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#50: Regular Reflection can Improve Productivity

#50: Regular Reflection can Improve Productivity

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

This content appeared first on APUEdge. 

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Read the Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Reflection

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

Identify What You Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Did You Bring?

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

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

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

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

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

How Did You Spend Yesterday?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living in the Present Moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
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Read the Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio Tools to Create Engaging Classroom Content

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

AudioBoom

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

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

SpeakPipe

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

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

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

Talk&Comment

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

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

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

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

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

Vocaroo

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

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

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

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

Adding Video Content to the Classroom

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

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

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

Screencast-O-Matic

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

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

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

Screencastify

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

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

Tips for Making Great Video Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interactive and Multimedia Tools for the Classroom

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

Prezi

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

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

Powtoon

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

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

Strategy for Using New Tools and Technology

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

Why Do You Want to Use New Tools?

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

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

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

When is a Good Time to Add New Technology?

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

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

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

8 Tips to Consider When Using New Tools

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

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

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

Reflect on Your Plan to Use New Tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
#45: Classroom Management Can Improve Online Student Success

#45: Classroom Management Can Improve Online Student Success

This content originally appeared on APUEdge.com

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

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

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

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

What Motivates Online Students?

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

Motivated by Career Advancement

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

Motivated by Personal Growth

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

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

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

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

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

What Do Students Need from Online Teachers?

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

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

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

Tips for Effective Online Classroom Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can Online Educators Help Students with Time Management?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn about What Motivates Your Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#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.

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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. 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.

#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.

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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.

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.