Tips for Effective Online Discussions

As we close out 2018 and plan for the new year, I like to reflect back on teaching successes and challenges from the past year that can help me improve my teaching practices in my courses for the next year. Except for a few guest lecture spots, most of my teaching has been online since 2008. During this time I can say that I have become very aware of the definite similarities between face-to-face courses and online courses. The most significant similarity being capacity for making connections between instructor and students – and among students themselves – that can be fostered through class discussions. Of course, that is where the differences – and challenges – reside as well. Fostering those interpersonal connections while advancing learning in an online course takes strategic and significant effort on the part of the instructor – especially in the first few weeks as we get students acclimated to the learning environment and our expectations.

I could go on however, I am going to share the article “10 Tips for Effective Online Discussions” by Edwige Simon, Director of the Graduate Certificate in Language Teaching with Technology at the University of Colorado Boulder. Simon shares her experiences leading and managing discussions in her online courses along with a document that she uses to communicate discussion expectations and grading criteria to students.

Feel free to share your thoughts, reactions, and ideas about Simon’s article and online discussions below. I wish you best of luck as you prepare for your next semester of classes in 2019!

Cool Ed Tech conferences in 2018-19!

Image of yearly calendar of ed tech conferencesSo here it is everyone!  One calendar to show them all – all the hot conferences in education technology that are coming up in the next year starting this summer. If you are curious about one or some that you haven’t been to, reply to this post with your question and we’ll be happy to give a description of what it’s like to attend as many of the folks here at ODEE have experienced many of the listed conferences.

Happy conferencing!

Click here to view/download the conference calendar.

Webinar Recording: Collaborating Live in an Online Environment

Male student studying with computer at 11th floor Thompson libraryWhether you are teaching an online, hybrid, or face-to-face course, at some point during the course you may want to engage with your students synchronously via the Internet.  You may have a remote guest speaker, a need for students to meet in groups, student presentations, you name it.  All of these experiences and more can be done through two OSU supported tools: Collaborations within CarmenCanvas and CarmenConnect.  On September 20th, Jacob Bane and Marcia Ham presented different ways each of these tools could be used to engage with students live outside of the traditional classroom.  Click the following link to view and listen to the recording of the 1-hour webinar: http://carmenconnect.osu.edu/p1poexawu4r/.

Please join the Office of Distance Education and eLearning’s DELTA team on October 17th when Dr. Matthew Stoltzfus will present a webinar discussing the topic of metacognition in an online course.

Webinar Recording: A Beginner’s Guide to the Ohio State eLearning Toolset (8/31/2017)

View the recording at http://carmenconnect.osu.edu/p458d5horg7/

You know the old saying, “When all you have’s a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail”?  Back when I started with ODEE (before it was ODEE), that was nearly true of the tools available to instructors at Ohio State: there was Carmen and there was CarmenWiki.  Since then the toolset has grown like the pit crew for a NASCAR team, and there is no longer just a single way to do most things.  To help sort through the options and provide a high-level map of what-all systems are available for free to every instructor at Ohio State, our colleague Valerie Rake stopped by the studios at Mount Hall on August 31, 2017 to present a basic explanation and illustration for each system, as well as details about how to get help getting started.

Ten Online Teaching Tips

Faculty working on laptops outside.As an online instructor who has been teaching in this mode since 2009, I am always keeping an eye out for strategies other online instructors use in their courses to make the learning experience more engaging for students while also maintaining the instructors sanity.  Preservation of our mental faculties is important if we are to be effective instructors.  To this end, I thought I would share a short article I came across the other day that highlights ten strategies you may or may not be using in your online classes to help manage the grading load and communicate with students: Ten Online Teaching Tips You May Not Have Heard.  While I admit that some of the tips given I am skeptical about jumping on board with immediately, others are strategies I’ve used that have helped out tremendously (creating a forum, rubrics, etc…).  Take a look through the article and see if you notice a strategy you might like to try out the next time you teach an online course.  After all, we don’t know how a strategy will work until we try it, right?

 

ODEE DELTA Webinar Recording: iOS Apps for Teaching and Learning (Adobe Spark Pages and ExplainEverything) (6/27/2017)

It is easy to get lost in the large and expanding universe of apps that you can use to improve learning in your courses. This webinar will introduce you to two of the best, Adobe Spark Pages and ExplainEverything, both of which make it easy to produce fancy multimedia content with minimal training or expertise.  That means you can use them as an instructor to produce richer, more engaging learning materials for your students without needing to sacrifice the hours required to become a proper web designer or videographer.  It also means you have two more tools your students can use to create shiny, personalized assignments that nevertheless stay focused on demonstrating the understandings and abilities that are the true goals of your course.

In this webinar recording, Scott Sheeler, Educational Technologist on ODEE’s College Ready Ohio team, provides a lively introduction to these apps and shows how to use them like a pro in this webinar originally presented on June 27, 2017.

 

 

Five Course Design Tricks to Maximize Learning, Creativity, Engagement (EDUCAUSE 2015)

On October 19th I was invited to present at a widely renowned national conference called EDUCAUSE. EDUCAUSE brings together higher education professionals, leaders, IT providers, administrators, faculty, and some of the most brilliant minds in the field.

My topic? Five Online Course Design Tricks to Maximize Learning, Creativity, Engagement.

Universal Design for Learning is a framework for designing learning experiences that meet the diverse needs of a wide variety of learners, including those with disabilities. Happily, when you design with those diverse needs in mind the experience of every student will be improved. The result will be increased learning, creativity, and engagement.

For an 8 AM session I had a large and engaged audience who were eager to share their ideas, impressions, and takeaways. At the end of the session, participants were invited to tweet at least one thing they would do now based on the presentation. Check out the hashtag #myUDL to see their responses. Below are some highlights:

Now I will:

  • @maggiericci says, “Check out the personas on u.osu.edu/universaldesign.”
  • @dancinjul says, “Create accessible templates”.
  • @maggiericci says, “Start the UDL conversation really early and make it positive, not apologetic.”
  • @CharleyButcher says, “Give students different ways to demonstrate their mastery of outcomes.”

Have UDL ideas of your own? Feel free to use #myUDL and share!

Want to join the conversation virtually or in person at the next UDL/Accessibility Think Tank at Ohio State? Register here.

Simulator for Vision and Hearing Disabilities Provides Insight for Course Design

Check out this great simulator from the University of Cambridge.

The simulator provides an initial “glimpse” and “whisper” of the experiences of people with various vision and hearing disabilities. This kind of insight is extremely valuable to designing with accessibility in mind because the more you are able to put yourself into the shoes of your students the more likely your course will address a wider variety of learner needs. Have other sites/simulators that you find helpful for learning about different perspectives? Please share in the comments!

The latest ODEE Universal Design and Accessibility Resource Hubs!

The Office of Distance Education and eLearning has developed two spaces in addition to this u.osu.edu/universaldesign space. Here is a run down of the new space and when they are most useful!

u.osu.edu/universaldesign: This is a dynamic space that includes a think thank, trends, blogs, and statistics. It is ideal for someone who wants to increase his or her knowledge of universal design and accessibility over time. This space is designed to create a community of practice around accessibility and encourages involvement from users.

ODEE Resource Center: The new accessibility space in the ODEE Resource Center is intended to give “on demand” resources when faculty or course developers need it. These resources offer step-by-step guidance for creating accessible classroom content.

ODEE website: The new space on the ODEE site provides an overview of Universal Design for Learning(UDL) and accessibility. It also provides insight into how the UDL process has been meaningfully integrated in the ODEE course development process.

 

We encourage you to bookmark these resources and visit them frequently. Your thoughts and feedback on these new resources are welcomed as look forward to their continued improvement, usability, and evolution!

WAVE Toolbar to Help Determine Accessibility of Websites

It’s a valuable instructional practice to have students navigate the internet to sites that they are likely to use at one point or another in their professions. However, not all websites are built to be accessible for all. Some sites may not have alternate text for images, appropriate headers, tagging, color contrast, etc.. All of these things make a difference as to whether or not students with vision, auditory, or motor disabilities can navigate and use the content on the website. Using the Wave Toolbar can help to determine whether or not a website has a significant number of accessibility errors, which can then help you to determine if that website should be used in the course or if alternate websites will be needed that cover the same content that are accessible for all. This introduction to the Wave Toolbar provides an overview of how to obtain and use the toolbar as a starting point for determining accessibility. Keep in mind that the Wave Toolbar is helpful to get a sense of whether or not a site is accessible but it is still important for you to consider the website yourself from a variety of perspectives to truly determine whether or not you should use it in the course.