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Teach Online With Confidence

Helping Educators Engage More Online Students with Less Stress through Simple Strategies

Dr. Bethanie Hansen 

Teaching Excellence Strategist

#44: Renewing Your Energy Can Improve Your Online Teaching

#44: Renewing Your Energy Can Improve Your Online Teaching

This content first appeared at https://apuedge.com/podcast-renewing-your-energy-can-improve-your-online-teaching/ 

Online teachers need increased energy for focused and effective work. They often end up working all the time because it’s so easy to access the classroom anywhere and anytime. In this episode, APU professor Dr. Bethanie Hansen encourages educators to think about managing their energy, instead of focusing just on managing their time. Learn about ways to renew four critical areas of energy: physical, emotional, spiritual and mental energy. Focusing on these areas can help online educators increase productivity, strengthen their work-life balance, and feel more fulfilled in their teaching.

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. Thank you for joining me today. We spend a lot of time on this podcast talking about strategies for best practices teaching online. We also approach how to reach our students in the best ways possible.

Another area we cover is professional development for you as the online faculty member or online instructor. We also talk about multimedia, video creation, online live teaching, office hours and the like.

And then there’s this whole other area and that’s about who we really are, how we show up to the online classroom. You bring your whole self to work, not just part of you. And there’s all that other stuff that impacts your life as an online educator. It’s the quality of sleep you get, the way you take care of yourself so that you can make it through the day, and, of course, the way you manage your time.

Anyone who has taught online can tell you that teaching online can easily spread into your entire life. It can take over your free time, your weekends, your evenings. You might even find yourself taking your computer with you to the bowling alley with friends, hoping to just get one more email read or post in one more forum.

It’s not that online teaching is really that out of control. It’s that it’s easy to do it anytime anywhere, because it is online. And so there’s this sense we get that we should do it anytime and anywhere.

Manage Online Teaching Responsibilities By Managing Your Energy, Not Your Time

Today I’m going to talk with you about the real way you should manage your time when you’re teaching online. It actually comes from a Harvard Business Review article by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy, and this article is called Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time. This is such a revolutionary concept: to think about all of the different places where we get energy. In fact, I love the definition that the authors propose here. I’m going to quote them from page two of this article:

“The core problem with working longer hours is that time is finite as a resource. Energy is a different story. Defined in physics as the capacity to work, energy comes from four main wellsprings in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit.

In each, energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals, behaviors that are intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled with the goal of making them unconscious and automatic as quickly as possible.”

The main idea here is, we’ll take one little thing, one piece at a time, and establish some new habits. These new habits will be rejuvenating, refreshing, and help you to manage the energy that you need to do the work that you are doing and not just let it take all the time that you have. The concept is to focus on the energy you need to do the work and not the time it takes to do the work.

After you focus on these things, I’ll be interested to know how it has impacted your life. Has your teaching improved in quality? The results shared in this article are that people who’ve followed these practices actually had greater productivity in less time and more powerful results in terms of return on investment in the business world. And in our online teaching, that would be something like better success reaching our students, increased engagement from our students, and more retention of students throughout the course. Those things are great metrics. We don’t always see them as online educators, but we can observe our students and notice how they respond to the ways we show up.

Certainly when we have our energy drained and depleted, we cannot show up as well as we’d like. When we have enough energy to show up our best, we’re able to fully engage in the best ways possible.

Some of the things that come from this article are very insightful and really yield a lot of benefit for online educators. The four areas the authors highlight are your physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, and spiritual energy. They also have some suggestions about how you might set up your workplace for the maximum success.

Remember, the goal here is to work smarter, not harder. And of course, just like any corporation or business, in online education the more we want to improve, the more we want to engage students, we want to get better retention, provide more feedback, and all of those things, the more time we tend to spend doing it. And it easily really drains us and exhausts us. And pretty soon we can’t put in any more long hours. There’s just no time left in the day. It’s going to exhaust us, disengage us, and make us sick.

We want a healthy environment for our online teaching and we also want healthy approaches to reaching our students online. So I urge you to try some of these energy preservation tactics so that you can generate the kind of energy you’d really like to have as an online educator for your work and also for your life. Because when we adopt great habits that help us out in the workplace, those can, of course, also touch every area of our life and have great benefit all across the spectrum.

Ways to Improve Your Physical Energy

Let’s talk first about physical energy. Schwartz and McCarthy here are recommending that you renew your physical energy by enhancing your sleep. This means to go to bed a little bit earlier and also reducing alcohol consumption.

Go to Bed Earlier

Studies show that alcohol consumption can actually interrupt your sleep later in the night when you’re already asleep. And also if you go to bed a little earlier, you’ll wake up earlier refreshed and ready to start the day. There’s something about that going to bed earlier that is really healthy for you and also generates a lot more energy. You’re less likely to cheat yourself of important hours of sleep, and you’re more likely to get a full night’s rest if you go to bed a little earlier.

Get Exercise, Especially Cardiovascular

Also in the physical energy category, we have reducing stress by engaging in exercise like cardiovascular activity at least three times a week and also doing strength training at least once a week. Now, if you are a person who does not regularly exercise, like I have been much of my adult life, it’s easy to start very small, and I’ll just make two suggestions here. You can creatively come up with your own.

One is for cardiovascular activity. You can do a brisk walk around the house if you have some space. If you have any stairs, you could walk up and down the stairs four or five times. You could also go outside to get the mail and walk around the street a little bit before you go back inside your house. There are very small and simple ways we can get cardiovascular activity and we can sort of integrate these into our routine by taking little breaks to do it.

Engage in Strength Training

Then the strength training can start small as well. You don’t have to lift a lot of weights. You could take something like a one or two pound weights, something very light, and just start doing small repetitions of those strength training exercises. If you really want to get into this, there are a lot of online places you can go now where you can do a group exercise class and engage with them as they’re doing those exercises.

Eat Small Meals Regularly to Keep Energy Levels High

Another suggestion to generate physical energy for you is to eat small meals and light snacks every three hours. Now this might vary by person how often you need to eat to maintain your energy, but some of us don’t notice when we’re actually hungry or when our energy is low and would better fueled by eating something.

I personally have to schedule that time so that I don’t miss lunch or miss breakfast because I’ll get into the flow of what I’m doing, and even if I take a break to walk out, take the dog out, or get the mail, I will still forget that it’s time to eat something. So if you’re like me and you don’t think about that automatically, definitely schedule it and plan a break around it so that you can do it.

Also, learn to notice the signs of eminent, energy flagging, including restlessness, yawning, hunger, and difficulty concentrating. There are a lot of these little signs that our body gives us to tell us that it’s time for a break or maybe it’s time for rest, perhaps we even need a short nap. Whatever they are, learn to notice what they are for you and for your body and start responding whenever you notice those things with some healthy way to address them to preserve your physical energy.

Take Regular Breaks to Renew Energy

And lastly in this category, take brief but regular breaks away from your desk at 90 or 120 minute intervals throughout the day. You can of course take more frequent breaks every half hour to hour, if you need to, but regular breaks are going to give your mind a clean break from whatever you’re doing and help you come back fresh and ready to go at the next session that you’re going to work.

Improve Your Emotional Energy

The second area suggested by Schwartz and McCarthy in this article is emotional energy. The first area of emotional energy is about negative emotions. They suggest diffusing these emotions such as irritability, impatience, anxiety, and insecurity.

How to Diffuse Negative Emotions

Some ways that you can diffuse those negative emotions are from brief physical activity, short journal exercises, listening to energetic music. You can also do deep abdominal breathing. Emotions come from chemicals that go throughout our body, and when those chemicals are charging up our body with the emotion, our body needs to do something to help process that as well as our brain thinking through what’s going on. That’s why I suggest a short movement of some kind to help you process the emotional energy.

Fuel Positive Emotions

The second type of emotional energy suggestion is to fuel positive emotions in yourself and others by regularly expressing appreciation to others in detailed specific terms throughout notes, emails, calls, or conversations.

I’m not sure if you’ve had this experience, but I have noticed that as the pandemic has continued onward, at the time of this recording we are still experiencing the pandemic, many negative things are easy to say. A lot of negative energy seems to be pooling around us and it’s easy to start pointing out all of the things that we’re missing or the things that are not going right. You can feel those positive emotions by regularly expressing appreciation. It’s easy to do. All we need to do is take a second to notice what’s going right instead of what’s going wrong and to mention it.

Reframe Setbacks with Alternate Perspectives

And lastly, in the emotional energy category, look at upsetting situations through new lenses. You can actually take someone else’s perspective or you can say, what would an objective observer think? And that can help to reframe something. But another way would be when we see something that is lacking or is negative, to look at what is going right about that thing.

For example, if a person were to wake up a little bit late in the morning by oversleeping accidentally, maybe the alarm got turned off and the person slept a little bit too long, it might be tempting to say, “Today’s going to be a horrible day. It’s starting off badly because I overslept. I’m really getting started poorly.”

But we could flip that and say, “Today’s going to be a fantastic day because I got a little bit extra sleep, so I know I’m ready to go.” It’s easy to just turn that around and find another way of looking at the exact same problem and find the positive instead of dwelling on what went wrong.

Manage Your Mental Energy

The third area to focus on to help preserve your energy so you can work less and work smarter is the area of mental energy. In this area there are three tips. The first is to reduce interruptions by performing high concentration tasks away from phones and email.

Limit Distractions

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried the focus assist tool on the computer, but it’s there. Somewhere in the lower right-hand corner of my screen I see it. Focus assist will quiet all the notifications so they don’t pop up on your computer while you’re working, and, of course, you could take a cell phone and just place it in the other room and then close the door and it’s easy to just ignore it for a few minutes, maybe half an hour, to an hour while you’re working in a really focused session.

Respond Only During Designated Times of the Day

The second suggestion for your mental energy is to respond to voice mails and emails at designated times during the day. I know a lot of people who check their email first thing, make a list out of that email and then move on with their scheduled tasks and address those other items as they come up, check it again at lunchtime, and check it quickly before leaving at the end of the day. If we avoid checking it compulsively throughout the day, we’re going to be able to be a little more focused about the work, as well as the email responses, and everyone’s going to benefit from that.

Identify Priorities for Tomorrow and Tackle First Thing

Lastly, in the evenings, identify the most important challenge you’re going to face the next day and make it your first priority when you get to work in the morning. Definitely if there’s something hard, a human nature type of tendency is to push it off so that it waits until the easier things have been done or the faster things have been done. If there’s something first, everything else in the day will definitely seem easier because you’ve already accomplished the hardest thing on your plate.

Enhance Your Spiritual Energy

The last area to help you preserve your energy so you’re focused on your energy and not time management so much is your spiritual energy. Now spiritual areas we don’t always talk about enough. These are areas that bring purpose and meaning and perspective in life.

The first tip here is to identify your “sweet spot” activities. Those that give you the feelings of effectiveness, like you’re effortlessly absorbed in flow. You’re really swept away by the activity, enjoying it so much, and you’re really fulfilled by it. What kinds of things when you’re teaching online actually create this kind of experience for you?

Believe it or not, the same things that sweep us up into flow can also be those things we really despise about our online job if we start to allow ourselves to become a little bit overwhelmed. To get behind on things, and to have a high-pressure feeling.

So if we get this under control and we start to sort out when we’re going to do different tasks, we can find that sweet spot again and identify the things that we really, truly do enjoy in our online teaching.

One of my areas that I really enjoy is engaging in forum discussions with my students. I love to respond to what they’ve said, share some insights, some experiences I’ve had. And come up with creative questions to help them think more fully about the topic, but also to connect to it personally.

And the more they respond back to me, the more excited I get about it. I never thought I would enjoy forum discussions, and when I first started teaching online, I wasn’t even sure how to engage in a forum discussion. And now that I’ve done it for many years, it is my favorite part.

So identify yours and you will find a lot more fulfillment by finding more ways to weave them into your day and ensure that you can do them often.

Can You Hire Someone to Help You?

Now, if there are things you really don’t like, they’re the opposite of your sweet spot, they are the worst things that you can do, if they are things that can be delegated, consider doing that. And maybe it’s not part of your teaching, maybe it’s part of the household management. Some people hire housekeepers to clean up the house while they’re doing their online work or caretakers to help assist with children that are home so they can get the online work done during parts of the day.

And you might consider who can you hire or delegate to. Or ask for assistance with those things that you really don’t like and that someone else might enjoy better.

Dedicate Time to the Most Important Things in Your Life

Another way to refresh your spiritual energy is to give time and energy to what you consider the most important things. For example, they suggest spending the last 20 minutes of your evening commute if you drive home relaxing so that you can connect with your family once you’re home.

Now, of course, if you’re working from home and everybody’s at home, and often online educators are at home, you might consider building in some kind of 20-minute buffer to transition from your online work to your home.

Maybe you have a walk you’re going to take where you put on some headphones and listen to music or some enjoyable novel that you’re listening to. Whatever it is, find a way to get a clean break from the mental state that you’re in when you’re teaching online so you can actually enjoy the time with your family and be at home with a fresh perspective.

Find Ways to Support Your Core Values

And lastly, live your core values. One example of this is that if kindness and consideration are important to you but you end up being late to meetings all the time, you could focus on intentionally showing up five minutes early for all of the meetings to live the value of kindness and consideration in a way that suits you best. It can also help you to think about the values others might hold so you can understand them better and give them space as well.

Now, some suggestions given here about your environment, in closing, to support your energy habits could be to have a designated space in your office or in your home where you can go to relax and to unwind or refuel.

Consider gym equipment or exercise equipment or a gym membership if one’s available to you, where you can go and really get involved in a regular habit there and be with other people. Or you could think about getting together with other people, even virtually for a mid-day workout.

And lastly, consider not checking your emails during a meeting and especially not during a live class session. We all worry that a student is trying to reach us, or our manager is trying to reach us, but we can schedule those checks, and check them at planned times and reduce our stress from that.

Focusing on Your Energy Can Help You Do Your Best Work

In short, I just want to wrap this up by saying, I hope that you will think about these four areas of your energy—your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual areas—and the tendency we have as online educators to work harder, longer days and put in more and more hours.

It’s going to backfire on us and it can lead to burnout and also low job and life satisfaction. The more we focus on renewing our energy so we can work at our best, the more we can keep our work and focus, and also the boundaries of the workday we’d like to have.

In the end, we’re going to be a lot more satisfied, happier, set limits around the work and have a lot more space to have a fulfilling life outside of the teaching as well.

I wish you all the best in your online teaching this week, and thank you for joining me for the podcast. 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.

#42: How to Increase Your Confidence and Connection in the Online Classroom

#42: How to Increase Your Confidence and Connection in the Online Classroom

This content originally appeared at APUEdge.Com

 What drives you as an educator? In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks about the five dominant perspectives that motivate teachers and how these teaching styles can drive student engagement in the online classroom. Listen to learn how to adjust your perspective so you can critically evaluate your own teaching, and why it’s so important to ask students for feedback so you can adjust your teaching style to maximize your impact in the classroom.

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 podcast. And thank you for joining me today to talk about confidence and connection. The main topic we’re going to discuss today has to do with the way we show up in the online classroom, and generally throughout our career.

There are a lot of times where various motives drive us to do what we do. Sometimes it’s unclear whether we’re having the kind of impact we’d like to have. But what if we unpack that? How can we discover what kind of impact we really are having? And how can we have a more powerful impact in those areas we care most about?

Today, we will uncover what drives us, how to have the impact we’d like to have, and also how to feel confident about what we’re doing. We’re going to do that through connecting with our students and with other people in our profession. I’m excited to share this with you and let’s dive in.

What Type of Teacher Are You?

We all show up in the online classroom in distinct ways. Our students can tell what kind of personalities we have, by the way we write things, the words we choose to use, whether or not we use highlighting, emojis or lengthy explanations.

In fact, these behaviors that we show up with, that really help our students get to know us, they come from the motives that drive us. Chances are you have, as an educator, one dominant perspective that drives your teaching. And it’s one of these five: transmission, apprenticeship, development, nurturing, or social reform.

Every one of us comes with a primary orientation to the way we teach and what we are teaching, as well as a secondary backup strategy. So there might be two of these working together in your world, and I’m going to share with you what these are. As I described them, see if you can find your own teaching motivation within these five strategies and orientations.

Transmission Type of Teaching

The first one is transmission. According to the teaching perspectives inventory, the transmission type of teaching is that effective teaching requires a substantial commitment to the content or subject matter. If this is your primary mode for teaching, you might believe that good teaching means having mastery of the subject matter or content. The teacher’s primary responsibilities are to represent the content accurately and efficiently. The learner’s responsibilities are to learn that content in its authorized or legitimate forms.

If you’re a transmission type of teacher, you might believe that good teachers take learners systematically through tasks, leading to content mastery. This would mean providing clear objectives, adjusting the pace of lecturing, making efficient use of class time, clarifying misunderstandings, answering questions, providing timely feedback, correcting errors, providing reviews, and summarizing what has been presented.

You’re going to set high standards for achievement and develop objective means of assessing the learning so you can know that students have actually gained what they needed to gain. You might believe that good teachers are enthusiastic about the content, and they convey that through their tone to their students.

For many learners, good transmission-type of teachers are memorable presenters of the content itself. Perhaps you can think back to a time where you might’ve had a teacher who was very transmission oriented. This is a very common way to be, and very traditional way of thinking about teaching specific subjects.

Apprenticeship Style

The second orientation is apprenticeship. If this is your type of teaching, you might believe that effective teaching requires that learners perform authentic tasks within their zone of development. If you believe this, good teachers in this area are highly skilled practitioners of what they teach.

Whether in the classroom, or at a work site, or in a performance venue, they are recognized for their expertise. If you’re an apprenticeship-style instructor, you believe that teachers have to reveal the inner workings of skilled performance in that subject area and translate it into some kind of accessible way or language and an ordered set of tasks, which usually proceeds from simple to complex. This allows for different ways of entering the subject matter, depending on the learner’s capability.

If you’re an apprenticeship type of teacher, you might believe that good teachers know what their learners can do on their own and where they need guidance and direction. This type of teacher engages learners within their zone of development and suits it accordingly.

And then as the learners are maturing and becoming more competent, the teacher’s role changes, they don’t have to give as much direction. They give more responsibility as students progress from dependent learners to independent workers.

And I’ll have to tell you that a lot of music teachers might fit into this apprenticeship category. Seems a very helpful way to help people learn a musical instrument, in particular. So just a thought there that might add to understanding on the apprenticeship scale.

Developmental Motivation

A third type of motivation in your teaching could be developmental. If you’re this type of instructor, you might believe that effective teaching must be planned and conducted from the learner’s point of view. Good developmental teachers must understand how their learners think and how they reason about the content itself.

The main goal here in this type of teaching is to help your learners get increasingly complex and sophisticated mental thinking about the content. The key to changing those structures in the mental strata, where we’re learning things, lies in combining two specific skills.

First of all, it would involve effective questioning that challenges learners to move from simple to complex forms of thinking. And secondly, it would involve bridging knowledge, which provides examples that somehow are meaningful to the learners themselves.

Now, a lot of strategies that fit the developmental type of teaching would include questions, problems, cases, and examples that form bridges teachers can use to transport the learner from simple thinking to more complex and sophisticated forms of reasoning. This is going to involve adapting the knowledge, adapting the strategy, and bringing learners along with you.

Nurturing Type of Teaching

The next one is called nurturing. And if you’re a nurturing type of teacher, you might be thinking that effective teaching assumes that long-term, hard, persistent effort to achieve comes from the heart not the head.

A nurturing type of instructor believes that people become motivated and productive learners when they are working on issues or problems without the fear of failure. Learners are nurtured when they know that.

So first, they can succeed at learning if they give it a good try; that’s a belief in this type of teaching. Second, the achievement of the learner is going to be a product of their own effort and their own ability rather than the kindness or benevolence of the teacher. And lastly, the learning the student achieves, the efforts, will be supported by both teachers and peers.

Now, if you’re a nurturing-type of educator, you might believe that good teachers care about their students and understand that some have histories of failure, and this has lowered their self-confidence. You don’t make excuses for your learners, but you do encourage their efforts while challenging students to do their very best by promoting a climate that’s full of caring, trust, helpful people, and challenging but achievable goals.

So a good teacher in the nurturing mindset is going to provide encouragement and support as well as clear expectations, very reasonable goals for everyone, and also promoting self-esteem and self-efficacy along the way.

Social Reform Educator

Lastly, we have the area of social reform. If you’re a social reform oriented educator, from this point of view, the object of teaching really is the collective group, rather than every individual. A good teacher in the social reform category would awaken their students to values, ideologies that are embedded in texts, common practices in the discipline that might be biased.

Good teachers under the social reform category challenge the status quo, and this type of teacher encourages students to consider how learners are positioned and constructed in particular practices and discourses.

To do this, a social reform type of educator analyzes and deconstructs the common practice, looking for ways that these might perpetuate unacceptable conditions. The discussion might be focused less on the creation of knowledge and more on who created the knowledge and why they did it.

The text is going to be interrogated for what was said, what is not said, what bias might exist, what’s hidden, what meaning is coming out, what’s included, what’s excluded, who is represented and who is left out from the dominant discourse.

Your students would be encouraged to take a critical stance, giving them some power to take social action to improve their own lives and the lives of other people. This is going to be about critical deconstruction through the central view, and it’s not necessarily the end in itself.

What Drives You as an Educator?

So there are these five motivations for teaching. And as I mentioned before, chances are you’re highly motivated in one area, or at least your beliefs about education and about what you do in teaching are coming from one of these areas. And then you might have intentions and actions in these areas that do or don’t line up with what you actually believe. Sometimes we intend to do a lot more than actually comes across, so it’s difficult to know what kind of impact we’re actually having as educators.

So in summary, the motives that drive us in educating and especially in educating online can be found in the teaching perspectives inventory. Please feel free to check the links to this podcast in the notes, and also check it out, see where you line up in terms of your beliefs, your intentions, and your actions. And this will help you become a lot more aware of where you fit in terms of what’s driving you as an educator.

Assessing Perspectives to Understand Your Teaching Motivations

Now, how can you discover the actual impact you’re having? The first is to think about perspectives. There are three areas of perspective. One is, your own perspective of yourself, your efforts, and what you’re doing in the classroom.

 You can learn about your own perspective by simply observing what you’re doing, thinking about whether you believe it’s having an impact. From this first person point of view, you’re definitely getting your viewpoint, your perspective of your impact.

Now, what if you were to take this outside yourself to the more objective zone of a third party, so not the student and not you as the instructor. If you were to have someone enter your classroom, the online classroom, to walk around virtually, click through things and see what kind of things you say to the students, what kind of feedback you give, what kind of discussions are happening, and what kind of activities generally are taking place, what might be the impression of that neutral observer? What would the objective person say about the impact of what you’re doing as an educator?

If you were to go through your own online class with this question in mind, of what a neutral observer might notice or say about your teaching, taking that viewpoint alone, even yourself and wondering what would someone think, that’s going to give you a lot of insight all by itself.

You’re going to start to notice things differently because you are stepping back a little bit from your own thoughts, feelings, and motivations about your teaching, and it’s going to give you a lot more observation and a lot more power to that observation to just step back one level.

And then, of course, there’s the second person point of view, the student. If you were able to take on their perspective: where they’re coming from, what they’re trying to achieve by being in your class, and what challenges they might be facing in taking your class. This second person point of view is going to give you even more data about your impact and help you to know what kind of impact you’re having, whether it’s effective, and how the students are accepting or getting something from what you’re doing in your educational endeavors.

Of course you can learn a lot more about your impact and gain confidence as an educator if you also start to observe. What are the students doing in their work? Are they diving in more? Are they participating more than is expected in a discussion? Are they asking questions? Do they reach out to you when you send out an announcement with some question or asking a follow-up? What are they looking for from you?

And if you’re getting a lot of good communication and engagement in the subject matter, this is evidence about the kind of impact you’re having. You can observe the student’s behavior, and then you can also ask them specifically.

A lot of institutions send out early surveys after the first week of the class, some send them out mid-course, and some send them out at the end. Maybe your institution does all of these, or none of these. You can of course create your own survey and send it to your students to ask them how it’s going, what they’re excited about in the class, what’s working for them and what’s not working for them?

You might be surprised, but your students will be very forthcoming in sharing with you what’s working for them, as well as where they need a lot more support or have ideas about how it could be better. If you’re willing to ask those questions, you’re going to get a lot of feedback about your impact and this’ll give you more confidence in your teaching, by connecting with your students more authentically.

And then, of course, there’s the end of course survey. If you ask your students or if your institution asks your students about their experience when the course is totally over, their grades have been filed, and they’re not concerned about the impression they give you, you’re going to get a lot of honest answers about the experience.

Students will let you know, would they come back to another class that you’re teaching? Would they recommend you to other people, would they recommend your course to other people?

Some students don’t know the difference between the content of the course and the quality of the teacher. Sometimes that’s a little blurry. And so when you get end of course survey information, you’ll want to remember that, that sometimes those things blur together for the student’s perspective.

But as you look at end of course comments and ratings that students might give you, you can understand your impact a little bit better, and this will help you also connect better with your students in understanding what they’re thinking and what experience they’ve just had with you.

Now, we’ve talked about what motivates or drives us as educators. And in our online work, this is important to know. Many folks really detach from the purpose of their teaching when they go online, because we’re not seeing people face to face anymore. Even if you do live online sessions, there’s still one step removed because we’re in front of a camera instead of in front of those live humans.

So as you’re looking at what motivates you, look through your teaching and you’ll notice, are you acting on what motivates you? Does it actually convey your philosophy? Does it lead people in the way that you care most about?

And then take some steps to discover your impact by trying on different perspectives, whether it’s first person, your own observations, third person, like what an objective observer might notice, or a second person, asking your students directly, or taking on their perspective and projecting what you believe they might say.

And then lastly, look at having the impact you want to have by actually getting real information, asking those tough questions and talking to your students. The more you talk to the individuals you’re teaching, the more you get their real feedback. And you start to create a feedback loop to let you know if what you’re doing is landing well and having that impact you want to have, the more confidence you will gain.

You never have to plan your lessons for an imaginary audience when you start talking to the real audience who is actually being taught. The more you do this, the more confidence will increase, the more you’ll connect with others, and you’ll feel a part of the teaching profession as well. This is going to bring you a lot of satisfaction as you start focusing on what those students are actually experiencing and getting the feedback from them about your teaching.

And then, bringing this full circle, all of this is going to add up to how you show up in the online classroom and throughout your career. As you increase confidence, and you get a lot more feedback, and you make the adaptations you feel you want to make, the more you’re going to have a vision of where you want to go with this, where you’d like to take certain strategies, and what more you might want to do in teaching particular subjects or in different lesson and assignment approaches.

Well, that’s it for today. I thank you for being here to cover the five perspectives of the teaching perspectives inventory in terms of what motivates us to teach, and also to think about connecting more fully with the learners that we’re impacting to learn about our impact and gain greater confidence. I wish you all the best in your online teaching this week. And thank you again for listening.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit that bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey. For more information about our university, visit us at study@apu.com. APU, American Public University.

#41: Tips for Teaching Live, Synchronous Online Classes

#41: Tips for Teaching Live, Synchronous Online Classes

This content originally appeared at APUEdge.Com

Teaching live, synchronous online classes can be stressful and challenging, especially for teachers who are not used to this form of online teaching. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides tips for engaging students and creating opportunities for students to interact with the instructor and other students. Learn about polling software, screen sharing, video sharing, and other technologies that can help make synchronous classes fun and engaging. Also learn why it’s important for teachers to adopt a flexible mindset as they prepare to teach live online synchronous classes.

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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.

In today’s podcast, I’m going to share with you some ideas about how to engage your online students during the class in live, synchronous online teaching so that you can hook their interest and help them stay motivated to learn throughout your time together.

I’m not really talking about formal assessments or discussion boards specifically, but I am talking about how you might get them to interact during the lesson itself. Many of you out there are teaching online, but you’re doing it live, where you and your students are all at the computer at the same time in real time.

This is what we call synchronous online teaching. At the same time, there are some of you out there teaching classes where you have put all the lesson content, all of the lectures and other things into an online platform for students to consume or interact with on their own schedules, whether you’re there at the same time or not. The second type is what we call asynchronous online teaching.

Engage Students in Synchronous, Live Online Classes

Today we’re looking at ways to engage your students in live real time, as you are with them in synchronous live online teaching. Why does this matter? Your students will be one step further disconnected from you online than they would be in a face-to-face situation and you cannot walk around through the group to help them stay alert and focused on what’s going on.

If they get up out of the chair and walk away from the computer for a minute, they can easily get distracted by something else going on and lose sight of being in class altogether. And when that happens, you might lose them completely.

For these reasons, part of your role when teaching live synchronous online classes is to be more engaging, and part of your role is to get your students to act. Whether it’s by moving around in their chair, clicking on their smartphone in response to something you ask, writing things down, or speaking to each other in live breakout rooms.

Whatever level you’re at, whether it’s elementary school, high school or college courses, teaching live in the online world takes a little more energy. You might have already guessed this from what I’ve described to this point. You need to be more animated and, at some points, even entertaining. You will need to look at the camera so your students think that you’re looking at them.

And of course, you might want to record yourself in front of the camera, as if you’re teaching, just as a test to see how you project your voice on camera, how you convey energy and how you project your enthusiasm.

In the things that you say, you will also need to tell students what they will learn, why they will need to learn it, and what they should expect and be able to do with the information once they have learned it. Your students are less likely to patiently sit and absorb information just because they’re in the class, especially if they are younger learners.

In today’s podcast, we’re going to cover two specific areas of your live synchronous online teaching. First, we’ll look at your preparation and mindset, and this is really split into two avenues. The preparation means that you need to clearly know what you’re teaching in each lesson, fully plan it, and know exactly how you will teach it and engage your students.

And the other avenue of this preparation is looking at your mindset about how you’re teaching and how well it’s going. This aspect is something you need to focus on before the class is happening because it can really affect the way you think about the entire experience. It also affects the way you plan and prepare for the lesson. And lastly, it impacts how forgiving and flexible you’re going to need to be with yourself and with your online students.

And second, we’re going to look at some ways where you can get interaction from your students when you’re in that live synchronous online class setting to help them move, talk, and engage. These interaction strategies are going to be super helpful to keep your students’ attention focused, but changing pace throughout the lesson can also help your students mentally rehearse and more fully learn the content as well as learning to apply it.

So before we jump in, here are some ideas about the focus of live synchronous classes and totally online asynchronous classes. If you have a choice about whether your online class is going to meet live just as you would in a face-to-face class, or whether it meets asynchronously where students can log in at their leisure, when convenient, and participate on their own schedules, here is a good way to decide between those two options.

The number one factor is what you as the instructor are planning to do. If you are not going to interact back and forth with your students like in a question/answer type of interchange, and if you’re not planning to lead various interactive activities during the time together, if you’re only planning to lecture to deliver the course content, then you don’t need for this to be a live class. You can stand by yourself in front of a video camera and record yourself lecturing to an empty room, then put that video out there for your students to watch at their own schedule. Don’t make them come and sit in front of their computers only to be passive observers of your lecturing.

If they need to attend at a set time, then use that time to the best of your ability to get them interacting with you. Get them to ask questions, interact with each other, and do something that helps bring them into the learning mode to really engage and get something out of that time with you.

Preparing to Teach a Synchronous, Live Class

So let’s begin. First, we look at the preparation phase. You’re going to create a lesson plan for each lesson, and it needs to be detailed. Decide what students should know and be able to do by the end of this lesson. And decide how you want them to be able to demonstrate their learning at the end as well.

This will likely lead up to your design for assessments and knowledge checks or smaller formative activities leading up to something bigger coming up. Of course, today, I’m addressing only the way we deliver synchronous online lessons and not the actual assessment activities specifically.

If you’re teaching online, you must prepare the content ahead of time, even if you’re teaching live at a specific time. It’s not pretty to improvise in front of a camera feed with your students all sitting there. And it’s also very easy for your students to disengage, turn off their cameras, and find something else more interesting to do.

If they start doing this, they might even stop attending your class. To help them learn the best you can, you will need to be interesting, and engage them with you and with each other. Of course, the class doesn’t have to be live if you choose some other method.

You don’t need to see this experience as if you’re sitting on a stage delivering your lecture or monologue in real time as if you’re in a live classroom. Instead, if you’re going to just put everything online and let students come and go to participate at their own convenience, you can create many different types of content for that and you can make it an asynchronous class.

Maybe one of those, if you go that route, is going to be a short set of videos where you’re explaining or demonstrating a concept. Then there can be some reading material, and maybe you have a few videos that also help teach the concept. And students might be in a discussion area chatting among themselves in an asynchronous discussion as well.

There are a lot of options to help you, if you realize that you don’t really need them to be there live in real time. Whatever you do, be prepared and plan the lesson content, and the way you would deliver it as well, in advance.

Share Expectations with Students, Out Loud

You should be more specifically prepared in your online etiquette expectations. You can begin the class by sharing your standards about what they can expect from you and what you can expect from them in terms of how often and in what ways they will interact during your class. These instructions could include some kind of guidance about muting and unmuting their microphones, as well as what kinds of things can be written in the chat box, and whether they need to be on video or just have an image on the screen and their cameras turned off.

You should share these expectations out loud. Tell your students in front of the camera, when you’re actually there in the live class. Don’t just send them by email and expect your students to read them. You’ll want to reiterate them a few times and emphasize them, especially if you’re going to have these live courses throughout the semester where you’re meeting online, yet at the same time.

There are some additional ideas, like telling your students that online engagement is expected and required as class members. Camera issues and technical issues are not as common of an excuse for not engaging. Students can always use their smartphones as a backup if they have tech issues on their computer, and it can be helpful to engage the classroom support team early and often if there are any issues with technology access.

If you share your beliefs about why they need to engage and about how it’s going to actually cement what they’re learning, this can help your students purposely engage and be much more involved in your live classes.

Make Participation Part of the Grade

I also make participation a part of the grade during a live class, and you might consider doing the same thing, especially for younger students and if it’s a Gen Ed college class. You can use all kinds of brief exercises to interact or chat or get ideas from students throughout the class. And you can even call on students individually and take volunteers to answer questions.

So there are a lot of strategies to help you prepare. And as you think through what types of engagement you might want to use; you can plan your content throughout the lesson around these different methods available to you.

Adjusting Your Mindset

Now, the other half of the preparation is looking at your mindset. What are you thinking about your own teaching generally? And what will you expect to happen when you’re teaching online? How do you see yourself when you’re on video or when you’re coming across an online platform? And what might you do if everything goes wrong?

Let’s talk about that mindset a little more. Even though you will plan and prepare, be prepared for backup plans. In the past, you might have been able to deliver masterful classes and engage your students face-to-face remarkably well. But online, sometimes what you think will be a wonderfully developed and clear lesson turns out to be flat, confusing, and unengaging.

If you are new to teaching online, you will need to prepare with a beginner’s mind. Realize that you might not be as polished or put together as you would like to be. Have a plan B. You can share this plan B any time with additional content, different methods to teach the content. And if you have these backup plans, this is going to help you to feel calmer and help you stay calm if things don’t go according to plan. This is especially helpful if major adjustments are needed.

Because you might need to move to a backup plan, also realize that if it’s your first time teaching online, you might need to be more patient and flexible with yourself while you’re teaching. And you will also need to be more accommodating to your students who are trying to learn your teaching style as well as how to navigate that online space.

It’s really easy to clam up, get a little tense and hold students to a higher standard when things become frustrating for you. So, dial it down just a bit and be more accommodating to yourself and your students equally.

Improving Student Interaction with Polling Software

Lastly, we’re going to look at some ways you can get interaction from your students when you’re in that live synchronous online class to help them move, talk and engage. So how can you interact with these students during this live class?

One of the ideas I’d love to share with you today is to use polling software. There are many kinds of polling software. I’m going use four different kinds today and the first one I’d like to tell you about is called Poll Everywhere. This is one great option. They have interactive activities, attendance methods, quizzing, and ways to check understanding in real time.

You can add Poll Everywhere into a PowerPoint presentation that you already have. This makes it an easy way to add polling or any kind of interaction there. Once you’ve collected the responses, you can save them on the slide deck so if you’re going to share them with students later, those responses will be right there in the slide deck.

This Poll Everywhere also works with Keynote and Google slides. So with Poll Everywhere, you can make live synchronous online classes far more engaging and interactive without really having to change your slide deck very much from your traditional lesson you might’ve given in the past.

A second piece of software is called Mentimeter. Mentimeter lets you build interactive presentations right there on their platform, so you don’t have to go to something like PowerPoint. You can also collect polls, data and opinions from your students using their smartphones. They have 13 different types of interactive questions that can include word clouds and quizzing. The word clouds are especially beautiful because as students add their comments, any repeated statements become bigger in the word cloud and it starts to form right before your eyes.

You could put your whole lesson presentation in a Mentimeter presentation, and the engagement parts could appear throughout this lesson where students will respond, where they will interact, and where they will reply to your questions through Mentimeter. This platform includes themes for your presentations and free stock images to spice it up. And once you’re done, you can analyze the data, export it in a PDF file or in Excel, look at the trends and do some deeper analysis.

A third area is in the Zoom platform, which many of you might already be familiar with. Zoom has polling software built in. And if you’re having your live sessions in Zoom, these can be set up ahead of time and then they can be put on the screen when they’re needed and you can show the poll results to everyone afterwards. The Zoom polls can be conducted anonymously, or you can have participants names recorded, especially if you’re going to download them afterwards and take a look at those responses.

The last thing is the chat feature, which probably comes in whatever video platform you’re using for this live lesson. So the chat feature in the video platform allows students and you all to add your comments and ask questions.

You can monitor what’s going on there and include some of these comments as you’re teaching the lesson in your own speaking to connect to what students are also saying. You can also call on students who are there on video and just ask them to unmute and speak out loud as they would do in a traditional face-to-face class.

Some students are uncomfortable with this and very shy on camera, but once you encourage this kind of participation repeatedly, it grows. And it encourages more students to also participate in the same way. Those four ways of interacting, polling and getting answers from students can really help your students to wake up, stay alert, and really engage with the content.

Engage through Screen Share

Another way to engage your students is a screen share. There are many ways to do this and of course, if you’re in a platform like Zoom, you can either share an app through the platform or your entire screen from your computer right there in Zoom, and you could also share the interactive whiteboard.

When you use the whiteboard, you can just write on it like you would in a face-to-face class although it’s on the computer instead of on the wall. If you’re using Google, Google Classroom, Google Meets, or any of those types of platforms, you can also screen share there. There’s a Jamboard app that you could bring into your Google Classroom to also allow your students to collaborate on those whiteboards.

Video Share with Students

And then of course you can video share. You can stand up in your home office, just like you might in a classroom, put a whiteboard on your wall, and draw concepts on it while you’re teaching during the lesson and as you’re engaging with your students, just as if you’re standing in a regular classroom in front of that class.

These are all ways to engage your students, to get them to stay alive, alert, awake, to help them manipulate the content and interact with each other, explore ideas, and really learn during your live synchronous online class. I hope this has helped you think about how you might include students to engage them during that live synchronous online class.

Summarize the Lesson at the End of Each Class

As you close the lesson and the class for the day, find a way to summarize what they have done, what you’ve learned together and all that you’ve covered. Ask a student to tell you what their takeaway is from the lesson. You can either call on individual students to speak, or if you’re in a video platform with a chat feature, you can ask everyone to type a one-sentence takeaway from the lesson. Here again, this is going to cement their learning and help them repeat it again and again to remember what was taught, but also what they worked on.

You could ask your students to respond through polling software, if you prefer, to this section of your lesson, or you could have them add their answers to a Mentimeter word cloud. Whatever you do, asking students to help you sum up the lesson is another great way to help them engage more and solidly sift through their learning by sharing out.

Reflect After Each Class, Send out Email Reminders to Students

After everyone’s offline, take a moment to reflect on what went well. Was your preparation adequate? Was your mindset in the right place for this kind of situation? And did you prepare the situation itself with all of the steps needed for success? What would you like to adjust before the next go round? And then send a follow-up email to your class with a few key points and reminders about the next time. This will help them remember how to contact you as well when they have questions and it’s going to help them keep thinking about class when they’re away.

Thank you for being with me today. I wish you all the best in your online teaching this week, especially if you’re teaching live synchronous classes.

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.

#40: Benefits of Using the WOOP Tool

#40: Benefits of Using the WOOP Tool

This content was initially posted at APUEdge.Com

Do you want to improve your time management or adopt a new habit? In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares the WOOP tool to help you change behaviors, create new healthy habits, and take a fresh approach to online teaching or online learning. Listen to hear the four steps that were developed using neuroscience and motivation theory to help you become more focused, more productive, and more successful in your online teaching and learning goals.

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.

Teaching online and learning online can happen anytime, anywhere. For this reason, it may be challenging to set boundaries, to manage time, to prioritize the tasks to be done, and to manage everything else in life.

Perhaps there are aspects of your online work that you have tried to change, but you find that you keep returning to less effective strategies. In today’s podcast, I’ll give you a new tool to help you with time management. It will also help you focus on what you would like to accomplish in your online teaching or, if you’re an online learner, in your online schooling.

You can also use it to change habits and behaviors, so it can easily be applied to other areas of your life. This tool will help whether your task is big or small, you might be teaching one class or have to write one assignment, or you might be teaching five classes and need to grade 120 essays. Either way, this tool is based on neuroscience, motivation theory, and it will give you more of what you want and help you spend your time wisely.

If you need to get through circumstances you cannot control like having to self-quarantine or having children at home when they would normally be at school and other unexpected challenges you are facing, this tool will help.

What Challenges Are Keeping You from Being Productive and/or Effective?

Before I share it, think about three things that keep you from being focused in your online learning or teaching right now. And if focus is not really your concern, think about three things that keep you from being successful or effective as you would like to be, in your online learning or teaching right now.

I asked this question to faculty, students, and academic leaders a few months after the pandemic erupted and significantly impacted the way people lived and worked. And I’d like to share some of their answers with you.

  • First, we have the relationships in the home environment. Kids, having children at home, homeschooling children, children wanting to be in the office space, wanting to play. A husband, wife, or partner wanting to talk while they are home. Other family issues, dogs, cats, or other pets, maybe the dog needs to go out, go for a walk or something like that.
  • Next, we have health areas. They could be health issues, allergies, fatigue, or getting sick.
  • And then of course we have the environment we work with. TV might be on. Distractions. Being easily distracted, maybe our own ability to concentrate or our own stress levels.
  • Perhaps it’s just the unknown, feeling anxious or worrying.
  • The internet speed and connectivity, the office setup, or lack of an office space.
  • And, lastly, we have areas of productivity, expectations and work-related tasks. These could be texting, constant email interruptions, maybe you hate grading papers, multitasking, difficulty finishing one project before starting other commitments, taking on too much, not enough time to complete these tasks and personal commitments, or maybe you find it difficult to say “no.”

Many of these challenges are really just a normal part of working from home and teaching and learning online, or even normal parts of life. They can become even more significant when other circumstances have changed, like family members being present when they normally might be at school or work. When there is more going on like political unrest and pandemic concerns.

And some of these challenges really are unique to the conditions faced during the pandemic. As you think about these challenges, consider the experiences you have when you face these challenges. What is the impact on you?

You might have less sleep or irregular sleep. Your energy could be impacted. If you typically exercise and are more active, you can’t always do that now or you don’t feel like getting started. Your enthusiasm is reduced. You may have begun your approach enjoying and wanting to teach online and as these things have continued to impact you, you’re “want to” moved down to the “should” level and then should may have become “need to” and that became even less compelling when it became “have to.”

Anything we approach with the belief that we should do it, we need to do it, or we have to do it is beyond our control it seems. It’s as if there’s this demand placed on us from outside us that now controls our time and our mental space as well.

Whenever we perceive something this way, another impact is that we find it difficult to find solutions or even find our focus and we lose our creativity. Long-term, these impacts on our health and wellbeing are very significant. And the challenges of managing these things that impact our online learning or online teaching also impact our relationships, our sense of purpose in the work, and our life satisfaction. We can see that changing things might help. We’ll bring these ideas back later in the podcast when I share the tool with you.

How the WOOP Tool May Help

The good news is that I’m sharing a tool with you today that can help you turn things around; this tool is called WOOP, or W-O-O-P. It’s a simple tool I discovered recently that I think you’ll find simple and powerful. Well, what is WOOP?

First, I’ll tell you what WOOP is. It’s a tool that uses two different types of strategies. These are mental contrasting and implementation intentions. The tool helps change behaviors and achieve goals. It’s based on neuroscience and theories of motivation and goal attainment.

If you get really excited about this tool and want to dig deeper into these areas, I suggest reading the book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking” by Gabriele Oettingen. Each letter of the strategy stands for one step and the steps are “Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan.” Now I’m going to break these down for you to walk you through the WOOP process.

Step One: Wish

What are you trying to accomplish? In this step you’re going to state your goal. It should be something challenging, but realistic. If you include aspects that seem compelling to you, this will make it even better. But choosing something out of reach and unrealistic when you use this tool will actually make the process more difficult and completely unmotivating.

The timeline of your goal does not really matter, it could be goal that you want to achieve today, tomorrow, next year or five years from now. For the topic we are addressing today in this podcast, I suggest choosing a specific goal in your online teaching and learning. It could be a teaching task, another aspect of working online, your self-care or family areas.

Here are a few examples from online professionals that have shared their goals with me:

  • staying focused during work time or completing work in a timely manner
  • delegating to others more effectively or providing clearer guidance to people who are waiting for my step on a project
  • writing or updating an online course
  • seeing a project through to completion
  • completing grading, getting grading done on time, grading more efficiently, or establishing a consistent schedule in relation to student grading
  • checking some smaller tasks off the to-do list that have piled up
  • writing for publication or planning scholarly activities
  • reading more academic articles instead of watching TV
  • prioritizing various work activities and priorities
  • working on school studies more regularly or working in your online teaching more regularly
  • making self-care a priority
  • reducing stress
  • taking time for exercise in the morning, and
  • setting boundaries with family members when it’s time for online work

Think about what you would like to accomplish. Is it something you would like to change or improve? Is it a habit you would like to begin? After hearing the many examples I’ve shared with you, you can see that something big or small would work and it can be short-term or long-term. Just take a moment to choose one goal that you’re trying to accomplish for this first step and write it down.

Step Two: The Outcome

What is the best possible outcome that would result from accomplishing your goal? Yes, you might consider the immediate outcome, like the fact that your grading would be done, or you would finish the project.

And let’s take that outcome even further. What’s it going to do for you? For example, here are three example outcome statements I really like, maybe four.

  • “I have more energy and feel better about myself.”
  • “I am relieved and feel proud of myself.”
  • “It gives me sense of accomplishment and pride and I’m happy that I’m using my time wisely.”
  • “I have a positive feeling that I’m taking care of my students.”

As you consider the best possible outcome that would result from accomplishing your goal, write this in the present tense as if it’s already happening. This step is going to give your brain some visualization to begin anticipating what you will feel or experience.

You already know that accomplishing this goal is going to be important to you and it’s going to help you. The outcome takes it to the next level by helping you give it even more purpose and meaning. Take a moment to craft your outcome for this second step and write it down.

Step Three: The Obstacle

What are the obstacles that prevent you from achieving your goal? What’s standing in the way between you and your goal? Earlier I asked what three things were keeping you from focusing or being as successful as you would like to be in your online teaching and learning and then I shared many ideas other online professionals have mentioned about their work.

Now we can take those things and turn them into a more detailed idea. Here are some examples:

  • “I don’t feel motivated or excited to exercise in the morning.”
  • “I procrastinate and get distracted by Facebook or other social media.”
  • “I’m tired when I get home from work and just don’t feel like reading.”

As you think about your obstacles to reaching the goal, just list one specific thing that is tangible, as an obstacle that comes up for you. As in the previous step, visualizing the obstacle is going to give your brain that connection to what you’re thinking about, and it will anchor your thinking in the process. The obstacle will come up again for you in the future and it’s important as part of this process to write it down. So take a moment to identify one specific obstacle you are personally facing related to your goal and write it down.

Step Four: The Plan

What are you action would help you when this obstacle shows up? The plan will be one sentence, structured like an “if–then” statement or a “when–then” statement. You will be able to create this plan and visualize it your mind. The sentence starts with: “When ____ (that would be the obstacle), then I will ____ (and that’s the action to overcome the obstacle).”

An example might be that “When I wake up, then I will see my exercise clothes and shoes I’ve set out the night before, put them on and exercise anyway. Even if I’m tired and don’t feel like exercising.”

This of course is my own example, my own scenario. I learned that I never feel like exercising in the morning, but I really want to. It takes time to get out the clothes and put them on or set up what I’m going to do. Because of that I actually started planning ahead the night before, and I put my exercise clothes and the shoes on the bathroom counter so I see them when I first get up and go into the bathroom.

I don’t have to make any decisions. I don’t have to look through my closet for exercise clothes. That resistance is totally eliminated. I also set out my exercise equipment, like my hand weights, my workout video DVD, my headphones, or any other items where I go to do the exercise. Again, this reduces decision-making and the time it takes to get ready, and it makes the habit a lot more obvious for me. Having everything set out the night before helps me overcome the feeling of not wanting to exercise because things are just ready to go and it’s a lot simpler getting started.

We know that the best way to establish a new habit is to imagine the obstacle and then do the action to reduce the obstacle and make the habit more obvious and easy to do. In the WOOP tool that we’re using today, the idea is that we visualize the obstacle, and we anticipate it being there. And we condition ourselves to respond to that obstacle with the behavior or activity we want to do instead.

Here are a few examples:

  • “When I get up in the morning then I will immediately put on my exercise shoes and go for a run, even if I don’t feel like it.”
  • “If I get distracted from my work, then I will block all distracting websites with Focus Assist, and get back to work.”
  • “When I get home from work, then I will immediately log into my Brightspace classroom and start reading.”

Take a moment to design your “if–then” plan, or your “when–then” plan and write it down. As you create the sentence, visualizing it and imagining it happening is going to help you prepare to activate your plan.

WOOP Can Help You Overcome Obstacles, Adopt New Habits

Now using WOOP can really help; it can help you create new habits, change behaviors, and take a fresh approach to your online teaching and learning. You’ll find that you can use this tool to overcome any obstacle to creating a big project or completing a big project. It can help you master a difficult situation.

You can also use it to handle time management, set up self-care routines, and confidently adopt new priorities.

The mental contrasting strategy includes taking your current situation, visualizing what it could look like as an ideal state, and visualizing obstacles that you will encounter.

While you might have created goals and plans in the past, the key here is to identify and anticipate those obstacles. This makes the difference in pushing through them.

In implementation intentions, these are the triggers that you set up for the “if then” and the “when then” relationships to create new actions you’re going to take.

The tool is simple but powerful. It really does help you target one area of your online teaching work or your life and make a change. You can complement this strategy with additional ideas like using checklists, taking a planned breakreflecting at the end of the week to acknowledge your progress, and then adjusting your plan for the coming week.

Thank you for being with me today to explore this tool and consider trying something new. Remember that if you write things down and reflect on how they’re working for you, it makes the process clearer and helps you think about your thinking, as well.

Writing your steps to this plan and writing your reflection on how it worked for you, these are great places to start. Best wishes to you this coming week in your online teaching and in trying out the WOOP strategy.

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.

#39: Creative Methods and Strategies for Teaching Online

#39: Creative Methods and Strategies for Teaching Online

This content first appeared on APUSEdge.Com

It can be challenging to keep online courses engaging and interesting. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares five methods and strategies to help online educators enhance their classroom. Learn how to increase student engagement through asynchronous discussions, online group work, gamification, guided exploration, and leveraging the full power of your school’s learning management system.

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.

I thank you for joining me. It’s wonderful to be with you here today, to talk about methods and strategies teaching online. There are so many ways you can engage with your students in the online classroom, many of which involve special tools, interfaces, apps, or other items that might be considered bright and shiny objects.

Just to help you avoid getting overwhelmed, I’m going to introduce you to five specific methods and strategies you might consider using in your upcoming courses to help you keep the overwhelm at a minimum and get excited about trying something new and creative.

You might already know this, but choosing methods and strategies that work for your online environment and also guide your students appropriately through the topic, it’s challenging but it’s also necessary.

Creative strategies are so needed because students otherwise will disengage. Online education can be very isolating. If we always use an essay and discussion board approach, it can also be very dry and boring. Engaging your students and getting them excited about what they’re going to learn and how they’re going to learn is only part of the battle. We’re going to talk about that: how to learn it.

Think about the typical online class that focuses mainly on a lecture and some kind of assignment the student will give back to you. This is somewhat an imitation of a live class, and most of us would see this as the typical way a college class occurs. Online students need way more opportunities to interact with each other, with the content, and with you.

Online learners are a bit different than the residential students you might have at a traditional face-to-face university. Many of them have busy lives and need to be able to look at smaller bits of information, like a little video clip or something engaging they can click through or several of these things.

If you take the time to chunk information and use special strategies to create engagement, these strategies will really help your students be interested in your online course and help them throughout their learning and help them enjoy the process.

The tools that give your students the opportunity to work through the content that they need to learn, compete with their own performance, and manage the overall learning process can really help your online courses become more exciting and motivating.

As I’ve already mentioned, this could quickly lead to overwhelm for you. So choose one thing to try in your upcoming course, keep it small and simple, and you will be very pleased with the way this leads to a better result for you and your students.

Five Strategies for Improving Student Engagement

So here are the five methods and strategies I’d like to share with you today to help you get something more interesting going on in a small and simple piece.

Asynchronous Discussions

The first is asynchronous discussions. Asynchronous discussions are the hallmark component of online courses. Most people expect to see a discussion forum at some point in an online class. Some people use discussion forums throughout the entire course. Discussion forums give students the opportunity to teach and learn from each other. They can try on ideas, analyze, explore, debate, discuss. They can really get into the content through a discussion. They can also engage in dialogue with you, the instructor.

The discussion can include text. It could be based on images, audio, video, or multimedia, or you could include some combination of those things. In a previous episode of the Online Teaching Lounge, I explored a lot of different ways to manage your online discussions and creative a forum prompts you might consider trying. I hope you will take a look at those previous episodes. They’ll give you a lot of ideas in the asynchronous discussion area.

Online Group Work

The second method and strategy I would like to suggest is online group work. Learning can be a collaborative endeavor and group work can promote dialogue while refining understandings. This can be done in a way that fits the subject matter that you are teaching.

Group discussions, group projects, and peer-to-peer activities can also make online learning much more enjoyable for your students. This will reduce the tendency to have just lecture and discussion-based courses, and it will also make it more interesting when they’re forming connections with their classmates.

One of the drawbacks of online learning is that students do not really get to know each other deeply. When they work in a group, they have a better chance of getting to know each other, connecting and maybe even knowing a familiar name when they go to the next course in their program.

Group work can be very difficult to manage. I used to do an online project in the music appreciation class that I am teaching most. In that course when the group work came up, sometimes I would specifically assign students groups of people that were in the same time zone. My students tend to be all over the world at any given point, so I like to creatively manage that.

I had also chosen groups based on similar demographics. Maybe they’re in the same military branch or maybe some knew the subject of music a little bit and some didn’t, and I would combine those to give everybody a better chance of engaging about the content.

Group work needs clear instructions, creative activities to explore where each group member can contribute something. And, of course, some kind of criteria for grading that makes it worth the student’s time.

When I say worth their time, I mean that they’re going to actually be graded on their own contribution and not solely on the group grade. Students get very discouraged when they’re graded on the work that classmates have not done.

It’s also very helpful in group work assignments to let students choose some component of the assignment themselves. Maybe there are some creative elements they can put in there. Maybe there are several choices of what could be created or discussed in the assignment, and maybe there is also the opportunity to choose what the output format is going to look like whether it’s an essay, a PowerPoint, or some multimedia presentation.

Considering group work as the opportunity to really engage in a real-world fashion, this is an opportunity for you to also coach your students on how to work as teams, especially online.

Games and Simulations

The third method and strategy I’d like to introduce, this is the area of games and simulations. Games and simulations are opportunities for your students to apply new learning in real life scenarios. These can be supplemented through hypothetical situations, maybe they’re even role-playing or through specific apps and platforms built for some kind of educational gaming.

You might consider badging. Sometimes students get very excited about earning these little badges that appear as tokens of their achievement. There might be something built into your LMS that allows badging or up-voting or some kind of other engagement about the game or simulation itself.

Sometimes a little bit of competition actually makes the learning process even more fun. Games and simulations are becoming increasingly popular. I was at the Online Learning Consortium Conference a couple of years ago where a faculty member actually introduced the idea of using a Dungeons and Dragons scenario in a class, for gaming options.

If you explore the possibilities of gaming and simulations that are available, you just might find one that works fabulously in your subject matter. Simulations are a little bit different than games. They’re a little bit more applied and real-world oriented and might revolve around a case study or a role-play.

A simulation is something that might have a decision tree. For example, maybe the student enters a crime scene and they’re in a class where this is the area of focus. In the simulation, they might need to examine evidence and make a choice. With a decision tree, when they click on one choice, it will go to one avenue, and when they click on a different choice, it will take them someplace else. It’s a little bit like the 1980s example of choose your own adventure books. You get to choose the different options and the program takes you in different directions.

There are a lot of apps and things available that allow for decision trees. Even a simple PowerPoint presentation could be rigged so that you have a decision tree option available. You can create a slide where a student clicks on one or the other item on the slide, and depending on what they click on, it moves them to another slide entirely, skipping over a whole bunch of slides in between.

If you’re not sure what to use for a simulation and you’d like to try, I recommend starting with a simple PowerPoint. You might also consider reaching out to your classroom management team, whoever is working on your LMS at your institution, to see what’s available. Some apps can even be integrated into the learning management system to make this a lot easier for your students and for you.

Going back to the idea of gaming, I will go back into an app that I’d like to recommend today. There is one called Quizlet, which is well known for flashcard studying. Quizlet hosts flashcard-style tools to create simple interactive and game-like components that are easily embedded into any LMS.

A lot of students search for subject matter content online, maybe they do a Google search for items related to your class that you’re teaching. And many of them actually find Quizlets already available that help them study the terms that are taught in your class.

If you decide to create a Quizlet, it can be very simple to just create a list of terms or ideas, concepts, scenarios, and you can set up various options in the Quizlet program, making it fit your subject matter and your strategy the best.

Keep in mind that any new technology you may be learning as the instructor might be equally challenging for your students. There is a learning curve to everything, so when you’re trying a new interface, a new app, or a new program, keep yourself limited to one. This is going to help you avoid the overwhelm that comes with bright and shiny object syndrome. And when you get overwhelmed with a lot of new options, it can be paralyzing, making it difficult for you to integrate that into your classroom.

If you’re able to develop simulations, role-playing games, or other gamification that might go into your courses, this could be really engaging and fun. It will generate interest in your class and in the content of your course. And also guide your students to learn at a deeper level, and the results will definitely be worthwhile.

Guided Exploration

A fourth area I recommend is called guided exploration. Guided exploration helps your students quite a bit. It can be delivered as an instructor-made video. Perhaps you are doing a screencast that walks through the entire classroom, showing your students around. Maybe it’s a narrated screencast. It could be a classroom tour, a list of steps for investigating a topic, a guided exercise in the subject matter. Maybe it’s an analysis presentation of some kind of case study or other issue, or other teacher-led tools.

When we think about guided exploration, this is often the idea of lecturing on a content matter. If you use guided exploration, really what you’re doing is giving an overview of a subject or the topic, walking students through it, and describing, discussing, and analyzing it as you go.

As the instructor, you’re giving a little bit more information about the thinking for this kind of subject, maybe what we might notice. One example I’d like to share is from the music appreciation class, because of course, that’s my subject area. Guided exploration in this case might be a recording of a performance where I’m going to pause it, point out a few things in that video, discuss it and record myself doing this, and then continue recording a little segment and talk through which musical devices are showing up.

As I do that kind of guided exploration video, my students are going to have a lot more hands-on guidance so that when they listen to their musical example and have to analyze it, they feel a little bit more prepared.

Leveraging Your Learning Management System

The last method or strategy that I would like to share with you today is your LMS. Your LMS, of course, isn’t a strategy itself, but it comes with a lot of different components to help you track student progress and create creative assignments. You can communicate with everyone through your LMS, usually. You can also reach individuals privately. There might be some kind of messaging feature. There might be something also that enables interaction or even live video. Leveraging your LMS and all of its different components could allow you to create things that are new and different.

Some learning management systems have a group setting. You can take a forum discussion and randomly assign students into different groups so that they’re just discussing the topic in smaller groups than they normally would. Sometimes this alone is a very engaging method for students to get connected and a strategy for helping them dive to a deeper level.

Just in review, we’ve talked today about asynchronous discussions, group work, games and simulations, guided exploration, and learning management system components. Methods and strategies in your online class are a little bit different than deciding what to teach, it’s more about deciding how you will teach it.

As you spend the time creatively deciding your methods and strategies, you’re going to be able to be creating something that is more interesting for your students and more engaging overall. It will also give you that feeling of trying something fresh every so often. So that you don’t get stuck in patterns that you teach every single semester, but that you keep trying something new.

I hope you will try at least one of these methods and strategies today to freshen up your online teaching. And I wish you all the best this 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.

 

5 Tips to Prepare for an Online Teaching Position Interview

5 Tips to Prepare for an Online Teaching Position Interview

This content was originally published at APUEdge.com

Five Tips to Help You Prepare for an Online Teaching Position Interview

If you have traditional, face to face teaching experience and want to teach online, you’ll need to know how to prepare for an online teaching position interview. Online education is a growing field, and getting hired to teach online is increasingly more competitive. It can also be difficult to focus your interview comments toward online education specifically, when you have focused on live classes throughout your career. I’ve interviewed hundreds of prospective faculty in recent years and share these tips from my experience, to help you stand out in your next online teaching interview and hopefully land the job you’re looking for.

Do Your Homework

Before you interview for an online teaching position, do your homework to learn about the institution. Each school, college, and university is unique in its mission and philosophy. Many cater to specific populations or have focused programs that distinguish them. Knowing about the specifics of the job for which you’re being interviewed gives you an advantage during the conversation. And, your insight about the programs or populations for which the interviewer is responsible can be included in your interview responses thoughtfully.

Interviewers will want to know how your skills and expertise will be a good fit for their reality. Most educational institutions have informative websites, where the mission and vision of the institution is provided. Take the time to read and understand these areas. Also explore the specifics in the program for which you have applied. You might be able to find details about the student population most likely to enroll in the program, such as whether they are mostly adult learners, military and veteran students, or within other demographic groups. Use the information you find to help tailor your approach when answering interview questions to help you stand out among others interviewed.

Learn What Matters About Online Education

If you are not familiar with online education practices, learn about the Community of Inquiry model, andragogy, and strategies specific for your subject area. There are many well-known “best practices” in online education, and applicants for online teaching positions are expected to know about these practices. As you learn about what matters in online education, find practices you already use that align to these practices. Then, practice explaining how your present strengths and abilities work well online.

Even if you have little experience, knowing how to move your teaching online will prepare you for an interview much better than guessing. As you learn about what matters in online teaching, you can think about the potential job expectations for the role you’re considering in light of what you already know about the academic institution, its priorities, and its student population. Mentally connecting these areas can help you generate a list of questions you might ask during the interview, if you need more information about the job expectations to decide whether it’s a good fit for you.

Get Clear About Your Strengths and Weaknesses Teaching Online

Regardless of your online teaching experience, interviewers want to know about your strengths and weaknesses while teaching online. The first way to explore your focus is by taking the “Teaching Perspectives Inventory.” The TPI identifies teaching priorities and can help you get clear on your goals for teaching generally. Once you’ve identified your focus, you can describe your teaching strengths and focus together—something few teachers are able to do concisely.

After you’ve thought about your teaching priorities, connect these to what matters in online education, as well as what works well for you and what doesn’t. Decide how you stand out uniquely through your strengths and teaching approaches, personality, teaching philosophy, and the ways in which you help students learn. Likewise, identify your weaknesses. No one can be good at everything, and being clear about where you’re still growing ads validity to what you say in your interview. It’s a bonus if you also have a plan about how you address your weaker areas or a plan to regularly improve these areas.

Share Your Key Ideas Clearly and Concisely

Find ways to express the unique and authentic details about yourself concisely, without jargon. I’ve been in many interviews where time was limited, and interviewees were asked to share their most important thoughts in just a few minutes, yet many were not able to do it. As you prepare for an interview, aim for a response that shares the best details up front, so that you get out what is most important to you and those interviewing you without running out of time.

It’s obvious when an interviewee has previously written responses prepared for an interview that they are trying to fit into the questions they have been asked, only to fail to answer the actual question that has been posed. Think about potential interview questions and practice your responses, and also be flexible enough to answer clearly and concisely during the interview. Your ability to adjust in this area helps a potential employer see how you might also be able to say a lot in a short space, to show that you can adapt when needed.

Listen and Respond Well

After you’ve taken the time to do your homework about the institution you’re interviewing at, learn what matters about teaching online, increased your self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, and prepared yourself to respond clearly and concisely, give yourself the time and energy to listen and respond well. When listening to those who are interviewing you, take the time to consider what they are asking. If you’re unsure what is meant, ask for a bit of detail or clarification.

Once you’ve fully grasped what you’re asked during the interview, take a breath, and respond confidently. If you’re anxious, close your eyes a moment, and bring your awareness to the present moment before answering. You’ve done your homework and are prepared. You have much to share. And you will be able to do it clearly and concisely.

Hearing your interviewers and connecting with them during the interview allows you to build a rich conversation that sets you apart as a potential faculty member. You’ll notice things you might have otherwise missed if you are anxious, jump in too quickly, or don’t catch the meaning of your interviewers’ questions. By slowing down and being intentional during the interview, you will be able to leave the experience feeling great about the way you presented yourself and your unique expertise, and you’ll have the best chance of being considered for the role you are seeking.

#38: Asking Great Questions Can Improve Student Engagement

#38: Asking Great Questions Can Improve Student Engagement

This content first appeared at APUSEdge.Com

Increasing engagement in the online classroom can often be challenging for educators. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses the importance of asking great questions to solicit information from students, generate more detailed discussion forums, and get students to think more deeply about a topic. Learn seven steps to develop creative and open-ended questions and advice for turning statements into engaging questions.

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.

Today, I’m going to talk with you about asking great questions to up level your teaching in the online environment. Many of us know that asking questions can be a great practice. This happens in discussions. Sometimes we ask questions in our feedback. We might ask questions during a live synchronous session. There are many ways we ask questions when we’re teaching, but particularly when we’re teaching online.

In this episode, we will talk about why asking good questions is important. We will also talk about how to create great questions. And lastly, we will use a strategy to turn any statement into a question. So let’s dive in.

Asking Good Questions Helps Engage Students

Why is asking good questions important? This is a great question, isn’t it? We could debate all day about what makes a good question. What makes a great question? Whether we should ask questions? Or tell?

The bottom line is great questions involve using a question to get a student to think, explore, analyze, debate, or examine information in a deep way. Asking students questions can motivate their curiosity about the topic and it can help you understand whether or not they have learned what they’re supposed to be learning.

Questions turn the student into the teacher. There’s a well-known concept that when we teach something to others, we learn it better. The more we ask students questions, the more they master the content. However, effective questioning is about asking the right kind of questions.

There are several questions we could ask, but the distinction I want to make here is the difference between open-ended and closed-ended questions. An open-ended question allows for many possibilities. An open-ended question asks a student to contribute their unique frame of reference, but it also allows them to take one of many possible approaches to the answer.

With an open-ended question, students might all answer differently. There could be a variety of responses given. Many interpretations. Many approaches. In the end, an open-ended question invites. Open-ended questions start with what, how, why.

Closed-ended questions, in contrast, usually lead to one specific answer. Closed-ended questions might simply be a yes or no response. A closed-ended question discourages exploration. It actually just asks for a report. Usually a closed-ended question is asking about facts. A closed-ended question might begin with, do you, does it, is it. All of these could be answered in a very simple yes or no.

[Podcast: Developing Leadership Skills in Online Higher Education]

Why is asking good questions important in online education? Because we have discussion boards and assignments as some of our primary feedback methods of how students are learning, and where we’re going to give the feedback, we really want to solicit a lot of information from our students. We also want to get our students thinking deeply through these activities. Asking good questions in these areas invites creativity. Exploration. It also invites students to really think about what they’re going to say in response.

Especially in a discussion area, if we ask great questions, a detailed dialogue follows. When we ask closed-ended questions or poorly created questions, all of the students respond in the same way. They provide similar responses. There’s not a lot of interaction because there’s nothing really to discuss. And it’s very difficult to get the conversation flowing.

As a faculty member or a teacher online, if you ever find a discussion falling flat, I would suggest the first step is to look at the questions asked in the beginning of this discussion. Is there something about those questions that closes it down from the get go? Is there something that could be added to fill it out? Now, those are yes or no questions. Really, it’s either effective or it’s closing things down. Think about the quality of the questions in discussion forums specifically, and whether or not you believe there’s a right answer.

When you, as the instructor approach a discussion as if there is one right answer, chances are the discussion is going to move in a very narrow, closed-up fashion. I would suggest exploring other types of questioning to open that up, and to help students generate more possibilities, more connections, and more understanding.

As you think about the role questions play in your online teaching, consider this: Each of your students is a member of a learning community. There’s a whole system in your classroom. Bigger than that, your students are each members of professional communities outside of that classroom. What can you do to open their thinking to these broader spaces? To help them feel connected in this learning community of your classroom, and also to help them feel connected to the bigger professional community that they are also a part of? What can you do to monitor your students’ learning through asking creative questions and great questions? And what can you do to find out what students know about this subject?

Many faculty members are very concerned about plagiarism, and rightly so. There are plenty of websites out there offering students quick responses, answers they can copy and paste into your course. There are even professional essay writers available to write the students’ papers and discussions for them.

Getting to know your students through their week one introductions and through their backgrounds, you can start to think about what they might already know and what they need to learn. As you’re monitoring student learning through the discussions, through the assignments and through all those other activities you might include, consider how they can uniquely apply the content. In your questions when you ask students to apply the content, there are unique responses. Doing this through great questions is a very clever and creative way to do it.

A Formula for Creating Good Questions

Now we’re going to talk about how to ask great questions. Some of the ideas I will share with you here come from a book called Everyday Instructional Coaching: Seven Daily Drivers to Support Teacher Effectiveness by Nathan Lang-Raad. This book is really designed to coach faculty so that you can go out and observe, mentor, teach, coach, and interact with a variety of faculty members on various levels.

In one section of his book, Nathan has a whole area devoted to question strategies. Now these question strategies are initially targeting the instructional coach. As a teacher and an instructor, I propose that you are also a coach to your students. This is why I’m sharing the strategies with you now. The author here suggests there is a question formulation technique created by some researchers at the Right Question Institute, it’s called the Question Formulation Process.

Step 1: Identify a Question Focus

There are seven steps to creating great questions and the first one is to identify a question focus. When you identify the question focus your thinking about the starting point. It’s not really the question itself, it’s the topic. Think about the topic, the problem, or the situation. What is it exactly you’re focusing on in your question?

Step 2: Brainstorm Many Questions

Second, follow the rules for producing questions. One of the suggestions the author makes here is to ask a lot of questions. This is the brainstorming strategy. Ask as many questions as you can, don’t stop, judge or discount any of your questions, and write them all down. Look through and consider what is going to generate the best results from your students. You can create buy-in, you can also create engagement through your questions. Brainstorming a lot of different questions you might choose will help you come up with even better questions.

Step 3: Selecting and Producing Questions

The third step is producing the questions. You take your topic that you initially started with, your topic or your problem or your situation that you’re going to focus on, and you’ve brainstormed a lot of possible questions. Here, we want to focus on what is going to generate the most open information? Produce the question that is open ended and look at the quality of this question.

Step 4: Improving Your Questions

Next, the fourth step is improving your questions. You can go back to this list of questions you created and cross off any that are closed ended. As you read them, consider: is there a yes or no answer that is easy to come with? Do you, is it, those kinds of beginnings definitely signal less effective questions.

As you go through, look at the beginning of the question. Determine would you like to phrase it differently? What might invite more? Also ask yourself, does this question have enough information to get students moving in the direction I’d like them to go?

For example, if we ask too short of a question, we might actually get totally different results in the responses. Does the question include enough information to generate true discussion about that content?

The best way to check your questions for alignment is to go back to your purpose for asking the question in the first place. Look at the topic and your goal for asking that question. Does it align with your focus? If the answer is yes, you can use that question with some confidence that it’s going to yield the results you’re looking for.

Step 5: Prioritize the Questions

The fifth step in asking great questions, and developing great questions, is to prioritize. If you’ve done your due diligence and you’ve created quite a list of questions, choose the top three. Narrow them down and determine which three are your best possibilities.

Step 6: Establish Your Next Steps

Now you can decide which questions you’d like to ask. How will you use these questions? Will you use them in a lesson, in a discussion area, in an assignment? Review the way you will use your questions.

Step 7: Reflecting

The last step is to reflect on what you’ve learned in the process of selecting your questions. Also reflect on the effectiveness of your questions. This involves using them with your students, evaluating the outcomes, and determining how effective your questioning strategies were.

In the end, effective open-ended questions explicitly tied to your topic and your instructional goals that are well suited for the ways in which you will use them such as in discussions or elsewhere, these will be great questions. Now let’s move to our last and final area today.

How to Turn a Statement into a Question

A strategy to turn any statement into a question. I share this strategy with you because I have evaluated a lot of content, a lot of programming, many course design models, and a lot of forum discussion prompts specifically.

Many times I find educators giving statements to students rather than asking questions. A statement would be something like, “Tell me what you believe to be the most important outcome of X, Y, Z concept.” When you ask someone a question instead, it opens up thinking. When you speak in terms of a statement that you want to elicit a different response, it’s very directive and often closes down thinking.

Instead of, “Tell me X, Y, Z,” this can easily be turned into a great question by saying, “What are the primary outcomes that seem most important to you from whatever this is?” You can also say, “In your opinion, and based on the evidence you’ve learned in this class, what do you believe to be the most important outcomes of this historical event?”

When you ask a question like that, it’s also helpful to follow it up with an expectation. “In your response please give reference to your sources used, the concepts you learned and make connections to application, modern day, et cetera.”

As you give students your great questions and turn statements into questions, you will become much more effective in getting students to propel their own learning, helping them teach themselves more, retain the knowledge more, and become highly engaged in everything they’re learning.

Today, we’ve covered three critical areas of asking questions. The first was, why should we ask good questions? Why is asking good questions important at all? The second, how to ask a great question. And I shared with you a seven step strategy from the book, Everyday Instructional Coaching: Seven Daily Drivers to Support Teacher Effectiveness by Nathan Lang-Raad.

And lastly, a strategy to turn any question into a statement. It’s very simple. Although sometimes it requires practice, especially if it’s a change from your current approach in your classroom.

As you consider using questions in your online teaching, it will become easier to do, and you will find a lot of positive results. From there, you can continue to use your brainstorming process to create more questions, use positive questions, powerful questions, open-ended questions, and questions that generate higher order thinking. Thank you for being here with me today and exploring this topic.

If you have suggestions for future episodes, please visit my website, bethaniehansen.com/request. I love to hear from my listeners, and I’d love to make this podcast even more effective for you. Best wishes to you in your online teaching this week.

 
#37: Own Your Impact in Online Education

#37: Own Your Impact in Online Education

This content was first published at APUEdge.Com.

Sometimes faculty members feel like they play a very small part in the overall operation and success of the university. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen encourages online educators to step back and look at the big picture to see how their contribution is actually really significant and important. She encourages online educator to better understand the inner workings of the university, including all the various departments that are also making small but meaningful contributions to student and faculty success. Also learn why its so important to understand course data to evaluate your teaching strategy, assess your relationship with students, and help you identify areas for improvement.

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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 podcast today. Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m very excited to share with you this topic. We’re going to talk about your impact in online education.

Just to give you a little backstory, I once was a part-time faculty member teaching online, then I became a full-time faculty member teaching online. I also have a background in K-12 education of 20 years, and then I became a faculty director; I’ve been doing this role for the past six years.

When I became a faculty director, I saw things very differently. At first, I really did not know all of the inner workings of the university or the various impacts of my role in my teaching.

I want to share all this with you today for two reasons. First, when you know your impact, you can control the outcome a lot more and you can focus your energy to have a better impact.

And second, when you understand the impact of a lot of different smaller parts, you can also understand how critically important you are. It brings meaning to your teaching and it gives you a lot more context to enjoy your role. So let’s jump in.

Understand the Big Picture of How Your Institution Works

The first thing is about the big picture. If you’re in public education or private education K-12, I’m not going to be very specific here for your role in your institution. I’m going to outline the higher education landscape idea, the big picture in a university operation setting. I hope you’ll liken this to your own situation so that it can benefit you most.

This first idea is the university has a lot of different departments. For example, there’s a registrar’s office and also a huge group of folks that are dedicated to enrollment services. There’s a student services department, some of this has to do with academic support. There’s a booklist team, a librarian team. There are also all kinds of student clubs and organizations. There is a career services department and in the career services realm, students are looking for how to take their degree further, what they can do next and how to get a job in the field that they just graduated in.

There’s an appeals department, there’s a conduct department that handles student behaviors that might be inappropriate or escalating. There’s also a plagiarism and originality group. It might be an entire department, or it might be within another department.

There’s a classroom support group. This would be your tech folks who are really skilled at helping you in that learning management system. Beyond that, they have incredible gifts for creating things. They might help you find multimedia or create some kind of interactive role play activity, storyboard, decision matrix where students can have choice and engage in the content in a formative way.

There is a center for teaching and learning, some kind of group that’s going to give resources and increased professional development opportunities as well as skills that you can gain over time.

There are a whole host of other faculty. Many of these people have immense experience teaching or in professional fields, or both. You can reach out to them. Lean on them. Learn from them. They all bring their own unique set of offerings to the table. Each faculty member comes with a rich set of skills that you can also connect to.

And then, of course, there’s the bigger community. And the community might be your department, your school, a college, the entire university, and so forth. All of these departments have their own roles. And on the day-to-day side of things, people who work in every single department may feel that their jobs are small. Keep in mind that by small means, huge things come about.

Each person contributes a small part to the bigger picture of successful university operations. A lot of the things that people in these other departments do really support you in your online teaching and your role as a faculty member. For example, if you’re struggling with your learning management system, you can very quickly reach out to your classroom support team for help within a short timeline.

You can also build your goals for growth, your skills and all these other things that will help you be even more powerful in that learning management system in the future. You can connect to the center for teaching and learning for those kinds of skills. You can connect to other faculty members and the bigger community.

Why am I telling you about this big picture? My own experience was that as an online faculty member, I did not engage with very many of these departments. Occasionally, I might get an email from one or hear about something, but I did not really understand the inner workings of the teams. When I became a faculty director, very quickly, I was able to meet a lot of people on all of these teams. And I realized the obvious, we are all in this together. They were supporting the students; I was supporting the students.

When we see everyone else as members of our own team, we can reach out much more quickly when we need help. We can connect. We can get support. Things become a lot easier. Just think about the chaplain department.

Our university has a chaplain department. When we have a student who is struggling, maybe they are having a depression experience, maybe it’s even more extreme and they have expressed extreme distress. Maybe there are some issues with post-traumatic stress disorder. Whatever the situation, the chaplain department is one of our first lines of communication. The team that we connect with in the chaplain’s office is incredibly supportive. They offer resources, ideas. They give us a lot of support and they can make suggestions that will help us engage in our jobs a lot better as a faculty member.

Just as each member of these departments that I’ve mentioned makes our jobs a lot easier and they contribute to the success of the university as a whole, what I do has an impact as well. What you do has an impact. As a faculty member, it’s really important to know how we impact these other departments.

For example, when we are really encouraging, supportive and helpful with a student, when we share the resources like career services as they’re ending their degree program, or even in the middle, we support the career services and the student services departments by directing students the right way.

We send them to the people that can help them most who have all the information to connect them to career support. We further the educational goals of our students. Again, I mentioned as a faculty member, I was not always aware of all of the different departments and services and how they work together.

Once I became a faculty director, I realized I could serve students a lot better as a faculty member teaching in the classroom if I help them connect to different services and different departments when needed. But also, if I reached out as the faculty member to connect.

For example, when I notice a student in distress, or a student who has disclosed to me they have a disability and they really do need accommodations, but they haven’t asked for them, I can suggest to the student that they reach out to the chaplain office or the DSA, disability services department. I can also connect to those departments for tips and strategies and ideas. And I can also reach out to the center for teaching and learning for additional skills. There are so many ways these departments support me as a faculty member, and they can support you too.

What services exist in your institution? What can you do to connect with these different departments? And how can you learn your impact on these departments, on the people who work there? How does this broaden your awareness to think about your institution having so many different people there to support you? I hope you’ll think on that and consider how what you do every day is so connected to the bigger picture, the mission of your institution and the direction everyone’s going in this educational journey. As you do that, you’re going to be able to think about how the small things really add up to a big thing.

How to Broaden Your Perspective

The second area I want to talk about is our own class. And I’m just talking about an individual section that we are teaching. Chances are, you’re teaching more than one class at a time. Let’s just think about one class.

To broaden your perspective in this area, I would like to talk about the past, present and future focus. When we’re focused on the present, we are thinking about the lesson to be taught, the topics we’re investigating. We’re thinking about how an assignment fits into the bigger picture. And we’re focused on the day-to-day checking in of our students, ensuring that what they’re doing is on par for an academic in this subject.

When we’re focused on the present, many times it makes our job easier to do because we can see just this small piece. And of course, as I’ve mentioned, by small things, large things come about. We can help promote our students’ understanding in the entire class, just from each small thing along the way. The bigger picture has us thinking about the past and the future as well.

The past would be: what courses did these students take before my class that got them here? What is their prior learning? What is their life experience? Thinking about the past in our course gives us a huge amount of perspective. What do we need to add? What kinds of concepts do we need to include? How can we stair-step them from where they were to where they need to be?

The future focus is also important. Thinking about the bigger objectives in your course, the learning objectives. Basically the outcomes. What should they know and be able to do when they leave this class? This is the bigger picture of future focus.

Every small thing within your class ties into those bigger things. As a faculty member, when you connect those things for your students as you’re writing your announcements, as you’re teaching your class, you help your students to understand the big picture as well.

Not all of us make those connections, of course. Not all of us look at the class and think, “Man, I’m so excited that I’m learning this because it’s going to help me understand this big concept.” In fact, most students don’t think that way.

Part of our job as faculty members is to tie the small things that they’re doing into that bigger picture. Why are we doing this? It’s going to help you with X, Y, Z. It’s going to give you skills, knowledge. It’s going to prepare you for this career adventure. It’s going to prepare you for the next class you’re going to take. It’s going to apply in your life. We can also turn that around and ask students, how do you see this small piece of our course tying into this bigger goal? How does it work for you in your professional goals? Asking students these questions helps you do your job better because when they make the connections, they learn more. It’s amazing to see those connections happen throughout a course.

Why It’s So Important to Understand Course Data

Let’s also think about past, present and future in terms of data. When I became a faculty director and I was no longer just teaching courses all the time, but I was also supervising faculty, coaching faculty, onboarding faculty, and all of those things that go with that role, one of the things I learned about was the data.

There is a lot of data in an online course. For example, we might have an average grade report. As a faculty team member, I can do this on my own. I can look at the final grades of all of my students. I can see, did all of them get A’s? If that happens, chances are I’m not really critically evaluating because I’m not really sure all of my students would just ace the class or naturally get A’s.

And while I’m not suggesting that we deflate grades in any way, the final course grades can give us a lot of information. We can learn about our own grading process. We can also learn, is the rigor of the class too low? Have we not asked enough of our students in learning this subject? What can we do to really prepare them in this intellectual area, in the career field and in the academic area? So final course grades are one piece of data that as a faculty member I can look at, and so can you.

A second one is this percentage thing, and it comes from the withdrawal, incomplete, and D and F grades. At our institution, it’s been called many different things. But the goal here is to look at those final percentages of how many students withdrew from your course during the first week? How many had to drop it somewhere after the first week? And how many just stopped engaging and disappeared?

Occasionally when you’re teaching an online class, that happens. If you look for trends in your own teaching, it yields a lot of data. This data is just feedback. It’s not a personal judgment of you. It might give you great feedback about your teaching approach, your teaching strategies, your relationships with students, and so forth.

Think about the way the drops and failures in your courses layout and start looking for indicators leading up to that. This will help you to always improve your teaching and get more connected to what your students really need. Another piece of data is student appeals and complaints. If there are student appeals and complaints happening often, chances are communication is low. Often, we can change or improve the communication we have with our students to clarify things right up front.

Most complaints and appeals that I have seen as a faculty director came about because the instructor simply did not communicate clearly. A lot of times, students just glossed over something and missed a detail, or they questioned. Could they resubmit or revise because they really did learn something and wanted to fix an assignment? And the instructor said, “No.”

Decide upfront, will you let your students revise things and resubmit? There’s a whole department of people who get these complaints and appeals. And as an instructor, we don’t always see that. Think about the times you may have heard about a complaint a student has had. And also consider, have you ever had a student appeal a final course grade? If you get information like this, again, it’s data for you. It’s very helpful. It helps us to consider our impact as educators.

Are we communicating well? Do we have clear, consistent expectations? And do we maintain those with people over time? But it also helps us to look at that survey data over time. We can learn about our impact on students, our effectiveness in teaching the subject matter aside from the actual assessments that students do. We can also learn the trends. If we have areas to improve and we’re working on it, we can see whether or not we’re being successful or having an impact based on what students tell us.

There is also the informal feedback students give us by way of comments, emails and notes. These are worth collecting over time. As an educator throughout your career, it is incredibly helpful to reflect on the comments your students give you. These can help you in validating what you’re doing, know when to change and also understand your impact even more.

As you think about your impact, consider all of the different ways that your impact spreads throughout the institution, your student group and over time. This will strengthen our teaching to consider the impact in how the small things we do all the time in the classroom really do lead to these bigger picture ideas.

The goal is to change our perspective by stepping back a little bit, seeing the trends in our own teaching, seeing the bigger departments in our institution, seeing the impact of our efforts on students’ completion of the course, on their persistence getting through the class and their degree program, and of course, on whether or not they actually appear to know the content in the subject matter itself.

Think about all those departments at your institution and how they can support you, and how what you do every day supports them. And also think about the past, present and future focus of your teaching. By doing these things, we’re all going to have a better impact in our online educational roles. We can connect better with what we’re doing every day, and we can gain meaning and purpose in our work.

I wish you all the best this coming week in your online teaching, and I hope this data that you may find will serve you well. Thanks for listening.

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.