Instructor Roles

In this week’s readings, we explored instructor’s roles in online learning. Liu, Bonk, Magjuka, Lee, and Su conducted a study using Berge’s instructor roles- pedagogical, managerial, social, and technical as a framework. Pedagogical instructor tasks include encouraging students to share knowledge with one another through interactive discussions and providing feedback. Social instructor tasks include developing a sense of group cohesiveness through frequent participation, feedback, and interaction. Managerial tasks involve managing online discussions, setting clear agendas, establishing deadlines and clear content. Finally, technical tasks include addressing technical software concerns, referring them to appropriate tech support resources, and allowing them time to get comfortable with a new tool (Liu et al., 2005, pgs. 30-32). All of these aspects of the teaching process play an important role. In an ideal world, an instructor would bring a balanced approach of all four to the virtual classroom. The authors write, “One aspect of the teaching process may serve dual purposes. For example, the organizational aspect of course design serves both pedagogical purposes (as a way to keep students engaged in the learning materials) and managerial purposes (as a way to present clear expectations)” (Liu, et al., 2005, pg. 42). The research concluded that instructors place a stronger emphasis on pedagogical practice when it comes to promoting student engagement and facilitating discussion.

In my module, I think I will play a more managerial-pedagogical role. I’m very structured and organized, so I already have clear instructions on online interactions. For instance, I will want the students to address specific questions when providing feedback on each others’ time management plans. I like to think of my online discussions following a structured guideline that I’ll create. Even in my in-class courses, I provide explicit student expectations as well as a list of expectations of what they should expect from me as their instructor. If they have a clear understanding of the course and what’s expected of them, I find they are more comfortable engaging in the material and with one another (it gives them a sense of direction and my millennials love direction!). My main goal of the course will be for them to walk away with the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully complete online/hybrid courses in college. Through the use of blogging, students can share with one another their 90 day challenge experiences as way to build positive interactive discussions. I want my students to focus on their developing their individual skillsets while building off of each other’s ideas. In this way, I’m very much focused on the pedagogical role (and some social aspects too). I don’t want students to feel they are alone when coping with new learning environments. If they feel part of a larger community who is going through a similar experience, the student will have a stronger sense of self-efficicacy or belief in themselves and want to remain at VCU.
In my module, I don’t think I’ll play the technical role as much primarily because I’m not bringing a lot of technical skills myself to the  classroom. Terry Anderson describes an excellent online teacher as one who has strong content knowledge, motivates, understands the learning process, and has sufficient technical skill to “navigate and contribute effectively within the online learning context” (Anderson, pg. 360). I think I have the basic skills and will already be familiar with the online platforms I’ll assign, but I will not be diagnosing the technical problems myself. If a student is having technical problems, I’ll probably refer them to the VCU’s helpIT department who can provide accurate advice. I think what I can provide is enough time for students to become familiar with the technical tools, so he or she can troubleshoot any potential issues on the front end; thus, allowing for more time to focus on the content and interaction with one another.

 

 

TPACK

Lesson Description: Goals and Motivation

90-Day Challenge  

Research shows that it takes 90 days to develop a new habit. Breaking down a new goal into small, digestible steps increases success rates. Most first year students in college have had limited exposure to online learning, especially blended learning environments. First year business students, however, are required to enroll in courses completely taught online or hybrid courses their first year. Since online learning involves strong organizational and time management skills, this lesson involves students completing a 90 day academic challenge so they can develop new habits and skills for successful online learning. Students choose one goal specific to developing their online learning skills (e.g. if they need to work on their time management skills, the goal would be to establish a set schedule for class time to read, write, blog, etc. which would help ensure class participation/preparation and completion of homework assignments). The goal should be in line with RAMS (realistic, attainable, measurable, and specific). Once the student has chosen his or her goal, they will create an action plan in the format below:

Goal: State your goal, why it is important to online learning, and your motivation for choosing it.

Steps for Achieving Goal: (Be very specific. This is the recipe for success.)

  1. Step one (e.g., get a weekly planner)
  2. Step two (e.g., write in dedicated class time to read online lessons every Monday from 2-4pm, complete writing assignments on Tuesday from 9-11am, respond to other online postings every Sunday from 2-4, etc.)
  3. Step three (e.g., set up recurring instructor appointments during office hours)
  4. And so on (students will have many more steps)

Obstacles:

Students will face challenges throughout the semester. List ALL of the possible obstacles and what you will do to overcome them.

  1. E.g., I might get sick and have to miss a weekly assignment. I will exchange contact information with someone in each class so that if I have to be out I can ask him/her what I missed. If it is a test day, then I will contact the instructor before class.
  2. List as many as possible

Support System:

The most successful people use their resources and seek and accept help from family, friends, academic advisors, and instructors. Students will create a list of the resources he or she will use to help reach your goal.

Resources:

  1. E.g., Campus Learning Center
  2. List as many as possible

People/Relationship to you

  1. E.g., John Smith, my cousin completed an online degree program. He can relate to what I’m going through.
  2. List as many as possible. We tend to be part of a larger village of support than we think.

Measuring Success: How will you know you’re making progress? List as many indicators as possible.

  1. E.g., My quiz and test grades will be higher than they were last semester.
  2. List as many as possible

Rewards:

Yes, reaching the goal is a terrific reward in itself, but you can also treat yourself to something for your accomplishments. List the rewards for your small goals and then state what you would like to do/have/get when you reach your semester goal.

  • Small goals
  1. E.g., After I study for two hours in the library during the dedicated class times I set at the beginning of the semester, I will go back to my room and watch two episodes of my favorite show.
  2. E.g., If I get a/an (A,B,C) on my _____ test, I will buy those boots I want.
  3. List as many as you think will be effective.
  • The big goal!
  1. When I reach my semester goal of ___ I will ____.

Students will be required to paste their 90 day academic challenge into a blog. I, as the instructor, will encourage rampages application. Students will then be paired into groups of 3 (blog buddies) by the instructor for a guided peer review. Group members will post their responses to the following questions: (A) What did they like about their group member’s plan? (B) What could be improved? (C) Is their goal realistic, attainable, measurable, specific? (D) Is the action plan in line with the goal? (E)What constructive advice and/or recommendations could you provide for improving the quality of their plan?

The main Content (C) of this lesson is goal setting and developing an action plan to improve online learning and overall academic success skills.

The main Pedagogy (P) of this lesson is sharing the 90 day action plan with their peers and getting constructive feedback and alternative perspectives through group discussion

The main Technology (T) of this lesson is an online asynchronous peer review system through rampages that will house the written contributions of the group.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)

Describe: How and why does the particular pedagogy use in this lesson “fit” the teaching of the lesson content/subject domain? In other words, how do you know that this particular pedagogy is applicable to the content you are teaching?

The sharing of peers’ thoughts, opinions, and perspectives after reviewing the 90 day action plan assists students in more fully understanding the detailed steps involved when developing a new habit or skill, allows students to form connections, commitment, and accountability to their action plans, as well as allows the group to introduce new resources and/or perspectives not previously thought of.

Support: Do you have any research­ based evidence to support your decision?

Group discussion allows students to acquire, check, develop, and improve ideas, which develops social and cognitive presence (COI Survey).

Technological Content Knowledge (TCK)

Describe: How and why does the particular technology use in this lesson “fit” the content goals? In other words, how do you know that this particular technology is best suited for addressing the content learned and taught?

Asynchronous online discussion allows students to participate in a group conversation according to their own schedules and availability, and allows students to develop well­ thought, well­ written contributions and responses.

Support: Do you have any research­ based evidence to support your decision?

Online or web-based communication is an excellent medium for social interaction because they are engaging in thoughtful, meaningful dialogue with one another versus synchronous discussion that limits the time needed for critical reflection (COI survey)

Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK)

Describe: How and why does the particular technology use in this lesson “fit” the instructional strategies you use? In other words, how will this particular technology change the teaching and learning process when it’s used in the classroom

Students will be able to easily share constructive feedback that may include links to other online resources. More importantly, students new to online discussion may be slow to interact or offer constructive guidance, especially 18 year olds whose cognitive thinking is still maturing. Kevin Wilcoxon (2011) states that “Interaction and collaboration are not intuitive for many adult learners who were educated in a predominantly lecture-based environment. Initially, these students may be more comfortable in a passive role and will need guidance and opportunities to become involved.” The instructor will have to engage learners in the conversation by asking structured yet thoughtful questions and prompts that will help students think about what they want to offer in group discussion. The online discussion through blogging will make it easier to track who has participated in a conversation.

Support: Do you have any research­ based evidence to support your decision?

Students are allowed to get to know one another provides a sense of belonging in the course and accountability to stick to their 90 day action plan. Online discussions help students develop a sense of collaboration. (COI survey)

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)

Describe: How and why do the content goal, instructional strategy, and technology use all fit together in this lesson? In other words, what is your basis of teaching this particular content through this particular pedagogy/andragogy where you use this particular technology?

The content, method, and technology I’ve selected to use in this lesson are an ideal fit because students are learning to use the same online platforms for group discussion they may use for other blended learning courses. Therefore, they will be comfortable in online group discussion when it’s time to enroll in blended learning courses. Students will be honing their academic success skills, like time management, that are necessary for any course, but are of crucial importance to the success of online learning. Students will be equipped with appropriate resources and tactics necessary to reach a goal and be successful. Therefore, their sense of self-efficacy will increase as a result of this lesson. Lastly, students will understand the value in alternative perspectives; through collaborative online dialogue students will develop deeper connections that can last beyond the classroom and apply to a variety of academic and nonacademic situations.

Support: Do you have any research­ based evidence to support your decision?

Brainstorming and finding relevant information helps students resolve content related questions (COI survey). Online learning communities are more engaging than traditional instruction (Wilcoxon, 2011). “Developing a schedule that designates specific times to log in to and participate in class and carry out other course-related activities such as reading and doing research promotes a student’s success as an online learner” (Roper, 2007).

References:

Arbaugh, B., Cleveland-Innes M., Diaz, S., Garrison, R., Ice, P., Richardson, J., Shea P.,and Swan, K. (2008). COI Survey. Retrieved 23 June 2016 from https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/coi-survey/

Guess, Andy. (2007). Learning 2.0. InsideHigherEd.com. Retrieved 23 June 2016 from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/11/13/blended

Roper, Alan. (2007). How Students Develop Online Learning Skills. Educause Quarterly (1), 62-65. Retrieved 23 June 2016 from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2007/1/how-students-develop-online-learning-skills.

Wilcoxon, Kevin. (2007). Building an Online Community. Retrieved 23 June 2016 from http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/761/building-an-online-learning-community

Project

Learning Goals: Students will…

  • Develop skills that will support academic achievement in blended learning courses
    • Activity addressing goals, motivation and time management: students will be expected to create a 90 day action plan and submit a journal entry/blog each week about the project experience. Blogs will be due each week.
  • Develop academic goals and acquire new habits to achieve academic success.
    • As part of the 90 day action plan, students are required to set an academic goal specific to online learning. For example, a student who has had little exposure to online learning may want to increase her hone her written communication skills, IT skills, etc. They are also required to use a planner and write out a weekly to do list for a blended learning course.
  • Develop methods for confronting the complex issues of online learning
    • Activity: Reading on how to search properly online followed by an exercise; blog about experience.
  • Learn to digitally connect with university faculty and students
    • Activity: Blogs will be due weekly and students will need to respond to at least one person creating a sense of community and connection. I would also like to require students meet with an instructor in person or have an online exchange with professor and blog about it.
  • Understand the resources and services available on campus.
    • Activity: 90 day action plan requires them to list academic resources necessary to achieve academic goal.

By the end of the semester, students should be able to:

  • State academic goals specific to online learning.
  • Identify, develop, and implement the necessary college skills required to be a successful online learner at VCU.
  • Know specific methods that will help manage time efficiently
  • Seek appropriate resources, when needed, and design an effective plan for preparing and studying using digital resources.

The first lesson will be an introduction to blended learning and students will have the opportunity to take an optional pilot pre-test that can help students determine which areas to focus on. Bri sent me the following example which I may merge with another assessment tool I use: https://www.waol.org/prospective_students/isonlineforme.aspx. I also plan to do a post-test at the conclusion of the course to measure growth.

Theoretical frameworks:

Connectivism: the ability to create a resource for students to use long after the course is over to frequently refer back to. Students may take other fully online or blended courses after their first year and I want this to serve as a resource guide. I want to get students thinking about the importance of connecting with others for information versus having to know it all themselves.

Connectivism

“As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses” (Siemens, 2005).

As I read George Siemens’ article this week, I felt as though he’s been reading my mind and sitting in my office watching information chaos. As a new manager, I’ve been focusing on a knowledge management platform. As some of you may know who work in higher ed, curriculum, policy, personnel turnover happens constantly. As advisors, we have to know about all the changes and remain current so we can provide accurate information to our students. Right now, we have an internal Google website, which serves as a resource for advisors in our office to quickly find information. The problem is that advisors rarely use it or add to it. Siemens (2005) writes, “This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed”; but what about the employee who doesn’t feel that connection to the network and frequently forgets to share vital knowledge?  In my ADLT 623 course on Org Learning and Development, I read an article about knowledge maps in the conversion of tacit knowledge in higher ed as a competitive strategy. The article discovered that the preparation of knowledge maps and employee commitment is a direct byproduct of leadership and culture. The authors suggested that the institutional leaders at the departmental level motivate their employees to record their knowledge in order to obtain growth within the organization and generate a “win win” situation (Bautista et al., 2012, pg. 56). Siemens addressed the implication of constructivist theory at the end when he writes, “An organizations ability to foster, nurture, and synthesize the impacts of varying views of information is critical to knowledge economy survival” (2005). I think both articles touched briefly on culture, but not fully. Perhaps Siemens simply assumes the only way the theory will work is org cultures who are supportive of knowledge management through digital means?  In order for connectivism to work, senior leadership has to motivate, incentivize, and give employees the time to share, document, and reflect on the acquisition of knowledge. As Siemens’ explained, it’s not about the knowledge itself, but the ability to find the knowledge.

I completely agree that learning is a process and not an outcome. Giving learners the ability to find information and share information (continuing the flow of info) is more important the content itself. Knowing who to go to for information in an organization is a part of the learning process rather than feeling one has to know everything all the time (impossible). The challenge with this theory is getting employees or students who are used to learning in a very individualistic way  to see the benefits of building collaborative networks, sharing information, and utilizing technology tools that can benefit the organization as a whole. Siemens does address self -development as a healthy byproduct of the theory, but I think the big challenge from an org development perspective is getting the employees to see the bigger picture. If they can understand that by helping the organization they can help themselves, then perhaps constructivism can work with multi-generational organizations who may be slow to adopt new ways of thinking and knowledge sharing in chaotic information technology age.

When developing my online module, I think requiring my students share in new discoveries and experiences through blogging or maybe a Wiki has the potential to become a mini-knowledge database if you will. Students could refer to this site and add to it throughout the semester about how to be successful online learners. I like how this course required us to blog, which can be used long after the course is over. We also use Twitter, which could continue to be used after the course concludes. These are examples of how the course is building a community through the “clustering of similar areas of interest that allows for interaction, sharing, dialoguing, and thinking together” (Siemens, 2005).

 

Module Topic

My module topic will teach students academic success skills in hybrid courses. The target audience is my freshmen advisees. Most first year students do not register for hybrid courses until their second semester; therefore, they should enroll in this module in the first semester to better understand what blended learning is at VCU, and develop methods that will support academic achievement in those learning environments. My module will consist of 5 lessons. The first lesson will be an introduction of blended learning and students will have the opportunity to take an optional pilot pre-test that can help students determine which areas to focus on. At the end of the semester students will take a post-test to measure growth. In my second lesson, I will make them aware of the online platforms they may use and teach them how to search properly online.  The third lesson will address goals and motivation. I would like to adapt a colleague’s 90 action plan specifically for blended learning. The plan is based on research that shows it takes 90 days to form a new habit. I would like students to have the opportunity to share their action plans with the group and regularly blog/journal about their progress. The fourth lesson will focus time management, which will address self-directed/independent learning skills. Students are required to have a planner for this course and maintain a weekly to do list as part of the 90 day challenge. I’m still thinking through how I can require instructor interaction, but I want that to be mentioned in one of the lessons. Any ideas? I was thinking the final or fifth lesson would be a virtual presentation of their 90 day academic plan.

One common misconception about blending learning is that there will be limited opportunities to connect with the instructor. What blended learning tries to do is get students learning content online asynchronously so there is plenty of opportunity to connect when they arrive for class.  The Econ chair I mentioned in my COI blog post stressed the importance of discussion when its time to meet face to face with her students. Hybrid courses are wonderful opportunities for instructors to focus more on the student versus content while in class. Some students also have the opportunity to get immediate feedback from the instructor when completing online quizzes or assessments. Finally, a student may feel more comfortable discussing ideas/opinions nonverbally to the instructor online as opposed to in class; so there are plenty of contradictions to that myth.

The second misconception is that hybrid courses are easier/less work than traditional, in-class environments. Most of my students who come in to schedule classes see a course that only meets once a week and think “that sounds great!” Some may even come into my office unaware they are enrolled in a hybrid course (hard to believe I know). Students mistakenly think they just need commit to that one hour of class time and that’s it. In fact, hybrid courses can be more challenging for students because of the opportunity to go into more depth; students are expected to participate in discussions with one another at irregular hours and may in fact put in more hours than a traditional in class environment. For these reasons, some students struggle with having the right, up to date tools, staying motivated, organized, and feeling comfortable interacting with the instructor.

Sources:

http://evolllution.com/revenue-streams/distance_online_learning/students-succeed-onlinehybrid-environment/

http://www.smartbrief.com/original/2014/11/5-misconceptions-about-blended-learning

 

Community of Inquiry Framework

What I most appreciate about the COI framework is the survey instrument developed by Zehra Akyol because it discusses design and organizational elements as well as instructor behavior/instruction, which all (if implemented) could reduce transactional distance between learners. For instance, if the instructor clearly communicates important course topics and goals, keep participants engaged and productive using the online or web-based medium, and develops a sense of community among course participants by allowing participants to converse and interact with others then he or she is helping students feel comfortable in an online community – community being the key word. From a constructivist perspective, learning is an active, social process. Therefore, the COI framework encourages both social and teacher presence in order to help learners feel as though they truly know their teacher and their peers. I especially liked the encouragement of instructors to provide feedback in a timely fashion – that goes for both in-class and online teaching environments. So often, my freshmen complain that they have no idea how they are doing in a class. Around midterms, we’ll sit down to calculate their tentative GPA. More often than not, I get the “I haven’t gotten any tests back, so I don’t know where I stand.” I recommend they meet with their instructor during office hours, but freshmen in particular don’t feel comfortable meeting one on one with an instructor. I don’t think they can relate to their instructor as a real person. Instead, they think professors are this expert, god-like creature with the power to belittle you if approached about a grade or new way of thinking. If developing an online or blended course, it’s so helpful for the students to know and regularly have opportunities to converse with the professor as well as their peers.

I spoke with VCU’s Econ chair a few days ago about her blended course in macroeconomics. She walked me through her rampages course and made sure to point out that she offers an audio, voice over powerpoint that allows students to hear her voice and watch her work out problems. She emphasized how important it is for her students to know she’s an actual person. Beautifully put I thought at the time and so relevant to the COI framework. An article I found on the web offered helpful tips on reducing transactional distance that could also assist course developers in designing learning opportunities. Some of the suggestions on teacher presence could include YouTube videos or audio podcasts, showing course content on an incremental basis, and using visuals with photographs of yourself. From a social presence angle, instructors could develop debate-style discussions that would engage and encourage other viewpoints surrounding a topic. The discussion prompts could not only help improve participation among students, but also offer participants the opportunity to appreciate different perspectives and develop group cohesion (cognitive presence).

My module topic will address how to help freshmen be more successful in blended learning environments. Most of my former advisees are freshmen business majors who are required to take online and blended coursework in their first year. I want to start conversations with them about their online preparedness when they first arrive on campus. I have the benefit of teaching introduction to university courses and academic success skills classes, so I already teach goal action plans, time management, and study skills that I will adapt to an online learning format.  I envision one lesson introducing blended learning to students and making them aware of the tools that will be used. If I clearly communicate the topic and goal of the module, then I’m implementing the design techniques mentioned in the COI survey. Since I want students to individually assess themselves and how that relates to the tools they’ll be using, I don’t want them playing the “compare game” with their peers. If I incorporate some social aspect, I think I’d like to have an ongoing (and structured) discussion forum for students to discuss their online experiences throughout the semester. It can be an opportunity for students to hear from others in the same, confused state or from others who may be offering best practice solutions for navigating an online tool. I like the idea of students learning from one another about the do’s and don’ts. I’d then act as facilitator of those discussions. Along those lines, there could be an option for students to have online discussions about their goal action plans. I find when students share their goals with others, it brings about a level of accountability among their peers. I think this could also trigger cognitive presence because students would feel motivated to discuss problems related to course issues and construct solutions on their own.

E-Learning Generations

Since I’m interested in learning management systems, I thought Stephen Downes did a great job distinguishing between how generation zero and generation one view online learning – is it more about the content or the interaction? It’s a fascinating topic I never considered when thinking about the evolution of technology.  He thoroughly explained how MOOC’s bring the two generations together. Downes describes how selecting content relevant to one’s personal preferences and context allows students to create an individual perspective (Downes, 2012). He further argues that in a connectivist course, working with content does not mean memorizing the information, but engaging in the “process of creation” (Downes, 2012). Stephen’s ability to weave generational history and online learning together was enlightening to say the least.

However, I keep referring to self-directed learning theory every time I read about online learning because most of the literature suggests that learners in a virtual environment operate at a high level of self direction and instructors act as facilitators as opposed to teachers. Most college freshmen in my classes need lots of guidance, direction, and support from me as their teacher/advisor. So how does online learning in the 21st century work with less autonomous learners? I struggle to relate the readings to my student population.

I kept going back to Downes’ ideas about learning management systems and agree that they are content focused. I use the archaic Blackboard mainly as a tool to deliver content to my students. I am interested in Downes’ e-learning 2.0 theory.  E-learning 2.0 is based on the fourth generation of technology, otherwise known as web 2.0, which explains how content management systems interact with social networking sites. Social networking sites are actually cloud storage sites that store my personal data or as Downs describes it – “data being applied to networking” (Downes, 2012). I specifically googled Elgg since I had never heard of them and Downes called it “novel technology to this day.” Elgg is a social network software for education. The software gives companies the components to create its own online social environment through blogging, filesharing, networking, etc. I couldn’t help but think – could this be a knowledge sharing platform? Like I shared in my intro blog, I’d love a platform that is capable of capturing tacit knowledge of employees. A place where employees can quickly go to find information shared by colleagues. I like the idea of “in time learning” – needing to know something when the time arises. In a typical work day, employees like myself are so busy and don’t take the time to learn something new until presented with a problem. The quick solution could be to use Elgg as a knowledge sharing platform. A byproduct of knowledge sharing could also be connectivity and creating a sense of online community. A social networking site that is controlled through the organization is definitely a novel concept that has tremendous possibilities from an HRD perspective. I will admit my google research was limited to Wikipedia and the Elgg company website. Perhaps I’m not thinking of it in the right terms, but this is how I could envision a content management system interacting with networking sites from a corporate ed perspective.