Teaching Online: A 24 X 7 Job

15419366855_1b6f7b81f1_mby Sandy Gambill, Senior Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

When working with professors to develop online courses, the questions I get asked most often have to do with student contact.

      • How will I communicate with my students?
      • How will I keep this from becoming a 24 x 7 job?

These are certainly valid concerns, especially when research shows that teaching presence is a key factor in student satisfaction in online courses. Here are 5 tips to help you help you strike a balance between students feeling like you’re not available, and you feeling like you’re teaching seven days a week.

  1. Communicate in advance. Often we wonder how students will even know the course they signed up for will be conducted through technology such as Blackboard, much less when the course will be available. To help alleviate this confusion and get everyone on the same page, consider emailing the entire class a week or two in advance of the course beginning. You can do this through Banner or Blackboard itself without your course being open in Blackboard. Introduce yourself, remind students that they signed up for an online course, give them your contact information and the contact information for technical issues. This is also a great time to attach a syllabus if you have it ready. You can also list any books or materials needed, and tell them when you will have the course open in Blackboard.

  2. Consistency in course layout. My goal for online courses is always to make the technology somewhat invisible so students spend time working with course concepts and activities, rather than hunting for the information they need. It probably matters less how your course will be organized (for example, a content area for each week or unit accessible from the navigation bar or files organized in folders on the homepage) than that you choose a method, explain it to students and then use it consistently throughout the course. Consider creating a short narrated video, using a tool such as Tegrity, to walk students through the course organization during the first week of class.

  3. Take advantage of the technology to move communication from one-on-one to group. The Announcements tool in Blackboard is a good mechanism to assist with this. If one or two students email you asking the same question, chances are you’ll soon be hearing from others. The Announcement tool will let you post your answer in the Blackboard site as a permanent record, while at the same time allowing you to automatically email the announcement to every student in the class. If you are going to be unavailable for a short period of time, make an announcement so students will understand they can’t reach you.

  1. Create a schedule for each week. One of the great things about online courses is that the boundaries of time and space dissolve. This is also one of the drawbacks in that it can be difficult for students to manage their time. If you want students to work consistently in the course, interact with each other instead of using you as the sole authority, and avoid last minute deadline scrambles, consider creating a timeframe for the course that mimics a face-to-face course. For example, a new week will always begin on Friday at 6:00 p.m., with homework or assignments from the previous week being due at that time. A mid-week deadline, worth a point or two, is also a way to keep students working at roughly the same pace and interacting with one another in the course rather than waiting until the last minute. If the week begins on Friday at 6:00 p.m., what would you like students to have completed by Monday at 6:00 p.m.? Read material they might take a quiz over? Make an initial blog or discussion post?

    If you do not want to be available on Sunday or another day of the week, build that into your course schedule. Midnight or 11:59 p.m. has become a popular deadline for online courses. Consider if you want to have something due at a time you are not likely to be awake. How will students get help if they have issues?

  2. Offer virtual office hours and review sessions.  Setting up some synchronous sessions in an asynchronous course through a tool like Fuse is a good way to conduct review sessions or hold private or group meetings with students. Consider holding mandatory group or individual meetings (depending on the size of your class) during the first couple of weeks so students have an opportunity to meet you in person (virtually) and ask questions. For review sessions, ask students who can’t be online in real time to submit questions in advance to make sure everyone has their concerns addressed. You could then record the review sessions for students who are unable to attend.

If you would like to discuss how you might implement these tips or if you need other assistance in planning your online course, please contact the Reinert Center to set up an individual consultation.

Resources

Richardson, J., & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses in

relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction.JALN, 7(1), 68-88 (LINK)

 

Teaching Center Work as “After Pedagogy”: A Personal Reflection

00875cby Gina Merys, Associate Director, Reinert Center

Last Fall, I had the pleasure of reading After Pedagogy: The Experience of Teaching, by Saint Louis University’s own Paul Lynch, Ph.D. (Associate Professor in the Department of English), and to discuss it on a panel created in its honor. What follows here is an adaptation of my remarks.

What a thrill to read Lynch’s book and (re)visit the challenges faced by discussing/enacting composition pedagogy. As a former faculty member in an English department and director of a composition program myself, the questions Lynch raises in his book are essential to the ways in which I continue to think about pedagogy, especially as my work in the Reinert Center now calls me to grapple with and discuss the intricacies of pedagogy writ large.

When doing the pedagogical work of a teaching center, pedagogy is the ocean in which we swim, and the teachers with whom we work are tethered to a variety of coastlines of their own disciplinary viewpoints of the “whats” and “hows” of teaching in their fields. In many ways, the work of individuals in the teaching center is a fine balance of context work (situating teaching within very particular contextual situations), and theory-driven methodology (applying what we know about learning to a variety of situations). It is intricate work to be sure, and requires much of the same delicate navigation that Lynch outlines in his book.

Thus, when thinking about a larger agenda of acting in and through pedagogy, we rely on the idea, as Lynch puts it, that “pedagogy is not what we do when we enter the classroom or even while we are there. It is what we do after we leave” (xviii). We in the teaching center are “pursuers” of pedagogy, in that “we engage that which is occasioned by our students’ work,” as well as that of our colleagues’ students’ work (xviii). Though we all come to the teaching center as teachers, our primary work is to support others in their own endeavors toward teaching.  Perhaps because we are called to consider pedagogy as something that stands next to the principles of any particular discipline (while at the same time acknowledging how intertwined they are), it becomes an imperative to create moments for reflection about what happened previously that can be an occasion for discernment in future teaching situations.

Often, what is sought from the services of the teaching center, through individual consultations, workshops, and other services and events, is a magic solution. Something that is clean and easy to apply directly into whatever course we happen to be teaching at the time. Of course, I consistently disappoint, because there is no such thing as a magic solution. Learning is a messy endeavor fraught with the perils of being reliant on individual learners in a multitude of contexts.  In short, teaching is messy because learning is messy.

Thus, I have a particular appreciation of Lynch’s creation of an “after-pedagogy”, “a way to make a resource of our classroom experience” because when we bring to bear the lessons that arrive through the classroom, lab, clinic, and field, an “after-pedagogy” is a most-reliable place to begin (7). When I talk to people about their teaching the most frequent request I make is to, “tell me about your class and your students.” Daily, the Reinert Center staff has the opportunity to walk with teachers in a multi-varied experience of classroom ecologies that include not only students, but also patients, clients, and community partners as both teachers and learners as well. While we can rely on some concrete information we have about how the brain works and how learning often happens, it is not enough to take into account all of the variables that happen in a classroom—a living ecology of teaching and learning. Therefore, anything more static or prescriptive than an “after-pedagogy” as Lynch creates it, becomes disingenuous. I’m grateful to Lynch for creating a theory that describes the honesty and reality of discussing authentic learning that takes place in realistic settings.

 

Lynch, Paul. After Pedagogy: The Experience of Teaching. CCCC Studies in Writing and Rhetoric Series. Conference of College Composition and Communication of the National Council of       Teachers of English, 2013.

Book Review: Small Changes in Teaching

Langby Sandy Gambill, Sr. Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Often when we think about course design or learning new teaching practices, it’s easy to become paralyzed by the seemingly enormous task. That’s why the recent James M. Lang series on Small Changes in Teaching in the Chronicle of Higher Education is compelling as a reminder that sometimes minor adjustments can make a world of difference. The Chronicle series is drawn from Lang’s recent book on the same topic.

In the series, Lang draws on current educational research to inform suggestions about practices ranging from changing what you’re doing the first and last five minutes of class  to specific strategies for helping students make connections between course material and the real world.

For example, think about what typically happens in the last five minutes of a class period. When do students begin leave taking behavior (packing up, looking at the clock, whispering?) Are you rushing to finish everything you needed to say that day? What would happen if you set an alarm to end five minutes early so you could review and summarize the day’s content?

Interested in discussing how you might utilize some of these techniques in your own teaching? We are here all summer at the Reinert Center and would love to meet with you. You can complete our form to request a consultation or call us at 314-977-3944.

 

The Culturally Responsive Teaching Academy Enters Second Year

crta_name-badge-iconby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

The newest members of the Reinert Center’s Culturally Responsive Teaching Academy (CRTA) convened last week for a four-day summer institute, the first commitment in the program. First piloted last year, the CRTA is a year-long development opportunity for SLU faculty and graduate student instructors who teach INTO-SLU Pathway courses and other courses with high concentrations of international students.

During the institute, participants were introduced to learning-focused course design methods and a range of cultural differences in higher education. The primary aims of the institute were to help instructors to better understand the ways in which their expectations for teaching and learning are culturally situated and to provide guidance and work time in which they could develop more culturally responsive course materials. (Read this blog post for more on the concept of “culturally responsive teaching.”)

Members of the Academy commit to attending the summer institute, a pre-semester meeting in August, and monthly meetings of the cohort during the academic year. Faculty participants are designated as Culturally Responsive Teaching Fellows; graduate student participants are designated as Culturally Responsive Graduate Fellows. All participants receive a small financial incentive for participation.

While the program was designed in response to the launch of INTO-SLU – with a focus on the particular needs of international and multilingual students – the framework for the Academy is rooted in broader research on learning-focused course design and instruction. Thus, the theories and methods underpinning the program create more inclusive learning experiences for a broad range of diverse learners.

If you want to discuss ways to create more culturally responsive courses, contact the Reinert Center at cttl@slu.edu.

Incorporate Active Learning Strategies Using Little Known Features of Campus Technologies

by Chris Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

Incorporating active learning strategies into a course’s design can improve students’ recall of course information, improve academic performance, reduce cognitive load, and promote student engagement (Bonwell & Eison, 1991; Mayer & Moreno, 2003; Prince, 2004).  Although there are a number of University-supported academic resources available to faculty, knowing how to incorporate them as an active learning strategy can be difficult.  Below are three lesser-known features found within our University supported academic resources that may help faculty use active learning strategies in their course.

1. Configure Tegrity to record video of a presenter or to record in-class activities:  Image1Research suggests that lecture capture provides students deeper engagement with course material (Zhu, 2010).  While many faculty use Tegrity to capture in-class lecture slides, the program also has a built-in camera mode that offers an opportunity to foreground the instructor camera instead of a computer screen.  Recording video of the presenter allows an opportunity for instructors to do demonstrations or even capture classroom activities that students can review at a later date.  To use the camera option, start a Tegrity recording and open the option tray by clicking on the arrow on the left side.  Active Learning Strategies:  Use the camera to record role playing, student presentations, simulations, or panel discussion and other in-class activities.  Post the recording to the Blackboard course and have students blog, journal, or critique it.

2.     Distribute “view only” or “comment only” versions of Google Docs and Slides for student access:  image2Using Google Apps (Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets) can be an efficient way to deliver course materials to students. Prior to class, consider sharing versions of your slides or documents with students.  Distribute a link to “view-only” or “comments only” versions of files made with Google Docs and Slides.  To do so, select one of the options available in the share tab of any Google Docs and Slides.  Active learning strategies:  Use the “comment-only mode” to give students a chance to compare notes, find the muddiest point of a class lecture, or to peer review a document.

3.  Use Audience Tools in Google Slides to encourage classroom participation: image3 Tools like Poll Everywhere offer great opportunities to gather feedback and promote student interaction.  Google Slides now offers similar features through its newly released Audience Tools option. When used in an in-class setting, students can ask questions or post reactions to course topics introduced in Google Slides.  Instructors have the option to post student responses or to only display student feedback for themselves.  To enable “Audience Tools” select the “presenter view” options available within the “present” tab of the Google Slides.  Active Learning Strategies:  Use the Audience tool to poll students, ask for the muddiest point, offer a quick quiz, or provide an interactive discussion.

Consider giving some of these options a try and determine whether they complement your teaching style and course design.

If you would like to investigate how these and other technologies can promote active learning in your course, contact the Reinert Center for to schedule a consultation.

If you want to learn more about how these technologies work, or about other campus-supported technologies, visit the ITS website for more information.

Resources

Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: creating excitement in the classroom. ASHE-Eric Higher Education Rep, 1. Washington, DC: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.

Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43-52.

Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research, Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231.

Zhu, E. (2010). Lecture Capture: A Guide to Effective Use. Tomorrow’s Professor. Retrieved 26 February 2016, from http://Reis, Rick. “Lecture Capture: A Guide to Effective Use.”

Teaching International Students

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by Gina Merys, Associate Director, Reinert Center

As we look ahead to the fall semester, and the arrival of the first official cohort of INTO students arriving in our classrooms, the summer is a good time to think about making changes to courses in order to promote learning for all of our students. The book, Fostering International Student Success in Higher Education (Sapiro, Farrelly, and Tomas, 2014)*, acts as a brief primer on some of the topics one might consider when designing a course with international student needs in mind.

The authors integrate “concepts from intercultural communication, applied linguistics, and education as part of the theoretical framework of the text.” There is information drawn from the scholarship of teaching and learning as well as directly from instructors and international students. Written in the style of a how-to text of sorts, the book gives tips and techniques on everything from interactions during class time, to creating assignments, to giving feedback. The textbook style of the book includes a myriad of examples and suggestions within each topic, reflection questions, and pithy anecdotes as well as an appendix with sample rubric templates and a helpful chart of classroom activities.

Perhaps what I appreciate most about this book is this: the considerations the authors note for course design to promote success for international students are also helpful to all students, especially those who have learning differences, are first-generation to college, or have divergent educational backgrounds. Thus, making changes to one’s course to foster learning for one group of students actually fosters learning for all students.

The Reinert Center staff are on campus all summer to serve as resources for all SLU faculty and graduate students on the topic of teaching international students as well as other teaching topics. To make an appointment with one of our staff simply fill out the teaching consultation request form using this link.

*Shapiro, Shawna, Raichle Farrelly, and Zuzana Tomas. Fostering International Student Success in Higher Education. Alexandria: TESOL Press, 2014.

Rethinking Learning Space as DeafSpace

14734962322_45d7fff3e9_zby James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

As teachers, we have limited control over the spaces where we teach – let alone the built design of those spaces! However, we do have some control over the activities and orientations that students experience in those spaces. Room features such as furniture, lighting, acoustics, and technology each offer different innovative modes to rethink how teaching and learning happens. And while the adjustment of these features has everything to do with the physical and sensorial needs of learners, it also helps materialize the more abstract goals we set for the course itself (e.g., active learning, collaboration, engagement, dialogue, social justice, etc.). In myriad ways, it is about creating a rich, multi-sensory learning environment where all students can begin to possibly reach those goals (Hurley, 2016). Rethinking learning space as DeafSpace is one pedagogical lens or tool to support this type of instructional development.

What would learning spaces look and feel like if they were designed for the deaf and hard of hearing? This question motivates some of the pedagogical work emerging from the DeafSpace Project at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. DeafSpace is defined as an “approach to design and architecture that is informed by the unique sensory experiences of those who don’t hear” (Harris & Barton, 2016). For example, creating clear sightlines, minimizing eyestrain, and maximizing sensory awareness are a few ways in which deaf people alter their surroundings to support visual conversations and new forms of community engagement. Researchers at Gallaudet University (2016) believe these types of alterations offer valuable insights about the relationship between the senses and the ways we construct learning environments.

Set aside some time this week to learn more about what DeafSpace looks like in action at Gallaudet University. Then, explore how proximity, mobility, light and color, and acoustics function in the spaces where you teach. What accommodations are needed? What adjustments are (not) possible? How does the learning space matter, or come to matter, for how students learn? Finally, consider visiting the classroom before the first time you meet students there to observe its features and imagine the possible adjustments that are needed.

If you would like to schedule a consultation to discuss DeafSpace specifically, or the relationship between learning space and course design more broadly, please contact the Reinert Center. Please also consider sharing your reactions to this blog post in the comments section below.

 

References

 

Gallaudet University (2016). What is DeafSpace? Retrieved from http://www.gallaudet.edu/campus-design/deafspace.html

Harris, J., & Barton, G. (2016, March 2). How architecture changes for the deaf. Retrieved from http://www.vox.com/2016/3/2/11060484/deaf-university-design-architecture

Hurley, A. K. (2016, March 2). How Gallaudet University’s architects are redefining deaf space. Retrieved from http://www.curbed.com/2016/3/2/11140210/gallaudet-deafspace-washington-dc

Start Small: Tips for Fostering Effective Class Discussion

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214If you’re looking for small ways to enhance class discussions – whether in online or on-ground courses – you might find our two newest resource guides of interest.

The tips presented in the Fostering Discussion in Face-to-Face Classes may apply to a wide range of discussion types.  Those provided in Fostering Discussion in Online Classes are more tied to the online environment (though they may, of course, be useful for face-to-face classes that incorporate online discussions).

The Reinert Center’s Resource Guides are short (usually one-to-two page) PDFs that provide a few tips and resources for additional information.  If you have ideas for new Resource Guide topics, let us know by completing this form (LINK).

Summer OTLI Session

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214The Reinert Center recently held two Online Teaching and Learning Institutes (OTLI) to provide an opportunity for faculty to explore effective teaching practices and pedagogy for online teaching.
Members of the Reinert Center facilitated discussions on course design, assessment and assignments, creating online course materials, and student engagement.

Although the Institute is a great opportunity to learn more about effective online course design, another benefit of OTLI is the cross-disciplinary dialogue that takes place throughout the week.  Faculty gain valuable insight from colleagues in other disciplines.  The conversations often help provide new insights into online and on-ground teaching as well as generate useful tips on how to engage students.

Ample time was devoted to individual course development, which provided an opportunity to address specific technical and course design questions.  At the end of the Institute, attendees leave with drafts of course materials for their online courses.

Although the next OTLI session will not be until next summer, we can schedule OTLI for individual departments and programs. Reinert Center Instructional Developers are also available to meet with faculty to talk about course design at any time.  To schedule a consultation, simply complete the consultation request form, which you can find using the following link:  https://docs.google.com/a/slu.edu/forms/d/1nPnmAPuuodDle8s-SgwxmtbzLITx17ufe3z6v5OyNgk/viewform

Student-Teacher Narratives: Teaching at the Intersection of Identities

Textbook imageby James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center       

Reading personal narratives about teaching is a powerful way to reflect on the more visceral dimensions of our work. I am particularly drawn to narratives that attend to matters of difference in teaching, as both a topic of inquiry and an embodied presence in our classrooms. As Leda Cooks and John Warren (2011) observe, “Many scholars writing about schooling and the body do so from positions of marginality and struggle, but with the allowance that these positions provide openings into other ways of knowing that are, ultimately, pedagogical” (p. 212). I find these personal accounts challenge me to confront the limits of how I teach while also helping me develop strategies to meet these challenges.

Below, I recommend three pieces that invite this type of critical development for teaching. Included is a detailed abstract for each article and a link to the full-text. A common theme across these readings is the intersection of marginalized student-teacher identities and experiences, offering a more relational approach to how we think about (and consequently do) pedagogy. These are compelling reads for anyone wishing to deepen their understanding of diversity and practice of inclusive teaching.

If you would like to discuss these readings and how they might inform your own teaching, please contact the Reinert Center to schedule an individual consultation. Please also share your reactions in the comments section below. Happy summer reading!

Hao, R. N. (2011). Rethinking critical pedagogy: Implications on silence and silent bodies. Text and Performance Quarterly, 31, 267-284.

“Many critical pedagogy scholars claim that agency and dialogue in the classroom can only be achieved through students’ engagement in verbal deliberation to ‘voice’ against oppressive actions. As current discourses in the critical pedagogy literature tend to consider silence as a negative attribute in the classroom, I argue that they privilege a western construct and a very particular way of being and thinking. By using performative pedagogy as a theoretical framework, it is imperative to discuss the macro and micro implications of how discourses in the critical pedagogy literature affect how we understand silence theoretically and pedagogically” (p. 267).

Lindemann, K. (2011). Performing (dis)ability in the classroom: Pedagogy and (con)tensions. Text and Performance Quarterly, 31, 285-302.

“Disability has become a pervasive and contested issue on college campuses, and instructors and students find themselves occupying physical and discursive spaces that hold great pedagogical potential. This essay pursues such a consideration. It examines one physically disabled student’s staged performance of a personal narrative, her ethnography of a university’s disabled student services office, an in-depth interview with the student, and the author’s family experiences with disability to illustrate the ways a performative pedagogy offers insight into (dis)ability in the classroom. The analysis illustrates the classroom as a site for identity negotiation, performance as a tool to deconstruct and reconstruct notions of ability, and family relationships as an integral part of a critical communication pedagogy” (p. 285).

Moreman, S. T., & Non Grata, P. (2011). Learning from and mentoring the undocumented AB540 student: Hearing an unheard voice. Text and Performance Quarterly, 31, 303-320.

“This essay provides a space for understanding the experiences of the undocumented college student. Following Moraga and Anzaldúa’s “theory of the flesh,” a student and professor come together as allies to recognize and honor an enfleshed voice that is often unheard or ignored. In three separate parts, the writers provide a space for the readers to grow through deeply understanding the daily reality of students across the US who deal with the fears and frustrations of being undocumented and the ways that academia might exacerbate those fears and frustrations” (p. 303).

 

Reference

Cooks, L., & Warren, J. T. (2011). SomeBodies(‘) in school: Introduction. Text and Performance Quarterly, 31, 211-216.