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!

Webinar: “The When, Why, & How of Creating Video for Instruction”

How many of us, in the development of our online courses, have wondered exactly when to include video, what type of video to include so that learning is positively impacted, and then how to create the video needed? In our most recent webinar, ODEE’s Jason Connelly, Instructional Designer for Distance Education, presented on how we can go about addressing such questions when planning to integrate video in our instruction. You can view and listen to the webinar recording by clicking the following link, The When, Why, & How of Creating Video for Instruction, or copying and pasting into the address bar of your web browser:

Join us on November 27th from 12:00 – 1:00pm when Anna Brady of the Dennis Learning Center will present on strategies for maximizing motivation of students in an online course.

Register for Maximizing Motivation webinar here.

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.

ODEE DELTA Webinar Recording (4/5/2018): “They Know, They Care”: Recovering Struggling Students in the Online Context (Audrey Begun and Jennie Babcock)

photograph of a lifeguard in a lifeguard stand on a beach near sunset or sunrise, with empty beach to the right of the picture, taken from behind, very scenic

Lifeguard by Md. Shafiul Alam Chowdhury

Recording available at

It is easy (well…) to tell when a student in your in-person class is struggling: you can see their detachment, their boredom, their sleeping, their scowling, their sadness, their confusion, their disappointment. Online courses don’t provide the same access. In some cases, an instructor may never lay eyes on a particular student. So how does a person even know that a student needs help?  And when you know, what can you do about it?  Are we compelled simply to write off some percentage of our online students as lost sheep?

Dr. Audrey Begun and Dr. Jennie Babcock offer some concrete strategies to resist that fatalism in this webinar (recorded Thursday, April 5, 2018).  Drawing on their years of experience in teaching and advising, as well as insights and methodology from the discipline of Social Work, they describe four domains of specific steps instructors can take to reduce the likelihood students will start to struggle, recognize quickly when it is happening, and intervene usefully.

Recording available at

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:

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.

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?


Supporting Students Online Forum


Photo of staff gathered during the student support forum in March 2017Last month the Office of Distance Education and eLearning hosted a forum that brought together those around campus who are supporting or who would like to support students through digital channels. This event was a time for networking between peers, information sharing of best practices (Writing Center presentation and Adviser panel discussion) and information gathering of the support needed to offer digital resources for students. Twenty staff and faculty members from across the university attended the event. The group represented faculty, student support groups, support staff, and advisers.

To kick off the session, participants were asked the following question: What supporting student’s online scenario keeps you up at night? Their answers varied and are listed below.

  • Students don’t always interpret written instructions the way faculty intend
  • Support for graduate students (Master’s Thesis support)
  • Connecting students to the community through sporting event tickets, etc.
  • Connecting and engaging with students
  • Career development support
  • Student understanding of OSU procedures and deadlines
  • After hours support
  • Keeping online students motivated
  • Students handling of setbacks (e.g. exam failure, family problems, emotional hardships, suicidal thoughts)
  • Data validity

Through conversations during the forum, participants demonstrated interests in finding out more about

  • chat options available for support at the Writing Center;
  • best practices for providing constructive feedback and methods for online students to be successful on written assignments, projects, etc;
  • graduation rates;
  • co-curricular options and support for students.

There were several observations about challenges of supporting students online that the group shared:

  • Students like to work with the same person (advisor)
  • Students like coming to visit campus and feeling part of the student body
  • The misconceptions about the work around online learning is not as bad as it used to be; most students are now familiar with online courses
  • Some student advisers have created a type of “Bingo Sheet” curriculum plan to help students map out their courses
  • A blog can be used to support students and share how they can be involved in the university experience

During the course of conversations, participants gained a greater understanding of the issues to consider and a better familiarity with online student needs such as an awareness of time zones, awareness of the schedules of working adults, special issues of military students, etc. As the forum concluded, attendees identified the following as potential next steps in the effort to support students online:

  • Continue to offer this type of forum on a semester basis to encourage knowledge sharing and gathering
  • Questions to explore:
    • How are various departments leveraging chat features? Can our students do chat with IT help like we can? Are there other uses for chat?
    • How can programs (and ODEE) make use of the data from the student online readiness tool to support students?
    • How could sending a “Student Welcome Package” with Buckeye swag to the homes of new students help them during the “app gap” period?

Stay informed

Stay in touch with ODEE events to be notified of the next Supporting Students Online Forum and other professional learning opportunities by subscribing to the Workshops listserv and/or the Digital Digest.  If you are not a fan of signing up for listservs, you can also see a list of upcoming ODEE events at

UDL picking up steam across OSU campus, reaches students


Over the past year, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has been picking up steam and a growing community across OSU campus. Most recently, it’s even reached our students and the considerations they must make in their future careers.

UDL in a nutshell

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that supports proactively designing learning experiences in order to achieve the highest level of functionality and positive user experience for the widest audience possible. In order for UDL to be effective, it requires purposeful consideration and strategy in all areas of course planning and design. The end result will be online learning that allows students to access, interact, and learn in a variety of ways, addressing the learning styles and learning needs of a wide variety of students.

UDL across OSU

In the past year, ODEE has been recognized by other institutions as a leader in UDL in Higher Education. I have myself presented at several conferences on the topic and worked one-on-one with institutions across the country.

Now as 2016 rolls forward, UDL is building steam across the OSU campus. At the January DELTA Kick-Start week, I presented on some strategies for implementing UDL in course design to approximately 15-20 faculty from across campus. This fall, I was invited to one of the regional OSU campuses to talk with their Agriculture faculty and staff about UDL. Additional training, workshops, and Think Tanks are in the works as a community for UDL grows.

Most exciting…UDL reaches students

Perhaps most exciting is that the concept of the UDL framework is now reaching students. In Autumn 2015 I presented a lecture on UDL to Dr. Kui Xie’s class of future instructional designers and educational technologists. In late January, UDL will be presented to future teachers in Dr. Joni Acuff’s Art Education course. The hope is that these students will move forward into their future careers with the UDL framework in mind, thereby creating stronger, more engaging, and more effective learning experiences for students of any age.

How you can get involved

If you’d like to join a community of UDL thinkers across campus please visit the blog site and watch for UDL-focused ODEE events.

If you would like to request a consultation, workshop, or lecture presentation on how UDL can be implemented in your area or with your students, email

UDL. It’s what’s for dinner.

The OSU Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE) is getting some nationwide recognition for its Universal Design for Learning initiatives.

UDL poster

This year, ODEE staff served up an impactful UDL poster to raise awareness of the power of UDL for OSU’s Innovate Conference. Over the summer, Instructional Designers Jessica Phillips and John Muir were invited to deliver to packed houses the ODEE approach to UDL at both the Distance Learning Administrator’s Conference and at the UW-Madison Distance Teaching and Learning conference. Additionally, EDUCAUSE, one of the largest educational conferences in the world, has invited ODEE to share its work on UDL to an audience of important players in education across the country.

Even individual universities (University of Tennessee-Knoxville and University of Illinois-Springfield) are interested in what ODEE is doing and have requested customized guidance to help their institutions adopt UDL principles and practices. ODEE will visit both universities this fall to work with faculty and staff on integration of UDL and accessibility.

Mini-workshops ODEE will provide these universities include:

  • Easy Integration (integrating UDL/accessibility into workflows)
  • The Art of Building Buy-In (engaging in conversations that change mindsets about accessibility and UDL)
  • Creating Exemplars (giving assignments a UDL makeover and showcasing success)
  • Accessibility Top 5 (key considerations to avoid the top five accessibility pitfalls in online courses)

While ODEE is excited about this nationwide interest, it’s also looking for opportunities to share these practices and principles closer to home with faculty and staff across OSU. If interested in a custom workshop for your department, please email or contact Jessica Phillips (.1507) directly.

In the meantime, check out the ODEE Community for Universal Design and Accessibility or attend our next UDL/Accessibility Think Tank!

First ODEE UDL and Accessibility Think Tank a Success!

ODEE’s first Think Tank was a great success! Jessica Phillips (ODEE Instructional Designer), Ken Petri (Director of Web Accessibility), and Pete Bossley (OCIO Accessibility Analyst) co-facilitated this session, joined by about 15 people from all over campus. These minds came together and first engaged in dialogue around how they define Universal Design for Learning and accessibility. The group stated such things as: designing with all learners in mind, leveling the playing field, designing for maximum usability, and the fact that accessibility considerations benefit all students.


Think Tank group at tables engaging in conversation


The dialogue also brought up areas of common issue, need, or interest for future Think Tanks. Overall what stood out was the importance of designing with accessibility and universal design in mind from the earliest stages of course or program development, the benefit of chunking content into more manageable pieces, using HTML templates that are designed to be accessible, captioning solutions, Read Speaker, and ongoing training.


Think Tank members taking part in dialogue

Stay tuned for information on the next Think Tank, which will be scheduled in early April 2015. In the meantime, feel free to contribute ideas, suggestions, or continue the conversation in our virtual Think Tank or contact Jessica Phillips ( for more information.