Some Practical Considerations

I can’t believe I’m nearing the end of my second course in the VCC eLearning/Online Instruction Certificate Program. It’s been a whirlwind, a bit of a struggle, but also very enriching. I’m truly looking forward to the final course, EDUC 4152, because I’ll get to build a module or two of this course I’ve been envisioning in my head for my work place. Although I do love reading lots and lots of research papers (wink wink nudge nudge), I’m really excited for the practical part of creating something with everything I’ve learnt.

With that being said, I did get a taste of the process in EDUC 4151 when we had to plan out a course and plan out one module. It got me thinking that there’s a lot to consider when planning a course and here are my top 3 in terms of being practical:

  1. Balance of time, resources, and quality. It’s easy to say that my course will consist of a series of videos but that means I’ll have to record and edit those videos too. I want my videos to be engaging so I couldn’t simply plop myself in front of my camera and babble away. I have novice video editing skills but to make something more engaging, I may need to learn new software or resourcefully achieve the same effect with my current skill set. It’s going to be a balancing act plus a possible learning curve.
  2. Know the audience. Just like in face to face teaching, your delivery and organization should be tailored to the students/audience. For my audience, they may not require the videos to be high production level quality. Rather, they want simple and easy to follow instructions and explanations. I’ll also have to keep in mind how they’ll likely be viewing the course, whether it’s on a desktop, phone, or tablet because that’ll impact how much I’ll want to zoom in in the videos.
  3. Maintain alignment. Sometimes it’s tempting to get swept up in new apps or trying to make something look cool or pretty. I’ll have to remind myself to keep coming back to the learning objectives and ensuring the content, activities, and assessments help meet the learning objectives. Doing a quick S.E.C.T.I.O.N.S. analysis will be beneficial as well.

While these 3 will be the main ones on my mind in EDUC 4152, there is one more that I will most definitely consider when I’m working and that is creating/following quality guidelines. It’ll be a good way to review a course/module and ensure all the boxes have been checked.

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Assessment Activity

I’ve never thought so much about assessment methods and strategies until this module! It was validating to read through research that supports what I’ve been doing in the classroom as best practice. Now I wonder if I’ll be able to do the same thing online and as a training module as opposed to academic teaching.

Anyways, just wanted to share what I’ve been working on because I’m pretty excited about it. The assignment was to create an assessment activity that was well-aligned to the learning objectives. Enjoy!

Course

This is a training module at an English language school. Due to COVID-19, all face to face classes have been moved to online classes and all instructors must take a mandatory training to transition to an online classroom. This module, named “How to Plan an Online Class” guides teachers on transitioning their current teaching methods to an online class. Face to face classes were 3 hours long but the online classes have 1.5 hours of face time with the teacher in addition to 30-45 minute pre and post tasks done before and after class. To qualify to teach online, teachers must be able to demonstrate their ability to plan an online class and navigate the online learning platform.

Learners

The 45 instructors come from a wide range of ages, computer literacy, teaching experience, and teaching styles.

  • Teachers range in age from mid 20s to mid 60s. Generally, the younger teachers have less teaching experience compared to the older teachers.
  • The younger teachers tend to be more computer literate than the older teachers. This is evidenced in their instruction techniques. Younger teachers tend to make use of technology and optimize their interactive white board use. Older teachers tend to use less technology, rely on hand outs, and only use the interactive white board as a regular white board.
  • About 85% of the teachers have their own laptop, internet, microphone, and headphones and know how to use them. The remainder have acquired the tools but are not comfortable and haven’t been trained to use them for teaching.
  • Some teachers have taught or tutored online but majority have not.
  • Prior to this course, none of the teachers have used Microsoft Teams and this is the learning platform the language school has chosen to use.

Learning Objectives

The objective of this training module is to assess the instructors’ abilities to do the following:

  • Develop a detailed online lesson plan for a 90-minute face time lesson. This includes the learning objective, timing, interactions, materials/tools, and anticipated problems and solutions.
  • Assign relevant pre and post tasks that take 30-45 minutes each.
  • Evaluate available tools for creating an online lesson and choose what is best suited to achieving learning outcomes.

Assessment Strategy (the instructions for the students)

After completing the online training module for “How to Plan an Online Class”, plan and create a 90-minute face time lesson plan with a 45-minute pre-task and a 45-minute post-task for your assigned class level. You can choose to use a PowerPoint or share your screen during a lesson. You may also, and are encouraged to, consider utilizing web resources and activities, depending on your comfort level and the desired learning outcomes.

Submit the lesson plan to the Director of Studies for review and feedback. Review and feedback will be given based on the checklist.
Checklist for Assessment

Use the following template for your lesson planning and be sure to fill in all areas.
Lesson Plan Template

To qualify for online teaching, your lesson plan must satisfy all requirements on the Assessment Checklist. You may submit multiple times if required.

Rationale

This is a training module for instructors who wish to teach online. It’s a combination of formal and informal assessment. It’s formal in that teachers must meet expectations as set out by the company. It’s informal in that teachers can submit their lesson plan, as many times as required, for the purpose of feedback and improving. This aspect is key as the teachers have differing comfort levels and computer literacy but everyone has the desire to continue teaching. This assessment strategy provides support and time for teachers that lack computer literacy and may need more guidance and support while allowing those that are computer literate to complete their assessment quickly and move on to teaching. This assessment strategy also follows a coaching model allowing for continuous mentoring and feedback from the Director of Studies.

I believe that a detailed lesson plan is a good assessment tool as it assesses their ability to plan an online lesson and that is the objective of the training module. It allows them to combine all the knowledge they learned throughout the module and produce something cohesive. By producing a lesson plan, it’s authentic because it reflects the work instructors must do on a weekly basis. Holder (2012) also states that authentic assessment will help improve retention and problem-solving skills. Improving retention is important because online teaching is new and unfamiliar territory.

This assessment also meets most of the criteria that Huba and Freed (1999) set out as characteristics of exemplar assessments. This assessment is:

  • Authentic as described in the above paragraph.
  • Challenging because it stimulates the instructors to apply their new training into developing an online lesson.
  • Coherent as it guides the instructors to achieve the goal of being able to competently teach online.
  • Engaging because amidst COVID-19, all teachers are motivated to keep their jobs and continue teaching and this is how they can achieve that goal.
  • Responsive as the assessment includes a checklist as a feedback mechanism.
  • Valid as it provides useful information to help instructors meet the intended learning outcome of being able to plan an online lesson.

I chose a checklist as I’m looking for a minimum competency level and this is simpler than a rubric with only 2 levels. The checklist functions like a rubric in that it communicates criteria and expected outcomes. The choice of “not yet” is in attempt to create and encourage a growth mindset, as mentioned by Carol Dweck in her Stanford Alumni (2014) talk. There is also a comment section for the Director of Studies to give more personalized feedback if necessary.

As stated by Sewell, Frith, and Colvin (2010), a rubric communicates the expectations and the checklist communicates to the teachers what constitutes meeting expectations. For the Director of Studies that will review the lesson plans, providing a checklist ensures fair and timely feedback. The checklist also allows for peer review if teachers desire further feedback. The Berkley Center for Teaching and Learning (n.d.) further explains that a checklist ensures consistency and allows for the identification of strengths and weaknesses with the goal to improve.

Bibliography

Berkeley Center For Teaching & learning. (n.d.). Rubrics. Retrieved from Berkeley Center for Teaching * Learning: https://teaching.berkeley.edu/resources/assessment-and-evaluation/design-assessment/rubrics

Holder, L. (2012, November 11). How To Design Assessments That Promote The Learning Process. Retrieved from eLearning Industry: https://elearningindustry.com/design-assessments-promote-learning-process

Huba, M. E., & Freed, J. E. (1999). Learner-centered assessment on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning. Needham Heights: MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Sewell, J. P., Frith, K. H., & Colvin, M. M. (2010). Online Assessment Strategies: A Primer. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(1), 297-305.

Stanford Alumni. (2014, October 9). Developing a Growth Mindset with Carol Dweck [Video].  YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=hiiEeMN7vbQ&feature=emb_title

5 Ways to Increase Teaching Presence in Online Courses

I recently finished a research paper titled Developing Learning Community in Online Asynchronous College Courses: The Role of Teaching Presence  written by Peter Shea, Chun Sau Li, Karen Swan, and Alexandra Pickett. It got me thinking about how I will ensure my teaching presence in my future online courses because the research shows that students are more satisfied with their learning and perceive they learned more when the instructor demonstrates many teaching presence behaviours.

I’ve given it some thought and here’s what I would do:

  1. Start by setting behavioural expectations (netiquette) to ensure it is a safe learning space. If possible, I’d like to present students with what is considered proper netiquette and then have them discuss and come to a consensus on what behaviours they agree on. This way, students will also feel like they’re in control of this aspect and I’m not simply enforcing it upon them. Throughout the course, I would keep referring back to the agreed upon behavioural expectations and enforce it when necessary.
  2. I would utilize the learning management system to monitor completion and participation activity in discussion forums. If I noticed that a student wasn’t contributing to discussion or completing necessary activities, I would reach out to them and ask if they’ve been having issues or why assignments haven’t been completed. I’d make sure to approach the student kindly and not from an annoyed teacher kind of way.
  3. I would get to know my learners and their backgrounds so that when I give examples, I can connect it to their real life and help them think about their personal applications.
  4. I would be active on discussion forums to help guide students and help them think about the issue at hand.  I may pose guiding questions or play the devil’s advocate to help students think more deeply.
  5. Instead of using the discussion forum in the learning management system, I may take students over to an application like Slack for more real time and use friendly discussions. It wouldn’t require students to sign into their learning management system, find the forums tab, and then find the discussion thread. Slack would streamline the process and it allows students to receive notifications on their mobile device when a discussion is starting. Steven Michels shared how he used it for one of his classes, on a Teaching in Higher Ed podcast, and I think it’s brilliant.

How do you increase and maintain your teaching presence in an online course? I’m still a noob to all of this so I’d love to hear what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you!