OTL301 Post 6 – Full Circle

Having come to the end of these 3 courses, the main way my thinking has changed is in realizing that teaching an online course is not as simple as just transferring the content and teaching style associated with a face-to-face course. On-line teaching, and specifically, building a Community of Inquiry requires a completely different teaching approach.

An important lesson that I learned is how powerful the design of the course can be. The way that I structure my course objectives, assignments, discussion questions (and whether grades are associated with discussion forums) sets the foundation for helping (or hindering!) my students reach the deeper levels of thinking. Yes, the students have to motivate themselves and put in the effort, but the desire to do that is inextricably linked with the instructor and the design of the course.

Moving forward, I really want to contemplate how I can help my students reach the integration and resolution phases. This is a bit difficult to do in terms of course design because I did not have the opportunity to participate in the design of my course, but I can certainly strive to meet that goal through the way I interact with my students in the discussion forums, the way that I give them feedback on assignments, and the little “extras” I create for them (e.g., videos). I’d really like to be able to create short videos to share with my students but right now that doesn’t seem possible because the learning platform we use will not support uploading a file that size. It’s frustrating to bump up against technological obstacles such as that, however, I will persevere and get creative (if any of you have suggestions, I’m all ears!).

I’ve learned a lot from these three courses, and am happy to have had the opportunity to participate in them. Reading the material and then having to post about it and read others’ reflections has helped me to integrate my learning and start building a toolbox of on-line teaching skills. Thank you!

OTL301 Post 5 – Reflections

I did indeed engage in each of the phases of critical inquiry. I don’t know that I resolved any specific problems but I have definitely evolved in my thinking about on-line teaching. Learning about the Community of Inquiry and the different phases of critical inquiry created a different perspective (much more in-depth) for me to use when approaching my on-line course. In addition, going back and reading all of my posts and having to classify them into the different phases once again helped me think more deeply about the on-line teaching process…am I helping my students reach each phase? Are there certain phases in which I am lacking? etc.

Looking at how I’ve classified each of my posts (into which phase) I think I’d like to focus a bit more on the resolution stage – for myself and also in terms of helping my students reach that stage – to me, this is the best kind of learning and I want to find ways to motivate my students to experience that!

As for engaging with my students, I’ve definitely learned that it can be more difficult but certainly not impossible within a continuous enrollment course. I have been utilizing a welcome letter and make sure to check student forum/discussion posts every 2-3 days. I try and reply to at least 75% of them – I want to be involved but I also don’t want to seem like a helicopter parent having to comment on each and every thing they’ve said…I want them to blossom their own conversations. So far it seems to be going well. I’m impressed with how often some of the students post and respond to posts and am humbled by the life experiences they have had and are willing to share within the course context.

I think an open platform is useful for learning and discussion although I don’t really like having my thoughts/feelings/musings accessible to so many people – personally, I prefer to have it more contained. I do however see the benefit in having a large group of people who can respond and ultimately, the larger group allows for more perspectives to be shared and more learning to be achieved.

OTL301 Post 4 – Interview Time!

For this post, I interviewed the instructor who was assigned to me as my senior on-line faculty member. She has taught on-line continuous courses for a number of years and was kind enough to offer her perspective. I asked her the following questions:

  • What strategies do you use to promote community and connection in a continuous entry course?
  • What strategies do you use to facilitate integration (integrating new knowledge into previously held knowledge) and resolution (triggering new questions about the material and its relevance to other subjects/aspects of life; resolution of previously held questions) of the course material?
  • Are there any specific digital tools that you use to support your students integrate and expand on their new knowledge?
  • Are there any areas with which you struggle when delivering a continuous entry course?

One of the key points that came from this interview is that promoting community, connection, integration, and resolution within a continuous enrollment course is a struggle! Because everyone is at different points in the course, videos you post and discussion questions you ask may not be relevant to each student. If you don’t have a lot of students registered for a period of time, then discussion can be almost non-existent and they have to scroll back to answer a much older post; the person who posted it may no longer be enrolled in the course or may have moved on from that section and not bother to answer. The instructor I interviewed mentioned that she’s found discussions are more involved when participation counts for part of the final course grade (thankfully, this is the case in my course!) and if that’s not the case, she suggested posting discussion questions similar to what students will encounter on the final exam (and letting them know that this is the case).

I was anticipating that the instructor would state that involvement in discussions was the area with which she struggled the most so I was surprised when she answered that what she struggled with the most was getting students up and running in the course and then keeping them on-track to actually complete the course. She suggested sending them a welcome email as soon as they register. This is something that I already do. I also will send them (future tense because I don’t yet have any students who have reached this point) an email letting them know when they are halfway through their allotted completion time and again when they have 1 month left to complete the course. Something I hadn’t contemplated which she suggested was that in addition to sending them a welcome email, to try and connect with them again after 2-3 weeks if you haven’t heard from them (and to continue to do so for 6-8 weeks). I haven’t been monitoring who has logged on to the course website and who hasn’t, so I think this is something I will begin to implement. One other thing she suggested which resonated with me was to send correspondence to both their TRU and personal emails because often the less engaged students don’t even realize that they have a TRU email account!

I’m glad I had the opportunity to interview this instructor – it helped me to feel confident about some of the things I was already doing and opened my eyes to some new approaches!