Unforeseen expectations for an academic year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic

By Fan XU (xu.3849@osu.edu) and Chenxi Liu (liu.8184@osu.edu)

Fan Xu and Chenxi Liu are second-year Ph.D. students in the Learning Technologies program. In the paragraphs below, they describe their unexpected feelings about their first year of Ph.D. study as international students and different expectations for the upcoming academic year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re the lucky ones but not everyone is so lucky during the pandemic,” says Fan Xu

When the coronavirus outbreak got started, I was enjoying the spring break of my first year of doctoral studies in Learning Technologies at The Ohio State University. My boyfriend and I decided to stay at home spending the three-day break rather than setting out a short trip. Obviously, it was a terrible idea but I had assumed I would be able to go for a better trip at the end of the semester.

All classes were moved online when we went back from the break. My school made a very quick and wise reaction, which I realized much later as the number of confirmed cases increased crazily. The first few weeks of quarantine was not that bad because I had no time to feel bad. Time was spent to get used to establish a new normal: to prepare myself for classes via the camera on my laptop; and to set a Skype account to communicate with my advisor, Dr. Correia, and colleagues for my research assistant job. Many personal issues such as taking the driver’s license exam, going to doctor’s appointments, etc. had to be canceled or suspended.

As the situation in the U.S. had no sign of getting better while the anti-epidemic actions in China made some improvements, many of my friends who are also international students chose to go back to their families in their home countries. This was the time that I began to feel an overwhelming loneliness. Working from home became harder than I expected. I struggled with pulling myself together from anxious and unmotivated emotions again and again. The only thing that stopped me flying back to my family was the danger of contamination with COVID-19 in a crowded airport and narrow airplane.

However, in the long run, that was a wise decision. At the beginning of July, the return to U.S. higher education institutions has been thrown into question for countless international students after a directive by the Trump administration that students whose classes were moving entirely online for the fall would be stripped of their visas and required to leave the United States. Those who were still in the U.S., including myself, would face the possibility that they might be sent to their home countries if they did not have face-to-face or hybrid courses, which were not offered by most schools for safety reasons. This situation made me feel disappointed about this country like never before and it was my first time having the feeling that I may not be able to finish my education here. It seemed that the only thing we could do was wait for the university’s response. This time of waiting made me understand what “leading lives of quiet desperation” in Thoreau’s words means.

Luckily, as a result of the efforts made by many universities, the Trump administration rescinded this policy. We witnessed Ohio State fighting against the outrageous policy for its students, in particular for the international students. Every week we received emails from the Department of Educational Studies and the College of Education and Human Ecology with COVID-19 updates, reminders of important issues, and support for students regarding both distance learning options and student life. Besides the mental and moral support, the emergency funding provided by Ohio State assisted us with unexpected expenses as a result of COVID-19. More importantly, my advisor has kept in close contact with me through virtual meetings or emails and our research groupmates often sent messages to check on each other. As we, international students, are far away from our home, families, and friends, the kindness and care from people around us during the quarantine was crucial to tide us over.

Chenxi and Fan at the Learning & Experience Design research group kick-off meeting of the Autumn 2020 semester.

“We’ll move forward firmly and hope we can inspire more international students like us,” says Chenxi Liu

Although this global pandemic brought some challenges for the first summer of my doctoral journey in the U.S., with the support from my advisor, professors, and school staff, I was lucky enough to keep things going and see how Learning Technologies can contribute to today’s education.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Correia, we examined four popular video conferencing systems for e-learning as part of Fan and my summer research assistantship. With the purposes of education in mind, we provided guidance on selecting video conferencing systems and made recommendations for systems improvement. The rewarding experience of conducting a research project in a short period of time and with an awesome team is something that is going to stay with me for a long time. During the summer and to strengthen my understanding of the K-12 online teaching landscape in the U.S., I took a K-12 online teaching course taught by Dr. Tracey Stuckey-Mickell and addressed current problems related to online teaching and learning. Moreover, I was notified that our proposals were accepted by the 2020 Association for Educational Communications and Technology Virtual Conference. I am honored to be able to make contributes to online education, especially during the pandemic, in which many schools are transforming face-to-face classes into online and virtual classes.

Although this summer, I’ve encountered some uncertainties and challenges when planning for the coming fall semester due to repeated changes of the SEVP guidance issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with the support of our advisor, professors, colleagues, department, college, and university, we were ready to face the upcoming fall semester of 2020.

In summary

Because the pandemic is not over yet, Fan and Chenxi believe that many students will choose to take online classes like them. As international doctoral students, they would like to share their thoughts on successfully completing studies and conducting research in this particular situation.

  • Due to the special status, international students should pay close attention to the policy changes impacting them and follow the information released by the Office of International Students and Scholars and other university-related offices.
  • When you need help, don’t be afraid to ask questions and set up online meetings with your advisor and professors.
  • When designing a research project, consider the possibility of switching from in-person study to remote study.
  • Use your time to learn technology tools that can be used to support remote data collection & analysis as well as research conceptualization.
  • Relax, maintain regular exercise, and keep in contact with your friends and family.

Fan Xu and Chenxi at the 2020 Ohio State’s College of Education and Human Ecology Student Research Forum.

The New Meaning of Ph.D.

By Erin Clarke-Dorrell (dorrell.11@osu.edu)

The last time we posted on this blog, COVID-19 was starting to make its presence more widely known across the globe. We sure did not anticipate still focusing on this topic and the continued impact so many months later. So, you may wonder what it is like being a doctoral student amid a global pandemic. Honestly, the pandemic has not really changed how the members of the LED Research Group continue in our Ph.D. program. Predictably and probably due to the field, our learning technologies courses transitioned fairly smoothly to entirely online learning. Additionally, there is a level of autonomy that governs the work we do as graduate students, leaving little difficulties there. However, it is always nice knowing that we can reach out to fellow research group members and advisor for needed support.

Nevertheless, moving towards the autumn 2020 semester leaves so much uncertainty. That is the reason behind the following tips for being a good doctoral student during a pandemic.

  • Try and set up a dedicated work/study space
  • Ensure everyone in your household knows when you have classes or meetings via Zoom
  • Better yet, play around with the virtual background feature on Zoom
  • Always mute yourself unless you are speaking during virtual classes/meetings
  • Reach out to those in your cohort to keep a sense of community
  • Ask questions about anything you are uncertain
  • Be flexible and know EVENTUALLY this too shall pass

zoom meeting during the pandemic

Given the global pandemic of 2020, upon completion of our programs, I believe that instead of receiving a diploma with a Ph.D. as an acronym for Doctor of Philosophy, it should be Pandemic Henceforth Dedication. We never planned for this to happen, but we have moved forward, embraced all the Zoom meetings, and look towards hope in the future. Learning technologies has been given the opportunity to shine, and we want to make sure that continues to happen.

Prepare, respond and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

In an effort to support our colleagues in China to respond and recover from #COVID19 pandemic, the LED research group created a TOOLKIT for Online Teaching and Learning / 线上教学工具箱

PDF available here.

Given the disruption caused by the #coronavirus #COVID19, the LED research group hopes that these expert-curated resources on online learning and teaching may add a sense of normalcy and social interaction for both the online teachers and learners.

TEACHING ONLINE

8 Tips for Teaching Online- Spoiler: It Gets Better with Time
By Bill Schiano & Espen Andersen (March 2019)
It offers eight intuitive but important tips for preparing, maintaining, and teaching online.

Take your teaching online
By the Open University (OpenLearn) free course

Teaching Online Simplified: A Quick Guide for Instructors
By F. D. Yusop & Ana-Paula Correia (2017)
University of Malaya Press, 110 p. ISBN: 978-983-100-948-2
This book intends to serve as a practical guide or “handbook” for those who have limited or no prior knowledge in teaching and/or education but are interested in online teaching or have to teach online.

TRANSITIONING FROM CLASSROOM TO ONLINE TEACHING

Tracing Successful Online Teaching in Higher Education: Voices of Exemplary Online Teachers
By Evrim Baran, Ana-Paula Correia & Ann Thompson (2013)
The findings of this study indicated that when teachers described their successful practices, they often linked them to their changing roles and new representation of their “selves” within an online environment. Their portrayal of the teacher self, both built on a plethora of previous experiences and reformed with the affordances and limitations of the online environment, went through a process whereby teachers were constantly challenged to make themselves heard, known, and felt by their students. This study showed that it was critical to listen to teachers’ voices and give them a participatory role in the creation and use of their knowledge and experience in order to form their online teacher personas. As a result, programs that prepare faculty to teach online may need to encourage teachers to reflect on their past experiences, assumptions, and beliefs toward learning and teaching and transform their perspectives by engaging in pedagogical inquiry and problem solving.

How to Be a Better Online Teacher ADVICE GUIDE
By Flower Darby (2020)
Discusses 10 essential principles and practices to teach online.

CREATING ONLINE ACTIVITIES

Specific Activities to Promote Online Discussions
By Rhonda Dubec (February 2018)
It provides useful teaching strategies to promote students’ online discussion with several video examples and detailed instructions.

20 Collaborative Learning Tips and Strategies for Teachers
by TeachThought Staff (February 3, 2020)
It offers strategies for collaborative learning that can be used in face to face or online class interactions.

Authentic Online Discussions: A Narrative Inquiry into Sharing Leadership and Facilitation Among Teachers and Students
By Ana-Paula Correia, Cara A. North, Ceren Korkmaz, Vicki Simmerman & Karen Bruce Wallace (2019)
International Journal on E-Learning, 18(2), 165-189.
The literature has tended to focus on the instructor’s role in moderation and facilitation while paying less attention to more student-focused strategies that foster meaningful dialogue and engagement on their part. Centering the learner, this study presents an innovative approach for online discussions, examining a case where online students created and facilitated online discussions for a graduate-level course at a Midwestern research university. The study offers reflections from four graduate students, between the ages of 20-55, who took the course over the past two years, and who have analyzed what they gained from creating and facilitating discussion. These students’ reflections foreground how, by participating in this process, they experienced an authentic sense of connectedness and collaboration, as they had the opportunity to bring their perspectives and priorities to the course and take responsibility for their own and their classmates’ success.

Live synchronous web meetings in asynchronous online courses: Reconceptualizing virtual office hours
By P. R. Lowenthal, J. C. Dunlap & C. Snelson (2017)
Online Learning 21(4), 177-194.
This article discusses how to successfully implement online office hours.

Making the Most of Virtual Office Hours
(2019, January 22)
Austin Community College Speech professor Tasha Davis, Ph.D., shares her experience with hosting virtual office hours and ways to maximize your one-on-one time with students.

QUALITY ASSURANCE FOR DISTANCE EDUCATION

Quality Assurance
By The Ohio State University’s Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE) (2020)
To support instructors and academic units in creating high-quality courses, the ODEE instructional design team has developed a set of internal standards that capture university policies, recent scholarship on student success and feedback from Ohio State faculty collaborators.

DESIGN GUIDELINES

The UDL Guidelines
By the Center for Applied Special Technology Universal Design (2020)
Learn about learning guidelines for Universal Design.
Available in Traditional Chinese
Available in Simplified Chinese

ONLINE TEACHING TOOLS & RESOURCES

Online Teaching Tools and Resources
By Yale University Center for Language Study (2020)
This resource contains a list of free tools and resources for language teachers to use in their classrooms.

Live presentation platforms available in China without VPN
网易云信 https://netease.im/livetool
轻课云 http://www.qingkeyun.cn/

For more information

e-Education Research
The Chinese Journal of ICT in Education

Articles in these high-quality Chinese journals explore teachers’ behaviors when teaching online, teachers & learners’ feedback about online courses, strategies to improve learners’ engagement in online learning, teachers & learners’ role in online learning contexts, among other topics.

“It’s Not Just About Research” says Erin Clarke-Dorrell

By Erin Clarke-Dorrell (dorrell.11@osu.edu)

Erin’s goal after finishing her doctoral degree is to obtain a faculty position somewhere in academia. Her work in the LED Research Group is a great resource that has helped her find her voice and learn how to research collaboratively with others. While that is one component of obtaining tenure and working as a professor, there are two other vital components to the role. Teaching and service are crucial in becoming well-rounded in the realm of academics. For Erin, she has always enjoyed providing service and making a difference in her community. So, she decided to jump into service as a Ph.D. student since she is already working on the research part and soon teaching.

Service in academia looks like many different things. Instead of doing things like walking dogs at the local animal shelter, it is serving on a hiring committee or planning college events. Currently, she serves as the co-chair for the Ohio State’s College of Education and Human Ecology’s Department of Educational Studies Equity, Diversity, and Global Engagement (EDGE) Committee. As a committee, their work focuses on supporting and encouraging critical thinking about issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion across the Department of Educational Studies. Right now, she is spearheading an awareness campaign to bring to light ways in which faculty in the department can support their diverse students.

Ohio State’s College of Education and Human Ecology Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC).

As Erin said, she enjoys being active, so she also was elected and took on the role of chair of the Ohio State’s College of Education and Human Ecology Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC). The Dean, Dr. Pope-Davis, created this council, and its primary function is to support and provide a voice for graduate students across the College. However, they are still trying to navigate how they want to serve the college since the council was just formed this academic year. Additionally, Erin has recently been invited to join the College of Education & Human Ecology first Dean’s Advisory Board. This board is bringing together students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, community advocates to advise the Dean on important matters to the college.

Overall, in being active on a service level, Erin wants to make a difference and leave Ohio State a better place than when she started. Also, she feels privileged in that she can represent the LED Research Group through her service. Working together, for our future, is what it means to connect service and life in a research group.

Sean Hickey, award-wining learning designer joins the LED research group

Sean Hickey is a doctoral student in Learning Technologies at The Ohio State University. Hickey received his B.S. in Biology from The Ohio State University in 1998. After graduation, he worked as a curriculum developer and program director at the Center of Science and Industry, a science museum in Columbus, Ohio. Hickey later moved on to McGraw-Hill Education, where he developed print and digital instructional materials while simultaneously earning his M.A. in Integrated Teaching and Learning from The Ohio State University.

He currently works at Ohio State’s Center on Education and Training for Employment (CETE) as Lead Curriculum Developer. As part of his role, he facilitates item-writing workshops for statewide career-tech end-of-course tests and industry credentialing exams and develops eLearning materials for teachers and subject-matter experts.

An award-winning instructional designer, he is active in the learning-technologies community and has presented at several conferences related to both EdTech/learning technology and learning and development. Most recently, he has presented at the Future of Educational Technology Conference (FETC), the Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC), the eLearning Guild Learning Solutions Conference (LSCon), and OSU’s own Innovate conference, on topics such as assessment strategies, gamification, branching learning scenarios, and inquiry education.

Among his many eLearning projects, Hickey created a software-training game for users of CETE’s WebXam testing system. The game won the “Seasoned Professional” division of Central Ohio ATD’s Look & Learn event. He was also co-creator of an eLearning game about writing multiple-choice test items, called “Multiple-Choice Mayhem,” which was recognized by the Association for Educational Communications & Technology (AECT) as a 2019 Outstanding Digital Learning Artifact and received “Best in Show” at the 2019 Learning Solutions Conference (LSCon) DemoFest.

As part of the research group, Hickey plans to study critical-thinking and non-cognitive skills and how they can be developed or enhanced using technology. He is also currently researching how augmented reality and virtual reality can be used in career-technical education for both training and assessment.

Ana-Paula Correia as invited speaker at Brazilian leading educational research conference

Dr. Correia was the invited speaker for the Special Interest Group in Education & Communication at the 39th Associação Nacional de Pós-Graduação e Pesquisa em Educação (ANPEd) annual meeting in Niterói, Brazil on October 23, 2019. More than 4,000 educators, teachers, educational researchers, post-graduate students, and practitioners who are impacting education in Brazil attended this meeting.

Opening Ceremony @AnpedEducacao on October 21, 2019.

Dr. Correia gave a presentation on her research on online learning and teaching. In particular, she explored research and post-graduate education in online formats in the context of the United States. She delivered this invited talk in her first language, Portuguese.

Screenshot of Dr. Correia’s @AnpedEducacao presentation.

Dr. Correia was hosted by Professor Edméa Santos from the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the Chair for the Special Interest Group in Education & Communication. She networked and discussed issues in online learning in higher education that permeate cultures and countries.

Selfie with Professors Edméa Santos and Cristina D’Ávila.

LED research group welcomes Social Media influencer, Fan Xu

The LED research group welcomes Fan Xu this semester. Fan is a graduate from the University of Hong Kong and a first-year doctoral student in Education, specialization in Learning Technologies at The Ohio State University. She loves sharing her life on social media platform and there are 300,000 Chinese people are watching her Vlog.

Fan received her B. S. in Educational Technology from Shanghai Normal University, China in 2017. She then pursued a M.S. in Information Technology in Education at The University of Hong Kong, specializing in Learning Design Technology. She has contributed to the data analysis of several University of Hong Kong Small Private Online Courses by working as a research assistant at Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative. While studying in Hong Kong, she worked as an instructional designer at a local company that focused on e-learning design and development of Mandarin courses for French adult learners. She also designed and developed online training courses by cooperating with local universities and insurance companies. She has a great passion for optimizing e-learning design to engage and motivate adult learners.

After earning her master’s degree, Fan worked at Southern University of Science and Technology in China where she was involved in several academic projects initiated by the International Centre for Higher Education Innovation under the auspices of UNESCO. During that time, she became interested in MOOC design and assessment in higher education contexts, and she is excited about MOOCs teaching potential, particularly in developing countries.

Chenxi Liu, educational TV & Film director joins LED research group

Chenxi Liu is a doctoral student in Education, specializing in Learning Technologies at The Ohio State University. Liu holds a B.A. in Radio and TV Editing and Directing from Zhejiang University of Media and Communications in China, and an M.A. in Curriculum and Teaching from Bowling Green State University.

Liu has worked as a Chinese language teacher, program co-founder, curriculum developer, and instructional designer. She has also worked in the media industry as a TV director and editor in the field of children’s education & development. Her working experience includes local schools, online learning organizations, and TV & Film.

Driven by her work experience and educational background, Liu desires to explore innovative strategies to promote learners’ motivation and engagement and help them to reach their full potential as 21st-century learners. She wishes to fuse research and practice in educational settings. Utilizing data and cognitive science, she aims to design and develop connected digital learning systems that support learners in various educational pursuits.

Liu’s current research interests include online and mobile learning, collaborative learning, learning design and evaluation, learning experience design, educational technology design and production, and learning analytics and modeling.

The project that Liu is currently working on as part of the LED research group aims to explore learning experience design strategies to improve students’ engagement in mobile-computer-supported collaborative learning.

LED Research Group Impact at 2019 InnovateX

The LED Research Group made an impact at InnovateX on May 16, 2019 at the Ohio State University. We gave two sessions at the conference in the Experience and Excite tracks, and presented our ideas to a packed audience of academics, practitioners, and students.

Our first session was “Digital Engagement: What Students Want from Your Online Class?” In this session, Drs. Ana-Paula Correia and Rick Voithofer hosted a panel of current and former students who had taken online courses for the Master of Learning Technologies at the Ohio State University. The panelists include LED members, Karen Bruce Wallace, Erin Clarke, and Cara North, as well as Anna Leach and Robbie McCord. They shared their thoughts on how to make online classes more engaging. They discussed the technologies and teaching methods they preferred, shared recommendations and solutions to help instructors improve their online teaching, and talked about how they applied their learning beyond their online course. Afterwards, they participated in a robust question and answer session, where they fielded a range of challenging questions from the audience.
Panel on Digital Engagement, May 16, 2019 at InnovateX

Panel on Digital Engagement, May 16, 2019 at InnovateX

Our second session was “Creating Interactive Learning Experiences.” In it, Cara North, incoming LED member Sean Hickey, and Karen Bruce Wallace explored the importance of choice in learning. They examined how choice could improve learners’ engagement, covered principles of using choice in learning, and offered a range of applications in the form of interactive demos. The demos included adventures built in Camtasia and Storyline, Keynote, and Twine.

Creating Interactive Learning Experiences, May 16, 2019 at InnovateX

In addition, the three presenters structured the session around the idea of choice. The audience could choose from whom they wanted to hear, what topics they wanted to be explored, and help to navigate the demos. That way, the audience could experience the power of choice for themselves.

LED had a fantastic time at InnovateX, and hope to return next year!

Making it Through the First Year: An Appreciative Take of the Research Group

By Erin Clarke (clarke.333@osu.edu)

If you are reading this, you may be interested in starting a Ph.D. or how what it is like to be in a research group. Well, I will begin by telling you that being a first-year doctoral student is no joke. It is stressful and draining on many levels, but I can confidently say that being in the Learning & Experience Design Research Group has helped. The LED Research Group offered me the support (both academic and emotional) I needed to get through my first year. When I was accepted into the Learning Technologies Program in the College of Education and Human Ecology (EHE) here at OSU, my advisor told me I would be joining her research group. Honestly, I was intimidated and had no idea what to expect. I falsely assumed that I would have to give up my personal research interests to participate. However, I have learned that a good research group allows each member to contribute their own perspectives to the group’s work.

As a first-year doctoral student, I had very little confidence in my work and not any substantial research to my name. That is okay!! It is thanks to the members of the LED Research Group that I plucked up the courage to create and present my first ever research poster for the EHE Research Forum.

Erin presenting at EHE Research Forum on February 14, 2019.

My advice to anyone joining a research group is to listen and take advantage of the opportunities extended to you through your participation in the group. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a member of the Educational Studies Diversity Committee (EDGE), be working collaboratively on a manuscript for journal submission or soon be traveling to Las Vegas to present at the Association for Educational Communications & Technology conference so early in my doctoral studies. I am so excited that my work with the group this past year culminates this week at the OSU 2019 Innovate conference. It has been one heck of a year, but looking back, I can say it was worth all the hard work, and I look forward to two more years.