By Lurene Kelley
Many of you have taken Canvas training. Some have even completed the four week, fully online Faculty Training (OFT) course. Even if you’ve not participated in a single OLET training – we’d like you to see what’s ahead, as online learning will play a vital role in the future of CBU. A cadre of faculty and adjuncts prepared to deliver and facilitate high quality online learning will be essential to the success of this initiative.
On January 13th, we launched our inaugural Online Course Design (OCD) session – a 16-week, hybrid course created to produce fully-developed, quality online courses by the end of the semester. Eighteen professors and adjuncts are part of the first OCD cohort.
To head off your question, yes, we are aware of the OCD acronym! And yes, we want our educators to be a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to generating and facilitating their online class!
The course began with a kickoff and happy hour for facilitators and participants to get to know each other, as well as a presentation about the unique design of the class. Some participants in the class have little or no online teaching experience. Others have been teaching online, but understand that designing a quality online course is something different.
“I am taking this course in order to become a more well-rounded online course designer,” said Cort Casey, an associate professor in the CBU Education Department. “I have actually taught quite a bit online before, but I am a novice online course designer.”
The first six-weeks are fully online. Participants read articles, watch videos, take quizzes and contribute to forums, just as their online students do. It’s part learning online course development, part “what it feels like” to be an online student. In these six weeks, professors explore ways to engage with their class, how to develop a course that students can easily navigate, and advanced features in Canvas. We also ask educators to rethink what they know about teaching in a traditional classroom and approach digital learning in a new, yet familiar way. The entire course is built on the foundation of student-centered design – all aspects focus on creating an online learning environment that considers how students best learn, navigate and participate online.
Karen Golightly is an associate professor and Chair of the English Department at CBU. She has taught online at various institutions, including CBU, for 20 years. But as any good professor knows, online or in the classroom, there is always room to grow.
“I’m trying to balance the specific student outcomes needed for each assignment/discussion question and some of the smaller details that are required, such as guiding questions for videos with the content of a literature (or creative writing) course,” said Karen. “The OFT (Online Faculty Training) got me working directly on these two aspects, but I want to refine those aspects of my course. I also want to engage students more. I’m going to work on how to make my courses more interesting. I hope this doesn’t include videos of me speaking very often, as I don’t like doing that. But I’m looking forward to learning how to establish a social presence online (I am often too direct) as well as engage students better.”
A period of contemplative, self-paced work follows the online portion. In this phase, professors take what they’ve learned and apply it to creating their fully-online course. Each participant is assigned to one of our Instructional Designers (ID). During the course design phase, participants meet one-on-one with their assigned ID. Participants will also gather in person at least once during this phase to share ideas and learn alongside their colleagues and our entire OLET team.
The culminating event will be a showcase that the entire CBU community is invited to attend! Our participants will give short presentations about their online course in an open forum. The goal is to share ideas with fellow participants, but also to show any interested faculty, students and staff what a high quality, online course looks like at CBU.
It’s going to be a challenging 16-weeks for our participants – all who teach, serve in leadership roles and/or work outside CBU. OLET has provided a fair stipend for successful completion, but just two weeks in and it’s obvious: these educators are in this to teach their students well, no matter where it happens.
As stated in CBU’s strategic plan, we are all dedicated to providing transformational learning experiences by “expanding vibrant academic programs and student experiences.” Developing a high-quality, interactive, meaningful online learning program is a key part of this mission. Online teaching is not antithetical to a Lasallian education. If we do this with care, it is central to it.
Lurene Kelley is the Online Student Success Specialist for Christian Brothers University’s Center for Digital Instruction. She holds a Ph.D in Organizational Communication from the University of Memphis and is a former college professor and journalist.
By Kyle Purpura
In the early 90s, I began teaching accelerated economics courses in the international high school where I was employed. Although the language of instruction was English, over half of my students were non-native English speakers. This meant that I had to be cognizant that some of the course materials I inherited, such as the 600-page textbook, might not always be the best choice for a few of the members of the class. So from the outset of the year, I found myself on the lookout for relevant, suitable, palatable course materials to supplement what I had inherited.
Enter Phil Holden, the “Godfather of YouTube Economics.” Although we might be tempted to think otherwise, YouTube has only been with us since 2005. By 2006, Phil Holden, a charming economics teacher from a small, British international school in Greece, began publishing a series of straightforward, 5-20 minute videos focusing on various aspects of economic analysis. Filmed from a flip-cam mounted on a tripod, Phil’s videos consisted of him standing in front of a board, diagramming, explaining, and analyzing economic models and events.
The videos were technically simple, but Phil’s mastery of the content and his delightfully upbeat presentation made them something really special. They were obviously the product of a passion: making economics accessible to an audience that did not necessarily learn efficiently from reading economics textbooks. With permission, I downloaded every one of Phil’s videos and began sharing them with my classes. My students loved them.
There came a point where students would ask for a demonstration of something Phil’s videos hadn’t touched upon. So, I was motivated to make my first video (truth be told, I was also motivated by a desire to be just like Phil). So armed with a tripod and flip-cam, and wearing – for some inexplicable reason – a salmon-colored shirt, I shot the raw footage for my first video. I was nervous.
Don’t ask me why I was edgy, because it was just me, the whiteboard, and the camera. I hit the little red record button, and walked to my mark in front of the white board. I was awkward and felt wooden. I halted, stammered, and stuttered. Somewhere in the back of my mind though, I knew I could edit some of the stuttering out later. Finally, I finished! And then I edited (and edited, and edited), completing the process by publishing my very first YouTube video to my newly minted YouTube channel.
On Monday, I showed my students the video. The feedback was tough and hopeful all at the same time. Students didn’t love the piece as much as they loved Phil’s stuff, but they appreciated that I took the time to create and share something that could help them with the course. That was all I needed to hear.
Motivated to create better and better course content, I shot more and more videos, finding the process easier with each passing shoot and subsequent editing session. After the fifth video with me in front of the camera, I switched tactics, taking up screencasting instead of me in front of the camera. Through narrated, animated PowerPoints, I was able to focus more on the nitty gritty of the econ diagrams, while still providing “color commentary” with my recorded thoughts. Screencasting, as opposed to me on camera, allowed me to be more comfortable and to create better quality videos. I found that being behind the microphone was much more natural for me than being in front of the camera.
My students loved the new screencasts, every bit as much as they loved Phil’s stuff. Often they would tell me that they used both sets of videos – mine and Phil’s – in tandem with one another. Students also loved that they could ask me to create a video on a certain topic, and that I would have one finished within a day or two. And I certainly loved making them. The screencast format allowed me to easily fill in the skill and content gaps that students were sometimes experiencing. I could also tailor the video content to address the particular questions my students were asking.
But did this strategy produce positive outcomes? Now that I am no longer in the classroom, it’s a question I often ask myself. The answer is, “I think so.”
When I consider my students’ average scores on externally moderated exams, their scores increased after 2007/08, which is about the time I began to shoot my own vid-casts. This makes sense to me, as many of my students were kids whose first language was not English and had a fairly difficult time with advanced level textbooks. The videos distilled complex information and ideas so that they could better follow along; plus, if students were viewing at home, they could pause and go back back to information to hear and see for a second or a third time.
On the other hand, the increase in students’ median scores could have also been the result of other factors: changes in examination formats, a teacher who felt more engaged now that he was creating his own content, differences in class sizes, differences in international schools, etc.
Nonetheless, I believe that my strategy paid off – that better outcomes were attributable to my created video content. Students benefited because they could modify the speed of the course content at home to suit their different abilities to process information. They could also copy down and repeat in writing the step-by-step analysis that I highlighted in my videos. And they could show me – by pausing a video in class – where they were having problems in their understanding of the material. And students knew that they could request a new video of me at any time … which I delighted in accommodating.
Over ten years and almost a million channel views later, econ students from all over the world still contact me. “Mr. P, could you maybe make a video on …”
Kyle Purpura is an Instructional Designer and Trainer for Christian Brothers University’s Center for Digital Instruction. He holds an Educational Technology Master’s Degree from Boise State University and has served as a technology trainer and content developer in higher education overseas, as well as a high school administrator.
By Tyler Isbell
Lou Holtz is the only coach in NCAA history to lead six different football programs to bowl games. Of these programs, the most memorable is Notre Dame. Including a win at the 1988 National Championship, Coach Holtz led the Fighting Irish to bowl games for nine consecutive years and finished eleven seasons with a 100-30-2 record.
Although his performance at Notre Dame serves as the crown jewel of his coaching career, it also serves as one of his biggest regrets. In a commencement speech to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Holtz shared this from his time at Notre Dame:
We took a program on the bottom and we took it to the very top… We put it on top and we maintained it. That’s the thing I regret the most. See, there’s a rule in life that says you’re either growing or you’re dying. The tree’s either growing or it’s dying. So’s grass. So’s a marriage. So’s a business. So’s a person. Doesn’t have a thing to do with age. My birthday candles cost more than the cake. It has everything to do with trying to get better (Inspire Bingle, 2017).
Holtz admits that he became complacent with where he was as a coach and where his players were as a team. He believed that they had arrived and simply needed to maintain their success: no risks, no improvements, no drive, and no growth. It would only be a short period of time before their success quickly passed away.
Regardless of your level of experience, past success, or confidence in teaching off or online, it is important to remember that no one has arrived. The rule in life that applies to trees, grass, and football also applies to planning, designing, and teaching online. For those that seem to have it all together, this might be a disappointment. For most everyone else (including me), this is an encouragement that trying new things and making mistakes is only a part of the growing process to becoming a better instructor.
Today’s ‘Small Teaching Online’ Tip: “Cultivate Your Online Teaching Practice.”
Gardens rarely sprout and prosper without cultivation. The same is true when it comes to your online (and offline) teaching abilities. It’s essential to “find ways of impassioning yourself so that you don’t become stale in your online classes” (Darby & Lang, 2019). Strive to care for and work on your online courses with the same dedication you have for your in-person classes – we want ALL of our students to learn, earn a degree, and successfully begin a career, regardless of modality or location. In other words, making time to grow is also making time for your students to grow. These small strategies are great ways to foster positive change in your practice:
- Take an online course – All teachers were once students, and their personal experience often shapes how they approach instruction. Taking an online class, whether it is for credit or for a personal interest, is an excellent way to see what works (or what doesn’t work) in the online classroom. Being an online learner will help you build empathy for your own online students.
- Look for and ask for exemplars – Examples can inspire you or model strategies that work for other instructors and students.
- Start small, but continue to try new things – Build confidence and mastery by trying something new each week or term. Incremental growth is still growth and will help you avoid burn out.
- Seek quality certification for your online course design and teaching – OLET offers in-house training and workshops geared towards best teaching practices and course design. Sign up here.
- In-person Trainings, such as our upcoming Canvas trainings and instructional video trainings.
- Online Faculty Training (OFT): This four week completely online training course allows you to study and exercise best practices as you create your own course.
- Course Design for Today’s Student: A three day workshop that investigates student needs and how an efficient and effective online course can be developed. Individual feedback and support is provided to participants after the workshop until an actual course is completed.
Darby, F., & Lang, J. M. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Inspire Bingle. (2017, September 15). Lou Holtz – Silver spoon motivational speech | University of Steubenville [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfoQBmNW_JQ
Tyler Isbell is an OLET Instructional Designer & Trainer
By Tyler Isbell
‘Small teaching’ is an approach to improving instruction based on the belief that “minor modifications to our teaching can have a major impact on student learning” (Lederman, 2019). Essentially, effective improvement is made when faculty make small changes to their teaching based on research. This small change approach allows instructors to avoid the overwhelming pressure of complete overhauls or time-consuming restarts.
Based on James Lang’s approach from Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning, Flower Darby presents the micro-actions you can take to design, facilitate, and motivate so that your online class is a huge success. The name of her recently released book is Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes. Her book is divided into three sections: Designing for Learning, Teaching Humans, and Motivating Online Students (and Instructors).
Today’s Small Teaching Online Tip: “Online Classes are Not Slow-Cookers.”
Your new online course should NOT resemble your favorite slow-cooker recipe (Darby & Lang, 2019). Students need more than a quick set up and then a few days to cook the material by themselves. Most students will not thrive in such an environment – They did not sign up to take an electronic correspondence course. Students need to feel a connection with their instructors (and with their peers) in order to feel supported in their learning and avoid being discouraged from finishing the online course. Here are some ways to build your teacher presence in the online classroom:
- Show Up for Class – Schedule time several times each week to visit your course as if you were attending in person. Make announcements (this can even be scheduled to help you be present when you cannot be present), answer questions, respond to discussion boards, and give feedback. With Canvas, your responses may be text, audio, and/or video – more on students hearing and seeing you in the next point.
- Reveal Your Personality – Students want YOU. They want to know that you are there and that you are a real person. Use the ‘About Your Instructor’ page in the template to share more about you, including a picture and a welcome video. With Canvas Studio within the LMS, you do not need any third-party software to shoot, edit, and share a webcam or screencast video. CBU faculty members who participated in the Online Faculty Training (OFT) course this summer had the opportunity to create their own welcome videos within Canvas.
- Design and Teach for Cultural Inclusion – Create a safe learning environment for ALL students. Make your expectations known and demonstrate how students should interact with you and with other students in the online classroom. Consider how ethnic or cultural contexts might shape your students’ experiences in your course.
- Convey Caring and Support – In the same way you want your student to know you are a real person, remember that your students are real people, too. There are many obligations and commitments that each student must meet. Consider offering every student an opportunity to receive a deadline extension or an opportunity to revise an assignment if something unexpected occurs. Think of ways you can “checkup” on each of your students individually. One faculty member requires her students to meet with her individually at least once during the term. She prefers a face to face meeting, but offers a web conferencing option for students that cannot meet in the same physical space.
Darby, F. (2019, April 17). How to Be a Better Online Teacher. Retrieved August 19, 2019, from: https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/advice-online-teaching
Darby, F., & Lang, J. M. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Lederman, D. (2019, June 26). Small Teaching Online. Retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2019/06/26/bringing-small-teaching-online-classroom
Tyler Isbell is an Instructional Designer & Trainer for OLET
By Anne Guetschow
“What is the relationship between information and knowledge? How do we decide what to believe? How do we go from being presented with a claim like, ‘Using instructional design skills and educational technology will improve student learning’ to evaluating and deciding to take that on as part of our knowledge? As you know, even the best theories are subject to revision in light of new information.
So, even though you’re being presented here with the best knowledge [OLET] has available, it might turn out that some of it is false, it’s very likely to turn out that it’s at least INCOMPLETE. When presented with a claim, how do we decide whether or not to believe it and, more generally, how do we maximize our chances of coming to have knowledge and of believing those things that will give us the best understanding of the way things are?” (Source: Bob Bain).
Is There a Way to Get to the Truth?
With information coming at us from so many directions these days, it’s difficult to know what to believe. We need tools to help us deal with information so we can be discerning and selective. How do we develop skills to become better believers? How do we achieve balance between accepting too much on the one hand and not accepting enough on the other?
There are such tools. To illustrate what they are, we are borrowing from a free Massive, Open, Online Course [MOOC] called, Big History. They call these tools, “Claims Testers.” Let’s take a look at how expert Bob Bain explains what Claims Testers are and how to use them.
Critical thinking involves testing claims using all the tools at our disposal.
These are the four ways that humans test claims (according to Bob Bain):
- We use our intuition, which helps us determine which claims we want to investigate.
- We rely on authority because none of us can master all disciplines, and as modern humans, we’ve come to rely more and more on collective learning to share both information and the burden of collecting that information. Of course, the source should be reliable and credible.
- We use logic, which is our mental capacity to reason, infer, and synthesize information; it allows us to sift through claims to determine what, if anything follows from our initial beliefs.
- We use evidence to test claims against verifiable information that allows us to gain knowledge. We look for what evidence is available and weigh how strong it is to support or refute a claim.
Help your students hone their critical thinking skills by testing claims using their intuition, authority, logic, and evidence.
For information on the Big History MOOC, visit: https://www.coursera.org/learn/big-histor
Anne Guetschow is an Instructional Designer & Trainer with OLET.