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.

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.

 

 

May 8

UAlbany School of Education CDIT online degree program

UAlbany’s School of Education Offers Cutting-Edge Online Master’s degree and Certificate Program

UAlbany’s master’s degree in Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology (CDIT) and the Certificate of Graduate Study in Online Learning and Teaching (COLT) put opportunities in technology-infused 21st century teaching and learning environments within reach.

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October 3

does it take more time to teach online?

I was recently asked by a colleague from another institution the following 2 questions.

  1.  From your experience (both personal and working with other faculty), would you say that teaching online takes more time (simple answer requested here).
  2. Are you aware of research that indicates either more, the same, or less time is required to teach online.

My answers:

  1. no. (I think that the design of the course can result in it taking more time- I think that level of online experience and training of the faculty factor into that). It should take no more time to teach online than f2f.
  2. some refs on all sides of the issue : )