This is a very exciting and somewhat intimidating time to be an educator or working in the academic field. There are so many more technological tools, techniques and instructional options than ever before. Much like the changes in our global society, education is not what it used to be. Thanks to technology, education also is undergoing a dramatic transformation in ‘how’ information and knowledge are transmitted and shared by students and users worldwide.
Today, students have other many more options options than the traditional classroom setting to learn their lessons and they are no longer locked into learning at a specific time or place. Students no longer have to attend their local college when they can get any course they want online from literally anywhere in the world. The internet and access to technology are changing everything and its happening very rapidly. We as educators and support staff to faculty MUST be aware of these issues and make informed decisions about marketing, professional development, course offerings and implementing new programs based on this heightened awareness.
Before we address issues and techniques relating to Distance Learning let’s just back-up a moment and remember we are all educators or support instructors in some way.. We teach! That’s what we do and to be successful we must know a little about our students. Many of our clients live on the edge. One thing (set-back) happens in their lives and it throws many of them completely off course. We are teaching single mothers, young men and women who barely made it through high school, military wives, retired military and in some cases individuals just looking for a second or third chance to succeed at something to better their lives. These are our students. Teaching at the Community College level can be frustrating at times; it is also a challenge to effectively teach this diverse group of people. We must also be aware that most students (17-24 demographic) process information much differently that we do and if we don’t take this into consideration in our teaching (especially online) we are going to have difficulty connecting with them and imparting our course content to them.
First off, I believe if we are going to be successful, we must know our students and communicate to them in a very clear, concise and creative way. It’s important that we convey our course expectations for them up front. Our online students must know and truly understand exactly what is expected of them. We as online educators should also be thinking of innovative ways to communicate our course expectations over and above text based online lectures and assignments.
Secondly, they have to be taught HOW YOUuse the Blackboard. The initial online Blackboard Orientation gives them a basic overview of how to use this teaching tool, but it is our job as online faculty to teach them specifically how to use it to succeed in our classes.
We all have different teaching methods, techniques and strategies and for the most part that is ok, however our students must be aware of how you want them to use the course Blackboard and supplemental resources because another instructor may use it completely different than you do and have much different expectations for them.
The first two weeks of the semester are crucial to the success of your class and the attitude your students are going to have about it. First impressions are very difficult to change. Therefore you want to very PROACTIVE the first two week of the semester to insure ALL your students are on board with you, understand what your expectations are and that your course is easy to understand and navigate.
What does your online class look like?
Is it page after page of text? Is there any color? Creative course specific graphics, pictures, podcasts, video, external links and is it easy to navigate or busy and confusing? Do you use a Visual Hierarchy?
Are you consistent in your expectations throughout the Blackboard? Do the due dates match up from the assignments page, course outline and to the discussion board?
Do you use the announcements page effectively? Are you posting announcements that reinforce and clarify your expectations and the directions for doing the assigned work regularly?
Are you innovative and creative in the way you post announcements and respond back to students on the discussion board? Google Image Search pictures and graphics that may relate to and reinforce your course content for the week – don’t be afraid to be fun and innovative here.
For example….this is what I posted the other day when I was preparing student grades.
Art 111 Students,
I am in the process of reevaluating your work and posting your grades. I hope to have them all posted by Tuesday evening.
You can access your grades for this class by going to Student Tools and then My Grades. You have a grade (Grading Period #1) which is an average of your drop box homework and discussion board (class participation).
Do your students have a sense of who you are as a human being? It’s crucial that we as online educators figure out innovative ways to infuse our own personalities on the blackboard whether it be by using some humor, empathy, innovation or creativity in how you communicate and relate to your class.
Do you respond back to their questions and concerns in a timely fashion and are you consistently giving your students viable feedback on their course work? There are ways to do this regularly without spending hours writing and posting feedback. Do you save and recycle your Discussion Board and Announcement posts (and homework feedback) from the previous semester and modify them to relate to the topic you are discussing.
These are things we must all be thinking about if we are going to take online teaching seriously and if we are going to excel as online instructors.
The following is an overview of what we will be covering in our workshop
1. Blackboard Control Panel Overview – What Do You Need to Know to Run Your Class.
2. Where course content is to be placed on the blackboard to insure continuity across curriculums. What content MUST you have in your various course links.
3. How to incorporate graphics, pictures, audio lectures (podcasts) and video clips throughout your courses including embedding them into areas (under folders for example) that blackboard doesn’t let you upload them. There are lots of great materials already on the web that you can link to like video clips and graphics that reinforce and illustrate your course content.
4. Tips for keeping lines of communication open between teacher and student.
5. Tips for effective use of the discussion board. Ways to ENGAGE and MOTIVATE your students.
Each week I kick off the discussion with a post that gives my students an idea of the direction I want the discussion to take. This may include web links, video clips or audio Clips as well.
For example…This is my kick-off for my Egyptian Art Discussion
Check out this web site for some insight into how they really built those Pyramids.
I did some searching and found this web site at the MET in New York – it is a great resource on Egyptian art .
Specifically look at the link looking at Egyptian art. check it out!
When a student posts a well research and thorough response to a question I make it a point to let them know they did a good job. I don’t do this all the time, however they are aware that I reward and acknowledge hard work and effort.
6. Creating and using a Web Directory for your class.
A web directory enables you to keep all your course images, powerpoints, audio and video files in one place instead of relying on linking from various places on the web. These are external links and when uyour course is copied over the links should remain viable.
7. Creating and placing a creative course banner
Find 10-15 pictures that relate to your course content and make a simple banner in Photoshop or some imaging software.
Arguement Based Research
8. Did you know about course options and assessments in BB Control Panel? The difference between the Drop Box and the Assignments Manager and the difference between an internal and external link?