This past summer, I spent a great deal of time talking to colleagues in higher ed to learn how they utilize social media to connect with peers and support one another in online communities. These interviews and conversations have been enlightening to help us understand more about how our digital, networked selves come to work on a university/college campus and contribute to our professional fields. For some, it is becoming increasingly vital to share instruction, scholarship, and practice online. For others, there are still concerns about being connected to colleagues as our social networks now have context collapse. In the online world, what IS really private vs. public? Which networks are used for personal and/or professional practice?
Open and digital channels help higher ed faculty and stuff in a number of different ways: asking/giving advice, collaboration on projects, free professional development, sharing information/resources, colleagues solicit advice, personal/professional support, and opportunities to learn in digital communities with common interests. Besides developing a digital presence or a “persona” online, higher education staff, administrators and scholars are utilizing social media and digital technologies to support their work, add to their professional development, engage with peers, learn in the collective and publicly in digital spaces and places.
This leads me to ask these questions of my peers working in higher ed:
How does being part of a digital learning network support your professional learning and development?
How are you shaping your online identity and presence to share your professional values?
How can your networked communities expand your knowledge and learning to enhance your role on campus and the work you do?
Why might others consider finding networked peers and practitioners to scaffold their own career goals?
Although there are benefits to “working out loud” and online, there are also a number of issues as we repurpose social, digital spaces. The stakes are high, as an increasing number of higher ed professionals participate in online social networks with minimal institutional guidance for sociotechnical support or training (Pasquini & Evangelopoulos, 2017). Social and digital networks are connected, public and scaled — and often not on spaces we own or have control over. Additionally, much of our own data is being collected and reused on these networked platforms. This has me wondering:
How are higher ed staff and faculty evaluating their online participation on these social networks?
How has their contribution to open, public spaces shifted over the years?
What does being online as a higher ed professional look like now?
These are just a few of the questions we are asking in our research study. If you are interested in sharing more about your own experiences as a professional in higher ed, please consider contributing by participating in an interview (more about the study here).
Being an open professional or academic might mean showcasing your own work, research, teaching, and practice online. Social networks and digital tools are increasingly offering higher ed professionals an online place for collaboration, learning, and sharing. In the information age, being able to display research and practical work in higher education is the norm and it is critical we are contributing to public knowledge.
There are a great number of benefits for being open and online; however, professional digital identity development does not come without questions or challenges. My last post not only introduced a few issues, challenges, and affordances (+ the #EdDigID workshop); however, we are going to share MORE in a LIVE Twitter Chat this Friday, September 29, 2017 from 2-3 pm CDT (time zone converter, I’m in Dallas, TX, USA). What does it mean to be a connected practitioner? How has being a networked scholar impacted your work? Come chat, in 140 characters or less (or more) with us! All #highered colleagues & peers are welcome for some FREE Twitter PD!
HOW TO: Participate in the #EdDigID Chat on Friday (9/29)
Here’s a quick overview of how to participate in#EdDigIDTwitterChat:
In a very limited way. Based on two recent studies examining Canadian and US post-secondary use of Twitter, we found most colleges and universities are using social media platforms as either a communication or marketing tool.Higher ed campuses have the ability to optimize social media technologies in the service of teaching, learning, and research – rather than focussing on institutional branding and marketing.
In looking at 145,822 original tweets and 70,792 retweets of 77 Canadian public universities Twitter profiles, we learned a great deal about colleges/university use. Results from this analysis indicated these institutions mostly use this Twitter to broadcast information and construct overwhelmingly positive representations of campus life. Here is a quick video overview of the paper:
In general, higher ed institutions represent university life as gratifying, enjoyable, and beautiful, by commonly showcasing:
Smiling and happy students;
Mostly middle-aged white male faculty members;
Upgraded and attractive campus buildings;
Accolades for graduation ceremonies;
Announcements about groundbreaking research; and
Highlights of sporting victories.
Unfortunately, Canadian universities are not alone as they present their “best self” on Twitter by:
Highlighting positive events and happenings
Showcasing a positive university life for the public; and
Promoting the institution’s brand
In looking at American college and university primary Twitter accounts (n=2411), Kimmons, Veletsianos, and Woodward (2016) found the Twitter histories [a sample of 5.7 million tweets, representing 62 % of all tweets created by these accounts] offered little innovation and value for the campus communities they are trying to serve. Most tweets posted by an institutional account are monologic, share information instead of eliciting action, offer an insular ecosystem of web resources, and express a neutral or a positive sentiment. This whiteboard animation can provide you a brief overview of this paper:
Based on my previous research on sociotechnical stewardship and social media guidance (Pasquini & Evangelopoulos, 2017), it is not surprising to see an emphasis on branding or focus on a promotional strategy for postsecondary social media use. In examining 250 institutional social media policies/guidelines, 64% (n=161) of these documents originate from an office connected to communications, marketing, and/or public relations at each higher ed institution. The primary direction and emphasis for social media use in higher ed have been co-opted from marketing and business planning to encourage a specific institutional brand, that is, one with a consistent voice and presenting strategically tailored messages that highlight positive campus environments.
From this examination of institutional Twitter accounts in Canada and the US, it is apparent the information and images portrayed in social media streams represent an incomplete student experience and an idealized image of college/university life. This is problematic, as these crafted messages with only positive sentiments could mislead students, staff, and faculty who are active in social media spaces. This use of Twitter presents an inaccurate portrayal of campus life, limit the representation and narrative of the student story, and it does little to model expected behavior or interactions in these online environments for all campus stakeholders. From this research, I would challenge our higher ed institutions to “do better work” if they are engaging on any social media channel for their college/university. These should be more than just communication and marketing spaces in higher ed. Think about the ways you can reach and involve your students, staff, faculty, alumni, and campus partners on these channels. Why are you not researching problems out loud, sharing the struggle of your learning, showcasing your teaching challenges, or offering/asking for advice? Twitter is the new town hall at our institutions and in our society. It is up to our higher ed institutions and its constituents to be present, to be active, and model ways to show value and real experiences on these social media platforms. We can do better than just use social media spaces as a marketing, communication, or promotional tool.
Kimmons, R., Veletsianos, G., & Woodward, S. (2016). Institutional Uses of Twitter in Higher Education. Innovative Higher Education, 42(2), 97-111.
Veletsianos, G., Kimmons, R., Shaw, A. G., Pasquini, L. A., & Woodward, S. (2017). Selective openness and promotional broadcasts: Twitter use in Canada’s public universities. Educational Media International, 54(1), 1-19. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09523987.2017.1324363
When was the last time you considered reviewing a policy OR the terms of service (TOS) from your favorite social network? With the recent changes to “privacy” on a few of our favorite platforms, we thought it was an apt time to read and review the TOS for all of you. You’re very welcome. As a number of colleagues, learners, and friends in higher ed use (and repurpose) these social spaces for teaching, learning, and research — we wanted to really understand how these technology (not media) companies are thinking about “Privacy” (or now called “Data” for certain platforms) and the policies around this issue. Here are SOME of the notes from our chat — please visit @BreakDrink Episode no.10 for more at BreakDrink.com
PSA: Facebook IS public. We repeat: FACEBOOK IS PUBLIC regardless of WHAT your privacy settings are; “the nature of these platforms is that they are extractive… their entire goal is to mine… data.” @hypervisible
Mystery Show (archive): “A podcast where Starlee Kine solves mysteries.”
Twice Removed (archive): “A new family history podcast hosted by A.J. Jacobs. They say we’re one big family: this is the show that proves it. You will be filled with delight… or abject horror. You never know. It’s family.”
We welcome feedback, comments, suggestions, and snark in any of the above digital spaces. If the podcast via iTunes (we still prefer this to the rebranded “Apple Podcasts“), please consider leaving us a rating and review. Thanks!
The #SAcdn hashtag has been embraced by student affairs (SA), student services, and professionals who support students in Canadian higher education. The goal (and tagline) for the #SAcdn community is “connecting our country,” specifically to share what the world of SA and higher ed is like in my home and native land.
The#SAcdn Chat is a type of “digital water cooler” conversation that I am personally a fan of for my own personal and professional learning network on Twitter. As an ex-pat Canadian working in US higher ed, the #SAcdn hashtag helps keep me in the loop and I have enjoyed listening/learning from the #SAcdn twitter chat archives as the conversation offers insights into issues into Canadian post-secondary education, offers support for staff/professionals, and expands my point of view to how I’m thinking about learning and campus life. As of August 2016, the #SAcdn community began hosting a monthly 60-minute chat (now the 2nd Tuesday of each month from 12-1 pm CT) on Twitter with higher ed professionals to gather to discuss Canadian issues, ideas, and experiences in context to the Canadian higher ed. Are you a professional, practitioner, and/or academic in Canada higher education who wants to engage with peers and the conversation on Twitter? Join in! p.s. Friends & colleagues outside Canada are also welcome to join in as well!
Follow the in #SAcdnhashtag on Twitter for the latest tweets.
Follow @LauraPasquini who will moderate the Q & A for the Twitter Chat THIS MONTH ONLY. You should also follow @CACUSStweets, who will typically host the#SAcdn. chat each month.
Get ready and excited for Tuesday’s (6/13) chat by checking out what’s being shared and discussed on the #SAcdnhashtag NOW! BONUS: You might learn what’s happening & being shared on the backchannel at the #CACUSS17conference. 🙂
JOIN US Tuesday, June 13th from 10-11 am PT/12-1 pm CT/2 pm AT as I am fortunate enough to be hosting the LIVE, synchronous #SAcdn Twitter conversation on Twitter during the CACUSS 2017 Conference (Learn more about the professional association, here: About CACUSS). We will “talk” about TOPIC: Show & Tell: What Does #SAcdn Mean to You? [Meta chat: Talking about this Twitter Chat & being part of the #SAcdn Community]
Be sure to contribute to the LIVE #SAcdn Twitter Chat by:
Logging into your Twitter account as the#SAcdn chat will happen ON THE TWITTER platform.
There are a growing number of learners online. The recent report, The Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE) from Quality Matters, shared that “more than 2.1 million fully distance undergraduates (12% of total) and 770,000 fully distance graduate students (26% of total) are online learners.” Over the last three years, I have been working completely online as a faculty member and with a distributed research group. I am also fortunate to collaborate remotely with scholars and practitioners to study talent development in higher ed (e.g. mentoring). Much of my work centers around how we support working and learning online in higher ed. Besides investigating how learners persist in open online environments (Veletsianos, Reich, & Pasquini, 2016) I am also concerned with how networked experiences impact/influence our higher education practice. Previously I shared how I support online learners, but many of you might not realize I instruct A LOT of students each academic term. So this post dedicated to the behind the scenes way to scaffold the LOGISTICS of teaching a LARGE ONLINE COURSE and how to support MANY DISTRIBUTED LEARNERS. This post comes with a strong caveat: I am still learning. Always.
First, identify your instructional NEEDS as you organize your large online course. You will need to establish a team of support, that might include: instructional designers, instructional technologist, graders, industry mentors, and/or teaching assistants (TA’s). Do you need help grading assignments? Is there one project you want external reviewers/peers to support, evaluate, or be a part of your lesson? Will you need aid in encouraging social learning through discussion forums, team wikis, or other group activities? Are you looking to redesign a section or project in your course? Try to set this up before the term (if available/teaching assignments are set early enough) and continue to assess the pulse of my teaching team support. I am grateful for colleagues who have joined my class to present, speak, mentor, or offer peer review of final projects. I have also been quite fortunate in working with some amazing teaching assistants/graders (repeatedly) from our doctoral program over the last few semesters. Now that these folks have to focus on their own research scholarship to Ph-inishe-D their dissertation, I am currently thinking about how I manage remote workers for distributed instructional support. Here are my “notes” for training/onboarding new online learning TA’s & graders:
Setting Expectations: Establish standards and norms within the instructional support team – including orientation to the course site, review of learning modules, a copy of syllabus with key points highlighted, learning outcomes, and course schedule.
Grading Tools & Resources: Identify the means and methods for grading and learning support — this includes division of labor into cohorts/sections, grading rubrics for all assignments, and sample feedback to give for each course activity/assignment.
Communication: Organize time and/or spaces to “talk.” This could be a regular meeting schedule to host a synchronous web conference/phone/Skype chat, open/online office hours on-demand for 1:1 meetings, backchannel conversation (e.g. Slack, Yammer, Google chat), and send regular reminders to the group by email for longer instructions/information.
Shared Digital Work Spaces: Outline virtual spaces to support the instructional team. Virtual teaming can help with grading, e.g. shared Gooogle Docs for feedback/comments/suggestions for assignments, shared file system for saving assignments/projects, and other spreadsheets/collaborative tools or platforms you might use to “work” beyond the learning management system(LMS) or course site.
Learner Support: Create common communication practices among the team (group email) and expectations for responding to learner messages/email is critical. To be firm and fair, we must be consistent with assignment deadlines (I hold a no late work policy, outside of health/emergency situations) and we do our best to answer messages from learners in 24-48 hours and TA’s/graders copy (“cc”) the lead instructor on email conversations with learners. Each course has a “Peer-to-Peer Support” discussion forum where learners can ask questions, get advice, post articles or resources, work out issues from a module, etc. with their classmates. The TA’s and I will “check-in” on these to see if all questions have been answered with the correct information. Finally, we identify when and how synchronous online meetings (group advising, mini-lessons, or office hours) should occur — based on the section of the course and/or inquiries for assignments.
Second, organize your online course WITH your learners in mind, that is your direct instruction, learning objects, and engagement activities. Similar to the planning notes I shared about the instructional team management, offering similar strategies for support are key for working with my online learners (listed above). Here are my notes for what my regular
Start with Orientation: Think about both pedagogical design and delivery as you structure a large online course. Consider how will orient, support, and communicate with your learners over the semester. Introduce them to sections of your syllabus, key areas to move through the course, and where to get access to help on campus and online. Also, be sure to identify the learning spaces, support resources, and design components required to be an effective learner within your course.
Get to Know Your Learners: Assess who is in your class. Do you know who is in your class? Why are they taking this course? Is it required, an elective, or other? I often have my students complete a Google form to share information about themselves and experiences with online learning, the subject matter, and to identify their own learning goals at the beginning of the term (e.g. from Spring 2017: http://bit.ly/ltec3010sp17). Understand where and how your learners are approaching this course and their motivation/goals for the semester. Keep their goals and backgrounds in mind with your learning content.
Share Valuable & Timely Information: Produce weekly reminders of readings, activities, and assignments help to provide multiple insights and ideas around the topic of the module or week’s lesson. Often I collect (and tweet) multiple resources on a class hashtag ( e.g. my instructional design/facilitation course hashtag #LTEC4440) and I will highlight a couple of key readings/articles/videos/podcasts in the regular weekly course announcement/email that is pushed out to my students. that might be relevant for my students.
Learning–content interaction: Do your students engage and interact with your course content to make dig deeper into the subject? How are you helping learners make meaning with learning objects they interact with online? Are they reflecting, curating, discussing, applying, or analyzing your course materials and not just consuming information? Learners who interact with learning content tend to get a higher grade (Zimmerman, 2012).
Learner–learner interaction:. Peer support is everything in online learning. I leverage the Peer-to-Peer Support for discussion forums, team projects, research proposals on wikis, feedback on video presentations, and more! Your learners often like to collaborate and share ideas on challenging concepts with multiple platforms. How will you support this type of virtual teaming?
Learner–instructor interaction: How are you “present” in your online class at the instructor? Being visible online is critical for your students learning outcomes. Learners often are motivated and enthusiastic about your course, if they see you are present online. This might be participating in discussion forums, offering video or audio feedback to assignments, summarizing modules in advance, and perhaps offering synchronous (+recorded/archived) online class meetings for feedback, questions, and more. I keep track of announcements and media files that I can utilize in the future with very little edits and related transcripts for accessibility needs.
Third, with a larger online class — you will probably have to manage your workflow and grading, that is, the evaluation of assignments, communication channels for feedback, and other activities required for the assessment of learning. For those of you who GRADE A LOT, I also welcome your advice/strategies — but here are my “go-to” tips for scaled grading BEFORE you are left with a heap of unevaluated assignments:
Be Purposeful With Course Activities and Assignments: Develop purposeful requirements for your course. Is the assignment or learning activity relevant? Does it reach the learning outcomes and learning goals for the course? Is this application of learning making sense? If so, keep it. If not, reconsider. Making your required projects, assignments, and tasks meaningful and relevant helps both you AND the learners. Consider assessing if the learning products are clearly outlined and related to the overall goals for the course. Maybe you don’t need a discussion board. Maybe a reflection would work better in a private journal entry rather than a blog post? Perhaps some readings could be “bonus” or “optional”? Label required and optional activities and readings. Consider their time on task. Think about the purpose and time required for your students so they can best prioritize and manage their time learning online.
Chunk Your Grading & Communication Time: Do not grade all at once! Consider breaking up the task of reviewing assignments, papers or projects into chunked time periods, like you would for academic writing and/or research. If you space out time to grade every day, then you won’t feel behind or give up on this administrative task. Break up your grading with other projects and responsibilities you have in your daily workflow. Remember to chunk your time! Only leave specific apps/platforms open when you are completing that task. e.g. Leave Outlook open or Gmail tab sitting in your browser when you are checking email. Close it when finished that task. I often leave my mornings for writing/projects so I typically do not check messages, email, or social notifications BEFORE getting to work.
Use a Rubric: Offer ways you will measure and assess learning. Always. The time spent setting up solid grading rubrics for your learners for each assignment helps to speed up the evaluation process, but it also sets clear expectations for what you are looking for in each product they submit. Help your learners and those grading work think clearly about the assignment objectives and focus your grading with built in grading rubrics in your LMS. Evaluating work with a rubric allows for transparency and objective decisions among your instructional team, and to help students understand requirements for their work. Here’s a great Teaching in Higher Ed podcastepisode to get you motivated to develop or edit your grading rubrics.
Offer Feedback and Comments: Provide clarity to your grading rubrics (which should also have descriptive feedback built in) and offer insights into ways to learners can improve and progress for future course work. Check to see the language you use is not filled with jargon and offer insights or resources if possible. We have created feedback prompts in a shared, Google doc that includes web links, resources, or suggested format structures that my grading team can add to and remix before including in the feedback field for learners. We offer balanced feedback prompts and ideas to ensure this helps learners with the process and their next product they submit for review. Also, some assignments offer two parts for drafting and final projects — to provide insights along the way for further development and improvements.
Multiple methods for Assessment: Use different modes to understand how your learners are learning. I actually do not use the quiz or exam function for my online courses. Although it could be helpful in streamlining my grading process, I find that their higher level of learning is better evaluated through journal reflections, video presentations, peer assessment, and direct applications or hands-on learning for projects connected to their professional/work life.
Get Feedback For the Course: Check-in with your learners. I sometimes conduct a mid-semester evaluation to see how the learners are doing, and always a final feedback for the course (e.g. http://bit.ly/ltec3010feedbackspring17) to get the student perspective of their progress and learning. This offers me a bit more than the standard instructional evaluation and helps with future edits or iterations of a particular online course. Sure, I am grading their work; however, I want to know what I could offer to betters support they learning online, too.
Like I said, I am still learning about what it takes to instruct and support a very large online course. Literally. I welcome any advice to support my online workflow. I would love to hear what you have learned from your own teaching online experiences and/or research in this area.
What suggestions and/or resources do you have for teaching in digitally scaled environments?
Sheridan, K., & Kelly, M. A. (2010). The indicators of instructor presence that are important to students in online courses. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(4), 767.
Veletsianos, G., Reich, J., & Pasquini, L. A. (2016). The Life Between Big Data Log Events: Learners’ Strategies to Overcome Challenges in MOOCs. AERA Open, 2(3), 2332858416657002.
Zimmerman, T. D. (2012). Exploring learner to content interaction as a success factor in online courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(4), 152-165.
Consuming information online is no more than a click, scroll, or swipe these days. All searches are not created equal and rarely do we think about fact checking what we find on the Internet. I am not alone in thinking about how “…the Internet is actually changing the way we read the way we reason, and even the way we think, and all for the worse” (The Death of Expertise, Nicols, 2017, p. 111). In higher education, I think it is imperative we teach our learners and colleagues about what it means to participate and interact in digital spaces and places. How can our institutions help students, staff, and faculty “be” online and consider how both information and digital environments impact knowledge sharing and learning?
Definition: Digital Literacy and Information Fluency
Digital literacy is multifaceted. The New Media Consortium provided a Digital Literacy Strategic Brief (Alexander, Adams Becker, & Cummins, 2016) to identify the role policy, practice, and curriculum can have on all facets of our campus. Alexander et al. (2016, p.1) defines digital literacy as “not just understanding how a tool works but also why it is useful in the real world and when to use it.” To improve our practices for improving this literacy we need to think broadly about strategic planning and the creation of standards at our campus. There are new opportunities to encourage learners to become content and media producers, identify technical competencies for the workforce with industry-education partnerships, and develop smart collaborations within the community entities, such as governments, libraries, museums, and cultural heritage organizations. This report offers insights across universal literacy, creative literacy, and literacy across disciplines by offering exemplars in practice at institutions that include digital literacy in program and curriculum design.
Beyond digital competencies, we need to develop media and information fluency in higher education. The Association of College and Research Libraries (2016) has updated their literacy competency standards by developing a Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education to offer guidance “to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” Scholarly inquiry requires analyzing information for credibility and understanding if an online resource is primary, secondary or irrelevant. Information is constructed in context to digital environments and is often created as a process of knowing, reflection, editing, and production online. Beyond this, the Institute of Museum and Library Services are offering suggestions for data information literacy to help us understand how we manage, curate, and design curriculum around data and information. To encourage both digital prowess and information awareness online, we need to develop skills around: outline critical thinking for research, encourage digital teaming, and identify privacy, security and data issues online.
Critical Thinking and Online Research
Much of what we want our students, and perhaps colleagues, to develop is a technical competency with information management in the digital realm. Digital literacy and information fluency help us improve our understanding and acquisition of knowledge to move beyond the #FakeNews fallacies and make meaning of what we are learning. In seeing how fast information travels with inaccurate content, I often wonder if my learners understand how the Internet works? Part of our responsibility, as educators, is to teach effective search processes online, to investigate databases, and examine scholarly repositories with our students and co-authors.
Part of being a member of a college or university community is the opportunity for discussion and discourse among peers. Scholarly inquiry and debate cannot and should not happen in a vacuum. Learning experiences should offer ways to evaluate information and to participate in civic online reasoning helps our learners beyond course discussions, class activities, and assigned projects. With the advent of the social web and networked communication platforms, there is an increasing opportunity to gather virtual teams or to support distributed group work. How can you enhance distributed collaboration for learners and support your peers online?
The new social learning helps us “join with others to make sense of and create new ideas…[it] is augmented with social media tools that bridge distance and time, enabling people to easily interact across the workplace, passion, curiosity, skill or need. It benefits from a diversity in types of intelligence and in the experiences of those learning” (Bingham & Connor, 2015, p.8). These digital environments need to be woven into our pedagogical considerations learning design and considered in context to support virtual teaming among scholars. Much of the creative problem solving, production development, and final products for learners can be self-directed via peers online. Some examples, I have used in practice and for instruction include shared documents for education, planning virtual group meetings, supporting hashtags for learning, and offering on-demand, online office hours. There are many ways to learn and work from a distance – decide what your purpose or goal is first, and then explore what digital platforms to use.
Digital Privacy, Security, and Data
To further this notion, we need to consider how we thrive in the digital age and this should start at our colleges and universities. The US Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity put out a Report on Securing and Growing the Digital Economy. As human behavior and technology are intertwined, it will be vital to secure our technologies, processes, and products online. As we “live” online and continue to get hacked online, we need to identify how we will operate in digital spaces and also prepare cybersecurity workforce capabilities online as outlined in this report. Higher education IT colleagues are continually thinking about ways to respond to cybersecurity attacks; however, prevention and awareness among campus stakeholders should be priorities at our institutions. I often have my students and peers think deeper about their privacy and security online by introducing them to ideas shared by WNYC’s Note To Self: Privacy Paradox 5-part series and the Privacy Paradox tip sheet, specifically to have all understand how to protect personal information and perhaps to take control back of their shared personal data online. Beyond this short course, I often encourage colleagues and students to read recent news reports, or listen to podcasts, such as CBC Spark and Reply-All, to prompt discussions about current issues and events that apply to their own digital life to ask more about their own Terms of Service.