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#57: How to Prepare Your Online Classroom for a Successful Session

#57: How to Prepare Your Online Classroom for a Successful Session

This content first appeared on APUEDGE.COM.

Teaching online classes requires a substantial amount of advanced preparation. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares ways teachers can prepare before a class so they can focus on teaching, engaging with students, and meeting their own teaching goals. Learn tips on writing the syllabus, outlining weekly assignments in advance, preparing for forum discussions, and assessing grading tools all before the class starts to make sure online educators have time and energy to dedicate to students.

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. I’m very happy that you’re with us today, this 57th episode, we’re just slightly into our second year here. We’ve just finished a three-episode series on Work-Life Balance:

And in those three episodes, we discussed a few strategies to help you manage your workload, set boundaries and try some efficiency strategies to help you out.

Now with episode number 57 here, we are jumping into the preparation of your online classroom. As you know, managing your time and setting boundaries while you’re teaching online are absolutely essential for job satisfaction and effective teaching. This is going to free you up to meet your students’ needs while you’re teaching your online course.

If you are actually preparing things while you’re teaching them, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time getting things ready while you should be spending that time interacting with students and grading things.

And if you do all of those things at once, that time’s really going to add up and it’s going to be exhausting for you. So I’m here because I’d like to protect your time and your energy and help you really enjoy your online teaching. Online education can be fun, satisfying, rewarding, and a rich experience for both you and your students. So let’s get started talking about how to prepare your online classroom for teaching.

Ensure Syllabus Includes Course Objectives, Policies

Beginning with step one, let’s look at your course objectives. You’ve probably have some kind of course description and some course objectives. If you don’t have these and you actually have to create them, that’s a great place to start.

Think about what your students should be able to demonstrate. They should be able to know at the end of the course. As you look at these kinds of objectives that you set for your students, this can also frame how you approach your teaching. You’ll be able to look at the big picture of really what should be accomplished in this class. What your priorities are, subject matter wise.

As you prepare your classroom, the first place to begin looking at these course objectives and communicating this out to students is in your course syllabus. Your course syllabus is the final word on everything happening in the course. Generally you’ll have your course description and course objectives in that syllabus. You’ll also have some general policies about whether or not you accept late work, how long students have to submit something, whether they can revise and resubmit assignments, and other types of communication policies.

I highly recommend setting up your communication policies in advance so that students know exactly what to expect from you. You can also set up a friendly and welcoming course announcement for the first week of class and to welcome students to the entire course. And another course announcement to introduce them to the first week of the class and let them know what to expect as they move forward.

In these announcements, I encourage you to be as positive as you possibly can be while also being clear and direct. Students appreciate knowing what your policies are and how you operate in the classroom. This is especially important if students are taking classes from more than one instructor at a time. If you’re in a university setting and they have many classes with many instructors, chances are each one of you has different policies that vary slightly on accepting late work, revising assignments, and how to communicate with the instructor.

If you can make your policies, especially clear and plain, and easy to locate in the classroom, as well as in the syllabus, students will benefit. This will help you out as the instructor, because it will prevent future problems when students are frustrated and they’re not sure who to turn to. Likewise, it can prevent student complaints because students know exactly who to contact and when.

If you’re also responsive once the course begins by replying quickly and with clear and helpful information, your students will learn to trust you. And they will be able to have a positive learning experience with you and ask questions along the way.

Prepare Weekly Announcements with Timely Updates

After you have a clear and established syllabus, I do recommend going to the announcement section and generally preparing announcements for each week of the class you’re going to teach. If you have these prepared in advance and saved in some kind of draft area, then you can finalize them each week by adding timely reminders and specific information for the group of students you’re working with this time around.

As you add the information and the guidance, you can publish them on demand, or you can schedule them ahead of time to just roll out one at a time each week. Whatever your preference, planning your approach will help you also manage your time throughout the teaching of the course.

Schedule Information to Publish at Specific Times in the Course

The next area I suggest thinking about while you’re preparing your online classroom is which parts of the course should be visible and accessible to your students immediately from the first day of class and which parts of the course you would like to be hidden and reveal themselves over time.

In some institutions, there are policies in place that govern the rollout of different weeks’ worth of materials. For example, at the university I work with and teach with, we prefer to have information available to students early in the course, so they can look ahead and plan their work. If your institution has a policy where you can roll these out, then you may wish to go through the lessons, the assignments, and the forums, and any other areas you have in the course, and set those to automatically release a little bit before the week will begin so students can see them and know exactly what they’re aiming for.

Create Guidance Assets for Assignments in Advance

Any kind of guidance assets that you would like to create to help students with tricky parts of an assignment, difficult concepts in a lesson or other helpful tips, it’s nice if you can spend the time ahead of the course starting to create those assets. If you are spending time during the course teaching to create the assets, you can find yourself, spinning your wheels and getting stuck and really feeling a lot of pressure when you’re trying to develop things and teach at the same time.

I suggest going through your assignment section and reading the description for the assignments that you have as if you are a student with little experience in the subject matter. Take a look at the instructions and ask yourself if they are clear and describe the content that should be included in the assignment, the tasks that students are to do, what format they should submit it with. For example, whether it’s a PowerPoint, a Word document, a video or something else.

And also how they can ask questions if they are unsure of what’s due. You might also consider creating and attaching sample assignments and any grading rubrics that you have before the course begins. Whenever you can provide this kind of information upfront before the course starts, then your classroom itself is prepared and ready to go. And students can navigate throughout that classroom and see what they should prepare for and where they’re going to need to spend their time.

Assess Your Own Strengths, Weaknesses and Priorities as an Educator

As you think about preparing your course before the first day of the session, ask yourself: What are your personal challenges teaching online? Each of us has our own strengths as an educator and likewise, we each have our weaknesses. What are your weaker areas that you can anticipate? How would you like to plan ahead to try to strengthen some of those weaker areas?

For example, if you’re a very fast grader, but you tend to grade with minimal comments and not a lot of content related feedback, maybe this session you want to focus on adding more content-related feedback and setting aside the time to do that. If you like to be really explaining a lot of information in your responses to students and you find that you’re spending too much time explaining these things, maybe in this coming session, you’d like to be a little more precise and brief so you’re not spending as much time writing those responses.

Whatever your strengths are, you can plan ahead to emphasize those strengths and also to bolster at least one weak area in the coming course start. What takes most of your time and effort when you’re teaching an online course? And does the area you’re spending the most time, reflect your personal priorities and teaching?

Several times in this Online Teaching Lounge podcast, we have discussed your values and your priorities as an educator. We each come at teaching with our own perspectives and our own approach. If you’re unsure of your perspective, you can consult the teaching perspectives inventory for some idea about the agenda you personally have when you’re teaching other people.

As you think about your agenda and where you’re really spending all of your time in teaching, you might decide to shift your priorities or change the way you spend your time slightly to meet more of your teaching priorities and ensure that you’re able to suit your own values and the reason you’re in this teaching profession in the first place. So think about where you really want to focus your efforts this time when you’re teaching this class.

And also what strategies do you already use to manage your online teaching tasks? Are there any strategies or tools that could support your work and improve your efficiency for teaching while you’re going through the weeks of the course that’s about to start? And how will you know if you are achieving a satisfying level of work-life balance while you’re teaching online this session that suits your own needs and your teaching and learning priorities?

Incorporate Your Teaching Goals into Your Planning

Think about some of these areas before the course begins so that you can set at least one goal to focus on. Many times if you have a goal for your own teaching, it can help you focus the entire experience for yourself as an educator. And you’ll find a lot more satisfaction in connecting with your students as you think about that one area.

Again, as we think about preparing your classroom, remember what your own priority is as an educator. For example, if you really want to mentor students in the subject matter, you’ll want to find ways to plan ahead before the course begins to provide that kind of mentoring experience. Maybe you’d like to offer some live office hours and record them to share with students later who could not attend. Or maybe you’d really like to promote students being self-starters and self-reliant. Perhaps there are some things you’d like to share in course announcements about those topics.

Plan for Course Extensions

Also plan ahead for course extensions. It’s very possible that you might have one or more students that have interruptions while they’re taking your course. If your institution or a university or school have an extension policy in place, you might have one or more students ask for the extra time when the session has completely ended.

How will you handle course extensions? Do you have an approval policy that helps you decide when to accept an extension and when to deny it. Think about what you might say to students in the middle of the course and continue encouraging them to help them stay the course and be resilient as they get through the class and submit the work as timely as possible. The more you can support your students along the way, the more you can help them end on time. And the fewer extension requests you’re likely have.

If you reach out to students who are falling behind, likely you can provide some encouragement needed. I’ve had more than one student tell me that when I’ve reached out to them, they were considering dropping the class, or they felt like they were too far behind to ever catch up. But my encouragement helped them to keep going and made them realize that they really could succeed in the class.

If you don’t hear back from a student within a few days, you might consider reaching out to support from whatever advising department or student services department your institution has. And these people may be able to help you during the course when you have a missing student or a non-responsive student.

Prepare Plans for Forum Discussions

As you’re preparing to teach on the first day, and you’re thinking about how you will engage in discussions with your students, especially if you’re teaching an online asynchronous class, think about those discussion forums as if they are the live conversation you might have in a face-to-face traditional class. I’d like to suggest that you consider what you can share with students about the subject matter, that they cannot learn from any other instructor.

For example, you yourself have your own knowledge, expertise, guiding questions, and illustrative examples throughout anything you might share that can build understanding and promote critical thinking in your students.

These things are unique to you, even if you and I were teaching the same exact subject matter and had expertise in the same area, we certainly wouldn’t share the exact same kinds of comments in the discussion. We’re each different people. So think about what you uniquely can share and what you have to offer and be sure to plan ahead so you have the time that you need to write those kinds of discussion posts, and really engage with students once the class begins.

When you’re managing your teaching throughout the course, always set aside time for those forum discussions. One strategy I like to suggest when we’re thinking about planning ahead, how to engage in the forum discussions as the faculty member or the instructor. I like to suggest posting something very early in the week so there’s sort of a greeting to the discussion. It’s almost like shaking your students’ hands as they enter the room, the virtual room, you might say. And you might consider this a way of leading, moderating, or facilitating that discussion and dialogue.

And then throughout the discussion, engage with many of your students, respond to what they’ve said, refer to other students’ comments, bring in current events, links, YouTube videos, anything that seems to help that discussion become more rich. And then at the end of the week, it’s also a great practice to plan ahead to have some kind of summary that culminates the week’s discussion and ties together some of the things that came out in that dialogue.

I also like to call this a wrap-up post. So this approach to a beginning, middle and end of your discussion each week helps to frame that discussion. It also established a really good teaching presence that students can rely on throughout the course. They really get a sense of who you are and also the guiding hand that you have in teaching them that subject matter.

It’s very difficult in asynchronous, online education for students to get a sense of who you are. So the more you can plan ahead before the class even begins to share those parts of you with your students over each week, the more you’re going to build relationships, build rapport, and also create the trusting environment that they need to feel like succeeding, and really keep working through the content with you.

Consider Grading Tools

The last area I want to suggest thinking about as you prepare your online classroom before the session begins is how you will grade students’ work once it starts coming in. If you can plan ahead for your grading activities, you can schedule time on your calendar to keep your grading under control. And you can give information students need before the assignments are even due, to help coach them on those assignments and improve their performance ahead of time.

When you don’t have a plan for your grading, it can easily take over your online teaching job. It can also start to take almost all of your time and pretty soon you’ll be behind with your grading before you even realize it. Think about how you could use rubrics to make your students aware of what you’re going to be grading. You can also use the rubrics while you’re doing the grading and mark them and return them to your students.

Think about some other efficiency tools that could help you provide detailed grading feedback in a short period of time. You might want to take a little bit of time exploring these tools before the class begins. For example, you can download an essay in Microsoft Word and use track changes and reviewers comment bubbles to put comments right on the essay. And then you can upload it back in the classroom to the student.

If you do this, I often recommend using a PDF file as the upload. So instead of the Word version, save it as a PDF. So students can see the in-text comments and the reviewers comments exactly where they are, and you don’t have any problem with them viewing them.

If your institution has something like turnitin.com as an originality checking service, there’s a Grade Mark feature in there where you can actually grade student’s written work through that interface. You can type comments directly on the assignment, and you can also put either a recorded voice comment or a summary text comment. All you need to do if you’re using Turnitin is to direct your students to that location so they can find your feedback.

One more tool I love to share with people is called Grade Assist and Grade Assist is a toolbar that you can purchase an add into your Microsoft Word. And then as you’re looking at an essay, you can just click on the different comments to add them appropriately to different places.

And you can also create your own comments. It’s definitely worth your time to think about what kinds of tools you’ll use to do your grading in advance, because once you’re in the heat of the moment and you need to turn around a lot of grading pretty fast, it’s difficult to explore the tools and figure out how to use them. So explore them, check them out and see if you find something that really works for you.

Today, we’ve gone through a lot of tips and strategies to help you prepare for your next session, teaching online. And I hope this will give you some foundation for success and a lot of confidence moving forward, especially in the preventative areas where you can meet your students’ needs ahead of time and give yourself a lot more time and space to enjoy teaching the class successfully.

Thank you again for being here and the Online Teaching Lounge and joining me for the tips and strategies today. Best wishes to you this coming week in your online teaching. This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast, to share comments and requests for future episodes please visit BethanieHansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#55: Work-Life Balance (Part 2 of 3): Creating Guidance Assets

#55: Work-Life Balance (Part 2 of 3): Creating Guidance Assets

This content was first provided at APUEdge.com. 

Online educators often get overwhelmed by the endless tasks they need to complete like answering students’ questions, posting announcements, grading papers, and engaging in forum discussions. In this episode, APU Faculty Director Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks about the benefits of creating guidance assets to help students self-manage and set expectations, while also helping online teachers manage their high workload. Learn about creating guidance assets like screencasts, video introductions, course announcements, netiquette guides, example assignments and more.

Listen to the Episode:

 

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. I’m Dr. Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’m pleased to be with you today. Thank you for joining me to talk about work-life balance. This is particularly important because we’re talking about a profession in which we have a lot of work, unlimited possibilities electronically, and often high expectations.

There are growing numbers of online tools that we can look at. We can engage through text, audio, video, multimedia components, apps, you name it. And of course, there’s the learning management system, which can be attractive and overwhelming.

Any way you look at it, teaching online can be a very involved endeavor. So if you’re working online or teaching online right now, chances are that you have considered your work-life balance, and how to keep all of this under control.

As you think about online institutions, moving online, or you teaching online particularly, we think a lot about whether you’re creating the course, or it’s a standardized course you’re going to teach, that somebody else wrote. This can make a huge difference.

If you’re having to create the course, you have a lot of work ahead of you, and it’s best to do that work before you start teaching it. If you’re teaching and creating it at the same time, because maybe you’re in an emergency transition period, you don’t have a choice. You have to figure out how to manage that workload, and keep it efficient and moving forward.

Now, either way, we want quality in the delivery of the course, but we also want to connect with students. The best way to have a good experience teaching online is to have students who want to learn online, and who want to be there with you. You can experience a really high level of intensification.

This is a chronic sense of work overload, over time, and this idea of de-skilling, which is reducing the quality of your instruction into separate steps like grading, posting things, et cetera. And these can feel unrelated to the big picture of teaching your students. Either one of these situations can lead to burnout and poor work-life balance very quickly.

As you’re thinking about all the tasks that you have to do as online educator, I want to help you out today, in giving you strategies to increase quality of life, and work-life balance overall. We want to give you the strength to get through high levels of work, and also meet your students where they’re at, so they enjoy learning from you.

Today, I hope these strategies will encourage you, and help you to better manage your students’ needs, and also give you more abilities to set boundaries that will enhance your focus. When you try out what we’re going to talk about today, you might actually need to stretch outside your comfort zone just a little, and try something new, in order to be more efficient or more effective.

But if you’re willing to do these things and just give them a try, I think they’ll help you whittle things down into a more manageable task and more manageable workload overall. And I think you’ll find that they’re worth the effort, as you go through your career goals, and the goals you have for teaching this particular class that you’re teaching right now.

Let’s look at your increased level of work-life balance by doing one thing as a high priority item. And that one thing today is producing assets that guide students in self-management.

Assets to Help Students with Self-Management

When you think about the most important and most pressing things you do as an online educator, this probably is not at the top of your list. For some of you, I know you think about preventative steps you can take early on to help students with their success.

But a lot of times, we’re putting out fires when we’re teaching online. We’re getting messages, we’re getting questions, we have a lot of engagement we need to follow-up on, and we need to grade things. And we need to do all of this in a pretty timely manner.

That can feel like we’re just running from one task to the next, doing that de-skilling I mentioned before. Thinking about creating things that are a bigger picture, that are going to prevent things in the future, might feel like it’s really out of our reach, because we are just putting out those fires every day.

If you create these guidance assets to help your students navigate around your classroom and know the communication expectations, it’s going to add a whole lot to lowering your stress and helping you manage your workload.

How Can You Proactively Address Student Questions All At Once?

Think about how you can anticipate the needs and proactively address questions that your students have. You can minimize the individual guidance you might have to give every single student once the course starts by giving these strategies to all of the students upfront, before the challenges ever hit.

There was a study in which it was suggested that adults will rise or sink to the level of responsibility we expect of them, a key premise of andragogy, and the assumptions we have about adult learners.

If you use strategies that support your students’ learning, and also give them ways to become self-sufficient, we call this self-efficacy, when they’re doing it, this is going to help you engage your students better, while you allow yourself to balance your tasks and your time more effectively.

There was a suggestion in another study about workload reduction. It starts with anticipating and proactively addressing what your learners’ questions are and what their problem areas might be.

So think about the class you’re currently teaching, and if you were to just start right now, looking forward to the coming tasks that are going to face your students in the coming days and weeks, what kind of methods might you use to give them a heads up about the challenges?

Maybe you’ll send an announcement, at the very least, that tells them what to expect, what to anticipate. Some instructors create sample assignments, just to show what the formatting might look like, or how things will develop from the beginning of the assignment throughout the submission.

If you store copies of announcements and guidance assets you’re going to create, and repeatedly use these things, you’ll want to revise them and update them over time to save you some development time in the future by reusing them, but also keeping them current. If you’re teaching the same course over and over, creating this kind of asset is really going to help you to have the tools at your disposal without having to reinvent them every single time.

If we look at andragogy theory, the theory of teaching adults, this suggests that adult learners are self-directed. They’re going to get greater autonomy as they’re going through the educational experience with you, and with everyone else they’re interacting with.

Because of this, your adult learners are not as interested in being told what to learn. They’re much more interested in having a meaningful influence in the process of learning, all by itself.

When you give them assets that establish your teaching presence and your social presence, and your cognitive presence, from the community of inquiry, you can actually give them some boundaries for you as the instructor, and you can set up these boundaries for yourself. And at the same time, you’re supporting your students in meaningful learning, and helping them be self-directed in what they’re learning, and how they’re learning it.

You can increase your efficiency and your time management when you develop these things in a way that they can be used again and again. I’m going to give you a couple of categories here that will help you take some steps in producing assets that will guide your students to manage themselves, as they’re working in your class.

Prepare Student Guidance Assets

The first area is to prepare student guidance. I’m calling these assets, because they might be documents, they might be videos, but they’re tangible things that you’re going to use and reuse with your students, and continue to improve. When you teach online, this is going to require you to take the role of a mentor, and a coach a little bit more than the traditional lecturer role that some people associate with higher education.

If you’re used to being the lecturer, where you present things to students in a live situation, and now you’ve moved online to where that’s maybe recorded, and you have to do some other things, this can really be a helpful way to branch out.

Preparing student guidance could be something like a brief video, a netiquette guide, a video guide, some kind of document to help students work through their experience with you.

Communication problems happen a lot online, but they can be prevented entirely, if you tell students how you want them to engage in the class and in the discussion forums, from the very beginning. Students really like to know what your standards are, and they like to be able to review the materials you give them as needed.

You can make the brief video or screencast with some narration, where you’re talking on that video, to guide students into different areas of your classroom. The video might be a walkthrough of how to engage in your class, showing them the different places they need to be, like the tab for the assignments, the tab for submitting things, checking their grades, reading the lessons, accessing any lecture that might be there.

You can also use a netiquette guide to guide them in a way that provides the proper tone for the online class, and some expectations you have, before they ever post in that first week’s discussion. Again, this is going to give your students the opportunity to self-regulate, because they know your expectations.

Any of these videos, tips, or other guidance assets can lead your students into really great participation, and these assets can be used as a reference later, if students fail to comply, or don’t meet your expectations. If you need to redirect them, you can offer them another copy of the netiquette guide, or the video guide that you created, and remind them of what matters in that classroom.

Create Video Assets

Now creating video guides doesn’t have to be a challenging process. There are a lot of things out there you can use. You could create a short video using whatever tool exists in your learning management system. A lot of LMSs have video recorders built in. If you don’t have one, you can look up Screencastify or Screencast-O-Matic. Both of these are excellent ways to record the screen while you’re talking.

If you’re really nervous about putting your voice or yourself on the screen, but you know your students want to connect with you, you can also create slides. There are even ways where you can type a transcript, and something can automate a voice that reads it for you.

It’s best to include your own voice, if you can, and your face students who see you feel almost automatic trust for you at a level that is totally different than when they just read your words. When you guide them through the class and help establish your instructor identity, this also builds the trust that helps them endure and persist throughout the class, when they hit hard times.

When misunderstandings happen, students complain a lot less, because they feel comfortable asking questions and reaching out to you. Think about the free options, Screencastify and Screencast-O-Matic. If you want to buy something, there is Camtasia, there’s also Snagit available, both of which are excellent at recording your screen, and allow you to narrate at the same time.

Create a Netiquette Guide

Talking about the netiquette guide, before the class begins, a netiquette guide can give clear expectations about in-class communication that you want students to use. This was something that Dr. Craig Bogar mentioned in Episode 53 of this podcast, and we’re going to hit back on this topic now.

If there are specific forum discussions or assignments that you prefer submitted in a certain format, you can always post a model and explain it, and also talk about the kind of language to be used. Netiquette can apply to the discussion forums, but it can also apply to the way they use academic language in assignments.

Provide Students with a Model Assignment to Reference

You might consider giving a model assignment to illustrate this, and attaching it to the assignment description. You can give examples and guidance as part of your routine teaching, to prep people for submitting the work.

And also, if you find that there’s a concept that people are not understanding when they’re in your class, you can always create a short video discussing it and talking about how it applies.

If you’d like a sample netiquette guide, you’re welcome to click the link in the podcast notes, and you can access a sample guide that I created and used for quite some time in my online teaching. And you’re welcome to use it.

Prepare Announcements in Advance

Another step you might consider is to prepare announcements in advance. When you do this, you’re going to have something ready to go for each week. You can, of course, tailor it as the course progresses.

Something is going to come up that you’re going to realize needs to be added to these announcements. Maybe it’s a current event, or a suggestion based on something a student has said. Being adaptable and flexible is really important, because online learning can sometimes feel like we’ve structured it so well, that it’s not flexible.

If you can be flexible with your announcements, then you can adapt them throughout the time you’re teaching. But developing them in advance of the course is a great way to keep your workload light. If you keep the content of these announcements for specific dates in the future, but don’t put dates on them, they might be appropriate for the next time you teach the course. Again, you’ll want to personalize and modify things, to make sure that they still meet the needs of that course you’re going to teach in the future, and those students that you’re working with at that time.

Depending on your learning management system, you might even be able to set all of your announcements up to auto open on the first day of each week, without having to manually do this every week. If you created tools to guide your students through the assignments, or to help them navigate your classroom, you can also set these up in the announcements area, to publish automatically as well.

These things are going to help you build a positive academic atmosphere, and set the tone in your online classroom. All of this work done in advance sets you up for success, and helps your students feel safe, because they’re guided by a teaching presence who is really connecting with them, and helping them in every way possible.

When you set this positive tone in your online class, and include elements in your course announcements that are friendly and personable, these also build connections with students, whether you’re aware of it or not, and this reassurance helps students feel like their questions will be answered whenever they have them. Generic announcements, really, depersonalize the experience, so try to avoid making them look super generic or leaving off your personal commentary.

Lastly, anything that’s working for you, like guidance assets you might create, screencasts, video introductions of you, course announcements, a netiquette guide, and example assignments, as you review these and keep them updated for the next time you teach the course, you can store these and repeatedly use them, and personalize them each time you return to the teaching.

Tips for Saving and Storing Assets for Future Use

Saving and storing materials you’ve developed will really save you time. This is a huge investment. Creating assets for your students takes a lot of work, and a lot of time. If you don’t have a place to store repeated announcements or forum posts that you would like to reuse, like your introductory or wrap-up posts, you might consider an online storage site.

There’s one called FacultyFiles, and it’s a free resource that allows you to set up course materials storage areas, separate it by class week and the type of the class, set up how many weeks the class is and put these things in the weeks that you’re going to use them, and just use that as a repository for keeping track of your grading rubrics, your forum posts that are somewhat standard, your announcements, and other things you might repeatedly use.

Using some kind of online storage like this one is especially helpful if you have gaps between teaching the course and the next time you teach it, so you can just keep these resources organized and ready.

In closing, I hope that you have gained some tips today for producing assets that are going to guide your students and help them manage themselves. The workload can be very high in online teaching, but when you create these kinds of important guidance pieces for your students, you’ll save yourself a lot of time in the long term as you’re teaching the course.

Your students can be more self-directed, which satisfies them in their learning much more. You can focus instead on the teaching that you enjoy most, and also engaging with your students.

Thank you for being here for part two of our work-life balance, setting priorities series, episode 55 today. Come back next week for episode 56. We will talk about effective management strategies to round out your work-life balance nicely. Best wishes to you in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit BethanieHansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week and your online teaching journey.

#54: Work Life Balance (Part 1 of 3): Engaging With Students First

#54: Work Life Balance (Part 1 of 3): Engaging With Students First

This content initially appeared on APUEDGE.COM.

Teaching online can be overwhelming and cause a significant amount of work-related stress. In the first part of this three-part series, Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses teaching strategies to help online educators prioritize their time by engaging students first. Learn about using a Community of Inquiry framework, keeping written notes about students and your interaction with them, and the benefits of using backwards mapping to ensure you’re meeting objectives and connecting regularly with students.

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Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the episode today for the Online Teaching Lounge. We’re in year two of this podcast, and it is very exciting to support you in your online teaching efforts. You’re not alone here. You might feel alone teaching online as it can be very isolating to do that, but we’re here for you and hopefully you’ll get some tools and strategies and encouragement by listening to this podcast today.

We’re at the beginning of a three-part mini-series. Today is part one. We’ll talk about work-life balance and how you can set priorities for your very top priority as an online educator. This will be about engaging with students first.

Next episode, we will talk about work-life balance in setting priorities to produce assets that can guide your students to manage themselves.

And lastly, also in work-life balance, we will talk about setting priorities to use time management strategies effectively, managing your workload.

These three areas are going to support you a lot in your work-life balance. As online educators, we know that we can teach any time anywhere, and it’s very easy for us to have the online classroom follow us to all places that we go and kind of pop into all places in our lives.

There’s been a lot of research done in online teaching, and even though it offers attractive flexibility for you as the instructor, all kinds of instructors out there report high teaching workloads, feeling isolated, having high stress levels, and having generally poor life-work balance.

There’s a lot of assumptions about online learners out there we can use to our advantage, especially when we’re working with adult learners, and those come from andragogy theory. There are also some frameworks that help us as online educators and we’re going to look at the community of inquiry framework to give us some practical application as we’re taking this tour in our three-part mini-series.

We can also look at some areas outside of online education, like the work-life balance theories. There’s been some research done in that area. And then lastly, we can think about the kinds of boundaries that would support your work and simultaneously allow you to focus on your student success as a priority. I personally believe that when you set boundaries in the online classroom and in your online teaching generally by prioritizing what matters most, developing assets to help your students guide themselves, and managing your time efficiently and carefully, you can have better definition to your work. And you can also focus your efforts, which means you’re going to do a better job as an online educator and you might even enjoy it a lot more. So here we go with part one, engaging with students first.

When we think about engaging with students first, there are some things about work-life balance for online employees that also apply to our online educators here. In some of the research done about working online, there was a little collection of strategies people were using to have good work-life balance.

Of course, there were some that were provided by the employers, but those were pretty few. The most successful strategies came from the employees themselves. These are called employee originated solutions. Now, employee originating solutions means that you have the locus of control. You’re the boss of what you do for these solutions, how much you use them and how you manage them. And the most popular employee originating solutions for online workers that were effective, were mindfulness strategies, self-reflection, and meditation. And these could be either prompted by the employer or just come up with by the employee themselves.

These are going to increase your mental and emotional presence in the online classroom and just working online generally. It’ll also increase your mental and emotional presence in your personal life and reduce the interference of work-related stress.

Now, when I say there’s interference from work-related stress, I mean we might be thinking about our online work when we’re not actually doing it. We might have emails pop up that stress us out because we think, “Oh, we have to go online right now.”

Chances are this has happened to you if you’ve worked online very long. It’s pervasive and we think because we can read those messages anytime, we should do it to keep our workload under control. But we don’t realize that when we’re doing those things, the stress is creeping in and we’re feeling all that stress all day long in our personal life too. Before you know it, we think we need to be working all the time throughout the day just to keep the workload manageable. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Really there are a lot of ways we can reduce that stress and create less pressure in our work life.

So thinking about this, we’re going to talk about connecting with our students first. This is going to be the top priority for us as online educators. And I’m going to share just a few tips with you today. Then I encourage you to come back next week for episode 55 when we will talk about producing assets that guide your students to manage themselves.

Understanding the Community of Inquiry Framework

Now let’s look at the framework that is really common or popular in online education, the Community of Inquiry framework. This framework gives us a practical model that we can use to design how we involve ourselves in the classroom. How we engage with our students.

The Community of Inquiry framework focuses on teaching, social, and cognitive presence as priorities. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. If you’re in higher education, it’s very likely that you have. Each of these presences within the COI model, the teaching, social, and cognitive presences, work together in an interrelated way. So they work together in ways where we often are meeting two or three presences all at once through our activities. And we’re going to support our students in their learning experiences by focusing in these areas even more precisely.

Social Presence

Social presence is about the way your learners can engage in a comfortable learning environment and feel supported and trust you as the educator and feel like they can collaborate with others in that environment.

Teaching Presence

Teaching presence is about your ability as the educator to design and facilitate the online class. So what you run and put announcements out there and guide them in their assignments and all of those things is part of your teaching presence.

Cognitive Presence

And lastly, cognitive presence is the way learners can construct new meaning through the process of learning. So that means they’re doing some things that draw the points together, connecting the dots, making even more connections to the subject matter. And you can promote that as an educator in a lot of different ways.

When you are designing and facilitating a course online and you’re thoughtful about connectedness to what the learners need and what they already know, you can use the CoI framework to plan what you’re going to do thinking about your social, teaching, and cognitive presence. This is going to give you a lot of space to prioritize what’s really important and make the best of your time spent in the online classroom.

Now, if you take a thoughtful approach like using a framework such as the CoI I’ve mentioned here, you can plan your activities around those key areas. If you don’t do that, it’s very easy to resort to a to-do list. Maybe we’ve got a to-do list of things to grade, things to post, comments to write, announcements to post.

And when we have that to-do list that’s just a checkbox approach, it’s really easy for us to lose track of the bigger picture, what we’re really trying to accomplish as the educator. The framework helps us to ground ourselves in the goal of connecting with our students, promoting the cognitive aspects of what we’re doing and also helping them get to know us as faculty or as instructors. So our first priority is to engage with the students first.

Engaging with Students First

There are some strategies that will help you engage with your students first. Some of these could be posting and replying early each day in the discussion. Of course reading messages and emails that your students send you early in the day will also help you to address any serious concerns that your students have. This is going to build trust. If you make weekly notes about your students and add some things that you’re figuring out about them, it will help you get to know them better.

You can also use a strategy called backwards mapping and use it to plan your workload. The workload’s pretty high when you’re teaching online. There’s a lot to read and write and grade and a lot of time to spend because when you’re not meeting face to face, you’re going to replace that with a lot of written work and other types of online interactivity. So there’s more to grade, more to do, more to read.

Because of this kind of workload, you want to decide where to start in your teaching tasks. This will help you avoid being overwhelmed and quickly burning out. When you engage with students first as your top priority, this is going to help you establish your teaching presence and your social presence. If you don’t have those two areas when you’re creating your course, when you’re engaging with students, it’s very difficult to bump things up to that next level of cognitive presence to help students adopt critical thinking and really be engaged in the underlying aim of all those educational activities that you’ve planned.

Consider Posting to the Classroom Every Morning

So you might consider starting the day with a post in the discussion forum for each class you’re teaching and responding to all the messages and emails. If you post early in any class you teach every work day, this means you’ve been responsive, you’ve got a presence that is regular, and you’re not going to forget to engage with your students. After all, the more you engage, the more you build relationships and you guide them by teaching them in that subject area.

Most of the institutions with online learning have some kind of expectations of you as the instructor. Maybe they want you to be in the classroom a certain number of days or in the discussion area a certain number of days. There might be some kind of guideline to that where you’re working now or where you’re teaching now.

In my own work, I’ve noticed that if students haven’t participated in the weekly discussion yet, I go in there and post an initial thread with some kind of encouragement to get started in the discussion. Maybe a current event that ties to the topic or something else of interest. This helps my students to just start getting into that discussion and readily engage in the dialogue. So we’ve got the academic community and it’s growing because I’ve created the starter and I’ve also helped them to see me and feel like I’m there helping them out.

This is true when my post asks them to reflect or apply the topic or connect to some kind of current event. These all satisfy andragogy theory and meet the needs of adult learners, and also they build cognitive presence.

Maintain Collection of “Starter” Threads and Written Notes about Students

Now, if you’re teaching the course repeatedly, you teach that same topic over and over again each time you teach this class, you might want to maintain a collection of well-developed starter threads that you can use every time students don’t appear to be engaged. So when you need to start a thread for the week, it’s nice when you’ve already researched one and you can kind of further tailor it for the class at hand and meet the needs of those students, but you’ve got something to start with.

Another tip to engage with your students first is to keep anecdotal records. When you post early each day and you build that priority of instructor presence and connecting with your students, you get to know your students as a priority. You’re applying andragogy throughout your teaching. And when you record notes, typically called anecdotal records, about your students, this will help you keep track of who they are. Especially if you’re teaching a lot of sections with a lot of students, it’s difficult to do this.

Some of them may not have a photo online and it’s difficult to get to know them or associate their name with their work. Keeping a written record of your students and things that you’re learning about them and also who you’ve replied to each week can help you to manage the touch that you want to have with each student effectively.

Your notes might include something like where the students are living, their backgrounds and interests, maybe their academic major, whether they’re in the military or working, whether they’re new parents, and any other pertinent details that you noticed that you care about.

If you write those details down, you can be sensitive in your responses. And when they reach out for extra help, you also have some level of context around who they are and what their situation in life is. Knowing their backgrounds can help you also remember that you’re working with real human beings, not just some names that show up online. This can help you to understand their problems and also their challenges when they reach out to you for special help. They are real. They do care about learning from you and knowing them a little bit better will help you to approach them in a way that lets them know you care about them.

When you connect students’ experiences and backgrounds to what you say in the class, this helps even more to establish your social presence because it helps the students feel known and it also gives you that human element as you communicate with them.

Your weekly student contacts are a best practice because these give you the space to identify any students you haven’t connected with recently or touched in the online class, and you can also determine who has become inactive in the course. You can follow up and reach out to help students re-engage in the class.

Anecdotal records of your contacts with students will help you to vary who you reach out to, who you look for, and who you follow up with, and eventually you’re going to touch everyone and remember the students you’ve taught long after the class has ended.

You might even benefit from using a notepad like EndNote Online or maybe an Excel document where you kind of use a spreadsheet approach. You could put these notations about your students there to keep track of them and even begin with week one when they give you their introduction so you’re just getting to know them.

Whatever process you use, the main goal is to really establish a relationship and keep yourself focused. I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but I used to go to a dentist who would remember things about me when I hadn’t seen him in six months. I would sit down in that dentist chair, I believe I was 16 or 17 at the time, and he would ask me all about how school was going and different activities I was engaging in. At the time, I thought that man was a genius. Now that I’m older and I understand how those things are maintained, I realized that he was keeping anecdotal records so that he could follow up with me and build rapport. It’s difficult to work on someone’s teeth, as a dentist, if they’re afraid of you. But when you build rapport, trust is created and fear can reduce. That’s my estimation of what happened at the dentist, but it also happens in online education.

The more you convey that you know the student and you’re relating to them, and the more you connect socially by sharing your expertise and your thoughts about what’s going on as well, the more students build trust for you. They’re more than likely to reach out to you when they do have concerns instead of just dropping the class or disappearing and disengaging.

Backwards Mapping Techniques

The last area I want to share with you in this priority of connecting or engaging with your students first is to practice backwards mapping. Now, you might’ve heard this term before. Backwards mapping is something that Wiggins and McTighe came up with in a curriculum design process. The goal is that you’re going to look at what you want to achieve at the end of a class, you create this big picture view of the goals, and then you break them down into smaller tasks that need to be planned ahead of time to reach the goals.

Public school teachers use this strategy a lot when they’re choosing learning goals for their students. And of course, as I just mentioned, plan the desired date, the goals to be achieved, and move backwards to decide when to start the project, when to start the lesson, and when the bigger benchmark measurements need to happen.

Backwards mapping is a great strategy that can be used in planning your online teaching engagement productively. So not only is it a curricular tool, it is also a good planning tool for your involvement and your time management.

You can use backwards mapping to ensure that the requirements or goals you have for yourself professionally as an educator are met on time. For example, let’s just say you’re teaching a class of 50 students. That would be a pretty large class. And if you’re teaching a class of 50 students and you need to respond to everyone at least once during the week, if you’re online for five days of that week, you’ll probably want to make sure you’re connecting with 10 students per day. If that works for you to spread it out that way, then you could backwards map in that way and then on the last day of the week, check in and see if you have met your goal.

You can reply, you can grade this way by backwards mapping your approach to grading as well. You can also backwards map different things like posting announcements, logging in, and doing other follow-up pieces of your online teaching.

Backwards mapping assignments to be graded can really help you anticipate how many documents you’re going to evaluate and how many you would need to evaluate each day to return the graded work in a pretty timely manner and with the expected grading quality that you’re wanting to return to them. Take a look at backwards mapping. It’s a great strategy to help you reduce the overwhelm of the teaching load that you might have when you’re teaching online.

So, in summary, your priorities would be to post in discussions every day, early in the day, as your first priority to connect with your students. So engage with students first. Reply to messages, emails, and students questions before any other task.

Take anecdotal notes about your students from week one forums and throughout the course as things come up. Track the students you’ve responded to or touched each week and then follow up with missing or disengaged students. You can also use these strategies as you’re engaging with students first.

The first one is to set time management priorities. You might use a checklist to ensure that there are things that must be done and that they get done. Plan time for each commitment that you have on a schedule or in some kind of a planner, and then backwards map your engagement and your grading.

When you do these things by setting priorities and following strategies that work for you, you’ll be able to have work-life balance because the work is getting done in a focused manner and at a quality that helps you really connect with students and make a difference in your online teaching.

I appreciate you being here today. Thank you for listening to part one in our work-life balance three-part mini-series. Come back next week and we’ll talk about producing assets that guide your students in self-management. And I look forward to seeing you then. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#53: Setting the Tone in the Online Classroom

#53: Setting the Tone in the Online Classroom

When teaching an online class, instructors must work hard to connect with students and set expectations for the course. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks to APU Faculty Director Dr. Craig Bogar about effectively communicating with students. Learn the benefits of publishing a welcome video so instructors can virtually introduce themselves to students in the beginning of the course. Also learn tips on conveying netiquette practices to students and why it’s so important for instructors to ask Socratic questions to enhance critical thinking and promote engagement of online students.

 

 

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Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. This is the first episode of our second year of this podcast, and you’re in for a real treat today. We’re going to be interviewing Dr. Craig Bogar from American Public University, and I’m really excited to have Craig with us today. Craig, welcome to the podcast. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, so listeners can get to know you and your connection to online education?

Dr. Craig Bogar: I sure can, Bethanie, and thanks for inviting me today. I’m super happy to be here. And I was a college athletic director at two universities some years ago, and I also coached swimming and track at those institutions, and I also worked as a college recreation and intramural director at one point. And after doing those things for a number of years, I decided to go back to school and get my doctorate, and at that time, I lived in Alabama, near the United States Sports Academy, and I was accepted into their hybrid program, which was on-ground and online.

Start a degree in Education at American Public University.

And once I completed my doctorate, opportunities started to arise and I began teaching online. And I also was serving as the Dean of Student Services at the Sports Academy for a few years, and had the opportunity to teach on-ground courses in both Thailand and the Kingdom of Bahrain while I was there.

I’ve been with American Public University , for the past nine years. I taught part-time online for three years, and then I got the position as Faculty Director for the School of Health Sciences, and that’s what I currently do for the institution. I still live in Alabama, but I live now on the Gulf Coast, right here in Gulf Shores. So it’s good to be with you.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: It’s wonderful to have you as well, Craig. Thank you for giving us a little bit of your background. Sounds like you’ve had some pretty well-rounded exciting experiences there. I’m curious, how would you have thought of being online long ago before this was really a mainstream thing to do, early in your career?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Wow. That is a great question, and the world as we know it, has changed exponentially in the past couple of decades, and it’s just so hard to conceive of the type of traditional education that we used to have and a number of us went through to get our bachelor’s degrees and onward.

But I think that the key for me, as I said, was being in a hybrid program for my doctoral program, where I got a taste of online instruction and online teaching, and just fell in love with it. And it offers so many different opportunities that one doesn’t necessarily get in the on-ground format, not the least of which is that it’s so much more convenient for students, especially the non-traditional student who may be in the workforce, and might have a family and children, and so forth.

Where years ago, as you recall, if people wanted to either finish a degree or maybe get an advanced degree, they were gone X number of nights a week after they left their job, and they rarely got to see their families, or have dinner with their families, and so forth.

Now with an asynchronous type of online program, as we know, people can do their coursework really anytime, any day. And with us having so many military students, especially in my program where close to 70% of them are with American Military University, they can be students overseas. So it’s really, as I said, it’s a new culture and a new world for many things, not the least of which is higher education.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Yeah. Fantastic. Thanks for that. A lot of our listeners have found themselves teaching online for the first time, and of course, we also have a lot of listeners who have taught online for quite a lengthy time, many in higher ed, and in also what you might consider public school ages, primary and secondary, so just to fill you in a little bit about our listeners.

And I know that you have a lot of best practices that you use in working online, but also in working with your faculty. So what is a best practice that you’d like to share with us today to help our listeners be even more effective in their online teaching?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Okay, well, I’ve got a few things in mind, but one thing I wanted to talk about was that we now require our instructors to post a welcome video that students see when they enter a given course. And one of the reasons we’re doing this, is because the welcome video is a great opportunity to provide a personal welcome to students, and of course, meet the university requirement now, but also to acquaint students with the essentials of a course.

And what I have found over the years that I try to communicate to my faculty, is that by the nature of online education, it is remote by nature, and we have to do our very best at what I call “touching” students in every possible way. It’s by greeting students by name when we see them in the course, when they respond in the course and such, and one of the ways, as I said, is this welcome video.

And in the welcome video, there are some things that I suggest, and I’ll just go through a few of them, is one is obviously to introduce yourself to your students and to welcome them, and if there’s a number of a course or description of the course name, to tell them that, and tell the students why the course is relevant to the program. What will this course do for you? I always refer my students to the syllabus, and to make sure they read that, because it includes course materials and learning objectives, and gives students a good blueprint for what they need to do each week in a given course.

I always explain my expectations for student participation. In other words, by what date do they have to make their initial post in the discussion forum each week? How many responses to their peers do I look for? I give them that information.

I tell the students what they can expect from me, and one of the key things in the online format is timely feedback from instructors. Here at APUS, we have a deadline for faculty grading, which is five days after a given week has ended, but I tell my students that, “Hey, this is the deadline, but I’m going to do better than that. You can get your feedback from me, you can get your grades from me before that deadline each week.” So I try to set the tone that I’m going to be doing my best to exceed expectations.

Also in this welcome video, I tell them what I expect as far as plagiarism, or not to commit plagiarism, and I expect them to follow the rules of netiquette. In other words, being courteous to their peers and also being courteous to me. Again, setting the tone, and I want a professional environment in the course, and I try to communicate that to students.

Also in the welcome video, I suggest that faculty mention the degrees they’ve earned, and give a concise description of their teaching experience or their relevant professional experience, because we want our students to know that, “Hey, we are qualified to teach these courses.” Students are very interested in knowing this, for obvious reasons. They want to make sure that the people who are teaching know their stuff. So in the welcome video, this is a great way in which we can give that information to students.

There’s some optional elements. You can tell the students in your welcome video where you’re from, where you live, the institutions that granted your degrees, maybe your hobbies, what do you like to do in your spare time, and any other personal information that you’d like to share.

But knowing that and hearing that, I also suggest that faculty stick to about three minutes for their welcome video. I know that for all those things that I mentioned, it may be a challenge, but after three minutes, I personally believe that we start to lose people’s focus and attention. So that’s just a ballpark estimate of how much time they should use.

I encourage faculty to write a script, and if you’re using a built-in camera, what I do is I position my script right at the top of that window or that monitor, so it doesn’t appear that I’m looking down and reading the whole time from a script.

It’s also good to be mindful of the setting and the background, and to look professional, and wear a solid color shirt or a blouse to make sure you contrast the background that students are seeing. You want to be about an arm’s length away from your camera. You want to not be overbearing in both your physical presence and your volume, so an arm’s length is good to know. And your lighting should be really in front of you, not behind you, so you don’t have shadowy recordings. Last of all, smile when you speak. That’s always something good to do.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Wow, Craig, you have given us so much detail and so much great information about these instructor welcome videos, everything from your own practice, to what you’re sharing with your faculty. And I can imagine that not all online faculty are super excited about creating a video to share with their students. So I’m curious, what do you do to help your faculty get in there and actually do this welcome video creation? What works for you?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Well, actually, I really have not had any problems or any complaints from faculty. I think the people that get into the teaching profession are already pretty versed in speaking to groups. I always am available to help folks, but I try to give our faculty as many resources as possible in my weekly communications with faculty, to let them know I’m here to assist them if they need any assistance. But, fortunately, just in our new learning management system, it’s very easy to make a recording. So knock on wood, we really haven’t had that kind of problem, per se.

I did want to go back, Bethanie, and talk a little bit about netiquette as well, and just something that I have experienced or observed over the years. And I go back to my statement before about setting the tone in the course is so important, and for people to be professional, both the instructor and the students towards each other. And I have had some faculty who have had students who have used improper or foul language in a discussion forum, and they’ve come to me and said, “Hey, what do I do about this?”

And where I’ve had an occasional problem in the past, I’ve told students that when I’ve observed that, I say, “Hey, that kind of language, number one, we want to be professional in the classroom,” but that kind of language, especially if it’s a guy to guy thing, I say, “Hey, that’s more appropriate for the locker room, but this is a public forum.

This is a place where we need to be professional. And what I’m going to do,” fill in the blank, “John, is I’m going to give you another chance to repost, to delete your post, and to post again and see if you can do a little better job in meeting my expectations.” And that has worked 100% of the time for me, and that’s the advice that I’ve given to faculty that have come to me for assistance, saying that, “Hey, we can handle these kinds of situations,” and especially for first-time online students, they may not realize that what they say, and they should, but not everybody realizes that this is an academic setting, and we can’t have improper language.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: That’s fantastic help, Craig, and I appreciate you mentioning netiquette as part of this setting the tone that you also would be doing with your instructor videos. We’re going to take a quick break for a message from our sponsor. Craig, thank you for sharing all that you’ve given us so far, your best practice of the instructor welcome video, and also you mentioned a few things about netiquette. I’m wondering, what do you really want listeners to take away from those kinds of practices?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Well, I think that what I’d like them to take away is that it’s so important to set a tone in an online course as to what you expect from students, and what students can expect from you. And one of the ways to do that is through one’s welcome video that, as I said, we post in the very first week of an online course, it’s what we call the discussion module.

And I use the term “to touch” students in the online format is so important because of the nature of remote learning, that we need to use students’ names, and to be as personable as possible with students.

I think about Dale Carnegie, going back many, many years ago, who was one of the top speakers in the country, motivational speakers, and he used to say that, “The sweetest and most important sound in our language is to hear your own name,” and I think that is still true today. And by using students’ names whenever we communicate them or interact with them in the online classroom, is something that we need to do as online instructors.

One thing that I do is when I meet students, quote, unquote, in the “first week discussion/introduction forum,” if a student has a nickname, I write that down in my little log book, and I want to make sure that I refer to that student by his or her nickname throughout the course. And I’ve even had, on occasion, students in their end of course surveys that we do at our institution say that, “Dr. Bogar referred to, fill in the blank, Mary, by her nickname the whole course, and I thought that was so cool!”

And little things like that can help build relationships with the students that we have in our classrooms. There have been studies about brain activation and how when one hears their own name, how that really stimulates a person’s interest in what they’re doing, and I think the more, as I said, the more we can do that, the better in the online course to facilitate relationships and engagement with students in our courses.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Wow, that’s really fantastic, Craig, and I couldn’t agree more. I always notice a person who calls me by my name, and I’m sure students really benefit from feeling connected, as if their instructor knows them personally, especially online. There’s such a divide there, such a disconnect when we don’t do those things. Thanks for all you shared with us so far.

I’m just wondering, are there any other tips or strategies you’d really like to share with listeners today that can help them be even more effective in their online teaching?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Sure. There’s one more area that I’d like to talk about briefly, and that is importance of asking Socratic questions of our students, which really promote engagement in a discussion, but maybe more importantly, Socratic questions enhance critical thinking, by asking these questions of students. As opposed to getting one word answers from students when we ask questions.

Socratic questions, of course, begin with words such as “why,” or “how,” or “what,” so the response tends to be more in-depth and critical. Socrates, I think it was about 2,000 or more years ago, thought that being a lecturer was not that effective, and came up with this method of questioning students. And it’s really, in my opinion, very effective in the online classroom, especially in the discussion formats that we have.

You may recall that years ago when Bethanie, you and I maybe were in on-ground classrooms, you always had students who were a little maybe intimidated by instructors asking questions, or for whatever reason, they were fairly shy in the classroom.

Well, in the online environment that is somewhat anonymous, those students who maybe were reticent about asking questions or responding to questions to instructors in an on-ground environment, they’re probably more likely to be more engaged in the online environment. And especially when instructors are asking these open-ended questions that really deserve students to think critically about a particular topic that may be discussed at one time.

Somebody came up with a quote one time, it wasn’t me, but “Our role as online instructors is really not to be the sage on the stage, but instead, the guide on the side.” And I think that when we are being guides and asking open-ended questions of our students, we’re sort of coaching them along, and we’re mentoring them to think differently about topics and think more critically about a topic at hand. So I just wanted to say that to those online instructors, consider asking these types of questions at every opportunity that presents itself.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Craig, thanks so much. That is fantastic advice, and what I really love about everything you’ve shared with our listeners today is that you’ve placed the instructor in a clear spot of forging relationships, building that academic environment, and really focusing there, instead of what we might call the checkbox behaviors of teaching online, when we’re just thinking about what must we do, what should we do? That’s really beautiful, and a place I think we want to encourage everybody to be.

Craig, thank you so much for being our speaker today, our special guest, as we kick off this second year of the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. Any closing thoughts before we wrap things up today?

Dr. Craig Bogar: Well Bethanie, thank you for inviting me. I’ve really enjoyed being here and speaking with you, and I hope the things that I spoke about are going to be helpful to any of our folks online, and this type of podcast I think is extremely valuable for people who are teaching in the online environment. Thank you again, Bethanie, and best of luck with your podcast as you continue your role here.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Thank you again, Craig, and to all of you who are listening today, we wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week. This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#50: Regular Reflection can Improve Productivity

#50: Regular Reflection can Improve Productivity

Online educators can get so caught up in completing tasks and meeting deadlines that they often feel like they don’t have time for the big or important things. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks about the importance of reflection to assess one’s values and priorities. She also suggests an approach of reflecting on yesterday, evaluating how that time was spent, and then being intentional in how you are using your time in the present moment.

This content appeared first on APUEdge. 

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. I’m so glad you’re here today. We are headed toward the end of our first year in the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. With episode 50, we are anticipating about two more till we can call it a perfect year of 52 episodes. Thanks for being with us over the course of the past year.

We’ve covered a lot of topics on this podcast and hopefully something is always of value to you. There are specific pillars, or topics, that we cover on the Online Teaching Lounge:

  • Best practices in online education
  • How to reach your students better
  • Life as an online educator; and
  • Using multimedia tools.
  • Then there’s this fifth topic that keeps coming up, and that is your own growth and professional development as an online educator or an online professional.

Recently, I picked up a great book called “18 Minutes” by Peter Bregman. It’s about finding your focus, mastering distraction, and getting the right things done. This episode is all about reflection. Although the book itself is about focusing in the future and making better use of your time, reflection is really about looking at the past, making meaning out of it, and taking something away that we can either do better, or cherish, or enjoy. In other words, there will be many things that we want to start doing, stop doing, and keep doing based on our reflection.

Have you ever thought, “Where did the day go?” Perhaps you got busy working, answering emails, doing a lot of things, making a phone call here and there and doing your various tasks. And all of the sudden, the day is over. Well, I certainly have. And Peter Bregman says that this actually has to do with the fact that we, as human beings, fall into habits. We start to do little behaviors that fill up the whole day. And pretty soon we’re unaware of those patterns.

From his book, I’m going to read just a little section that really inspired me today. He says:

Either we keep moving along a path that isn’t quite right, but we fail to knock ourselves off of it. Or we intentionally choose the right path, but keep getting knocked off of it. If we’re going to look back and feel good about what we’ve done over a year, a day, or even a moment, we need to break those patterns.

Today, we’re going to look back over the past year. We’re going to think about the previous day we’ve experienced. And we’re going to think about this present moment, right now. So buckle up and enjoy the journey that we’re going to take together today.

The Importance of Reflection

So let’s get started. Looking back in our reflection, what was the previous year about for you as an online educator and professional? What did you do over the course of that year to handle all of the things that came your way? What was your guiding focus or principle that led you to where you are right now, this moment, from one year ago today?

Identify What You Value

Everyone is guided by something. And most of us are very unaware of what we actually care about. We have things that we would call values that guide us. For example, you might value social connections, relationships, being with other people, talking to other people. If that’s one of your values, over the past year you notice that perhaps you didn’t have enough time to do that, or you weren’t able to do that because of things that stood in your way.

If your top value was actually moneymaking, you could look back and see were you able to stay employed? Did you make the money you wanted? Financial security is often a value in the top five that people do embrace for obvious reasons. We need to live. Not everyone has it as their top value. Often I find that it’s number four or number five in there for people who do really value that.

Then there’s time management. Do you value being productive and managing your time, or is that just some fluff about how to organize your life, but not really the substance of it? Think about what you value most, and over the past year, how aware did you become of your most important values?

In other words, what is your “why” behind what you’re doing? Did it come out to you? There were several distractions and interruptions to normal daily life that may have come up for you. And in those things, did you begin to see what actually mattered?

Many of us notice what we care about by looking at the negative side of it. Perhaps we’re noticing when we’re not able to spend enough time on that particular thing we care about, or when it’s being frustrated in some way.

For example, if we do value relationships most, we notice when we’re not able to connect with people. If we value solitude and thinking time most, we notice when we don’t get any of that either.

What Did You Bring?

As you look back over the past year, what became your personal theme? And what did you bring to your online teaching? Considering what you brought in the year that passed, you’re able to look ahead and think about what you’d like to bring in the future and what you would like to be your primary driver. What is it about online teaching that you really do love, even if you feel like you just can’t quite measure up in that area? Or you continually feel frustrated trying to reach a goal that you’re not quite able to hit?

When you settle down and think about what really matters to you, you may find that the reason you’re so frustrated is because you do care so much about a particular area. It’s not so much that you’re surrounded by lack and things that go poorly. It’s that you’re thinking, how could they go better, and how much more do you want to reach that particular goal?

When seen in this light, we can actually find our values much more clearly, and we can begin to live them in the coming year more clearly as well.

As we wrap up almost 52 episodes here of the Online Teaching Lounge, it’s a great time to be thinking about the year ahead. In the coming year, I value connection and relationships deeply as one of my top five values, and I’ll be bringing a lot of special guests to this podcast. You’ll be learning from others outside of me. I had one guest this past year, and we’re going to have several more that I think you’ll really enjoy.

I’m going to purposely bring my value of social connection into what I’m doing much more, and I hope you’ll enjoy that. So as you hit the year ahead, begin thinking about. What was the main theme of your past year and what would you like to take into the coming year?

How Did You Spend Yesterday?

The next step of your reflection is to think about the previous day. So if we just think about yesterday, whatever yesterday was. This podcast is typically published on Wednesdays. So if you’re listening to it near its publication date, possibly the previous day was a weekday for you.

What was yesterday all about for you? Were you teaching? Were you working online? What did you bring into that day that helped you to really feel fulfilled about your work? What is it in your personal value system or your driver as an online educator and online professional that you brought into your daily efforts?

When you look back at yesterday, did you get some of those right things done that you care most about? Was there something in your day thoughtfully included so that you ended your day with a high note, or was it just a big list of tasks to be done?

I talk to a lot of folks about their time management and how they spend their time, as online professionals and as online educators. Many times when we feel the most overwhelmed it’s because we lose track of the bigger picture we care most about, and we get lost in the minutia of the day-to-day tasks that are really pressing on us for time and completion.

If you look at yesterday and it was a big to-do list, never-ending, endless stream of emails and tasks to do, essays to be graded that are not finished yet, and a lot of really non-people connected tasks. If you see a lot of tasks and not a lot of connection, let’s think about tomorrow, what will that day be about? And how would you do it differently if you planned just one of what you might consider the “right things” to include in your day?

What kind of things would you include if you took the day on more intentionally? One person I know has the habit of listing the most one-important thing she wants to get done. And she does that thing first before opening her email or looking at any of the distractions.

In doing this, she’s able to live her why every single day. And she has actually become so productive that her eight hour Workday of tasks that used to bleed into nine, 10 or 11 hours of the day is actually taking her only five or six hours a day. That task focus left her completely.

And yes, she can still tend to the tasks that do need to be done as part of her role, but by living her why, completing that first most important thing, she’s able to have a productive day before the day even gets on. There’s no more getting lost in the minutia or distracted by a lot of things that need to be done all at once. And she just takes the time at the beginning of each day to think about what the one most important thing is that she needs to do.

Many people I’ve worked with in coaching have asked me how they can make more time for the big projects in their lives. Perhaps you have a big project, maybe there’s something you’re working on, it could be you’re designing a course or revising a course. Maybe you’re writing something professionally, or preparing to present at a conference. Or perhaps you have some other special project that matters to you and is important to you.

If you’re doing your to-do list all day, every day, chances are you’re never getting to that item. If you decide every single day is going to be about that one thing, and then you get to all the rest of your things, you’re going to find that you make incremental progress toward the most important things in your life regularly.

And you’re going to start feeling structure in your day. You’ll feel more satisfied, productive, and find that your work is measurable. You can see actual change and improvement. So as you reflect on yesterday, and what that day was all about, take away your patterns and habits and start one step towards just choosing one meaningful thing each day to complete first.

Living in the Present Moment

And then lastly, Peter Bregman talks about what this moment is about. It’s amazing how many of us are in the present moment, but thinking about something in the future. Perhaps we’re anxious about a meeting coming up, or a deadline that we have to complete a lot of work for. Maybe we have a lot of things to grade and they’re all due by Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Maybe there’s something in our personal lives coming up and we’re also anxious about that.

Or perhaps we’re thinking about the past. Maybe there was a situation with a student we were concerned about and wish had gone differently, and we’re worried about the past. Maybe we think about the past and we worry that we haven’t done enough for our family members, or for our own health.

Whatever it is we worry about from the past, or we get anxious about for the future, the present moment is none of that. The present moment is just right now. The future isn’t here yet. The past isn’t really here. And in this moment, if we let go of all those competing thoughts, we can focus on the here and now. And we can be much more clear in our thinking, and clear on what we care most about as well as what matters most to us.

In the present moment, some people have habits of slowing down, closing their eyes, breathing deeply, putting their hands on the sides of the chair, feeling that chair, thinking about what they’re experiencing right now in this moment. Putting feet on the floor, feeling the feet in the shoes fully, maybe wiggling their toes. And then taking a moment to just sense what is going on in this moment right now.

What sounds are being heard? What’s the temperature like in the room? How does everything seem in this present moment? And in doing that, a lot of things drift away from our mind, and we think much more clearly at times like that.

In each moment that we are working online, or teaching online, and in each moment that we’re living our lives, the more we can be present in that moment, the more we can let go of distractions and stay on the path that we really want to be on.

So, for example, back to those couple of reasons people go to work and things people think about. If you’re all about relationships and connection, and you slow down and get really present right now in this moment, you might suddenly be aware of people you’d like to connect to.

If you’re reflecting on teaching, you might be thinking about in this moment, a student or two who seems to need you right now. Maybe an idea comes to you about how you might reach out and connect to your students in a new way.

Or, if finance and wage earning is more important to you, you might think about right now how are your finances doing? If you just got paid and you are doing quite well, you have money in the bank, perhaps you feel pretty good. If you think about what you’re doing for employment, and you’re satisfied with the wage you’re earning, you might also feel very good.

And likewise, if you’re not satisfied with that, if you’re not pleased with your bottom line in the bank account, something might occur to you in the present moment that you’d like to try in the near future to change your income or move in a new direction, maybe take on another part-time role.

Whatever this present moment is all about for you, whatever your most important values are, drink it in. Really connect to that in the moment, let go of your anxiety and your worry, and you’ll find clarity where you can move forward right now.

In wrapping this up, we’ve just looked at reflecting in our online educator lives and roles, over the past year, over the past day, and in the present moment. And as we reflect, we are much more readily prepared to take steps forward where we’d like to go.

Whatever time of year this is for you, and whatever spot you’re in during a course or a semester, take the time to reflect. Decide if you’re pleased with your direction and how much of your values have been able to come out in what you’re doing. And after you’ve done that reflection consider what you would like to change in the year ahead to live your values much more fully.

If you’d like any suggestions on identifying your values and determining what your most important priorities are, there are some tools linked here in the podcast notes. So feel free to look at the transcript and try out some of those links, and that will help you move forward in that direction.

Again, we’re looking forward to the coming year in the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. We’ll be having a few special guests and some interesting and very helpful topics for you. I hope you’ll join us for year two of the Online Teaching Lounge podcast coming up in just a few weeks.

Thanks for being with me today to reflect and consider continuous learning as online educators and online professionals, and definitely check out Peter Bregman’s book “18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, And Get The Right Things Done.” Here’s to being the best you in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#50: Regular Reflection can Improve Productivity

#49: Taking Care of Yourself as an Online Educator

This content originally appeared at APUEdge.Com

Being an online educator means you can work anywhere, anytime. As a result, it often feels like the workday never ends, which can lead to exhaustion and burnout. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares strategies for intentionally creating a self-care plan. Learn the importance of maintaining a healthy morning routine, planning breaks throughout the day, and an end-of-day routine to ensure online teachers can relax and reflect on the workday.

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Hello there, welcome to the podcast today. This is Bethanie Hansen, I’ve been an online educator since 2010. Wow, can’t believe it’s been that long already. And when I started out as an online educator, I was also a full-time public school music teacher. So, I was a part-time online educator, and then I became part-time at a second institution. And later, that became a full-time role. And I was part-time at my public school. Then I became a faculty director, where manage other faculty who teach online and I left my public school teaching career for the long haul.

Now, my experiences teaching online were a little bit disorganized at first because I was a part-time faculty member, juggling a lot of other things. If you listen to this podcast very regularly, you’re going to know that I have gone through my own set of struggles and wins with figuring out how to manage things, and also how to use best practices and effective strategies to live and work online.

Developing a Self-Care Plan

I want to encourage you today to take good care of yourself as an online educator. Are you able to take care of your own personal wellbeing while you’re working online? The important message today is to develop a self-care plan and to implement it. If you think about how we like to light the torch of other people through our teaching efforts and further their flame and their ability to contribute to the world beyond just the class we’re teaching, we can’t really light the flame of another person if ours has gone out.

That’s a big message. I mean, when you think about it and you think about kindling your own flame on a regular basis, what is it we do to do that? Is it to read books? Is it to connect with people? Or is there a lot more to this that is part of our self-care and our personal wellbeing?

The message I’d like to share with you today is that it’s okay to create a purposeful strategy to do this. It’s not selfish at all, in fact, it’s necessary. This is a method to take care of your flame, to keep it burning bright, and to be able to continue sharing it for years and years to come.

We’re going to talk about morning routines, options that you might choose there. Breaks that you can implement throughout the work day and a plan for ending your day.

Develop a Strong Morning Routine

So, let’s begin first with the morning routine. What do you do when you first wake up and you’re thinking about a day of online work and online teaching? Do you get up and get ready to go and go straight to your teaching? Do you have some other routines that you like to implement?

In my own work, I used to get ready for the work day and then launch right into my online teaching. And then I would do something else, probably drive to work and teach my full-time job. And then I would check into my online teaching at lunch, after that job was over in the afternoon before going home and then again in the evening. It followed me everywhere because part-time work tends to do that, especially if it’s virtual.

If you’re like me, it’s great to plan a set of routines so that you can get certain things done during your time very plan-fully, very intentionally, and also follow up on those unplanned things, like the many questions students have, or unexpected interruptions to your day.

Consider Exercising in the Morning

A morning routine might include things that you care most about. For example, if you care about getting exercise or eating healthy or taking care of your physical-self, those things could be part of your morning routine.

If you’re a person who likes to go for a walk or a jog in the morning, it’s a great idea to put on some inspiring music, something that’s going to give you energy, help you feel great about your day to come, and give you that mindset to start the day right.

Listen to Music or Read a Book to Start Your Day Off Right

If you don’t really prefer music in your walking or running or whatever routine you might have, perhaps you want to listen to an audio book. There are a wide variety of choices out there. You could always be entertained by fiction. You could listen to historical fiction or nonfiction, or even self-help and self-improvement. That happens to be my category of choice. I’m always choosing some kind of book about how to do something in a new, different, or better way. But that might not be your choice and that’s perfectly fine. Whatever you’d like to listen to in the morning as you’re getting ready for your online work of the day, that’s going to set you up for success and set the tone for the day ahead.

Eat Something Healthy in the Morning

If you are thinking about eating healthy as well, you can stop and take a little time for your meal and feed yourself something nutritious that’s going to give you the energy that you need, and plan what you’re going to have later in the day, like for your lunch break and for your different breaks throughout the day.

Whatever your morning routine is, you want to give yourself many options. Those could be in the physical, spiritual, emotional, social, and creative realms. You might think about what kinds of things get your day started well and how to get moving with some kind of intention.

Of course, the best thing about establishing some kind of repetitive morning routine that you can do in your online work is that your brain is going to latch onto this. Think about the idea of getting dressed for work and walking into the workplace. As you walk into an office, a classroom, or any place like that, your subconscious brain is noticing that you’re here physically, and it’s time to get started.

Just like you get yourself ready and you go to a workplace, when you’re working virtually or online, you need some kind of routine that signals to the brain: it’s starting time, it’s go time, we’re going to get to work now. And it helps you to really get focused and to get in the mood to start.

Set Breaks for Yourself Throughout the Day

The next idea of taking good care of yourself is about the breaks you take throughout the day. When you give yourself a break, it literally is a break state for your brain. It stops this constant churn of the thoughts that you’re having, whether they are about grading or teaching or interacting with students or following up on different projects. Whatever it is, when you take a solid break and you give your brain a break and really stop all of that thinking, you’re going to be able to get back to it with a fresh start.

Planning several breaks throughout your work day will help you to have a solid thinking break, change your state of mind, and come back. So, think about, will you get up and leave the room? Will you talk to someone on the phone? Will you turn on a television program for a short time, watch something on YouTube? Listen to some music? Take some exercise break? Do something creative?

Whatever it is, the best break is something that rejuvenates you, refreshes you, and is a totally different kind of task than what you’re doing. If you give your subconscious brain a break and your conscious brain as well, by really focusing on a totally different type of activity, you’re going to really be able to let go of the stress, as well as whatever you’re stuck on.

Breaks throughout the day should include some kind of water, nutrition. If you bring something in and you help yourself have the energy you need to just keep going physically, you’re going to also be able to endure your online routine all the more.

What’s Your End of Day Routine?

Lastly, think about your end of day routines. What do you want to do to signal to yourself that it’s time to stop working? We all know that working online is an any time, anywhere sport. We can literally do our online teaching on the weekend, every single day of the week, early morning, late at night, it doesn’t really matter.

And because of this, it’s easy to never feel like it’s really ended for the day. Think about what kind of routine would actually signal for yourself that you are closed for business, you’re no longer teaching for that day, and you’re fresh and ready to go for something else.

Consider Visual Input Signaling the End of the Work Day

Think about what visual input you’re going to need to have an end of day routine. What do you need to see? Is it shutting your computer down fully and closing it, and putting it aside? Is it changing to a different room? Is it that you get up and visually put on a different set of clothing, maybe take off the work clothes and put on the casual clothes, even if you’re still at home? Whatever it is, a visual component can be really powerful to help give yourself that signal that, “Yes, my work day is over.”

Reflect on the Day

You can also think about what things you’re going to say to yourself. Maybe you take a moment to reflect on what went well from your online teaching and your online work for the day, and what could be improved.

When you think about what went well, it’s even more effective when you take stock of why it went well, especially your role in it. The more you can find different things that you did that had a positive effect in your work, the better. You’re going to be able to feel that it has more meaning for you, and you’re going to start noticing your impact, both on the work you’re trying to accomplish and on the people who you are teaching and interacting with. So, think about what went well and why it went well, in terms of what you say to yourself at the end of the day, as part of your end-of-day routine.

Also, think about writing something down as a written reflection. Even if you just list the one, two, or three major things that you got done that day, when you write them down, over time you start to notice that you’re making major strides and you’re really accomplishing a lot. If you get a note from a student or a positive comment, you can even consider writing that down in your end of day reflection.

Kinesthetic Cues to Help End the Day

So, we’re thinking about the visual cues, and we’re also thinking about the auditory or written cues, and then the other thing will be the kinesthetic cues. What would you like to feel? Whether it’s physical movement, like a little exercise of some kind, maybe you’re going to take a nap, get some rest, or you’re going to actually connect with your emotions and feel something like a response to the day. Maybe you’re going to feel excited that work is over for the day or relaxed because work is over for the day. Some people turn on the evening news and for them, that’s the signal that I’m done with my work day, and now I’m moving on to some other activity.

Be Intentional About Your Routines

Whatever it is for you, consider intentionally implementing end of day routines that close off your online work day. Whatever you can do to avoid complaining about the past or about troubles throughout the day, but instead reframing those as opportunities to strategize for the future when you might bump into similar obstacles. Those things are going to help you reframe setbacks in a positive way, and also aim for continuous improvement throughout your day, throughout your week, and throughout your teaching career.

Online education, of course, as I continue to mention in these podcasts is an isolating venture. But the more we reflect on it, the more we connect what we’re doing with the impact we’re having, and also consider our personal wellbeing and continue to fuel our own fire, light that flame of inspiration within ourselves, the more we have to give to others.

I hope that this coming week you’ll consider how you’re taking care of yourself in your online teaching routine and what you might do for intentional morning routines, taking breaks throughout the day intentionally, and also considering purposeful and intentional end of day routines.

These things are going to help us all throughout our online education careers and throughout the daily work of being an online educator. And with that, I wish you all the best in your online teaching this week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episode, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey!

#48: How to Build Community with Online Faculty Teams

#48: How to Build Community with Online Faculty Teams

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com. 

Online faculty often feel disconnected from the institution and fellow faculty members. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides tips and strategies for building community among faculty members to help them feel connected, informed and engaged. Learn how department leaders can focus on building relationships through consistent weekly messages, interactive team meetings, one-on-one time, peer mentoring and coaching opportunities, collaboration sites, and much more.

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to The Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the podcast. Thank you for joining me today to talk about building community with online faculty teams. You can employ a variety of strategies to build community with your online faculty and work to really create a sense of being there.

Online education, as we know, is very distance-oriented and it can tend to make us feel very disconnected, especially if we’re not normally comfortable teaching online. Even if we are, that sense of distance can grow and grow, and prevent us from feeling connected to the institutions we work for and the people with whom we work.

In this podcast today, I’ll be talking with you about how to communicate clearly and consistently to keep your faculty informed, and how to build community so they get to know each other and build camaraderie and rapport and feel a lot of support.

Strategies to Build Faculty Community

So let’s jump in. As I mentioned, there are many strategies you can employ to build community with your online faculty. If you are a faculty lead, a faculty mentor, maybe a department chair, or a director of some kind at an academic institution, chances are you either mentor, guide, support, or even supervise faculty who teach online.

Communication

It’s really important to communicate clearly, effectively and consistently to keep your faculty informed and connected to your department. In online education, quality teaching and learning is part of student retention, student success, and student satisfaction.

Of course, because teaching online is so solitary and in many places, asynchronous, our online faculty who teach alone are often disconnected from the institution and they may be physically distant from the home campus as well.

In the institution where I teach and also manage online faculty teams, many of these people that I’ve hired, supervised, coached, and worked with live all over the country. We may have never met face-to-face. In fact, I hired them all virtually and we worked together virtually as well. Building community with your online faculty members can really help them have reasons to feel invested, be part of the team, and be a significant contributor to student success long-term.

And now, as you’re thinking about this process of connecting with your faculty, connecting with faculty individually, in groups, and together as a team allows you to model expectations and empower your faculty to more fully drive their teaching quality and their overall teaching experience. This can also help your faculty really enjoy what they’re doing as teachers, as instructors, and feel that they’re making a difference and having an impact with their students.

If you’re wondering what steps you can take to build community with your online instructors, I’d like to suggest that you will need to be developing a set of online specific strategies to build community with your faculty who might be teaching at more than one institution or across the country. Maybe they’re working at home while someone else is working at home who normally would be leaving to go to the office. Perhaps they’re even homeschooling children at the present time.

For them, time is at an all-time premium. They might feel disconnected due to this remote work, as I’ve mentioned several times already, and their geographic separation from you and the rest of the team can prevent real connections.

Focus on Relationship-Building

But you can build community by developing solid relationships. If you make relationship building your goal with remote faculty, you can succeed. Consider this question, what can you do to make your faculty feel like part of the team, part of your department, and part of the entire institution? Maybe consider providing weekly electronic communications specific to your team and your department’s needs.

One example to build relationships through these electronic messages is something I like to call The Monday Message. This could be a newsletter with announcements or faculty information, updates and teaching reminders. Or one faculty member called it a “Mid-Week Missive” sent on Wednesdays. Another person I know sent them out as “Friday Funnies.” These started with humor and proceeded with news.

Consider Sending Weekly Updates and Information

When I was first hired as a director, my Dean asked me how I would bring together our diverse group of 150 faculty, most of whom were part-time, and they were located all over the country. My first thought was that I would send a weekly message with all my news and updates and information all at once.

Some of the things that related to me personally, my leadership goals, and other things really came together in that weekly message every single a week. As I started to do this, faculty responded very well. In fact, they started looking forward to “The Monday Message” as their definitive source of information about the entire department and what I cared about as their faculty manager.

You might think you want your messages to come out at different times of the week or sporadically, organically, et cetera, but I’ve found that this approach of being consistent really helps. Inconsistency makes faculty wonder when they’re going to hear from you next and they don’t always know where to find the information they need.

For these reasons, I suggest selecting a day and time that you’d like to send that message. Make it regular, make it predictable and dependable and your faculty will benefit from the community you can provide in that message.

One year, I included a spotlight section as well, which I’ll mention again in just a couple of minutes to highlight individual faculty. Another example you might consider to build relationships is to host and record monthly virtual faculty meetings to keep everyone informed and included.

Some examples of interactive and engaging virtual faculty meeting ideas could include using video. You could ask faculty to do the same. Invite faculty who manage a course or lead a course to make a slide and present it at the faculty meeting to share updates is also a great strategy.

Celebrate Achievements

Whether it’s at a faculty meeting or through email or other means, it’s a great idea to celebrate achievements. Ask your faculty to send these to you in advance and talk about them during the meeting. You can highlight high-performing faculty based on some performance standard you might have at your institution. You can recognize those who have presented recently at a conference or published something. Or maybe a student gave you a comment about positive things a faculty member has recently done. Either way, celebrating achievements has a lot of power, especially remotely. You can also celebrate small successes like readiness preparations, engagement increases, or other things that are achieved in the department itself.

It could even be creative and fun to host remote celebrations during your meetings. For example, if a faculty member has a child born that month, perhaps you might mail out a little confetti and ask people to toss it during the meeting as part of that celebration. Faculty also love to receive electronic happy grams. For example, when faculty all prepare their courses on time, you can send out a message to the entire team to thank them and let them know about the win.

Create a Faculty Spotlight

Now, whether you use these in your weekly messages or in your virtual faculty meetings, I really like the idea of using a faculty spotlight in working with your online faculty. When I started doing these about six years ago, I solicited my faculty in advance so they could feel special and have the time to prepare what I would write about them.

My faculty spotlights consisted of a photo that the faculty member provided to me, something they would be happy sharing, and also some things about that faculty member, like what they enjoy most about their online teaching, what their favorite class to teach is, where they have traveled, what their hobbies are.

We tried to personalize this for each person so we could build connections and actually get to know some of these other people that we might never see face to face. It’s also important to include both full-time and part-time faculty to truly build a real community.

This is especially important for your adjunct faculty and part-timers because they really don’t know others in the department. They need the same kind of connection to their colleagues and this helps them understand who their colleagues are, who they can go to with questions. Highlight your full-timers as well as your part-timers and it will bring everyone together.

Offer Voluntary Service Opportunities

Another way to build relationships is to offer voluntary service opportunities like serving on committees, peer coaching, and brief curriculum content reviews. These can go on faculty members’ vitaes or resumes and really enhance them professionally, as well as giving them the opportunity to influence courses that are developed.

Develop Collaboration Sites

You can develop collaboration sites where faculty members can share their practices, as well as collaborating on this curriculum I’ve mentioned. Ask questions to colleagues teaching the same subject or courses and learn about curriculum updates, or post errors in the courses and then have them repaired.

Collaboration sites are a great way for all of these ideas to come together. In my teams, we have used a space in the learning management systems set aside for the team. We’ve also used online collaboration tools and Microsoft Office 365 email groups for this. Each one was effective in its own way. I also recommend using photos and videos whenever possible to create identity and presence.

There is an unspoken sort of stigma about sharing photos or personal details with others you work with entirely online. Faculty might really hesitate to do this. They might have serious concerns about it. Work to develop identity and community in non-threatening ways, but also be sensitive that some faculty may have this tendency to feel this way.

Through all of these methods, your collaboration, promotion, your monthly faculty meetings, your emails, your celebrations, and all these ways of getting connected, take the opportunity to communicate.

Highlight and focus on the mission and vision you have for your team and the mission and vision of your institution. Be positive and set the tone upfront for your leadership and management of your faculty by focusing on one of the university’s mission points each time you meet. All of the vision points can come through. You can also make connections to real-life contexts, students’ stories, and the big picture regularly. And be sure to communicate consistently and clearly.

Now, when you have faculty meetings, your tools can be updated regularly and other resources you have, like collaborations sites or the site the university stores all of the team information, these can also be regularly updated.

Schedule Monthly Meetings

Monthly meetings would then, of course, be held monthly. Faculty really love to be part of all of these things when they have the time and when they can contribute something. So let your faculty know in advance so they can arrange their schedules to be there. Record them for all the part-timers if these are meetings who really cannot attend live, or full-timers who may be on vacation and send those links out so they can view them remotely and be up-to-date on your policies and procedures and announcements.

If you have additional opportunities for your faculty to get together, to collaborate, be sure to communicate these regularly just as if you were with a live team. Even if you send out a weekly message, you might have an intermittent message here and there in between with a update about one specific thing. Maybe it’s a training webinar, a teaching and learning opportunity, or other kinds of professional developments you’d like to recommend. Be sure to send things out in a timely manner and your team will learn to trust you and connect with each other as well.

Coaching and Peer Mentoring

One other idea about helping your faculty really connect online is coaching and peer mentoring. Coaching can focus on connecting people, but also giving them the space to teach each other. Faculty coaching might be faculty led with follow-up actions to get together and just to review each other’s teaching.

When you’re hiring new faculty, consider providing one-on-one coaching to review specific faculty approaches at your institution or recommendations and just get to know each other. You can conduct this by phone in a live webinar presentation, like in Zoom or some other kind of virtual platform.

You might do this yourself or bring on other faculty members to begin building that community right away. You can ask and answer questions with your new faculty members so they’re clear on exactly what your department or your institution emphasizes, and so that they can share any concerns or questions right up front.

Connect Your Faculty with Other Departments

Additional ideas you might consider using with your faculty could involve bringing in different departments to meet with them. These could of course be done during virtual faculty meetings or they could be prerecorded and sent out or used in the email communications.

One group I really love to include is the library team. They can talk to your faculty about specific questions, resources available, ways to cite things, what kind of writing help might be available in the library, and other things specific to where you work.

By doing this, we generate a lot more resources for faculty. We give them a lot of strength and support and better communication with different departments. Faculty feel more connected and have a greater sense of community with the big university identity as well through having these special guests.

You might consider having someone from the assessment team or the accreditation team speak with them. You might invite your Dean or other school officials to the meetings to bring their own insights and perspectives.

The more you do this, the more faculty feel like they’re really part of the institution. They feel validated, valued, and supported. They also show up and help each other and really connect with each other because they have such a network of support and a lot of people to interact with.

Another idea in terms of coaching faculty could be developing a short series of personalized messages, like e-coaching messages, to guide your instructors through different strategies or different approaches.

Share Teaching Strategies

You might consider sharing different methods of providing quality online grading feedback. Perhaps some faculty are not sure what this could look like or should look like to give students enough information. You could model how to produce this feedback, especially on written assignments and the ways that might be most valuable to students. You can do it in an attachment, in a video, in a screencast, or in a live meeting where some collaboration can occur online.

Online faculty always love to see each other’s ideas about using different types of questioning strategies or discussion strategies, interaction and engagement methods for forum discussions. And tips about sending out welcome messages or announcements or various types of wrap-up and summary activities. If you can enlist your faculty members to help each other with messages or give each other shared tutorials to help their peers, this builds community because they can see each other. They also feel less pressured to perform just for you and can really see each other’s ideas and start to come up with more innovation and more creativity.

This is a great way for the whole group to support each other with teaching excellence and also to aim for the best ways to support their students. If you develop and schedule regular methods for them to coach each other and for you to support them through your own coaching, this will refresh everyone by bringing in new ideas on a pretty regular basis.

To help your online faculty most, you might consider formalized methods of sharing these strategies. Perhaps there is an annual online conference in your department or some kind of share space, as I’ve mentioned before. When you share student testimonials, pictures, screencasts, screen clips, some positive comments from student, and of course, survey or evaluation feedback, this can really support positive and effective teaching and learning online.

It’s very common for a lot of observers to stop into online classrooms and faculty who are used to teaching in live universities or institutions might really be surprised at this, if someone pops into their class and observes. If this is going to happen, be sure to let them know upfront who these people might be, whether it’s some kind of peer observer or an academic support team member so they’re prepared when an observation might occur.

Be Available for Faculty to Meet with You

For checking in one-on-one with your faculty, I can suggest providing a calendar. Maybe you use a Setmore or TimeTrade or Calendly scheduler to give faculty opportunities to get on your schedule at their own convenience. You might set up times in 15-, 30- or 45-minute increments so that faculty are able to connect with you and speak whenever they need to. This will give you an opportunity to visit with faculty about their questions and give them guidance on whatever they’re seeking, and also just to connect from time to time.

It’s really helpful to be approachable and available to your faculty, especially if you’re a lead, a director, a chair, or in some kind of role like that where faculty are looking to you for support and guidance.

One way to provide this support if you don’t want to do individual appointments or even to enhance that is to provide a weekly office hour when any instructor can stop by and just check in. It’s nice when your faculty have a place to go to just connect and be heard. And when you can post that office hour so that it’s available to everyone and they can find the link, it makes it even easier.

And lastly, you might consider scheduling one-on-one small group or large-group sessions where faculty can share these practices, review course setup procedures, or conduct observations, or just talk about what they’re thinking and feeling right now. It’s helpful to arrange space and time where others can feel heard and seen, and really get back in touch with each other and with you.

Providing Faculty Support Contributes to Strong Performance

In closing, when you plan and consistently find ways to connect your faculty to each other and connect with them yourself, you’re going to help your faculty be supported and build a great sense of community throughout your entire department and support your team well.

These strategies can really help faculty members take more initiative and positively influence each other, giving everyone a more connected and positive experience when teaching online. Especially if online teaching is new to them, this is essential and critical to their success.

Thanks for being with me today to talk about building community with online faculty. I hope you’ve found these ideas valuable and enhancing your practice. Please stop by bethaniehansen.com/request anytime you’d like to share your feedback, or perhaps suggest a strategy that we can include in this podcast to support each other when we’re working and teaching online. And with that, I wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week.

#47: Tips for Adding Audio, Video, and Multimedia to the Online Classroom

#47: Tips for Adding Audio, Video, and Multimedia to the Online Classroom

 Are you looking for ways to enhance class content in your classes, but concerned about the time and effort it might take to create and manage those assets? In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen recommends several technology tools to help you add valuable audio, video, and multimedia components. Most importantly, she provides guidance on developing a strategic approach to creating these new assets, including making sure it’s accessible and useful to students, has a positive impact on your teaching, and isn’t overwhelming for you to create and manage.

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge, the show that helps you teach online with confidence and impact while living a healthy, balanced life. I’m Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge. My background is in K-12 education and also in higher education, and both live, face-to-face classes and online.

Something I really enjoy about online teaching is being able to integrate different varieties of multimedia into courses to make them more engaging. For example, we can use audio, video, interactive media, and animations. There are more programs and apps to consider than it might be possible to use effectively and more are created every year. It’s easy to struggle with the overload we can all face when we look at this huge variety.

If you’re sometimes tempted by what I call bright and shiny object syndrome when teaching online, this is the temptation to try out new and fresh apps or interfaces, you’re not alone. Finding a new tool can bring fun and interest in your own work as an educator. However, this same set of possibilities we find in the latest and greatest media apps or platforms can quickly cause us to spend a lot of time upfront learning and not enough time actually developing the course or teaching the class.

My focus now is on teaching excellence at an entirely online university. And I believe media and related tools can help us reach our students in new and better ways. At the same time, I suggest using a strategic approach to innovating that allows you to regularly try and use new methods while also reducing the tendency to get overwhelmed by bright and shiny object syndrome. This way, you don’t spend too much time learning and exploring possibilities and not enough time actually using them.

In today’s podcast, we’ll explore several engaging media options and ways that you can approach them strategically so that you and your students are most likely to benefit. After all, through this podcast, I help online educators become more effective in their work while also living healthy and balanced lives by using intentional approaches so that they can love what they do and impact their students positively.

We will first take a look at several audio, video, and multimedia apps or programs you might try. Then we’ll talk about a strategy to intentionally explore and use these special pieces of technology in your teaching. And lastly, we will also reflect on reflecting. How will you decide if it’s working and if your plan is what you’d like it to be? I hope you’ll enjoy these strategies this week. And so we’ll just get started.

Audio Tools to Create Engaging Classroom Content

Beginning with audio, there are four particular audio interfaces I’d like to share with you today.

AudioBoom

The first one is called audioboom.com. Now, there are many different hosting services for creating podcasts and creating hosted audio. This is just one of the many. AudioBoom is a web-based service that lets users create and share podcasts. They’re available at audioboom.com and through the service, you could create a podcast audio recording or entire networks of audio shows. This content can easily be shared with a player that embeds onto a webpage or into a learning management system.

This service can easily be used in your online education if you’d like to create little episodes of things you’re talking about in your teaching. It can also be used for students to create their own episodes as they’re putting together some kind of project or assignment to report back on their learning.

SpeakPipe

A second app is SpeakPipe. Now, SpeakPipe is a very interesting thing and it’s available at speakpipe.com/voice-recorder. When you get to this page, you’ll notice it’s a free online voice recorder. It could be used as a widget, it can be used on your mobile device through an app, or browser extension add-on, or right through the website. And of course, you can use this for audio, as I’m sharing with you now.

You can receive voice messages from your students directly using this recording tool, as it’s embedded easily in the classroom. You can also use it to receive voicemail through the webpage link. It has that free online voice recorder that I mentioned, and you can share sound files of up to five minutes in length instantly through links as well as through the embedded feature.

Now, if you go to the speakpipe.com voice recorder page, you’ll notice that it really is that simple. It just has a green button right in the middle of the page that says “Start Recording.” So you can record your audio, listen to it, and then send it. It works on iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android devices. You can send it through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus. You can also embed it and share links through the web. It’s incredibly versatile and very easy to use.

Talk&Comment

A third audio service is called Talk&Comment. Talk&Comment also has a browser extension so you can add it to Google Chrome, you can use it as a widget, you can use it on the mobile device app and so forth. You can also access it at talkandcomment.com through the web, so the direct web page there.

Talk&Comment lets you create voice notes inside any service on the web, including Google Classroom, Google Docs, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, Reddit, Slack, and a lot of other things too.

When you add this to your Chrome browser, it literally allows you to create notes that you’re going to record with your voice anywhere. And you can send those in all of these different ways that I mentioned. You simply record your voice from the widget in your browser and paste the generated voice link anywhere you want.

It’s a really interesting way to share voice notes and also capture your thoughts. It’s pretty much as easy as sitting face-to-face with your students and having a conversation with them where you’re sharing your ideas. Because people talk faster than they write, you can evaluate your students’ work with voice grading using half the time if you try this tool.

It’s not only useful in presenting content, but also in grading students’ work and helping them create interesting projects. I highly recommend taking a look at Talk&Comment for its versatility and also ease of use.

Vocaroo

A fourth and final audio tool that I’d like to share with you today is called Vocaroo. It’s a free online voice recorder provided as a widget and available at vocaroo.com. Through this app, you can make audio recordings directly on the page, and you can also share the recorded content with web links or embed codes. And you can download the sound file as an MP3, OGG, FLAC, or WAV file. You can also delete the sound recording from Vocaroo’s hosting site when needed.

There’s nothing personally identifiable that is recorded with your information, so you’re going to create these sound files that really don’t tie to you, yourself, your students. So there’s a little bit of anonymity with that that protects you to some degree. But also, it’s easy to use and free. Who doesn’t like free, right? So embedding the widget makes it fun. And also, sharing little voice recordings people really seem to enjoy.

So I recommend trying it with students, especially in things like world language classes or where they’re going to need to do some kind of recorded speaking. They can make narrations or other recordings for things like projects. They can submit assignments using Vocaroo. They could record their voice using Vocaroo and post it in a discussion forum. So instructors and students alike can both use Vocaroo very easily.

And one idea you might have is to generate a short podcast to have students try this as a project. So it’s a really great tool. Basically, you’re going to go to vocaroo.com and simply use their easy online recorder. It’s just got a big red button with a microphone in the middle, and then it gives you some options when you’re all finished recording. Easy to use. And again, it’s free.

Adding Video Content to the Classroom

Now, just as audio content can be simple to create and share and also really bring your presence and your students’ knowledge to the forefront, video content can even more enhance your presence, and also what students are bringing to the situation.

If you’d like to add video elements, there are so many tools out there now, and a lot of learning management systems provide integration that’s very automatic and simple to use. For example, you might have something like Kaltura embedded in your learning management system, or even just the built-in video system that the learning management comes with.

Whatever it is, I don’t need to give you a whole lot of video capturing tools because so many already exist within whatever you might be using. I would like to highlight two here today. Simple videos can be created using Screencast-O-Matic, and you can also try Screencastify.

Screencast-O-Matic

Screencast-O-Matic is a free subscription-based site that enables you to make screen recordings, and you can find it at screencast-o-matic.com. This tool is really easy to make video guides, like if you want to explain assignment details or walk students through areas of your online classroom, or maybe you want to illustrate and explain a concept with some visuals.

This site could easily be used to record over short clips of sound quality. Like if you’re a music appreciation instructor, maybe you want to play a musical performance video clip and talk over it and give some direction to your students, allowing some narration to occur and maybe explaining elements of the music as it’s happening.

It gives you screen, camera, and screen-sharing possibilities, and finished products can easily be saved as video files. You can upload them to the Screencast-O-Matic website or to YouTube. And there are just a lot of options there with which you can store your content.

Screencastify

The second option is Screencastify, and just like Screencast-O-Matic, Screencastify is a free web-based video recording tool. This tool is advertised as an add-on screen recorder for Chrome browsers because it just puts an icon into the browser to allow you easy access.

Screencastify offers both free and subscription-based and premium-level products. And I highly recommend checking out both of these options and deciding which one simply works best for you, which interface you prefer, and what you’d like to use.

Tips for Making Great Video Content

Now, I’d like to say just a little bit more here about video content because I’m only mentioning a couple of interfaces. So here are a few tips about adding video. Video can, of course, enhance your course. It can also create some challenges because you’re going to spend a little bit more time. You’re not just editing audio, you’re also looking at how it’s coming across at the same time.

However, it can be really a huge asset for welcoming your students, introducing yourself, lecturing about your content, narrating the content, explaining ideas, and otherwise guiding your students. So it takes some time, but it adds way more personalization than audio alone can do.

Consider asking your students to create videos as part of a forum discussion or an assignment. This can also help with originality checking, if you’re wondering who’s really creating that assignment. If it’s a video assignment, you’ll start to see the same person each time and not have a concern so much about that originality of who’s really submitting the work.

Having a lot of methods to capture your video can be helpful. And again, we’re trying to reduce the overwhelm so start with one and then explore others in the future.

You don’t need a lot of equipment to record video. You can make even more complex videos with captions, transitions, and other elements with purchased software. A lot of things like Camtasia will bring that feature suite to help you add a lot of bells and whistles to your video presentations. And of course, you can spend a lot of time really making them better and better and more engaging.

And sound quality is dramatically improved when you use a headset microphone and not just the microphone on your computer. You can clean up the audio noise, bring the speaking voice in more directly. You can balance the sound with maybe background music or something else, if you really want to get crazy about your videos.

You can use a smartphone to capture the video and upload the video to another app or a program, or just upload the different files into your LMS. You could also branch out and get a separate digital video camera or digital video recorder that’s more high quality than what comes on a smartphone or a computer. But I don’t recommend investing really heavily until you’ve explored the software and the possibilities for why and when you might personally choose to use the video in your class or in your teaching. If you do decide to invest in high-quality video tools, microphones, and lighting, those things can improve the quality of your instructor-created videos. So think about the content, the background, the lighting, the appearance, and the length.

Content should be concise. You might want to chunk up ideas into separate videos so students can look at them one at a time and see the topics broken down, or segment your topics into the smallest component so you have these shorter videos.

And also, think about how you might produce the captions or the written component for students who need that alternative approach. We always want to supply those things in the classroom so students don’t have to ask us if they need some kind of accommodation to see what you’re saying. Be sure to always include it so it’s accessible automatically for everyone.

Interactive and Multimedia Tools for the Classroom

Now, in terms of interactive or multimedia types of tools, I’m going to speak only about two of these today. Again, I’m a real big fan of not overwhelming you. I want to give you some options to help you get started without giving you far too much.

Prezi

The first one I want to talk about is Prezi. Prezi is a web-based program. You can access it online. It also had, in the past, a classic version that was downloadable so you could create it on your desktop. But also, you can use it in the mobile app as well, so it’s very versatile. You can create dynamic presentations through Prezi. You can either get the free or paid membership and you can create multimedia presentations that move, that zoom in and out. You can embed videos, PowerPoint slides, and other things in a Prezi to make it even more interesting and engaging. It’s a more interactive alternative to PowerPoint. Basically, you can share it through links or downloaded files.

Prezis can easily be used for students to create presentations as well, such as how to put facts and information together and how to present what they have learned. It can be also used effectively by groups of students to produce some group projects. All of the members can contribute to one final presentation. There is a whole bunch of information out there with tutorials, learning materials, and support for using Prezis.

Powtoon

The second option I’d like to share today is Powtoon for education. Powtoon is a website that provides templates, graphics, motion, and other features to build short and engaging videos. And you can check it out at powtoon.com/edu-home. These cartoon-like images are included, but you can also use photographs and videos of your own if you’d like to.

It’s an alternative to traditional instructor-made videos, and really, it’s an engaging way to convey information that’s fun too. One common use of Powtoon in online education is to present an introduction to the instructor. You might also consider using it to put together short lesson presentations, or even to enable your students to create projects.

Strategy for Using New Tools and Technology

Now, let’s talk a little bit about how you might intentionally explore and utilize your new technology, whether it’s audio, video, or media related. The first part is to decide your why. Why would you use these tools or why do you want to explore particular tools?

Why Do You Want to Use New Tools?

Well, the first reason I can think of that is probably the best one is that it’s going to promote student engagement and student learning. When you provide any kind of recorded content like a podcast or a video in your lessons, this can also minimize learning anxiety and increase motivation for all of your students.

If you were to think about your own reason for being an educator and what you’re trying to accomplish through your online teaching, think about particular tools that are going to enhance that mission that you’re on. What really are you trying to do with your students?

Some things you might think about when you’re trying to decide why you might integrate something are what you’re going to do with it. For example, are you trying to help students use the app or tool to collaborate? Are you helping bring the content to light for them? Are you giving them interactive ways to engage with the content and further their learning? As you think about those things, you’ll better be able to decide when and why you would be using it.

When is a Good Time to Add New Technology?

The second half of the when question is, when is it really a good time for you to integrate this kind of content in a course or in your teaching?

It’s my personal stance that each piece of media content, whether it’s audio, video, or interactive, included in your online course should serve a purpose and not just be a bright shiny object; and you want to thoughtfully integrate this.

As you bring course materials and topics to life through these interactive means, audio, video, media, bringing it to life and helping students really see it more clearly is a justifiable purpose. You can also help them gain meaning from tools and content in the way that you use the content. How the students are expected to work with it while viewing or engaging with the content, and the way they’re going to recap or review the whole experience. Maybe they’re going to reflect on their learning or the experience of creating using these tools.

8 Tips to Consider When Using New Tools

Think about the following eight tips as you create your media content or explore different tools.

  1. The first step is to choose the resources wisely for both the content you’re going to include and the quality it’s going to put out there.
  2. And second, how can you comply with copyright restrictions and properly attribute the sources you might use in this type of content?
  3. Third, how will you introduce your students to topics and key points to be presented before they use or engage in the content? Or is the content itself the way to introduce students to the topic and key points?
  4. Fourth, if it’s a video clip, I suggest keeping it between seven and 15 minutes long total to maintain focus. And if possible, break it down to even smaller pieces.
  5. Fifth, give your students engagement tasks to complete while they’re viewing the video, listening to the audio, or engaging with the interactive element, like answering specific questions about the points, things to note, and so forth.
  6. Sixth, promote some kind of reflection or thoughtful integration after they’ve viewed, listened to, or engaged with the content. It might be answering questions or going to the discussion forum to talk about it.
  7. Seventh, verify that the things you’re going to use, whether it’s audio, video, or a multimedia interactive, you want to verify that these things are accessible and free from technical issues. Basically, students of all types and of all platforms need to be able to reliably see, hear, or engage with it in a variety of systems and formats.
  8. And lastly, number eight, if you’re using external video content in any of these things that you didn’t create as an instructor, be sure to use it to extend the lecture or add to what’s happening, rather replacing your instructor role.

All of the multimedia tools and strategies that you use, they can be instructor-created or they can be student-created, or someone outside of you can develop them. If students are going to use these tools to create their own assignments and projects, you want to also give them a tip sheet, how-to guides, and really helpful examples so they’re not lost in trying new media themselves, and they can actually enjoy the process and engage with things appropriately.

Reflect on Your Plan to Use New Tools

Now, the last piece in this entire process would be at regular intervals to reflect on your plan. As you reflect upon your plan and how you’re trying new tools or using them in your online teaching or in your course design, you might consider asking yourself, is your plan working? Have you devoted enough time each day/week/month, or year to exploring potential options? Or are you spending too much time and exploring too many options? Are you able to use what you’d like to try without getting overwhelmed? And how would you like to adjust your approach to ensure that you can continue to try these new things for the benefit of yourself and your students without that overwhelm of just getting stuck in the learning curve without actually using the tools the best way possible?

As we close out the podcast this week, I encourage you to consider the various interactive elements you might try in your online teaching, including audio, video, multimedia, and artistic assets that you create. As you decide how you might use various methods and strategies, always, more importantly, consider why you might use them. And then create an intentional plan to regularly explore and learn about these ideas and a strategic approach to selecting and using them.

Working through your plan to keep yourself growing and learning while reducing the possibility of getting overwhelmed will help you to always be learning and actually use the tools. Then at regular intervals, as you look back on your learning and your implementation of these kinds of tools and approaches, you can feel like you’ve actually brought new things to the classroom and new things to your teaching over time.

Is your time and strategy manageable? Do the tools you’re using have a positive impact on your teaching? And do they help students learn? And what might you change in your approach over time? As you think about these things, think about the best possible way to implement it in small, strategic approaches to keep it manageable.

Thank you for joining me today for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. We took a look at how we might approach the wide variety of media and interactive elements that can be incorporated into online teaching using this intentional strategic approach that also includes continuous learning by reflecting back on your own process so the approach works best for you.

I hope you will think about the possibilities and consider one new thing you might try this week in this area to keep your teaching fresh and help your students become more engaged as well. Best wishes to you in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

Note: Materials consulted for this episode come from Teaching Music Appreciation Online, published by Oxford University Press.

 
#45: Classroom Management Can Improve Online Student Success

#45: Classroom Management Can Improve Online Student Success

This content originally appeared on APUEdge.com

Strong classroom management is especially important in the online environment. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks about the need for advanced planning in online classes to keep students informed about what to expect in the class and aid students in managing their own. Strong classroom management can also help teachers build relationships with students while helping them meet their learning objectives, whether it is professional advancement or personal growth.

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge, the show that helps you teach online with confidence and impact, while living a healthy, balanced life. I’m Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge.

I used to be a very busy online educator, student, mother, wife, and overwhelmed person. It’s easy to struggle with balance when working in teaching online, and I’ve definitely been there. Over time I’ve learned best practices, strategies to manage time and online work, and I’ve gained tools to help with life-work balance.

As a full-time professor and faculty director at an entirely online university, I help faculty teach with excellence and keep learning new ways to make online education a great opportunity for faculty and for students. Through this podcast today, I’m helping educators become more effective, healthy, and balanced so they can love what they do and impact their students positively. And today we’re going to do that by looking at the objectives, needs, and challenges of our online students, and how we can help them. And let’s get started.

What Motivates Online Students?

In the first area, let’s talk about online students’ motivations, their objective when they chose online education. Adult learners who choose online education really have two main objectives. They want to advance their professional careers, and to develop personally. Of course, there are many other motivations for taking courses online, but we find that these are the highest number of motivations.

Motivated by Career Advancement

When students are learning something to advance their careers, it really means they expect to get something tangible in the future, a reward for the learning they’re doing right now. That long-term reward might be a career change. It might be a salary increase. More opportunities. Or even the chance to get a promotion. This kind of vision for the future is going to help your online students to be intrinsically motivated so that they will be able to achieve the future reward that they really want.

Motivated by Personal Growth

When students are learning something for personal growth, there might be a need to develop personally, benefit from the continuous learning that takes place in a structured program or class, and have something to look forward to.

In a Wiley education survey published in 2020, 76% of those online students surveyed said that they wanted career advancement. Seventy percent of them were also looking for personal growth as well. It was said, while career advancement is the number one motivator for Wiley supported students when starting a program, personal growth keeps them going. That was reported in the Wiley study, and 59% stated that their desire to achieve personal growth motivated them to continue with their program after getting started.

We can help the students maintain their motivation by providing them with regular feedback throughout the course. It’s also particularly motivating when students feel like they’re learning things that matter to them.

Sometimes all it takes is telling them how a particular skill, or new information, is applicable to them now or in the future. But making clear connections between what students are learning and how they can use it really helps them meet their objectives and stay committed.

While online students have a high level of intrinsic motivation to learn so they can develop professionally and personally, they also need support throughout the entire experience. Let’s move on to the second area, which is what students online need, what they must get from you, their instructor, in an online learning experience.

What Do Students Need from Online Teachers?

Particularly, what are the needs of non-traditional students and adult learners? First, it might surprise you, but one thing they really need is good classroom management. This comes from Daniel P. Stewart, an adjunct history and humanities professor at Fayetteville Technical Community College. He said that advanced planning, interesting and relevant lessons, and effective teaching are critical.

Now why do adult learners need these things? In my first teaching position, I attended a middle school educators conference during which Fred Jones taught us about using the physical classroom space for classroom management. His idea was that moving through the room regularly and being physically near each student often during the class, behavior concerns would be dramatically reduced, and engagement would increase.

While that was 25 years ago, a similar idea is still helpful today in online classrooms, and even with adult learners. Classroom management is about planning ahead to communicate and help things go right. In the example I shared about the middle school classes 25 years ago, this took an early arrival by the teacher. It also took setting up chairs in a particular manner, and a plan to move during the session. And to do that, the lesson had to be thoroughly planned and prepared. This meant the teacher would be able to walk around without having to look at the textbook or teaching materials very much during class.

Tips for Effective Online Classroom Management

Online, advanced planning is even more critical, because the course elements need to be placed into the online classroom so that everything is available to learners when they need it. Much of the time the entire course must be ready before the semester even starts.

Some of this advanced planning could take the form of a screencast walkthrough, to help your students know where to find things, and example assignments to illustrate formatting. Perhaps an example assignment might also illustrate the approximate length, or the depth that a student should explore, and grading approaches that you will use.

Another advanced planning element might include a thoughtful course announcement leading into each week. Maybe you want to provide a netiquette guide that tells students how to communicate with each other, and with their instructor throughout the class. A netiquette guide can help a lot, especially for students new to online learning who just don’t know yet that communicating in a discussion space really is different from text messaging. This is a great way to help your students know how to communicate in the online space and comfortably make connections with you and other class members throughout the experience.

Effective classroom management is probably one of the most important responsibilities we educators face in any number of learning environments, whether you’re live or online. Classroom management may be defined as the act of supervising relationships, behaviors, and instructional settings and lessons for communities of learners.

And classroom management really is a preventative activity that results in decreased discipline problems. Basically, preventative management means that many classroom problems can be solved through good planning, interesting and relevant lessons, and effective teaching.

Now when you plan ahead for what you’ll teach and how you’ll teach it, and when you will learn what your students will find most valuable and relevant, you can give your students what they really need. They need relevant, prepared lessons. And they need to learn in ways that support their goals for advancing in their professional career areas, and in their personal development.

And of course, they need connections with you, and with each other, to feel like they belong and stay connected when online education might otherwise become an isolating experience.

How Can Online Educators Help Students with Time Management?

Now let’s move into our third area, online students’ challenges: time management. Online students have challenges with time management and juggling the balance between studying and their work commitments. What does this mean for you as an online educator?

Well first, communicating what to expect from the very first day of class can help your students to plan ahead. In a previous part time faculty position I held online several years ago, I provided students with a sample schedule each week on which I suggested which tasks to complete in the online course every day.

These included suggestions like reading the textbook assignment on Monday, posting in the discussion on Tuesday and taking the first quiz. On Wednesday beginning a draft of their assignment, completing another piece of the curriculum on Thursday, and responding to classmates and their instructor in the discussion on Fridays and Saturdays.

In this way, they would be touching a few pieces of the class every day during the week. This would keep the workloads small every day, and actually give them a lot more reinforcement in their learning, spreading the work out. While not everyone will need this, or use this suggested schedule, providing that kind of help can really assist online students to see what the workload is like. Then they can plan how to manage it.

Second, providing some flexibility when students need it is also helpful with time management challenges. Flexibility does not mean that you go easy on the rigor of the course, or that you’re less accurate with your grading.

Why It’s Important to Show Students that You Care About their Learning

And of course, students need to feel that their instructor really cares that they learn. In a study of 609 online learners, caring was the number one predictor of online instructor ratings. “It turns out that caring is very important, even for adult learners.”

Thinking about what students need in order to be successful in their online experience helps you to get on their side of the challenge. Our students want to feel seen, known, and loved in their learning. And when we give them the tools and strategies that help them along, they experienced a great partnership with us.

It’s also helpful to check in with our students to see how they’re doing throughout the class, and to ask where they could use the most support and guidance. In a survey of online learners in 2020, 63% of students surveyed said that they had problems with time management, and 59% of the students cited that they had jobs that were conflicting and that work commitments were a challenge. “Allowing for flexibility while maintaining the right level of accountability at the program and course level is essential for students to be successful” (Wiley, 2020).

Learn about What Motivates Your Students

Students have a variety of specific objectives, needs, and challenges when they take courses online. We can see their objectives by asking them what they hope to achieve by completing our class. And we know that generally online students start off with the goal of professional advancement, and then they are sustained throughout their learning by continuing personal growth.

Remembering these two motivators can help us assume the best of intentions when we struggle to understand what’s going on with one of our students, or when we think about what would be most helpful in teaching them. With clear objectives, our students need us to plan. They need us to plan ahead and to practice is a high level of classroom management.

Classroom management online is a preventative approach to preparing the classroom itself, and keeping students informed about what to expect every step of the way. Classroom management also means that we build relationships with our students and help them learn how to engage with each other and with us during their experience.

And while we focus on meeting online students’ needs, it’s helpful to remember that the specific challenges they face, like time management and professional work commitments. Knowing about their challenges just might prompt us to reach out when we see students drop off in their engagement, and to be somewhat flexible when students hit unexpected time management snags.

Closing out the podcast this week, I encourage you to get to know your online students better. Learn about what motivates them to take your class, and learn about what their objectives really are. Explore what they need in order to hit their goals. Is there something more you can do in the way you prepare for the next week that will make it even clearer how your students can satisfy their own objectives during the class?

And find out how you might gain additional insight into their challenges. What do they struggle with most in your online course? What is challenging about studying online? What challenges might prevent them from completing the course, but which could be reduced if you were to try a particular strategy, or a particular approach? Once you see your students’ objectives, needs, and challenges, what might you try or do in your online teaching this coming week?

Thank you for joining me today for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. We’ve taken a look at the objectives needs and challenges of online students, generally, and how we can help them. I hope you will try one new approach this week to help keep your teaching fresh, and help you see your students even more clearly. Best wishes to you in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit Bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.