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.

EC&I831, Learning Technologies, Photo Sharing, Social Media

What’s In A Story?

Everyone loves a good story. Think of your favourite story. What is it? Why do you like it? Tell me more.

rm

Image c/o Scholastic.ca

When asked this question in #eci831 last week, the first story teller I connected to as a child was  Robert Munsch. I fell in love with almost all his books, especially The Paper Bag Princess, Love You Forever & I Have To Go.  These books are great read aloud and audio books, since most stories were created as an oral tradition in during Robert Munsch’s daycare working days. I was fortunate to meet Munsch during my 2nd year of undergrad when he visited my Children’s Literature class at the University of Guelph. Although the audience was older than his usual reading groups, Robert was still able to keep these “kids” on the edge of their seat.

Alan Levine shared some interesting & useful resources for using new media for Digital Storytelling. In both his presentation (you may need to download Cooliris to view in Firefox or Safari) and 50 Way Wiki there are numerous tools to explore for effective online storytelling.

Here are a few examples of digital stories we shared & discussed:

Amazing stories of Open Ed

1 Minute Forest Gump

Last Day Dream

Tony vs. Paul (stop motion)

The Pen Story

Inspirational/Motivational Videos (Stories that Make you Cry)

Free Hugs

Scary Mary (remix)


How do you share your story online? Check out a few tools to support your digital story telling:
Learning Technologies, Photo Sharing

Easy Online Tools for Visual Teaching

For many educators, the use of multi-media is a regular function in the classroom.

I went to an excellent workshop hosted by Carolyn Guertin from the eCreative Lab @ UTA about Moving Teaching Online: Screencasting.  This is one of many in their digital workshop series they offer.  It was  a great (free) workshop for faculty & staff to gain more knowledge about slide & screen casting to best support educational practices.

screencast

The wealth of media resources available online is overwhelming.  If your objective is to enhance instruction and learning, here are a few tools I use, and a couple new ones I have just begun to play with:

  • Screen Capture tools
    • SnagIt – screen grab tool for Window users; purchase required (test out the 30-day trial version)
    • Grab – a tool included in Mac computers to get screen shots/images
    • Jing – great for screen capture for image or video for any platform, able to do voice-overs & it’s FREE!
  • Slide Casting
    • SlideShare – online community forum to share slides (& audio) with students and others; able to match audio recording with slide content easily [I use this website the most.]
    • MyPlick
    • Sliderocket
  • Slides
  • Audio
    • Audacity – get a solid microphone with headset & start recording and editing tracks for your presentation
    • PodcastPeople – record your audio & get a link to an mp3; downside: there is no post-production editing feature
    • GarageBand – Mac users can get this free application to record & edit audio tracks
  • Screen Casting
    • Camtasia Studio – record, edit & share on screen activity; costs $
    • Camstudio – FREE streaming video software for screen capture
    • Captivate by Adobe – for those who are serious about their online learning and visual screen capture; purchase required (pricey even with education discounts, but worth it if used often)
    • Windows Media Maker – able to create videos for the screen cast; not part of the new Vista package (down grade OS)
    • Snapz Pro X – high quality imaging; able to use video, images and save the in a smaller format; time lapse editing,  audio voice-over and great editing options
    • iShowU – records audio & video; tagline = “when words aren’t enough”
  • Video Content Storage Online
    • YouTube EDU – YouTube videos posted for learning; great for archiving teaching material for your students
    • CaptionTube – new feature from YouTube that allows for adding captions via a sophisticated video caption editor – this means that the  text transcription sits beside the video
    • Recommendation:  use institutional web portal or closed site if you are using any copyrighted material or content

Have fun!

Collaboration, Social Media, Virtual Communities, web 2.0

Successful Virtual Communities

Here’s the latest video post from Howard Rheingold who writes about cultural, social and political implications of modern communication media such as the Internet, mobile telephony and virtual communities (term he coined).

rheingold

Here is the full video: http://unescochair.blogs.uoc.edu/18022009/rheingoldlargevideo/

It’s pretty straight-forward and summarizes a great deal of what is being discussed and shared by adminstrators & educators within higher education. He presents his thoughts about social media and facilitating online collaborative communities in this clip, which I find very interesting.

Other learning pieces and items by Rheingold that you should check out include: