One of the most common questions an Instructional Designer is faced with is, “How can I enhance the student experience in my online course?” Often times, instructors wish to replicate the activities they do in face-to-face courses in the online environment but are not sure where to begin. One recommendation is to consult an instructional designer. We also strongly encourage instructors to participate in the Master Class for Teaching Online, an online workshop designed to facilitate peer sharing of strategies for teaching online. The workshop is facilitated by a team of instructional designers and touches on several best practices. The graphic presented here lists seven best practices for teaching online. Incorporating these best practices will help ensure that you and your students stay engaged and have a positive experience. [Read more…]
In June, I was fortunate to again attend the Games for Change (G4C) festival in New York. As in past years, the highlight for me was hearing indie developers talk about how their game vision was realized by conscious selection of various storytelling techniques and game mechanic decisions. Designing games is like composing music, making movies, writing novels, building houses, or painting pictures because games provide the structure for interesting things to happen. [Read more…]
Joana Girante, Professor of Economics with the W.P. Carey School of Business, discusses how she uses short introductory video announcements in her online courses to introduce weekly topics. Knowing that her largely non-economics majors’ audience is a bit apprehensive about the topic, she illustrates that economics is everywhere and relevant; it is in music and in everyday decisions.
Girante uses highly engaging video announcements based on narrated PowerPoints using a variety of animated graphs, pictures, and Youtube videos to contextualize her weekly online content. She discovered that her students used the videos as an additional study tool and that it gave her an opportunity to mimic the impromptu comments often made in the in-person environment.
…or “You can provide student feedback, but how do you know if it’s really ever read?”
Instructors strive to provide effective feedback in a timely manner to help their students learn and be successful. Logistically speaking grading especially in large enrollment classes, can become an especially arduous task. Frequently, TAs are employed as graders to help lighten the workload. While such a strategy may be necessary from a management standpoint, it does hinder instructors from making a closer connection to students and better identifying where students are having difficulty. However, no matter what the size of the class, there are strategies to help instructors to more easily manage the delivery of feedback to students. [Read more…]
Faculty, instructors, graduate students, and staff from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) recently met for the 3rd CLAS Demofest to showcase innovative teaching practices across diverse content areas. For this semester’s event, eight presenters from seven different departments and schools in CLAS shared and discussed their teaching, spanning a variety of course formats (face-to-face, blended, online) and different student enrollment (large lecture courses, small undergraduate and graduate seminars, etc.). [Read more…]
With finals week coming to an end and grading about to be completed, it is only natural to make a mad dash for the door and enjoy a well-deserved break. There is no question that we all need a break to relax and find inspiration, but before heading out, keep in mind that there is a good chance that you will have to return and teach the same or a similar course again. To save time in the future and perhaps “tweak” some elements of the course, consider the following five things successful instructors do when the semester is over.
1. Reflect on the Course
Reflection is not only an important aspect of student learning but also offers an opportunity for faculty to seek insights from past teaching experiences. At the end-of-the semester, when the memories are still fresh, take a few moments to reflect on the course (e.g., what went well, what did not?). It is helpful to write down a few notes to avoid forgetting important details over the break. As an alternative, one can also discuss the course with a colleague, a friend, or instructional support at the university.
2. Make a Plan
As an essential part of reflection, certain topics or issues emerge that one would like to address in future courses. Since there might be multiple options or solutions, it is good to brainstorm on potential actions one might undertake. Occasionally, this might require talking to others or finding additional information and resources. Then, it is time to select an option and make a plan! One recommended method is to identify required steps and develop a timeline (e.g., What are some steps that need to be done? By what time?). Depending on the number of topics, it might be necessary to prioritize.
3. Archive the Course
Many Learning Management Systems (LMS) provide the option to archive a course which could come in handy when teaching again. Instead of starting from scratch, one has a version that is already developed and potentially reusable. The archived course is also a good place to make any changes without impacting enrolled students. Additionally, many universities are now making teaching portfolios a critical component of degree programs or tenure requirements. Certain LMS allow to share the archived versions without revealing confidential student information.
4. Ask Students for Permission
Student artifacts are a powerful and helpful resource that can be used as a model for future students or as proof of student learning. To avoid any privacy or copyright concerns, the end-of-the-semester is a good time to ask students for their written permission for sharing those artifacts with outsiders.
5. Take Time Off
Although it might be tempting to continuously “tweak” a course, it is also important to relax and focus on other aspects of life. Taking time off generally helps to finds new inspiration and motivation for the next semester. It is completely fine to avoid thinking about teaching for some time to find time to read a book or explore places… as long as one remembers that the next semester is right around the corner.
Do you do anything at the end-of-the-semester that helps with your future teaching? Please share your tips with our community.
Do you find yourself wondering whether your online students are really learning? Whether they are really getting it? During face-to-face classes, an instructor often can use visual cues, such as a puzzled look or a nodding head from a student, to gauge whether students are understanding a certain concept. If they don’t, an instructor has the flexibility to easily explain the concept again or even change the lesson’s activities to ensure that students get it. But what if you are teaching online and can’t always see these visual clues?
“Wait, are we already that far into the semester? There is so much left to do in so little time!”
If this is a constant thought on your mind, or an all-familiar expression in recent conversations with other faculty and instructors, we might be nearing an crucial waypoint in the semester (e.g., midterm, holidays). Although it is tempting to be overwhelmed by the approaching deadlines and all the content that needs to be covered, this time also offers an opportunity to address other important elements of teaching and to check in with your students (Chickering & Gamson, 1987).
A hybrid course is much more than just an online course with a face-to-face class session thrown in for good measure. It involves asking, “What is the best way for students to interact with course content, construct knowledge, engage in critical thinking and problem solving?” Purposeful decisions are made by the instructor as to what activities are best included in face-to-face class sessions, and which activities would work well in a virtual environment. The term hybrid, or blended course, signifies a new way of thinking about how to harness the power of technology to promote learning and identify the best strategies to help students master important course concepts. However, it is about more than just teaching an existing course in a new format.