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…..
You know those commercials with the attractive executive sitting on a beach somewhere with her smart phone and a big umbrella-drink, taking business calls while pretending to be at the office? I think somewhere in the back of my mind that is how I expected this summer’s online learning to proceed.
I mean, I am always interested in improving my pedagogy, but an eight week course? Over the summer? I could be writing another article or learning Arabic or just spending time with my family. Yet, here I am in a minivan packed to the gills with four young kids on a three day road trip trying to focus on responding to scholar blogs while someone is throwing popcorn all over the place, someone else is yelling about getting hit in the head with popcorn, and the effort of reading while my wife drives is making me carsick anyway.
But enough about me. I think my point is that aside from whatever pedagogical goals we may have, I would guess that I am not entirely alone is thinking that a primary motivation is the need to supplement my relatively meager salary and participate in the illusion of freedom that always seems to accompany new technologies before we realize how much our lives need to change in order to accommodate and maintain them.
Freedom is the real promise of online learning, for both students and instructors, and I would rather not hide that behind some grandiose vision of how much better our learning outcomes will be. Maybe they will, but at the end of the day, some student who needs to hold down a job over the summer will be able to take this course in a way that wouldn’t be as feasible if they had to spend the day going back and forth to Emory campus; just as I may be able to go away with my family or get some research done off campus while still hopefully making ends meet. I would be interested to know how online learning is being used in more lucrative academic professions like law or medicine where the impulse to find ways to double task is not so pressing.
For me, at any rate, this initial introduction has shown me that in order to do this well I won’t be sitting on a beach someplace because this kind of teaching takes real work and focus–maybe more than traditional teaching, or maybe that will diminish as my learning curve hits plateau.
Ideally, I would like my online teaching to enhance students’ sense of themselves as participants in the educational process and not just consumers–people who can be involved in the production of knowledge themselves. But I’ll settle for a little additional freedom, if I can master the technology, because that’s really the truth of why I am here.
What motivates me to take on this project is my imagined ability to add more colors, flavors, dimensions… to a course I have been teaching increasingly off of canonical print materials over the years. When I developed the course – Chinese Writing Systems in Asia (Chinese, East Asian Studies, Linguistics 235) – in 2009, I did my homework. By that I mean I did extensive online research to find juicy supplementary materials, and archived them carefully on Blackboard for students to enjoy. They did, as sometimes these extra tidbits became conversation starters in the classroom. The problem was that I got lazy – and lazier – for subsequent iterations of the course, until when that Bb page finally stopped being copied over to the new course sites. I am not sure about the exact reason why that happened. Maybe I needed to do a better job integrating online materials in the class discussion of other readings. Maybe because I kept adding new print materials, which crowded out the online supplements. In any case, here I am, hoping that I would be able to revive the original cyber luster of the course by recreating it online. If I am clever enough, I may even be able to figure out effective and fun ways to engage the students in searching for and sharing materials that are particularly interesting to them. At least I am lucky in one respect – that is, the subject matter of the course lends itself really well to the online format. Much of the information is visual, and there are troves of websites, forums, and videos dedicated to the topic.
The biggest challenge in this endeavor, as I can imagine at this point, will be redesigning student tasks, activities, and assignments without compromising their learning outcomes. The current (traditional) course is already a very intensive one, perhaps having to do with the fact that I have been teaching it as a writing requirement course to its full capacity (19-23 students). For the online version, I would like to be able to maintain its rigor in writing training. Recognizing that the time span will be about 65% shorter than a regular semester, I will have to devise new assignments that students could reasonably complete within two or three days, for example, rather than two or three weeks, but will still enable them to progress and be ready to tackle a major writing project by the time the course ends. I’ve already started on some new ideas when working on a draft of the syllabus. Hopefully more will come and the syllabus will be ripe and ready in a couple of more weeks for my fellow troupers to review and critique. Stay tuned.
This blog assignment has itself been a learning experience in time management. On Sunday and Monday I did the course readings, and I decided to give myself a day for the material to simmer, so I could see what really stood out when I thought back to the topic. Now it’s Thursday, and I think I left the pot on the stove just a little too long. It’s not that I don’t have concrete thoughts about the topic or readings, it’s that I have had to face the reality that my basic state is procrastination, and that putting things off is really easy with an online class, even when clear, detailed assignments and deadlines are given. When I think to my class next summer – a course on Intercultural Communication for students doing internships abroad – I have to keep in mind that there will be many, many distractions for my students (a new home and a new job, in a new city in a new country) and that procrastination will be rampant. The readings have thankfully presented strong suggestions, and the themes of good communication and detailed instructions stand out to me more and more. (Of course, as a linguist, I’m always happy to bring everything back to communication.) Looking at online courses from the perspective of a student, including all of my procrastination and whining about not wanting to do homework, has been a true reality check and has helped me reflect on my own teaching philosophy and strategies.
I’m quite glad that this will be the first time teaching this course, because I am able to envision it from the onset as an online course. I will not be battling with myself on how to rethink something that I have already set in stone in a different setting. Normally, I like to keep my classes flexible, and I often go into seminars armed with only the readings and minimal notes. I never use powerpoint. I enjoy teaching most when students and I can construct each class session together. That said, I now recognize that while I can still plan for flexibility, I must have more concrete goals, rubrics, and set lectures for an online course. I have to rethink what pedagogical flexibility means as well as how students and instructors can co-create a course in different ways. Overall, through my hiccups as a student and my procrastination on this assignment, I now better understand the readings’ recommendations regarding time management and course development.
My sense so far is that the amount of authoring that goes into an online course is both challenging and liberating. I see it as challenging because there is so much work that you need to do before the class even begins but liberating because once the framework is set up, you can just focus on filling in the blanks and the template can remain consistent every time that you teach it. I thought that this discussion was a very interesting and informative part of the “Effective Workload Management” piece assigned for this week. I have gone through a similar though not identical process when using blogs as teaching tools in the past. The initial preparation of the blog and all of its many components takes a lot of time but once it is set up, the execution of blog-related assignments is a breeze. Of course, I imagine that there will be many more hiccups in the online course since everything will be technology-driven but hopefully with a lot of fine-tuning and patience, the first time around will be at least a notch above total disaster (just kidding, it will be great)! Even traditional film and media studies classes are very technology-driven so I have learned the hard way that something can always go wrong and to try to always have a backup plan in place!
What I realized yesterday during our synchronous session was that our current online course–and maybe all of them?–is essentially a “flipped” classroom: that is, the things we are used to using face-to-face classtime for–presentation and explanation of the material, discussion–is now happening outside of class, as individual work mediated and enriched though the discussion-like interactions of VT and SB and diigo; our synchronous time simply coordinates and facilitates the more-independent journeys of the students. I have some experience with this, so I’ve got a more familiar framework to put this in, and perhaps to think about the course I’m preparing.
What I’m trying to wrap my head around is the nature of the teaching effort in the online instruction I’m likely to take on. Frankly, I’m trying to assess the mental and interpersonal energy required. In the course I’m (still) planning, I have my lectures and powerpoints down, and, while I try to improve them each time, I’m comfortable with presenting them, as polished as they are, as my principal teaching effort. Okay, perhaps too comfortable! But should I now imagine setting those up to run automatically, and devoting myself instead to the new tasks of questioning each student about each lecture and reading, checking those responses, replying to each, observing students replying to each other, while trying to find some way to shape an online conversation–pointing out the student responses that are most productive, redirecting those who are off task? I can see the value of it, but. as a world-class introvert, I’m already planning to up my protein intake and keep some five-hour energy bottles on hand.
This will work so much better with the right kind of student–self-motivated, organized, deadline-keeping, technologically comfortable, confident students who are comfortable sharing first impressions and tentative thoughts. That’s not everybody.
Final thought: I found Van de Vort and Pogue’s article “Teaching Time Investment: Does Online Really Take More Time than Face-to-Face?”unintentionally hilarious: “Communication with individual students was not considered to be instruction time” and “No initial course development time was included in the study . . . ” So what were they measuring?
As I read the comments by Michael, Marshall, and Imelda, I realize that my juggling acts are also happening everywhere in this course: in Michael’s wondering about goals and aliens in the yard; in Marshall’s channeling the steep learning curve to teaching abnormal psychology; and in Imelda’s incorporating VT to her teaching pharm. I send this message in a bottle to all of us learning here, to say that maybe the traditional medium of the present bodies in the classroom cannot be commuted, that perhaps we need to continue to teach like that until we die. At once, as I learn in this M2 week, to also say that there is a virtual community forming, and that even if we are experiencing the juggling, steeping, incorporating, and wondering apart, we’re beginning to establish certain ties that bind us in various ways. Threading right ahead.
My course on Hispanic Theatre, Film, and Performance Art used to be a whole lot of a juggling act. The objectives, methods, and course features were all designed to invite students to think, read, write, debate, and learn about these three media and how their evolution in and with the Hispanic world made sense not merely as individual items, but in constant dialogue with each other. The concept of performance and its many meanings has been the fulcrum that has helped both the generations of students who have taken this seminar for a decade and a half, as well as our guest speakers and performers, and myself, to juggle the wonders of how theatre was born, twice, three times, many times over, day in and day out for centuries around the whole wide world, inside out of stages, to then meet pictures, static and mobile, then digital, to finally face that primitive-looking animal that is performance art. Terrified as I was the first week, during our first module, I have decided to swim head on and am balancing reading and writing (call me Linus, my safety blankie always on if I have something to read and write) with orality and image, self and others, with VoiceThread, with a kinda blog in diigo with a whole new horizon of bibliographic promises ahead of me, and now back to Scholarblog, the medium in which I got initiated this past semester for my Atlanta Architecture class. Waters are dark with lots of juggling acts surfacing, but when I have a bit of free time and I am not demolishing my office so they change the carpet, I watch some other jugglers in Lost, that now ancient TV series, and I feel, like some of my colleagues, wondering, but rewarded and energized. Whenever I lose my way, I watch the Performance Art piece by Marga Gómez, performera extraordinaire, entitled “Christmas with Cochina.” Then the juggling translates into learning, and the wheel moves.
Just to acknowledge it, the Module 2 readings and training in Scholarblog have me wondering if I’ve chosen the right course to retool for online instruction. The course I am starting with, History of Drama and Theater I, is an old (old) fashioned lecture course with powerpoint presentations and exams, and, while I have long-term goals with this course that I wanted to pursue by reworking it online, the fact is that I’d be inventing whole new ways of interacting with the students around this material, probably numerous new assignments, with new rubrics–it’s a lot of work! Whereas I have another existing course–Reading for Performance–that already has the more interactive rhythm suitable to, say, a course blog and VoiceThread responses. If I were au courant with the technology, I might be readier to shoulder the harder course re-design, but, as is–Leah, has anybody ever changed courses mid-course?
I once made an official announcement that if anyone ever saw me creating and posting a blog, they should check my back yard for an empty alien pod, because the body-snatchers would have to have taken me–such is my allergy to blogs as a form of scholarly expression.
But here we are.
This post should inform you that my alien replicant has read the Scholarblog tutorial.