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ET4Online: Emerging Technologies for Online Learning

April 11, 2014

This week I have the pleasure of attending the Sloan Consortium’s 7th Annual International Symposium: Emerging Technologies for Online Learning as a virtual attendee. I think this is the first time I’m experiencing remote participation in an on-site event … and it’s great!

#et4online

Not only are there a lot of streamed sessions to choose from, the social media interaction is helpful in bringing us all together through shared conversations and resources. Thanks to Saint Leo University for making it possible for me as an adjunct instructor and course designer to experience this event.

Here are a few of the sessions I attended, along with (very) brief notes and links that take you to the conference pages where more information (including slides and handouts) are uploaded and openly available.

How’d You Do That? Tips and Tricks That Might Account for My 95% Retention Rate

  • “Keep class fresh and fun for you and your students.”
  • Try having students submit discussion questions – students may be more likely to participate.
  • Provide a table-format course schedule with details about due dates, instructions, objectives, etc.
  • Decide what your policies are (e.g., late assignments) and stick to them. “Otherwise it’s a guideline.”
  • Good conference tip: “look for a few gems.” Ideas that intrigue you, make you think about what you are doing, and could be actionable.

Turning the Lens Inward: Analyzing Instructor Participation in Asynchronous Discussions

  • Take a look at the Discussion Participation Tool presented in the session.
  • Good breakdown of types of responses – social, teaching, cognitive.
  • “It’s nice when you can’t tell who is the teacher and who is a grad student” in an online discussion forum.
  • We’re all in search of a “desirable instructor profile” that includes optimizing frequency of posts and types of posts. Would expectations be different for full-time/part-time instructors?

Developing Collaboration Online: Comparison of Structured Group Assignments

  • Challenges exist in creating outcomes and activities that meet the needs of students from novice to expert.
  • Importance of the role of social presence cannot be overstated.
  • Advice includes: move toward synchronous sessions, intentionality in assignments, complexity of group work, use of webcam, on demand videos and assignments.
  • Consider designing, approaching online course in phases (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010).
  • Provide step-by-step instructions for students’ “first night” in your online course.
  • Reflective blog prompts bring closure to every assignment.
  • Interesting assignments described, including “Cool Tool Duel.”

Thanks again to Sloan-C and Saint Leo! This is a small sampling of the range of speakers, topics, and interactions that are being shared. Explore the conference program online for more info – most session pages include downloadable materials and presenter contact details.

You may also want to follow @et4online to get updates about next year’s conference, and, of course, the #et4online hashtag.

Update! I’m an official Sloan-C Ninja after completing the conference’s social media challenges, including my first video upload. Check out the badges. :)

facebookinstagramtwitter (1)vinerssninja

Course Evaluations and Adjunct Teaching: #AdjunctChat

March 16, 2014

I’m guest hosting #AdjunctChat again this week (3/18)! Join in on Tuesday at 4pmET.

End-of-term student evaluations are a common way to ask students for feedback at the course level. The format has changed, at many colleges and universities, from paper and pencil questionnaires to online forms.

As an online adjunct instructor at two universities, I’ve had trouble accessing evaluation results in the past. It can take a long time for the completed forms to be tabulated and distributed to the instructor, and there is often a low response rate. But recently, and quite coincidentally, I received notification from each of my institutions letting me know about new systems that allow me to log in and retrieve all of my past evaluations.

Having access to the information is just the start. Now to figure out how the feedback can be put to practical use. From course revision to future job applications, there are many possibilities. For this week’s #AdjunctChat, we’ll use the following questions to guide the discussion:

  • What role do student evaluations play in your adjunct teaching?
  • When, how do you receive formal feedback from your students?
  • Do you have any specific examples of how these evaluations have been a benefit to you?
  • Do you conduct your own course evaluations?
  • What are your suggestions for improving the process for adjunct instructors?

Related resources:

How Do Course Evaluations Affect Adjunct Teaching?

Developing and Evaluating Adjunct Faculty

Explore Alternatives for Online Course Evaluation

What would you like to cover during this chat? Please add your ideas and questions to the comments area below, and plan to join us on Tuesday, March 18th at 4pmET! All are welcome.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who participated in this conversation! If you missed the session, the AdjunctChat site will post a transcript and a Storify version is linked below.

Adjuncts and Academic Blogging: #AdjunctChat

January 27, 2014
tags:

academic bloggingI’m excited to be guest moderating #AdjunctChat this week! This weekly Twitter conversation takes place on Tuesday at 4:00pm ET.

As a full-time education writer (a.k.a. blogger) and an adjunct online instructor, my interest in this topic is close to home. Blogging platforms (e.g., WordPress, Blogger, EduBlogs) offer the opportunity for an individual to be heard, to share a perspective based on his or her unique combination of experiences, context, and areas of interest. And many academics have turned to blogging, as an alternative form of publication, to do just that.

Blogging can be, well, whatever the writer wants it to be. Consider the possibilities for:

  • Developing an online presence
  • Sharing practical experience and advice
  • Disseminating research results
  • Connecting with students
  • Collaborating with colleagues
  • Exploring professional development
  • Developing a portfolio

These questions will guide the chat:

  • Is there a value to blogging?
  • How can and adjunct faculty member add his or her voice without adding to the noise?
  • What cautions should adjunct bloggers be aware of?
  • What are your favorite adjunct resource blogs?
  • Do you blog? Share your link(s)!

If you are interested in finding out more about how students, faculty, and administrators in higher education are creating blog content, you can visit my ongoing collection of related articles via Scoop.it, and a related conference presentation: All about Blogs: Universal Tool of the Digital Academic.

What would you like to cover during this chat? Add your ideas and questions to the comments area below.

Please join us on Tuesday, January 28th at 4pm ET! All are welcome.

UPDATE: Thanks to all participants for their enthusiasm for this topic. A long list of ideas, experiences, and further questions were shared. The group took the chat in a helpful direction with a discussion about the use of blogs with students and in a class setting. The AdjunctChat site will post a transcript and a Storify version is linked below.

Image credit: Travelin’ Librarian, Flickr, CC:BY-NC-SA

Top 10 Learning Tools – 2012

November 25, 2012

Are you familiar with the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT) annual “Top 100 Tools for Learning” project? Led by Jane Hart, this is a collaborative effort in which learning professionals all over the world submit their top 10 tools for the year. This year more than 500 submissions were included.

I’ve contributed to the project over the last several years, but having missed the deadline for the latest list, I thought I’d go ahead and post my thoughts here. As a blogger, freelance instructional designer, and adjunct online instructor, these are the 10 tools that have been the most helpful to me over the past year (in no particular order):

  1. Google Search: What would we do without it? As a blogger I use Google to begin the research for almost every post I write. In the process I’ve become a student of analytics and changing algorithms. I recently completed Google’s open access Power Searching class and highly recommend it if you have the opportunity to enroll or use the posted resources.
  2. Blackboard: I love it and I hate it. Both the class I taught in the spring and another I assisted with this fall used Blackboard to deliver content to online students. While it’s not my favorite, I think an LMS at its most basic can provide a helpful hub for information and communication during an online class.
  3. Gmail: Email may be dead, but I sure am using it a lot these days to communicate with students, co-workers, and even to conduct asynchronous interviews for blog posts. I currently have more active accounts that I really want to count, and continue to be issued new ones with new contracts.
  4. Twitter:Perhaps my favorite on this list, I spend a lot of time on Twitter for a multitude of reasons: current events, industry news, network building, conference backchannels, keeping in touch with friends and colleagues, community-building and more. I also moderate a weekly chat focused on online learning and presented Twitter-related topics at several conferences this year.
  5. MS Word: Still my go-to for all things related to writing, I use Word to draft all posts here and at work, as well as for note-taking. Although I am using shared Google Docs more and more when collaboration is needed.
  6. Skype: I initiated Skype use this past year for virtual office hours with students and found several other groups asking me to join Skype meetings as well. I have also had a Skype phone number for the past several years and find it is more reliable (and has clearer reception) than my cell for work-related calls.
  7. WordPress: WordPress.com is home for this blog, and Inside Online Learning is powered by WordPress.org. One of the highlights of my year was presenting at WordCamp Miami in February and learning more about how to use WordPress from other speakers and participants representing a wide range of blog topics and web development skills.
  8. Google Chrome: As my favorite browser (although Firefox is a close second) Chrome has come a long way and just makes my work easier with a streamlined interface and great add-ons like Awesome Screenshot.
  9. Camtasia: Earlier this year I designed and developed an online course for CEUonestop (LinkedIn) which required screencasting. The Camtasia app was affordable and much more intuitive than I thought it would be, allowing me to quickly capture and edit resulting in a nice looking final product.
  10. Flickr: I continue to rely on the generosity of photographers providing use of their images with Creative Commons licenses. Flickr makes it easy to search for these via keyword and license type so that I can find items suitable for use in blog posts. I also try to add to the pool when I can.

Take a look at C4LPT’s final Top 100 list below, but don’t stop there. Go to the main page to explore more details about the submissions in the “Best of Breed” list and to see how this year’s tools compared to those submitted in 2011.

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2012 from Jane Hart

Image credit: (Top 10) iabusa, Flickr, CC:BY-SA

An Education Writer/Blogger Goes to School

March 23, 2012

I am thrilled to be participating in Words Awake: A Celebration of Wake Forest Writers and Writing, taking place today through Sunday. Part of the event includes visits to local schools and I was asked to speak with students at the Paisley IB Magnet School. I worked with their teacher, Mr. Marvelli, via Skype and email to craft a plan for what I should say. As my own editor at OnlineCollege.org put it, “good luck explaining what you do for a living.” What emerged was a series of questions about what I do and how I do it, and I thought a blog post might be a good place to start.

So, here are the questions and my thoughts (although I think I could write a full post about each one). Please take a look and help me provide additional feedback to these middle and high school students who are interested in writing. And wish me luck today!

What is your writing process?

Each week I post 3 to 5 articles at the Inside Online Learning blog, and each one starts with a “pitch” that my editor approves. I start with each pitch as a proposal for a post – defining the audience and topic, how I plan to approach it, and something about why I think it is an important topic – and expand on it.

The structure and flow of the post are important – conversational in nature, readable, engaging (hopefully), encouraging, and authoritative. I’ve usually done some preparation for the post already by reading about the topic (see below) and bookmarking (via Diigo) resources I want to go back and reference.

After I complete a draft, it goes to my editor for review. I make modifications and finalize, select an image to go with the post, and then add it all to the blog site (powered by WordPress). After I upload the post, but before I publish it, there is some tweaking after I proofread one more time on screen, and often read it out loud.

Where do the ideas come from?

They are all around! Once you put your antenna up, you begin to find them in items you read, watch, and listen to, and in lots of conversations with friends and colleagues along the way. There are five categories that organize my thoughts and writing ideas – resources for online instructors, resources for online students, current trends in online education, career advising, and educational advising/student expectations. My professional experience in higher education student services, as an online instructor, and as an instructional designer all inform my writing.

I was given the advice early on to spend as much time reading as I do writing. This can be tough to do, but helps me stay up-to-date on the topics I write about and is my primary source of new ideas for posts. I subscribe to lots of other blogs (via Feedly), news sites (via Twitter and Google+), and listervs. Browsing through these sources is a daily task.

What is the place of blogging in the U.S. and the World? What role do blogs play?

Anyone with Internet access and a blog account can write for a global audience. That is amazing and challenging at the same time. Blogs are platforms that can be used by an individual, or group of individuals, to amplify a voice or an idea. They can be used for business, to market a service or product. Bloggers can build communities around what they write, made up of participants with similar views, interests, questions, etc.  The ability for a reader to leave a comment on a post takes reading and writing to another level – you aren’t just reading, you can interact with the writer by leaving a comment. And the blogger is aware of this when writing the post.

Blogs can also be more private and personal, written only for you or for just a few friends. It’s not journalism. It’s not necessarily objective. It’s the bloggers perspective on the topic. In short, a blog can be whatever you, the blogger, want it to be.

There are currently millions (billions?) of blogs online and the variety of topics, purposes, and writing is as diverse as the population.  Technorati provides an annual State of the Blogosphere report and in the 2011 edition   identified five different kinds of bloggers: 1) hobbyists (61%), 2 -3) Professional Part-time and Full-time (%18%), 4) Corporate (%8), and 5) Entrepreneurs (13%).

How are blogs used in education?

Blogs are growing in use by educators and students. Academics are getting more involved in disseminating their research this way, in addition to more traditional publications, and schools are using blog platforms for school papers (like the Paisley Paw Prints!) and to build communities with parents and teachers. Students, particularly those in online courses, often find blogs as requirements in their courses for posting written assignments, peer review and feedback exercises, reflective journaling activities, and to create digital learning portfolios with artifacts that demonstrate what they have achieved in their courses.

Just as in non-educational settings, blogs can be used to build communities in education – communities of learners who communicate online through their writing and comments. And it’s happening at all levels, not just in college courses. Take a look at EduBlogs.org: With over 1 million blogs and counting, this community is specifically for educators and students. EduBlogs.org also sponsors annual awards (2011 Winners here) in which voting is open to the public.

Blogging platforms are easy to use, making a new blog quick to set-up and ready for use. They also allow for not only text-based content, but also the addition of multimedia, polling, and other communication tools. Blogging in education engages students and teachers with the course content and learning activities, with the technology required to establish and maintain blog sites, and with each other and potentially a larger audience as they make their blogs available on the Internet. Getting involved with blogs and a reader and/or writer also develops digital, information, and media literacy, as each source must be assessed for currency and accuracy.

The Discussion Continues

Paisley students, if you are reading, what other questions do you have? Ask here and I’ll answer, and hopefully others will as well. (You can also reach me via email: mvenable @ design-doc .com or through Twitter: @Melissa_Venable.) Do you have a blog? If so, tell us more about it – why do you blog and what do you like to write about?

I’m looking forward to continuing the discussion, especially about blogging and education. And as I continue to participate in the Words Awake event, as a blogger amid a host of other kinds of writers, I’ll be taking more notes about the purpose of blogs, blog writing, and how it all fits in with the rest.

Image credit: Search Engine People Blog, Flickr, CC-BY

Begin at the Beginning and Blog On

February 26, 2012

After attending WordCamp Miami in 2010 and 2011, I was thrilled to be able to present at the 2012 event that took place just last weekend. It was an opportunity for me to indulge in one of my favorite topics: blogging. The session followed a morning of the technical side of setting up a WordPress site, so my goal was to present practical tips for getting started with the writing and content development. Here’s a summary of the four main points I addressed:

  1. Goal Setting: Why do you want to blog? Whether it’s find a creative outlet, learn something new, address a burning issue, or start a business, the potential motives for blogging are seemingly endless. Your reasons will be unique to you and help you frame your expectations for the adventure ahead. Remember, it’s your blog, so you’ve got ultimate control over when, where, what, and why, but it can help to establish a few goals to get you moving forward. Put your goals in writing! And revisit them often.
  2. Finding Your Voice: What do you have to say and how do you want to say it? Consider your intended audience and describe their demographics. Take a tip from Problogger and “brainstorm  a list of 10-20 personality attributes” you want people to use to describe your blog, then narrow the list down to 3-5. Is your blog going to be: clever, authoritative, inquisitive, opinionated, helpful, witty, outrageous, controversial … ?
  3. Getting Organized: Chances are you have a day job and other life responsibilities that make adding blogging to your schedule a challenge. Consider adding frequency and topic goals to your calendar. Be realistic, especially at first and set up a plan that’s doable. Use categories to organize your thoughts about the topic your blog addresses. Identify 3-5 broad categories under your broader blog topic, and develop specific ideas as for individual posts related to each category. Consider using an editorial calendar to schedule your writing. Developing a list of writing ideas in advance provides you with a starting point when it’s time to write.
  4. Joining the Blogging Community: As a new blogger you are joining a vast group representing every possible demographic you can imagine. It will be helpful to find other bloggers that share your interests and also write for a similar audience. Conduct a search, add them to a blog reader, and get to know these bloggers better. Take notes about what you like and don’t like and try a few new things on your blog. Leave thoughtful comments on other blogs and look for opportunities to meet other bloggers in your field. Consider scheduling time for this and plan on reading as much as you write.

If you are new to blogging and interested in finding out more, take a look at some of the other offerings from WordCamp Miami 2012. No matter your goals or topic area of interest you’ll find helpful resources and advice in these presentations:

Blogging can be an adventure on many levels allowing you to explore your own learning process, share your perspective with other learners, and connect with those who have similar interests. Many thanks to the WordCamp Miami sponsors, organizers, and volunteers!

Year 4 – Blogging in 2012

January 22, 2012

As of this month Design Doc is three years old! Thanks to you for following and providing comments and encouragement along the way.

Reviewing the Past Year

I fell a little short in reaching my goals for 2011. I never moved Design Doc from WordPress.com to a self-hosted format. And while I did continue to post about practical topics and career issues for instructional designers, I managed only 14 posts during the year. Not what I had planned, but I also encountered unexpected opportunities during the year, writing 148 posts at the Inside Online Learning blog with OnlineCollege.org, powered by WordPress.

A list of the five most popular Design Doc posts for 2011 includes several from 2010. Glad to see that a few of the older items are still of interest!

In 2011 I also attended WordCamp Miami and was fortunate enough to present sessions about blogging at two conferences: The Technology, Colleges, and Community (TCC) Online Conference in April, and The Annual Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning in November. Both presentations focused on student use of the blog format to build career portfolios. The Sloan presentation is captured in its own blog: Blog Your Portfolio.

What will 2012 bring?

So far I’ve already started reorganizing a bit, adding a new page for Guest Posts I’ve written for other sites, and retooling the events page with links to recent Presentations & Papers. In March I’ll be part of a panel presentation on “writing amid dissolving media boundaries” at a writers’ symposium organized by Wake Forest University, my undergraduate alma mater. And I’m scheduled to facilitate a professional development session entitled “Blogging Basics with WordPress” for career counselors at this year’s National Career Development Association (NCDA) conference in June.

My Design Doc goals for 2012 are broad and basic:

  • continue writing about relevant topics for practicing instructional designers and instructional design students, and
  • seek out opportunities to learn new blogging skills and share my lessons learned.

Thanks in advance for your continued participation and assistance in the process! We’ll see where else blogging takes us in 2012…

Photo credit: Stock.xchg

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