If you are thinking about teaching online and want to start with a hybrid, or partially online, course, then this document may be for you! I have had many colleagues ask me the question, "How much of my course should be online and how much should be face-to-face?" Below is a working document that I have used in a face-to-face workshop about designing hybrids. You can download a .pdf of the worksheet at the bottom of the page. There is also a download link to a guidelines document that is additional information.
Re-posted from the WCET Frontiers Blog click on the map below to visit the post at WCET.
In May, Mt. San Jacinto Community College conducted the first basic writing MOOC for Coursera. Our intention was primarily to provide a resource for students who did not assess into college level English. We also thought that anyone who needed to brush up on grammar and language usage skills could make use of the course. The title of the course is “Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade.”
The next offering of the course will begin in Feb. 2014
We encourage you to view a Youtube video of a sample lecture or view our “Good-Bye” video.
Where are we going with this MOOC stuff?
This is not a question I ask lightly. There has been a huge buzz about MOOCs and how they will be either the savior or downfall of education and/or civilization! I’ve been here before. The first connectivity in the early days of the Internet made many of my colleagues think the end of the teaching world surely had arrived. I remember hearing them say that they would no longer have jobs!
Most of them, if they haven’t retired, still have teaching jobs. Ahem–what are we hearing now? The same cries. For many teachers the MOOC methodology is frightening. For me, it’s exciting! Each time we step out and try something new, we become more alive. Each time we reinvent the way we teach, we become more aware of learning. I welcome the new ideas and grab the opportunities to experiment and grow. This philosophy is responsible for my journey into MOOClandia.
There’s always a story!
This one starts in the Spring of 2012 when I was asked to participate in a meeting of state level officials the purpose of which was to consider how online course delivery, including MOOCs, could provide greater access to California students. The conversation was about how to offer courses more broadly across the educational sectors of the state and particularly how the California Community Colleges could use their over ten years of distance education expertise to make something happen.
I came home from that meeting with an idea that I called “The Perfect Storm.”
We were experiencing a state-wide economic crisis that left students waiting at the registration door without enough classes to go around. Cuts were being made at every college. At ours, the entry level courses that meet the needs of students needing to remediate into college level courses were cut in favor of the transfer level courses. Our big concern was what do people who don’t assess into college level classes do now?
I sat down with two of our English faculty members and we decided to try to put together an open course designed to help students assess into freshman composition or at least, into the next level down instead of three levels below the transfer level comp course!
I was put in touch with Daphne Koller at Coursera through the people at our state chancellor’s office and had a series of conversations with her about “educating the world” and serving students such as ours in the process. She agreed to have Coursera host our course, if we could build it. We started planning.
Within weeks, there was a request for proposals from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that addressed just what we were trying to do, build entry level classes. We applied and were funded for $50,000 to develop and implement a basic writing MOOC in partnership with Coursera.
I immediately began to research the style of courses in Coursera and realized that our expertise in creating quality “traditional” online classes would really help in this new effort. Course design was primary in my mind as a direct route to building a quality class. The classes in Coursera were as diverse in their design as in their topic areas. I saw everything from the “only video lecture” courses to incredibly detailed interface designs that would be daunting to a beginning online student. Our design experience was well suited to the beginning level student we imagined would enroll in our grammar and language usage course.
The team was assembled and included our own video production faculty (2), English faculty (4), instructional designers (2 part time faculty with expertise), and me. I realized about a month in that I needed a project manager who could get things done and one of our designers became the PM. I switched to design support!
The development went slowly, too slowly! Lots of time was spent on the video production of the lectures and the written content. We weren’t done with the whole course when it opened! That’s hard to manage and not what I would recommend.
We trained seven of our writing center tutors to help us monitor the discussion forums when the course opened and all of the rest of us were involved there, too. There were a total of 14 staff members involved in answering discussion post questions.
Students in the course came from throughout the world.
Holy cow!!!! We watched in amazement as our Google map grew to show that our students were coming from every corner of the world. For almost a month, enrollment grew by 1,000 people per day!
We wondered who these students were and about 10,000 took a survey in the beginning with the results shown on the right.
We also found out that over 65% were English as a Second Language (ESL) students. We thought we’d have some, but the number was a bit startling.
We ended up with over 40,000 enrollees with about 30,000 active users of the course. More than 3,500 completed the final peer review assignment (required to pass) and about 2,700 actually received a certificate of accomplishment.
The data that was available from Coursera was difficult to format and we are still trying to correlate students to answers from both the entry and exit surveys. We have asked Coursera to consider the problems we have had and said we are more than willing to work with them to develop solutions.
The good stuff that has come of this would take days to write about. We received compliments from students for about every aspect of our course. The design was easy to follow and many appreciated our first unit on being a successful online student.
The big favorite, and tone setter, was the quality of the video lectures in the course. Both the production and content were great, but it was the interaction and personalities of the two professors, Ted Blake and Larry Barkley that made the class so wonderful. We had them talking together in the video lectures and it really was a good format for delivery. Students loved both guys and commented often about their humanness.
Another big compliment from students was that we were so responsive. With 14 people able to participate in the discussions, students felt tended to. We stand by our decision to be as present as possible in the discussion forums. Our reading material was an excellent supplement to the video lectures and the discussions were interesting and prolific.
When one student from Jordan said, “Before this kind of opportunity, education for me was just a dream,” we were hooked. Another young girl in a discussion of ages of the students noted that, “Knowledge has no age.” My favorite comment was that we had infected the class with a virus and that now everyone had the “grammar flu”. I understood exactly what she meant as I struggled to correct every bit of my writing in the responses I provided in the forums! We received 180 thank you letters posted in an album style cloud website that was organized by another student. We just received an envelope filled with souvenirs from Australia from a student in appreciation for our team.
What do you think we should be doing now? Should we investigate or castigate? Consider MOOCs in light of all of the other technology innovation we have experienced in the past 15 years. How is it different? How is it similar to other changes? Where are we going?
Self-Paced vs. Teacher Coordinated Content Release Times
NOTE: This post pertains to traditional online courses in institutions of higher learning. Constructivist approaches have a different focus and timing would be addressed in a completely different way.
Because time is a different animal in Distance Education, you may have the idea that making your course self-paced, in other words opening all your learning units at once, is a cool idea. It has major drawbacks for traditional educational approaches. This document is offered as a brief guide to managing your content.
It’s a given that you have all kinds of students in your classes, some will get the material quickly and be ready and eager for more, however, others will struggle to get through all of your material in a given unit of time. Finding a balance for all students is a little tricky.
Consider what you want them to do together as you are trying to decide what release options you will employ in your course design. Generally, teachers want students to discuss content that is presented at the time it is presented. If you have a learning unit in progress that includes a discussion or requires comments in a blog, for example, it’s useful for all the students to be focused on that particular unit at the same time. Even though the idea of what you are doing results in asynchronous activity, too much lag time in posting replies in forums, causes an end to active participation!
How does this work in a face-to-face class? Students may have all of the reading and assignment scheduled in a syllabus that they can refer to. They can read ahead all they want, but the actual directions for the activities aren’t part of the syllabus because you want to have the students ready to do those activities and you are the one who prepares them! You also wouldn’t want them to come in three weeks after the fact and try to ask questions during your lecture about things that you have already covered!
The converse is also true. It’s tough and distracting to have students asking questions in class, that are too early in the general progress of the group, to address. How often have you found yourself saying, “That’s a good question and I’ll get to that”, knowing that the context of presenting information is important.
These things are the same in an online class. Timing adds to the ability for you to provide context and students that are too far ahead, may miss that and head out in the wrong direction or not participate as you would like them to.
So, what’s the solution? It depends--- A good rule of thumb would be to open a unit and then a few days before the end of it, open the next one. Keep the interactive components, like discussion questions, closed until the actual opening date of the class. You may want to adjust that as you get the feel for the ability of the students to work on their own. For sure, you want to keep them focused at the same time on the interactions they will be involved in.
Keeping control of the release dates also makes it easier for you to work in the class. You can plan for each week’s worth of work and are grading and offering comment on the same topic all week, rather than jumping around. This also gives you perspective across the work that is being submitted, which is a really good thing.
Reminder: Distance Education courses are defined in the "Higher Education Opportunity Act" (Federal) as having interaction between the instructor and the student. Correspondence Education is defined as “self-paced” and limited interaction with the instructor. Distance Education funding is different than correspondence funding in many situations. Students cannot receive federal financial aid for correspondence courses. Educational institutions are liable for any financial aid money that was given to students in correspondence courses. Additionally, correspondence courses are not considered as transferable courses by many universities.
Developing Late Policies: Thist blog post is about developing late policies for traditional online courses and how those policies should relate to your own philosophy about teaching.
Have you ever thought about not penalizing students for late work? In my classes, I generally provide due dates, however, there are no late penalties. The reason I do that is because this course is about learning to do something in a format that students may be completely unfamiliar in, number one. Secondly, my goal as a teacher is to make sure my students learn what I have to teach them and that they do quality work as they learn.
As a multimedia teacher, I knew that the blending of art and technology is difficult for many students. Usually, they came to my class with either technology skills or art background. Some, of course came with neither, but that was a relatively small number. Because the class was usually evenly split, when we did technology related assignments, one part of the class needed more time and vice versa with the art people. It didn't take very long to figure out that providing a window of time for the due dates for things, worked out well.
The other issue was wanting students to do their best quality work. If after the window closed, a student wanted to re-submit their work, I let them better their grade. Not many students took me up on that. Usually, it was the students who were going to become professionals in multimedia design who resubmitted. I think, though, it made them less stressed about doing the course work and I received beautiful work!
Ultimately, I want the students to tackle and learn the material. I believe that when students are confronted with difficulty in completing work, there could be a variety of problems going on. These "problems" often are issues that has come up for the student before and may be something they will continue to confront, if they are not discovered and remediated. The online environment is often a great place for that learning about learning to take place. A good example might be referring a student having time management issues to an optional calendar development assignment.
I find myself working with students all the time over issues of their poor time management skills and/or their lack of resources. I ask students in the beginning of the course to let me know, in advance if possible, when they are having problems with due dates. By doing that, I usually find out what challenges many of my students face and the contact over late work may be an opportunity for me to offer resources. Because time is flexible in an online class, you can play with how you deal with late work and other issues students have that set them back.
There is a good blog post by a K-12 teacher that is really worth reading on this topic and I highly recommend it (even for college and university professors). Link to Blog Post
There are also ways to design support into your class and to arrange time release of assignments that helps move the students forward. There is a short description of releasing assignments in an online class. in an earlier blog post here, that you may find useful.
Please take five minutes to read the blog post at the link above and then feel free to comment with your questions, ideas and experience.
Who is Pat?
Pat is committed to assisting teachers in designing and implementing quality online learning experiences for their students. Please see her bio on Linked In