All posts by Zhiyun Gong

Reflection onM8: Improving accessibility fosters improved learning environments-Zhiyun

The article about accessibility humbled me. My eyes were opened to some things that might make my courses are confusing. Making organized and tagged slides, chunking content in lecture notes, and providing succinct learning objectives are not only important for students with difficulties but these ideas can help make the course more accessible for all.

After recording videos I also realized that closed captions (although work and time intensive) would be very helpful (especially when the instructors are not native speakers, like myself). Chunking videos in an intelligent and natural way is also an effective way to break up a lecture into more easily digestible bits.

When developing an online course, we always need to keep accessibility in mind for all kinds of students, especially for students with disabilities; it is imperative to try our best to build as much accessibility into online courses as is reasonably possible.

On one hand, online courses require developers to work hard to make course clear, attractive, accessible, and enhance student learning. On the other hand, students taking an online course should be engaged, diligent, and willing to work together with the instructor to facilitate the growth and improvement of the course. After all, it is the students’ responsibility to take an active role in their own education (and perhaps this is even more important for online learners).

Moreover, universal design for learning (UDL) is a very interesting concept and I have put some real thought into how to implement this in my classes (online and otherwise). In my field, representing material in different ways is very important (there are often complaints that students do not understand statistics and it is useful to have more than one approach for the concepts). There are many ways to engage the students with real world examples from a variety of fields (to appeal to many interests). Perhaps the hardest for me is the action and expression (we need to think about effective and interesting assessments in statistics for students to be able to demonstrate what they know). But I believe that it can be done with some careful thought.


Zhiyun’s reflection on OERs

I was not familiar with the terminology “open educational resources (OERs)” until learning about it in this class, but I have been used open educational resources (OERs) for many years in my own teaching. 

In statistics, there are many free textbooks and softwares (programming languages) available online. One of the most popular statistical programming language that is also an open educational resource is R, and I have used that extensively in my classes. One can download R online for free and install any package with open licenses. Additionally, users are also welcome to contribute/update with personalized functional packages. 

I think that the current proliferation and availability of open educational resources is an important trend in contemporary education. It is a cheap and efficient avenue for the learning process, but care needs to be taken in choosing the resources to ensure quality control.

Course assessment strategies

For the introductory statistics course I will teach online next summer, I am planning to use assessment strategies similar to CATs. Our department has general curriculum requirements for students from across majors that need to apply statistics. These departments have provided, through the curriculum requirements, our guidelines to assess students’ performance.  At the beginning of the course, I give a succinct but thorough introduction to the course in the syllabus and state clear learning outcomes and expectations. Many types of assignments will be required of the students. For instance, clicker questions,  lecture homework,  lab quizzes, lab homework, and projects will all be assigned at  various times throughout the course. Clicker questions are used to assess whether students understand concepts and applications immediately and motivate interactions in the classroom. Lecture homework and lab homework are necessary for students since, as it is said, practice makes perfect. The projects are good opportunities for students to combine and apply all the materials in the course to real research questions; additionally, it aids in augmenting the students’ writing and communication abilities. Also, these projects will be of benefit for students in diverse majors. Numerical rubrics are provided for students for all assignments. And, of course, we have in class exams for students in statistics. The exams are a traditional and necessary form of assessment in a statistics based class, and also an unfortunate source of high stress for the students. To improve the students’ ability to demonstrate what they know, we make the expectations, assignments, and exams clear.

Zhiyun’s reflection on M2

I am very excited about this online course; it has increased my curiosity and enthusiasm for the teaching of statistics online. Although I am now looking forward to going further with this, I must confess that at the beginning when I saw 20-page syllabus, the amount of reading, and various technologies and tools which I had never seen before, I felt overwhelmed. At the beginning it was a bit intimidating.

During these two weeks of online course learning, I read and digested our syllabus. I realized this syllabus was extremely complete and detailed. It included a course overview and outcomes, communication methods and expectations, and detailed weekly modules. Each module was tailored to acclimate us to how to teach online, how to engage students in the class and motivate students to communicate with peers, how to design team activities, and how to write online course syllabi and design courses. All of this will be very useful for us in the near future, and I think this syllabus itself is a great exemplar of an online course syllabus.

 Additionally, this course exposed me to many new technologies. Among these new technologies are voicethread, online adobe connect live, diigo, and scholarblog, and I am still getting familiar with them and learning how to use them proficiently and effectively. At the same time, I am also thinking about how to apply them to my statistical online courses. What else do I need for an online course in statistics? I am still on my quest to discover the tools and master them…..