Tag Archives: conference

Essential Online Instructor

In online classes, instructor presence, instructor immediacy, and a sense of community are essential for successful student completion and retention. Improve student participation and satisfaction by making the online classroom inviting.

Karen Liebhaber, an online adult upgrading English instructor from Black River Technical College in Pocahontas, AR presented in the Learning and Teaching stream. The full title of her presentation was The Essential Online Instructor: Present, Immediate, and Community Facilitator. It is available online at http://www.scctv.net/league-dl/ppt/INV2014/s19478.zip 

She is an experienced online educator who was concerned about the low retention rate, poor completion rates, poor grades and poor student satisfaction that many online courses report. Her goal became to improve student retention and completion by being more present to her online students. That involved being available ‘almost 24/7’ to her learners. She reports that the result of this immediacy is that students feel supported, encouraged, important and part of a community of learners. She now feels she knows more about her online learners than her face-to-face learners on campus. She had created trust between herself and her learners. There is more accountability. They now realize their absences will be noted and they are less likely to squeak by. She did this by increasing instructor presence online, giving students a sense of immediacy and community. This increased visibility of the online instructor comes through course design, facilitation and direct instruction.

Course Design

Organization of the course is critical to student success. The course needs to be logically setup, with material grouped according to context. Grading turn around time is also critical. Response to student inquiries needs to be immediate. While she may take time to mark essays, she provides them with timely feedback on when they can expect to have marked essays returned. It is also important to provide quality feedback.


Facilitation of students in the online classroom is important. Be a ‘tour guide’ to your online classroom. Once you get a second question on a particular topic, post your response in the course announcements area. In your course design as well as with your interactions with students set the class culture. Encourage interactive versus passive participation by encouraging student participation in activities. Acknowledge student responses right away. Be timely in your correspondence. Provide quality feedback.

Direct Instruction

Direct instruction shows your personality. This can come from your personal course materials including videos, audio, written lectures and written notes. Your tone, language and word choice in your instructional materials, forums and feedback all have an impact and help improve student motivation.

Instructor postings and just being visible in the class are statistical predictors  of student success. Baker, 21. Elements of High Value to Students (Sheridan & Kelly, 767) include :

  • Communication
  • Instructor Responsiveness

Elements of Low Value to Students

  • Synchronous communication
  • Face-2-face communication
  • Being able to see the instructor

 Other Related Issues

  • Clearly state course deadlines and timelines.
  • Create rubrics. They are important so that students understand grading system.
  • Regularly report to students about their progress
  • Create a weekly summary abut the coming week’s important topics.
  • Provide the opportunity for personal conference by phone or email.
  • Provide prompt feedback that is clear and descriptive. This can be written text or provided via audio or video.
  • Create reminders for deadlines. Some participants are using Remind 101. Others use Twitter to send out reminders to students. The announcements forum can also be used for this. Many course platforms have a calendar tool.
  • Create short instructional videos.

The presenter reiterated the importance of instructor immediacy. Further, can students relate to you? Can they trust you? Do they feel supported and encouraged or discouraged by you?

Watch your words. Give clear constructive feedback. Reaffirm students’ feelings. Create a sense of community in the classroom. An introductory video can help with this. Encourage student groups. Create survey, polls and questionnaires to gather student feedback.





Free Resources for Educator Excellence (FREE) for Developing, Integrating, and Delivering E-Learning Solutions

I attended a presentation at the E-Learn conference animated by Dr. Robert Moody of Fort Hays State University, USA. See below for the blurb on this. His presentation is available online at http://goo.gl/G988y

E-Learning Solutions (ELS) became widely available in 1997, and its attractiveness and use have increased significantly ever since. This software provides instructors who exclusively teach online with the resources to make course materials like syllabi, lecture notes, tests, asynchronous discussion boards, and live chat available online in one, easy-to-manage location. Online students can use these ELS sites to access course materials, submit assignments, check grades, as well as interact with instructors and other students. Among the most notable are Blackboard, WebCT, Desire2Learn, ANGEL, and eCollege. These vendor-driven software solutions have been extensively adopted by higher educational institutes throughout the United States. In fact, many have also been adopted by K-12 educational curriculum providers to supplement textbooks and other educational materials. This tutorial will provide insight and the presenter’s reasoning behind his departure from Blackboard, to creating his own unique E-Learning Solutions using several free open source digital tools.

Some of the tools he mentioned are listed below.

First ones that I’m already familiar.

Google Apps

There were several that were new to me.

Ning is a cloud based tool for creating your own custom social networking environment. See http://Ning.com. Dr. Robert uses Ning as his Blackboard replacement.

Screencast-o-matic is screen capturing software. It is supposed to have a feature set similar to Camtasia. The latter costs $200 and up. It will let you record videos up to 15 minutes in length.

Engrade.ca “is the Canadian version of the popular US-based online classroom community tools. Engrade.ca is hosted on Canadian web servers to comply with Canadian laws concerning government data storage.” I wonder if it is the open source grading solution I’ve been looking for.

Voice Thread was also mentioned and recommended but not discussed. Flash Meeting, a video conferencing system was also discussed. It won’t work on the iPad as it Flash based. It records the conference as well. You can have up to 30 people.

Soft Chalk is cool

Just came away from a demo of Soft Chalk. What a cool product! It looks like it will facilitate online OER content development and delivery including online testing.

In the demo I saw, it appeared to address all the concerns I have about moving freely available OER content into an online environment. It allows you to copy and paste properly formated text and graphics from your existing Word based curriculum into its enviroment to create a web page or series of web pages you can upload into your LMS or your own website. It also has a quiz tool that can allows you to insert questions in your content or act as a stand alone quiz.

I have a 30 day trial version that I look forward to playing with when I get home.

Smart Math: Redesigned Developmental Mathematics

This was an update to a session I attended last June. These folks use the Pearson’s MathXL system that I use for my math online and blended sections and use it in a similar competency based approach. They have increased their retention rate by 14% and success rate by 44%. Details at www.Jscc.edu/smart-math.

I am interested in seeing if it is possible to make a link between this concept and OER. It appears that this could be a matter of negotiation with the publisher. These folks have developed their own materials for use with MathXL. They have also negotiated a two year license for each student. The cost odd this is $100 which includes a printed version of the locally developed materials. This has reduced the cost per student. So the next thing to explore is whether the textbook publisher is willing to work with OER materials.

UPDATE: I did talk with a Pearson rep here, but she just referred me to our local textbook rep. I’m now on my third one in as many years, so am not sure how much help I will have there.

So, I’m going to head over to the Soft Chalk booth and talk with them. They may be the folks who can connect the dots between OER and an online environment that includes testing.

Open educational resources: Standards for public, communal, sustainable and systematic change

Joanne Munroe from Tacoma Community College presented on technical and educational challenges inherent in developing and sustaining open educational resources (OER) What are these?

These are digitized materials offered freely and openly for Educators and students to use and re-use for teaching learning and research. Cable Green

They are made available under a Creative Commons Share and Share Alike copyright license. The materials can include textbooks, learning objects, library resources, LMS, faculty training, research databases and even free courses.

The idea is that the more we share, the better it will be for students and educators.

Some resources

Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources. See oerconsortium.org. Also includes Open Courseware Consortium. Another repository is available at opencourselibrary.wikispaces.com which is based in Washington State. British Columbia has a similar repository at solr.bccampus.ca.