5 practical tips to incorporate in my on-line courses

 

Last week I redid the Teaching Perspectives Inventory as part of a project our faculty is working on and once again, it showed that I am a “nurturer”. I think that a number of my “practical tips” reflect this.

  1. instructor presence – I want my students to know that I am there for them. I start each of my Pharmacology courses with a face to face introduction. This allows me to get a feel for who might need extra help. I can show them how to navigate the course, explain how it will be evaluated and solve any technical problems students might be having at the beginning. Interestingly, Tyler-Smith (http://jolt.merlot.org/Vol2_No2_TylerSmith.htm) recommends this as one way to reduce early attrition rates. I ask each of the students to send me an e-mail introducing themselves and I respond with a personal welcome e-mail to each of them. I have started creating introductory video clips for each unit so they can see my face and hopefully feel like they know me a little bit. I also frequently check in with the students via my announcements forum, reminding them that I am available if they have any questions.
  2. create a sense of community – I have the students all introduce themselves to one another in the introductions forum. In one group, I divided the students all into small discussion groups of 6-8. This worked well for establishing a sense of community though that wasn’t my initial intent. The groups took themselves very seriously and met in person to study (my students are also in face to face classes together).
  3. try to manage cognitive overload – to me, this incorporates more than one practical tip.
    • don’t assume that all students are equally tech savvy. Those that aren’t may not be able to handle both learning the course content and how to access it. Either be prepared to teach students how to use the tech required for your course, or at the very least, refer them to somewhere that they can gain this knowledge.
    • make sure that expectations are very clear – both for the course as a whole and for individual assignments. Provide very clear rubrics for each assignment so students aren’t left guessing what it is that you expect. If possible, show them examples of previous students assignments. I know that this decreases my own anxiety hugely (Thank you Joanne).
    • Provide feedback that will help students do better on future assignments.

 4.   Encourage critical thinking – critical thinking seems to be the  current buzz word in education but in nursing it is critical (pun intended  smile ). One way to do this is to give students a case study where they need to go on a “webquest” to find the answers. This encourages critical thinking by having them pull all aspects of the case study together and also learn how/where to access valid information on-line that they can use to inform their practice or provide patient education.

 5.   Utilize a number of different teaching strategies and learning activities – address different learning styles and “generations” of learners by incorporating different ways of facilitating or delivering course content.

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Educ 4151- Blog post #1

I read several blogs though I don’t actively follow any. I find that when I do an internet search, I often come across people’s blogs and while their content may not be academic, it is often very interesting and educational. It seems like just about everyone is blogging these days on just about any subject you can imagine.

While my only experience “blogging” is within this program, I feel relatively comfortable with it. My only concern is what happens if my content somehow disappears, though that seems somewhat unlikely. Unless I accidentally hit the delete button.

My goals for this blog are twofold. The first is to continue gathering content and ideas that will benefit me as I continue through this program. My second goal is to become more and more comfortable with this modality.

Useful/Interesting Resources

For an in-depth overview of iThoughts, click the link below.

http://ipad.appstorm.net/reviews/productivity/ithoughtshd-grow-ideas/

Jing captures anything you see on your computer screen, as an image or short video, and lets you share it instantly.

http://www.techsmith.com/jing.htm

LectureScribe is a simple and free whiteboard recording program that lets you record your pen strokes and your lecture simultaneously. It was developed by Brian C. Dean at Clemson University. It is a very simple tool ideal for online beginners, whether teachers or students. Lectures developed with LectureScribe can be downloaded to a website or your online course.

The following website http://people.cs.clemson.edu/~bcdean/lscribe/ describes LectureScribe in detail and provide the link to be able to install it.

Quizlet

Quizlet is a great learning tools as Education widgets on Wikispaces: Quizlet lets you and your students create fun and engaging study materials and  quizzes. It ‘s simple and  let your student turn what they are learning in the classroom into fun study materials, quizzes, and games.

For more information, click below link.

http://blog.wikispaces.com/2013/11/our-newest-education-widget-quizlet.html

We Achieve is an online tool that enables an instructor to pose a question and capture participants’ responses. Participants can see responses, vote on paired answers, and the most highly voted answers appear at the top of the list. Throughout the process, participants are engaged and are learning from one another. As the instructor, you can assess through responses what participants are getting out of a course and where confusion may lie.

 

Important Ideas to Carry Forward

  1. instructor presence
  2. video introductions
  3. discussion forums
  4. don’t overload students with assignments/learning activities – consider the amount of time it takes to do each assignment and for the instructor to mark
  5. use clear rubrics for marking
  6. Q&A forum
  7. variety of learning activities
  8. educreations
  9. brainshark
  10. crosswords and other games
  11. address potential barriers to online learning
  12. keep course looking organized and easy to navigate
  13. keep quality guidelines in mind
  14. consider a combination of individual and group assignments
  15. ??team building assignment at beginning of course??
  16. definitely include an introduction forum post to get to know students and let them get to know one another.
  17. case studies for pharmacology and health promotion – work on in a pair, group or individually
  18. utilize online resources. Have students refer to specific resources to answer questions, etc… Make these as relevant as possible – something that they may need to refer to once they graduate as nurses.

What is an ePortfolio?

In its simplest form, an eportfolio is a digital collection of artifacts that represent an individual. A student may have an eportfolio that includes items such as assignments, essays, journals and learning plans, whereas a professional may include his resume along with items that showcase his career and achievements.

ePortfolios can be used for four things according to Clark (2007) Retrieved from http://youtu.be/0pwhjWWe740:

  1. Learning – an eportfolio gives students the opportunity to reflect on their learning. An online blog is a good way to encourage reflection on learning. This blog can become part of the eportfolio. Students can use it as an account of what they have learned and also as a place to reflect on the learning that has occurred, how they did that learning and what the next stages might be. Comments from peers and teachers enhance this reflection. In regards to learning, students learn when they “construct knowledge” in the form of a “product” or project. The project may be an essay, power point presentation, simulation, skill demonstrations, audio or video clip or other… and can be included in the eportfolio. From a teaching/learning perspective, I think this is the most important aspect of an eportfolio.
  2. Transition – this could refer to transitioning from education to work setting or transitioning from one educational setting to another or from one program to another. An eportfolio would allow a potential employer to see the quality of a student’s work, skills learned and their ability to reflect on their own practice. It also allows one institution to assess a student’s prior learning, facilitating transfer between institutions.
  3. Assessment – any number of assignments for assessment can be included in the eportfolio or the portfolio itself could be assessed. It is important that we keep in mind our true purpose of assessment. Helen Barrett was quoted in an article from the University of Waterloo as saying “There’s a major tension right now between student-centered and institution-centered ePortfolios.” Student-centered ePortfolios, she added, are driven by “assessment for learning,” while institution-centered ePortfolios are driven by “assessment of learning.”  In a 2007 article in Campus Technology, Trent Batson also suggested that the “learning idea” of ePortfolios was being “hijacked by the need for accountability.”
  4. Presentation –  this could take the form of a student  or professional presentation, but it could also be used as part of, or in place of, a traditional resume.

Others suggest that eportfolios may be useful for personal development. I like the idea of students having a record of all that they have learned. I think that this will give them an opportuntity to look back and say, “Wow! Look at what I have accomplished”. They can also use their eportfolio to identify areas they may need, or want, to explore further.

There is most defintely a place in my teaching for eportfolios, however, at this time, I think that the technology may be a stumbling block for many of my students. I see the eportfolio as the way of the future, however, and I’m sure it is only a matter of time before it is the norm rather than the exception. Currently, our students do put together a professional portfolio as they make their way through our program. They start with content such as their resumes, reference letters, transcripts, certificates and diplomas. As they proceed through the program, they are encouraged to add instructor and personal evaluations, learning plans and work that they are particularly proud of. It would be a relatively simple matter to turn this into an eportfolio given the resources and technical skill required to do so.

From a more academic standpoint, the eportfolio could be used as either an assignment in itself or as a way to submit and catalogue assignments created throughout a program. In one of the courses I am currently teaching, we will be recording students as they work through a simulated patient care scenario. After participating, students view their recording and write a written reflection on their performance. Both the recording and the reflection would be ideal to include in an eportfolio. From a teaching persepctive, I think that the “reflection on learning” is the most important part of the eportfolio. As a teacher, I don’t want to know just what the student did right or wrong, but rather, was the student able to see what they did well and what they could have improved upon? And having noted the areas for improvement, were they able to identify how they could improve in the future?

As academic institutions adopt the use of the eportfolio, employers may ask to see these portfolios as part of the interview or candidate selection process.

In my own professional life, I can also see the benefit of having an eportfolio. This would give me the opportunity to show case my work – when applying for a new position, applying for grants or applying for a PhD program. When I start to think about what I would include in my eportfolio, it reminds me of all I have accomplished in my career. When I get around to creating an eportfolio, I think it will include a number of different sections. The first section may be a collection of scanned documents – degrees, diplomas and certificates, as well as a copy of my resume. The second section may be examples of my academic work, including my MSc thesis, my capstone project, articles I have written and assignments that I am particularly proud of. The third section would be related to teaching and would include artifacts such as lesson plans, learning activities, videos of my teaching and examples of assessments or exams I have created. As a registered nurse, I am required to keep track of the continuing education I have engaged in, so I would make this the fourth section of my eportfolio and the final section would be dedicated to an ongoing learning plan. This is another requirement of the College of Registered Nurses of BC and it fits well within the structure and purpose of the eportfolio. The learning plan requires both reflection on one’s practice as well as making a plan to address any areas that may need improvement, or areas that the individual would like to pursue in greater depth.

References

Clark, A. (2007). Retrieved from http://youtu.be/0pwhjWWe740:

What Are ePortfolios? Retrieved October 25, 2013 from http://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/resources/integrative-learning/eportfolios-what-why-and-how

Resources

10 Best Practices for Online Teaching

Class text book:

Boettcher, J.V. & Conrad, R.M., 2010. The Online Teaching Survival Guide – Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips

Best Practice 1: Be present at the course site

There are many ways that I do this with the course I am currently teaching. First, I have posted a personal video introduction to the course and to each unit within the course. Secondly, I have created mini-tutorials for key concepts that I know students often struggle with. Thirdly, I make an effort to comment on forum posts. Lastly, I frequently post announcements with information that I think will be useful or interesting for the students.

Best Practice 2: Create a supportive online course community

Right now, one of the ways I do this is to have everyone post an introduction of themselves to the entire group, telling the group what some of their interests are and what brought them to nursing. I also have them e-mail me directly and I respond personally to each of them. The course includes a Q&A forum that I encourage students to use to ask questions and also to answer each others questions. I keep an eye on this forum in case something needs further clarification. I was also considering doing some kind of team building activity but as I just read today (can’t remember where exactly) that some adults may feel that they don’t have time for that kind of thing and want to get right to the course content. At the moment, my students see each other in every other course they take so maybe they don’t need that kind of activity to establish a sense of community online. One time that I ran my pharmacology course, I actually divided them online into groups of 8 for the discussion forum. This really seemed to help establish that sense of community and most of the groups took themselves quite seriously as groups, even studying together outside of class time. The one drawback I found was that if a student posted something really valuable or asked a question in the discussion forum or if I added something to the discussion, I felt that the entire class should be privileged to that same information. I found that I spent a lot of time cutting and pasting and worrying that I’d forgotten to include one of the groups. Right now my pharm class is divided into two groups of 22 and one group of 10. I’m hoping that this will be manageable.

Best Practice 3: Develop a set of explicit expectations for your learners and for yourself as to how you will communicate and how much time students should be working on the course each week

My pharmacology course has a section right at the top of the main page called “communication” that outlines how instructors and students can communicate with each other. My course includes an announcements forum and a Q&A forum. Generally, I use the announcements forum to communicate important course information and the students use the Q&A forum to ask and answer each others’ course related questions. The communication section of my course tells my students that I am available by e-mail at almost anytime up until about 8:30 at night.

I think I need to be more explicit about the time committment that the students can expect in this course. The problem is, that I’m not entirely sure what the time committment is. This course is heavy on memorization and students really vary in how long it takes them to memorize material.

Best Practice 4: Use a variety of large group, small group and individual work experiences

This is something that I have struggled with so far. Pharmacology doesn’t lend itself well to group work as there are no assignments. It is just exams. In the Health Promotion course that I’m working on, I have included one assignment that the students do in pairs and I’m trying to think of something that they could do in a small group. One idea I have is to restructure one of their case study assignments. I have to give some more thought to how I will do this.

Best Practice 5: Use synchronous and asynchronous activities

So far, the online courses that I have taught and developed include only asynchronous activities, however, I am considering doing a synchronous tutorial for my group of students that are out in Agassiz. They actually meet in their classroom to work on pharmacology online. I have asked them to identify concepts that they find difficult and would like a tutorial on. I may try to create a tutorial that I can post online, but I was also thinking of skyping with them in their class to explain the concept they need help with.

Best Practice 6: Ask for informal feed back early

In my current pharmacology course, I had each student e-mail me and then I e-mailed them back. Part of my e-mail to them was telling them that I am always trying to improve this course and would appreciate their feedback. In addition, I have included a formative evaluation survey in class 5 to get more official feedback. I was planning to add a weekly survey in my Health Promotion class to get a feel for how valuable and realistic assignments were for the students, time committment, etc…

Best Practice 7: Prepare discussion posts that invite responses, questions, discussions and reflections

In my pharmacology course, there is a weekly discussion forum but I would have to say, that the questions are really more just knowledge types of questions with the occasional question that asks the student to reflect. In some weekly forums, I post a number of questions and asks the students to choose one until all questions have been answered. The students can then use this as a resource to help them study.

In my Health Promotion course, I have also included a weekly discussion forum where I try to elicit more discussion and reflection. I want to include a discussion on Harm Reduction. An example of harm reduction is handing out clean needles to injection drug users. This is a controversial topic as some people feel that by handing out clean needles, we are promoting drug abuse. Others feel that these people are going to abuse drugs anyway so we may as well try to keep them from getting and transmitting HIV, Hep B, etc… which will create more problems in the end. I definitely need to encourage critical thinking in this course.

Best Practice 8: Search out and use content resources that are available in digital format if possible

In my pharmacology course, the two main resources are text books. Having said that, the students can also load them onto their computers, ipads, etc… What I hear students saying, is that they still like to have the hard copy text to flip through and highlight at home but they really like having their texts on their laptop or ipad to carry around with them, to use at school, the library, the coffee shop, on the bus, etc… I have included links to online resources in this class – journal articles which I have accessed and linked to through our library, online videos, a youtube song video that some other nursing students created to memorize drug classifications, a website that pronounces drug names, etc…

In Health Promotion, I have linked to a number of Government of Canada health promotion documents, information on immunizations, nutrition information, videos on prenatal development, etc… There nursing text books are also resources for this course, though I haven’t used a specific Health Promotion text. I want to continue to add online resources. In part, because they are easy to access and also because as a part of being a nurse, we need to know where to find and how to access these resources that are out there.

Best Practice 9: Combine core concept learning with customized and personal learning

Pharmacology only includes core concept learning. There is no opportunity at this point for personal learning. I’m not sure if this is relevant to this type of course. Health Promotion, on the other hand is more flexible in that regard and there is some choice within assignments. One of the assignments asks student to attend a support group in their community. They can choose any support group they are interested in. Other assignments ask them to choose a community to look at to determine what health promotion activities are available for certian populations.

Best Practice 10: Plan a good closing and wrap activity for the course

This is something that I haven’t really done for pharmacology though their final forum in one of my pharm courses is to share three things that they have learned throughout the course and in my other pharm course, I ask the students to create 3 study questions to help themselves and the other students study for the final exam.  I have to give this some more thought though.

In Health Promotion, I ask the students to do two end of term assignments. One has them summarizes their contribution to the discussion forums and the other asks them to reflect on the most important learning that occurred for them during the course.

Lin, H., Dyer, K. & Guo, Y. (n.d.). Exploring online Teaching: A three-year composite journal of concerns and strategies from online instructors. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2013 from

http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall153/lin_dyer_guo153.html

Poe, M. & Stassen M.L.A. (Eds.). (n.d.). Teaching and Learning Online: Communication, community and assessment. Retrieved Oct. 1, 2013 from http://www.umass.edu/oapa/oapa/publications/online_handbooks/Teaching_and_Learning_Online_Handbook.pdf