In addition to regular participation in the course, the final task to qualify for the badge required completing a final reflection that responded to the following questions:
I. How will you apply the “fundamentals of online teaching” in your own teaching?
In past years I have taught instructional design using the ADDIE framework. As I consider the question of how to apply the Fundamentals of Online Teaching, I believe this model integrated with Bates’ Nine steps to quality online learning provides a structure for how to think about this.
So, for example, as I get ready to develop a course – OL and/or Blended – starting with the first step, ANALYZE THE CONTEXT, I will ask myself the following questions:
What are the environmental considerations for this course and how will the online components work?
Who are my students and what kinds of strategies do I think would best suit their needs?
Are there any colleagues I might be able to work with to develop and/or teach this course?
What resources do I already have and what’s missing?
Are there any new technology tools or strategies that I want to infuse into the course and, if so, how will I prepare to make sure I’m ready to use them effectively?
II. How will you “build rapport” with your distance learners?
I liked the 5 Factors for Building Rapport and put them into an acronym, of sorts, called PROACtive:
POSITIVE ATTITUDE: I will establish this right from the start in my introductory video and model throughout the course
RESPECT: I will both model and clearly articulate my expectations for this in the course environment guidelines.
OPEN COMMUNICATION: I will emphasize at the beginning that I believe in an open communication approach and establish regular virtual office hours
APPROACHABILITY: see above
CARING: I will follow up with students who are missing classes or seem to be having trouble in the course. Use a quick STOP, START, CONTINUE survey on a regular basis to let students know that I care about their learning experience and use their input to improve the course.
I value and currently work hard to develop these factors in my F2F teaching and understand that online, where students can feel alienated, it is particularly important to be intentional about building rapport. In addition to modeling these attributes in my teaching, and using some of the strategies mentioned above, I think paying attention to online attendance and having regular synchronous meetings with students – both team and individual – should help to establish and maintain a good level of interaction and communication
III. How will you “build community” in your online courses?
I am familiar with the COI model and appreciated having a chance to explore more specific ideas about how to implement it in a course. I think the power of this model is that it can used to inform good OL teaching practice and it can be integrated into basically every stage in the ADDIE instructional design process:
ANALYZE: use to frame and develop the questions I listed in the fundamentals section above.
DESIGN & DEVELOP: use as a way of organizing and framing rich social interactions – i.e. levels of interaction: learner to teacher, learner, content, interface – content, and instructional strategies to help engage and build community.
IMPLEMENT: use as a quick formative check for how well the dimensions are being addressed and developed throughout the course
EVALUATE: Use the framework to analyze how well the course supported the cognitive, social and teacher presence dimensions, as well as what areas would need shoring up in a subsequent implementation.
In addition, technology is a major factor in building an infrastructure to support community. For example, tools like email, chat, café forum, bookmarking and web conferencing can reinforce networking and communication within the learning community [i.e. learner-teacher and learner-learner interactions], while the LMS, as the central hub, and a social bookmarking tool like Diigo, or Flipboard can be used to strengthen learner-interface, learner-content and learner-interface interactions.
IV. How will you create a “natural critical learning environment” in your online courses?
I have always been a fan of the Socratic approach and understood its benefits, but was not familiar with the other critical questioning types. While planning I do refer to Bloom’s and so liked that these questions map onto the cognitive levels providing a means for promoting higher order thinking. I think using critical questioning effectively takes some effort time before it becomes a regular habit of practice. This is particularly true for educators who are used to delivering content as opposed to taking students through the more difficult task of getting them to express their understanding [some students just want the easy way out – tell me what I need to learn to pass].
Using a blog as an inquiry journal to document and process students’ learning is a great way to develop critical thinking. From a teacher perspective, another strategy that I have occasionally used, but will be more intentional about in future, is starting off lessons and units with clearly marked thought provoking essential questions or statements to get their attention and hopefully hook them in. In addition, I’ll work to develop divergent and evaluative types of questions to encourage more interactive discussion forums. I've also been thinking that I might have student teams help develop questions and moderate the discussions to tap into topics that are relevant to the their peers and get them more actively involved.
V. How will you create “active, authentic learning environments” in your online courses?
Authentic Learning all the way! This is the area that I plan to focus on most over the next weeks. I believe that infusing authentic learning activities that are experiential and problem based will enhance the cognitive, social, and teaching dimensions of the online community. Like others in the course have expressed, I also think technology can be used to foster authentic learning experiences and, if designed well pull together all of the elements that have been identified in this course as effective OL teaching.
I already integrate a lot of technology into my practice and because of this don’t feel as nervous or intimidated about trying out new tools. Transitioning to authentic learning across all of my courses, however, is going to be much more of a challenge. In my technology course, which is currently my most successful authentic course, my goal has been to help students understand some current trends and get them engaged in action research projects involving a technology implementation in some area that will benefit either their professional development or classroom teaching. Students love this course and constantly tell me how much they have learned.
My goal now is to see if I can create a similar level of authenticity in my other courses. Ed Psychology, for instance, is a dense course that can be dry and overly theoretical. I will use the process I have outlined above to re-evaluate how I am currently teaching this course and then start unit-by-unit [baby steps] to infuse authentic learning activities. My hope is that some day I will be smart enough to create a problematic scenario that encompasses all of the concepts for the entire course, and brave enough to actually do it. I think that would be totally amazing!