Celebration of Learning: Online Showcase-Providing Students With A Successful Start to an Online Class

Presenters: Jen Richrath, English; Lisa Arnett, Radiography; Nick Toledo, History

Jen’s Tips
Balance flexibility and structure;
Use Units, 4 weeks in duration, to provide flexibility and latitude in timing for students work on and completing assignments;
Post frequent announcements during the unit to keep students engaged;
Use announcements to provide a site welcome, site setup explanation, notices new discussions have been posted, what is coming up in next unit;
Begin discussions with personal responses (introductions, what are your favorite films) then move to content;
Provide other discussion forums for non-assigned discussions; Ask a question forum, Movie talk forum;
Be clear and consistent with site setup.

Lisa’s Tips
Starting the semester off right helps the rest of the semester go smoothly;
Funnel students through one point of entry for content but also provide information in stand-alone areas – one point of entry for ease of access to all information, repeated stand-alone linkages for ease of access to specific information;
“Upload your face” – provide students with your picture so they can put a face with your name;
Use strategies to orient students to how the course works: Pre-course quiz over the course information, general questions about the course which can be answered by reviewing the course information (ie. who is your instructor multiple choice question), questions about course policies and instructor expectations;
Assign a personal introduction/biography in the first week discussion, provide an instructor bio as well.

Nick’s Tips
Provide students with explicit information on communicating with the instructor; what tools to use when, when to expect responses, time frames for contact the instructor, etc.  Nick uses Skype for online calls, sets his Skype availability and students are able to contact him via Skype when he is online. Nick uses discussion forums for questions about the course and email for private student matters.  Being explicit about these channels and types of communications, he provides feedback to students who may not use the channels properly, such as someone who posts a question about a grade in the discussion forum – Nick responses and says he’d be glad to answer the question when sent to him via email.
Provide a comprehensive syllabus; help students understand that online classes are not active 24/7 but they are also not online “correspondence classes”, they have structures and deadlines; also be explicit about assignment submission and “attendance” policies (federal aid requires instructors to record last substantive contribution to the class, posting a discussion, submitting an assignment, taking a test, NOT last login, as the last day of “attendance” for an online class);
Require students to purchase Online Education for Dummies, even if they are experienced online students, to learn more about success strategies for learning online;
Provide students with opportunities to practice all of the skills they need to be successful in the course, such as emailing the instructor, posting to a discussion, taking a quiz (over course information), using a new software tool (Nick uses Voice Thread for digital stories);
Email students who have not been engaged in the class 5 days or more;
Create and post podcasts with tips on taking your online class (podcasting software: MAC-GarageBand, PC-Audacity);
If your class requires special software or hardware (speakers, headphones, microphone), provide details in the course information;
Learning is about the process! Digital assignments allow students to go deeper than reading from a text.

Session Discussion
Suggestions for moderating discussions: post examples of responses and replies as models for students; assign half of the students to be respondents and half of the students to reply – switch respondents and repliers the next week, structuring dialogue among students; prohibit ‘reply dumping’, process by which students make all required postings at the last minute; use students as discussion monitors, 2-3 students per forum, to assist with engaging students and keeping the discussion moving; split discussion deadlines, first deadline is a response, second deadline is a reply to a response;
Support for web cams, microphones and headsets for using online tools is available – contact Patrice, <<phess@icc.edu>> for more information;
How do online and F2F sections of the same class compare? Students are not necessarily better or worse; students sometimes enroll in online classes because they believe they will be easier – future work of the online learning task force will explore student readiness and assessing students for online learning skills;
Students with disabilities can be accommodated while taking online classes – seek out assistance with audio transcripts, video transcripts, voiced text, etc. if needed – contact Patrice, <<phess@icc.edu>> for more information.

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