July 17

Online Class Size

Online class size is complex question. Student learning needs vary by educational level, demographic characteristics, level and complexity of the subject/discipline, faculty teaching methods, and university policies. All this impacts the optimal number for course enrollment. Student competencies, faculty preparation, learning/teahiching expectations, and pedagogical variations bring additional confounding complexities to the determination of class size and the impact on faculty workload.

If my online course were to have 95 students, it would probably kill me and my husband would definitely leave me. My graduate-level course is not designed for 95 students. It is more of a seminar designed optimally for 10-12 learners. It is high touch and relies on lots of interaction and projects, with lots personalized/individualized audio and video feedback. But, I have taught the same course as a professional development workshop with 78+ students… it was a totally different experience –Same content, but activities, interaction, expectations, and my involvement and feedback were different.

The best/most current peer-reviewed study that I have found on this topic was published in the OLC Online Journal in 2019. One Size Does Not Fit All: Toward an Evidence-Based Framework for Determining Online Course Enrollment Sizes in Higher Education.

(citation: TAFT, Susan H.; KESTEN, Karen; EL-BANNA, Majeda M.. One Size Does Not Fit All: Toward an Evidence-Based Framework for Determining Online Course Enrollment Sizes in Higher Education. Online Learning, [S.l.], v. 23, n. 3, sep. 2019. ISSN 2472-5730. Available at: <https://olj.onlinelearningconsortium.org/index.php/olj/article/view/1534>. Date accessed: 17 july 2020. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v23i3.1534).

The researchers conducted a synthesis from 43 recent higher education journals, yielding 58 evidence-based articles. And found that no one size fits all.

“Small class sizes (≤ 15 students) are indicated for courses intending to develop higher-order thinking, mastery of complex knowledge, and student skill development. Pedagogical intent should dictate class size” (p. 188).

“Evidence from our research review justifying large enrollments in online courses aligned with pedagogies for foundational and factual learning—that is, those requiring relatively low levels of critical thinking; limited personalized interaction with faculty, little individualized instruction, formative feedback, sense of community, or shared knowledge creation; and less higher order thinking, intellectual challenge, skill development, problem-solving, research and writing, journal reflection, or faculty-moderated discussions (El Tantawi et al., 2015; Haynie, 2014; Holzweiss et al., 2014; Mandel & Sussmuth, 2011; Maringe & Sing, 2014; Ravenna, 2012; Rees, 2017; Taft et al., 2011). Foundation-level learning can rely on lecture- and testing-centered pedagogies that emphasize content recall and demonstration of knowledge at the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (Pelech et al., 2013). Many college courses involve basic levels of learning that can be managed in large classes” (p. 218).

Table 7 (pgs 223-4) provides some recommendations on Student Enrollment Sizes by Learning Needs and Pedagogical Strategies, with Course Examples and Table 8 (pgs 225-6) provides an Implementation Rubric for Experimentation with Class Size Decisions, that you may find useful.

Here are some recent articles and tips on the topic:


Articles

Online College Classes Should Have No More Than 12 Students

Much Ado About Class Size

Research: Learning Intent Should Determine Online Class Size

Right Sizing Online Classes


Tips

Strategies for Teaching Large Classes – download pdf.

December 6

Can we reduce the number of posts required in an online discussion?

I was asked recently about the standard practice of online discussions – 2 weeks per discussion, 1 response and 2 replies. This is a fairly standard ubiquitous practice and considered a best practice by most online practitioners.

But it is based on anecdotal lived experiences of early online practitioners. If you know of any research on this I would love to see it. I think we have moved past the one size fits all stage of practices in this field of online teaching and learning.

This is a really hard complex question, because it depends… if online discussions and/or more specifically the questions, are not well designed, or discussions not are not well facilitated, or interaction is not valued highly, in terms of the percentage of the grade… it doesn’t matter how many, or how few posts you require … How interactions (discussions)/posts are valued, assessed, or contribute to student learning is what is important. Also, important is whether that is the same for every course for every instructor in your department/program/institution…

This question is about the quantity and quality of interaction (discussion) between students and/or the instructor, – which we know are strong predictors of online student satisfaction and reported learning, and if leaning might be impacted by reducing quantity (not quality). Or, assuming the quality is there, if there might be variables like the discipline/ type of course, or level in the program -first year/vs Jr. or undergrad vs masters… where quantity matters more, or less.

If one perceives pressure to make an online course/program more self-paced to compete with other programs which might be doing that, or because one’s students are, let’s say working adults who are too busy to interact, I’m not sure those are the right decision drivers.

I think the course, content, discipline, instructor, and level of the student should drive those decisions, but again I am not aware of any research-based guidance/recommendations for course/curriculum designers on this issue.

What do you think?

November 20

Finding the Authentic Leader in You: Owning your skills to inspire, engage, and motivate the people around you.

These are the notes I used to prepare for an interview. I was part of a panel #olcaccelerate2019.

Introduction:

I’m an artist. I am arrow’s mom, and I know a little about online teaching and learning. I’m the director of online teaching at Open SUNY (State University of New York). The largest public state university system in the galaxy.

  • We have 64 institutions from doctoral to community colleges
  • 462,698 students
  • 34,695 faculty

Today SUNY offers:

  • 68 Open SUNY+ programs from 20 campuses.
  • 535 online degrees or certificates from 44 campuses
  • 23,477 annual online course sections 2017-18
  • 177,000 + online student enrollments    2016-17

Along with the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) , SUNY and I are celebrating our 25th anniversaries.

I was the first online instructional designer in SUNY. It is estimated that I’ve trained over 5,000 online faculty.

I have trained more than 300 online instructional designers (ID) over the years in SUNY, and have worked to professionalize and institutionalize the role of the ID in SUNY.

  • I believe we now have at least one ID at each SUNY institution.
  • Our online instructional designer certificate program was adopted by the OLC in 2016, and has already been used to train hundreds of online IDs.  I encourage you to check that program out.
  • OSCQR, our online course quality rubric, was adopted by OLC as their online course quality scorecard. Go to http://oscqr.suny.edu to have a look around.
  • Our free, online and self-paced openly licensed online course “Interested in teaching online?” has been used by thousands to explore readiness and learn more about online teaching
  • We develop and share our online faculty development and course design tools and resources with open licenses for anyone to adapt/adopt. Check out our self-paced and self-serve resources and tools.

How does one balance wearing the ‘mask’ of professionalism while also striving to be our true and authentic selves in the work environment? (To provide context – We can often wear a mask of professionalism, how can we find the balance point between wearing the mask in order to advance our career, vs being our true selves in order to be approachable?)

I am a Sagittarius. So, I have had to work very hard to not say every random thing that comes into my head… but, the older I get the fewer ducks I give about what others think about me. I present myself confidently and professionally, but strive to be informal and approachable, so that I can make authentic professional connections. I am quite connected online via social media and, of course, I filter, because I want to have impact, and I want to connect with others that are as passionate about online teaching and learning as I am. But, I like a little “noise” in my signal, and appreciate that in others. It makes that feeling of connection feel real.

How can a person own their unique skills when facing pressure to adhere to other’s perceptions or ideas of a leader’s skill set?

I think this is a great life question, not just pertaining to work. Figuring out what you are good at and what your strengths are and what you like to do are key to being authentic and successful professionally, as well as personally. The problem is that if you’re really good at something, and are there for a while, you are likely eventually to be asked to stop doing what you are good at to manage, supervise, and lead others. Which is often a whole different skill set than what you are known for, or good at, and you may not be naturally good at leading/managing/supervising. So, you really have to think hard about what makes you happy/satisfied professionally, before you take on a different role that changes that. If you do, you then have to figure out how to get good at it, and still be able to continue to express yourself in a way that is true to your core values, while also accomplishing the tasks and responsibilities that you are taking on.  If you know yourself well…your unique skills that make you uniquely you, you can get professional development for things you are missing. This takes work. You can’t wing it – well, not well…

How can you know your actual strengths from your perceived strengths?

I take lots of quizzes. You know are you an empath? What Hogwarts house are you in?

I am an EFNP. I do every strengths inventory I can find and promote that at work, with my staff, and colleagues. The better I know myself and where my colleagues and staff are coming from, the more effective I can be in communication, getting things done, and being effective and successful. I think it helps to ask for feedback too. From those I supervise, and from those that supervise me. Of course, you have to trust and value the opinons of those you ask.

When should you hold back in order to let someone else who has similar strengths shine?

I LOVE this question and I think it is something you learn with experience. Being a parent has also helped me with this… See, this is a key learner-centered instructional design core principle!! The answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. If you always tie their shoes, they won’t ever learn how to do it themselves. They will never be independent. They will always have to rely on you. They will trip and fall cuz they can’t do it themselves. You will get resentful that they can’t take care of themselves, you will become tired, overwhelmed, and then bitter about it. And you will die a mean, ornery very grumpy  person that is unpleasant to be around. It is counter intuitive… you have to let others fail to succeed. It is really hard to do… especially if you are really good at something…the impulse is to say that it would be quicker to do it yourself; or that if you want it done right, that you have to do it; that no one can do it as well as you –(all of which may be true), but if your job is to mentor, supervise, train, teach, or parent others, you are actually taking away their opportunity to learn, to get better, to accomplish something – by not letting them do something that you know they will fail at… and you don’t just let them fail, you coach, you guide, you give feedback…. So they can grow, so they can learn, so they can shine. And then, you make sure to give them praise/encouragement for their effort/accomplishment/growth no matter how successful (to cultivate a growth mindset). Another important piece of this is making sure they get the credit for their accomplishments with superiors, the organization, etc.

How can you use your strengths as an authentic leader to inspire your collaborators?

I want to be inspired. I look for that in my leaders. So, I want to be that for others. But, being inspiring can’t be the goal. I mean it is not a goal in an of itself. Its like saying I want to be famous… being inspiring is a by-product of true passion for something …seeing that passion – feeling it in someone, is what turns out to be inspiring.  

I get up in the morning because I believe that what I do matters/makes a difference. I believe that effective online instructional design and online faculty development is the answer to life, the universe, and everything, and that what we do as IDs is a super power that can change the world for good. We can inform and influence the quality of online instruction and the online educational experiences of the faculty and people of the State of New York. I know that a positive and successful online teaching and learning experience can result in academic success for people who may not have other options, who might otherwise be relegated to a life of poverty, and that an online education can change their lives and the lives of their children.  I know this … I have seen this. <<Mic drop. >>

How do you find your flow state in being an authentic leadership? 

You know when you are so focused and engaged that you don’t experience thirst, hunger, you don’t need to pee, you are not really aware of what is going on around you, you are just completely absorbed in something…? According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, (pronounced ‘ME-high CHICK-sent-me-high-ee’) what you experience in that moment is known as flow state. He defines as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”


So, to get at that state in your leadership activities, you can’t force it, but it doesn’t just happen either, you have to practice:

  • You should have clear goals about what you want to achieve.
  • You should concentrate and focus on the goals.
  • The activity has to be intrinsically rewarding.
  • If you are doing it right, you will:
    • Feel that your skills align with the goals of the task.
    • Feel a complete focus on the activity itself.
    • Lose feelings of self-consciousness.
    • Lose track of time passing.
    • Feel control over the situation and the outcome.

How do you manage stressful or challenging situations to avoid disruptions to your state of flow?

  • Don’t avoid. Listen. Engage. Ask questions. Use it to fuel your flow.
  • Breathe
  • Humm the song from Frozen, “Let it go!
  • Don’t hit send. 

How do you recover from disruptions to your flow state, while still being professional and authentic?

  • Breathe.
  • Belt out the song from Frozen, “Let it go!” in your head.
  • Don’t hit send. 
  • Take a break. Take one positive action to move past beyond. 
  • Practice motivated forgetting. (Let it go).

How can you stay in a mindset of authenticity without getting caught up in a competitive mindset when there are limited opportunities available? 

Do what you love, love what you do.. My privilege is showing with that statement, I know. Not everyone gets to have that.  But, I believe you can sometimes make your own reality and your own opportunities. Believing otherwise makes you a victim of a mindset that imposes limitations… be creative and think outside the box. You are only as limited as you believe you are.

How can you inspire and engage your colleagues to allow everyone to be authentic and successful both as individuals and as a team?

Love what you do, believe you can change the world. Tell others that you want to change the world. Tell them that you need their help to do that. Tell others that they can change the world too.  Others will be inspired by that and want to help you…and someday, they will inspire you.

September 23

On being learner-centered

These are the notes I used to prepare for an interview. I was part of a panel.
  1. How would you define student-led learning? What does it look like in your organization? 

I like to use more learner-focused terminology. Learner vs. Student, for example. We work with online faculty to help them look at their online instruction, and their online course designs through a learner-centered pedagogical lens.

  1. Involve learners in planning and evaluation of their instruction. Provide choices for them to make their thinking and learning visible and open to feedback from the instructor and from their peers in the course.
  2. Provide opportunities for learners to have, or participate in, experiential online learning activities.
  3. Help learners tie what they are learning to how it might be relevant to their job or personal life.
  4. Rather than focusing on content or knowledge transmission from expert to novice, focus on the construction of knowledge by engaging the learner with questions – their own questions and problems that are real and that they are interested in.

 

  1. Give an example of student-led or flexible learning at a macro level and at a micro level 

Not sure if this is what you mean, but at a macro level an example could be having learners co-create assessments and rubrics for online course activities. On a micro level it would be giving learners choices in how they demonstrate their mastery, or learning for individual online learning activities/objectives.

 

  1. Describe institutional challenges you may have or may face implementing student-led learning. 

Online faculty development is a challenge. Faculty buy-in. Online course quality. It is not easy to be learner-centered in practice. It requires an intentionality that does not happen intuitively.

  1. What are some of the benefits and/or challenges experienced implementing? 

Deeper learning and better learner outcomes.

 

  1. Student-led learning assumes students are comfortable taking ownership. If they’re not comfortable, how do you get them there? 

This is a great question! And a challenge! Many learners come to higher education with limited understanding of, or experiences with, taking ownership for their own learning. So, it is a process to scaffold new behaviors, expectations, and attitudes, and to help them understand how to do that.

In my online course, for example – Intro to Online Teaching, the learners decide what topics (based on their interests and experiences) to explore within the context of the theories and concepts of the course. Additionally, online interaction (or “discussions” ) are learner-led, self-assessed, and peer evaluated, giving them agency in what is taught, how (and sometimes when), and how it is assessed. Of course, as the instructor, I also assess and provide feedback – that is my main role in the course. Learners make their thinking and learning visible to me (and their peers) and I guide and provide feedback to get them to deeper levels of thinking and learning about whatever they have brought to the course in the varied learning activities of the course. So, rather than evaluating a product, I give learners the opportunity to dig deeper into a concept, theory, and their own understanding to move them forward in their thinking/learning- the learning process is by nature, iterative. This is individualized to each learner. It takes a minute for some learners to accept/figure out that they are in the driver’s seat and responsible for what they get out of the course, which will be in direct proportion to what they put into it. That process is hard for those who’d prefer to focus on the product, rather than the process. Process is more important. In my view. In my course.

I work with online faculty to help them understand the affordances of the online teaching and learning environment to support learner-centered pedagogy, to develop learner-centered pedagogical practices/approaches/mind-sets, and to consider learner-centered means of assessing learning that are more authentic given the online environment. It’s hard for them too sometimes!

 

  1. What does assessment look like? (sharing examples of ways to generate rubrics — what’s the process for involving students, for example?)

I recommend that all activities in an online course use rubrics and that you engage learners in the co-creation of the rubrics that will be used to assess them and their work. Here is an example of my discussion/interaction rubric: http://etap640.edublogs.org/2009/12/17/my-discussion-post-grading-rubric/

Learners review the rubric and can have input into the criteria. They also must peer-assess each of their classmates posts and self-evaluate using the same rubric. I also rate the posts with the rubric, so they can learn to apply it well.

 

 

October 3

Open Pedagogy ≠ OER

Context: Open Pedagogy does not require the use/creation of open educational resources.

In a 2013 blog post David Wiley defined open pedagogy as being directly connected to the 4R permissions of Open Educational Resources (OER). He said, “Open pedagogy is that set of teaching and learning practices only possible in the context of the free access and 4R permissions characteristic of open educational resources.”

In 2014 Tom Woodward in a Campus Technology interview with Mary Grush defined open pedagogy as a broad and holistic set of values and approaches. “Looking at open pedagogy as a general philosophy of openness (and connection) in all elements of the pedagogical process, while messy, provides some interesting possibilities. Open is a purposeful path towards connection and community. Open pedagogy could be considered as a blend of strategies, technologies, and networked communities that make the process and products of education more transparent, understandable, and available to all the people involved.”

Tannis Morgan in 2016 blogged about the history of the term open pedagogy tracing it to a Canadian educator in 1979 named Claude Paquette who “…outlines 3 sets of foundational values of open pedagogy, namely:  autonomy and interdependence; freedom and responsibility; democracy and participation.” Morgan observed that “open pedagogy is currently a sort of proxy for the use and creation of open educational resources, as opposed to being tied to a broader pedagogical objective.”

In 2018, to address this problem of conflating open pedagogical practices with the use and creation of open educational resources, David Wiley has updated his thoughts on this and proposed the term “OER-enabled pedagogy” defined as “the set of teaching and learning practices that are only possible or practical in the context of the 5R permissions which are characteristic of OER.”

This context is important because for decades before the advent of OER, the term “open pedagogy” has been associated with learner-centered pedagogical practices. Online teaching and learning, and the advent of the social web and web 2.0 technologies, have inspired innovations in the use of freely available web tools for instructional purposes allowing educators and learners to rethink the role of content in instruction; to expand the concept of teaching presence beyond the role of the instructor to include the learners in the classroom; to focus on interaction and collaboration between learners in the social construction of knowledge; and to devise more effective/efficient ways to provide feedback and to assess learning. The power and public nature of the social web present endless opportunities, options, AND choices for how learners can make their thinking and learning visible in the online class environment.


References

Wiley, D. (2013, October 21), “What is Open Pedagogy.” iterating toward openness. Retrieved from https://opencontent.org/blog/archives/2975

Grush, M. (2014, November 12), “Open Pedagogy: Connection, Community, and Transparency Q&A with Tom Woodward.” Campus Technology. Retrieved from https://campustechnology.com/Articles/2014/11/12/Open-Pedagogy-Connection-Community-and-Transparency.aspx?Page=1

Morgan, T. (2016, December 21), “Open pedagogy and a very brief history of the concept.” Explorations in the Ed Tech World. Retrieved from https://homonym.ca/uncategorized/open-pedagogy-and-a-very-brief-history-of-the-concept/

Wiley, D., Hilton, III, J. (2018). Defining OER-Enabled Pedagogy. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 19(4), 133-147. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/3601/4769

June 4

Tools I use to enhance my instruction and to actively engage online learners

They are project-based with opportunity to apply, authentically experience, design, practice.

I use a variety of social media/web tools that are external to the course management system.

  • To enhance the presentation of online course content.
  • To facilitate engagement and interaction with course material and between learners in the online teaching and learning environment.
  • To enhance the presentation of feedback.
  • To give the learners in the online course options and choices in how they make their thinking and learning (and their progress) visible to me and others in the class.
  • To provide access to course materials beyond the end of the term.
  • To build connection and community among past, present and future learners in the online course.
  • To self-disclose, demonstrate social presence, establish trust and a sense of class community and model the academic and professional uses of the social web.
  • To expose learners to tools and utilities that may have potential to enhance instruction.
  • To test the potential of these tools for instructional purpose and observe their effects on learners.
    • voicethread – An online media album of any type of media (images, text, documents, and videos). I user it as an ice-breaking activity. This example uses a video of my daughter introducing me from her perspective, as well as slides to do deeper more contextualized introductions including, experiences relevant to the course, prior knowledge, expectations, etc.
      • How I use VT
    • diigo – A social bookmarking tool.
      1. Used to bookmark, highlight, comment upon ,and share all references used/shared in the course and by all participants.
      2. Used to create a dynamic link roll of resources that automatically updates the latest additions to the shared class annotated bibliography of resources curated by the course participants – access to this bibliography remains available to students beyond the end of the term.
      3. Used to facilitate instructor feedback on learner-generated work posted on the web, e.g., feedback provided on learner blogs via the highlight and comment features of diigo make providing learning feedback more efficient and easier for the instructor.
    • edublogs – education-focused blog platform (wordpress for education with a .edu url extension and the ability to link instructor and student blogs in classes).
      1. Used to keep metacognitive journals and reflections/feedback on the online course teaching and learning experiences.
        1. Example instructor blog: http://etap640.edublogs.org
        2. See also learner blogs linked to off the instructor blog above.
    • netvibes – to aggregate and display student blogs.
    • twitter – micro blog.
      1. Used in this course for newsflash type announcements, questions, interaction. https://twitter.com/i/#!/alexpickett/etap-640-summer-2012 and https://twitter.com/etap640
      2. Used to introduce learners to the power of the social web, building an online digital network, identity, and voice that contributes to the online discourse on topics of academic and professional interest.
    • jing – a screen capture tool used to provide instructions, feedback, and clarification to online learners. (5-minute limit on the free version).
      1. Showing is often easier and more efficient than writing.
      2. Screencast-o-matic for 15-minute screencasts.
      3. Online learners can use this to present projects, critiques, etc.
    • screencast – a Techsmith repository affiliated with the jing project that gives me the ability to create a playlist of my “how-to” videos in my course.
    • audacity – a free audio recording utility used to record audio comments & feedback for online learners, as well as content in the form of interviews with exemplary online faculty.
    • podomatic – a podcasting platform used to deliver the audio feedback created with audacity as an embedded playlist widget. See podcasted student feedback examples on online course learning activities.
    • youtube – an online video platform to record and view course-related video materials.
      1. online asynchronous video discussion to bring “rockstars” into the class and blur the boundaries of the online learning classroom environment “box”.
      2. See also the course videos playlist.
    • vimeo – to post course-related video materials.
      1. See the screencasted feedback course reviews.
    • voki – a speaking avatar used for announcements in this course.
      1. Example: Welcome to ETAP640!
    • breeze – used to create voice-annotated powerpoint course materials.
    • polldaddy – survey tool used to collect feedback from students on the course.
    • rate my professor – professor rating tool.
    • jumpscan – a QR code generator used to create a scan-able QRcode with information about this course.
    • Facebook – to build community among and between course participant cohorts.
    • Padlet – an online multimedia bulletin board.
      1. Used for online learners at the end of the course to leave tips and comments for the next cohort of online learners.
        1. Example1
        2. Example 2
    • Powtoon – a tool to make graphic animated presentations.
      1. An option for student presentations.
June 16

#etap640 Blog feedback

Feedback on your blogs.
video 1 – alena, alicia, andrea, arnaldo

video 2 – arnaldo cont., catherine, donna, emily, jessica, kasey

video 3 – kate, linda, mike, rhonda, Samantha, Sherri

video 4 – teresa, elena, alex, george