In this post I will provide examples/ activities that illustrate how I would apply each of the ten best practices for teaching online (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016).
BP1: Be Present at course site
“Research has suggested three types of presence: Social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence” (Boettcher &Conrad, 2016, p.46). For students to be successful in online courses, they must make a social connection with their educator, conveying the first type of presence has to begin early in the course. Thus, my first activity will be getting to introduce ourselves. In the first part of the activity I will provide a welcome video that includes my picture, credentials, contact information, and other appropriate information about myself . In the second part, I will create an introductory forum and name it the “Class Photo Album”, in this forum each learner has to post his/her photo and a short biography, the learner can post a video, audio or simply a written format for his/her biography.
Students need to have a sense that their educator is available, which implies educator to communicate with learners via posts, audio messages, announcements, phone calls, or synchronous video calls using Skype or Oovoo for instance (Boettcher &Conrad, 2016). To convey teaching presence, I will post a video announcement to my class once each week, telling students what they will be covering during the week and reminding them of any due dates or important course information. I will provide timely responses to emails or questions posed in the discussion forums within 24 hours to promote a faculty-learner dialogue. If I can’t respond to the students within that time frame, I let them know when I will provide a more detailed response (Tech BB, n.d.). In addition, in the discussion forum I will regularly post information about real-world or current event topics related to subject matter, that will give learners a sense of presence and enable them to make a connection with the content they are learning. I will be contributing to discussions through responding to students’ posts and asking further questions.
Cognitive presence is “the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse in a critical community of inquiry” (Epigeum, 2014). To convey cognitive aspects, I will clearly articulate what a student is expected to know at the end of each unit. integrate effective content to explain core concepts and provide multiple checkpoints after each crucial concept that enable learners to assess their understanding. I will assign a concept map activity, learners are to develop this map using online using platforms such as Bubblus and Mindmeister . The activity will be carried out throughout the course time, learners are to edit this map after each unit. By completing the map, learners will identify connections, apprehend new knowledge more deeply, and as the map grow, they will see what they are learning.
BP2: Create a supportive online course community
In order to build an online community, the educator must design a course that promotes learner to learner dialog (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016). In my opinion there are three activities that should be incorporated to foster that dialog. Firstly, develop a strong social ice-breaking activity, one valuable suggestion that I would like to incorporate in my future online courses is “Two Truths and One Lie”, the activity was described by Bonk and Dennan as follows, each learner must post two truths and one lie about him/her. Other participants will then try to determine which one is the lie (2007), the activity can help learners to become acquainted to one another. Secondly, deploying an informal forum similar to the coffeeshop forum of the PIDP courses. In this forum, learners are allowed to socialize by having some personal chats or by sharing personal experiences or social events. Together with the formal discussion forum that provide segmented areas to discuss course content, they will help to reduce learners’ feeling of isolation (Poe & Stasson, n.d.). The last activity, is to incorporate at least one group-work assignment among my assessment plan, collaborative assessments have the advantage of enhancing learners’ connections and communications.
BP3: Develop a set of explicit expectations for your learners and yourself as to how you will communicate and how much time students should be working on the course
Students in online courses in particular need clear information about course requirements and instructor expectations. Thus, I will design a course outline that include the expected number of hours, the learning outcomes of each module, the complete list of assignments, grading guidelines, virtual office hours, when to expect responses for their inquiries, and various course conventions/ terms such as IDE that stands for Integrated Development Environment i.e. the platform used to write, compile, and run codes. In addition, I will use the LMS calendar to chart the course materials and assignments that should be done week by week. I will post few screen castings that show learners how to carry out course tasks and deal with the LMS, for example how to post messages and homework assignments or how to access course readings and take online quizzes. Beside developing detailed rubrics to specify assessments’ criteria, I will provide a “Gallery” link that provide examples of past students’ work so current learners understand what the kinds of work is expected.
BP4: Use a variety of large group, small group, and individual work experiences
According to authors, variety gives learners the opportunity to tap into their skills and learning capabilities (Boettcher &Conrad, 2016). There are different learning activities for different size groups i.e. individual work, small groups, and large groups.
For individual work, I will ask each learner to solve small scale problem work sheets. That will enable each learner to apply programming statements, assess their understanding and enable me to support individual students in a better way. As for small groups, learners can develop a small group-project for a given case, or part of system to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the material. For large groups, I will divide the class into two groups and assign each group a side of a debate. The “pro” group will argue for an algorithm, the “con” group will argue against it. For one week, each of the two groups will carry out their discussions and collect information that formulate their debate position in a closed forum i.e. seen only by group member. At the end of this stage, each group should come up with a list of points that will be posted to support their argument. For another week, on daily basis a learner or two are in charge of carrying out the debate , assigned debaters are set by educator at earlier stage of course. The final part of assignment implies each group to prepare a position paper addressing how the group used theory and research from the course and additional sources to formulate their debate position, what were the strengths and limitations of their arguments, as well as those of the opposition.
BP5: Use synchronous and asynchronous activities
Synchronous activities humanize the course (Poe & Stasson, n.d.). Thus, I am planning to embed few live activities into my courses. For instance, I can invite an expert to provide a short synchronous session on a topic related to subject matter, then post an archive of the session and ask learners to reflect on this learning activity. Important points to consider when embedding live/synchronous activities, first, each activity should be scheduled at the beginning of course so learners make arrangement to participate. Second, synchronous live sessions shouldn’t exceed an hour. Third, there should a specific agenda posted ahead so that the discussion stays relevant. And last, an archive for each live session should be posted to enable learners who have fallen behind to catch up (Kelly, 2009, November 23).
BP6: Ask for informal feedback early in the term
The majority of educators administer an mid-term course feedback survey to gauge how well the course is going mid-way through the semester but these surveys are considered “post-mortem evaluation” i.e. happen after the fact (Boettcher &Conrad, 2016). Thus, the authors recommend to start feedback earlier by week 2 of a fifteen- week course or midweek of first week in 6-8-week courses (Boettcher &Conrad, 2016). For application, I will ask my learners to post one-minute reflection and muddiest point papers using e-mail or threaded discussion forums on weekly basis that will enable me to resolve conflicts earlier and adjust my teaching to support my learners.
BP7: Prepare discussion posts that invite responses, questions, discussions, and reflections
One of the best activities that I experienced as a learner in my PIDP 3250 was allowing learners to facilitate a discussion forum. I will emulate this activity to serve my subject matter. Early in the course I will post course topics/algorithms. Ask each learner to facilitate one of the topics in discussion forum at a certain period of time, that implies him/her to prepare material, pose open-ended questions to make other participants critically reflect on the material and synthesize it with their own experiences, the facilitator should provide timely and responsive relies during the facilitation period to encourage learners to participate. My role will be to monitor discussions and intervene if the discussion is veering off in the wrong direction or if an inaccurate information is given. At the end of this learning activity, the facilitator would provide a report document that summarizes discussion and conclusion, the document can be a study resource for all participants.
BP8: Search out and use content resources that are available in digital format
Media, such as pictures, charts, animations, audio, and videos can be accessed by learners more frequently as they are available in digital format (Boettcher &Conrad, 2016). Developing quality online materials can be time consuming, and thus, the authors recommend searching Creative Commons (CC) materials to be used in online courses. I will develop an online group wiki where I together with other collogues insert links to good programming resources and Here are initial digital resources for us to start up the search for different digital format content.
• Meta-indexes such as Google (Advanced Search)
• Images such as Flickr and pintrest
• sounds such as Freesound
• videos such as Vimeo, YouTube, and Ted Talks.
• Books and Textbooks such as OpenStax
• Open Educational Resources such as MIT OpenCourseWare, The Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative (OLI) , MERLOT , Coursera , Code Academy, A Byte of Python , LearnPython, Learn Ruby the Hard Way .
BP9: Combine core concept learning with customized and personalized learning
Dewey wrote “Relate the school to life, and all studies are of necessity correlated” (Dewey, 2008). That best practice re-emphasizes the importance of applying concepts in real-life applications and giving learners the choice. For application, I will design an activity where learners will play the role of a system analyst, they are to be asked to develop an analysis for a small-scale system relevant to their personality or experience. It can for a bookstore, car renting service, coffee shop, restaurant, small-scale company etc.,. For the selected system the learner will collect information, develop the requirement specifications, analyze the system, and use-case diagram for design. That practice will create a sense of autonomous, competent, relatedness which will enhance learners’ intrinsic motivation
BB10: Plan a good closing and wrap up activity
Closure creates a lasting impression. One common wrap-up activity is to ask learners to summarize what they’ll remember most from the course. Another is having students write a post to future students, giving them advice on how they can do well in the course. This will give learners a chance to reflect on what they’ve learned. With the permission of some learners, I could share some of the good post with future students.
I read an interesting idea that make this wrap up activity more engaging, it implies giving each learner a “fortune” created by another participant, each of these fortunes has a summary of a key lesson from the class or a quote that reflects the course content. Curiosity will make learners more interactive, in addition, they will provide a higher quality posts i.e. learners tend to care more for publicly shared posts. The activity will be held in the discussion forum “Fortunes”, it will enable me to gauge strengths and weakness of learning for future courses (TILT, 2017, April 24).
- Boettcher, J. V. & Conrad, R.-M. (2016). The Online Teaching Survival Guide (2nd ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Dennen, V. & Bonk, C. (2007).We’ll Leave the Light on for You: Keeping Learners Motivated in Online Courses, Flexible Learning in an Information Society [IGI-global](pp. 64-76). DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-325-8.ch006
- Dewey, J. (2008). The School and the Society (Indian ed.) [Google Books]. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/
- Epigeum Ltd. (2014). Establishing a cognitive presence. Retrieved from https://leocontent.acu.edu.au/file/ccbe60fc-4a3c-4a2c-a80e-286a4946a9f3/1/html/ote_2_40.html
- Kelly, R. (2009, November 23). Synching up with Your Asynchronous Learners. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/synching-up-with-your-asynchronous-learners/
- Poe,M. & Stasson, M.(n.d.). Teaching and Learning Online: Communication, Community, and Assessment. University of Massachusetts Amherst. Retrieved from https://www.umass.edu/oapa/oapa/publications/online_handbooks/Teaching_and_Learning_Online_Handbook.pdf
- Tech BB. (n.d.). 20 Best Practices and Expectations for Online Teaching. Retrieved from https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/1068822/pages/20-best-practices-and-expectations-for-online-teaching
- TILT. (2017, April 24). Course Closure – the 2017 version with emphasis on Metacognition [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://uminntilt.com/2017/04/24/course-closure-the-2017-version-with-emphasis-on-metacognition/