As a class this semester, we explored various topics including tools for online teaching, the gamification of online classes, the migration process and modalities, best practices for discussion forums and grading, and even shared lens perspective assignments and approaches to keeping students engaged and learning/reading in the online setting. English Professors, John Warnock, curry mitchell, Jim Sullivan, and Tony Burman, facilitated these discussions, laying the groundwork for future online teaching. After completing this Spring 2016 sequence, I am inspired us to explore synchronous activities and, perhaps, to resuscitate my online avatar (I used a couple years when I was teaching online introductory composition). Most importantly, I discovered I did not have to comment on ALL my students posts and replies. (I am still feeling nervous about the latter one.)
The following list of resources and annotations seeks to explore:
writing/reading assignments, activities, instruction, and assessments that promote equity, diversity, and inclusiveness
modes of content delivery–tools and apps–that activate cultural capital, foster class community, establish teacher presence, facilitate non-cognitive skill building, and invite and support multilingual discourse
pedagogy and theory, such as Laura Rendon discusses in Sentipensante, that allow us to imagine and practice student centeredness within the fully online classroom
Thank you to Tony Burman, Nery Chapeton-Lamas, and Jade Hidle for contributing!
Things to Listen to
“Equity in Learning Design” with Christian Friedrich. Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, December 7, 2017. http://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/equity-learning-design/
Friedrich offers an assessment of course design based on three principles of autonomy, competency, and relatedness, which, she argues, activate ones natural curiosity and motivate students to not only persist but engage within instructional experiences online. Her theory culminates in the following advice: “Examine your courses. Take the answers out. Put the challenges in.”
Students extract main points from Partalo’s argument about the relationship between advertising/marketing and her identity as a first-generation immigrant, then apply that point to a current ad campaign that reflect topical issues of cultural, ethnic, and/or racial identity.
Although this book isn’t focused specifically on the online environment, Rendon’s focus on a feeling/thinking pedagogy is wonderful, and many of her examples and discussions of content can easily work in the online environment.
Why it’s cool: Tony chose this piece because of the points the authors make about online course design. Specifically, I appreciate the discussion they present in Chapter 5: Four Phases of a Course:Themes and Happenings. In this discussion they address course beginnings(where they discuss presence, community, and clear expectations), early middle(best practices and principles), late middle (letting go of power), and the end (pruning, reflecting and wrapping up). Constructivism…learners create knowledge
Tony contributed this article because the author (1) examines academic writing as a ‘discourse’ informed by ideology, a nice departure from academic writing as correct writing, and (2) provides a number of examples of how the online writing space can allow students to write in a variety of different discourses and thereby see the value in their own writing/voice/etc. LeCourt argues that the online space can actually allow us to repoliticize writing in ways that focus on giving students power even if they aren’t experts in academic discourse(s).
The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) has a lot and they also sponsor a podcast that’s great. You can sign up for their newsletter and check out there podcast on the ACUE community page.
curry created this collaborative activity last semester to facilitate a discussion about a dense article that was integral to a major writing assignment.The activity merges “fessing up” group strategies with equity techniques that pre-position every student to participate. By assigning roles, managing space, and validating all forms of contributions, this activity increases the opportunities for each individual student to contribute to and benefit from the discussions, from the quietest student to those who did not read before class. Feel free to make a copy of the linked google doc, and treat the topics and questions to fit your discipline and outcome goals.
Boy, this week was a doozy! All I could think about was how much set-up an online class requires, and hoping that when I teach my first one I’ll have plenty of time to prepare. Warnock makes it seem simple and straightforward, but when I looked at all the possibilities for cool tools out there, it was nothing like simple. How is one to master even a few of these? And how, as Conrad and Donaldson insist, is one to ensure “all participants have the necessary skill level with the communication tools” used in the course (qtd in Warnock 19)? I guess it means I’ll have to make lots of handy teaching videos like curry, which will require me to have even more mastery of the tools than my students.
In my onsite class, I don’t use a ton of technology. I have been using Canvas for a few semesters and love the ease of setting up the course, the possibilities for altering the look of the class, and the course copy option (which I used very effectively this semester for the first time). I use Speedgrader, and I like the options available for grading. It looks so much cleaner than my handwritten scribbles that students had to decipher, and I like that I can mute the comments and work on all the papers together, giving me freedom to revise my comments. When I’m done grading, I unmute so students can see them. As far as wondering if grading online is effective, I have no guarantee that students are looking at my comments. I could assign a response paper about the comments, but I have yet to do that. I figure if students aren’t doing well and are looking to improve, they will look at the comments (Ha! Fingers crossed). To simplify my online course, I plan to use Canvas’ peer editing tool so students don’t have to learn a separate technology from the one they get from me. Plus, Turnitin’s peermark link we looked at this week was insanely overwhelming and caused many of my brain’s synapses to shut down. On the plus side, it made me really appreciate curry’s video on using Canvas’ PeerReview as a much more effective way for students to learn the system. That is, until I started thinking that I would have to make my own video for my own students, and down the rabbit-hole of worry I went: how will I ever make a video like this? I know how to log in as my student self, but that’s the extent of it. How will I get a sample paper to open? How will I assign that person as my student-self’s peer? Okay, deep breaths…
In my f2f classroom I use Google docs to collaboratively add to summaries of difficult texts, quote notes and other items that students can access at home through Canvas. The Google docs info link provided in this week’s bibliography reminded me of two other features that appeal to me: presentation sign-ups and student groups’ chat option alongside the groups’ shared document. Those are two items I haven’t taken advantage of yet, and I plan to implement immediately in my onsite course! I think Google docs could also be used like a big open discussion board, where students can workshop thesis statements or add information about the readings. And there might be some visual appeal to having everyone in one document rather than everyone’s separate threads/posts in a discussion board.
For online class lessons, I’m comfortable with Powerpoint and Prezi for info-heavy material. I appreciate curry’s notion of Prezi as “interactive, self-pacing, and non-linear,” some traits I think can be effective for our wide range of learners. I haven’t used Prezi much myself, but I like the way the presentations look, apart from making me feel nauseous. I plan to use Screencast-o-matic for mini-lessons showing students how to use an area of our course (like curry has done), or as an addition to a Powerpoint or Prezi. Voice thread was new to me, and seemed cool. I could see starting a discussion of a text this way. I’m just wondering if some of these technologies are tech just to be tech, and not useful enough to warrant using them in a class. I really have to ask myself: does this tool warrant the learning curve? Does it do its job better than anything else? Is it overly complicated? Will we use it often? If any of those answers are “no,” I should probably pass.
I found it interesting/strange that Warnock relied on email for so many of the tasks in his online course. The last thing I want is to have hundreds of emails in my inbox to sort through, and which could very easily get lost in the fray. I’m assuming his heavy reliance on email stems from the book being almost 10 years old. Get revising, Warnock!
Given all the above, Warnock’s “Guideline 9: Don’t be any more complicated technologically than you have to be” (19) is becoming my new motto with the overwhelming amount of information and options this week. If/when I teach online, I’d like to find a few tools to use, mix them up, and use them throughout. I don’t want to overwhelm myself (or my students) with too many programs that all have a learning curve and bugs to work out. My experience with tech is that something always goes wrong with every technology at the beginning. When I first started this online certification, I couldn’t post on wordpress, then saving my screencast to youtube didn’t work, then I couldn’t embed my screencast in wordpress, and so on… Just posting and linking my first blog/video took close to an hour! The more outside websites students have to log in to and get to know is host to at least one student having a problem every time, and I don’t want time taken up with problem solving when I’d rather be teaching.
The technology that supports active reading in digital environments is getting better. Common devices and freely available software make it possible to apply traditional, mindful reading practices to pdfs, digital textbooks, and Open Educational Resources. Still, these high-tech tools are not themselves enough to teach students how to meaningfully engage with text. Along with ever improving technologies and the exciting benefits of OER come a need to maximize the impact of classroom instruction, so students truly benefit from the reading/hearing/playing/watching/swiping they bring to new interactive modalities that are becoming ever more common in higher education.
The following list of resources and annotations seeks to explore:
How to support effective academic reading skills given the range of devices and apps present in our classrooms?
What new forms of effective reading are possible in networked, digital environments?
What digital practices best target comprehension and recall, critical reading and response, and/or active reading and intellectual engagement?
How to promote time management, preparedness, and accountability despite the distractions of digital access?
I have been working with several students who are frustrated with digital reading. Something I have been trying is both hand-written and digital mind-maps to interact with the text. When students mind-map, they slow down, process better, and their visual map of the information matches/ reflects some of their own cognitive processing. This video has some examples of hard copy and digital mapping and a few ways it can be used in a classroom setting. Here is the link to the Coggleit site.
MiraCosta’s Open Educational Lunch Extravaganza
Nicole Finkbeiner from OpenStax, Keynote
Things to Listen to
Assessing the Impact of Open Educational Resources hosted by Bonni Stachowiak of Vanguard University of Southern California with guest C. Edward Watson, the Associate VP for Quality, Advocacy, and LEAP Initiatives with AAC&U. Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, http://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/assessing-impact-open-educational-resources/
A 30 minute podcast focused on the exciting impact of Open Education Resources on student success. The conversation offers compelling statistics and anecdotes, but it also arrives at one clear drawback stated by students about OER materials: digital content is harder to use than printed texts. Listen to this podcast to get excited about OER, and then explore the resources below that address the need to teach students how to succeed with digital resources.
Igniting Our Imagination in Digital Learning and Pedagogy hosted by Bonni Stachowiak of Vanguard University of Southern California with guest Remi Kalir, Assistant Professor, Information and Learning Technologies at CU Denver. Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, http://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/igniting-imagination-digital-learning-pedagogy/
A 30 minute podcast that focuses on play as an approach to learning and accessing digital annotation technologies like Hypothes.is. The conversation explores social reading as a mode for professional development for faculty, but also digs at the potential combination of digital annotation with classroom discussion as a powerful means of accessing texts.
Most of us who teach in reading-heavy disciplines have, ourselves, developed effective reading habits that combine highlighting, post-it notes, dog-eared pages, marked moments, coffee stained favorites, and kinetic flipping-across-pages with one’s own hands instead of clicks. O’Donnell’s source offers analog (nostalgic?) touch-stones that we might start to imagine transporting into digital environments.
Recommended by Megen O’Donnel
Welcome to the Post Text World. Multiple contributors: Farhad Manjoo, John Yuyi, Nellie Bowles, Mike Issac, Claire Cain Miller, Sapna Maheshwari, Amanda Hess. The New York Times, 14 February 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/09/technology/the-rise-of-a-visual-internet.html
A mash-up of articles exploring current multi-modal mediums. While some articles offer angst, others, describe empowering modalities. The central question that threads these articles asks how traditional media consumption habits and routines will necessarily change. For us, that question might be: what shifts in classroom instruction should we adopt to facilitate more effective reading/playing/watching/listening/swiping?
An interactive tutorial. Bonilla weighs the pros and cons of using eReaders, focusing on the preferences, behaviors, and outcome goals a student or instructor might bring to an act of academic reading. This is a great source to start encounter early, to weigh the value of eReaders yourself.
Most of the devices and programs discussed here are outdated, but the theory that underpin this study still ignites the pedagogical imagination on fire. In fact, some of the tools linked at the bottom of this bibliography seem to have caught up with Wolfe’s ambition. This is definitely worth skimming to gain a framework for thinking about current technologies and programs.
A one year study of first year college students who were taught “think-aloud” strategies–screen-casting while reading and responding out-loud–as a means to actively read digital texts. The video-audio think-alouds allow insight into “the cognitive and affective processes” students employ while reading in digital environments when their goal is to write a source-based paper. What’s interesting: many of these students demonstrate they are reading at the sentence-level opposed to the level of concepts or ideas when reading on screens. This article essentially calls for instruction supporting “reading strategies specific to digital environments.”
A survey of tools and classroom activites that promote collaborative exploration of sources. This is a great source to pair with your own exploration of Perusall (linked below under Things to Try), which will also be demoed in our Zoom discussion.
Recommended by Rob Bond
Writing in Online Courses edited by Phoebe Jackson and Christopher Weaver. Myers Education Press, 2018.
This article motivated me to read Proust and the Squid (also another great reading resource) and think about how our brains are structured and that relationship to the act of reading. What I like about this New Yorker article is how it discusses what digital reading seems to do to us. When we digitally read we skim and scan, we flit through other content, and we exhaust faster than reading with a physical text we can hold in our hands. From a double consciousness perspective as both a teacher online and in f2f classrooms and as a coach doing writing center work, this article reveals the struggles our students face reading in the digital age. But this article can also be a jumping off point to possible inform how you will teach digital reading techniques and strategies in an f2f or online writing class.
Recommended by Anne Fleming
Things to Try
Google Play, iBooks, The Kindle app, The Canvas app…and other eReader apps
Common devices that most students bring to class everyday are equipped already with tools that facilitate close reading, highlighting, annotation, quick searches, and more. The benefit: every student can access a digital resource in class immediately. The detriment: instruction on how to use these annotation tools must differentiate because every device and software tool is just slightly different from student to student. The article above offers a nice overview: a starting place to develop a for-all-devices lesson on effective digital reading and annotation.
Jeremy Dean is the creator of Hypothes.is, an annotation program, but this isn’t an ad. They discuss the definition of annotating, different programs for doing it, and detailed ways to use it with students.
This article has been uploaded into Perusall, a collaborative annotation tool that can be added to a Canvas course. You can explore Perusall and annotate the above article on annotation using Perusall by first joining our WritingwithMachines course or you can enjoy a demonstration of this tool by Lisa Lane during our Zoom meeting on March 8th from 7:00-8:00 pm.
Warnock’s recommendation in the introduction to organize the class around “your teaching style and strategies (ix) resonated with me, and made the daunting task of setting up an online course seem more approachable. I started thinking about a few parts of my onsite classes that I like the best and I think are most helpful to students. They include:
Student-generated information on the elements of writing. Usually a few (or a lot) of students have prior knowledge about how an essay is organized, what goes into the intro, how to do an MLA in-text citation, etc. In my onsite classes I acknowledge this and have the students fill in the blanks during these discussions. For an online course, perhaps I could have a blank google doc that students can edit, filling in the info and providing suggestions to each other about some useful writing tools. We could have a day or so to fill in a bunch of information, and everyone could contribute at least one idea. Ideally it would help students gain confidence before they begin writing.
“Conversations” about the readings. This is my favorite part of the onsite course, and I’m not sure exactly how it would work online. In a f2f class, the initial questions I ask to generate discussions are merely a jumping off point, and students go off on tangents, relate it to themselves, and explore unanticipated areas of the text. I’d like to keep some of that flexibility, and some possible ways to do that might be to have students come up with these discussion questions, or different groups work on different questions, or lots of students responding their peers’ posts.
Feedback at all stages of writing process. In my class, we break the essay down into small chunks, and peers and I provide some type of feedback at every stage. In my onsite course we are limited by the number of times we meet each week, but online I could play with the due dates in a more effective way. I would like students to write about or submit some sort of brainstorm initially to get ideas flowing. Perhaps they could be in groups determined by the prompt they wish to answer. Then submitting and getting comments on an outline, a paragraph or two of the essay, then full rough draft. Perhaps the course could be organized by modules, then week 1-4 or whatever within each module. Each unit’s activities will follow a similar trajectory so the expectations and workload are consistent, as curry mentioned in his video.
I’m sure I could think of more, but perhaps it’s best to start small so I’M not overwhelmed, never mind the students!
Additionally, something that struck me in this week’s reading was the reminder that an online class, as Warnock points out, “by its very nature – requires students to learn to use writing to interact with others” as well as EVERY SINGLE OTHER TASK (xi) in order to complete the course. At the very least, students will get tons of writing practice in different venues online, whether casual or formal, with the instructor or other students.
Lastly, here is my video tour, and here’s the link to the original video I reference.
(After posting 5 times with the video embedded in my preview but not on the blog, I’ve used a hyperlink instead…I only have so much patience.)
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.
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.
Full Disclosure – My apologies for the late post, folks. My fiancé and I just had a baby, which has left me learning how to balance work and fatherhood mid-semester. Good times.
Thanks for Waiting – Reading “OWI Principle 1” about inclusivity and accessibility brought back memories of classroom moments where students would give me that look that essentially said, “Seriously, Tsuyuki, I wish you would have given this to us earlier. Now we have to go back and change things.” As I made my way through the guidelines and eventually the effective practices for “OWI Principle 1,” it didn’t take long for me to feel like the topic, “Accessibility and Universal Design,” could have come earlier. There was definitely that initial thought: Dang, Curry and Jim, why didn’t you give this to us earlier? Why wasn’t this our first topic? Now I have to go back and change everything. But then I snapped out of it, remembered how I tend to teach bottom-up vs. top-down, and wondered where I would have been had I started with such an explicit framework. In other words, thanks for saving this topic for later. Doing so allowed me to design authentically and unfiltered, which I see as good and bad, but mostly good. But now, after taking in this week’s readings, I have a chance to revisit, rethink, and refine. While some of this is already happening, much will happen later.
Today – In terms of recent upgrades, I recently addressed “Effective Practice 1.4” by adding Zoom to my online course. What a great resource! I mean, I had some sense of it though the online Canvas workshops that were offered during Flex, but hosting an unscheduled Zoom session after receiving an email from a student who wasn’t making progress with an essay was an amazing experience. It was spontaneous—similar to an onsite student who drops in when you’re not holding hours—yet surprisingly productive—similar to that onsite student who drops in and isn’t expect much but leaves with printouts and promising direction. While there’s still a sense of regret for not using Zoom sooner, I’m far more excited about my next session.
Tomorrow – In terms of what’s ahead, I greatly appreciated the tips in Emily Moore’s Faculty Focus article, “Improve Accessibility in Tomorrow’s Online Courses by Leveraging Yesterday’s Techniques.” The recommendations made perfect sense, and I was glad to see her include examples throughout to illustrate her ideas. (In thinking about Warnock and some of my comments about his chapter on collaboration, I think his text would benefit at times from these types of concrete examples.) During the upcoming winter break, I look forward to revisiting my course and applying Moore’s ideas to my content—everything from succinct writing and annotated links, to pronoun usage and captioned videos. I’m also going to revisit Bill Pelz’s JALN article, “(My) Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy” (2004), which focuses on letting students do most of the work, interactivity, and types of presence. While I’m still making my way through it, the article seems like a nice supplement to Moore’s.
Candy Contributions – That being said, while I found Moore to be helpful overall, for new and experienced online instructors, I had a hard time getting on board with her thoughts on cutting extraneous material. According to Moore, “Sighted students can learn to ignore extraneous ‘eye candy’ and text. That’s not the case for students relying on screen readers, which give the same presentational weight to long-winded, repetitious material and critical course concepts. Make sure every paragraph, image, activity, and video clip you add to an online course contributes directly to your course’s stated learning objectives.” Really? Every element? Everything has to tie back to an objective? Personally, that sounds awful. I mean, I’d probably have to scrap my class photo! I understand the concern in terms of those students relying on screen readers, but I can’t imagine a course that’s “all business, all the time.” Community is often rooted in that which doesn’t tie back to objectives. I won’t get into specific examples that are meaningful to the course experience yet don’t tie back to objectives, but if the concern is screen readers being unable to ignore optional/extraneous content like a sighted student, couldn’t we simply add a brief disclaimer to non-objective-based moments in the course? What am I not seeing? Help me, Jim J!
Rethink Culture – Ultimately, what I like about this week’s topic is how it feels familiar. It reminds me of some of the subcommittee work we’ve done in PG&E. It calls to mind how MCC has evolved since I was hired back in 2010. By evolve, I’m referring to what we now offer, who we now represent, those we now celebrate through PDP, for instance, and opportunities like the Cultural Competency Conference. Consider this month and how we’re experiencing this evolution via a robust number of events dedicated to celebrating distinct heritages and histories: Pilipinx, LGBTQIA+, Latinx and Chicanx. In my mind, when I think of how we’ve evolved and where we are today, I can’t help but place ideas like “inclusivity” and “accessibility” in the same space as, or maybe under the umbrella of, cultural competency. Am I alone in thinking WwM is enabling us to become increasingly competent in the dynamic culture that is OWI?
Larger Context – The other day I received the latest issue of Teaching English in the Two-Year College (TETYC). This particular issue is a special issue dedicated to preparing two-year college English teachers. In the feature article, “TYCA Guidelines for Preparing Teachers of English in the Two-Year College,” the task force makes one explicit reference to online pedagogy. It’s included toward the end of a curriculum bullet point: “Expand graduate course offerings to include topics valuable to faculty teaching in open admissions and teaching-intensive colleges and universities, including two-year colleges. Such topics include basic writing, literacy education for culturally and linguistically diverse students populations, writing assessment, writing program administration, writing center theory, online pedagogy, and multimodal composition (Calhoon-Dillahunt et al. 15). As someone who hasn’t been subscribing to TETYC for all that long, I was wondering: “To what extent are WwM-ish conversations being addressed by TETYC and TYCA?” This year’s TYCA Pacific Coast conference at Miramar was dedicated to “Inspiration, Innovation, Inclusion,” for instance, but I’m not sure what it looked like or to what extent OWI was represented because the ECCTYC link is broken 🙁
Still, I do wonder how two-year college scholarship has addressed this world in which we find ourselves so immersed these days. If the answer is that it really hasn’t, perhaps our posts are at the beginnig stages of something bigger.
After reading through the material assigned this week, I decided that the best way for me to reflect on what I will do to ensure that my online classes are accessible is to make a checklist of sorts to reference if/when I get the opportunity to teach online.
Docs – When I create documents and web pages, I’ve been careful to use standard HTML tags and to use true formatting (lists, columns, and tables). I already convert all of my documents into PDFs, but I will add HTML-like tags so screen readers can effectively translate the material.
Images – One thing I need to check on is my use of ALT tags; I need to revise them with a concise description—I didn’t know I could use up to 100 characters, which is a helpful guideline.
All links should be meaningfully annotated.
I also will take advantage of accessibility checkers.
Videos – When I create videos, I will be sure to provide a text transcript and/or closed captioning using YouTube’s free captioning. I will also be sure to chunk the videos.
Check my docs/sites on mobile phones.
Keep instruction short.
Write in a direct, personal tone.
Be aware of use pronouns to ensure clarity for non-seeing populations.
If sending students to third-party website, be sure it’s accessible or provide alternatives.
When choosing modality and media for my assignments and activities, I will consider the probability of students ability to use and to access the technology.
Learn about which types of services our DSPS offers–Braille, large-print, recorded, or electronic texts, etc.
Create a quick mandatory technology orientation session for students to complete prior to beginning the course. The goal of this orientation will be twofold: to explain to students the technology to be used in the class and to solicit info from students about their technology skills and confirm they have access to the required technology.
Offer alternatives to meeting students—phone class, Skype, on-site, etc.
Keep track of students with poor participate and find out why (might be an accessibility issue.)
Offer instructional material in more than one medium.”For example, a photograph or other graphic on the course Web space should be described textually. For another example, critical textual material should be described orally using an audio feature. Similarly, a teacher’s video should be transcribed or closely paraphrased textually to accommodate a deaf student or one with auditory learning disabilities. Students should have a choice about whether to receive an essay response orally (through digital recording) or textually; alternatively, students might receive one essay response orally and the next one textually. If these practices seem onerous, it is helpful to remember that multimodality assists all learners and not just those with special challenges” (from Conference on Composition & Communication, Effective Practice 1.10).
I definitely want my students to collaborate. Two reasons, primarily: 1) I see this kind of interaction as a fundamental remedy for the distance in distance education, and 2) it’s also a key component of my on-the-ground courses.
In the spring I often inserted a caution into my discussions of online learning whenever the conversation drifted toward synchronous tasks/learning, and I think that the topic of collaboration certainly knocks on this door. The text, in part, discusses the topic with this in mind. And, my first reason above for wanting to integrate collaborative learning into the online environment — drawing down the distance between online learners — would certainly benefit from a little synchronicity. Yet, I feel like students sign up for online course to take advantage of the flexibility the courses offer, and that contract begins to erode when instructors establish time, day, and place requirements. I often have students in the military taking my online courses from distant time zones or on submarines, which really limits their ability to participate synchronously.
I like my on-the-ground group assignments. They rock the course outcomes. And they definitely need synchronicity — in their current form — to maximize their benefits. Small groups that can set their own schedule for synchronicity begin to address the issue I mention above, but they, too, make impossible demands on some of my online learners, which is why, in the past 10 years, I have assigned no synchronous work in my online courses. I have made some on-the-ground group assignments into individual assignments, but I have mostly scrapped the collaborative work that needs synchronicity in favor of other methods.
The collaborative assignment I’d most like to migrate is a group quiz I offer in my on-the-ground English 100 courses. The quiz is assigned to groups of three to four students and takes a full meeting to complete (1:50) if the students are diligent, know their stuff — and collaborate effectively. The students are presented with an article to read that articulates a position on an issue of the day, then the quiz requires that they demonstrate competence in critical reading, writing, researching, and MLA Style.
I know that in Canvas you can create quizzes and assign them to particular cohorts of students, so that is not difficult. However, in class (I just administered one of these today) the students delegate, huddle in pairs or triplets over computer screens then jump to another computer and compare, check each others work, teach each other, separate the pages on the quiz and pass them around, scribble, cross out, use scratch paper, reference multiple web sites — in other words, they collaborate, and they do it in a messy, real-world way that is hard to translate to the online environment. (I would say this parallels the issue I discussed two weeks ago with translating my written feedback to the online environment.)
To approximate this on-the-ground experience, I think they’d need a live video chat/conference, to be able to see each other’s screens, and to be able to all work off of the same live document (the quiz) — to start.
Oh, and they all need to be able to schedule a time to collaborate.