I was asked to be part of a panel to discuss Cyberbullying at the 2012 Technology Information Conference for Administrative Leadership. The area I was asked to discuss was how to respond and investigate. My attempt is to provide some practical guidance in a structured fashion.
I spend a lot of my working hours being a cheer leader and supporting those who teach online. This memoir is for those that face the reality of online teaching. hope it helps.
1. Collaboration Only Sounds Easy
You have the tools to collaborate, but don’t expect collaboration to just happen. Students either don’t collaborate equally, or don’t collaborate at all. Collaboration is a skill. Be prepared to provide guidance on collaboration that goes beyond instructions for using collaborative tools. Make sure that your collaborative expectations are adequately addressed in your syllabus. Help your students understand how to be productive collaborators. (I just used the word “collaborate” eleven times.)
2. Multimedia Mixed Results
MP3 creation is easy. You can create these almost anywhere. I do mine while I eat breakfast (between bites of course). Slides are also pretty easy, and you can add audio to the presentation. I did this on my Mac book and it was simple. You can also make videos. My first 3 minute instructional video took about 2 hours to make. But they did get shorter to produce and the quality improved. Video creation is time consuming. I would like to think that my videos made a big difference for the class, but my viewing stats didn’t prove that my students thought they were worth watching. I still think that adding videos is worthwhile and plan to continue.
3. Keep Students Talking
I would like to encourage more virtual office hours using Skype. I just think this would work well. I like how Skype combines desktop and audio/video. Email and discussion postings can only go so far when it comes to actually making a human connection with your students. Blackboard offers similar functionality with “Collaborate”. Bottom line connect as humans as much as possible. Keeping a conversation going will help retain some students who may otherwise get discouraged and quit.
4. Grade Book Helper
If possible make sure your grading scheme is supported using the grade book of your learning management system. The automation of the grade book can save you a lot of time. If you have to calculate something separate from your grade book: you just created yourself some extra work. Consider what calculations are possible within your digital grade book before committing yourself to a complex grading scheme in your syllabus.
5. Syllabus is King
Keep deadlines consistent with the syllabus. If you change a due date for an assignment it will no longer be the same as the syllabus. Soon confusion will rule your course. We expect our students to keep pace, we also have to keep pace. This includes keeping up with posting grades. Never under estimate the importance of a syllabus. An online course is no place for improv.
6. Assignment Names Resolve Headaches
Define a naming convention for all assignment files. For example: “FendleyAssignment1”. This way if you need to download files for offline grading, it is easy to remember whose assignment belongs to who.
Is there a difference between open book and googling for a test bank answers? Be aware that many test bank questions and answers have been unfortunately posted to the web. Sometimes by well intentioned faculty who post them as study guides. Clearly define what you consider as cheating. Is googling for answers really cheating? Isn’t cheating just another form of collaboration? The line can become very gray. Be prepared to get caught off guard.
This year’s 2011 Mid South Distance Learning conference truly lived up to it’s chosen theme of “collaboration”. Participating states included Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
Distance learning associations from three states agreed to forgo their own annual conferences every two years to host a tri-state conference. This year’s first tri-state conference was held in Little Rock, Arkansas: October 5-7, 2011.
The keynote presentations were all very inspirational. The presenters were on target with their messages, connecting well with audience members.
The tone of the breakout sessions (36 in all) reflected the changes that have taken place in the e-learning industry since last year’s Arkansas distance learning conference. Sessions were well balanced providing content for both faculty and administrative professionals. Sessions tended to be geared more towards experienced practitioners. Leaving one to wonder, where do beginners go to get started these days?
Ultimately this conference deserves recognition for going beyond the basics. The conferences focus on distance learning strategies at a macro level may not have been intentional, but as a result: discussions are now taking place between institutions, agencies and states. This is a small phenomenon.
Noteworthy Highlights From the Conference
Michael Abbiatti executive director of the Arkansas Research and Educational Optical Network, encouraged higher ed members from all three states to move forward in pursuing grants that require collaborative efforts not only between states but diverse partners. ARE-ON was highlighted as an asset that could help states work collaboratively to compete for grants.
Max Kolstad of Arkansas Department of Information Systems provided a vision of the next state video network, which when implemented will usher the state of Arkansas into an era of pervasive video. This is huge, and could prove to be a major game changer! Coincidentally ARE-ON is pursuing a similar video strategy utilizing resources from MORE-NET, Missouri’s version of ARE-ON. This should shape up to be an interesting year for video conferencing!
Brad Moody of National Park Community College spoke with experience about accreditation issues facing higher ed distance learning programs.
Hopefully we can keep the theme of collaboration alive between our sister states. Congratulations MidSouth for creating some magic! This conference stood out amongst the crowd as having the potential to create real change.
Presentation slides were still not available at the time of this writing but should become available at the conference website.
A group of of us interested in the possibility of creating a training initiative within the state met on 8/9/11. I was originally going to post my notes on google docs, but the semester started and I become a bit overwhelmed. I have had a lot of questions from people who were not involved in the first meeting, so instead of managing the sharing of a google doc: I decided to post it here for all those interested to take a look and comment. I am posting this on the eve of the Mid South Distance Learning conference where I hope we can generate further interest.
I think our general thought was that before we could reach a standard for online teaching within the state, we might have better luck creating a standard of training that would be made available to faculty. If you have anything to add, comment on this post. The summary or our thoughts from 8/9/11 were as follows:
ASOT Train The Trainer
- To develop a standard competency among online faculty within the state.
- To develop consistency among adjuncts
- To develop a cost effective method of training and assuring quality
Train the trainers by developing a standard of training for trainers within the state
Participating campus trainers train their faculty
- identify standards for training
- determine length of training
- determine commitment necessary from participating organizations
- determine appropriate knowledge transfer method for trainers