Distance Learning Training and Resources for Educators

Check Sheet for Fine Arts Faculty who teach Online

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Before Classes Start

  • Check your Moodle Course Template and make sure you’ve copied the correct course over to your new template or if creating a new course make sure your syllabus is up to date, all learning modules are complete for the entire semester with appropriate assignments, quizzes, discussion forums, grade book and learning resources for each chapter/module.

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  • Review the entire course and check all videos, external links, due dates, and text chapter numbers to make sure all course resources, assignments, grade book and quizzes are viable, properly labeled, ADA compliant and up to date.

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  • All online courses must have a welcome announcement (see pdf at bottom of post for a sample) to be posted and sent out to students on the first morning of the course starting date, in addition to a thorough online course orientation explaining your expectations for your students and how the class works. A video orientation is a great way to do this, although a podcast or detailed announcement with screenshots is acceptable.

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  • Make sure you have Course Learning Outcomes posted in your Syllabus, in addition to your correct contact information, grading policy and your course specific expectations for your students.

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  • The first week of an online course is critical to the success of any online course. This is when students get an initial impression (pro/con) of the class and instructor. I highly suggest you make it a point to welcome each and every student who posts their introductions to the “icebreaker” discussion board.  This small gesture lets the students know you are reading their posts and care about their learning.  Students are going to have a lot of questions the first week of the class.  Be diligent and proactive when it comes to answering student e-mails, texts, phone calls and discussion board questions.  Students get discouraged and overwhelmed easily that first week any they look to you to help them understand how to navigate your online class and what you expect from them.

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  • Don’t assume your students know how to use the Moodle platform and don’t assume they completely understand your expectations for them. Be flexible with your students that first week or so as they climb the learning curve of how to use Moodle and submitting assignments and/or posting to the discussion board.

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You may consider adding a Moodle FAQ link into your course information module. https://docs.moodle.org/35/en/Student_FAQ

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  • Make sure your course navigation is simple, consistent and has visual continuity. It should be is accessible to all students. See this checklist to cross -reference your course to ADA compliant. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HZKSOfhyuWffz9SkfJTQ_zlfJQB1lD1/view
  • I use Labels in each module to separate the Assignments from the Learning Resources for that specific module. I keep this design approach consistent throughout the course. Each week my students know exactly where the discussion is and the quiz – then underneath are the resources I give them to help generate ideas for the discussion and research the quiz and/or essay.

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During the Semester

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  • Be engaged in all online Discussions! This is crucial! The Discussion Board is essentially your classroom and the instructor is the moderator / facilitator of the Discussion Boards.

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  • Make it a point to give viable feedback to a “cross-section” of students each week to let them know you are monitoring the discussions and adding to the dialogue. I recycle many of my discussion board responses from semester to semester (big time saver) and only have to change the students name and possibly a final sentence or two offering suggestions such as asking the student to elaborate or to give me a specific example to illustrate their post.

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  • It’s recommended that you post (e-mail) weekly announcements updating and reinforcing material that was just covered and introducing/explaining new upcoming course content. (see example)

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  • Post grades in a timely fashion and make sure students understand your grading policy. This is best achieved by creating rubrics for your assignments and the discussion board. I give students a 24 hour grace period before grading discussion boards and essays – once I grade the module I deactivate it and make it unavailable to students.  Leaving assignments available to students after the due date gets them confused and just clutters up your moodle platform. (See sample discussion board rubric)

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  • Return student e-mail in a timely manner. This is important!

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  • Make sure students understand what plagiarism is and that it is not acceptable in your class. This is a big problem and I have my students watch a video the first week of the semester about how to avoid plagiarism.  (See Plagiarism Document)

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  • Contact any student that is struggling (behind or failing) in your class and ask what you can do to help him/her get caught up and/or raise grades.

Final Week of the Semester 

  • Post an announcement addressing and explaining your final exam (projects, discussions, extra credit) to your students.

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  • Make sure your Moodle grade book is up to date so students know where they stand in your class.

Once Semester Ends

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  • Send a final announcement reinforcing the learning outcomes of the course and it is a nice gesture to wish them good luck in future classes.

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  • It is also a good idea to review your grading policy with the students in this final announcement (see pdf below) so there is no question as to WHY a student got a certain grade. Let them know they can contact you if they have a question about their grade.

mecomputerIn summary… teaching online takes more time and effort on the part of both students and teachers.  Students are not spoon fed the material in an online class.  They are responsible for the readings, tests, discussions and other course assessments.

Successful online teachers on the other hand can work from anywhere, however he/she must stay engaged in the course and be willing to give feedback on a regular basis, grade assignments in a timely and consistent manner and be available to students who have questions.  This can be done using e-mail, phone or skype.

Top Ten Tips for Online Teaching

Sample Moodle Documents

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Presenter – Patrick Keough Semi-Retired Photo/Art Instructor and DL Administrator

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Q&A

KeO BLoG

Another semester of online teaching has come to an end. I submitted my last set of grades yesterday and woke up this morning with the realization that I didn’t have to check into the discussion boards for my various art and photography online classes.  I actually have some down time until classes kick back in on January 9th. Its going to take me a day or so to get used to this change in my routine.  I retired from full time college administration and teaching 2 and 1/2 years ago and after a 6 month hiatus went back to work teaching what I love and am passionate about.  Art History, Computer Art and Photo Appreciation.

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I love what I do and am very happy to be retired and able to work from home or anywhere there is a WiFi hot spot.  Many people don’t realize just how demanding online teaching…

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KeO BLoG

Online Learning

I’ve spent the entire summer upgrading and retooling all my online courses for the fall semester that kicks in tomorrow and Monday.  I’m always excited about the start of a new semester, even though I’ve been teaching college level art and photography classes for 30+ years.  I officially retired from full time college administration and teaching 2 years ago however I’ve worked my way back up to taking on a full load of online classes this fall to include Computer Art, Art History, Photo and Art Appreciation.

I now teach for 6 North Carolina Community Colleges from home, local coffee shop or anywhere my travels take me for that matter.  It’s empowering to be able to teach my classes from anywhere in the world – as long as I have a wireless connection and my laptop computer I can access and teach my classes and connect with my students. That…

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I recently attended and presented at the NC3ADL Distance Learning Conference.  It was great to see my old friends and colleagues at the Raleigh Convention Center especially since I retired from full time teaching and distance learning administration at Carteret Community College.

Presenting at the NC3ADL Conference

Presenting at the NC3ADL Conference

One thing that struck me while attending one of the conference sessions was just how many amazing and powerful digital tools and applications we as educators have at our disposal for delivering (teaching) our courses compared to 20-30 years ago. The digital (internet) age has changed (impacted) education at all levels dramatically.

The question I have is… are we graduating smarter more prepared students because of all these new, powerful and sophisticated instructional tools and applications?  I hate to admit it, however, I would have to say no if I were to base my answer on my personal experiences as an online educator. Students and teachers now have access to endless amounts of information with a click of the mouse, more than any time in human history.  Is this seamless and easy access making us smarter? Is it making us better teachers? Is it making our students smarter and more prepared for viable careers after they graduate? Are all the technological tools, applications, systems, networks and sophisticated software making the educational experience better and more effective than 20-30 years ago? I think this is a conversation we as educators need to be having.

Could the inundation of information and digital tools like cell phones, laptops, tablets and IPads and IPods make us more distracted and possibly overwhelmed to the point where we can’t possibly process the vast amount of data and information coming at us from commercial, political, and educational realms.

Speaking for myself I feel somewhat overwhelmed by the constant flow of digital content coming at me from morning to night. I teach exclusively online and incorporate a wide array of instructional material into my online classes. Everything from podcasts, screencasts, instructional videos, graphics, animations, and text based content.  Teaching and learning in 2013 is so incredibly different than it was back in the 1950’s, 60’s and even into the 80’s before the computer and the internet.

Students now have the same access to information their instructors have. Is it now the teachers role to help students decipher this information, make sense of it and put it into context?  The roles and relationships between teachers and students is certainly changing (evolving) and have been for the past 15 years.

I personally think there are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the state of education in America. We certainly spend more than any other country on schools, colleges and education in general.  I’m just not convinced we are getting the best bang for our buck and I wonder if we could be doing a better job with the incredibly powerful instructional tools and applications we have at our disposal as educators in the digital realm.

Could it possibly be that the technology could possibly be getting in the way and/or inhibiting the process of learning?  I see many students struggling to stay focused on one learning activity  (task) because he/she is distracted by checking facebook, texting or surfing the internet. There may be more to this than we as educators think and we may have to come up with new and creative strategies for dealing with and addressing these issues.    Just sayin…..

Here is the world education ranking for 2012. USA dropped to 17th in developed countries. Finland and South Korea kicked out butts! Can’t we do better than this?

Click Here for Global Report on Education.

Sally Roy recently created a video detailing the pros and cons of online learning. The project profiles real students who have had experiences with online education and features their discussions around the positive and not-so-positive qualities of online and offline education.

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Click Here to View the entire video interviews.

Excerpt from this Project…

“To log in or not to log in? That’s the question for thousands of students like you, who now have options that their parents didn’t have when it comes to obtaining higher education. No longer does a student’s college debate center solely on the old question about state schools versus private education. Online schools have become legitimate sources of knowledge and career training, and students now have another major decision to make when it comes to choosing a school.

As the idea of earning your education online becomes more socially acceptable, more students are choosing to earn their education through online schools every year. It fits easily into busy schedules and can be a life-saver for nontraditional students who have concern like work and parenting. And although traditional college students—that is, students who have just finished high school and are heading to college for the first time—are also enrolling in online schools, many students have questions about the differences between online and offline schools.

Their concerns are not necessarily eased by the swarm of information, facts and figures that are offered by dozens of different online schools. It can be overwhelming to attempt to take in all of this information at once, and it’s easy to lose sight of what your number 1 concern ought to be: is online school the best choice for you?”

Comments are welcome and encouraged…

Key Tips for Teaching an Online Courses

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I developed these online teaching tips based on my 15 years experience teaching art and photography on both Blackboard and Moodle Course Management Systems.

 1. If possible…kick the first session (class) off with a synchronous BB Collaborate, Google Hangouts or Skype orientation that addresses exactly how you are going to teach the class and be specific in your expectations for the course participants. Sharing your screen and guiding them through your Moodle/Blackboard courses is an effective way to do this. You will also have to demonstrate how the Moodle (BB / LMS) tools (assignment upload and discussion forum) they will use for submitting work for you to evaluate / critique. If your course is totally asynchronous then create a video orientationto the class. I do one for every online course I teach.

2. Eliminate all gray area from your weekly assignment directions (course expectations) and make it very clear as to exactly what you want your students to do each week and how the students will submit work and engage you and each other in discussions and/or critiques.

3. KISS RULE!!! Keep it Simple as to class assignments and the instructional design plan you implement in your online courses. The more complex your online course the harder it is for you and the students to manage.  You want visual continuity in your course design scheme as well as content continuity as far as how you lay out your assignments, lectures, videos, discussions, etc.

4. Less is More! Remember don’t overload your students with too many assignments / activities. I rather do one or two task each week and do them well than 3 or more activities that may be difficult to manage for you and the students.

5. Be Present and Proactive! This is probably the best advice I can give you. Respond back to student questions and discussion posts in a timely fashion. Essentially follow through on your part as to when you are going to give students feedback on their work. I use the discussion forum as a place for students to submit works in progress and as they post images I go in daily and give them feedback. You set the parameters as to when you will respond back to students and just follow through with the course guidelines that you set.

6. Be Flexible! Students are going to run into technical or personal issues so to keep the stress level down It’s important to be flexible with due dates if a student is running into a problem due to unforeseen circumstances.

7. Synchronous vs. Asynchronous instruction. Use the synchronous approach (if possible) to kick off each weeks lesson and to explain exactly what you want your students to do and how you are going to engage them about their work. This can be in the form of a Power Point presentation or taking them through your Moodle or Blackboard Module step by step. Approximately 80% – 90% of you instruction will most likely be asynchronous in most cases.

8. Be aware of Online Learning Limitations. Its important to design learning activities that are conducive for the online environment. You may find that critiques are best for your class in synchronous mode (BB Collaborate, Google hangouts, or Skype with Join Me Screen Sharing for example). Do what works best for you and your teaching style.

9. Practice makes perfect. There is no doubt the more you teach online the easier it gets and the more proficient (and comfortable) you get engaging students in the online environment. Be prepared to change course if certain learning activities are not working effectively for you.

10. Above all else…Have Fun! Share in the learning journey with your online students! If they see you are passionate and engaged about your course material and giving them constructive feedback on their work in a timely fashion the course will be a success.

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