Monday, September 30, 2013

Did we miss the point.  After watching Walker's recorded weekly wrap-up session - it floated into my mind.  Why are we talking about discussion forums and social presence/content presence when really we would probably all learn a lot more if this course about online learning was within a LMS and someone was modeling these techniques rather than hearing gurus talk about the "art" of online learning.

The part from this wrap-up that probably moved me onto this vein was  the statement of "modeling social context, interactivity and a sense of privacy".   After hearing this, I wrote the phrase down and put ???  in the margin and I am still pondering this. What does this look like - could someone show me it in an actual discussion forum?

"Teaching and social presence is basic learning but cognitive presence takes learning beyond the basic towards application and appreciation." This is another one that needed me to go back over the definitions. So here we want to find out whether the learners have had critical discourse reflected on what they were discussing in the forum and have they constructed personal meaning and confirmed our mutual understanding. Another aught moment.

The one thing that this week has done for me is underlined that teaching on-line and especially the discussion board/forums are an enigma.  Even after going through the course materials this week and participating in Dr. Healther Farmakis' Blackboard presentation and listening to the weekly wrap-up t I was still thinking I was a fish out of water. I reviewed some on-line learning articles I had found a couple of years ago when I was keen on improving my on-line discussions.  CREST+ Model: Writing Effective Online Discussion Questions, (2007) Akin & Neal this article talks about types of discussion questions from problem based to literature-based to an experiential element.  The thing that I still think is missing it is that it is fine to talk in the abstract but if you are new to on-line learning it would help if there were samples of these types of discussions and responses. I appreciate Vanessa Paz Dennen's articles in Distance Education, "From Message Posting to Learning Dialogues: Factors affecting learner participation in asynchronous discussion" (2005)as the article has specific examples of what is being discussed and how it was being used in the discussion forums.  What I gathered from analysis is that the more personal or relevant to the participants lives they more likely they are to expand in the discussion forum. The other article by her that I found very informative was "Lookinf for evidence of learning: Assessment and analysis methods for online discourse (2008).  In this article she makes the point that if participants are engaging in an activity it should "somehow enhance the learning experience" p 206 (2008)  The question then becomes how does this look or as an online facilitator how do you ensure that this experience happens? What I appreciated here was that she provided a couple of discussion board samples and then proceeded to analyze them.

Moving forward I think that without marks attached it is not likely you will have the entire class participate.  Lurking is not valued in the online environment whereas we appreciate students coming to class even if they do not actively participate in class discussion.  If your course lends itself to current events then capturing these events in the discussion forum will enhance the discussion. Another way to enhance the discussion is to create roles ex.) white hat, black hat, critic etc. The art of being online is to create a discussion forum that really is a discussion.

Akin, Lynn & Diane Neal CREST+ Model: Writing Effective Online Discussion Question, MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol 3, No, 2, June 2007
Paz Dennen, Vanessa, Looking for evidence of learning: Assesment and anlaysis methods for online discourse,  Computers in Human Behavior 24 (2008) 205-219.
Paz Dennen, Vanessa, From Message Posting to Learning Dialogues: Factors affecting learner partiipation in asynchronous discussion, Distance Education, Vol 26, No 1, May 2005 pp127-148

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Art to being on the Online Yellow Brick Road

The 'Art' aspect of being an online facilitator is starting to take shape.  It has been an interesting week of readings, webinars and reflecting on what has been occurring in my online course.

I was outlining my post when I realized I had started the week reading about Ken Bain's book, "What the Best College Teachers Do" which I read a number of years ago.   How was it that all this common sense information didn't seem to translate for me into the online world.  I was so deeply entranced by how the webinars I had either participated in or watched discussed presence and being present. Lost to me was anything to do with Bain's book and the article, "What the Best Online Teachers Should Do", (2011).

Presence - John Thompson showed a slide on teaching presence, cognitive presence and social presence but really never went into any depth on any of these.  I wasn't there to ask why mention if you aren't going to discuss?

His discussion revolved around common sense that is people want to know  to know that you care so, for example, use their name in discussion postings or move deadlines if there are issues occurring in their lives.  He also threw out there and as two ways of creating an online presence.

Whereas when Larry Ragan from Penn State discuss presence I wrote down standards, frequency and classwork however his lead-in to this discussion was "Don't worry about me . . . (I'll check in once a week.).  So I guess I am taking away from this discussion is that an online facilitator needs to consider what their interpretation is to online presence and let your participants know.

Is online presence - 24/7 as John Thompson talks about or what Larry Ragan says, "Check in a minimum of once a day but more like 2 or 3 times a day."  Personally, I have been teaching for over 20 years in a traditional setting and I can understand why some people balk at the hand holding in online courses.  I do give my participants my contact numbers for weekends since most of them will be working on their course material on the weekend and encourage them to phone if they run into difficulty since I absolutely ban myself from looking at work email during the weekend (too much other stuff that can get into your head if you look at it). If I was going to sum this up - tell people what your expectations are and then make sure that you are modeling them.

I appreciated Larry Ragan's flooring analogy and the fact that on-learning is not like moving from carpet to hardwood but really a transitional shift more like teaching blindfolded: Here is the course go for it.  Considering the research shows that most instructors teach like they were taught (the model factor or like they like to learn) it is amazing that institutions put people on-line without any type of training (except perhaps on the LMS).  Perhaps even more amazing is that we muddle our way through trying to get a sense of what excellence works for.

Perhaps John Thompson's quote, "Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." sums up this week in the sense that we are people and we want to know that we matter.

The one factor that never went far enough for me was the "excellence in 'online' teaching"  Bain talks about it in the classroom as "sustained and deep understanding, a fundament change in the student's world view and mental models, a desire to learn more, and effective communications."  If we were going to be pushed to be excellent "online instructors" is the human touch the only key?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Synchronous - Helps complete the picture for me

Too many things on the go to get to the two on-line sessions this week but I managed to get myself organized for the Thursday wrap-up or overview.  It seems to me that it helped put some pieces into the picture for me.  I had never heard of the term "substantive interaction" to do with on-line instructions so that was a heads up.  After hearing about interaction meaning : student to content; student to student and student to instructor it has given me something to consider as I am revamping a course I am currently instructing.  (I think I chucked out a lot of the student to student activities as they never seemed to work.)

The other take away was from Chickerings work  - "Emphasize time on task: doing vs. absorbing".  I need to get my head around this concept.  I am not clear on how this comes across in the on-line community but I am thinking I am now absorbing what I didn't get a handle on yesterday and didn't have the consciousness to figure that out until looking over my notes today.

I had figured out the idea that on-line discussion needs to be tied to rewards versus the face to face discussions that happen in class.  I was hoping that I had missed something in the on-line andragogy and that there was a way around the marks issue.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Learning as Individual Development

It must be that I am bent on individual development otherwise why would I spend my time trying to figure out the perfect on-line course - or at least quality on-line course.

My big quibble with on-line courses - mine included - is that it is read this and discuss that.  If only I had access to Blackboard Collaborate so that we could do some synchronous sessions that would move my course forward (at least in my eyes).

I work with instructors in a post-secondary institution and the subject material is evaluation/assessment: that is using evaluation tools properly.  That being said there are no real hard fast rules, in many cases, so it is important to get across the flexibility of the situation and that assessment needs to fit the situation.

I have been teaching this course in a blended format - two full-days face-to-face and the rest on-line.  While I have tweaked the course here and there this last two weeks I have been doing a reorganization job: things are not working out the way I expected.

I will have a course designer assigned to me for a couple of weeks of work next month but the course is running now hence I have been using a technical person to help me cut and paste and then working on it myself (as far as my skills go).

I read through some of the on-line materials recommended in this course and thought it was interesting that videos and quizzes do not improve learning since many of my colleagues think that is the way to go.  Personally I would like to get a handle on what is a "workable workload" it seems to be a term out there but no actual research to quantify. I went through Tony's Bates presentation (and set up a drop box account so that I could see it) and I was happy to note that I understood what he was explaining - perhaps I am getting the hang of on-line learning (although I love the interaction of the classroom).

Personally I appreciate the newsletter in my email to remind me to check what is going on - since life is hectic at the beginning of a semester.  I have also appreciated accessing the reference material and reading about the nine steps.  I hope to get in on the Collaborate Discussions but the time zone doesn't work well for me.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Getting started

I missed the first session tonight due to the time change but I did have a quick look at the resources pages and I am eager to get going with the actual course.  I appreciated the six categories of MOOC participants since I can appreciate each of the categories.  I am hoping to be an active participant in this course - heck I even have a blog started.