What Do I Want My Students to Do?

My biggest challenge in creating my online course has been creating clear and specific instructions and directions.Throughout the course development, my most common critique has been about my written instructions. I have learned that I need to create clear instructions and communicate that to my students in an organized and complete way. I find that I think of activities and expect my students to just do them. I need to remember that each student will be at a different place in terms of taking an online course. Not all students will be familiar with the system. Also, students need clear expectations outlined for them. If I assign something I need to be clear on what, how, when, and where I want them to complete each assignment.

I think that I am used to modifying assignments in the classroom based on my students needs. Often times I find myself changing assignments as I go through the class in order to better assist my students. I have learned that in an online environment I cannot change assignments as freely as I do in the classroom. My students and I are not together at all times. I need to alleviate any stress and worry of my students by setting clear expectations from the start.

Also I think that my directions are not as clear as they need to be because I have never taught the course in which I am developing my online course for. If I were to start over I would make sure that my own expectations and assignments are clear in my head before beginning to draft my modules. I thought that it would be helpful to complete this online course in a new course that I will be teaching in the fall to sort out what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. Although developing this course has been so helpful and a great experience, I wonder if it may have been easier to create an online course within a subject that I have taught before. I think that I would know where I wanted to start and where I wanted to end. I know that I would still need to develop learning activities suitable for an online environment but I think that my objectives would have been more clear. I am excited to finish up my online course development and even more excited to start teaching Careers in the Fall.

Catherine

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Time, Time, and More Time!

Throughout this course we have been building our own online courses. I was excited, enthusiastic, nervous, and anxious all at the same time. I was excited and enthusiastic to start developing this course since I had never taught it before. I was excited to get a “jump start” on the upcoming school year. I was nervous and anxious because I had never developed an online course before, this is my first semester in the CDIT program at U Albany.

What I did not know was how much time I would need to put into the development of this online course. I think back now to all of our drafting of modules, objectives, course welcomes, and learning activities and realize how much work really does go into the development of an online course. Thinking back, the drafting was the easy part. Putting it all together into the online course is the tough part. How do I know what each page will look like? Will all of my links work? Do my directions make sense? Are students able to complete my course? Will students navigate through with ease while still learning by completing all of the activities that I drafted? Even after going through the drafting process, the revisions, the reviews, the peer reviews, and more edits, I am still not done with my course. I have a lot of work to do but when I look back on how much I have accomplished thus far, I am happy with that!

The realization of the amount of time it takes to complete an online course would not have been possible without the learning activities designed in this course. I have learned how to draft, start a course, revise a course, and edit my course. Although it was a very overwhelming process, I don’t think I would have learned if I did not go through this process. I can read about theories of online course development but until I started to develop my own course, I would not have fully understood the amount of time it entails.

Catherine

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What did I learn from the “rock stars”?

George Siemens discusses how much progress one person can make throughout a course when diving in and using a new tool. This is interesting because when you are “forced” to use a new tool for an assignment, it can be tricky and complicated. Mr. Siemens focuses on how self-rewarding the use of a new tool can be. Although overwhelming at first, once you have figured out how to use a new tool, moodle for us, I think we will all feel a sense of accomplishment. I think that once I see how valuable a tool can be for learning, I am more determined to find out more and really discover all of the possibilities. Another point that Mr. Siemens makes is that he does not believe that these technology tools help students learn better but that they make students more engaged. When students are engaged in learning they are more active participants in their own learning. So although the tools are not designed to help students learn “better”, if students are more engaged more learning does occur. To me if students are active and engaged in an assignment, they will learn more!

Larry Ragan speaks to us about engaging students “early and often”. Students need to feel connected in order to become active in their own learning. Students can engage in introductions, responding to peers, discussion groups, team activities, etc. These activities shift the learning from a passive to an active learning experience. Incorporating activities into the course must be planned for early in the course during the design stage. I have learned how much time, effort, and planning must go into the design of an online course. Incorporating activities in which students are engaged from the start make for a better course because there is more active learning occurring.

I like the way that Michelle Pacansky-Brock incorporates a little competition into her blogging requirements. At the end of the course students vote for the best blogs of their peers. The winners receive extra credit points. I think that this engages students to perform to the best of their ability because their peers will be reading their responses and there is an extra incentive. I also like that Ms. Pacansky-Brock uses choice when developing her blog questions. She allows students to choose which blog questions to respond to. This gives students more control over their own learning experiences. I also agree with her when she states that her students blog allow them to think critically but also work on their writing skills. This is an important concept because those two skills are very essential for students to develop.

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Teaching Presence and It’s Implimentation

Throughout the course I have been really thinking about teaching presence in an online course. As I previously stated, at first I had trouble wrapping my head around the concepts of teaching presence versus teacher presence. Now that I see the difference I really can understand the importance of teaching presence in an online community.

As stated in the ONLINE COMMUNITY OF INQUIRY REVIEW: SOCIAL, COGNITIVE, AND TEACHING PRESENCE ISSUES, the class community must have clear expectations so that participants are aware of academic objectives and assignments. For me this has been the most challenging part of designing my online course. I think that I know my objectives and how I want the assignments to be completed but I have not clearly defined these in written form for my students to see.

I think the most important line for me to remember when designing my online course is that the “distinction between facilitation and direction must also be clear from a design perspective.” Often times I tend to facilitate while teaching in a face to face classroom. I need to remember that objectives, assignments, and steps (even if they are broken down) must be clearly written out for my students to read. I think that this will require tweaking over time as I see where my students have questions and how I can better answer those questions before they start their assignments. It will be a work in progress but it is necessary in order to have a successful online course.

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Planning and Designing Expectations

Throughout this module and planning my course design, I have learned a lot about myself as an educator. Through the feedback I have received I have seen how important it is to really plan how and why you are assigning activities to students. I also think that I plan activities and do not always think through exactly how I want to execute that activity. I think in a face to face classroom this can be an “easy” fix as the activity progresses but in an online environment, exact instructions, expectations, and details are extremely important. Since I will not physically be with the students to make decisions on how I want assignments to be completed, I need to have these clearly defined before posting. I also think that it is important to do this in a face to face classroom. I am hoping that through this experience, the structure of my current teaching methods will continue to grow.

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Teaching Presence

After viewing the Teaching Presence  presentation by Professor Pickett and engaging in discussion with classmates, I have learned more about the importance of course design and development. Originally I thought teaching presence meant the teachers actual interactions in the course but I realize now that it has more to do with instructional design and why we choose to assign learning activities for students. Instructional design is important for an online course because students need to understand and learn the set up of the course before beginning the activities. In a face to face classroom, I have designed activities, assignments, lessons, tests, projects, etc. as the school year progressed. I have learned that in order to develop a successful online course, great thought must go into the design before the start of the course.

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Re-thinking and Transforming

I think that the willingness to “re-think” the way we do things is an important aspect for all teachers but more importantly for distance education instructors. We cannot teach the same way that we do in a face to face classroom but we can teach the same content. The design of the course must change when going from the face to face classroom to the online course. I particularly like the statement from the Key to Success video: “developing and teaching an online course will transform how you teach in the classroom.” I find myself reflecting about my own practices and how I can use the theories that we are discussing in a face to face classroom. Since I am not currently teaching an online course but would like to in the future, I try to think about how I can use some of the practices we discuss in the development of my own course as well as in the classroom. I think the two most important concepts that I have learned to include in any form of a course that I teach will be teacher presence and the process of learning rather then the outcome. Teacher presence is important to give students a sense that you are there for them. The process of learning allows students the opportunity to think and learn how to be life long problem solvers.

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There is no “final copy”

The learning process is more important then any test grade, quarter grade, regents score. While they are all important and necessary to graduate high school, we as teachers must be more concerned with the learning process that students go through. The process of learning must be taught to students in order to help them be successful in future jobs. They may not be required to recall facts and formulas but it is important for students to be able to know how to find that information. Students need to learn how to work together as a team in order to solve problems. In the work force, most employees are looking for people who are able to work together in order to come up with a solution.

Problem based learning allows for students to really engage in the material. The teacher acts more of a facilitator for the students’ learning. PBL is designed to allow students to construct an extensive knowledge base, develop problem solving skills, develop self-directed learning skills, become effective collaborators, and become intrinsically motivated to learn.

I believe that the saying “we learn from our mistakes” holds true for a problem based learning environment. It is not necessary the first physical product that is produced by a student or group that “counts” rather it is the final outcome after many revisions, re-thinking, and changes that occur to get the student or group to the final product. It is within that process that real learning occurs. When I think about my own course that I am creating, I am going to allow students the option to re-submit work after revisions. I am going to have students peer edit, as well as I will edit their resumes, cover letters, etc. I think back to creating and re-wording my own resume multiple times, it is important for students to realize that this is a working document and there is no “final copy.”

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Interactions

As stated in the What Works Presentation, students must be provided with opportunities for students to interact with the teacher, interact with each other, and interact with the content. It has been clear that students are more satisfied when all three types of interactions occur.

After reading, “A Meta-Analysis of Three Types of Interaction Treatments in Distance Education” it is obvious that when interactions occur, learning occurs. The three forms of interactions that the study uses are student to student (SS) interactions, student to teacher (ST) interactions, and student to content (SC) interactions. Student to student interactions are important for cognitive purposes as well as motivational support. Student to teacher interactions include the teacher providing motivation but also maintaining the students’ interest in the subject area. Student and content interaction refers to students interacting with the subject matter being taught. While all of these interactions are important to enhance the students’ learning, it has been found that a high level of at least one of these interactions will enable students’ learning.

The study focuses on the effects of each of the interactions during a distance education course on students’ educational achievement outcomes. The study concludes that providing students with the potential for interaction is an important course design consideration.

Using a conversational and individualized tone helps students feel connected to the teacher. Keeping the course outlines, grades, assignments, etc. straight forward is important for teachers and students. The students need to understand what to do, where to do it, when to do it, etc. The perspective of the student needs to be kept in mind while the professor designs the online course.

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Blogging as Reflection

I am still taking some time to get used to the lay-out, the dashboard, the editing, etc. of the blog. I do think that it is a great idea to blog as a way of reflecting on what you know, what you learned, and a way to plan for the next steps. In order to improve we must reflect on what we have already done and decide what path we are going to take from there. As a teacher, I always want to improve my lessons. By evaluating my lessons through reflection, I can determine what I liked, disliked, and what I want to change.

Throughout my online course, I plan to have my students blog about their experiences. I think that written expression tends to be a challenge for my students but blogging about their views and opinions will help to improve their writing. Also, I want feedback from my students in order to improve my course. I plan to guide students responses as well as give them time and opportunities for free responses. The blogs will help my students and myself improve throughout the course 🙂

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