Joy and knowledge

#LTTO Learning To Teach Online Q & A

I am currently completing a ‘learning To Teach Online’ MOOC with Coursera and it’s fabulous! Each week, our two course lecturers (Negin and Simon) respond to the top-rated questions of the week in the forums and here are my notes on each of their videos each week.

Week 1 Q & A Video Responses

1- What are some alternatives to video recordings vs audio?

Audio recordings can be great for feedback- rather than typing feedback- especially for online submissions. Audio vs written feedback has been brilliant.

Dropvox can be used for that. Audacity can also be used. Turnitin also offers this audio feedback option.

Some videos can turn into audio easily without taking away from the quality of the learning from it (making it more accessible to learners with low bandwidth at home).

The right tech for the right application, considering where your learners are too. Provide alternatives to videos- audio files and transcripts to provide choice and personalise the learning.

2- What is your suggested structure for setting up online courses?

About/Welcome- housekeeping information:

  • What is the course about?
  • What is the philosophy behind the course- individual, collaborative, self-directed, lead etc.
  • Information about the assessment- late penalties
  • Any policies that affect the students’ behaviour online
  • Links to specific things they can readily access- an extension form, attendance policies etc.
  • Consistency in materials should be aimed for. Consistent in terms of module/weekly structure so they become used to knowing where to go

Consider what you’re trying to achieve- set learning outcomes and consider the activities learners will be involved in.

A place for the students to talk to one another, get to know each other (an icebreaker activity) and ask questions.

An icebreaker gets them beginning to post and communicate with one another- recommendations should be made for them to respond to each other too.

Documents, assessments, lectures in different places if you want BUT Introduction, discussion, assessment, review gives a clearer structure.

Ensure you use the right language- if you’ve called it a forum on the site, don’t refer to it as a discussion board in a different place- this creates confusion.

3- What are different approaches to using videos in online courses, and which are most effective for different purposes?

Consider the length of the video: 5-7mins. As short as it can be for a segment.

Make the purpose of the video very clear.

Make the process of watching a video more active- prompt questions to discuss in a forum/ post on a wiki/ note things in a blended environment to discuss in class.

Open Educational Resources- explore these so that students are exposed to different voices as well as videos that we can’t re-create ourselves easily.

Give feedback via video to engage learners- share this with a class as a way for everyone to see what to do/avoid.

VoiceThread– allows you to have a conversation using videos- leave video/audio comments on a piece of work.

4- Building trusting relationships with students in a fully online course

It depends on the type of course you’ve set up. You need to set up situations that give a reason for them to talk to each other- discussion, collaboration and peer feedback.

There can be more time to get to know learners online rather than face-to-face.

Everyone has a voice- this is a huge advantage for building relationships with learners online.

Model communication- make students’ names bold for instance. Tell them what respectful engagement means and foster activities that give them a chance to do that.

If it’s mostly a text medium to communicate then the visual cues and the intonation of your voice are missing.

Be careful in terms of how you’re phrasing things- use emoticons to help set the tone of what you’re communicating.

Audio feedback on work helps to build the relationships.

Don’t be afraid to inject some of your own personality into the course.

Be yourself. Be clear and foster engagement and interaction.

Week 2 Q & A Video Responses

1- Video Recordings- Hardware

  • Live filming- smartphones are good these days

Consider the light and sound quality.

Sound- USB microphones can usually do a good job- better than on your computer microphone.

Record the screen- Camtasia/screenflow/keynote/quicktime pro with plugged in external mic

Splice app- smartphone editing without having to download to PC.

Lighting- floor lamps to fill shadows will work

Take a look at this iBook on lighting and this YouTube playlist

2- How can you best develop online learning for students with low levels of independence? (my submitted question was answered!)

The main to consider is providing enough support- so they don’t feel they’re learning alone/in isolation. They shouldn’t feel like they’re conquering their fears/challenges on their own.

Conduct an online icebreaker of some kind- low tech and low stake in order to introduce them gradually to the online environment.

If it’s a blended course then use it in the classroom to model it. Acknowledge the stress points too- ask learners what they’re fears are.

Keep a simple structure and keep the engagement with the content familiar/ in the same type of format. Create consistency in the programme- so they don’t have to keep getting used to new technologies.

Bringing in past students to share their experiences/act as mentors- create videos and share them so that new students ca see how they might overcome the same barriers.

Try to spot any emerging problems as soon as you can so that you can adapt to them early on. Make yourself able to respond quickly to the learners’ needs.

3- Which platform better allows the use of a MOOC with interactivity?

Qualtrics for quizzes

Articulate Storyline for animations

Smart Sparrow– adaptive learning scenarios

Think about what you want your interactivity to be and then see how it plugs into something else. The MOOC platform has to be able to get the information from the outside tool so that you can obtain the data.

Ultimately, you can design an activity to be interactive/not depending on how you set it up. You can use something like a blog/a wiki and this can be made very interactive through the use of peer assessment for instance. It isn’t the tools necessarily but how you choose to use them.

4- Boundaries when supporting online discussions

How do we make it interactive without burning ourselves out?

Manage the students’ expectations from the start.

Weekdays- expect a response within 48 hours

Weekends- expect a response within 72 hours

If it’s less, then great, but at least they know what to expect.

Perhaps a Q and A forum is somewhere you’re more active and other discussions may encourage more interaction between learners instead if you post less.

Share a document- what we expect from you as the student in discussions and what you can expect from me as the teacher. Modelling behaviour in this space is good practice too- setting the tone, type of language, citing sources etc.

5- Means for checking digital literacy level

Students may say they have the skills but they don’t really know what it means.

Set-up an activity that allows them to work with the tools you’re planning for them to use on the course.

Create a digital portfolio on a website that introduces themselves to the rest of the group- for example.

Setting up a blog for instance.

If people have difficulties then it emerges during this non-assessed part of the course.

Always provide the instructions in case they’re needed.

Before the submission of the first assignment- everyone does a dummy run to upload a document and submit it- this reduces the stress of using technology at assignment hand-in deadline.

Keep your eye on who is engaging with technology and not and keep communicating with them about it to understand the problems they may be experiencing.

6- Handling Copyright for Online Courses

Speak to librarians and other copyright experts so that you can observe the rules in your country effectively.

Explore what the licence is around what resource you want to use.

Explore Creative Commons Licences here to ensure you’re attributing the source where necessary.

‘I found it on the internet, so I can use it’- is definitely wrong!

You should still site sections you copy from websites etc.

If you are in doubt, link to the website rather than copying it all into your own website.

I appreciate the consistent structure of each of the modules on this MOOC. It really helps me to navigate the content effectively. One barrier I may face is getting through the recommended reading when I am back at work again next week, although I do have train journeys to fill!

Week 3 Q & A Video Responses

1- How do we keep pace with current web 2.0 technology?

We might finally get our heads around something and then find it’s not really being used anymore. Where can we go to find what’s current?

Horizon Reports are recommended as a source to maintain our awareness of new and emerging technologies in general.

Take a look at the top 100 tools for learning blog too.

Join PLNs too- classroom 2.0 for instance

2- Group Projects in the Online Learning Environment

There might be different levels of commitment to the course so collaboration may become a huge challenge.

I tell them at the start of the class that everything they do in the space is recorded so that contributions can be seen. Set up a discussion forum for each group for instance. If they use Skype of other technologies then they’re asked to contribute to the forum to summarise the conversation they had elsewhere. Each person in the group has a role- they create a timeline for the project with milestones but they also create a back-up plan- should a student not meet the milestone demanded of them.

We have the role to intervene where groups are not making progress- perhaps if one learners posts and doesn’t get a reply.

Teacher presence is vital- we need to be in that space and comments from us are good too for motivating the groups.

Set rules for students to get in touch if there has been a problem so that communication is open and helpful from the start- there’s accountability.

Ensure you explain to the student what ‘good online teamwork’ looks like- what are our expectations and what are we going to be looking for/assessing them on? Make groupwork relevant- indicate how it connects to their future careers.

Provide support as working in a group- in any context may be new/difficult for them.

3- What is scenario based training?

Providing a scenario and asking students to solve the problem.

It can be used in training- practical/real-life/authentic scenarios are given.

Have a discussion around their proposed solutions.

It’s a way to make the learning experience more authentic- there’s more thinking rather than theoretical and something they’re being told to do.

Sometimes knowledge is still given and sometimes it’s based on what they already know.

It’s applying knowledge in the real-world- in a way that makes sense to the scenario they’re in. It’s not cold recalling of facts.

4- this was about the next assignment so probably not that relevant to you here!

5- How to generate an online community when students can start at any time?

It is a challenge!

If you have a cohort tracking through a course together then you can engage them in talking about the same topics every week.

Think about what you want them to get out if the community- is it a place they ask questions and wait for someone to respond?

How many people are going to be in there at the same time?

Is it optional?

Do you NEED to community there? What are the learning outcomes and how are you designing the course?

Perhaps open their view to other, external networks that could support their studies?

You need to ensure there is real value to be had by them engaging in the online community. That they get something they wouldn’t have otherwise got.

Week 4 Q & A Video Responses

1- The Dangers of Teaching Online

Am I going to distract them/put them in compromising situations?

Like anything in life, there are pros and cons to it.

Considering the why for using technology helps with this. If they’re going to the educational app within class then it’s for a reason and there’s a destination/outcome- this helps to keep them focused on using that specific activity only.

There’s always been a more interesting book/a more interesting person- distraction has always existed beyond learning. Simon suggests that distraction can be a good thing- if they look elsewhere or stumble across other things then it could also inform their learning.

Too many technologies too fast can cause angst and worry for learners- building competence and capability gradually avoids the danger of disengagement for learners in that sense. This prevents them from thinking it’s a gimmick- there is a purpose that relates to the rest of their learning.

2- Is it acceptable to make changes to your course after launching?

Preparation is key with online but if there’s an error or something to be improved then the best policy is to be honest about it and also to respond to learner feedback- but this is to a degree.

Getting feedback a few weeks into a course is useful so that you can make changes where possible and therefore impact their learning experience positively. If you can’t act on their feedback immediately then it can be acted upon for future courses.

If you don’t release the course content all at once then that can help as tweaks can be made far more easily as the course progresses.

3- Do rubrics guide student behaviour?

Students can self -assess more easily with rubrics and without them, this is far less possible.

Sometimes, rubrics can be quite restrictive. Sometimes, solutions can’t be fit into a grid. If it’s too heavily detailed then this can be a barrier.

A suggestive guide/holistic approach can be more beneficial.

Providing a rubric that incorporates the skills and abilities of all learners is important too- so that students are sufficiently and suitably challenged.

Rubrics definitely helps with giving efficient feedback as the lecturer as well as self and peer assessment.

4- What is the ideal time duration for a podcast? 

5-7 minutes generally gives consistent engagement- it doesn’t drop off as much as it used to.

Aim for short and broken-up into sections with space for learners to pause if you’re aiming for something longer.

5- How to address risks associated with open access technologies whilst designing an online activity

The risks are often associated to the lack of institutional support for the technology.

The first step would be for the educator to try it for themselves first and do a trial run with the activity to ensure that I understand the pitfalls and work-arounds for the kinds of things they might ask. A troubleshooting guide can be useful as a result of this work but at least you’re able to support the learners. At least know where to go for such help- is the tool on Twitter- how else can they be contacted for help? Are there YouTube videos/forums/blogposts created by other educators that could help?

Digital tattoo rather than digital footprint- what you do online can be permanent!

Week 5 Q&A Responses

This week the two lecturers used Google hangouts as Simon was in Singapore- living proof of how they can be used to good effect!

1- Are videos assessed in a less nuanced way than written work?

Ensure the criteria is clear for video submissions. Offer the opportunity to submit responses by video or written responses.

You can’t assess video quality unless you’ve said you will in the rubric/criteria, in which case you need to offer guidance of what you expect- related to lighting, camera angle, background, sound etc.

Give advice to students that they need to plan what they want to say before recording so that the message is clear and succinct so that we can just focus on content (otherwise the quality of the video will be distracting).

2- Dealing with differing attitudes to online and blended learning

The question came from a student whose lecturers have varied approaches to online learning- some making great use of it and others not using it at all.

Advice was for students to check their institution’s strategy documents to see what the expectations are. Downloading course outlines was a recommendation too as there would be a description of the course and what they’re doing with technology. These suggestions will help students to find a course and university that suits them in terms of the level of technology use.

If institutions don’t start using technology in more advanced ways, there was a hope from my MOOC lecturers that educators of the future won’t feel threatened by technology over their roles. It won’t EVER take away the instructor as you still need a course designer and deliverer as the experience won’t be there for the students. How best to use the technology should be the lecturers’ sole concern. Other comments were that some institutions’ business will be threatened if technology isn’t embraced. Change is a natural progression.

3. This video was related to the MOOC course resources availability.

4. What are some effective plan B strategies in case technology breaks down during an assessment?

Do a test prior to the final so the learners and you can have a trial-run before it’s a high stakes assessment. Ensure they use the same computer, internet access and browser they intend to use for the final assessment so there won’t be additional variables.

Provide a longer time limit either side of the specified time in case things go wrong.

Provide advice about where to go for technical support if things do go wrong. Ensure that learners are aware of all of the Plan Bs in advance so that as soon as something goes wrong, they know what to do.

5- Can you recommend online course analytics?

It depends what you want to know…

Negin says she wants to know if people haven’t been logging on or looking at things so I can contact them and see what’s going on with them. Anything that can give you names and last logged in dates etc. is great. She currently uses Moodle for this. In an ideal world, there would be a report that would pull the learners who haven’t accessed for a period of time (this would be better than what Moodle provides- who has accessed rather than hasn’t). We’re often limited by what our LMS can provide in terms of analytics.

Week 6- Q&A Responses

1- What have been the challenges and pleasures of teaching this MOOC?

Pleasures- so many participants are still actively engaging.The MOOC is flexible- some finished early, whereas others continued throughout.Lots of sharing of ideas is taking place in the forums and through engagement in peer assessments. The Facebook group is really active and full(over 5000 members). Q&As every week have been a highlight- it’s made it less lonely and hopefully made the course relevant as our important questions have been answered.

Challenges- technical in the background but relatively happy with how that’s gone for the number of participants.

2-Making an effective assessment rubric for online courses

Return to the alignment- what are the learning outcomes you’d like the assessment to address? Once this is established thenyou can develop the standards associated with this.

It’s difficult to get it right the first time and as soon as you begin using it with your students, you can discover how to improve it based on their interaction with it.

If it’s pass/fail then it’s easier but if it’s a larger spread of grades then you need to consider how many standards exist and then the nuances of how these are met at each grade/level.

Holistic rubrics– one mark given to the entirety of a piece of work.

Analytical rubrics– considers every specific standard and a mark is given for each part.

3- Scripting considerations for instructional videos

The intro to module videos and concept videos- they worked hard to script those and they even used an autocue via an iPad held above the camera. They wanted to be as clear and concise as possible- distilling the important information. We tried at first to do bullet points and off the cuff but it didn’t work quite as well.

 Case study videos-prepared questions were taken along to the interviews but the teachers responded more naturally.

Q&A Videos: are not scripted- more personal between them and us- more spontaneous responses to our questions.

Considerations teachers should make:

  • Keep them short to maintain engagement
  • Be clear about your aims and points before speaking to reduce the number of takes
  • Scripting can be word for word OR the main points you want to hit:is it something you’ll keep and use over and over again or is it feedback to students you’re just going to do once? This is an investment of your planning time.
  • Find somewhere quiet as it breaks the flow- therefore it can affect engagement
  • Come across as engaged as possible- put your personality into it- try not to read from cues
  • If you don’t have much lighting equipment,use natural light outside

Content delivery(that you’ll likely use again) aim to avoid any errors over words and stumbling etc. Practice it if possible to avoid too many stumbles-if it’s constant throughout then it’s off-putting to the viewer.

Involving others in the video versus a single person. Having two people provides more humanity and interest (because the focus changes). Having that difference of opinion in live discussions is useful too.

4- Evaluating quality using national or international standards or frameworks

Look for standards for online learning in your own country.

Quality Matters is a great criteria for developing and subsequently assessing online courses.

If the course sits within the institution then you should establish with the staff there, the expectations for quality there.

5- Demographics of the LTTO learning community

Just shy of 12,000 learners join the MOOC-167 countries, 37% from emerging economies

US- 18%

Australia- 12%

Then India, then the UK

7000 have engaged in the course and this is much better than the original MOOC.

643 people signed up to signature track (which means they’ve paid for certificates)

47% male, 53% female participants

A lot more of data gets compiled over the next couple of months and this will design future iterations of this MOOC.

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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Aligning technology with the world of work. Jisc, 2015

In my role as Learning and Development Manager at Reading College, I contributed to a Jisc case study on education technologies and professional development for the publication, Technology for employability: FE and skills case studies, 2015.