I thought I was ready…

Thu, 23 May, 2013

For most faculty members, teaching online is not their first teaching assignment.  The norm it seems is that most faculty come from a traditional lecture style environment hoping to translate the same style to a blended or online environment.

Here are some common translations gone wrong...

  • I will record my traditional classes with Tegrity and post in Blackboard
  • I will post PowerPoints and Discussions in Blackboard
  • I don't need Blackboard; I will post the syllabus for the students with all of the information that the students need
  • I just need a little assistance entering this midterm and final in Blackboard
  • The course practically runs itself

What is the problem with these 'translation' methods?

Recording Lectures: The issue is not recording lectures but the manner in which they are created and used.  Tegrity is a great resource for recording lectures in or out of a classroom setting; however, this resource should not be considered the sole 'interaction' between the student and course content.  Audio/video content in a course should be limited to between 2-7 minutes for optimal student absorption of the material keeping in mind that this is a completely passive approach to teaching which results in less information retained by most students (usually less than 20%).  Tegrity is a tool that can be used successfully in blended and online courses when paired with an active approach to teaching such as hands on work or teaching others.  Just think if recording a lecture was all there was to teaching then the best lecturer out there could take your place just once and save the University a pile of money over the long-term (insert sarcasm).  The DECIDE Quality Rubric requires three types of content meaning that Tegrity or recorded lectures could account for one.

PowerPoints and Discussions:
While PowerPoints can be a great asset to a course, would you post PowerPoints in class and just flip through them without adding any notes, voice, discussion, examples, or otherwise?  Absolutely not.  Again PowerPoints can serve as another type of content but the DECIDE Quality Rubric requires three types.  This also ensures that different types of learning styles are met (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc.).

Discussions can be a good tool to increase interaction and assess knowledge.  Best practices for a discussion include a specific rubric stating what information is needed.  How many replies to other threads?  How would you like the information presented?  List? Paragraphs?  Any word count minimums or maximums?  Any different day requirements?  Do you want students to rate each other's posts? It also helps if the instructor is involved.  This adds another 'touch' to your students to ensure that they feel engaged.

Posting Just a Syllabus
OK.  Let me level with you.  This is an actual class that is conducted online.  This is NOT an independent or directed independent study.  You are still the instructor-TEACH!  A syllabus is a great guide for the student but it doesn't teach them material or help them learn the material.  What do you want the students to learn?  How can you assess that they know what you have just asked them to learn?  What activities will help them learn what you have just decided to assess?  Asking these questions in this order can help you design a course using the backward design process.  This process ensures that your content and assessments are engaging and contribute to the mastery of the student learning outcomes for the course.

Midterms and Finals
How can you tell if students are understanding the material in an online course?  The midterm and final?  If you have waited until then, you may have no idea that students are completely lost.  Adding self-assessments and low stakes grading items to the course can give the instructor an idea of how the students are performing before the midterm and final.  Examples can include ungraded surveys, automatically graded quizzes, discussions, blogs, journaling, and more.

This Course Practically Runs Itself
BIG NEWS: No it doesn't.  If it does, you are not engaging with your students but rather you are creating a passive place for your students to review material.  The course and students need their teacher.  It is true that a well-organized and engaging course will run more smoothly than one that is not intuitive and interactive but by itself-NO, never, ain't gonna happen.

Teach.  Teach with passion.  Teach like you do in a classroom.  Get a translator (Course Designer) to help you design your online and blended class to the same standards as your classroom.  Don't settle for mediocrity.  Settle for DECIDE Quality.