As the demand for online learning opportunities continues to increase, more of our faculty are expected to teach online. Many of our educators are not experienced in teaching online… and many of them have never taken an online course. Most do not know how to prepare their material for online delivery, and they do not know how to engage their learners in the online environment.
As part of a series to help our faculty improve their skills as online educators, I have created “Developing Community in the Online Learning Environment.” This course, which will open on 3-March-2019, will provide opportunities for the faculty to explore trends in online learning to help them understand the importance of critical concepts for online teaching and learning. Through various activities over the span of four weeks, the faculty will experience tools for engagement within the learning management system, and some outside of the learning management system that will increase engagement between the students and the instructor and between the students themselves. In order for the faculty to get the full experience with the tools in the LMS, they will need to participate regularly and participate fully in all interactions throughout the course. I have built in a participation grade – faculty participants will be required to participate in all engagements; this will account for 25% of their final grade; a required synchronous session through Blackboard Collaborate will also be required, and will count toward an additional 10% of their final grade. These measures will help the participants explore community development in the online classroom.
Blackboard tools that will be modeled in the course for the participants will include:
- Blackboard Groups
- Group discussion boards
- Group wikis
- Group file exchange
- Group Collaborate sessions
Note: Collaborate is similar to Adobe Connect, but is available inside Blackboard and can be set up so that participants can use it through the Groups utility.
- Discussion Boards – currently our faculty use discussion boards as a tool for interaction and engagement, however they typically do not use any of Blackboard’s other tools for engagement
This course will also model incorporating social media as a tool to help learners connect as a community. In addition, the learners will explore embedding media to increase engagement.
After the core group of faculty participants complete the course in four weeks, We will encourage them to offer shorter workshops, or Faculty Innovation Exchange sessions where they can share the community building strategies and use of tools in the LMS with other faculty. These sessions will be offered face-to-face, and also as synchronous online sessions made available to remote users through Blackboard Collaborate. Information shared by faculty in this way will be more relatable for our instructors; they will better be able to see how they can apply the strategies and tools in their own courses.
Enter list of successful online programs that you have discovered through your Discussion forum using the space you need.
I have enjoyed reading about everyone’s course development through this course, but I think the course development that I am most interested in following is Jessicah Hudnall’s Respiratory Therapy (Advanced Anatomy & Physiology) course. Because this course falls into the same category as many of the courses offered at my institution (Allied Health, Career/Technology/Workforce), I am eager to see how her students respond to the hybrid format. She mentioned that she is discussing with her Dean the possibility of flipping some other course in her program that could also be effectively delivered in a hybrid or online format. We have several allied health programs, and I would love to see more of those courses offered in online or hybrid format. Not too long ago, I saw that Department of Education had funding opportunities for developing online learning in these areas. I am eager to explore this further, for our programs, and am eager to see how her students respond to the changes. Also I would like to know more about community support with regard to converting courses to online. What has the response been from advisory committees when considering converting face-to-face courses to hybrid or online? And what about accreditation? What are the implications of converting courses on accreditation?
About the course Developing Communities in Online Learning
What instructional Design theories lend themselves to the development of online learning environments? Which one did you lean toward in your courses?
How did you implement the UbD plan for your learning environment in creating learning opportunities for students?
With regard to what you have learned in this course, discuss the relevance and importance of providing online learning for our students.
What is the enduring understanding you can take from this course and apply in your teaching?
Though a variety of instructional design theories were explored, the backward design strategy makes most sense to me with regard to course design. Thinking in terms of what I want my learners to know or do upon completion of the course is a logical starting point.
In their book Understanding By Design, Wiggins & McTighe suggest that an effective strategy for course design is starting with the end in mind. By considering the expected outcomes, or what you want the learners to know or do upon completion of the course, we can identify the resources needed to help guide the learners to those outcomes, and can develop effective learning experiences that will support those outcomes, and assessments to measure learner progress toward those outcomes.
For the course that I designed (Developing Community in Online Learning), I identified the following course level outcomes:
Expected Learning Outcomes
Throughout this course, participants will work collaboratively and independently to identify strategies and best practices through research, observation, and discussion
At the end of this course, participants will:
LO1: Establish a sense of presence in the online learning environment
LO2: Evaluate various types of online communities
LO3: Compare/contrast journaling, blogs, wikis and other forms of online interaction that can be used to enhance online learning
LO4: Examine methods for evaluation of student work in a collaborative environment
LO5: Create and integrate effective communication and community-building methods into online teaching environments
With these learning outcomes in mind, I was able to identify resources including scholarly articles available on the Internet, videos, examples used at other institutions of higher education, and other resources. With those resources, I then constructed learning experiences that will provide the participants hands-on learning opportunities to practice with the tools and strategies, and to create learning experiences for their own courses. Because the course focuses on building community in the online classroom, the participants will have a variety of opportunities for interaction within the LMS, and through social media, allowing them to experience community in the online learning environment.
Because the demand for online learning opportunities continues to grow (Allen & Seaman, 2016), educators have an increasing responsibility to create online learning opportunities and experiences that are at least equivalent to their face-to-face counterparts, with regard to course quality, rigor, contact hours, and other attributes. At the community college level, with faculty who may lack a foundation in education, this means that more support is needed to help those instructors develop courses for online delivery that possess the quality and rigor, and that meet contact hour requirements to ensure that learners are receiving the same quality of learning regardless of the modality through which the course is taught.
Our educators need opportunities to improve their skills, especially with regard to online teaching and learning. But unfortunately, many of the instructors at my institution have never experienced an online course as a learner, which makes it more difficult for them to understand the needs of their learners. Further, strategies that are proven effective in a face-to-face classroom may not be effective in the online classroom without at least some modification.
I am very excited about the opportunities we have to create these additional layers of support for our faculty. In addition to the facilitated course I have developed through EDLD 5318, I am also working on a series of online self-paced workshops to help faculty modify teaching strategies to be more effective in the online environment. Starting with AVID strategies, I have created several mini-workshops that help faculty learn to use groups and other tools for engagement within the LMS. I have done a survey of faculty to learn what other mini-workshops they need. I have also started a series of short videos (Blackboard Crash Course series) that will serve as resources for our faculty. These will be housed in the Faculty Support Studio within Blackboard. I would like to expand that to reach additional faculty, with opportunities for them that are more self-paced, which I believe will allow more of our part-time faculty to improve their skills as well. Overall, I really feel that this course has helped me to develop a more attainable strategy for faculty support, which will help us to function in a more proactive way with regard to faculty support.
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