And the verdict is….

I have learned that it takes a tremendous amount of time and thought to create a student centered online course. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be student centered and how to implement that. I also found that there seems to be a lot more misunderstandings via an online course than in a face to face course.
This course was very challenging. I have spent more time on this course than any other course in the entire ETAP program. I think that more was required of us than should be in 12 weeks, this hindered my learning because I was constantly stressed about getting things done rather than feeling like I had time to reflect and work hard to make it right.
Right now I am very frustrated. I have tried very very hard to listen to all of Alex’s comments throughout the semester and make changes based on her criticisms. My course when reviewed needed a lot of work but she expressed being frustrated that I didn’t take her advice when I am always careful to do that. I am not sure if I misunderstood or maybe it was the way things were worded. She had mentioned changing the names of my module’s during one of the previous assignments but in my course review she said she was frustrated because I didn’t listen about changing names of discussions and forums, when in fact, I changed the names of the modules like we had discussed. We never discussed discussion or forum names. I think these issues are issues that need to be addressed when learning about teaching online. Without having a face to face discussion misconceptions are not always cleared up right away and could cause problems later.
The peer reviews really helped me and the checklists were great. It was an easy way to go back to my course step by step and make changes. I have some hours upon hours making all the changes that were suggested to me in hopes of getting a good final review and creating an excellent usable course. The resources that we used (diigo, voicethread, screencast, et.c) we can all utilize again professionally and even personally which made it meaningful.
I think the biggest impact on my learning is realizing that student centered must be meaningful. In order to make it meaningful it has to be important and the students must feel they are in control. Through the videos and readings in this course this has become increasingly apparent. Building class community, social presence, having teaching presence, and giving students’ choice are all strategies for creating the perfect learning environment. Although this course was quite a challenge I did learn a lot, especially in the past few days where I have become completely obsessed with adding “bells & whistles” to my moodle course. This course did present a student centered environment and I found it to be successful in changing my thinking about course design.

Bringing theory into practice

While building my course I have come realize there are endless possibilities. Jim Groom’s ideas of ds106 assignments is a technique that would have never occurred to me, plus he talks about letting go “a bit of your power” which is definitely a strategy that as a high school teacher I have always found difficult. JJ from Washington State also talks about students being active learning and the instructor being more of a guide. George Siemens talks more about how there are so many tools and technology that is available that it can be overwhelming for new teachers. He really nails it on the head with how I feel. He comments on how there are so many choices and teachers try to search for what’s right and there is no right answer, it is all how the teacher designs it and how it implies to their course.

As I finish designing my course these endless possibilities are circling around me and I have a hard time trying to use all the technology I would like to.  I also have a hard time with letting go and giving the students more freedom to explore on their own. The age group I work with often has a hard time being organized and they are by nature a little bit rebellious sometimes so I have always had to keep tight reins, it is a very new technique for me to let go of that and give them more responsibility.

Course Review

I recently also added a voicethread task for their introduction, similar to the one we had to do for ETAP 640. I created my own short voicethread video to introduce myself; trying to add to my presence in the course. I emphasized my willingness to help students and my availability for questions.
The most surprising thing so far is the time that is necessary to create an effective course. Moving from theory to practice has emphasized the time it takes to strategically put these theories in to a design that works well. I find myself going back to my modules over and over again trying to create a student centered environment that promotes social, teaching, and cognitive presence and I have concluded that it is often like putting a puzzle together to make sure all the elements are there.
I have added websites to read, videos to watch, interactive sites to explore, writing assignments, discussions, and journals to my course to try and reach all learning types while trying to incorporate all the theoretical approaches. I still think my course needs work, but it may take teaching the material to help me figure out where changes need to be made. I am looking forward to constructive criticisms from my classmates to help me add any more elements that may make my course more successful.

writer’s block

So, I’ve changed my module titles to sound more interesting, I’ve been careful not to duplicate assignments in discussions and journals, I’ve tried to make the lessons meaningful, I’ve used different types of media to engage students, and I’m still not happy. I’m having a “writers block” with my course. I think I start to overthink things too much. I have also always taken online courses as a college student and am having a hard time picturing my unenthusiastic, too cool for that, high school students being responsible enough to take an online course.
In ETAP 640, I have learned a ton. I love the fact that we actually create a course in Moodle. It has such a better effect than just plotting it out on paper. I find it hard to keep up with all the interactions and the presentations are very long. I find it hard to concentrate on the Breeze presentations for over an hour and I tried to pause and go back later but then I feel lost. I would be better seeing the text in print, but I may be the minority on that one.
I have come across many great resources as a result of this course. I love Merlot. I was exposed to it once before but never in a meaningful way so I didn’t retain it and never used it. I also really like diigo and can honestly see so many ways that I can use it right away with my students and colleagues in September.
I still feel overwhelmed at times in this course and I’m wondering if it wouldn’t feel so much if it wasn’t compacted in a summer course. Either way, I’m learning a ton and that’s the most important part.

My thoughts on design

I am astounded at how much time goes in to creating a successful online course. The key word is successful. I have been taking online courses for about 5 years consecutively and look back on all those courses with a whole new perspective. I can pinpoint exactly what instructors put the time in and which ones didn’t. With that said, it kind of gives me some insight about what not to do and lots of insight on what works.
Alex has given us so many resources that the possibilities in creating an engaging online course are endless. She has shown us how to use different types of media; using the Breeze presentations, podcasts, twitter, diigo, edublogs, Merlot, etc. Just the awareness of these programs out there and knowing how to implement them into a course can help change the way the instructor designs the course.
I have been most challenged by a few things in this course. It has been difficult for me to manage my time and multitask all the assignments that are required. It was a very rough beginning for me to understand what was expected of us. This course has asked the most from me than any other course I’ve taken online.
As I design the learning activities in my course I am trying to remember to look at the perspectives of both instructor and student, even more challenging, the perspective of a high school student. I am concentrating on keeping the activities student centered and engaging while allowing for teaching presence and class community.

Lack of research

I am so surprised at how little research there is regarding online learning in k-12 students. I know it hasn’t been utilized much or for a long period of time but you would think that distance learning has progressed on the university level so rapidly that there would be active research for the younger students also.

Another point I made in several of my discussions is that we know so much theory about education and learning but because there is not any research we don’t know how our interactions will change our relationships with students online versus face to face. We have discussed stories about how we are able help that “hard to reach” student but how will that change in an online forum? That is a great concern for me.

I am concerned about student socialization in online courses for the k-12 age group. I think the digital age is reducing the amount of human interaction and students are losing out on the social aspects of school. I also am concerned about the new teacher evaluation system. Will teachers still be able to be mainly evaluated by student progress and how will that change our online teaching (it certainly is changing face to face teaching)?

I have taken Alex’s advice on trying to make my modules sound more interesting. Research is a difficult topic to entice high school student with. I think I really have to make sure they are researching on topics they are interested in and in an engaging student centered manner. According to Cavanuagh,  “an online teacher focuses entirely on student accomplishment of course objectives, primarily via individual communication about student work within a mastery framework.” (p. 14).  I am trying to keep that in mind while developing my modules. I also had to revise my modules because I was a little redundant with my discussion questions and student journals. Questions must be different, journals being more personal and discussions having the chance to have opposing views.

 

Cavanaugh, C. (2009). Getting Students More Learning Tome Online: Distance Education in Support of Expanded Learning Time in K-12 Schools. Center for American Progress. 1-22

 

Behind the scenes

I have learned that there is a lot more to designing an online course then just taking the outline from a face to face course and putting it online. I have been exposed to the importance of the interactions students have with the instructor, the material, and each other. One of the “conversations” I had in this module’s discussion was about knowing your audience and how the age of the students can make a huge difference in course design and how much responsibility a student should have. Another important discussion I had was regarding teacher training in online courses. It should not be assumed that just because someone has a teaching certification or even has been teaching face to face for years can be a good online instructor. The two positions are very different. Gary Bedenharn’s comment in the discussion reflecting on the the presentation by Alex about the autonomy of teaching online in different universities was very thought provoking. Teachers are better off having autonomy then being given tools and instruction and then being micromanaged.

As far as my own course goes, I am choosing to have informal discussions in each module, along with an assignment, and a journal. We have also learned through discussions and video that a learner centered course is the most effective apporach to distance learning and I am trying to structure my course with that in mind.

In this course I intereact the most through the discussions, we have also experienced interactions in diigo, twitter, and through blogging. I do feel like those interactions are a bit more forced for me. I also find that I don’t have the time to read everyones blog, discussion, diigo and twitter accounts and complete all the assignments. I find it difficult to create a conversation with people I don’t know unless we are given a topic (like in the discussion forums) to discuss. I found the discussions that were broken up in to groups were much easier to follow then having one huge thread and one topic. I find it hard to read and harder to follow; which makes it harder for me to formulate responses. I love the interaction with the use of multimedia and the different uses of technology. The “how to” videos are awesome too.

I am learning so much in this course about the development of online courses, the importance of design, and how to formulate a course. I would change the discussions to smaller groups. I may even try to use different mediums within each module to try and hit upon different learning styles. So, instead of having a module with 4 videos to watch have 1 video, 1 webite or article to read, an audio, and a presentation. This, I think, will reinforce the information and hit all the “senses.” I would like to try this approach with high school students because they are younger they may benefit more from the reinforcement.

Pickett, A. Keys To Success: are you ready to develop an online course? http://ualbany.mrooms.net/mod/resource/view.php?id=9273

Course Design

I never imagined that so much work would go in the design of an online course. It took me hours just to set up the course information section of my course. I really took for granted “the assumptions” that my online students would know more than they may. I also took for granted that I could use a lot of my lessons from my f2f classroom in my online classroom. Alex Pickett’s “A Series of Unfortunate Online Events and How to Avoid Them” enlightened me.

I am finding it hard to create a “voice” in my online course, especially because my course is geared for high school students. I feel like this age group still needs such a strong voice in discipline and I’m not sure how to portray that online. There is no tone of voice, so I have to choose my wording very wisely.  The course has to be designed to meet the needs of every type of learner. In our module 2 discussion, having to differentiate instruction for special education students was discussed. There are great challenges in finding out your students’ abilities and catering to their needs. This is part of the course that can not necessarily always be planned ahead; not until you know the students you will have.

I read a quote that I would like to share because I think it is phenomenal. “An initiative that would benefit online and off-line learners would be the development of programs or course modules that foster the abilities known to result in success: self-discipline, motivation, responsibility, and organization”(Cavanough & Blomeyer, 2007). I think this is so smart and simple and I can’t understand why it’s not being done. These skills along with basic technology skills should be integrated in the curriculum, as I also discussed with Ben and Amy in Module 2.

I have learned that I have learned a lot more than I realized just by being an online student for so long. I have taken so many courses that I really feel I have a good grip on what worked for me as a student, the catch is that not everyone learns the same and what worked for me may not for someone else. I REALLY LOVE the “how to” videos. I find it so helpful. I guess I’m more of a visual learner than I had thought. I did not love the hour long audio of the slides. I found it hard to concentrate when the image didn’t change much and the audio was very long. I enjoyed being able to observe the exemplary courses also.

I really like when every module has an assignment, a discussion, a blog entry. I find it easy to keep track to make sure I’ve completed all the activities and I plan to use this technique in my course design.

 

Cavanough, C., & Blomeyer, R. (2007). What works in k-12 online learning. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.

Pickett, A. (2008). A series of unfortunate online events and how to avoid them. SUNY Learning Network, Retrieved from http://ualbany.mrooms.net/file.php/187/readings/a_series_of_unfortunate_online_events.pdf

(4)

Enlightenment

The last few days have been much more positive for me. I have started to feel much better about this course. The biggest help was Skyping with Alex. Using http://quickscreenshare.com/ she was able to show me around the course and diigo.com. It was so helpful to watch her navigate and give me the visual of what she is asking the students to do. The other really cool thing was that this morning I was at a technology training in the school I work in and the instructor decided to show us diigo! I thought it was so funny that I was just learning about it the night before. The cool thing is that I was able to show him some things that Alex showed me that he didn’t know, I looked like a rock star:)

I also found it very funny that one of the course observations we were able to view was a course I have taken. In 2007 I took French 101 online through Cayuga College. The same instructor I had (I looked it up) is interviewed by Alex for our course. I found it very interesting to learn about his course design after having actually taken the course. One of the things that stuck with me was his understanding for knowing his audience. He comments that most of his students are older (not 17-18 year olds) and they are taking the course because they have other obligations in their lives. It is such a simple comment but I thought a lot about it because I think it is so important to “know your audience.”

I am designing a course for high school students. I know my audience by age, but I need to think about what types of students would be taking an online course. Are these students who are excelling and want extra credit or is it the opposite? Are these students who are physically unable to attend school? Are these students who are failing and need more credit? It’s important to know your audience so you know how to keep them motivated.

I discussed motivation and retention in the discussion forum this module. It seems to be a concern for several students. There were some good resources regarding the information. I thought the link Julie posted on motivation was an excellent resource guide. I posted a sticky note on the document because I thought it was really important that it talked about re-engaging students if you start to lose them. It’s not just engaging students once, it’s keeping them engaged always.

This module made me really think about how involved course development is and how time consuming. I am getting excited now that I started placing some links in moodle. The “how to” videos were excellent and made it very easy to navigate, this way we are able to concentrate much more on content then just the technical details. Keep the tutorials coming!

(4)
Adelman, Howard & Taylor, Linda. (2008) Engaging and Re-engageing Students in School.

http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/engagingandre-engagingstudents.pdf

 

 

Just when I think I have it under control

I have been concentrating so much on my discussion posts and I thought my introduction post counted (which apparently it didn’t) that now I am behind. Bring on the stress.

The past two weeks in this course have been incredibly difficult. I created my course profile and I followed the example given, but apprentely I did that wrong too. I’m practically in tears because I am still so overwhelemed and can’t get a grip. With a 4.0 average and this being my 9th out of 10 courses for this degree I feel like I’m going to blow it.

We do have an interesting class and through the discussions I learned some interesting facts that I don’t think I would have ever known. I never knew before I looked in to it that physcial education in New York State can not be offered online. I learned and found myself very interested in digital badging. I also found we discussed some good resources for copyright laws in the digital world. The assignments have made me really think and consider the design of my online course. I was also able to share some of the resources I know of and express my concerns in the importance of school libraries.

We are two weeks in and I will continue to plow through. I am learning a lot and am excited about creating my course. It was very interesting to explore Moodle from the instructor’s perspective also. I am trying to keep myself from becoming discouraged and will keep trying my best.

(4)