MOOC, Online Learning, Reflections

The Student Story in Open, Online Learning

In starting a new year and a new term, I am thinking more about student stories and learner experiences in my courses. From my teaching in K-12 and now in higher ed, I continually strive to be a “good teacher.” We know that quality education comes from instructors who are reaching students and by improving learning design, delivery, and engagement. There are multiple intervals during an academic term where I stop to reflect on the lessons learned in online education and to think about my own instructional practice.

Like a number other instructors in higher ed, I review learner comments from the course evaluations at the end of the term. Beyond the evaluative score of these instruments, I think it is critical for instructors, learning designers, researchers, and administrators to listen to the student story in our online (and open) learning environments. Additionally, I solicit student my own student feedback at the beginning and end of the term to learn more about their goals and individual experiences. I also take short notes about each course assignment, project, discussion board prompt, or journal entry reflection to remind myself of how students engaged with/learned from these activities. Much of my instructional reflection involves pedagogical considerations, rather than technological applications. I want to encourage my learners to persist, so I offer opportunities to improve with draft assignments and provide on-going feedback/follow-up. In thinking about my communication practices and technological tools, I want to ensure my online classroom is interactive and offers opportunities to meet both the learning outcomes and student needs.

open_learner_stories

What do students really want from their online instructor? Here are a few things I have learned over the past few years of online teaching:

  • Provide a purpose of each course section connected to the learning goals
  • Easy to follow course design and navigation for online learning
  • Transparent expectations for requirements and how they will be evaluated/assessed
  • Clear directions for course assignments, projects, and activities
  • Meaningful online activities and projects that apply beyond the course or connected to their own career/academic goals – relevance!
  • Relatively quick responses to questions and/or communication standards as to when/how the instructor/TA for course support
  • A connection to the instructor via  “presence” or involvement in the course, e.g. video lectures, lecture/screencasting, audio files, course discussion participation, etc. to make it personal and meaningful

As I research online learning strategies to succeed, and continue to teach online each semester, I really want to know more about how my learners persist in online — so I can improve my own practice. In George Veletsianos‘ (2013) book, Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open Online Learning, ten graduate students immerse themselves in open online learning experiences for two months and share their own narratives. This collection of peer-reviewed, learner essays offer further insight and reflection on the following questions:

  • What are learner experiences with open online courses, MOOCs, and other forms of open online learning?
  • What is it like to participate in open online learning?
  • What are learners’ perspectives of MOOCs?

Although I am not instructing a MOOC, this free e-book offered suggestions to improve learning delivery/design and identify ways to scaffold online environments for my own students.  This book may only a slice of online learning, as it shares learners’ reflections from MOOCs, it does indicate that distance education is a complex thing. Expectations, realities, and execution of this learning is quite varied.  I think these narratives provided by graduate students offer insight into distance education itself, and perhaps, how we even approach research in this arena. These student stories reminded me to involve my learners in the process of understanding their educational experience. When it comes to online learning, we should ensure the student voice is not crowded out by research ABOUT our students, that is, we need to think about research BY our students. I am thinking more about this key point as I contemplate how to best involve my sample population’s “voice” in my research and discover meaning further meaning that is often overlooked in scholarship.

Reference:

Veletsianos, G. (2013). Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open Online Learning. Madison, WI: Hybrid Pedagogy Press.

networkedscholar

Once A Networked Scholar… Always One? #scholar14

 

Social media is my thing (so I’ve heard). Really, the THING about social media is the SOCIAL. Throughout my personal, professional and academic career, I have touted the value of my personal learning network on Twitter. I give credit to this 140-character medium as it daily contributes to my literature review, data collection, and connected engage in my discipline.

I am not alone in the love of Twitter and scholarship. Other academics have identified value in Twitters’s role for scientific publication and power of dissemination when shared among the network of scholars. In contrast, there is a dark side to being in this particular space (“they” say). I shared this article earlier in the stream today, “To tweet or not to tweet: academic freedom and social media” – if you have not read it,  you should. This article is one of MANY that calls into question the use and impact of social media networks in academia. As an early career researcher, I am interested in learning more about the impacts to the field and the influence digital scholarship has for teaching, learning, service and research scholarship. {More on this research and work… to come.}

csfzzj3z-1412558503

 

I have a number of questions that need answers on the networked/digital scholar topic:

  • How will social networks shape tenure and promotion?
  • What issues do academics face, when being active in social media spaces?
  • What challenges will emerge with the use of transmedia for research and learning in post-secondary education?
  • Will digital scholarship impact and shift how tenure and promotion?
  • What other influences should be considered for impact factors and scholarly contributions?
  • How does the digital influence our own doctoral programs & preparation?
  • How digital influence truly effect impact factors for research? Should it?
  • What information do we know about “the networked scholar”?

These are just a few of my questions. I have more. I signed up for George’s (@veletsianos) Networked Scholar (#scholar14) MOOC to continue this dialogue and bat around a few ideas with other interested scholars. I am looking forward to continuing my meanderings on my blog and, of course, on the Twitters => #scholar14 Won’t you join in the discussion and banter as well? http://networkedscholars.net/

EdTech, Professional Development, Social Media

My #edu13 Sampling Tour at @EDUCAUSE

With limited time in my October schedule, I was only able to drop into the 2013 EDUCAUSE annual conference (#edu13) in Anaheim, CA for a couple of days. It’s unfortunate that I was not able to stay longer; however I’ll share my sample of the #edu13 higher education and technology conference. {This is what happens when you are traveling to conferences, writing a dissertation proposal, advising for Spring 2014 registration, teaching a class & training for a marathon all in the same month. Lessons learned for next year.}
#selfie at our #edusocmedia precinct at #edu13

Inside the Actors Studio @ #edu13

I was fortunate to be able to attend #edu13 since Tanya Joosten (@tjoosten) asked me to co-facilitate a virtual workshop on Social Media for Teaching and Learning. Much of this session shared ideas from Tanya’s book, our research article, and our practical application for utilizing social media for learning/teaching. During the session we modeled our teaching/learning expectations by encouraging participants to interact & dialogue with us on Twitter. Our emphasis was not on the tool, but more on the social learning and interactions you can have to augment educational experiences:

Let's get social #edusocmedia ....its not the tech #edu13Here is our digital handout from the workshop: http://bit.ly/edusocmedia13

Before I had to leave EDUCAUSE on Wednesday, I attended the #edu13 Prepare for Lift-Off: Becoming a Successful IT Pilot Site Panel and took a few digital notes: http://bit.ly/pilotpanel

How can the solution improve student learning? Ask @tjoosten @amcollier & @Veletsianos #edu13

During this session, Tanya Joosten (@tjoosten), Amy Collier (@amcollier), and George Veletsianos (@veletsianos) discussed the TOP 10 questions every institution should ask before piloting a technology solution for learning at their campus:

  1. Why should this solution be introduced to the campus?
  2. How can the solution improve student learning?
  3. Does your institution have readiness or capacity to pilot a new solution?
  4. Who is the audience and are the stakeholders?
  5. What is the pedagogical model that will lead to the greatest?
  6. How will a vendor be selected for the new technology?
  7. How would faculty be selected to participate?
  8. How do you evaluate the impact of the solution on the identified outcomes?
  9. How do you diffuse the innovation on campus and beyond?
  10. What are your questions?

Since I missed out on the live happenings, I made sure to follow the #edu13 backchannel and my tweeps while traveling home. If you don’t have much time or interest in text mining all the many tweets, The Chronicle curated few conversations on Twitter and EdTech Magazine compiled a list of people to follow at EDUCAUSE 2013.

Good morning #edu13