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!! 🙂

The Second Year Slump

Much has been said about the difficulties and challenges that both students and teachers face during that first year of college. For some, the increased academic demands weigh heavy on their shoulders, while for others, the culture shock of a new, independent environment away from their comfort zone can be emotionally draining. Last semester, Provisions explored ways in which we can help these students to adapt, on both a personal and an academic level.

However, it appears that, even after those first year teething problems have been treated, educators must brace themselves for a familiar challenge…

In “Disengaged and overwhelmed: why do second year students underperform?” from the The Guardian, Clare Milson explains how students can often experience a slump in their academic progress. Whereas the first year and the last year arguably carry more significance in the minds of the learner, the middle year(s) is awkwardly caught between the two, struggling for identity. Milson, who likens the second year to a middle child, states that this issue is, in fact, “a widely recognized” phenomenon, which is referred to by U.S. academics as “the sophomore slump.” Research undertaken at a U.K. based university found evidence that one in three undergraduate students had been affected by an academic decline.

Milson notes that this phenomenon is far from simple to explain. Many of the students who were found to have experienced the slump reported that they felt “lost, perplexed, and disappointed” with their second year performances. Studies suggest that students were not prepared for the increase of the workload. Whereas students in the first year found their classes to be “cute and fluffy”, the second year represented a significant change in difficulty and volume.

Milson describes how students feel that there is a lack of “support and guidance” given to students entering their second year. Despite this yearning for help, many students do not actively seek it. Very few students took it upon themselves to make use of student services designed to provide the help and support that they clearly felt they needed.

Milson proposes three strategies that institutions of higher education can help students in the second year:

1) Design a second year induction program to reacquaint students with the challenges ahead of them.

2) Ensure that your subject is fresh and appealing. It is important for the student to feel excited about the upcoming semester.

3) Inform the students about the on-campus resources available to them.

While it is true that students may not be aware of the support available to them, there are many that are aware, but harbor feelings of embarrassment about seeking help. In order to provide students with the platform to change, educators must attempt to remove the stigma around it. What other ways can educators prevent students from succumbing to the sophomore slump?

In The News

Below you will find articles from online resources pertaining to teaching

Inside Higher Ed:

The Uninsured Adjunct  With health care continuing to be debated nationally, many adjuncts are trying to draw attention to their status among the well-educated professionals who sometimes received little to no coverage. (Nov. 30, 2009)

Shift in Researcher Population  According to a new report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization the share of the worldwide research population in the United States has decreased from 23.2 to 20.3 percent between 2002 and 2007. This article explores the reasons for the decline. (Nov. 25, 2009)

Be a Tech-Aware Adjunct It is important, as an adjunct, to demonstrate proficiency in “new” technology because,”you are already two steps out the door with a long line of newly minted graduates waiting just outside.” This article explores ways in which new media can be integrated into the classroom, as well as whether or not technology is good pedagogy. (Nov. 18, 2009)

Boost for Liberal Arts Technology? With the help of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) Liberal Arts colleges will be brought up to speed on advanced networking. The NITLE announced a partnership with network provider Internet2 in hopes to allow liberal arts colleges to expand cirriculur offerings, attract top faculty, and provide remote access to digital collections. (Nov. 17,2009)

The New Literacy and the CMS The ability to write for a web audience is argued in this article as the new literacy. This article explores the ways in which new media and social learning are opportunties for students rather then obstacles. (Oct. 13, 2009)

E-Books and Colleges Will electronic and digiatal books replace printed books? This article explores ways to avoid repeating the “Napster” experience on campus’ with e-books. (Oct. 4,2009)

Define “College Ready’ Nationally The amount of students out of high school who are ill-prepared for college or the work force is not very disputed. This article focus’ on how to fix this problem. The idea of a nationally embraced code of standards for high school students, is currently being reviewed by college faculty with one goal in mind, allow students to get to the next step. (Sept. 21, 2009)

Can We Discuss This? The article navigates through what discussion groups should not be, as well as good practices of discussion groups. Suggestions provided in order to conduct an effective group include maximizing student involvement and creating a separate syllabus for discussion. (Sept. 9, 2009)

Managing The Admissions Challenge With 90% of colleges reporting an increase in financial aid applications this year, and 74% of colleges reporting an increase in number of students offered grant aid, this article offers strategies used by colleges in 2009 or planned for 2010. Such strategies include admitting more applicants, awarding larger grants, and offering grants to more students. (Sept. 25, 2009)

New York Times:

Students Protest Tuition Increases Protests continue on several campuses after the University of California Board of Regents announced a 32% increase in fees equivalent to tuition. (Nov. 20,2009)

Barred From Field, Religious Signs Move to Stands After a parent expressed concern over banners at a high school football game in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. which read, “Commit to the Lord,” a first amendment lawsuit may be underway. Due to the new policy, the article explores the unexpected results  that came from this incident. (Oct. 26,2009)

M.I.T Taking Student Blogs to Nth Degree Many colleges are beginning to embrace student blogs on their websites, seeing them as a marketing tool for high school students. This article talks about the pros and cons to publishing untouched student writing. (Oct. 1,2009)

The College Calculation “How much does a college education, the actual teaching and learning that happens on campus, really matter?” (Sept. 24, 2009)     

College Officials Brace for Hit from Economy This article explores the shift from “will my child get into college?” to ” can we afford to send my child to college?” (Sept. 25,2009)


Additional Websites & Blogs:

Academic Commons 

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education