Jeannie's Lecture:

So you’ve taken the first step in pursuing your Masters in Online Teaching. I was in your shoes in the Spring 2010 and since then my teaching career has changed exponentially. Having recently completed my practicum for this program, I am ecstatic about all that I’ve accomplished through this program.

Today I want to talk to you about a few things:

1. My course application project from OO:1022

2. How I have applied this project to other courses I teach.

3. Projects to look forward to in future MOT core courses.

4. Opportunities this program has afforded me.

5. Additional Best Practices and Tools.

Final Course Application Project

For my course application project, I revised a poorly designed composition 2 course that I was scheduled to teach over the summer. The layout of the course was text heavy, and visually difficult to take in. Go to the following website for a 5-minute tour of Unit 1, which I redesigned on Blackboard for my final course project: http://screencast.com/t/RD02xDrBaX5f

As you can see from my course tour, I eliminated levels, created a more intuitive and logical flow for students to follow, and took the large amounts of text that needed to stay in the course more reader friendly in design by creating PDF files that students could easily download. The PDFs were a questionable decision because they too add a step; however, at the beginning of each unit, I combined all the PDFs for the unit, making it as easy as possible for users to get all the information for the module in one combined document. Since I completed this project, I’ve done some more work on condensing the readings so students, again, don’t have so many clicks.

Applying the final course application project to the actual course had constructive results. My students were able to navigate the course with ease, and they applied themselves to their assignments. The semester I delivered this improved course was the highpoint course of my 10-year teaching career (6 years online). Because my curriculum was prepared in advance and presented simply and clearly, I was able to focus on student interaction in a way I hadn’t before. Which brings me to my next point . . .

How I applied this project to other courses I teach

This project motivated me to revamp my other online classes, and I paid careful attention to how I started them. Before the summer term started, I revised the first week of my composition 1 course. Right before I started this program, I took a f2f course through Aurora University about writing in the workplace and I picked up two great ideas for assignments: 1) creating an advance organizer and 2) asking students to complete a writing inventory.

The purpose of the advance organizer is to orient students to the course content, find out where their interests lie, and learn about students’ attitudes towards the course. This is accomplished through a series of true/false questions relating to content, interesting/boring questions (or high interest/low interest), and agree/disagree questions. This is a great first-day activity for a course in ANY discipline.

I set this organizer up as a survey on Blackboard and got a general feel for how students understood some of the basic content areas, what they were interested in, and, most importantly, what they expected from me. The writing inventory assignment worked perfectly for a writing class, but could probably be adapted to just about any discipline. What I learned over the summer for the fall was that the two could be combined, so I took the inventory questions that I tended to focus on the most during my read thru, and added them as short essay questions to the survey. In addition, for the true/false questions, I provided the correct answers with links to websites that supported the answer; many students commented that providing the answers was beneficial to them. Here's a link to a screencast where I go over a survey I’ve created for this class: http://screencast.com/t/zTEQnmc8cF4u

Projects to look forward to in future MOT core courses.

While I was delivering these two courses, I took Encouraging Communication and Student Assessment. These classes worked well together, although in hindsight, I would have gotten more out of these classes taking them one at a time. I found that with my teaching schedule and being home with the rugrats for the summer, I rushed through the readings and projects.

Encouraging Communication offered fabulous insight about communicating effectively in the online setting. My instructor, Terry Fencl, provided an excellent model for how to teach online. Every so often, she’d go through the discussion boards and write a summary of what was discussed, addressing some students directly with tips and advice. Sometimes she’d send links to additional readings that she thought would be helpful to a specific group of students. She was on the discussion boards frequently and asked specific, pointed questions to keep us actively engaged.

In a face2face classroom, most students dread being called out in class, but in the online setting, the individual attention is greatly appreciated. Being directly acknowledged by my instructor two or three times during the term had an impact on me—one that I remember in my current online classes as I deal with my own students.

Meanwhile, my student assessment course taught me about different kinds of assessments. I learned about formative and summative assessments (formative assessments gather information about student learning during the progression of a course unit; whereas, summative assessments gather information at the conclusion). In addition, I realized the importance of having learning goals for each assessment. My current project is to write learning goals for every lesson in every class. I'm getting there.

In the fall, I took instructional design: the course map I created for this class has been invaluable. In fact, it totally bailed me out this fall, which leads me to my next point:

Opportunities this program has afforded me.

One afternoon in July for some unexplained reason, I sent resumes out to the four closest community colleges to my home. A couple weeks later, I got a call from Elgin Community College: they’d seen my experience in online learning and 10 days before the semester started, they interviewed and hired me. I had a week to prepare the course, and less than 36 hours to become fully acquainted with a new course management system, Desire 2 Learn, and build the course. Needless to say, this semester has been a challenge and I’ve felt completely behind all the time. The course map assignment in my instructional design course helped me put the entire course into perspective, including creating more specific learning goals for each week’s lessons and assessments.

In October, I was contacted by Waubonsee Community College; again, they were interested in my experience in online teaching. They hired me for the spring. The first step in preparing for this new employment opportunity is to build a course outline. I used the course map I created for my ECC class and adapted it to the textbook I'm now using for Waubonsee. This time, I had more experience to help me further revise the course. Currently, I'm designing my second course for WCC: an English 101 course.

Additional Best Practices and Tools to Stay Organized

COD Online
I published an article in College of DuPage’s online newsletter, citing 12 ways to enhance student experience and retention in online classes. (COD is the college I teach at the most.) Everything I included in that article I either learned or tried out in my MOT courses. Check out some of the Best Practices I’ve picked up.

Social Bookmarking: Delicious and Diigo
Another thing you can do right now to collect all the great information you're receiving through this program is sign up for a social bookmarking site: initially, I started social bookmarking with Delicious, although recently I switched to Diigo. On these bookmarking sites, I saved the links to all the articles that were assigned through this program, along with all the links that my peers provided through the discussion boards.

Delicious has fewer features than Diigo, so it's an easy site to get started on. Once your more comfortable with social bookmarking, you might consider switching to Diigo. There are more features (like highlighting and annotating websites) and a broader education community from which you may network. Diigo has so much to offer that I haven't yet tapped in to. You can also very easily transfer your Delicious bookmarks to Diigo, so if you choose to start with the simpler site, this decision won't haunt you later when you're ready for more complex social bookmarking.

Here's an example of how I used Delicious. Say I want to browse through the links shared by my classmates on the OO1022 wiki page. I can simply find the following bookmark on my Delicious site: http://www.delicious.com/jsanderson149/oo1022wiki . If you click on this link, you'll see all the articles published on our class wiki, with each article tagged in specific categories. I even went so far as to copy and paste the first paragraph of the article into the notes section. I anticipate that some day I won't have access to the course content, but now I have a place where I can refer back to articles I've read. Unfamiliar with social bookmarking? Check out this YouTube video, “Social Bookmarking in Plain English.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6a_KF7TYKVc and if you decide to create your own site, let me know so I can subscribe to your site. My username is jsanderson149.

I also created an assignment on social bookmarking for my f2f classes. My students marvel at the usefulness of this tool and it always brings me great satisfaction to peek over a student's shoulder and find them bookmarking on Delicious.

Adobe Acrobat Pro
If you have Adobe Acrobat Pro, you can also convert these web page articles into PDF files, and access them offline. I find this especially useful in the current elective I'm taking: I save all the required reading for each module in PDF format, and transfer the documents onto PDF software on my iPad, where I can highlight and annotate the articles electronically.

Additionally, for my online classes, I combine all the Word docs I use as handouts into a PDF file so that students can access all the assignments for that module under one link. In my English 101 class, for example, each module includes a paper assignment, a grading rubric, a peer review assignment and rubric, sample papers, sample peer reviews, and other helpful handouts. Instead of clicking all over the place for this info, students can easily download one compact PDF file and have all the assignments for the module in one convenient place.

Jing and Camtasia
Remember those screencasts I provided earlier? They were recorded using free screencasting software called Jing. I screencast many of my weekly announcements, record individual tutorials for students, and create orientation tours using this software. Just another great tool to familiarize yourself with. Check out the overview video for Jing on their website: http://www.techsmith.com/jing/

Ever wonder how people put together those cool video lectures on YouTube? Camtasia software can be purchased at an educational discount (less than $200), so when you're ready to expand your lecturing horizons, this may be a software package worth investing in. Before you do so, check out your college's center for distance learning; they may have that software available for you to use--along with the training to accomplish your lecturing goals. For an example of how I use Camtasia to put together YouTube videos, check out my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/jsanderson149?feature=mhum

In Conclusion

It’s important to keep your teaching practices fresh and to learn as much as you can about online learning. This is a field that is growing and the demand for qualified teachers is there, even in this economy. You’re completing an important step in this process by participating in this first ION course. This program is an excellent resource and being a part of it will provide excellent opportunities for growth in your online teaching experience.

I’m currently in the process of improving and expanding on the curriculum in all my online courses. Whenever I'm not designing a new course for a new college, I'm constantly looking for ways to improve current curriculum.

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