March 22nd Provisions Session Summary: “Teaching Online”

To access the audio recording of the session, click here.

Our second Provisions session of the Spring Semester explored the theme of” Teaching Online.” Presenters shared previous experience with teaching courses online, and effective strategies for improving success for a diverse range of students. An audience of approximately 30 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Lily Shafer, Instructional DesignerSilvia Mejia, Department of World Languages and Cultures & Associate Professor of Spanish, and Daniel Nester, Associate Professor of English.

Lily Shafer, Instructional Designer, started off the session by emphazizing that the most important aspect of an online learning environment is the interactivity. There needs to be a balanced amount of teacher-student interaction. To be successful, online courses need a strong sense of instructor presence. Lily recommends that teachers should only give an opinion at the end of a discussion or to intervene to steer the discussion in a different direction. If a teacher intervenes early on, students will be less likely to challenge or have a different opinion on that particular concept. Lily also recommends that instructors deliver feedback as an accumulation of the whole class’ misconceptions and concepts that were understood well, in order to avoid singling out one student. A diverse set of online tools that are currently available for professors to access for their online courses are:

  • Discussion boards are a great, interactive tool on BlackBoard for:
    • Ice-breaker activities
    • Scavenger hunts
    • Debates
    • Peer evaluations
    • FAQ and Q&A pages
    • Creating an informal student community
  • Blogs are great online resources to share:
    • Research reports
    • Group projects
    • Writing assignments
    • Long-term status updates
  • Journals are great ways to maintain individual student-professor commnitcation because they allow students to:
    • Share private issues/problems
    • Reflect on their learning process
    • Express any concerns regarding the course work
    • Gain one-on-one feedback from the professor
  • Wiki’s are a useful tool for creating a collaborative space for students to share information, as well as giving students the opportunity to work together in a digital environment. Wiki’s can be used for many things, such as:
    • Group projects
    • A glossary of course terms
    • Peer evaluations
  • Voice threads are a great tool for building an online community
  • ZOOM– creates a face-face online conversation by including each student in the class using webcams

Second in line to present was Daniel Nester, Associate Professor of English, on “Building Online Community: Teaching Poetry In Performance Using WordPress, Facebook, Dropbox, and SoundCloud.” Dan teaches the English 218 course: Oral Interpretation of Literature. For this class, students are required to record their poetry performances and upload them to various media sites, such as SoundCloud, WordPress, Facebook, Dropbox, and YouTube. Dan also discussed how he uses many other “online features” for his course, such as video lectures, a teaching blog, a “secret” Facebook page only for his students, and GoogleDocs. Dan’s course teaching blog has a collection of course materials for his students to access, including the course syllabus and class tutorials.  In addition, his students are required to perform to a live audience at “Poetry Slams.” In preparation for live performances, students are in charge of publicity using a setup crew. The setup crews are in charge of creating flyers,  taking photos of the events, and creating Biographies of the performers. A final online tool that Dan uses for his course is Odyssey. Odyssey allows his students to freely write about their experiences in his class, experiences of their performances, and overall experience with the course material.

Lastly, Silvia Mejia, Department of World Languages and Cultures & Associate Professor of Spanish, shared her experience with teaching a hybrid class-Spanish 203: Memory and Culture. Silvia described that she was reluctant in the beginning to be teaching a hybrid course. However, now she believes that the hybrid format is very beneficial for her students, and it also produces much less stress for herself and her students. For her course, Silvia uses a “flipped classroom” approach, meaning that students are required to complete tutorials and practice at home, and class time is used for discussion and interactive activities. Silvia assigns her students tutorials on the content, which allow her students to watch as many times as needed. If she were to explain the same thing in class multiple times, it could be redundant for some and take too much class time. Having to learn the material at home allows students to learn at their own leisure and pace. This then leaves more class time for Silvia to clear up misconceptions and allows students to practice their communication skills with their peers. Silvia believes that the in class interaction of conversation and communication is the most valuable part of the hybrid course. Silvia shared the instructions for one assignment, in which her students must use the vocabulary (clothing, shopping and daily routines) that they have learned in a creative and meaningful way by producing a video. Silvia recommends for her students to use Wevideo, however they are free use another one if they prefer to do so.

Following the brief presentations, the floor was opened up for discussion and questions from the audience. Here are a few points and observations that arose from the discussion:

  • Blogs are a useful resource for expressing opinions, sharing introductions to research papers, and for competition in the workplace.
  • Grading online…should there be a grade assigned to all work?
    • Most thought yes, every assignment should count for a grade.
  • The majority of students are very comfortable with online learning, and at times are more knowledgable of additional online resources to use.
  • Do students need to be self-regulatory to be successful in an online class?
    • Yes, self-regulation is necessary for success.
  • Online assignments should have very clear and specific instructions.
    • For dissuasion posts, instructors should be specific on the dates of when posts are due, the times that the posts are due by, and the amount of posts required for the grade.

Please join us for our upcoming Tuesday, April 19th session on “Teaching Information Literacy in the Age of Google.” Provisions’ sessions are from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!! 🙂


March 22nd Session: “Teaching Online”


Online Learning…Good Or Bad??

Distance education was founded in 1728, but there has been an increasing focus on online learning in recent research and literature (“Infographic history of distance education”). Online learning has become more widespread and popular due to the many benefits it offers. Some benefits of online learning include: greater flexibility, a broader target population, cost efficiency, self-discipline and self-directed learning, and the attainment of college credentials.

Advancing technology has allowed us the opportunity to create a new way to earn an education. Although there are many benefits of online learning, it has its disadvantages as well. A few drawbacks of online learning include: decreased retention, self-discipline (lack of), lack of social interaction and reliance on technology. However, research has shown online learning to be just as effective as traditional learning . According to a meta-analysis by Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia and Jones (2009), online learning and traditional learning were found to be statistically equivalent in their effectiveness. The meta-analysis also found that students in online learning environments performed better than those in a traditional setting.

Three well-known MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) that are currently operating are Coursera, edX, and Udacity.

  •  Coursera is dedicated to providing educational access to all. Through a partnership with universities and organizations, Coursera presents online courses designed to be available universally. Coursera provides an online training course for educators to master MOOC’s. The Learning To Teach Online (LTTO) MOOC was created to help educators enhance and advance their skills for teaching online and/or blended courses. The duration of the online course is 6 weeks, averaging  between 3-6 hours of work per week. There are 8 different modules required to be completed in order to pass the course. For any educators that may be interested, a form to apply for the course can be accessed here.
  • EdX was founded in 2012 by Harvard University and MIT, with the goal of providing a free education to all. EdX has more than 90 partnerships with universities and institutions around the world. EdX is currently the only MOOC operating as a non-profit organization.
  • Udacity, founded by Stanford University, strives to create an affordable and effective higher education program available globally. Udacity is dedicated to “teaching the skills that industry employers need today, delivering credentials endorsed by employers, and educating at a fraction of the cost of traditional schools.”

In The Limits Of Open, Carl Straumsheim discusses some of the shortcomings of MOOC’s. According to Carl, without paying for courses, students are only able to view graded assignments. Only those who pay for the courses can have full access to the graded assignments. Although it is free to explore materials such as, videos, lectures, discussion, and practice quizzes, learners must pay in order to receive an actual certificate of completion and to receive academic credit.

According to the article, How To Break Into Online Teaching, there are certain preliminary actions to be considered before beginning to teach online.

  • Identify your skill level of:
    • Time management and organization
    • Online communication
    • Teaching in an online environment
    • Technology
  • Know what kind of teaching job to search for
  • Activate and use your social networks
    • Academic groups
    • Alumni
    • Professional associations
  • Choose which courses you have the ability to teach
  • Examine alternative options

**The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching and Best Practices for Teaching Online websites provide helpful resources pertaining to online learning strategies for professors of online courses. In addition, Anastasia Salter has written several helpful articles to aid professors on their online teaching journey. These can be accessed from one of her posts, Wrapping Up A Large Online Course.**

Please join us for our upcoming Tuesday, March 22nd session on “Teaching Online.” Our esteemed presenters for the March 22nd session include:

Lily Shafer– Instructional Designer
Silvia Mejia– Department of World Languages and Cultures
Daniel Nester– Associate Professor of English

Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!! 🙂