My dream online course consists of three core principles: communication, engagement, and risk-taking.
Communication is obviously key to any class, but with the absence of a F2F setting, I want to do everything in my power to amp up the discussion in the online classroom. I was thinking of ways to enhance online communication over the last few weeks and I thought of how I could scaffold the discussion. Essentially, I would try to break down the online communication in a way that mirrors my F2F class. First, I would ask a smaller group of students to have a discussion (perhaps via Google Docs or Zoom). After the small group discussion, I would ask students to write an individual post expanding on an interesting point from their group. After the individual posts, I would ask students to respond to a different person’s response outside of their original group. This scaffolding would ideally build stronger conversations throughout.
When it comes to engagement, what I see being the “best” would be my presence. Since I will not be meeting with the students F2F, I want to make sure that my students view me as being available. I would hold virtual office hours (much like some of you already do), which could possibly turn into a larger group discussion if multiple students show up. I would also build in multiple opportunities to students to get feedback from me prior to a due date. The main thing here is making sure my students see my engagement and realize that the online course is the same as a F2F course in terms of my investment.
My dream course is also one built on risks. I, as an instructor, need to take more risks when it comes to relying on technology. I need to become more familiar with tools like screencast-o-matic, Zoom, and just get used to recording myself. I also would want to attempt to do some video feedback in lieu of one-on-one conferences. Becoming more familiar with these items will most likely help me in my F2F classes as well. I also want my students to take risks in my online course. I would like them to work in alternative mediums such as a mag or another digital platform. I feel like incorporating new, exciting mediums into the writing class could also help the engagement of my course.
Overall, I am leaving with this semester with some wonderful ideas and I look forward to attempting them.
Here are the links to my previous posts:
Honest disclosure: I had every intention of finally investing in a webcam/microphone for this week’s post, but I get anxious when dealing with purchasing a new electronic (a silly analysis paralysis), so I put it off and here we are. On the bright side, I have finally read every review for every webcam/microphone combination in existence. So, instead of providing you with a wonderful video tour of my bleak Canvas page, I am going to have to use screen shots to guide this post.
Another honest disclosure: online presence in my F2F courses has always been rather minimal, so my Canvas page is pretty barren.
Home Page: Believe it or not, the above photo is actually an improvement for this semester. This is my first semester using Canvas, and I used to just have an empty landing page on my prior Blackboard page. Once again, the online community in my class has always been supplemental. Essentially, the online aspect of my course was just to send out emails, collect assignments through Turnitin and post files. Canvas has really pushed me into thinking about a more serious integration.
Announcements: I have started utilizing the announcement section a lot more this semester due to the Canvas App. Most of my students use the Canvas app on their phones, so sending out announcements is the fastest way to get my students information.
Modules: I started this semester by reorganizing my modules at my students’ request. I used to have these sections organized by types (prompts/readings/submission links), but students asked for them to be organized on a week-by-week basis. In the end, this reorganization has definitely worked for the better.
So far, that is all I use Canvas for. After seeing all of your posts, I realize I need to step up my game. I do have a lot of goals for the upcoming semester in terms of polishing my course, and here there are in no particular order:
- Get a webcam/microphone, and utilize more video feedback/discussion.
- Polish my home page to utilize links (much like the Writing with Machines page). I think this is the one I am most interested in as it seems like any way to consolidate and streamline is beneficial (especially with the push to the Canvas App).
- Utilize the syllabus section of the website and move away from just posting the .pdf.
First of all, I want to apologize for the lateness of this blog post.
The assigned readings for this week were fascinating. I used to be a Luddite in terms of using technology in the classroom because I was concerned with access issues amongst students, and I preferred keeping the majority class in the analog world. I would use Blackboard for only the essential things (announcements/essay submissions/etc.), but I tried to keep the course grounded in the physical classroom. Over the past year or so, and in response to this learning community, I have started to place more faith in the digital sphere. The shift to Canvas also helped facilitate this change. While reading through these articles, I picked out multiple points that I either need to think about, or points I thought about when making the shift.
- The CCCC points out that a “proactive approach to physical and pedagogical access is superior to one that includes “added on” or retrofitted alternatives.” This point resounds with me because it really does represent how my class as changed over the past year. Whereas the Blackboard course was kind of forced to fit in the class, the redesign with Canvas allowed me to restructure and rethink my utilization of the digital sphere. Canvas is a part of my class, not just a supplement.
- I discovered the Canvas app at the beginning of the semester and recommended it to my students with smart phones or tablets. I love that students can easily pull up prompts/texts to follow along, and it is very helpful during office hours when I am not in front of a desktop. This jump into the mobile platform has also made me aware of how I organize my Canvas course as well as how I upload my documents.
- I received feedback last semester from a student about the way I organized files online. Based on the feedback, I believe my course has the clear, concise organization that the articles discuss.
- There are definitely areas I need to improve on though; I have to admit that I did not do enough education on Canvas as I should have done at the beginning of the semester. I provided links to the Canvas tutorials, but I definitely could have done more to prepare my students. I just found the recorded workshop (Thanks, Jim!) on Canvas and will definitely go over that next semester. I also need to revisit my documents and make sure they are fully accessible.
These readings definitely pointed out a weakness that I never really thought of before. While I try to ensure that all of my students receive the help/accommodations they need in the physical classroom, I need to spend more time making sure my online classroom space does the same.
As an instructor who builds his class around group work, I am excited for the possibilities that the digital classroom opens. In my F2F class, I always have an activity that allows the students to put the idea we just discussed into action. We always follow these activities up with a discussion about how the idea came through in the activity. While this structure has worked well, I have always thought these group activities would benefit from a slower and longer application of the idea.
I think the main benefit in transferring these group activities online is time. For instance, in my class today, I had students work in groups to write a brief speech on any topic they wanted (I urged a light-hearted topic given the sad events of last night). The rules for this assignment were simple: write a professional speech you could deliver to fellow students and sneak in a few logical fallacies. While the groups had an amazing time trying to mask fallacies with professional language and logical support, the discussion and sharing portion of the assignment had to be trimmed due to time constraints. If this activity was translated for an OWC, groups could collaborate on a google doc and in chat; this collaboration technique would also afford agency to those students who often get steamrolled in group conversations. Not only could students spend more time incorporating logical support, but other groups could visit and see how their peers are approaching the activity. The discussion/decompression aspect of the assignment could also be developed and allow more time for students to reflect prior to responding. I imagine all the wonderful conversation that could arise in the class discussion of these speeches, but I also wonder if that hilarity I witnessed in the classroom today would still be there. With a creative activity like this, it is those rapid-fire conversations students have that make the activity so effective. If I desynchronize an activity that is supposed to be fun—by my definition of fun—will those funny moments where students wittily respond to and build upon each other disappear? It is difficult for me to know for sure until I actually implement this activity online, but I guess I could always require a synchronous meeting or Zoom for the brainstorming portion.
I am also intrigued with how peer review will translate into the OWC. I enjoy having a Q&A before each workshop, and I really enjoy hearing students have an honest “state of affairs” about their work. I know these conversations could be pushed into the digital space, but the synchronous nature of the F2F workshop is so appealing. I love hearing students give meaningful feedback; it feels like validation (they remembered my lecture!), so maybe this concern is more selfish. However, the one thing that I think will improve in this switch is the participation rate. I have noticed that my attendance seems to dip when it comes to workshops in my course. I imagine this is because students procrastinate and bail on class to avoid the guilt (even though I recommend they come regardless), but in the asynchronous online workshop, students could give feedback over the course a few days. This wider window could help those procrastinators catch up, and could facilitate a much higher participation rate. With how ubiquitous technology has become, and with so much of our daily communication happening in a digital space, it will be interesting to see how successful these conversations turn out to be.
It is ironic that feedback is the discussion topic for this week as I am using this discussion to take a much needed break from grading. I had a very difficult time with grading my submissions through Canvas as I did not know I could still grade through Turnitin’s feedback center (where my comment bank lives), so I had to type out all of my comments in canvas and did not realize my mistake until half way through my second class, but it was too late. However, one of the positives of this mess up is that it did allow me to rethink my comment bank.
I was part of an online feedback learning community at CSUSM a few years ago, so I have a comment bank I have been using for a while. While that has seemed to serve me well the last couple years, I do worry about the comments not being…. Legitimate? I am blanking on a good word to choose here, but “cookie cutter” comes to mind as well. A comment bank is obviously extremely helpful for in-text comments, but I do worry that a student could see those cut and paste comments as laziness on my end. I give a decent end of paper summary/response/justification which tends to be more personal and specific, but there is also the issue of managing time. What good is a page of feedback if a student is not getting it back in time to use on his/her next paper? So I can see how the comment bank is good, but I worry about how impersonal it may sound. Honestly, I would prefer to grade all of my papers by hand as I love to use symbols/shorthand to help speed the process along, but the logistics of managing/handling 100+ physical papers make me nauseous.
If, or when, I transfer into the OWCourse, I definitely foresee using the video/voice comment tools. I love discussing a student’s paper face to face during office hours, and while a video comment section won’t necessarily be synchronous, I imagine it could produce a more authentic discussion on my end. My voice/face in conjunction with those dangerous, bordering on cookie cutter, comments/annotations could fix my worry about sounding lackadaisical. I think it would be helpful to reinforce the idea of reading/responding to a paper out loud as opposed to just skimming it. Students could hear their errors, and would hopefully see the benefit of breaking away from the screen for the revision process.
I am also very intrigued with the peer-review section Warnock discussed as online peer feedback is something I am trying in my f2f course this semester (with the help of Google docs). While I would love to eventually cobble together something like Chad’s video response activity for peer feedback, I am fascinated to see how taking the peer review discussion online is going to pan out.
In the end, I think the concept I am most excited for when it comes to feedback is to make the process less digital and incorporate more of my lovely face into the mix (with the help of the best webcam money can buy).