#Goals for my hypothetical online course
#Goals for my hypothetical online course avatar

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:  

  1. 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.
  2. “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.
  3. 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 Course!
My Dream Course! avatar

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.

-Sean

Here are the links to my previous posts:

 

 

 

 

Accessibility Across the Board
Accessibility Across the Board avatar

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.

Candy, Culture, Context
Candy, Culture, Context avatar

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.

Unit 3: Accessibility and Universal Design
Unit 3: Accessibility and Universal Design avatar

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.

Technical

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.

Pedagogical

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).

Time, place, and manner.
J. Williams

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.

However.

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.

Yet.

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.

Thoughts?

Group Work in a Digital Class
Group Work in a Digital Class avatar

                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.