assess, or add comments of their own, they can do so by going to the speedgrader function. To grade the original submission, simply enter grade point in the Assessment “Grade _____ out of 10” area.

Grading Peer Review Assignment
an image of peer review assignment in Canvas with area for grading highlighted.

Image 2: Grading Assignment

To grade peer review effort, the instructor would need to set up a separate assignment and name it something like “Peer Review Grade”. Some instructors attach peer review rubric forms so students can attach the forms in the submission for Peer Review Grades. See a youtube video example and its web instructions.

 

References:

Murphy, M. (2015). Why New Hires Fail. Retrieved on November 17, 2015, from http://www.leadershipiq.com/blogs/leadershipiq/35354241-why-new-hires-fail-emotional-intelligence-vs-skills

Alisa Cooper’s post “Conducting Peer Review Assignments in Canvas” at http://freshmancomp.com/2013/02/19/conducting-peer-review-assignments-in-canvas/

TEXT(S)

There’s been some discussion recently about students and lectures and attention spans.* As conversation about this turned to how students grapple with long form texts in an online course, I thought it might be useful to gather some ideas on course design and working with texts in online courses.

The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle, marked secondarily by the librarian of the Laud collection. The manuscript is an autograph of the monastic scribes of Peterborough. The opening sections were likely scribed around 1638 (See document). The section displayed is prior to the First Continuation.
The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle (annotated monastic text)

Structure your course around the texts not the weeks

Some instructors structure their reading intensive course around the books that are read. A module per book with multiple discussion boards and prompts per book. This subtly shifts the focus from what am I doing this week to what is this book doing. For example, in ENG 210 Literatures of the World: Asia, Jeff Fearnside structured the course around the five books they were reading.

Banner depicting a 3D model of the Blue Mosque in Turkey
Banner for the module and book on Turkey

Other course elements allowed summative reflections and integrative questions to address themes throughout the course.

Shift format away from only reading and writing.

If reading, multiple books you might change how students interact with one or more of the books.

In engaging with a text, students might:

  • watch a play rather than read it
  • listen to a poem rather than read it (For example, this recording of The Waste Land – poem begins at 16:10)

In responding to a text, students might:

  • create a video journal or podcast as they progress through text(s)
  • tweet (or write within 140 characters) summaries of characters or plot themes (similar to the idea of Tweet your thesis)
  • build a timeline of the narrative (for example, this timeline of Russian History created with student entries for Betsy Ehler’s RUS 233: 20th Century Russian Culture course)

Check for understanding

I’m wary about the idea of reducing student engagement with a text to quizzes but as a feedback mechanism as part of a process and on the way to richer engagement I think quick polls, quizzes, or surveys have a role. You could have quick short post reading quiz or survey to figure out if the students have followed the reading. This would let you respond before the students get further along and further behind.

Other interpretative tools

Pie Charts (Shakespeare) - Link out to a collection of images on flickr analyzing word counts of characters in the plays
Collection of Images Analyzing Word Counts for Characters in Shakespeare’s Plays

There’s a whole range of interpretive tools Digital Humanities tools and engaging with them is well beyond this blog post. However, many projects have available outputs in some form that instructors or students can draw on as they grapple with texts.

A great starting point to explore digital humanities would be to take a look at this overview & contact Jane Nichol the emerging technologies librarian. And as you think through how to use these tools in your course

One example of the type of output you might find is this collection of visualizations of the word counts in Shakespeare’s plays

Collaborative writing and commenting

There are also other ways to dialogue around a text – especially when it’s a short dense text with lots of debate and discussion around the text. There are examples of creating your thesis on a blog as you write or using github or a federated wiki as collaborative authoring tools. However, for many courses google docs (which is integrated into canvas) offers a fantastic, known, and private tool for a course to create a document.

A manifesto for teaching online

As a open experiment let me invite you to engage with a text. The Digital Education team at the University of Edinburgh recently released their 2015 Manifesto for teaching online. There’s a lot to think about in their manifesto and how it works or doesn’t work in our context. Please join in and add your voices this copy for comment  – an annotated ‘manifesto for teaching online’. **

 


*The statement spun off a conversation triggered by the NYT opinion piece on lectures, (which I can’t mention without also noting this thoughtful response)

**If you want to author a new pathway through the text or add resources beyond what comments allow request an account and I’ll add you to the project.

Reflecting

How do you help your students reflect on your course and integrate what they’re learning into their subject knowledge and worldview? If you want your students to develop metacognition and self-understanding, or to articulate professional identity or a disciplinary perspective – reflection and reflective practice can help them integrate what they learn in your course into how they think.

Self is the Reflection
Work found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/4502048268/ / undefined

The Theory

The role of reflection in personal development and academic practice is widely acknowledged as a part of higher order thinking in general and also particularly in AACU’s VALUE rubric for Integrative Learning and rubric for Foundations and Skills for Lifelong Learning . The question is how we incorporate reflection in course design.

Adding it in

Adding reflection as a self-contained activity can be a great step, but we often add such activities as small items at the end of a course, or – from the student point of view – as an afterthought or the extra bit they need to do after they’re finished. Reflections done this way, though of potential benefit, can often easily lapse into superficial form-filling. A better approach is to build reflection into the course, and to scaffold student engagement with the process. This can be much more effective and changes how a student interacts with the reflective activity.

Utah is in the Rear View Mirror
Work found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/4708291454/ / undefined

An example: Current Problems in Sustainable Living (PS 399)

In PS 399 Current Problems in Sustainable Living (in the future to be offered as PS 374) Dr. Erika Wolters set out to engage students with the issue of their personal role in sustainability within the context of huge global political systems. The course description is as follows:

“Exploration of the role of individuals in sustainability practices and policies. Special focus is given to an examination of how individuals can make sustainable lifestyle choices in light of policy regulations, technologies, socio-economic conditions, and cultural values.”

The Final Paper

Dr Wolters had set set up her course with three major papers alongside other activities and assessments. Originally, the reflective activity was contained in the final paper which required

“By the end of week 2, please select three personal behaviors […] that you will try to change in order to live more sustainably. Document your starting point and each step along the way. Your final paper will require you to discuss your step-by-step attempts where you were successful, where you met with unexpected difficulties, or any other surprises along the way. Place your personal sustainability experience into the context of your readings about individual actions and impacts.“

This paper sought to integrate practice, reflection, and critical disciplinary analysis. As Dr. Wolters and I discussed the course design and how to help students engage with this activity in an online environment, we were aware of two pitfalls to avoid: students reaching the end of the course and struggling to remember their experience and students spending all of their final paper recounting their experience rather than critically engaging with it.

The redesign

The solution we came up with was to ask students to create journal entries throughout the course documenting and beginning to reflect on their practice. In the ten-week course, they identified their sustainable practice by week 2 and journaled about it in weeks 4, 6, and 8 before writing their final paper in week 10. The journal could either be in written or video diary format. There were any number of tools that could be used to support the video option, but using Canvas’ integrated tools and video recorder enabled students to do so easily and without the cognitive overhead of learning an external tool.

The journal could have been set up in a Canvas discussion board. This setup would have created a shared experience across the class in which students reflected and shared together. However, because the focus of this course was personal reflection, the journal activity was set up using the assignment tool. The video or text reflection was shared only with the professor. The reason for doing this was to create the opportunity for more personal reflections than the student might have felt comfortable posting in a forum.

Prints Mirrors
Work found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/5570581236/ / undefined

Work in progress

The course is still underway but halfway through I was able to catch up with Dr. Wolters to find out how it was going. Her key observations so far relate in large part to the changes developed through the availabilty of video as an option for this journal activity. She reported the following:

“I do think it is helping them think about the course differently. It is great having them undertake behavior/habit changes and reflect on the costs vs. benefits. It is really exciting to see how they are embracing the project!”
“[I]t is definitely helping me connect with the students differently. I really enjoy seeing and hearing them vs. just having the one-dimensional responses of the discussion boards.“
“[The video posts] were so much fun I responded with a video comment and then posted bi-weekly announcements as a video. It was fun! I definitely feel more connected to the students this way.”

Interim Conclusion

Although this activity needs further evaluation, it illustrates a way to engage students with academic reflection through encouraging dialogue early and throughout the course. From the initial feedback it seems clear that from the instructor’s perspective it offers opportunities to connect with students throughout the course and enable them to engage with the topic.

Image Credits

All images by Alan Levine (Flickr user Cogdog), used under a CC- BY licence.