Contextualizing and improving my course

The online education project for UTC INACAP is based on the SLN pedagogical methodology for training faculty in designing and teaching a high quality online course. It places the student on the center of the learning process and it’s based on the interaction between students, with the teacher and the content.

In this model, the teacher’s role is critical in the design, construction and implementation of the course. For this reason, teachers have to participate in a faculty development cycle, where they learn and practice, as a student of an online course, the benefits and limits of online learning, how to present content, how to motivate students, make activities, make them interact, how to assess, and how to teach and manage their courses during the implementation.

At INACAP we have some limitations: it is expensive to construct every course for every teacher, so they want to construct an standard course that can be implemented by more teachers. I think that is very important to be the constructor of your owne course, but it is possible to teach it if your well trained.

For this purpose, we designed another training course for facult who are only teaching. It has only 4 modules: the first one is for make a learning community and to get to know the new technologies, the second one is for them to learn how to edit ad change some elements of the course and put their owne stamp on it. Finally, they have to learn how to teach and manage their course.

It is important to compare the performance of this two types of faculty, and the results of satisfaction and motivation of the students with this two different types of courses.

The results of our first experience 2010

We measured satisfaction and the perception of students and faculty about some variables involved in online learning. We had very good results in general, but there are some issues we have to focus on to improve.

The first thing is collaborative and group work is perceived to be very weak. There are not many activities where they have to work in groups and they don’t know how to do it when they have to. So, we need to design more collaborative activities with our faculty, design instructions and evaluation rubrics.

More than the 80% of our online students, who answer the survey, were motivated at the beggining of the course, and it fell down a little at the end. However, this might be because of the higher expectations the students have with online courses and the wrong perception of the difficulty of online courses compared with face to face. They think online courses are easier. However, most of them recommend  other students to take online courses and they are hightly motivated with the course.

Ken Robinson at Conecta 2010, Santiago, Chile

ken rob 1

In my opinion Ken Robinson is a revolutionary philosopher and comidian. He knows a lot about education in the XXI century and how the system has to change dramatically to survive.

The biggest problem that the old education has brought to our society, as he mentioned, is that most people study only because they need to get a job, something to do with their life, or earn some money, but not because they love what they do or because they are good and passionate about what they do. The only way people feel they are not working is doing what they love and what they are good at- the kind of activity that really defines you as a person.

He thinks Education has to change from the traditional linear way industries work, to an organic way where talents can be enhanced, and students can discover and develop their own talents and passions and don’t have any time to think about what they are supposed to be or work at when they grow up.

The strategy must be systemtic and personalized, and has to start from the beggining developing imagination, That is the first step for being creative and then being able to innovate.

In his book, he talks about how you can find your own talents and passionate to find our own profession and not only pursue on the degree or title. I will write more about the book later, I am reading it!

Improving my course

While I am teaching, I am thinking all the time how can I improve my course according to the people I have to train. As it is my first time teaching faculty at INACAP, I am just getting to know them a little.

What I have learned is that they get overwelmed vey easily. They like to think that the things they have to do are simple for them, and that they don’t have to spend much time learning how to do it, they just want to “do” things and be productive.

The other thing is that they need to do one thing at a time, they don’t like to do different things in parallel, they like linearity. I think this is a problem, because I think their students get bored with linear courses, but I dont know what to do, make them get lost in my course or make them lose their students interest! or maybe I need to be more clear so they can understand what they have to do more easily.

The first thing I have to do is evaluate the ammount of activities and new technologies to be used specially in the first module. Then, maybe I have to use one new technology at a time, maybe one on each module.

The other comments I received from my students is that the discussions “beat around the bush”, the students don’t focus on the readings and some of them have the idea that some of them like to show what they know about other topics and get good grades with that, so they lose interest. I don’t know about that, and I think it is interesting that everyone can propose a different topic or idea, but they don’t have time to read everything and so they don’t participate much in other’s discussions.

A colleague suggest me to have a single thread in the first discussion, so they can interact with all the people in the course and have only to read one thread, it is easier for them. Maybe since the second one they can propose different threads..

Another thing is that the number of contributions in the forum and blog are too many, it is too demanding. And I have to be more explicit about the way they have to evaluate themselves and their colleagues.

Now I will start with the changes!

After the first module of my online course…

I have to share what I have experienced these last two weeks. I have had a wonderful time talking with different people about their own interests and concerns about teaching and learning online. I am learning so much in this course and I know I will have to improve it a lot. (For example, students are not happy with the ammount of new technologies I am introducing in the first module, so I will have to think how to introduce them more slowly.)

I love voicethread because I can get to know each of my “students”, their faces and voices and I know that they appreciate it.. who doesn’t want to know their classmates?  However, I couldn’t convince everyone to participate, so some of them didn’t introduce themselves at all to the class- besides the profile information they wrote. And I really feel that I know a lot more about the ones who participate. So, I will have to consider another way of breaking the ice, maybe an easier technology without camaras involved, or an additional forum.

The discussion forum has been great, every student had to post their main concern about online learning, so they had the opportunity to share their own fears and interests about this and we learned a lot from each other.

They talk about transforming and reforming higher education, the old paradigms, how it is changing and how we can help in this change, how we can face the fact that there are curriculums…

We discussed a lot about the importance of the writing and reading comprehension skills to participate in online courses. At INACAP we have a big problem in this area, our students have lower writing and reading skills. So, we know that online learning will be revealing, will make the problem more explicit, but as they will be required to write more than in face to face class, maybe they will have the oppportunity to improve these skills. It would be interesting to do some research about this with our online students. Also, we discussed the importance of correcting our students “netiquette” but validating their “language” outside the classroom.

We talked a lot about the very important role of the faculty in the online learning process and the activity design. How we can stimulate reflection, how to present content, how affections are important too and how we can express them without being phisically there.

We talked about how to engage adults, the skills that they have to have to be successful, and we have some open questions like: what make some people be more self motivated to learn?, how to make people really want to learn? how we can use the technology, social networks and everything that students use everyday, to engage them in learning? when learning becomes necessary for the student? what about their own individual responsbilities and progress? is some of these a reason to be engaged?

I learned that there are a lot of challenges now because the way we communicate with others is changing a lot. I think it is important to focus on the benefits of the new tools that allows us to improve our communication channels and try to avoid prejudices and accept the limitations. We need to value the fact that we have time and rules that allows us to make better resposes, better contributions and to think more deeply.

Face to face workshops for online faculty

We will have three face to face workshops to support faculty in the design of their courses. Also, we would like to motivate them with the whole project, tell them how it start, why, and which is their role and importance in this project engage them to participate.

In the first workshop we will introduce them to the pedagogical model of the course development process. Then we would like to help faculty to create the whole orientation area of the course, and talk a little about the importance of each document you have to make to orient online students. The second day they will have to organize the whole course in modules, they will structure it and create each module in the platform and then create a general vision of each module. If they have enough time they can make the activities for the first module, the icebreaker activity and I would like them to use Voicethread to do that.

The second workshop is focused in the contruction of the learning activities and evaluation of the first module. It will be focused on the interaction of the students with the content, with each other and the teacher.

The third workshop will be focused on the implementation of the course, how they are going to manage the course and teach the course, direct and facilitate the instruction and give feedback, how to keep the students active, participating and informed, and other functions they will have to apply in order to go along with their students in their learning process.

Reviewing and completing the course

I am back in Chile, back home! very happy but with a lot of work, meetings with everybody here and showing this amazing project we are developing for online faculty and students. I have noticed that people here are now understanding better the real value and meaning of this new way of teaching and learning and the benefits of this project for everybody here. I think I am transmiting my love for this project!

This blog has been very useful, I can come back to remember what I thought about everything I learned in each course development stage and in the course. Now I am coming back to remebered how I reflect in this blog in the first modules of the course, it is a wonderful documentation.

I am now developing the last activites of the course, it is not finished yet but I have been thinking a lot and I have some new ideas I am working on. I am making an activity for them to start using twitter, so they have to make an account, follow some people and then post some messages about what they are learning in the course. They have to think about something new they conclude from what they learned or did each time they get into the course. So, they have to reflect and sinthesize what they learned very frequently.

In the collaborative activity I was thinking about making them read an article about collaborative learning before, then make them work in teams in a task (using MERLOT to search resources they may use in their courses) and then reflect about how they applied the collaborative strategies in the work they did.

I am reviewing the course after the valuable feedback I received from my classmates and from the review I did with the rubrics for  quality of the design of online courses, it is a lot of work…

Cold winter days at my office:off

Discussion about engaging students, peer reviews and trying to finish my course…

This week has been very overwhelming, I had to finish a lot of things, my internship at SLN, leave USA and go back home. It is very exciting to go home anyway!

It has been very useful to review my classmates courses and I wish they were able to review my course but I think it will be difficult for them. I am very sad anyone in this course doesn’t speak Spanish, I think it would be very useful to have their feedback.

I like very much to learn something about my classmates disciplines, but specially the variety of perspectives about designing the course and teaching online, they are all very interesting and I learned a lot from your courses.

I love the organization of Joy’s course, how the instructions were very precise and to the point, I can say they will never get lost and would like to have the same in my course but it is so difficult for me because I am a mess sometimes. The other thing that I loved in this course is the variety of uses of the technology for different purposes, how it can make you so close to the students only by making a video with your voice or you cartoon. And even better, how Shoubang sounds so familiar and close to the students in the welcome document without anything fancy technology, only text, but it seems so easy to find him in there and so friendly.

I loved, and I will copy the idea of Sue of putting some of the community forums in the front of the course, so it will be very accessible for everybody. I think I will put the community interaction forums more visible than how it is now in my course.

Also, reviewing the courses I realized that I haven’t made any collaborative activity in my course, so I now made one, and it arises from your ideas. I hope I will be able to complete my course this last week, and I hope somebody can understand something in my course so I can get some feedback from you.

I have watch some of the posts in Seesmic and I think it is very interesting. I would like to participate but I haven’t finished listening to everybody in the discussion so I need to have a little more time to post something.

About the discussion I would like to say that I agree too that classes are not made for entertain students and it is very easy to be confused as an instructor, because sometimes we think the only way of engaging students is entertaining them. That is not true, they have to be engaged because they are interested in the topic we are teaching, and the ideas, as Alex said, are engaging if you give them the chance to explore them, interact with them, dig deeply into them and discuss with other people about them. This way I think they can find some applications for them in their own lives.

But what is critical here to have very clear as instructors is that for the instructor is impossible to discover every student interest, they are all very different between each other so they have very different interests, so they have to discover how to engage by themselves- with their instructor’s help facilitating and giving them opportunities- but they have find out what is relevant for them in each topic, in each discussion and in every activity.

In order to finish my course I need to work very hard next week, I am very excited about my course, I don’t know why but I love it! I can review it forever, and I always have new ideas, and I love that. I think that this work is very creative, and as I remember in one of the first reading of this course (“10 ways online…”), some faculty’s opinions is that they feel younger because they feel the same feeling that they felt when they were teaching for the first time, and I think that they feel rewarded by their creation,  their new product.

(3)

How social presence supports learning process; and teaching presence in delivering your course

I liked very much the way Garrison, in Online Community of Inquiry Review, analyzes the social presence and cognitive presence evolution through course progress, how they change when the group became more cohesive, from personal to purposeful relationships, and from exploration to resolution (being the last one very difficult).

I think it is important to understand the implication of the conditions of the communication for quality interaction in order to achieve the desired learning outcomes, and understand how interaction must be defined in academic terms, because social presence is not independent from cognitive and teaching presence, as he said in the article. It has been shown that sense of community is highly associated with perceived learning (Shea, 2006). The environment must give the students support to establish communication and build social bonds, but the most important thing is that they feel secure to communicate openly and have common purposes. We have to consider that create relationships takes time, so you need to communicate openly first.

In this course, after knowing each others better we started to feel more part of the community and be more free to publish other kinds of comments, all related to the topic but sometimes more social friendly than only knowledge. When you are already part of the community you can interact differently, as Swan reported in his study, I think he is right in the fact that with time social presence become transparent.

I learned that the question, and the role of the teacher are very important in order to be able to change from exploration to resolution. The common objective has to be clear and it has to be reachable through collaborative work. So, the question has to be established to reach that collaborative and common goal and the instructor has to facilitate the discussion in order to achieve it effectively, because progress requires direction to ensure that the community moves to the resolution.

The other thing I learned from teaching presence, in the same article, is that interaction and discourse plays a key role in higher-order learning but not without structure (design) and leadership (facilitation and direction). So, when I think in my course I think how are they going to develop this two very important tasks (and skills). The first I think it is more easy, but  the second will take more time to be developed in some instructors, I think.

(4)