Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice to the Online Classroom

Repost: Faculty Focus

By Oliver Dreon, PhD

Almost 25 years have passed since Chickering and Gamson offered seven principles for good instructional practices in undergraduate education. While the state of undergraduate education has evolved to some degree over that time, I think the seven principles still have a place in today's collegiate classroom. Originally written to communicate best practices for face-to-face instruction, the principles translate well to the online classroom and can help to provide guidance for those of us designing courses to be taught online.

1. Encourage contact between students and faculty. Students need to know how to contact their online instructors and should be encouraged to communicate with us when needed. In my online courses, I identify multiple means of contacting me (email, Skype, Twitter, etc) and clearly post times when I'll be available to chat during online office hours. While few students utilize the online office hours I provide, offering this time communicates to students that I am available if they need assistance and that I value this interaction.

2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students. For those of us who believe that people learn through socially constructing their understanding based on their experiences, this principle is critical. Online courses should not be independent study classes. Online instructors need to build collaborative structures into their courses to promote student-to-student interaction. In my experience, I find that students who feel isolated in an online course have difficulty being successful. In my online courses, I incorporate collaborative and interactive ventures early on. I also try to foster discussions where students communicate with one another, share ideas, and debate concepts. While interacting with the instructor is important in an online class, it is also important that students have a space where they can discuss concepts with one another as well.

3. Encourage active learning. Learning is not a passive activity. For students to learn, they must actively engage with the content in thoughtful, purposeful ways. As you develop your online course, consider ways to build active learning into the course content. This can include utilizing tools with a course management system (discussions, for instance) or other tools (GoAnimate, Animoto). But active learning isn't limited to technological avenues in online courses. Someone teaching science online could utilize hands-on lab activities developed with common everyday items. Someone teaching psychology or sociology online could have students conduct observational work at a park or at the mall.

4. Give prompt feedback. This can be tricky, especially with instructors teaching larger online classes. While grading hundreds of papers can be overwhelming, students need to receive prompt feedback to know whether they are being successful or what they need to do to improve. If you have a few larger assignments in your class that you know will take more time to provide quality, constructive feedback, communicate this to your students. You should also include some smaller assignments that will not take as long to assess. While some experienced online instructors use the course management system to build automated responses into their courses, I believe that some students still need personalized feedback on their work that comes directly from their instructor.

5. Emphasize time on task. Learning takes time. Students and faculty working in online spaces need to realize this. Just because an online course may be more flexible schedule-wise does not mean that it won't require a significant time commitment. It's important for instructors to communicate expected time commitments but also be realistic with their expectations. Assigning students to read a 500 page book in a day may not be completely realistic. Have high expectations but respect students' need to have time to interact with the content and learn.

6. Communicate high expectations. While it's important to have high expectations for students, it is also critical that these expectations are clearly communicated to students. Likewise, it is helpful to communicate clear expectations for participation and for interaction. Do you want your students to log on daily? Do they need to submit assignments in a certain format? Is it okay for them to use emoticons in their discussion posts? These are just a few of the areas that online instructors need to consider as they develop an online course for the first time.

7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning. Students learn in a variety of ways. While there will undoubtedly be some text-based content in an online course, it cannot be the only mode of delivery or assessment. Draw on the host of multimedia options available online to deliver content to students and to assess them. Instead of typing out some long lesson on the Middle Ages, check out YouTube or Vimeo for some available videos. Or better yet, use a screencasting tool like Jing to record a customized lesson. Instead of assigning a ten-page paper, have students create a video where they demonstrate what they've learned.

Dr. Oliver Dreon is the director of the Center for Academic Excellence at Millersville University.

Source: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/applying-the-seven-principles-for-good-practice-to-the-online-classroom/

Friday, February 22, 2013

Two New Tools

Online OCR - http://www.onlineocr.net/

Do you ever have a scanned document that you would like to manipulate? Your solution has arrived. Online OCR offers a free, high-quality solution. Users can simply upload an image (JPG, JPEG, BMP, TIFF, GIF, and non-editable PDF are all accepted), then choose the language and preferred output format. At the free level, the service will convert 14 images per hour, but those who are satisfied with the service and require more frequent conversion may purchase a membership.

WordTalk - http://www.wordtalk.org.uk/Home/

Need to meet accessibility standards? The WordTalk plugin works with Microsoft Word to create an audio version of text documents. The plugin speaks the text of the document and highlights it along the way. It also contains a talking dictionary so that users can decide which word spelling is most appropriate. This version is compatible with all computers running Microsoft Word.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Online Learning What’s Next?

Thomas Snyder, President of Ivy Tech Community College (http://www.ivytech.edu/) blogged recently for the Huffington Post about his beliefs that the future of higher education lies with online learning.

In his blog, he confirmed what many of us know to be true on our own campuses that increasingly, colleges and university students find themselves with other obligations beyond getting a degree. Jobs and family commitments demand time and attention. As such, the flexibility of online education is very attractive. At the same time, he says, “many state institutions are unable to accommodate all those who want to take classes on campus, escalating the demand for online learning.”

With the onslaught of MOOCs, lifelong learning has become so easy and free. Moreover, says Snyder, “in today's job market, taking online courses help workers remain competitive and they don't need to take time off from their jobs to do this.”

Community colleges such as Ivy Tech have been in the forefront of online learning. In 2010-11 “Ivy Tech in Indiana had more than 79,000 unduplicated students in 300 credit earning online courses.” Ivy Tech community College also works directly with local businesses to help supply a trained workforce to meet their future needs. “Online learning not only trains the workers of the future, it can also provide a career path for someone employed, who needs to learn new skills” says Snyder.

Using a learning application such as Blackboard, that seamlessly integrates additional software applications and social media, making it possible to create online communities that are course specific enhance the learner experience. “Blogs, tweets, podcasts, webcasts, online chats, discussion boards, and virtual study jams are all part of the online mix. Success in an online course often depends on how connected a student feels to his instructor and fellow students” says President Snyder as well as other industry leaders.

In order for high quality online education to be successful, instructional faculty needs to re-orient their pedagogical approach. At the University of the District of Columbia we have two pathways for online teaching certification. Many institutions across the United States require faculty online teaching certification or training before they teach an online course. In addition to faculty skills and abilities and student motivation, we might consider how best to serve these “mobile” learners. I use mobile in the physical sense.

President Snyder suggests the development of a national transfer pool to enable transferability of online course credit taken anywhere in the country and transferred to the student's home institution. Prior to becoming president of Ivy Tech, Thomas Snyder worked in corporate America.

Source: Tom Snyder, President of Ivy Tech Community College. The Benefits of Online Learning Posted: 01/30/2013 8:21 am http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-snyder/the-benefits-of-online-le_b_2573991.html

About Thomas Snyder: Thomas J. Snyder serves as president of Ivy Tech Community College, the largest institution of higher education in Indiana and the nation's largest singly-accredited statewide community college system.

Appointed in 2007, President Snyder leads the strategic, academic and operational processes of Indiana's largest and fastest growing college serving more than 200,000 students annually at 30 campuses and 100 learning centers that provide a full-spectrum of educational resources, transfer credits, associate degrees, workforce training and professional certification (http://www.ivytech.edu/about/snyder-bio.html).

Friday, February 8, 2013

Zeen is a smart, new way to share what matters

Whether you are a creator, a curator or a casual surfer, Zeen makes it easy for you to create something beautiful. Zeens are portable, bite-sized pieces of content that are easy to make and fun to share.

Tell A Story: Zeen makes it easy for you to tell a story and create something beautiful.

Make It Shine: Your Zeen can include words, images, galleries, links, music, videos, maps and lots more.

Take it anywhere - Portable: Zeens are portable. Post them to Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Or embed and share them on your blog

Fun Ways To Use Zeen

  • Create photo albums of your Facebook, Instagram, Flickr or Picasa photos – or upload pics directly from your computer!
  • Share your favorite restaurant recommendations with friends
  • Gather some songs to share with your friends
  • Publish a travel journal about a recent vacation
  • Compile a cookbook of your favorite recipes
  • Create a visual report for a class or assignment

To sign-up and start creating go to: http://zeen.com/