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#131: Benefits of Offering Choices in the Online Classroom

#131: Benefits of Offering Choices in the Online Classroom

This content initially appeared at APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Providing students with choices in assignments can add excitement and increase student creativity. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks about ways teachers can add more choices in the online classroom.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
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Read the Transcript:

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. I want to talk all about choices and the choices I’d like to share with you are especially for online students. You know, when we have choices, there’s something about that that’s just tantalizing and exciting. In fact, it makes it a little bit more fun. Now, I’m going to give you a little bit of an analogy. But, before I do, I want to encourage you to open your mind and think about choices in your own online teaching.

And we’re going to introduce this with this analogy. So, I have the Fitbit app, and I wear a Fitbit wrist device that measures my steps. I’ve worn this device for many years. And for the longest time, I have weekly challenges with my sister.

I have had these challenges with my sister, oh, for at least five years, almost every single week. And we used to do this thing called the workweek hustle. You can set your Fitbit device to measure your steps every day for the five days of the workweek. And then, you’re competing against one or more other people; you can invite a whole group of people. And it’s kind of fun because every day when you upload your steps, or you sync your device, you can see where you stand compared to the other person or the other people.

As you do this, the main idea is that it’s going to encourage you to get out and be active. And being active is definitely something we as online educators need to consciously think about, because we sit around a lot. Now, that’s not the point of this story, of course, the analogy is a lot about choice.

Now, I have a choice of what kind of activities I’m going to do to win the workweek hustle. And the more I do the workweek hustle, the more I want to win it. Well, once in a while, it gets a little boring because all I’m doing is counting my steps for five days at a time. And, if I’m doing this every week, year in year out, once in a while I’m going to skip it. It might get old, it might get boring, and maybe I’m not very active that week so I don’t really want to participate.

But, introduce the premiere version of this app. So, in the premiere version, there are different kinds of challenges that make it so much more fun. When I discovered this using a trial version of the premiere version of Fitbit, I discovered that we could play bingo. Now when we’re playing bingo, we’re trying to complete a certain pattern, instead of just a certain number of steps during the week. Now we’ve got active minutes, numbers of miles and numbers of steps. And we compete using these different things.

There’s a little bit of strategy to it. It takes some critical thinking. And as I’m planning out what I’m going to do for the day to be active, I might be thinking about maybe I want to make sure I hit that two mile mark so I can check that box on my bingo sheet. Or maybe I want to spend 60 minutes or 35 minutes or whatever it is that I need to fill in on my bingo page. I have choice in terms of what I’m looking for and what I’m doing and that makes it all the more exciting.

But it gets even better. Because when I click certain squares on the bingo sheet, it gives me fun options. Like it’s going to cut one of my little tokens in half, or it’s going to give me a bonus number of steps that adds to my total, or it’s going to give me a free flip. So, I have all of these different options available when I’m playing the bingo game. Now, I want to liken this to our online students’ experience in our classes.

Our online students come into our classes knowing they’re going to learn something about the subject matter. They probably have the assumption we’re going to have some discussion forums, we’re going to have some major assignments, we’re going to have some readings. And, in general, most online classes are designed with these basic structural elements. And, of course, there are some kinds of assignments in the end that demonstrate their learning.

But what about when students are presented with a choice? There are several kinds of choices we can include in our online classes. But that element of choice takes the whole thing up a level, it becomes less mundane, less boring and less routine, and much more engaging for our students just like that premiere version of the Fitbit app makes me want to play. It makes me want to get out and be active and to be active in more creative ways, even using the strategies to win the bingo game.

Offer Discussion Choices

Our students want to have a better experience also. One of the things we can give them choice with is the discussion area. If we have a discussion area in our online class, we might offer several different choices of prompts to which they can answer and engage with the class. So maybe I have two or three different choices. And you can do this in several different ways. You can have entirely separate discussion spaces, where students can read the different prompts and only see and engage in that discussion.

Or you can have a single discussion that lists the three prompts all within that one introduction. And they just choose one for their initial posts, but they can engage on any of those topics throughout the week. I like the second option, where all of the choices are presented at once. Because then the students are more likely to engage in a variety of discussions; they’re going to get more of a picture of the subject matter. And they’re going to get a little deeper in some of those areas they care more about. We’re going to expose them to more of the topic and generate a richer cognitive discussion. I love that option of giving students choices.

And when you go to grade this, how hard is it to grade those choices? Well, if you have a fairly generic rubric that you use to grade your forum discussions, content can be a percentage of it. And then whenever the content changes, it’s not a very big deal, you’re still grading on the same type of criteria. If you don’t have a single rubric, I would encourage you to build one. That way, you’re able to always look at the discussion posts for certain types of things. Maybe 60% of it is the content. The other 40% would be peer replies, formatting, grammar, timeliness, or whatever you’re going to grade on. So, whenever you’re doing your choices with your students, think about what’s going to give them variety, in terms of what they’re most interested in.

Offer Assignment Choices

The assignment space is a second area where you might offer students an element of choice. One university where I used to teach part time, five or more years ago, this university always had choices between three different assignments. These were graduate classes, and the students were in the education degree program. And when the choices were presented, they were typically all looking to achieve the same end result, that the student would demonstrate a certain type of knowledge. But the method of demonstrating it was widely varied.

For example, in one choice, a student could write a traditional essay, informative or persuasive, about the subject matter. In another, the student could design a speech and deliver the speech and record it. And then in the third one, the student could create some kind of a Prezi, where there are slides, there’s a little narration, and there’s some movement in between. So, we’ve got totally different presentation modalities, but a very similar outcome. We’re able to measure what the student knows, and what the student can do with the information.

In terms of grading these kinds of choices, again, you could have a fairly generic rubric that has the formatting, the grammar, the structure, the citations, and all those things as different parts of your grading. And then the content itself could be either broken down into the pieces you need, or a more general category of a certain percentage. So, your grading rubric does not have to be different for each of these modalities. You could create one that works for all three of the modalities. So, modality choices are one way to give assignment options to your students, but what about completely different assignments?

Let’s think about, say, music history class, because that’s my specialty area. I’m kind of thinking about demonstrating that we have a mastery of who the composers are and what period they lived in, and what their musical genres were. As we’re thinking about these kinds of things, one thing that comes to mind that I love to do is the Knovio project. I like to have my students do a composer biography, highlight a few pieces of music that are exemplars of that composer, that would be music that a lot of people have heard maybe they’re commonly known in movies, or they’re used in a lot of popular media. And then there are some YouTube links in the slides that they’re going to include. And it’s a traditional presentation uploaded into Knovio and then narrated on video by the student. So, it’s both a slideshow and a spoken presentation.

Another thing I could do is have the student write a mini screenplay, maybe a story of a day in the life of that composer that weaves in some of these same elements to show that the student understands who this person is, and what their impact was in society and in music.

And then, a last thing could be they’re going to stage an interview. And they’re going to do this mock interview where two different people could be sitting down having the conversation, and one of them is the composer telling all about their life and capturing it on video. Now all three of these types of assignments are very different. But all three of them could be equally interesting ways to demonstrate one’s learning. These kinds of choices, just like the Fitbit bingo game, make learning so much more fun for our students.

They help our students to get creative, to think about how they could really apply the knowledge and think through what they would like to demonstrate best in that final assignment. As we create options for our students, what comes to mind for you, what kind of games or gamified situations would really light up your students, when you think about your subject matter? What kinds of demonstrated ways of knowing are common in your field?

Of course, as I’ve shared my examples, something might come to mind for you. But maybe other things would work better. For example, if you’re in a science class or something more applied, you might have an experiment students are going to carry out. Perhaps they have to go out into the community and document the adventure and their learnings throughout that experience. Maybe there’s some kind of reflection at the end and that could be one opportunity.

And perhaps there’s a choice of doing a whole different kind, maybe it’s a review of presentations other people have given in the past, or reviews of websites. Or maybe you even want them to write a Wikipedia article using all the information that’s out there about the subject, but rewriting it based on scholarly sources and actually submitting it to Wikipedia to revise an entry there.

There are so many options you could choose, all the way from the essay to the purely applied project-based learning. Offering your students choice brings excitement and zest to your online classroom. And finding a way to evaluate these with some kind of a rubric that can loosely be applied to all of the choices will make your job easier in the long run as you’re helping your students enjoy their learning. I want to encourage you today to think about offering choice and how much fun it’s going to be for your students online to try something new, and not all have to do the exact same project. I wish you all the best trying out these elements of choice either in your discussions, or your assignments or both 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.

#129: How to Write a Conference Proposal

#129: How to Write a Conference Proposal

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Part of learning and stretching is sharing your knowledge with others. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses the benefits of presenting at a professional conference. Learn tips on selecting an engaging topic, writing a conference proposal as well as what mistakes to avoid.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

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 today, I’m Bethanie Hansen. And I want to talk with you about how to write a conference proposal. As an online educator, you may be thinking, you need some professional development, and it’s a great idea to go to a conference. There are so many kinds of conferences you could attend. If there’s one locally in your area, it’s especially good to set aside the time and go attend that conference: Low cost, local area, fast access.

But something across the country or across the state, that’s a different story altogether. Now we’re talking about spending money to attend that conference. And it’s a lot easier to justify spending that money if you’re also going to be presenting at that conference. Or, if your institution is considering sponsoring you, chances are the only way they’re going to do that is if you are presenting at the conference. So how do you write a conference proposal?

Well, before we talk about that, I just want to dive into how we can tap into your genius about what you might present at a conference. First, I’ll tell you a little story about myself.

I used to go to professional development conferences as a band director in California. I would go to the State Music Educator National Conference conventions that were for the state of California. These would rotate between Sacramento and San Diego or Los Angeles, every other year. As I went to these, and I noticed others presenting on topics of interest to me, one day, I realized I had that same knowledge. A woman stood up there and shared some exercises that she used with her band and she taught us all how to use them and talked around them.

And I thought to myself, I could be the person presenting this workshop, I know that same stuff. And suddenly it dawned on me, not everybody knows what I know. And, just like me, not everybody knows what you know, either. And so, in my next step, I wrote up a proposal about what was most important to me as a band director. And, as a band director, and still, as an educator today, the very most important thing to me was recruiting and retention.

Recruiting is a whole process of giving awareness to other people, helping them to notice you notice your band program and get interested in joining it in the future. And then there’s those actions about having them join your band this year. And, all of the steps that have to do with that like getting a band instrument, convincing your parents that you should be in the band, figuring out how you’re going to get started. And all of those things that are part of joining the band, the very first year you’re thinking about it.

There’s also the recruiting at different ages. So, if your school district’s band program starts in sixth grade, maybe in seventh grade, someone has moved in from somewhere else, and they didn’t have that chance, and they still want to join band. So, there’s several different processes to recruiting. There’s even high-school level recruiting, where you might be recruiting people to twirl a flag in your marching band, or play cymbals in your percussion section, or even be a beginner on a band instrument. So, there’s a lot of levels to this and I had experience and passion for all of that.

So, I wrote that proposal. And I drafted it up for that State California conference.

And the other half is retention. Once you recruit kids into your program, or students into any class, you have to help them want to stay there. There’s this whole idea that band directors used to have all over the place where they just assumed kids would stay because band is worth doing all by itself, right? Well, that’s not the case. In fact, when kids join your band, you have to work just as hard to keep them there, as you do to get them there in the first place.

There is so much that competes for your students’ time when you’re a band director. You have to really work with them on balancing all those activities they might be in, what if they’re in sports and band at the same time or different clubs, like debate or going on field trips for academic decathlon? There’s just so much. So that topic of recruiting and retention, it’s kind of two different things that goes nicely together. And that’s what I decided I wanted to present on at a conference. So, I wrote up my proposal and I submitted it. And it was accepted. And it was my very first time presenting at a professional conference.

So, I prepared, I made my PowerPoint slides, created a packet of handouts. And I went to this conference. And this session was in a huge theater. And it was full, totally full of about 200 people. I was amazed at how many people came to that conference session that I presented. I ran out of handouts, I had to give them email copies later. But it was a huge success for me, the very first time out.

Other conferences I have presented at have had varying degrees of interest and attention. I have sometimes presented a session to five people, sometimes 35. So, even when you’re accepted to present at a conference, you can never really know exactly what you’re going to get in terms of who shows up, and what you need to deliver it with success. But what you can assume is that someone will want to hear it, even if it’s just one or two people. So, writing that proposal, I suggest thinking about number one, what you know about.

Determine Your Area of Interest to Present On

What is your area of expertise in your academic discipline? What subject matter do you really want to share something about? It could be a teaching strategy, or like my example of recruiting for band directors, it could be a problem-solving strategy. It could be some kind of community-building, like how you could use labs in your virtual science class. It could be some kind of a networking idea, how you’re going to collaborate with other teachers. And maybe you’re going to present a model of how to do that. There are so many ideas of things you are good at, that you could potentially share at a conference.

If you’re not really sure what would be appropriate for a conference, I suggest looking up the website for a conference you might consider attending and looking at last year’s topics. Many of the websites out there for conferences have a list of the topics and the titles of the presentations for the last several years. These can give you a good idea of what might be interesting to conference attendees, or what might suit the audience, generally.

One example for the online teaching space is the Online Learning Consortium. They have two conferences a year one is in the spring, and it’s called OLC Innovate. And when is in the fall, it’s called OLC Accelerate. And as of right now, at the time of this recording, they have a virtual and a live option. So, even if you could not travel to attend that conference, you could still present, even if it’s virtually.

Tips to Writing a Successful Proposal

So, as you think about the topic, there are some tips to help you get this written well and have a greater chance that your proposal will be accepted. The first one is of course to have a suitable topic, the best way to have a suitable topic for a conference, once you’ve decided on your area of interest, whether it’s a subject matter or a strategy, the best way is to think about the tracks and the topics that conference is requesting.

In the case of the OLC Accelerate conference, there are certain tracks and they are all aimed at different audiences. I’ll just give you an example of what these tracks might be, so you have an idea of the type of variety that conferences can have.

The track descriptions for OCLC Accelerate are:

  • access, equity, and open education
  • blended learning strategy and practice
  • engaged in effective teaching and learning
  • instructional design
  • leadership and institutional strategy
  • research, evaluation and learning analytics
  • student support and success
  • technology and future trends

And often there will be some big ideas that have lots of sessions connected to them. And if you can propose something to a less-popular area, where what I mean to say is where there are likely to be fewer proposals, but there is still interest in the audience that even increases your chances of getting accepted more.

So, one example would be that a lot of people at that particular conference, propose things in the category of engaged and effective teaching and learning. After all, most things we’re going to think about in online education are about the teaching and learning, right? Now, if you have something specific about the way you set up the classroom, or a method of the instructional design itself, it makes a lot more sense to tailor it to that instructional design topic, where there are fewer proposals. So, yours will be stand out and it gives you a greater likelihood of being accepted.

Now, in terms of your audience, you want to think about the types of audiences that typically attend those conferences. So, in this situation, where I mentioned one in particular, which is OLC Accelerate, the audiences range from K-12, educators, higher ed educators, to the tech people who designed the classroom itself, you might have instructional designers, tech support, all kinds of people who are really good at focusing on the way the classroom is set up.

There’s a whole audience that is interested in alternative or accessibility strategies. So, if you have a really good handle on universal design for learning, or accommodation strategies for diverse learners, then you could tailor your proposal to that angle. If you are in leadership, or you think your idea is great for an institutional-level strategy, or the leadership team over an organization, then you might tailor your presentation to that. And, if you really want to stretch, you could have a topic that you tailor one way for the leadership group, and a totally different way for the instructional design group and that would give you two different proposals.

Determine the Type of Presentation to Create

Now, as you’re fleshing out your topic, you also want to think about what kind of presentation it’s going to be. And those kinds of presentations vary, there are the virtual poster sessions where you create some slides, they play automatically, and a person watches it like a mini-web presentation. There’s also the education session, which is like your typical lecture style presentation. There are short workshops that are hands on where you expect people to bring a device and play along with you. There are gamified sessions. And there are larger workshops, which would be 90 minutes to 2 hours in length. So, if your topic takes more than just that 45-minute window, maybe it has a Part A and Part B or something that builds on that initial stuff, then you’re going to propose it as a larger workshop.

Proposal Writing Tips

As you write up your proposal, some interesting things that stand out are to have a creative title that conveys exactly what it’s about; to have an abstract that tells participants what they would walk away with if they attended this session. And then in the deeper part of your proposal, where you really flesh out what it’s about, what you will do, and how you will engage the audience that comes to be part of this presentation, two helpful tips seem to work all the time.

One is to use references. Support your approach with some scholarly research and some sources that do support your idea. This adds credibility to what you’re submitting.

And second, detail exactly what participants will leave with at the end of the session. Is it an idea? Is it curiosity? Is it a handout? Is it a template? Whatever it is, your participants will be able to leave with, make it very clear, explain it. And, if appropriate during the proposal process, even include a copy.

Most proposals are intended to be entirely anonymous, and you would need to leave your name off of them. You should not mention your school or your institution. And you want to look over these to make sure they are grammatically correct and well written. I know that seems to go without saying, but I’ve been a reviewer for conference proposals myself for many years now. And, every once in a while, I’ll see one where the person just forgot to use spellcheck and forgot to use the right punctuation, like maybe they dictated it and didn’t check it afterwards. So, be sure to check those things because at the very least, you want it to look and sound professional when you submit it.

And then submit it before the deadline, turn everything in that you need to do and then you wait and you’ll hear back at whatever time they tell you you’ll hear back. I always put that date on my calendar so I can check and find out whether something has been accepted. And the more you practice it this, the more likely you are to get presentations accepted to present at conferences.

Then your next steps would be to plan the presentation around your audience so they definitely get out of it what do you say they’re going to get out of it. One of the biggest mistakes is to prepare a proposal, get accepted, show up, and then present on something different than what you said you were going to present. I’ve sat through presentations like that myself, and perhaps you have also, where we’re sitting there thinking we’re going to learn something, and we never get that out of that session. And it seems to be a huge disappointment. Like, why did we sit through that if we were not going to get what we came for? So, addressing the topics that you say you’re going to address is a really important part of this when you come full circle and actually give the presentation.

The bottom line of all of this is that you have a lot of expertise, you know a lot, and you have areas that you can share with other people who are just learning. It’s time to get up and present those things and share them with your professional community. I want to encourage you to do that. And if you’re listening to this around the time of the recording where this podcast is produced, there are proposals right now being accepted for the OLC Innovate conference coming up in the Spring of 2023. And I would encourage you to submit a proposal to that, and stretch, figure out what you can share with the online community.

And if you’re listening to this later, after the initial publication, you can just check the OLC’s website to see when the next conference is coming and when the next set of proposals will be accepted. I want to encourage you to grow and stretch and share because that’s what helps us to stay motivated and keep learning ourselves. I wish you all the best in writing up your proposal and submitting it this coming month or even 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.

#126: Tips for Educators Starting a New Online Class

#126: Tips for Educators Starting a New Online Class

This content first appeared on APUEdge.edu.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Many teachers, especially those who are new to online teaching, struggle to figure out how to connect with students. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares ways to establish a relationship and rapport with online students.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

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.

Every time I start to teach a new class, I remember the students I’m about to meet may not know anything about the subject matter, and they might not know me either. I probably have not met them yet, and I will need to get to know them quickly as we all get into the online classroom space. There might be many other things I want to think about as an online educator starting to teach a new online class, and maybe you have a long list of things you think about, too.

In my experience, I should pay attention to those thoughts I’m having before the first day of class and take action in the most important areas. That will make all the difference. In today’s episode, I’m going to walk you through key areas to address before you start teaching your next online class, and the number one most important thing to set the tone for the entire course session. You may be thinking, “It’s just an online class. What could there be to worry about?” And you would be right, you don’t need to worry. With attention to these key areas and the number one most important thing to address, you can have a wonderful online class. Pretty exciting, right?

Let’s get started with some of the questions I hear most often from online educators.

  • What do my students already know about the platform, and how am I going to help them find their way around the class?
  • How do I get to know students online?
  • What is the best way to contact my students so I know they are getting my messages and announcements?
  • How do I get my students help when their technology isn’t working, or when parts of the course aren’t working for them?
  • What am I supposed to do when my technology isn’t working for me? I don’t want to look bad in front of my students, but I know I don’t know everything about the technology either.
  • How do I help students get excited about this class if I didn’t write the course, and it’s not exactly organized how I would have created it, if it were up to me? After all, what should I do to try to get excited myself about the class?
  • If I get it all wrong and just don’t know how to teach online very well, what is the most important thing I should pay attention to?

These seven big questions land into three different areas, and I’ll walk you through these one at a time.

Focus on Communications in the Online Class

First, there are key elements to include in your initial communications, and those communications can include a welcome message sent before the first day of class, a course announcement published on or before the first day of class, and your introduction provided in the online classroom. These communications will focus on answering four of the important questions I hear most often from online educators.

That first question was, “What do my students already know about the platform, and how am I going to help them find their way around the class?” I like to assume that my class is always the very first course they are taking at my university. This way, I provide the kind of guidance a new student really needs. The experienced students can skip past these items, by including them I guide the new student into a successful start.

If my class really is the first one they are taking, it’s common for this student to know very little about the platform and nothing about how to get around the online classroom. I solve this by giving them a video walk-through of the space. This can be done with Screencastify, Loom, Kaltura, Camtasia, or any other video-making app. I have a few earlier episodes of this podcast that focus on making videos in detail, and I encourage you to take a look if you’re interested in more details on how to do it.

My walk-through video is going to be narrated by my own voice to start the relationship with my student, and I’ll show them where to click for the syllabus, the lessons, the discussions, the assignments, and everything else. I’ll usually end this walk-through by showing them exactly where to go to start their first bits of work in this class.

Some schools and universities have their own orientation videos to the platform, in which someone more generically guides the student through the online classroom space. If you have access to one of these and are short on time, you may be able to link to this or embed it into your classroom to save time. If you choose this option, I suggest putting a copy into your welcome message and your first course announcement, and then emailing both of these to your students for the special needs of newer students. After all, if they are less familiar with the platform, they are not going to know where to find the walk-through video if it’s hidden in the classroom.

While we are still talking about those initial communications, I’ll point out that the welcome message greeting your students before the first day of class is one key element for a great start. And, the first week’s course announcement is another key element. Both of these should include details about what students can expect, how to get started in the class, and how to contact you when they need your help. And, in both of these areas, you can find out how you can best contact your students to know if they are getting your messages and announcements. All you need to do is ask them to email you a short message to let you know they received that first communication, so that you know it’s a good way to reach them. And, of course, you’re going to have to follow up with those who don’t connect with you and keep trying different methods until you get it right.

Before your class begins, you have a little more time to find out who to contact about technology problems your students will have, and those technology problems you might have during the course. You can contact the classroom support department, or a help desk, or if you’re really not sure, the faculty HR department to find out who to contact. Believe me, you will need these contact phone numbers and links before that class starts because once class is in progress, you won’t have as much time to try to find out who to contact. You can share the tech department contact information with students in that welcome message and the first announcement, to put them at ease and get them focused help. This is time well spent. Trust me on this one.

One additional tip I have for you is to build relationships with colleagues and supervisors in your institution. You might not know everything about the technology and can get some great ideas from these people who are in the same boat with you. It’s always better to get the help you need to make technology work for you, so you can continue to be effective with students and focus on relationships with them, rather than learning the technology. And if you are still learning, don’t be afraid to tell your students just that. That you are still learning a few things in the online space, so you know how they feel being in learning mode—you’re right there with them. Owning this helps you encourage and connect with students, instead of making excuses and feeling like it’s totally out of control.

Ways to Get to Know Students

The second question online faculty ask is, “How do I get to know students online?” If you’re very experienced teaching face to face, it might seem like online classes couldn’t possibly bring you the same relationships and connections you might get when you’re in the same room with your students. But with some creativity, you can. Answering the question means that you’re going to think about the type of activity you might use to build rapport and relationships. And, you will also consider what kind of technology will make that happen for you. Will it be live, synchronous video meetings? Asynchronous video clips posted in the discussion space? Images each person posts, with some written introductions?

A basic way to get to know students is to think about what you really want to know, and then ask. And be sure to share it about yourself, too. I’ll give you an example of this. When I’m teaching music appreciation online, I like to know about students who have heard traditional music in other parts of the world. In my own introduction, I’ll tell them that I went to Brazil for a music teacher conference and describe some of the instruments I saw and heard. And I tell them that when I went to that same conference a few years later in Scotland, I saw informal groups of people in local pubs playing instruments and singing together. And I also saw a man in a Scottish traditional kilt standing in the center of town playing the bagpipes. And this man had a fancy attachment on the top of the pipes that made fire come out of them.

After sharing these examples, I ask them whether they have traveled, and if so, what kinds of music they might have noticed in other parts of the world. In the process of talking about the music, students who are musicians will usually share that information, tell us what they like to sing or what they like to perform, and what instruments they play. And some will even share sound clips or videos of themselves creating music. This is the beginning of getting to know my students in the online space, and we’re going to keep building on that each week in our discussion. Ultimately, to get to know your students, we have to be willing to share who we are as human beings, and invite them to share a little that brings them into the class and helps us see them as human beings, too.

When I get to know online students and bring in details about the subject we are going to study in the course, this can generate some excitement for the class. I know, it’s sometimes very difficult to get excited as the teacher if you didn’t write the class and you’re teaching what we call a standardized online course. But you can bring in those things that do excite you about the topics and the subject matter itself, and weave them into your weekly approach to that class, even if the structure of the class and the main content cannot be changed. By finding ways to relate to what you’re teaching, you will have a better chance of getting students excited about that class. And this will build positive momentum to help you keep going each week, and to help your students want to complete that course successfully.

I’ve shared some ideas here around getting ready and jumping into the first week of class, and about guiding your students around the course. And, I’ve also touched on some ideas to help you get relationships going with your students and with a course you didn’t create. In the end, some of you listening might be thinking, “If I get it all wrong and just don’t know how to teach online very well, what is the most important thing I should pay attention to?”

The answer is that the most important thing isn’t a thing at all. It’s the people on the other end of the screen. Your students are all there for a reason, and they all have their own, individual needs and challenges while they are in your class. They need support, encouragement, and above all, understanding. When you’re struggling to get through to them, remember that they are human beings who want to be successful, and they need you. Even if you have no strategies for communication plans, and you don’t know exactly what the best ways to reach your students are, if you stay in touch with empathy for your students and really want to help them, you will do well in all of your efforts. You don’t have to get everything right, and you don’t have to be perfect. But there is no replacement for caring about your students and being kind in your approach.

As you focus on the people you’re working with, this will invite you to sometimes be more flexible with them, or give them a few more resources to guide them. And maybe it will mean that you pick up the phone and try to reassure them when you’ve noticed that they didn’t log into the class at all this week.

Whatever you feel inspired to do in your care for your students, acting on those ideas will make you an excellent online educator. It will also help you enjoy teaching. Because the focus isn’t going to be about you and whether or not you’re doing it right. The focus will be on your students, and how you can guide, support, and love them. And as you prepare to teach your new online class, getting to know and caring about your students really is the most important thing.

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.

#125: Three Steps to a Great Online Teaching Routine

This content first appeared on APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Teaching online can be time consuming and seep into instructors’ personal time. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides insight into how to plan a strong work routine. Learn about the importance of surveying your workload ahead of time, writing it down and tracking it, and reflecting and adapting to improve your time management.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
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Read the Transcript:

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.

Thank you for joining me here today on the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. I’m very excited to share with you some ideas to help you plan your online teaching routine. If you’ve taught online before, you already know this can expand to fill every inch of available time. It can become something that takes more and more time all the time, because there is so much more we can do when we’re working online.

The other reason this can expand to fill all of our space is that when we teach online, many times we succumb to interruptions and diversions and other courses of action. So, we might be in the middle of writing discussion responses to our students when a child comes in and wants our attention. So, we’ll get up and go attend to that. And then a lot of time has passed. And when we get back in the room to do more of our online teaching, we’ve lost our train of thought. We have to back up and get started all over again. Examples like this, and many others, are very much reality for all of us who teach online.

Even though my children are fully grown, and they’re not going to walk into the room and ask for my attention while I’m teaching, I do know exactly what it’s like because I’ve been there. And in my experience, planning ahead and sticking to that plan can help everyone function better while you’re an online educator, and expect when you’ll be free, and spend time with you later.

So, today, I’m going to share three tips with you for some good planning of your routine when you’re teaching and working online. And those are to survey ahead of time, write it down, and reflect and adapt, no matter what.

Survey Your Activities and Needs

So, we start out with surveying, and surveying is simply looking ahead to see what our tasks are going to be and how long they’re going to take. I know, we don’t always know exactly how much time it’s going to take. But we can give it our best guesstimate.

For example, if we’re going to grade papers, and we have some kind of estimate about how long it takes to grade an essay, then we can look at how many papers we could logically expect to grade that week and divide it up over how much time. And pretty soon, we know exactly how much time we need to spend.

Perhaps we’re going to plan ahead to do it all in one day. Or we’re going to break it up to do over several days. But it involves surveying and looking ahead in a way that I’ve heard of called pragmatic prospection. I know, that’s a little bit of a mouthful. But pragmatic prospection is about being practical. And looking ahead.

The pragmatic part is, “What’s it really going to look like?” Am I really going to read a lot of messages from students? Am I going to answer a lot of questions? Will I need to make some kind of asset, like a video or a handout to post in my class? Will I have a lot of things to grade? How much do I expect to engage in that discussion?

And as I’m looking pragmatically about the realities of my particular online course, I’m also looking ahead. That’s the prospection part. I’m thinking, “What do I want that to look like?”

What does the quality of my comment need to be? What do I really want to invest for it to be good quality, but not take up more and more and more time? So, as you’re looking ahead, you can start to envision what the workload is going to look like, what you’re going to need to do, and what the rest of your life will be like when you’re teaching that online course.

As part of doing this habit of surveying, or looking ahead to the different types of tasks and the time it’s going to take, don’t forget to include all of the things that you do outside of work. So, we’re going to look at the online teaching first and write it down and think about it. And then we’re going to look at the rest of our life.

If there’s some kind of family obligation happening, I want to be able to plan for that. And so, I want to set aside the time for those things as well. And maybe I need to prepare for that by going shopping or calling some of my relatives, getting some of that done. So, I’m surveying all that I need to do. And I’m thinking ahead. I might also be surveying what it’s going to look like when I’m doing some grocery shopping, if that falls on me this week, and if I’m doing any household chores, and how much rest I want, and all of those sorts of things.

So, the survey is kind of like an overview, where I’m just thinking through my day, and my week, and I’m thinking about what it needs to look like, what it’s got to include, and where I want to be at the end of the week.

Write it Down and Schedule Your Time

Step two is to write it all down. Now after I’ve taken the initial survey, I’m going to start writing down the actual plan.

When we’re taking the time to write things down that we’re working on, like a calendaring habit or a schedule for online teaching, the goal is to realistically write down exactly what is expected to happen. And, yes, that might be painstakingly writing every 15 to 20 minutes of activity, and then tracking it while you’re doing it. So, not only will you write down what you expect to do, you want to make little notes about when you had to modify, spend more time than expected, or spend less.

Writing it down is going to help you realize how much time you actually spend in your online teaching. And that will also help you know if you are over anticipating how much time it will spend, or under budgeting the time. Writing it down could be every single day for a week, and then reassess. Or it could be every day for an ongoing duration. You have to decide what will work best for you in terms of tracking this, but the goal is that once you write it down ahead of time, that you stick with that schedule, no matter what.

I don’t know about you, but many times in my experience, I will sit down and think about grading some essays. And sometimes my mind will just be not very focused for grading essays. And I’ll think, “You know, I’m going to do something else. And I’ll come back to this in a little while when I’m a little bit more focused for that.”

And in doing this plan, the way I’m suggesting today, surveying ahead of time, writing it down, scheduling your time in advance, and then reflecting afterwards, we have to stick to that plan to know if it’s going to work. So, if I’m going to approach it from a mindset of not really being focused and wanting to delay the work that I’ve planned for myself, I’m going to have to do something to get myself in a mental frame of mind to do the work, not just when I’m in the mood to do the work.

So, if that’s your experience, I want to suggest thinking about a time when you were focused on doing that work, and figuring out what it’s going to take to get your brain back in gear in the moment that you need to do it now. So, whatever it takes to help you reframe your mental energy, and your focus and concentration, you can kind of play with that and try a lot of different approaches to help yourself get back in the game, and do the thing that you wrote down that you would do.

Reflect on Your Time, and Adapt as Needed

And then step three, this is reflect and adapt. Looking back on the week, we’re going to look over what worked and what didn’t work. Were there some things that took a lot of mental energy that were hard to do late in the day? Do they need to be scheduled earlier in the day? Did something take a lot longer and need to be scheduled for a longer duration with breaks in the middle?

As you’re reflecting on what works and what didn’t work in planning your routine, you’re going to get better and better at planning your online teaching routine. Reflection isn’t just about what didn’t work, it’s also about what did work. If you notice that certain tasks go really well together, make a note of that, and notice it so that you can plan it ahead and do it again next time.

Adapting means that you’re going to take the plans you made this week, and you’re going to change them a little bit based on what your reflection has turned up. If, when you’re reflecting, you happen to notice that something was really hard to do at a certain time of day, adapting would mean you’re going to do it differently next time.

And maybe instead of a specific task, and maybe you want to give yourself a choice between two certain tasks at one time of day and the same two tasks later in the day. Whichever one seems most challenging, do it first when your mental energy is at its best. And then you can come to the easier one later when that same window of time comes around.

As you’re reflecting, celebrate some of the growth and achievement that you’ve attained. If grading essays or posting in discussions is particularly troublesome for you, if it takes a lot of time and energy, but you were able to get it a little faster, or streamline it a little bit, maybe you could celebrate that success and notice what’s going really well.

And then the other thing to celebrate is if you really did make yourself stick to the plan you made. When you write your schedule and you stick to it no matter what, even if you’re not in the mood, you can celebrate that afterward because you pushed through that mental challenge or that energy-level challenge.

Another tip about all three of these things, surveying, writing it down, reflecting and adapting. These steps can be used with family members, if you have family members living in the home with you. You could share your planned schedule and ask for their input. Is there anything that they suggest adding to your work schedule that maybe you didn’t notice that you spend time on? Or is there something in your family and personal life that they’d like to make sure goes on your calendar at a certain day and time?

All of those suggestions and ideas can be really useful to you in getting a very realistic sense of what your routine should be like when you’re working and teaching online. And, of course, when you’re reflecting on the week and deciding what did work for you, you can also run that by family members, or those people that live with you, and ask them for input in that case as well. Maybe they will have noticed that certain things worked really well and certain things need to change.

Anytime you write up a schedule, and you’re really trying to stick to it, it also helps to post that schedule, so other people know exactly what to expect and when you’re going to be available. If they want to spend time with you in the middle of the day and they’re used to interrupting you, but now you’re going to take a break at a certain set time, they’re more likely to leave you alone until that time, when they know when it’s coming up and what exactly they can expect. So, share that information with your family members or people who live with you.

And I say “people who live with you” because not everyone is living with a spouse and children. Some of you may have roommates. Or you may live with other extended family members, whoever is important to you in your life. Include them in your planning, and the survey of all that is involved in your online teaching time, and all the things that are important in your life outside of that. And get their help when you’re reflecting. The more eyes you get on your plan, the more refined it’s going to be. And the better it’ll be.

Wrapping it up today, I want to just share my own experience planning the routine and sticking to it. Whenever I do this, and I share it with my family members, it’s so much easier for me to have a rewarding life, in my workday and outside of it. My family members are ready to spend time with me and really excited to see me at the end of the day. And also, they know what they can expect when I’m working. And they know what my schedule is. It’s super helpful to me to plan it ahead of time and also to communicate out.

And, on the flip side, when I failed to do that, and I’m trying to get it going, I might start and stop two or three different tasks without completing any of them. If I’m not aware of what I need to do and what my timeline is. And pretty soon my work is going to fill up all of the available time, including the family time after work. So, I know firsthand from experience how important it is to plan and keep track of the time spent.

It can also help me feel really great about all that I accomplished during the workday and realize that I really did get a lot done, and I contributed to my students and all of the other people that I’m working with. I hope you’ll try this out, doing the survey, writing it down, then reflecting and adapting and see what works for you. Let’s get some input. There’s a form on bethaniehansen.com/request where you can share your experience and let us know what works in terms of scheduling your online teaching, and what doesn’t. Stop by and give us a note.

If this podcast has been valuable to you, and you enjoy what you hear, share it with your colleagues. We would love to extend our audience and also help other people teach well online. There’s so much we can do to improve our practice and make this a better experience for everyone. Thanks again for being here and best wishes 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.

#124: 7 Quick Tips for Using Video and Multimedia in Online Teaching

This content first appeared on APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

In this week’s episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses best practices and quick tips for adding video or other multimedia assets to the online classroom to enhance student learning.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

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. Thanks for joining me today. We’re going to be talking about seven tips to use video and multimedia in your online teaching. I love this topic because anything that includes multimedia or video makes that whole class so much more engaging for your students.

These seven tips I’m going to give you today will be:

  1. Personalize it.
  2. Make it evergreen.
  3. Keep it short.
  4. Focus on one topic or concept in each asset.
  5. Show what to do.
  6. Make it accessible.
  7. Streamline your process.

Now before I dive into these seven quick tips, I’d like to define one word that I’m going to use a lot today. And that is the word asset. An asset is anything that you’re going to include in your online teaching that could be a chunk of information or a resource. So, an asset could be a small video segment, it could be a PDF, it could be a worksheet. It could be a tool, an interactive element, any of those sorts of things. An asset is that individual piece.

Personalize It.

And the first tip I’d like to share with you today is to personalize it. Your students are looking for your presence throughout that class, and they really want to know you. They want to know who’s teaching them. They want to trust you. And they want to feel like they’re part of your class. So, if you personalize your assets, it’s wonderful to see you in those.

If it’s a video, record yourself. Don’t worry about perfection. It doesn’t have to be overly professional and perfect. Keep it conversational and friendly.

If you’re on camera, make your appearance inviting and think about your background. For example, if your office is in your bedroom, don’t film yourself in front of a messy, unmade bed with laundry everywhere. Check the background and clean it up. You could always use Zoom with a fuzzy background and that’s going to make it all better.

And, of course, when you’re being filmed or when you’re on video or audio, speak clearly, use simple language. If you use any jargon, idioms or acronyms, be sure to explain those.

Use good lighting and a microphone that produces high quality audio and limit distractions. Now a lot of devices you might use today already do these things. Even a good smartphone will give you great audio for something like a video. So, consider that it doesn’t have to be super expensive, and you don’t have to run out and buy the latest Blue Yeti microphone. But you can try to improve these over time, if you do want to upgrade your audio or your video.

If it’s a screencast, include your image on screen as you’re narrating or talking to your students, or your narrated voice at least to guide your students. And if you include your own thoughts and opinions on the topic that you’re teaching about, make it clear what is part of the curriculum, and what is part of your own thinking. This is especially important to make it obvious when students need to think for themselves about a topic and also when students need to think for themselves on a topic, and when they also need to be able to critically think so they can differentiate between what’s just your opinion and what is really essential.

Make it Evergreen.

This word evergreen just means what it sounds like. It needs to last. If you’re going to go to the trouble of making a video that you want to include as part of your lesson content. Unless it’s a weekly announcement you’re only going to use once, don’t talk about today’s date, or the time of year. Create it in a way that allows you to reuse it the next time you teach this class. This will save you time and effort.

Be sure to include whatever details and context you need to keep it relevant in the upcoming sections of the class so that even if you change out another part of the course, that content is standalone and is complete.

Provide transcripts and captions. When you’re making a video, you want to include this as part of your process so you avoid having to do more work and add it later.

There are a lot of tools out there and services that provide fairly accurate captions. Now, you can get these in zoom Kaltura on YouTube and a lot of other tools. You’ll want to check the transcripting or the captioning to do some minor editing, though, because it’s not always perfect. And we would hate for students to completely misunderstand just because we didn’t check those captions and clean them up.

Keep it Short.

Keep it short, especially if you’re creating something on video, five to seven minutes total per segment is the maximum. Some people out there will tell you go ahead and make a video up to 10 minutes long. That really is pushing the envelope here for a student’s attention span. It’s easy to update and revise a chunk of video later. If you keep the segments five to seven minutes or fewer.

You can also maintain your students’ attention better, and you give them time to process the information from one piece of content to the next. This is a really good thing when you have working adults in your class. If you have short five-to-seven-minute segments, they can watch one video on their lunch break, they can fit another video in on their afternoon break.

Whatever it is, they’re going to be able to get through this content better when it’s in smaller segments. And they’ll be able to learn the content that way. So, think about student attention span and also that maximum time per segment.

Focus on One Topic or Concept in Each Asset.

If you put just one topic or concept in each asset, this gives your students better choice as to where they want to start. They can pick and choose from the assets you give them. And they can go in an order that makes sense to them. It also gives them the chance to view in smaller bits of time, as I previously mentioned, like a lunch break or an afternoon break whatever they have available.

And, of course, it’s going to be more comprehensible when it’s just one topic or one concept. If you really need to give your students an overview of how those concepts fit together, that could be its own asset, its own standalone piece that sort of weaves the elements together. So, think about how you can chunk the content and break it down into these different assets you might create.

Show What to Do.

Show what to do, both as content and as introduction to any multimedia that you’re going to use. You can share your screen, there is a lot of screen casting software out there that makes this a lot easier. Screencastify.com is just one of many. I like to use Kaltura. But you might have your own favorite.

Keep slides light and limit the text. If you have a PowerPoint or a slide deck of any kind, here are a few tips to make it even better, so you can show what to do in a way that makes it simple and comprehensible for your students:

Use high contrast between colors on any slides. Keep the font easy to read with simple fonts that have consistent thickness all throughout the lettering. Make the text big enough to easily read. If you include any motion and animation that is necessary for your topic, explain it and use it. But if it’s unnecessary for actually understanding the content, just avoid it. Fancy slide transitions are not helpful. Include images, graphics, illustrations or animations with descriptions for accessibility.

Learn how to make your PowerPoint presentations accessible using these practices as you build out the slides. Be sure to check out the transcript of this podcast, because I have a lot of links to websites that are going to help you improve your accessibility in presentations and other types of media you’re going to include.

Make it Accessible.

If you develop a solution that meets the needs of all users with and without disabilities, then you’re doing something we call Universal Design. And creating accessible assets as part of your process is a great way to go. There are a lot of tools available online to help you with this.

There’s a website called Section508.gov, which is a great place to start. If you’re using documents, PDFs, presentations and spreadsheets, there are a lot of tips, tools and strategies available to guide you online.

If you have images as part of your assets, check the alternative text decision tree. It’s available at W3.org. And it helps you to understand what kind of alternative text you might need for decorative images, functional images and informative images. Always think about this when you’re including some kind of picture or drawing or something like that to illustrate in your classroom.

Now if you’re using diagrams, think about how that content can be a screen reader friendly. This can be something we overlook, and we need to pay attention to it when we include interactive or media elements. I’ve got a great example from a website linked in the transcript notes from this podcast, so check it out.

And in video or interactive media, if you have any text displayed in the video, and if it’s necessary to understand the video, be sure to describe that text for those who are visually impaired and also used captions and transcripts to support learners.

Lastly, there are a lot of tools online that will help you test your videos and media assets for accessibility. I’ve got a link to one of those resources in the podcast transcript. So, take a look.

Streamline Your Process.

Whenever you’re creating videos, audio content slides, or any kind of interactive media, keep track of your process. Make it a system that you can easily repeat and find ways to accomplish many of those steps at one time.

One example of this might be to have video options that automatically provide captions. Or you could just write a script for yourself upfront and use that script to record the video. It could even be an outline that you flesh out afterwards.

When you streamline and simplify the process you’re using, you make it a lot easier to do this in the future. And if it’s too complicated and takes too much time, you’re not going to want to repeat it. But adding these kinds of elements into your online classroom enriches the learning experience for everyone. And students really enjoy seeing and understanding the content better when you illustrate it, you show a video about it, you explain it in audio, and all of that. It’s worth doing even though you want to take the extra steps that it does take to make it accessible for everyone.

And then once you’ve got a process that works for you, consider sharing what you’re doing at a professional conference. Like you could propose it at the Online Learning Consortium’s OLCInnovate conference in the spring, it’s held every year. And it’s a great place to share ideas for doing multimedia video, and other interesting practices in our online teaching.

They have a lot of opportunity to share things that you’re doing to enhance accessibility for all learners as well. So, if you’re branching out in these areas, and you’re really working on that, that’s something you could share that the Innovate conference also. And then, of course, OLC has a fall conference called OLC Accelerate, which is another great place to propose your sharing and share your strategies with other people.

Thanks for being here today to listen on the seven tips for helping you include videos and multimedia in the online classroom. We have a few other episodes on video and multimedia, which are linked right here in the transcript. So, take a look at the transcript notes. And you’ll find links out to those other episodes just in case you want a deep dive on video creation or multimedia assets further.

#47: Tips for Adding Audio, Video, and Multimedia to the Online Classroom#39: Creative Methods and Strategies for Teaching Online#24: How to Make Videos for Your Online Class

Until then, thanks for being here. And I wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week.

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

#122: Find Your “Why”: What Drove You to be an Educator?

This content first appeared on APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

What motivated you to be an educator in the first place? How do you find meaning in your life and work? In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides guidance on how to identify your “why” and how that information can help you get through challenging times.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
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Read the Transcript:

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 today, I’m glad you’re with me. And, likely, you have an interest in teaching online, or perhaps you’ve been doing it a very long time. Either way, this podcast is typically targeted or focused on those of you who are out there doing the good work of teaching online.

This can be a very challenging profession and professional endeavor. And it can sometimes be just downright discouraging. There are times where we have to really pick ourselves up and push hard to get through the toughest times in online teaching. And if you’ve been doing this very long, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So, today we’re going to talk about what fuels you. Or in other words, what is your “why” behind what you’re doing, as you’re teaching online?

The more clarity and the more direction we can get around the why behind what we’re doing, the easier it’s going to be to continuously push through those tougher times that tend to discourage or be disheartening to us all as we’re teaching online.

What kind of things might come along that could put us in a funk or in a space where we need that connection with our why behind what we’re doing? Really, it could be anything. It could be some kind of outside situation in the world, something happening, clear across the world that, for some reason, really impacts us personally, or for which we emotionally feel quite invested in.

It could be something in the organization for which we teach, maybe things are becoming difficult in that organization. Or we might be suffering from lack of resources, lack of time, overwork, overburdened workloads, lots of different things can create stress in the work situation that we have.

Maybe we teach for more than one institution, and we’re struggling to balance deadlines, timelines, the deliverables we need to turn in, or all that work we need to grade for our students.

Or, maybe it’s something totally personal. Some of the things that impact us personally could be our own health, our mental, physical or emotional health, our ability to connect with other people, or the frequency of connecting with others to enrich ourselves. Maybe we’re feeling lonely, isolated, detached from those around us. Other things that could happen might be in our home situation or our relationships. Maybe we’re struggling with a child that’s having challenges or a spouse.

Whatever it is, there are so many reasons why it’s powerful and useful to find the why behind everything we’re doing in our online work. So today, think about what led you to become an educator, first of all, and let’s start with all those things that easily pop into your mind.

What Drove You to be an Educator?

For example, did you ever have an educator that you really admired? Did you have one that inspired you or made you feel like you really belonged? If you can think about an educator who promoted your value as a human being and really pushed you to become who you are today, perhaps you became an educator so you could give back or so you could be like that person. Think about that initial start that got you into teaching.

Maybe it’s the subject matter. Maybe it wasn’t a person at all, but more the topics, the interest, the path you took through college studying this stuff? Is there a bigger meaning behind all of that that really drives your passion to teach it to other people?

Is it the ability you have to make an impact? Do you see the value of your teaching on other people easily? Are you able to notice what they can glean from you? The somewhat-apprentice learning they get from you? The way they’re nurtured by you? Are you able to help people feel connected, like they have purpose and they have belonging? Let’s start thinking about all those deeper meaning type of feelings that we have about what we do.

How Do You Find Meaning?

There’s a man named Viktor Frankl who is well known for his philosophies that came out of his experience living in the concentration camp for a time. And he created this theory that we really gain meaning from three different things. We’re going to get meaning in life through our work, through love and through suffering. And sometimes the work we do every day when we’re teaching, whether we’re teaching face to face, or we’re teaching online, that work brings us a sense of meaning, like, we’re just contributing to the world.

We’re putting good out there, we’re giving every day, and we have the ability to get meaning from that very thing we’re doing. If you’re in that group, you’re not alone, a lot of people, their why is the work. You can lose yourself in the work, you can feel a great purpose in the work. And daily, if you get out of bed excited about doing the work, it’s very likely that the work of teaching itself really excites you, and you get meaning in life from this endeavor.

This idea of getting meaning in life through love. Now, this is the idea of those cherished personal relationships that are closest to you, the deep love that you have for others, and the way you want to be with them, and build relationships with them and connect with them. Is there something about your students that really brings out your love for humanity, for individuals, for other people? Do you feel this deeper feeling for them that drives your work? Is the meaning that you’re getting in your educating coming from that love?

And lastly, through suffering. Many times, if we suffer some very difficult thing, it could be an illness, or an accident or tragedy or any kind of external or internal suffering, there can be this constructed meaning through the suffering. One can decide to turn that suffering into transformative development and growth, and really find deep purpose and meaning in that suffering.

Sometimes in our online teaching work, we might be motivated through the work itself. And maybe at other times through the love. This last year, when our institution had its large graduation exercise, there were hundreds, even thousands of people there. And it would be very easy to connect to the students there, face to face and feel love for them, especially if you taught them in several courses over time. It’s also very easy to feel connected to this work by loving colleagues, really feeling like those relationships have developed over years. And there’s a deep love and respect for those that one works with.

And then, of course, there are those hard times where things just all come together into a horrible crucible of suffering. And it could be the late nights struggling through teaching a tough concept, grading hundreds of essays, and just pushing through when there are other things competing for our time as well. Or it could be even beyond that—the personal challenges, the health challenges, the world challenges, and all the suffering involved with those things.

So, looking at all three of those ways people find meaning in life and in work. What resonates most with you today? What seems to light your fire? What brings the why into what you do? Why did you decide to be an educator? And why do you keep doing it?

It might be easy to say, “Well, I do it because it’s a paycheck. Well, I have student loans, and I do it because I need to pay them off.” Or “I do it because, well that’s the job I have, or because I work here.” If any of those ideas come into your mind, I want to encourage you to just set them aside temporarily. Those are important ideas and worth thinking about. If we take it to a little bit of a deeper level, what beyond that keeps you showing up every day? Because you could work anywhere.

With your brain capacity, experience, intelligence and educational background, you could get a job anywhere, but you work where you work, doing what you do with your gifts, talents, attributes, and the ability to make your unique contribution. Why is it that you’re doing it?

What is it that you love about it, or that you get out of doing that? What motivates you to be there?

I encourage you to find a place where you can brainstorm these ideas, write them down and list everything that comes to mind. You’re not going to show it to anyone else. And it’s okay if some of the things that come out are things that you wouldn’t be proud to share. Like if you don’t really want to tell anyone that the main reason you do what you do is for the money. It’s okay to write it down. You don’t have to share it. It’s your business. But write all the different reasons why you’re doing online teaching.

Some people like this because they can reach a lot of people all over the world and really engage with many different cultures and people from different backgrounds and learn as well as teach at the same time. And some people do it for convenience, they could teach face to face, but they like the flexibility that comes from teaching online. Whatever comes to your mind, write it all, make a huge list—some people call this a “brain dump”—and sort it all out.

And once you’ve written down all the different reasons why you do what you do teaching online, sort them into different levels. So, we have the very practical, basic “why.” Maybe because it’s flexible, maybe because it brings us a good paycheck, or whatever that is.

And then start to look for those things that you might have listed, that go to a slightly higher level or a deeper level of thinking for you. Maybe you have a connection to your students that you can’t get any other way. Maybe you feel a huge reward in certain types of situations, when you’re teaching online. Whatever that is, let’s sort them into kind of levels to see what, ultimately, is your biggest “why.”

Does it really boil down to the practical arrangement? Does it hit your deeper level of getting the meaning through the work itself or through the love you have? Or through the suffering that it might involve?

And then we’ll take this one step further. Once you’ve made your list that creates your why behind what you do, what kinds of words and language do you use when you talk about your online teaching? “I have to go do this.” “Well, I’m late again.” I mean, things like this, do they come out?

Or is it, “I get to go do this,” “I’m really fortunate to have this opportunity” and “I can’t wait to get back in that classroom”? The words we use can actually create meaning all by themselves for our thinking and for our brains. So, if we’re constantly saying things in somewhat a negative, pressured light, like a “have to,” that starts to make us feel like the meaning is very superficial, or maybe it’s less than it really is.

And if we use words that empower us to find that sense of meaning through what we’re doing, then as we go to the work, it gives us this subconscious desire to get that meaning out of it, to have a deeper purpose behind what we do.

I have thought about this a lot. I have a son who works in restoration work. And in his company, he goes into people’s basements when they’ve had a flood or some kind of disaster that has destroyed part of their home. And he is part of the crew that initially arrives when they’ve had this disaster and tears up and mucks out and cleans out whatever has overflowed or exploded or erupted underneath their home.

Sometimes it’s a very disgusting job that most people would not want to do, especially when something like a sewer has backed up. And when I was speaking to my son about what he does, and asking him why he does this job, he had a really positive why behind it.

He said, he works with people in their most desperate hour, in some pretty devastating circumstances through which they are suffering, and they can’t see a way out. And he is there, superhero in his way, able to completely block it off, make it a sterile environment, clean it out, tear it out and refresh it so that they can have the new materials put in and have their house back into a livable condition, even better than it was before. And, in this way, it is like being a superhero, saving people in their darkest hour.

As he thinks about his why, of course, there are some pretty bad experiences that he’s going to have in that job. The dirty work of restoration before it’s time to do the restoration itself, getting rid of the old stuff that’s there. That’s the hardest part. So, I admire that why, and I’m sure it comes in handy a lot of times when he’s thinking about the hard parts of the job.

Just like that job, as online educators we have wonderful things we can do for people meeting them wherever they are and helping them become educated when they might not otherwise have access to this kind of opportunity.

And during the hard times, if we can create a few statements like my son did about his restoration work and remind ourselves of those things when we are in our toughest moments, knowing the why behind what we do for our own selves and our own work will empower us and help us more than anyone else ever could. I hope you’ll think about your why and take it home today and write up a few statements that help you remember it.

Keep it in a place you can look at it often. And enjoy being the online educator that you are, through the hard times and through the good times.

Thank you for being here. We’re all in this together getting through the profession we have of being online educators. I wish you all the best and hope that you feel uplifted this week. And I wish you all the best in your teaching this coming week as well.

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 switches this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#121: Three Interactive Platforms to Consider Using in the Online Classroom

This content first appeared on APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Want to increase engagement in the classroom, but not sure where to start? In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares three interactive platforms to add a creative approach to student engagement. Learn what platforms work best for asynchronous, synchronous and hybrid classes.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

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. I’m Bethanie Hansen your host, and I’m here to talk with you today about three interactive platforms to try in your online teaching. With so many things to try out there, it can be very difficult to decide what will work for you and for your students when you’re teaching online.

Today, we’re going to look at three interactive platforms. The first one is called Knovio: K-N-O-V-I-O; you can learn more about it at Knovio.com. And I’ll talk about it here today. The second one is called Vimeo: V-I-M-E-O and, of course, you can look this one up at vimeo.com. It’s a little bit like a YouTube-style hosting platform, but with some additional interesting features. And thirdly, we’ll look at Mentimeter M-E-N-T-I-M-E-T-E-R, at mentimeter.com. This one can have interactive slide presentations, and quizzing features, and all kinds of different questions and polling that you can include.

Each one has its own place in your online teaching. And some of these work well asynchronously. Some work well synchronously, but still online. And some can work for both. So, we’ll check out all three of these interesting interactive platforms and give you some ideas of things you might want to try in your next online class.

What to Know about Knovio

First, if you’re interested in helping your students create their own interactive presentations, where they can video record themselves next to some slides that they are also presenting, a great platform would be Knovio. Knovio.com has a lot of different options. There is the educator pricing and the educator platform. But more specifically, today I want to talk about the student version of this product. So, this is an opportunity for your students to create presentations that they are featured in with video and slides side by side.

It’s easy to use; they can narrate their slides, or they can record the videos side by side, or they can just do audio with no video and those slides. They can share it with their friends, they can share it with the entire class, send it to their professor for grading. It can be featured on a web page in your online classroom as part of a showcase when you have students submit projects. It’s mobile-friendly and, of course, there’s a free version. So, students can make a seven-minute video, and it’s free. Or for a longer video or more of them, they can have a very inexpensive student plan, I think it’s something like $5 per month.

So, there’s student pricing. And there’s the opportunity for students to save these and share them. And of course, they can continue to edit them and work together with others in a group if they’d like to do that. So, the Student Edition gives all the Knovio Pro features, but at an inexpensive price your students would be able to invest in, it gives the five hours of storage for students, unlimited video presentation lengths, up to like a five-hour presentation. And also high-definition video exports. So, they can either export the entire video, or they can share just through a link.

When students use Knovio to make presentations, they’re much more interactive than just a simple PowerPoint alone. They can have that live video next to it and it’s really engaging, just like being in a presentation in a live classroom. So, it brings that personal touch into the presentation.

They can use different languages and have it translated. Or you can have it narrated and just in English, whatever works for your students. So, if you’re doing another language, like teaching a Spanish class, it might be interesting to have the translation there. And you can also post these online, upload them to your favorite hosting service.

You can also check out the statistics to see whether they’ve been viewed, how many times they’ve been viewed. And you can also give it a bookmark so that you can move from slide to slide and each one will play the narration and then just stop there so you can skip around. So, there are a lot of options available in the student version here and its very user friendly.

I myself first was exposed to Knovio years ago through a colleague at American Public University. After I first tried it out at the time, I was also teaching at the local community college, so I brought it into my face-to-face music appreciation class. And I had students make their presentations using Knovio. And then in the web version of our class where we had our grading, and we could also store things, I had students upload their Knovios in there so there was sort of this showcase. And between class sessions, students could look at all the different presentations and share their comments and study more than they would get in the live class.

So, there are a lot of options here with Knovio. It works great in live classes, hybrid classes, and asynchronous classes. Now, what if you want to use Knovio as the faculty member? There is also this ability to put quizzing in between your narrated sections. So, you can have yourself on video talking through parts of a lecture, and you can have a slide up there with the different pieces of information, then you can have your students pause and take the quiz questions in between and then move on to the next slide. So, if you like it enough to try the teacher version, you’ll find there are a lot more features, especially if you try the pro version. And it might be worth keeping and using over and over.

And, of course, you can save your work and use it in the next session of that class. So, once you’ve invested the time to build this big presentation and put your video up there, you can use it repeatedly. So that’s one option to you, Knovio. It’s an interactive slide presentation type of application. And we’ll go on to the second option for you today, which is Vimeo.

Considerations for Using Vimeo

Now, what is Vimeo you might be wondering? Vimeo is an all-in-one video hosting platform. So, you can make, manage and share your videos, you can have live virtual events that you engage your audience with. And you can also send out these videos, keep track of the statistics and know who’s watching them. You can password protect them, you can have them listed or unlisted, you can put them as part of a showcase, you can embed them anywhere.

There are a lot of ways to use Vimeo. And there are a lot more personal controls that you can employ in your Vimeo hosting. One of the reasons people use Vimeo now, of course, is for all kinds of video marketing and video monetization. But, as an educator, you can see that there would be a lot of benefit to tracking the views of your videos and adding captions and different things.

You can use them to teach a lesson, you can also embed them in your LMS. So, if you compare this to YouTube, there’s just a little bit more in terms of control and features. I encourage you to take a look at Vimeo and see whether it might be something that you want to try out. There are various levels of plans, and it just might be something that your students connect well with.

Now, why would you want to try Vimeo instead of YouTube? That is an interesting question that really depends on the user. Some people use YouTube and like to use either private or unlisted videos. Unlisted is probably the best way to go, because then you can use those videos that you’ve created and you can do them without the whole web finding them. The problem with unlisted videos on YouTube is that the date that you created them, and the number of watches is public. And if you try Vimeo, you can hide a lot of that information, you can hide the branding, you can hide the statistics.

And you really can choose how much about the video other people can see. So, there’s a little more control there. And as I mentioned, you can embed it anywhere, link it anywhere and use it whenever you see fit. So, all kinds of great things can happen with your Vimeo videos. And, even though, there is a small cost associated with that, you might find that it’s helpful for interactive things, screen recording, and also editing videos in a professional way with very little learning required.

It’s user friendly, easy to learn. And you can also with the same link, if you decide you want to change out the video or or add an updated version, you can have the same link to the video but replace it with a newer version of your video without changing the URL or the address of that video. So, that’s a bonus of Vimeo, it preserves that address for you and allows you to use it over and over, even when you’ve subbed out to a new version of the video.

So, Vimeo is worth trying in your online education experience. It’s especially good for asynchronous learning where you’re building a class and putting lots of different videos in there that you have created. And it’s also good for hybrid situations if you’re teaching some live and some of the work they’re going to be doing at home. So, look at Vimeo and see if it’s a video solution you might want to try in your online teaching.

What is Mentimeter?

And lastly, today we’re talking about Mentimeter. Mentimeter is a fun way to interact with your students either synchronously or asynchronously. Mentimeter is a platform where you build presentations. You can build your entire presentation on this platform, you can prepare it to be interactive, you can use the online editor to add questions, polls, quizzes, slides, images, GIFs, and all kinds of exciting things. And you can make these really engaging presentations that your students will view.

Additionally, you could just use it for one or two slides to create a poll that you insert into your classroom. Now, your audience, your students, are going to use their smartphones to connect to the presentation and answer the questions. So, if you send it out for the engagement feature alone, you could just post the link or embed the Mentimeter presentation in your online class. You can send the link in your announcement, or you can put it in there as an actual piece of content. They can see their responses coming together as more and more students respond. So, when one student adds information, they’re going to see in real time, the interactive responses pop up there. And the more students come in throughout the week and participate asynchronously in this engagement, the more those answers are going to change.

For example, if you have a word cloud on one slide, and Sarah goes in on Monday and adds her answers, and Johnny goes in on Tuesday, the existing parts of the answer will be there. And the next student’s answers will be added to it. And it’ll become more and more rich, engaging and interesting for everyone, as the week goes on. Then at the end of the week, you can close out the Mentimeter and it’ll save all those responses. So, you could send that out as a follow up that everyone can view and see the collective contributions to that presentation.

So, it’s a very interesting way to get people to interact, whether it’s synchronously or asynchronously throughout the week. And then you can just close that off and have everybody take a look together and have a fun closing product. So that’s mentimeter.com. And I really believe that it works well for both synchronous and asynchronous audiences. And I encourage you to try it for the fun interactivity that it might provide to your online students.

So, today, we’ve just looked at three different media applications. The first one was Knovio. A great way for students to create presentations that have live-looking video next to their slide presentation narrated or faculty members can also do that, and even embed quizzing in the middle.

Secondly, we have Vimeo, which also allows you to add some interesting interactivity, including quizzing, if you have one of the paid versions of that plan. And then lastly, Mentimeter, which also provides a lot of different types of interactivity in a slide-based application that you can either share the link, you can use it on a smartphone or you can embed it in the classroom, and it can collect all kinds of responses. And you can use a creative approach to share this engagement with your students.

This coming week, I hope you’ll try at least one of these new and interesting ways to engage and find a way to liven up your online teaching and increase the engagement through an interesting media app. 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.

#120: How to Apply Project-Based Learning in Online Teaching

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Applying classroom learning to the real world can help keep students engaged. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses project-based learning. Hear about this student-centered learning practice that’s designed to teach concepts using real-world problems and challenges. Learn three steps to apply this in any subject area.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

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. If you’re looking for a new and interesting approach to working with your online students, you are in for a real treat! Today we’ll be talking about project-based learning. You might have heard of applied learning, real-world learning, civic learning. There are a lot of things in these categories that can be a little bit ambiguous, and we know it would be great to include them. But we’re not exactly sure how.

Today, we’ll talk about that project-based learning in a three-step process to keep it very simple, using some guidelines put out by Jennifer Jump in her “50 Strategies for Your Virtual Classroom,” and a few other resources as well. So, relax and enjoy the next few minutes while we talk about project-based learning, and you can think about how you might apply these in your own online teaching this coming year.

What is Project-Based Learning?

Project-based learning is really for everyone, even when teaching online. In fact, teaching online when you use project-based learning, you’re helping your students do things that are going to apply to the real world. Project-based learning is sometimes abbreviated PBL. So, if you’ve ever heard of that acronym, it’s a student-centered learning practice designed to teach concepts using real world problems and challenges.

A lot of people use it to create a situation where critical thinking skills can grow. And students can produce something that’s very high-quality, deeply engaging, and very much connected to what’s going on out there in the world. For adult learners, this is especially important because we’re thinking a lot about the career field that we’ll be using that learning in. So, project-based learning can be an excellent choice for online adult learners.

Now, if you think about various types of project-based learning, you could think about, let’s just say the elementary school that plants a garden. I used to teach music at an elementary school in Boise, Idaho, where there was such a garden, there were all kinds of plants, a lot of variety, a lot of choices, and the students cultivated them throughout the year. And, at some point, they had a harvest and would celebrate and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Another opportunity for project-based learning that I experienced when I was a young person was Junior Achievement. We would go into the business, study the business, learn about the business, walk around and be involved in the very real actions of that business, while we were in high school.

Maybe filming a documentary and sharing it out would be another example of project-based learning. There are a lot of ways to use project-based learning in your subject area, you think about what would be real world and applied and you bring in those opportunities.

If you think about it, students are going to be really turned on by this idea, because they’re going to know that this is really going to help them get where they want to go with what they’re learning, especially if these are courses in their major subject area. Project-based learning can be done well, it can also be done in a messy way that doesn’t really help your students very much. So, we want to make sure that you use these three ideas that are quite simple to help you think through your process.

Step 1: EXPLORE: Allow Students to Research Ideas for Projects

The first one is that you’re going to help your students EXPLORE. So, at this level students are going to research. They’re going to explore the information that they’ll need for the project, maybe they’re going to do some reading, some interviewing, some observing, some analyzing of pictures, viewing videos, discussing with others, and walking through whatever the environment is, or the ideas are.

Set Clear Expectations and Guidance

At this level, you would want to make very clear expectations for your students, you can do this in your online course through either written text, through a live synchronous meeting, or through some kind of asynchronous content, maybe that’s going to be an explainer video that you create to guide them through the steps of creating their project that they’ll be doing.

Whatever it is, you want to give them as much clarity as you possibly can. So, they have a lot of guidance to know when they have met the requirements, and what they’re supposed to be learning through doing this stuff. So, give them some guiding questions to help them think through their options and whether things will fit the project.

Provide Plenty of Practice and Discussion Time

And then lastly, give them a lot of practice time and discussion space to toss these ideas around and explore them and interact with each other and with you to get some feedback. The students will be discovering, questioning, gathering, identifying, navigating, responding and doing a whole lot more. So, they’ll be very engaged in the exploration phase as they select their project.

Step 2: EXPLAIN: Students Share Learning and Thinking

On the second phase of project-based learning, this is the EXPLAIN space. And this is where students will share what they’ve learned. So, they’re going to be doing some things in that explore phase, but in the EXPLAIN phase, they’re going to share out their thinking. This might be some kind of a presentation. Maybe it’s a summary that they write up or some kind of tutorial or video or guide that they’re going to create and give other people.

It could be some kind of, as I mentioned before, like a documentary, or another type of walkthrough. So, maybe it’s even a guided experiment, that would especially work well in some of your science-based classes. So, think about how students will explain out what they’re learning.

And then you’re going to give them a framework to share that material. So maybe you’ll have a week that’s set aside just to share that learning. Maybe it’s a showcase, or some kind of an event. If it’s asynchronous, you especially want to be careful to hype it up, make it exciting, and help students know when they will share this out, and in what way they will be evaluated. Encourage them to discuss it with each other and also collaborate with each other. Some project-based learning can be done really well in groups. So, you might think about this as a type of group opportunity.

And then students are going to take action in this phase by filling in the gaps for others, bringing all the information together that they’re thinking about, and sharing it out, organizing the information in some way, and teaching it or telling it to others or presenting it.

Step 3: APPLY to Other Activities or Projects

The last step in this project-based learning cycle is APPLY. So here, students are going to take what they learned and apply it to additional activities or projects. Now, it could be that this is the phase where they’re going out and doing some kind of civic engagement or service learning. So as the instructor, you want to set clear expectations for this part of the application activity, give some evaluation tools before they get started. Help them to know when they’ve done enough or met the requirement or done things in a way that helps further their learning.

Then give some feedback, find a way for them to get peer feedback, get feedback from you. And if they’re doing something out in the world with employers, maybe they’re going to get some kind of employer feedback on what they’re doing.

Students at this stage are going to create a project or maybe a creation of some kind, they’re going to do an experiment or collect data and share it out or respond creatively. If you’re in an arts class, for example, maybe this is where they’re going to write their song and perform it or get into that performance situation and then report back. If it’s a business class, maybe this is where they’re going to go shadow someone in the workplace and learn through doing that and they’re going to share that back.

Whatever it is, these three different stages of the project, the explore, explain and apply, will help you to kind of come full circle and help your students use project-based learning effectively. This is just one way to really engage your students in their online learning. It takes it home for them, it makes it real. So, they’re not just learning about it in the online space, but they’re taking it out into the real world and they’re applying whatever it is they’re learning from you.

It’s a great instructional strategy, helps your students to explore what they’re learning at a much deeper level, and figure out if it works for them how they’re going to actually do something with this learning. It also helps you to see the connection between your classroom and the rest of the world, especially the students’ worlds where they want to go out and get their careers or enhance their careers. I highly recommend trying project-based learning. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of ways we could refer to this. It could be applied learning. It could be service learning; a lot of things are really similar to this.

There are some websites out there that might give you some great ideas. If you’re teaching younger folks, if you’re teaching elementary, junior high and high school students PBL works.org has a section on remote learning. There’s a hyperlink in the notes from today, so check it out.

There’s also a really great section on the edX courses site with some project-based learning courses that you can try for professional development. You could poke through those and find some ideas as well. A great project they have there as an example is to create an iOS app from start to finish, excellent project-based learning opportunity.

There might be an opportunity to use project-based learning with big data, or analytics, deep learning in some kind of a capstone project, or machine learning. There are a lot of opportunities in the sciences and technology fields for project-based learning.

What about in your communication or writing courses? Maybe you want to have students go out and apply those skills by creating a campaign or writing a summary of something they’ve experienced or interviewing someone and writing it up, there are a lot of opportunities there as well.

So, regardless of your subject matter, many different opportunities could emerge that you could apply in the classroom and have your students go out and try on. I hope that this is a great area for you to explore and expand for your students and try in the online space.

I look forward to hearing back from you about how it goes. Maybe you already have some experience here that you can share out with us or maybe you’re going to try this for the first time. Either way, feel free to stop by my website, BethanieHansen.com/request, and share some comments about how it’s going for you in your journey towards project-based learning. And in the year ahead, I want to encourage you and invite you to try this out at least once in one of the courses you’re teaching and see how it goes for you and your students.

Thanks for being here. Thanks for taking this journey with us to find some application that will make learning relevant for our students and connect us to the real world and help the learning to come to life. Best wishes in your best wishes 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 switches this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#118: Using Explainer Videos in Online Classes

This content first appeared on APUEdge.Com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

Explainer videos are a great way to share information with students in a highly engaging way. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides insight into tools to create explainer videos, content options, video length, and more.

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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.

Explainer videos are becoming more and more common across the Internet and the world wide web. And we want to talk about these today and figure out how to do them. This is an interesting thing to explore.

First of all, what is an explainer video? And what is it not? And then, how do you do it? The first thing about what an explainer video is, is that this is a tool often used in marketing areas. In fact, it’s a very common thing in marketing one’s products. You might be wondering, “how does that connect to online education?”

Well, of course it connects. Your students are watching YouTube, they’re on the internet all the time, and they’ve seen good explainer videos. So, they’re familiar with this mode of conveying information. And an explainer video is just a short, concise way of describing something, telling what it is, what it isn’t, and then how to do it or why it’s important.

Options to Make Explainer Videos

There are a lot of resources available to you on the internet about how to make them. And there are many different platforms you can use, such as TechSmith’s tools. They have Camtasia. They also have the Snagit application. You could try either one of those. Canva also has a great way to make explainer videos. And then again, you could make a standard video of yourself talking at the camera, with or without any kind of animation. It could be you talking for just a few minutes. And it can be that simple.

Or you could take it to the far end of animated complexity, where you have animated screens and animated explainer components and different words popping in and out and a lot of things moving at once.

It’s up to you how simple or complex an explainer video will be. I want to talk a little bit more about why explainer videos can be so effective. And it’s this idea that great communicators are also great explainers.

Explainer Videos Help You Communicate Well with Students

As online educators, we all want to be great communicators. We want to speak effectively to our students, teach them effectively, and guide them to use this subject matter in their lives and in their careers. There’s an article in “Harvard Business Review” by John Bell Dhoni in 2009, called “Great Communicators are Great Explainers.” And in this article, he simplifies the process as I’ve already explained it, three ways to be an effective explainer. And I’m proposing here that these are the three main parts of an explainer video.

Step 1: Define “What it Is”

The first one is defining what it is. So, the purpose of your explanation is to describe an issue, an initiative, a concept, a problem, something that students need to know about or understand in your online class. For example, if you’re pushing for cost reductions, explain why they are necessary and what they will entail. That’s the example used in the “Harvard Business Review” article.

You could also be telling about a concept, such as in the music appreciation class, an explainer video might easily teach the term tempo and discuss that it is the speed of the music, how fast or slow it is, comparatively, tempos can change, etc. So, we’re going to define what it is in that first part of the explainer video.

Step 2: Define “What it is Not”

The second part, as we learned in the “Harvard Business Review” article, is to define what it is not. And this is where you go into that advanced level of thinking. Never assume anyone understands exactly what you mean by what you have said. Define exclusions. And, in the example from the article I referenced here, it is returning to our cost reduction issue. If you’re asking for reductions in cost, not people, be explicit. Otherwise, employees will assume they’re being terminated. Don’t leave any room for assumptions. It’s just not true for potential layoffs, but for any business issue, or teaching issue, for that matter.

So, if I were doing that same example from the music appreciation class of what tempo is and what it isn’t, I would then say tempo is not the steady beat, the pulse alone. It’s not the color of the sound. It’s not the texture. It’s not going to be that single melody that’s popping out to us, that we can hear on top of everything. There are a lot of things I could say tempo is not. And then in defining what it is, I can circle back to that if needed.

Step 3: Define What to Do or the “Call to Action”

And lastly, we need to define what we want people to do. This is the opportunity to give them a call to action. And in an online class, it is the opportunity to engage them in what they’re going to do, to demonstrate their learning or practice their learning. Establishing those expectations with others is absolutely critical, otherwise, your video is useless.

Now, in that example from the “HBR” article, cost reduction means employees will have to do more with less. And you’re going to explain what that will include in clear and precise terms. You can also use the expectations step as a challenge for people to think and do something different. Your explanation becomes more broadly significant when you do that.

And another tip is to not overdo the details, especially in what, it is what it isn’t, and what you want them to do all three of these components. Really, hitting all three points should not take a very long time, we want to do it clearly, concisely and in a way that grabs our listeners’ attention.

You will have many students who don’t want to sit for more than a five-minute video, so I would suggest that that’s your cap for any explainer video. Keep them small, brief, concrete and under five minutes.

In defining what you want people to do, you could give them a task to take outside of the classroom and try out their learning. You could also introduce an assignment and discuss what you want them to do on that; you could also use this explainer video approach to define the assignment itself. And define what it is not, what it should not look like, and what students should not do. And also define what they should do to submit it at the end.

So, initially, you might give them an overview of the assignment, maybe it’s an essay, maybe it’s a PowerPoint discussion that they’re going to put together. Whatever it is, you want to define it and give some clarity to that so you’re really guiding people. And then, of course, define what it isn’t. We’re going to describe what that would be.

And then, lastly, what you want them to do. You want them to attach it, submit it by a certain day, whatever that is. So, explainer videos can be used for a lot of things, and they can be very simple. You’re just telling what it is, what it isn’t, what you want them to do.

Now, as you look across the internet for different resources, I want to tell you to stop by the Canva site, canva.com. You’ll find a free explainer video maker. In fact, it’s very simple. You can put this together very quickly using their formula here. They walk you through a five-step outline of how to create an explainer video. And it starts with choosing a template, then customizing the video with stock images or recording yourself speaking or cropping the videos, whatever it might be. And third, you’re going to add text and captions. If you’ve written out what you’d like to say in advance, this part’s really easy. But you can also do it at this point in the creation. Fourth, you can add music voiceovers or animations. And lastly, download the video and share. When you download it from Canva website, you could then upload it into any LMS. And you could put it in your course announcements, and it’s pretty portable and very easy to do. So Canva is a great resource if you use.

If you use the TechSmith Camtasia product or the alternative, which is the Snagit–it takes pictures and screenshots, but Camtasia puts them together in like a longer video. So, you could use those things to grab videos, grab images, and then put them together in Canva. Or you could build the whole thing in TechSmith’s Camtasia platform. So, they have seven steps that they recommend.

And similar to the Canva site, they (TechSmith) suggest choosing a video style, which would either be a whiteboard, drawing a screencast video, or live action. They suggest then writing a script. So, you’re explaining something, focusing on your audience, solving a problem in some way through your explainer video and also telling them what they should do to get started at the end of the video.

And they actually suggest keeping your explainer videos one to two minutes in length, which is much shorter than the five minutes I recommended. So, you have a choice there, have a range of really short to moderate, and definitely be conscious of your student’s attention span.

Third, you’re going to record and edit the audio narration. Fourth, you will collect graphics, video and other assets and put those together for the video. And then, lastly, you’re going to edit and arrange the media. If you want to, you can of course do the bonus round, which is adding music, and then you’re ready to go. You can publish, share, or just share out from this area. You can download as a local file. You can upload it to screencast.com, YouTube, Google Drive or other places. So both of these are really great ways to share out an explainer video. And you have, of course, your three components that make a good explainer video. And, lastly, your call to action where you ask students to engage with you in some way afterwards or engage with the content.

You can share it with your students and track the views through some of these different platforms. For example, screencast.com and YouTube, you might be able to see how many views you’ve got. And then, of course, you also can take a look at what you’re doing with the students to really engage them over the course of your instruction through this method.

So, they’re going to retain what you’re teaching because they’re listening, they’re reading they’re watching. And you’ve covered also some of your accessibility areas by having a transcript on the screen or captions on the screen. By having visual and auditory components, you’ve got a lot of pieces that are going to reach a lot of learners. And it’s going to be a really high-level piece that you can put in your classroom.

Now, as I share the explainer video concept with you, I don’t recommend this everywhere throughout your class. I recommend this for some specific ideas that you think are most important, or some key assignments that you find students really struggle with. As you put those things together, you’re going to have a solid piece that you can use from course to course and your students are going to get more engaged and more information from you.

And then, of course, you can ask them for their feedback. Was it helpful? Did they like it? Would they recommend any changes? And you can always modify and improve your videos as you go. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion of explainer videos, and I especially hope you’ll try it out in your online class. I wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week.

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

#117: Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning

This content first appeared on APUEdge.Com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

The goal of culturally responsive teaching is to help students feel more comfortable, connected and understood in the classroom. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides guidance to help educators invite students to share more about themselves, their background, and their culture to create a more inclusive learning environment.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
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Read the Transcript:

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 we’re going to be talking about culturally responsive teaching and learning. Have you ever heard of this term? It’s sometimes abbreviated CLR, which would be “culturally and linguistically responsive” teaching. There are many different kinds of approaches and there’s a lot of information out there. So, I would just like to share a few tips and tidbits with you today, just to get you started on this topic.

The first tip is coming from a book by Shell Education called “50 Strategies for Your Virtual Classroom,” by Jennifer Jump. And in her book, she has a section called culturally responsive learning, if you have that book, it’s page 13. And I’m just going to quote her here. She says:

“Culturally and linguistically responsive teaching expert Dr. Sharroky Hollie (2020) defines a culturally responsive mindset in the following way: ‘Being culturally responsive is an approach to living life in a way that practices the validation and affirmation of different cultures for the purposes of moving beyond race and moving below the superficial focus on culture.’ When educators use culturally responsive teaching strategies, students are more engaged, which in turn helps them to be more successful, academically.”

So, there’s our start today, to be thinking about and talking about. The goal is to bring out students’ real identities and who they really are, to help them feel more comfortable, more connected, and more understood in the classroom. But I think it goes a little bit beyond this. And that is how we can appreciate and understand our students from whichever place they come from, and whatever beliefs they have, and whatever understandings they have. And we can also show up ourselves.

We, too, have an identity and a background and a culture that may be part of sharing. Maybe it’s part of our social presence; maybe it’s part of our invitation, to invite our students to bring in who they are and be themselves in the classroom as well.

And when we talk about culturally responsive teaching and learning, there’s an article out there by Laura Rychly and Emily Graves in the magazine, “Multicultural Perspectives,” volume 14, number one from 2012. I realize that’s about 10 years ago, but these concepts are very much relevant today. And I’m going to just read from the summary here some pertinent ideas you might care about.

“Culturally responsive pedagogy, as defined by one of the most prominent authors in the field. Geneva Gay (2002), is, ‘using the cultural characteristics, experiences, and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more effectively.”

Cultivate Four Practices to Implement Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning

So, we’re understanding that culturally responsive teaching and learning means that we are using some “teaching practices that attend to the specific cultural characteristics that make [our] students different from one another, and from their teacher.” Cultural characteristics might be things like our values, our traditions, and our language.

And those are kind of on one level, then if we go a little bit deeper here, we’re going to also can include the concepts of how we communicate, what we communicate, learning styles we might have; things that are traditionally done in our method of learning, culturally, might even include group versus individual work, for example. And also relationship norms. There are a lot of specifics from one culture to the next about how various relationships speak to each other, whether it’s teacher-to-student, student-to-peer, student-to-other leaders, etc.

Culturally responsive pedagogy means that our main objective is that we’re going to be able to reach everyone and educate everyone in the way that we can reach them best. So, in this chapter that I mentioned by Laura Rychly and Emily Graves, this is actually a literature review about a lot of different research that’s been done on multicultural or culturally responsive pedagogy. And there are four practices that come out, which I’d like to highlight for you here.

Being Empathetic and Caring

And that is first, that the teacher is empathetic and caring. And of course, that means that when we hear our students, when they communicate to us, we’re going to be able to validate their experiences, different from our own or similar to our own, it doesn’t matter. We can validate. Validating is just affirming and legitimizing that someone else’s experience is every bit as real as our own experience or someone else’s. So, all those experiences are valid, valuable and worth contributing. And, of course, we can give a lot of upfront instruction and guidance to communicate that empathy and that caring to all of our students and help them to know how to engage.

Be Reflective about People from Other Cultures

The second point that comes out from this article is that they are reflective about their beliefs about people from other cultures. And this one’s particularly important, it’s a pretty obvious point that we might have implicit bias about groups of people or cultures. Interestingly enough, we might even have biases about our own.

For example, if we find a student from our own cultural background, we might assume we know how they think and feel or what they might understand. And that’s really not true. We didn’t grow up with these people, we’re not in the same household, or even the same person that they are.

And as clear as that may sound, we want to question our assumptions about groups, about individuals and even about our own, when we run into students who come from similar backgrounds. There can be areas on which we can connect to students, but there can also be assumptions that are not correct, that become barriers if we believe these things. So, reflecting on our beliefs about people from other cultures is a solid practice that will help us with culturally responsive teaching and learning.

Be Reflective about Assumptions Regarding Culture

Third, they are reflective about their own cultural frames of reference. Again, looking at our own world from the inside out, and then trying to be objective looking from the outside in so that we can understand how we might present ourselves to others, and what assumptions we have.

Be Knowledgeable about Other Cultures

And lastly, that they are knowledgeable about other cultures. This requires a little bit of learning on our part. Those of you who have been to many places in the world, interacted with people of many cultures and backgrounds, you have already some helps in this direction. And if we’ve really developed over time in a single place, and we haven’t traveled much, or known very many cultures outside our own, this could be an area for growth. Something we need to stretch into and learn more about others.

There’s some data shared in this article about teacher characteristics for culturally responsive pedagogy that might be useful to you. There is a diverse student population across the United States that needs more education and education that reaches them where they are, especially our adult learners. Many people grow up into adulthood, and when they come to college, they’re already wondering, should they even be there? They’re wondering, is it a good fit for them? Can they do it? Can they make it?

And having some culturally responsive approaches in our teaching, meeting students where they are and learning what their needs are to best connect with them and help them engage in the discourse or the academic content, that’s going to help them a lot. So, we have some ideas around who we can be as teachers, what we can do to help reach students best through a culturally responsive approach, and then we also have some specific strategies we can use.

Try Strategies to Become More Culturally Responsive

The first one I already mentioned, validating our students. A second one would be affirming. Affirming means that we are just giving some acknowledgement to the student’s experience and allowing them the space to be who they are. We don’t necessarily need to correct them on what is right or wrong, based on their own background, but we do need to teach the content in a way that they can connect to it, use it, and grow from that content and from that experience.

Through validating and affirming students throughout the classroom and our activities, we’re going to be building relationships with them by showing them we care—that’s that empathy and caring that was mentioned in the teacher traits. And we’re also going to be able to build bridges from where we are or where our students are to where we are. So, we’re going to be able to help them connect to things that might be outside their norm, or outside their realm of experience.

Now, what we know about adult learners is that they want to bring their own experiences into the classroom. If we come at our teaching with a culturally responsive approach to teaching and learning, we will be expecting that and inviting it. And the more we can invite our students to be who they are to share their own experiences and we can be more aware of our attitudes, our cultural understanding, and also what our students may need to be invited out and share those things, the more we’re going to be able to build those relationships that support students’ learning and success.

Whether or not you already have the experience with culturally responsive teaching and learning, we can all start now and take the step to invite students to share. It’s something we can do through sharing our own background, through using culturally responsive language and the way we communicate that is inviting and open to sharing across students, and students to faculty, and faculty to students as well.

And we can also include resources, images, videos, from a variety of cultures. In selecting the materials that we put before our students, we can use largely diverse groups of people in those materials, and diverse approaches to give plenty of examples and things that students can connect to. The more we do this, the more we can celebrate the uniqueness of each person in our classroom and we can meet them where they really are.

Now, the more we think about multicultural teaching, or culturally responsive teaching, the more we can think about the invitation to have confidence and be oneself. There’s sort of a motivational framework that exists, whether you’re motivated to have a job, motivated to take a class, motivated to do anything, really. And the motivational framework has to do with being able to contribute, first of all, so you have some kind of special value there or meaning in the experience. And that would be a great foundation for culturally responsive teaching.

If students are asking the question, is this work meaningful to me? And if they’re able to say yes to that, then that means we’ve bridged that gap in some way or helped them to do so.

Secondly, is this experience going to give me a chance to develop? So, when we’ve reached our students in a way that connects to what they already know, and what they like to continue learning, and is somewhat in a context that meets them where they are, then they will continue developing and they will have that opportunity. So, we want students to be able to say yes to that question.

Third, am I going to learn new things? Which is different from developing, right? Developing means I’m going to grow as a human being. Learning new things could be skills, facts, information, schema, academic vocabulary, any of those things that they need to continue in depth, or breadth throughout their academic experience.

Fourth, will I have an opportunity for recognition and achievement? And that question speaks to their achievement in the course and their long-term connection to their career. Will students be able to pass this class? Is there enough information they can access that’s going to meet them where they are and bridge the gap for them, so that they can be successful?

If we find that students, for example, need some kind of vocabulary database, where they can look up the terms or some kind of tutor to help them revise their essays, or whatever it is. If we provide those things or give them connections to those things at the institution, then they’re going to have the opportunity to achieve in that course, to successfully complete the course, and have some internal and external recognition for their work.

And then lastly, am I going to be given responsibility? We never want a student to have the experience of just showing up and passively listening and walking away. We want to expect rigor and high performance from all of our students. If students are given responsibility for their learning and also expected to achieve at a high level, we maintain those expectations but scaffold the steps to get there. Now we’ve given students a really satisfying experience where they are expected to have some responsibility there and to work for what they’re doing, and to come away with a sense of satisfaction and achievement.

So, we have all these things that come together in culturally responsive teaching. And, in closing, whatever approaches you’re using to encourage your students to discuss their experiences and connect to their backgrounds and the depth of who they are, always remember to invite. Inviting is the best approach possible. The more you invite students to share these things and affirm and acknowledge them and validate them when they do share, the more open and accepting and inviting your classroom is going to be. And that’s going to be a positive experience for our students. That’ll get us a good start on the path of culturally responsive teaching and learning. Thank you for being here today. I wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week.

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