For Week 3, we surveyed our participants at Pedagogy First!, the aggregated blog for the POT Certificate Class, asking what topics we need to cover more for posts or synchronous sessions. I am also making tutorials as part of my sabbatical, so wanted to know what might be needed. Survey responses are here in summary (n=44 at time of posting).
Issues of course design
Most feedback (10 items) related to course design: how to use synchronous video, build communities, improve discussion participation, increase instructor presence, development reflective assessments, build a class from scratch. These are all important, and we will be going over all of them in the class. The syllabus lists when the topics will be assigned.
I wondered, though, about questions regarding discussion participation (3 items). It might be best not to separate discussion from overall class design. One of the earliest examples I saw of a great online class had all the content on the “discussion board”. Some classes are all “discussion”, because students blog or post everything and comment/peer evaluate. If we start off by thinking of “discussion” as separate, I fear it will remain separate. This is a great topic for a session!
It’s the same with assessments (3 items). Do assessments have to be separated from class “content”? Can they be built in, as checkpoints or assignments? Can they be formative rather than summative? We should talk about this too!
Issues about the class itself
There were also comments on the Certificate Class itself (6 items). Some were struggling with the distributed nature of the class. Several of us have been discussing this, and we want to make sure that participants understand the distributed nature of online knowledge. This may be more important than having a central location for class discussion. We surveyed independently on that issue, of whether to open a Google Group, encourage people to participate in the Facebook group, or keep conversation on the blogs. Results were mixed, so we’re encouraging people to join the Facebook group, particularly since it was already a POT group and will continue beyond the class dates. We feared that a Google Group would pull conversation from the blog. Blogging and commenting may seem disparate, but Google Reader can help manage the load, and the Facebook group can provide a more central location for certain topics. The web is distributed, and if the web is our classroom, that means the learning may well be distributed too (in fact, we know it is, it’s just that all the learning isn’t necessarily related to our classes!).
Some indicated a desire for “supervised practice” or elements I’d call “technology training”. About half a dozen surveys requested more about Blackboard and Moodle (5 items). We will deal with Learning Management Systems, but have deliberately put that topic later in the class because it is inappropriate to start there. The LMS can limit creativity and constrict pedagogy in nasty ways (I’m actually assigning my own article as reading later in the class — how tacky). Let’s design first, then figure out whether the LMS fits into what we want to do, or how to adapt the LMS to make it do what we want (a specialty of our POT workshops).
That’s not to say people shouldn’t have training in an LMS, just that it’s not central to our class on preparing faculty to teach online, and there are many opportunities for such training elsewhere. Blackboard not only has many tutorials at its website, but if you’re at MiraCosta, Bb training modules at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels are available inside Blackboard, and completing them counts for flex credit. Moodle.org offers an introduction to Moodle, plus Jason Cole has a great book. We can do technical training in POT, but we don’t because we believe that the pedagogy must come first, and training can be done with tutorials and with help from technical staff. The pedagogy of online teaching, we feel, is best taught by online faculty.
Similarly, sources abound for information about blogging, WordPress and Edublogs. All products we recommend have some form of support built in – a Help menu or documentation. Which leads us into the topic of specific tools (6 items) and “how to” training. Several people requested we do something with comparing different web tools from our own experience, and indeed, sharing experiences in general — this is a great idea and we’ll do more with that. I can also create some tutorials on the various tools I have experience with. Also check our our Cool Tools list at the POT website.
Other cool questions
Could we have more but shorter synchronous sessions/ sessions at different times?
Yes, and anyone in the class can create a synchronous session, add it to the Distributed Activities pages, and email me with info so I can put it in the weekly email news.
How do I make a Prezi without making the viewer dizzy?
Eschew the paths that turn things around. Here’s an example of a linear presentation I did for class.
Should I have had more blogging experience before starting this class?
No. We are all learning by doing. For some of us, writing does not come naturally, or reflecting (particularly in public), or sharing our work. These are habits that can only be learned by practice.
Is it OK that I’m here with a different goal?
Yes. This is your class, to learn what you need to learn. We have a syllabus with assigned readings, mentors available, and lots of resources, but you are here to fulfill your needs for learning, not ours for teaching. You can come, go, drop out, participate when you want and not get a certificate — it’s all good. Our feelings won’t be hurt. We’re having a blast ourselves learning all this stuff.
And last, about time management (a problem for 81% of our participants). Time, as we know, is made, not found. 😉 And learning anything worth learning, we know and we tell our students, takes time. Managing time for doing things on the internet can be especially difficult, because time seems to warp when you’re online — you look up and suddenly realize you spent four hours watching YouTube or making a Prezi. For most people, it’s best to set aside a specific timeframe and a specific task, and stick to it. Easier said than done, I know!
(Images from hasslefreeclipart.com)