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Helping Educators Thrive while Teaching Online, so They Can Help Students Develop Their Potentials and Promote Resilience and Lifelong Learning in Their Communities

Dr. Bethanie Hansen 

Strategic Educational Leader and Coach

#76: How to use a Learning Management System to Put Your Class Online

#76: How to use a Learning Management System to Put Your Class Online

How to Use a Learning Management System to Put Your Class Online

This content first appeared at APUEdge.Com.

Moving your class online can be intimidating and take some creativity. In this episode, APU professor Dr. Bethanie Hansen gives you a tour of the main spaces in a learning management system and some basic ideas for the types of content you might use and how it can improve the course delivery as well as enhance student learning.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
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Read the Transcript:

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

If you’ve taught classes before, but they were live face-to-face classes, moving your class online might seem like a heavy lift. But it doesn’t have to be. In the previous episode of the Online Teaching Lounge podcast, I shared a basic overview about online education to give you a foundation. And today, I’ll walk you through the concept of a learning management system.

If you use one, it will give you an organized space to put different kinds of materials and activities that will build out your class. And in today’s world with widely available internet, teaching online is becoming so much more common. There are many learning management systems you can choose from.

Throughout the podcast, I’ll just call these learning management systems the LMS for short. You might hear terms like learning management system (LMS), course delivery system (CDS), and course management system (CMS) used interchangeably by people in the online education industry, but these all refer to the same kinds of systems.

As of today when I’m recording this podcast, there are more than 200 different free, subscription-based, and sales-based LMS’s currently available to host online courses in business, training, and education. Can you believe that?

Here are some common brand names you might have heard of, of educational LMS’s: BlackboardMoodleSchoologyCanvasD2L BrightspaceSakai. If you are an independent educator not teaching for a school system or college, you might be using a commercial LMS like KajabiTeachableThinkificAdobe Captivate Prime, or Learndash. There are so many, that we can’t talk about all of them right now or get very specific about just one LMS, I’m going to be general but I will go through their basic parts.

Whatever your LMS, the system will function as the main program or software application where you will deliver your class. You’ll keep the lessons there, assignments, and other documentation, and administer the session in terms of attendance, tracking performance of your students, and submitting grades. To accomplish all of these teaching and course design tasks, there are several different spaces in the LMS.

Understanding Each Space of a LMS

There is usually a home page for the course, where you can welcome students and identify the name of the class. You might also have a few other items available on the course home page, like an assignment calendar, an introduction to you as the teacher, and course announcements. And somewhere in the online classroom space, there will be a menu or tabs to click, leading to designated areas that deliver lesson curriculum, host the interaction—like a chat,  instant message tools, discussions, and things like that—and accept and retrieve assessments.

The spaces within an LMS each serve a purpose and they help keep things organized for you as the instructor and for your students. These spaces typically include labels like lessons or content, assignments, discussions, blogs, wikis, journals, announcements, tests, quizzes, exams, grade book, progress or statistics, and other editing or reporting features.

As technology continues to develop every day, many LMS’s are now including mobile apps for smart phones and other portable devices, diverse content options, creation tools, customizable learning paths, adaptive learning, badging, assessment variety—like polls, surveys, and traditional quizzes—discussion forums, and new types of reports or dashboards.

Each space, or page, in the LMS has a purpose. And that depends on what it is intended to do. Although each LMS might be a little bit different, these spaces have the same general purpose from one LMS to the next. As I talk about them in with you today, think about the potential uses of these spaces for your own class.

I’ll give you just one example right here. Discussion spaces are designed to allow students and their instructors to post their own responses, reply to others, view entire threaded conversations, and also share linked or embedded content. The discussion forum would be a great place for students to practice using terminology that they are being taught in the class for the subject matter. And they can also apply concepts to their real lives and share ideas, respond to others about their thoughts and ideas, and feel out their general understandings as conversations unfold.

Discussion areas can be particularly useful spaces to give your students the opportunity to practice using new terms and share their formative ideas while they’re being guided and assisted by others, and to expect that these ideas might become more refined through the process of discussion, as they keep talking and posting about these ideas with other people during the class.

I’m going to dive into each of these spaces one at a time and give you a general idea of what you can do with them. I hope this will help you design your class, as you move your live class into the online format. Let’s start with the lessons area.

Using the Lessons Section

The Lessons area is one of the main sections of the classroom and one where students will spend a lot of time. It might also be the space that takes the most time and consideration to build. Most people would consider this a replacement of the live lecture. And that can be one way to use it, if you want to record a video of yourself teaching your students as if they are sitting in the same room with you. And then, you can post that video in the classroom.

While you can do that, and it would be the easiest way to convert your live class into an online version, the lessons section of your LMS can contain all kinds of content like videos, interactive media, links, typed content, images, and other items.

Your goal in the lessons area might be to introduce the subject for the week, give background information on various topics, provide reading selections or links to the online textbook for your students, engage their interest through media and interaction, and wrap up your lesson with a closing summary of the key points.

The lessons section can be vibrant, engaging, interactive, and full of information. Or, the lessons section can be brief and simply include a list of readings and other activities the student should complete and your video.

Whatever you choose to include, remember that when you’re using an LMS and teaching online, you can load up lots of engaging content that actually provides the instruction for the week, as well as opportunities for self-directed learning and exploration. This kind of choice and autonomy is especially important if you have adult learners.

The lessons section does not have to be a substitute for the weekly readings if you are also using a textbook and other materials for the class. Instead, think of it like the guidance and interpretation an instructor would normally provide to help students truly understand the topics.

In my area, teaching music appreciation courses, many students come to the class with little or no background knowledge in music. Other students, particularly those who participated in music during high school or other public schooling years, may have some cursory knowledge of music and music terms.

Because there are so many people with low to no background knowledge in music today, the lessons area is a great place to introduce new terms every week, and give interpretation of the lesson topics within the frame of music concepts. There is a lot we have to include there, to guide students effectively.

Announcements Section

The announcements section in any online course is also a place of importance, because it presents instructor information about the ongoing class to students, an overview of weekly goals, and a summary of items to be submitted.  This area can be updated once per week or more frequently.

Announcements might contain information such as a brief overview of the topic, a list of items due at the end of the week, and reminders. This section is for all of the messages that are to be publicly provided to everyone in the class. Announcement posts may have the option of sending a copy out to participants’ email addresses, which ensures that students receive updated information promptly.

Assignments Section

The assignment section is another space common to most online LMS’s. Here, the actual work to be submitted for grading is described, with some kind of dropbox available to collect the completed work. This section can usually be set with open and closing dates so that assignments appear to students, accept submissions, and lock at the end of a given period.

If the LMS offers the option of linking assignments to the calendar, students can receive reminders about upcoming or missed due dates. In the assignment section, it is common for course designers or instructors to provide model assignments to students, documents that provide sample formatting like APA or MLA style, and other assets that may guide the student in how the work should be completed.

Anything you can do to give them an idea of what it’s going to look like when it’s done, that is going to reassure them. Because the course is entirely online and students do not have the option of asking multiple questions about the assignments in real time, the assignment section typically needs a lot of description and detail, so students can complete the work in a satisfactory manner.

Believe me, I’ve been there where students have misunderstood the assignment. And I’ll get 25 essays where students have all missed the mark. That takes a lot of time to fix.

In the assignment area, if the option is available, instructors may choose to have work scanned through a plagiarism or originality checker such as BibmeTurnitin, or SafeAssign. Using plagiarism detecting tools or programs enables the instructor to address writing concerns quickly, and it reminds students to write in their own words as much as possible, potentially improving the originality of submitted work.

Discussions

Discussions are another space common to online course LMS’s, and this area is typically where most of the interaction between participants occurs. Discussions begin with a description of what is to be discussed, requirements of when initial posts and replies to others are to be posted, and some indication of how participation will be evaluated.

In the discussions area, most participants begin their involvement in the discussion by posting an initial thread to the forum. Once a thread is posted, those who reply to that post are linked underneath the initial post. In this way, Posts that are all about the same subject or to the same initial post are linked together in a threaded chain. Everyone who visits the discussion may be able to see the conversation that has unfolded, and separate conversations that are also occurring.

Often, because there isn’t a central location to discuss course related questions or other matters, instructors post a “questions” thread within a discussion area so students can separately ask questions about course deadlines, content, and other matters aside from the actual discussion topic for the week. Discussion forum areas within a learning management system typically have private spaces for grading comments and scoring, and these can be linked to a gradebook to reflect ongoing course grades.

Many people consider the discussion forum area of an online course the equivalent of the live, face to face interaction, that might otherwise occur in a live class in a traditional Setting. An asynchronous conversation, of course, is not exactly the same as a live conversation that would take place in a traditional classroom setting.

Asynchronous discussions are like many conversations taking place at the same time. Some conversations may be missed, and no one could possibly hear every conversation taking place in a live classroom, if group dialogs were simultaneously occurring in this manner. However, in the online classroom, most instructors are expected to read the entire conversation under every single thread that has taken place, especially prior to grading the work.

Within a live classroom, an instructor might not hear or respond to every single comment a student provides. In fact, many conversations occur, especially during group work, that an instructor does not hear and is not part of.

One other difference about discussion forums online is that students and instructors both can post interactive or multimedia content, which might not otherwise be used in a live setting. For example, form discussions have the advantage of being able to host YouTube links, presentations, and virtually anything that is available online or in a presentation format. This can enhance discussions in ways that typical live exchanges may not be enhanced in a normal classroom setting.

Gradebook

The gradebook is one section of the online learning classroom not always considered but vitally important to the management of the course. Many online LMS’s have gradebook sections that can be set up either by points or by weighted percentages. Here, the forum discussions are linked into the gradebook, the assignments are linked into the gradebook, and other categories may also be added. Scores and evaluative comments are published to students as soon as grades are available, so that students are aware at all times of how they are performing in the class. Most LMS’s still require some vigilance on the part of the instructor to double check categories, assignments, and the student view, to ensure that assignments not submitted on time receive a zero, and that the student’s grade book is kept up-to-date at any given point during the class.

Other Sections in the LMS

The lessons section, announcements, assignments, discussion forums, and gradebook are the basic structure available in most LMS’s today. Some LMS provide the option of additional tools, such as blogs, wikis, journals, and other text environment areas. Some LMS’s may also provide a space for listing multimedia content, posting web links within the course itself, or other features.

As an instructor moves to the online format, getting to know the online classroom space is vitally important in order to use it effectively. Although one can reach out to technical support at most colleges and universities for assistance in resolving conflicts within the online classroom, being able to diagnose problems within the course is critical before the course begins.

In contrast to a live class, where lessons can be fleshed out more fully as the course unfolds, an online course is typically expected to be completely set up prior to day one of the class.

Things to Know About Observers

In addition to all the areas described here that exist in most LMS’s, one interesting factor is that all actions to take place within the class are observable and “on the record.” Reports can be drawn based on these activities, such as attendance by the student and the instructor, comments made, assignments submitted, and so forth.

Students are able to see when others are actually in the online course, and so can the instructor or other observers.

In contrast to live courses, where the instructor is generally the only university employee in the room with students during a class, in the online setting, there may be many other observers stopping by the class at any given point.

Observers might include technical support teams, supervisors, faculty coaches, academic appeals departments, and other team members at the institution. Some institutions treat the online course environment similarly to the live setting, giving the instructor complete autonomy and intervening little.

Other universities are quite hands-on, and may be in the space with the instructor much more, observing often, and also producing standardized courses with little to be changed by individual instructors. These differences come from a variety of factors, but it can be helpful to be aware that they exist.

Keep it Simple When Just Starting Out

As you work to move a class into an LMS and take your teaching online, I hope you will fully explore each of these spaces available. Get creative, and let the LMS support the new and interesting things you can do which were not available in a live face to face class. And when you’re finished planning out where you will conduct each activity, and what you need to add in each section of the LMS for a strong learning experience, look for a setting that allows you to see the class in student mode—so that you know whether everything is working and can be seen by your students.

And of course, once you launch the class and you’re teaching it, be as prompt as possible to fix any errors or misalignment in the class, so that your students have a good experience and can accomplish what you expect from them.

Above all, if you’re completely new at this, take it one step at a time. Don’t expect yourself to build an amazing course with lots of bells and whistles from the very first day. Keep it simple, and add more as you feel comfortable doing it, until you’ve developed your class online in the way you would like. Over time, you’ll get better and better at using the LMS.

Thank you for joining me today to walk through the main spaces of an online classroom and think about your own course online. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching!

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

#75: Moving Your Course Online? Orientation to Online Education

#75: Moving Your Course Online? Orientation to Online Education

Moving Your Course Online? Orientation to Online Education

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com. 

Online education is a bit different from live teaching and learning. In today’s podcast, Dr. Bethanie Hansen gives a brief orientation to similarities and differences between live and online education, to help educators prepare to move a class online. Learn how online education is an opportunity to expand your teaching and learning possibilities in new ways, and it is not a strict copy of the live class.

Listen to the Episode:

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

Read the Transcript:

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

Thank you for joining me today for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. Our audience includes educators all over the world, and in varying stages of teaching online. If you’re listening to this particular episode, chances are that you want a general overview of online education, to know if you’ve approached it effectively. Or maybe you just want to get started and have not taught online before.

Today, we’re going to take a look at different kinds of online education and walk through what makes online learning unique. This orientation is a description of what online education is, and what it is not, with some tips to help you think about moving your course online.

Today, we’ll look at a background on live courses, which I like to call “face-to-face,” of “live, traditional classes,” and we’ll briefly explore ideas to help you think about similarities and differences between live and online courses. In the future, we will refer back to this foundation when we talk about how you might move your live class to an entirely online format.

In today’s episode, we’re laying a foundation that will springboard into several topics for future episodes to come even beyond merely moving your course online. So plan now to subscribe to this podcast [Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsStitcherPandora.] Share it with your friends and colleagues who are teaching online. And help others you know grow in their own online teaching skills and philosophy. After all, you are not alone teaching online. There are thousands of us teaching online all around the world, and when you share this podcast, you help others feel part of this bigger professional community. And, you might even decide that this is a fun and rewarding career direction.

What is Online Education?

The term “online education” is widely used today to refer to any learning experience that includes part of the experience online over the Internet. Online education is becoming more common today, particularly due to the world pandemic. By now, most schools, universities, colleges, and organizations have some kind of online education or online training. Online education generally includes various approaches and options for course delivery, such as entirely online classes, blended and hybrid courses, massive open online courses (MOOCs), independent study, and various adaptations of these approaches. Today we are focusing on courses that are taught 100% online. However, many of the tools, concepts, and strategies presented can easily be applied to blended or hybrid and face-to-face environments.

Entirely Online Education

The 100% online class is now a common form of online education. Perhaps you are teaching this kind of class. In this type of educational experience, courses are offered completely online with students and instructors participating asynchronously within a learning management system (LMS). The LMS is a program or computerized platform that gives structure to the experience, including distinct spaces for document storage, lessons, assignments, discussions, a grade book, and other components.

When participants engage in the course asynchronously, this means that each person is involved in learning activities and dialogue at a time of their own choosing during the day or night and throughout the week. In addition to time gaps between connecting to other people and course content, students and faculty are geographically separated. Everyone may be able to use a variety of technology tools from smartphones to laptops and PCs for access.

Just as a wide variety of internet-accessible devices can be used to engage in online education, the pacing and scheduling of your time in an entirely online course is generally flexible, to some extent. And just like you, students can decide when they would like to participate each week. A minor variation of this model could be that you provide a live lecture, where students are expected to log in at a day and time that has been pre-arranged, to meet with you live through the online course. And with the pandemic, there might even be the option for some to attend live, in the face-to-face classroom, while others view the course live at home using the online platform.

There are some perks to teaching and learning online. First, entirely online courses are considered a versatile option for students who want flexibility. Most of us think that an entirely online course means students can complete their coursework “anytime, anywhere.” Just like them, we as the instructors appreciate the opportunity to teach online courses because they give us flexible scheduling and can be accommodated around our other commitments.

The greatest benefit to courses taught entirely online is the flexibility this learning modality gives us all to engage at our own convenience, and the greatest challenge is the perception of isolation participants may feel due to physical and temporal separation from others in the class. As a faculty member teaching online, it can also seem as though the work follows us everywhere and never ends. Work-life boundaries become much more important. Participating in online education requires a significant degree of self-discipline, time management, commitment, independence, and technology proficiency for both student and faculty.

Blended (Hybrid) Courses

Blended classes, also commonly called hybrid courses, are increasingly common and involve live, face-to-face meetings as well as online components. In this type of educational arrangement, courses include some live, face-to-face meetings at a pre-determined time and location and some online components such as document storage, assignment submissions, an online grade book, and online resources and lesson content.

Blended courses now come in a variety of combinations, and some universities are referring to these adaptations as “HyFlex” courses. They include aspects of both live and online learning, and while it can be challenging to determine what will be accomplished face-to-face and what belongs in the online component, it’s also possible that this type of online learning is the best of both worlds. You can get the synergy from live discussions during the face-to-face class meetings, which can be a catalyst for deep learning. And, the technology aspects from online components can direct students to more individualized, rich learning content and additional enrichment options.

Instructors must decide how much content will be presented in each of the two course environments, and how to structure the overall experience for learners to avoid doubling the student workload. Benefits of blended courses include a routine to support learners through live meetings where you can clarify things, guide students through the LMS and how to access it, and answer questions. And, the structured flexibility and richness of online components. When you compare blended classes to live, traditional courses, blended classes meet less often to give students time to also complete online work. Fewer live class meetings can present challenges keeping students on track if they miss class.

Face-to-Face Classes

Face-to-face classes supported by online components are courses provided in traditional, live formats with resources, assignments, or other components organized in a learning management system (LMS). Learning management systems can be effectively used to allow students to submit work outside the classroom environment, send assignments to plagiarism verification services, and enable instructors to grade and return work conveniently online.

The online support used in traditional, live courses may be as basic as using an assignment and grading interface and as elaborate as providing interactive readings, assessments, and multimedia content for homework, and even taking attendance in the LMS. Although classes supported by online components are similar to blended or hybrid offerings, they typically use the online framework only to support the live class, rather than instead of meeting for live classes. One benefit of including online components is the instant nature of submitting work and returning grading feedback. It’s also nice to have the possibility of using interactive textbooks, which add to students’ exploration and learning.

Adaptability in Teaching

If you think about the many kinds of online options available in education today, it may seem that many approaches and strategies are needed for each institution’s circumstances. This is true, and fortunately, anyone can customize their approach to teaching online to use all or only a little of the structure available. But even when we are customizing our approach to online education, there are many strategies and tools that can be easily used both in live face-to-face classes and when teaching entirely online.

And this brings us to our comparison between live classes and online classes.

Live versus Online Courses

If you’re thinking about moving you class online and you are worried that things will have to be very different, that could be true. Or, you can consider a few modifications to help move your activities online in ways that maintain a lot of what you would have done with the live class. Just in case you’re a bit nervous about teaching your courses online, I want to reassure you that students can still learn well and have good experiences online.

In a study of students who had taken both live, traditional and entirely online courses, those surveyed overwhelmingly reported that their online experiences were at least as good or better than their on-campus experiences (Clinefelter & Aslanian, 2017).

And to give them those positive experiences, we need to decide what essentials to include in the online course design. To decide what you’ll need to modify and what you can keep in this transition of taking an existing live class to teaching your course online, I’ll take a moment to highlight a few things about live classes.

What are the Standard Features of a Live, Traditional Course?

In saying “live, traditional course,” I’m referring to classes that meet face-to-face, at a set time and in a specific physical location. A live, traditional course is very common and has been the main method of delivering higher education courses over the past several hundred years throughout the world.

In higher education history, enrolling in college meant attending live, traditional classes. Individuals who worked full-time with families and established adult lives found it difficult or impossible to pursue degree programs due to scheduling conflicts, and those who lived too far from campus lacked access to this opportunity. You had to move closer to campus to get a college degree.

Here are some of the features of live, traditional courses:

  • Classes are held live, with the instructor and all participants attending at the same time, in the same location.
  • Students can see each other, interact informally before and after class, and have conversations in real time that include body language, live voices, and the inferences and impressions that accompany face-to-face conversations.
  • If students appear to misunderstand peers or the instructor, they can ask questions in real time.
  • The instructor can immediately introduce new ideas, examples, and resources to provide additional background on a given topic if they seem relevant in the moment.
  • Students who have peers in more than one class can see them in each of these places, and they begin to recognize classmates. Make friends. Build peer relationships that may support and sustain them during the class or throughout their entire adult lives afterward.
  • There is some disconnect between the individual reading, homework, and outside-of-class activities in which students engage as part of the course, when compared to the group dialogue and instruction that occurs during the class itself.
  • When a student misses class, it is difficult to find out all that they missed, because some of the content is social interaction.
  • And of course, my favorite, being physically present in the classroom gives students a sense of formality about the fact that they are attending a class and participating in an educational activity. There’s something about this that triggers the brain to get into learning mode and the physical boundaries of live, traditional classes help cut down the outside distractions and make the class time easier to see as the focus for that hour or so.

What are the Standard Features of an Online Course?

“Online course” is general, and this could be the 100% online version, the hybrid or HyFlex, or an adaptation of online parts. There are many variations to online education, and online courses have developed into a new educational norm most students experience at some point while completing a degree in one variation or another.

What I’ll outline here are the standard features that can become part of an online course.

  • Classes are held asynchronously, with the instructor and all participants entering the course at different times and at any location where internet access is available.
  • Students’ interaction with each other occurs in discussion forums, chat spaces, or question and answer threads located somewhere within the course, unless they arrange to communicate further by phone or other means away from the online classroom.
  • Students cannot see each other or their instructor unless photos or videos are posted to provide identity and engagement.
  • Online course conversations do not happen in real time and might consist only of text, unless audio or video clips are added.
  • There is time to think about what you will write and post in the class, and students can think about this too, rather than speaking in the moment. And things posted online can also be edited and revised after they are posted.
  • And when students struggle with concepts or misunderstand, they might be able to look up the answer on the internet immediately or have to wait patiently for others to enter the course and answer their questions, or hear back from their instructor.

Because most or all of the learning is happening online and in the online classroom space, the learning experience has the potential to be comprehensive and focused. Everything is in one location. There can be a seamless integration between individual work, readings, and course activities, and the teaching and collaborative dialogue that occur in discussion areas.

Each part of the course has a specific location and resources, organized in some type of learning management system (LMS). For example, discussions occur in a specific area and can be accessed by clicking a tab or link in the LMS. Assignments and assignment descriptions are available in a different area, also accessible through a link or tab. With course components each in specific, labeled areas of the LMS, a course has structure and some degree of organization. To be present in the online classroom, all you need to do is log in and click links or activities. When a student misses class, the missed content is still part of the course and they can review what was missed.

Although the structured online course environment might seem a bit formal, boundaries are challenging to maintain when you are learning or teaching entirely online. You might experience interruptions with your internet connection, or interruptions from your email and social media accounts. And, of course, there are non-technological interruptions, like having someone knock at your door, call you on the telephone, or walk into the room while you’re working to start a conversation. Flexibility in working anytime, anywhere gives individual students and you, as their instructor, the need to set boundaries and also the opportunity to schedule the work at times that fit your own circumstances.

What are the Similarities and Differences of Live and Online Courses?

In both your live, face-to-face course, and an online course, you will teach or present subject-matter content, allow students to interact, and include some kind of method to give and collect assignments and grading feedback. In both cases, you must be aware of how much work you’re expecting and meet contact hour requirements for the credit hours of the class. And you can get to know your students and interact with them in both types of courses.

Your relationships with students might be different when teaching them entirely online. Some instructors seem to feel more connection with students online, because they can slow down and review what students have said, see their photograph, and get a sense of every student in the class. And some feel that students are harder to get to know when teaching them online. The nature of relationships between students and their instructor or peers is going to be different when you move your course online because there isn’t the single time and space connection, where you experience and get to know them in real time.

The way you present your content also varies. In live traditional courses, you might give a spoken or guided lecture or demonstration. But in online courses, students determine which resources they access, whether they see the lesson, click on a video, or read the online written materials, and how deeply they explore the content, and to some degree, the pace of their learning activities.

A Discussion of What Online Education Is and Is Not

Although you might want to design your online class to be a duplicate of your live class, it’s a great idea to explore the special strategies and tools available online that could transform your teaching. Online education is an opportunity to expand teaching and learning possibilities in new ways, and it is not a strict copy of the live class.

You can include rich resources, interactivity, and engaging things like videos, apps, multimedia presentations, and other tools, through which your students are free to explore and navigate. For example, students can create an Animoto presentation with photos of themselves and post it in the first week’s discussion forum to introduce themselves to the rest of the class. This type of presentation does not require sophisticated writing or a speech, because it consists mainly of just photographs. Tools like this one can be used creatively to help students produce assignments and discussions, as well as by you, their instructor, to provide engaging lesson content and guidance students need throughout the course.

The engaging aspects of online education continue to grow over time as new apps, programs, and tools are developed. It might be tempting to think online education is a duplicate of the live classroom to ensure important parts of the course are included, but trying to imitate the live course can be difficult. Imitating a live course could mean that an instructor feels compelled to create lecture videos that would simulate what might be provided in a live class, as an example. This is a great idea, but it is not always necessary as part of the lesson content. Although the content itself might be similar between live and online versions of a course, the methods, strategies, and delivery vehicles can be different.

Online education is a unique modality. It is a specific way to deliver the college or university experience to those who need special scheduling, prefer to work over the computer or internet rather than participate in a live setting, or who have other needs that are met through this modality. And of course, online education is incredibly helpful in unexpected times, like during a pandemic. Online education is not perfect, but it is flexible, enriching, and unique.

Join me next time, on the Online Teaching Lounge podcast, when we dive into the details of your online classroom structure. This will be your orientation about the spaces like lessons, discussions, quizzes, assignments, announcements, and more. With this orientation to the different parts of your online classroom, you’ll be prepared to think in more detail when you move your live class to the online format, and you’ll find it a much easier task.

And if you’re already an experience online educator, you’ll get a few new ideas you can try out in your existing online courses, too! Remember, tell a friend, tell a colleague, and let’s help all of us enjoy teaching online much more, and have fun while we’re doing that. Thanks 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.

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

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

This content was first provided at APUEdge.com. 

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

Listen to the Episode:

 

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Read the Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assets to Help Students with Self-Management

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

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

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

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

How Can You Proactively Address Student Questions All At Once?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prepare Student Guidance Assets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Create Video Assets

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

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

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

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

Create a Netiquette Guide

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

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

Provide Students with a Model Assignment to Reference

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

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

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

Prepare Announcements in Advance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Saving and Storing Assets for Future Use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Read the Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio Tools to Create Engaging Classroom Content

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

AudioBoom

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

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

SpeakPipe

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

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

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

Talk&Comment

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

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

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

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

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

Vocaroo

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

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

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

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

Adding Video Content to the Classroom

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

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

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

Screencast-O-Matic

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

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

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

Screencastify

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

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

Tips for Making Great Video Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interactive and Multimedia Tools for the Classroom

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

Prezi

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

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

Powtoon

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

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

Strategy for Using New Tools and Technology

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

Why Do You Want to Use New Tools?

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

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

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

When is a Good Time to Add New Technology?

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

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

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

8 Tips to Consider When Using New Tools

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

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

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

Reflect on Your Plan to Use New Tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
#39: Creative Methods and Strategies for Teaching Online

#39: Creative Methods and Strategies for Teaching Online

This content first appeared on APUSEdge.Com

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

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Read the Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Strategies for Improving Student Engagement

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

Asynchronous Discussions

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

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

Online Group Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games and Simulations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guided Exploration

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

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

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

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

Leveraging Your Learning Management System

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#37: Own Your Impact in Online Education

#37: Own Your Impact in Online Education

This content was first published at APUEdge.Com.

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

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge

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Read the Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understand the Big Picture of How Your Institution Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Broaden Your Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why It’s So Important to Understand Course Data

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#35: Setting Professional Goals as an Online Educator

#35: Setting Professional Goals as an Online Educator

This content appeared first on OnlineCareerTips.Com

What areas do you want to improve as an online educator? In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides tips and strategies about how to set achievable goals for your professional growth and development. Learn about four areas to consider focusing your teaching goals, as well as how to stay motivated and remain accountable so you can achieve your goals.

Read the Transcript:

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

Welcome to the podcast. Today we’re going to talk about setting professional goals as an online educator. Today, it’s just a few weeks before the new year begins at the time of this recording. However, you could be listening to this at any time of year, and this would still apply to you.

There are so many times when we might set goals. I’m going to talk about different times of year when you might choose to set goals as an educator. We also talk about the why. Why does it matter? Why is it so important to have goals and to set goals?

I’ll ask you a few questions to get you thinking about the kind of areas you’d like to work on. Give you some examples of the kinds of goals you might consider in education and in your professional life. And lastly, we’ll look at your motivation, develop some kind of action plan and accountability steps to help you succeed with the goals that you choose to set.

Be Strategic in How You Set Goals

Starting off, I want to talk about what times of year we might choose to set goals. Sometimes we set them around the academic year. If you’re teaching at the kind of institution that has semesters or a school year, it might make the most sense to set your goals around that kind of a system. Maybe there’s a vacation period, a few breaks, some semesters. Naturally, you might choose your goals around those times.

At the institution where I’m teaching online, we really don’t have an academic year that is official or formal. Classes begin every month of the year, they are eight weeks long and so I set my goals on the calendar year. And I might set shorter term goals by eight week segments of classes that I’m teaching. Whatever it is for you, you want to think about the short term, the longer midterm type of goals, and the bigger, longer career goals.

It used to be that we might get evaluated by a manager. If you’re teaching in secondary or primary school, it might be a principal. If you’re in a university setting, it might be another kind of administrator. Someone comes along and evaluates us on a periodic basis, whether it’s once a year, once every other year. Whatever it is, we receive a periodic evaluation. And in this process, the person evaluating us just might tell us what they think we should work on. Naturally, we tend to take those on as our goals. We want to improve to avoid having a negative situation.

The kind of goals I’m suggesting here are all about your own growth and development as a professional to take matters into your own hands rather than having a leader of some kind dictate what those goals should be. By doing this, you will own the goals and you’ll own your own success. Furthermore, you’ll own your entire career direction much more fully, as you begin to embrace setting your goals and achieving them.

Why Should You Set Goals?

Just for a moment, I’m going to get into the why of goal setting. The first one comes from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we can think about the four levels of deficiency needs starting with our physical needs: the food, water, sleep, warmth, nutrition, air, temperature regulation, all those things that we need in our lives to be physically taken care of. Then we have our safety needs: security, control and order in our lives. And after that, we have the social needs of love and belonging, and esteem or societal needs.

In these areas, it’s widely known that when we are meeting these needs, we’re really trying to make sure that we are having enough in these areas. And the sense of meeting these needs comes from a place of lacking or deprivation, so that’s why they’re called deficiency needs.

We want to avoid the unpleasant circumstance of missing out on these things. Certainly, no one wants to be living without food or shelter. We don’t want to be living in unsafe conditions. Those sorts of things.

Now, when we set goals, a lot of times the goals are in these four areas. We might want a better house, a more secure job. We might want to be in a better long-term relationship, or maybe we want better relationships with our colleagues. Maybe we want to achieve something, present somewhere, do something professionally that builds our esteem, gets some accomplishment and we get appreciation from that.

What I want to propose is that goal setting often moves us into the next level, which is self-actualization. And when we’re working on self-actualization, we’re getting away from what we lack and we’re growing so we can become a better version of who we are. It’s sort of a balance of what we want to do, our free will and our dreams, and what’s going to fit in with our possibilities. We get to accept who we are, and also maximize what we’re actually capable of.

As we’re thinking about professional goals, this drive that Maslow talked about, where people just are driven to want to become the better version of themselves or maximize their potential, that can really help us out in thinking about what goals we’d like to achieve. What we’d like to strive for. Where we might want to stretch, and where we want to grow that professional career as an online educator.

Another reason to be working on goals is that as we’re continuing to learn and strive and grow as educators, it keeps us moving. It gives us something to look forward to and be excited about, gives us something to do, and it also avoids stagnation.

It’s going to help us to be confident in the things we’re good at and we’re experienced at, but also stay connected to the role of the learner, because we’re always going to be learning something new and working on something.

As professional educators and especially online, where we tend to be a little bit more disconnected, there is a lot of great value in setting goals and working to achieve them. What kind of goals should we work on?

Identify Areas to Focus Your Goals

Now, if I were to draw a pie graph of some kind, I could divide this into four areas, four quadrants, if you will. And I would talk about these in terms of:

  • relational goals, as a professional
  • technological goals in the online environment and with the computer and the internet
  • teaching goals, which are more about methods and strategies
  • And then lastly, the contributing or growing goals about the bigger professional endeavors, the creation and the learning that we do as educators.

Questions to Consider Before Setting Goals

Before I dive into some details about these four types of goals, I’m going to ask you a few questions just to get you thinking. And here they are:

  • What are the five things you spend most of your time doing during your workday as an online educator?
  • What kind of tasks take the most energy?
  • Where is the stress coming from when you feel stressed in your online education work?
  • What kind of people are you interacting with most in your online education career?
  • If there are any conflicts in your work, what kind of conflicts are they? What do you face?
  • On the flipside, what is the most fulfilling aspect of your online education work?
  • What is the most challenging or stressful part of your work?
  • What excites you most about what you do professionally?
  • What strengths and skills do you have that are immediately usable and could benefit others?
  • And what resources are missing that you feel are necessary for you to be successful in your online educator role?

Now, as you think about those questions alone, some things might come into your mind about areas where you might want to be thinking about trying something new, connecting with other people and learning something, having an influence, trying a new habit. There are so many ways we can set very small and very large goals for short-term, mid-term, and long-term.

I’m going to go back to these four areas I started with a moment ago on the “what” of our goals. And I’ll give you some examples that you might consider for your own professional goals.

Relational Goal Setting

Now, in the relational area, we have the connection with our students. And I would say that most of our day is probably spent connecting with our students, whether we’re typing to them or talking to them in live synchronous meetings, or engaging in some way toward our students or with our students. There are so many ways we can set goals about the relational aspect of our work, insofar as connecting with students is concerned.

We can also set goals and be growing in the way we connect with our colleagues and maybe our peers in the professional community, as well as the larger professional development community we’re part of. This might be our school site, even if we’re virtual, they all belong to our same organization. Maybe they are in our networking group.  Maybe they are people we got our degree with, but we don’t necessarily work with them.

There are all kinds of ways we can think about goal setting in relationships and that could have to do with the quality of the relationship or how often we check in with these people, how we maintain that relationship, and what we do around those connections with people.

And then the third area I would suggest in relational goal setting is introspection and reflective practice. This one really is about ourselves and our relationship with ourselves. It’s sort of that metacognitive reflective piece about what we think about what we’re doing.

We are there the whole time and we really are alone there in our teaching role. We typically don’t have other educator peers watching us all day long or giving us feedback. And in a sense, we’re really the best person to give ourselves some feedback about how we see our own performance.

But in order to do that, we need to reflect regularly so that we can become somewhat more objective about what we’re doing. It’s very difficult to evaluate our own teaching when we are the person doing the teaching. But when we do it more regularly, we become more able to do that.

Setting Technological Goals

The second area of goal-setting that I mentioned was technological. There are a lot of us online these days, and so many using learning management systems. If you’re using a learning management system, whether it’s Blackboard or Brightspace, Desire2Learn, Canvas, it could be one of many, you might be using Schoology.

Whatever it is, there are a lot of basic ways to use the learning management system, and there are also a lot of advanced ways to do that. If you have areas you want to learn to do differently, one of those goals setting spaces could be about the technology in your learning management system. Perhaps you want to find new ways to use it, or more fully get to know the system that you’re with. Either way, that’s one area.

Another technology-based area for goal setting could be apps, media, video creation, and ways to convey lessons and content. I have some foreign language teachers, or world language teachers, that I know who are always trying new things. They use an external program called Flipgrid that many of you might be familiar with. They also use VoiceThread.

There are always new tools coming up in the conversation. So if you’re not sure what kind of tools you’d like to try, chances are you have a colleague somewhere you could ask and simply start exploring.

And then thirdly, in the technology area, one might set goals in how they use the technology to grade students’ work, specifically. Like, are we putting reviewers comments on a Microsoft Word document? Or are we typing a question or a comment on an essay? How do we return that feedback? How do we write the feedback? Where does it go in a physical, technological sense, of the presentation of the feedback? That could include using your plagiarism detection software, learning how to do that or fully, figuring out how to note plagiarism, give comments about it, address lack of originality.

Developing Teaching Goals

We have the relational goals, we have the technological goals, and then thirdly, we have teaching goals. And I’ve just broken down three examples here for you that you might think about. One of them is the way we evaluate students’ work in terms of our approach, the quality. Previously, I mentioned the technology piece. Well, this would be more about the philosophical elements.

What is most important to you in your feedback? What kinds of feedback would you like to give students? Would you like to take a different approach? Do you want to focus more on content and less on the structure? Would you like to include more formatting elements in your feedback? Whatever it is you’d like your focus to be, that’s a whole area right there.

And a second teaching area might be methods, approaches, and framing. About how to share the content, how to get students talking to each other, even in the online space. How to have the interactivity that is needed in terms of practice, repeat, mastery, formative, summative, evaluation strategies.

A lot of the methods and approaches we use tend to be through text. Like, we’ve typed it. Or we want our students to read something. But there are many, many ways out there. We can use video. We can use different types of web sources where they can click and do a scavenger hunt to find things. There are just a lot of possibilities. And so methods and approaches are a huge area of goal setting.

And the last teaching area I would suggest is the community piece. The way students engage with each other and the way you engage with students. How do we do that better? Or where might we try some new strategy there? It can be a small thing. It can be a large thing. It could grow over time. We’ve got technological, relational and teaching-oriented goals. And the fourth area is contributing or growing.

Goals to Help you Contribute or Grow

In this area, I have considered to be the most fun. While these other areas are all very important and can be a lot of fun as well. This one is fun because really, there’s no set of norms or established criteria, you really get to invent your path here.

One area is writing. Maybe you’d like to write blog articles for other instructors who teach online. Maybe you’d like to write a book. Maybe you want to write curriculum. Maybe you want to create new lesson content, maybe create some new material for students or for the bigger professional community. Maybe you want to write a text book.

There are so many ways you can write as a professional educator that contribute a lot to the field. There are many things that you know that you might take for granted, that other people don’t know. And if you start writing about that, it’s going to be a really great contribution to your community.

Another thing you might consider in this avenue is attending. This could be attending a class, all up way up to getting an advanced degree or trying a secondary subject area. Maybe it’s not going to be academic subjects, maybe it’s going to be online teaching strategies.

There are all kinds of online trainings out there. Maybe your institution has one, or maybe you want to look outside of your school community for the professional community, like the Online Learning Consortium. There are a lot of different places you can go to get certifications, training and leadership potential. And so I would consider classes, trainings, and different kinds of things like that in this attendance arena, as well as professional conferences.

You might consider attending a professional conference in the coming semester, the coming year.  Making a regular habit of attending professional conferences. Even in the virtual world that is having an impact at the time of this recording, there are a lot of online conferences to attend. Whether you can go live in person or attend online, this is another place where you might consider setting a goal.

And lastly, presentations. Even if you are not an extroverted person, or you don’t really like speaking to groups, you might consider stretching by giving presentations. You might create a webinar if you’re doing it online or consider presenting at a professional conference.

My very first presentation was motivated by the fact that I saw someone similar in my field presenting to our audience. I saw her. I watched her presentation. I thought, “I know those things. I do those things. Maybe I have other ideas people would like to learn about.” And then I created my own presentation on a different topic, and I shared it. And sure enough, a lot of people came and learned things and even reached out to me afterwards.

You might have information that you know, or skills you have or knowledge about how to teach or how to teach online, and other people could learn from you. Think about what you might present and share and start looking for possibilities where you can contribute and grow, and add to the professional culture at a conference.

Setting Personal Goals

We’ve talked about the what of goal setting. And if you’re still thinking, “Yeah, I’d love to set some goals, but none of that appeals to me,” there are of course goals you could set in other areas that would still have a very positive impact on your online teaching. Maybe there are unresolved matters in your life that you’d like to focus on as a goal. Maybe you have something you need to take care of in your family life or your home life. A lot of people right now are focusing on decluttering, minimalism, cleaning up their homes.

Sometimes professional communication training can be useful. Maybe learning how to manage email better, how to be more prompt and responsive. There are all kinds of things that could be thought about in terms of health and emotional balance, financial goals, career development goals, relationship building in personal matters, life planning for the long-term, and the development of special projects you’re interested in.

There are so many possibilities for you. And if you are not interested in your academic type of professional goals, teaching strategies, or technology areas, you might consider ways that you can throughout the online teaching day, reduce stress, or ways that you might integrate exercise intermittently throughout the week.

Maybe methods that you’ll approach students to help them be more responsible, more accountable and more proactive. There are all kinds of things you might consider about career growth, like additional training, the way you approach the work day, time management. The path of your bigger picture career, whether you’d like to be in a different leadership role in the future, or if you’d like to change lanes and go in a slightly new direction in the future. Or maybe you’d like to upgrade your professional standing. As I mentioned before, with a different degree or an advanced degree.

How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals

And then lastly, of course, some type of ideas around retirement in the long-term, in the future. Long-term plans, as far as would you like to be mentored? Would you like to mentor others? Would you like to integrate some kind of vision into your long-term planning as well as your career growth?

As you think about your goals and the way you’d like these to shape up, motivation comes up a lot, right? We think about, ‘Yes, I’d like to do these things, but then the day-to-day kind of gets in the way.” We get busy and it could be very difficult to meet the goals that we set for ourselves.

Think about the motivation that you bring to that goal. Is it exciting? Is it in an area you’re already interested in and you do it well? Are there things you don’t do well or dislike and you’re trying to set a goal there?

In those kinds of areas, I would suggest starting very small for some quick wins so that you can start to make progress in areas you don’t like as much, or you’re not as good at. Then you can start setting bigger goals. If you’re already doing well at something, and you like the activity, you might be able to set bigger goals, slightly more ambitious goals, aspirational goals, even. Think about your level of motivation as you’re considering the goals that you’re going to land on.

Now, lastly, we’re going to talk about how to move from setting the goal to actually achieving the goal. You’ve probably heard of setting smart goals and these have to do with being specific, reasonable, achievable, and timely, and all of those sorts of details. Those are the kinds of things that are going to bring you success.

We want to think about what success will look like. When you’ve reached this goal, what will it look like? What will it feel like? What will become easier in your professional life because you’ve gone down this path? What will the big payoff be for this change that you’re bringing about, or this goal you’re going to achieve?

What will happen if you don’t do your goal? Is there a negative consequence that’s going to keep happening if you don’t learn the thing or grow in that area? What strategies will you use to make your success happen over time or regularly look back on your goal?

And can you think about someone in your life who has made some progress in this area, who is working towards the same goal, or who has already achieved it? And if you can, what can you learn from them? Or what tips could you ask them for that would help you?

Develop an Action Plan by Identifying Steps, Setting Deadlines, Staying Accountable

In your action plan, think about what small steps you will need to take first and what the next step will be afterwards. And jot down three action steps you can take between now and next week, as you think about the goal.

Think about the most important step to help you move forward towards that goal, and also set a timeline. You can add it to your planner, your calendar. If you have an online calendar, you can set alerts and alarms and reminders to get back to the goal and to be checking in on it. If you’re looking at it regularly and taking steps towards it regularly, chances are you’re going to achieve it.

And then lastly, do you need some accountability to help yourself reach your goal? There are a lot of professional groups, especially online that you could join. People who are making progress in the same direction that you’re looking at. If you want to be with online educators and work on technology goals or methods, you could probably find a group for that and be checking in on those steps you’re going to take.

If you’re setting a personal goal, that’s not necessarily teaching related, such as weight loss, time management, something like that, there are groups for that too. Or maybe you want to find a mentor or a coach or a peer to be accountable to. So you can check in with that person regularly, share your progress, and celebrate.

Whatever you’re going to need, knowing yourself and the accountability level you’d like, think about what’s going to help you be most successful, and write that down and note it as part of your plan.

As we draw to a close today, I encourage you to think about setting professional goals as an online educator, both short-term and long-term, to help you stay excited about what you do, to help you keep growing and to help bring energy to your day-to-day work and your long-term direction.

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