eLearning, Instructional Design, Uncategorized

Don’t “Kill” the Lecture – Shorten It!

Photo by Stewart Black

photo by Stewart Black

Last week, I mentioned that the “grand lecture” should not exist in its traditional form in an online learning environment, which is true. This doesn’t mean that using video and audio to share ideas or explain difficult content should be abandoned. Using multimedia to convey information to students online is an important tool that can positively impact learning outcomes as well as student satisfaction, as being able to see the face of the professor adds a personal feel to the course.

My recommendation is to limit videos, lectures or otherwise, to 15-20 minutes max. Anything longer and you’ll lose your audience, make viewing the content a chore, and sidelined the most essential element to engaging online students – interactivity.  Designed interactivity, online or in a traditional classroom setting, makes students feel like they are a part of a community of learners and it motivates students to stay engaged. Lengthy lectures stifle interactive learning.

So, before you set out to record your “in-class” lecture and post it to your online class, think about what the lecture will accomplish. Is the content already available in the book or other required readings/resources? What will your lecture offer that is different from the course materials?

The most successful video lectures/recordings focus on:

  • content that is difficult to understand or confusing
  • introducing or explaining an assignment or activity; sets expectations for student success
  • supplemental information that further illustrates and idea or concept from course materials
  • content that is not already available to students
eLearning, Instructional Design

Not Quite Flipped

We are hearing a lot about “flipped classrooms” these days. Often times, when I begin working with instructors to create or develop their first online course, they very quickly assimilate the two: flipped classroom teaching and teaching online.

There are similarities for certain: technology is used as a tool to disseminate information, multimedia and simulations are viewed “at home” to help to develop conceptual understanding, etc. However, the instructor invariably feels “stuck” when the next part of flipped teaching arrives: engaging students in classroom discussions and activities.

The good news is that for those who have never taught online, the flipped classroom is a very comfortable “jumping off point.” The instructor as facilitator is something online and flipped have in common. The shift in approach and the types of activities are different. In fact, way you design these activities should be framed or structured differently, taking into account your audience (adult learning, working professionals, high school students, etc.), synchronous or asynchronous course environments as well as other limitations and opportunities.

When designing online discussion board assignments consider the prompt carefully. You will not have the opportunity to revise it, if students “don’t get it.” In an online classroom blank stares are to computer screens. You will never see them.

Also, don’t rule out group work – papers, projects or presentations require student collaboration and engagement with the material. There is no doubt that many students, online or in a traditional classroom, will dread working in groups, but it is an effective tool.

You may combine the group concept with a discussion board assignment too. Perhaps require that the students suggest that week’s discussion topic – requiring their engagement upfront – then designate a host for the discussion, requiring the students to intimately interact with the material and lead their fellow classmates in a discussion. All the while, you can facilitate the conversation and the pathway for engagement.

Today, An Ethical Island posted an interesting infographic about the flipped teaching for the online environment, check it out!

Infographic from An Ethical Island blog post, “Flipping Online- Maintaining the In-Class Feel” (http://anethicalisland.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/flipping-online-maintaining-the-in-class-feel/)

eLearning, Instructional Design

5 Things to Consider When Taking a Class Online

Teaching online is not the same as teaching “on-campus.” Not only are the teaching experiences going to be different, but the student experiences will be as well. Online instructors who are tasked with “taking” a face-to-face course online shouldn’t be fooled into believing that because they are subject matter experts that they are also online learning experts. Years of successful face-to-face classroom experience don’t necessarily translate to a successful online course. The move to online is challenging and it requires a dramatic shift in thinking and planning.

There are people who feel online classroom settings are better because they require student participation; an online student cannot sit in the back of the classroom and listen without contributing to the conversation. They also allow students to revisit curriculum material as they complete assignments, often leading to an active learning process on the part of the student. However, this type of student engagement is not organic. It requires thoughtful, strategic, and dedicated planning.

Although new-to-online instructors will likely be working closely with an instructional designer, here are a few things to consider when creating your first online course:

1. The Grand Lecture
For seasoned face-to-face instructors, changing the framework of a lecture that they’ve been delivering for years is very difficult and often feels like an unnatural change. However, in the online learning environment, traditional lecturing is a rather ineffective way of teaching. In fact, what may have been a 45- or 50-minute lecture should be only 15-20 minutes long, at the most, in an online environment. Attention spans are short; but, more importantly, online students need to be actively engaged. Generally, lectures for online should facilitate an activity by either covering the most difficult concepts of that curriculum segment or providing instruction, setting expectations or sharing examples of the learning activity at hand.

2. Reading, Writing, and Multimedia
Not surprisingly, the incorporation of video and audio as well as interactive multimedia tools in online learning are an effective way to share curriculum concepts and engage students in the material. Interactive learning tools that either requires students to answer questions, drag and drop elements, or somehow interact with the information improves student involvement and can increase understanding.

3. Plan to Plan
Planning for both the instructor and the student is critical in online learning. Often time’s students who choose to study online have complicated schedules; knowing what is next and when it is due is a contributing factor to student satisfaction and success in an online environment. This means that instructors need to have planned out the entire course well in advance of the start date. For an instructor that has taught a subject for many years, he or she may feel comfortable starting a weekly class without much preparation. This “loose” planning is not an option for online courses.

To begin, develop a detailed syllabus, which includes a weekly course schedule. For the instructor, this will serve as an outline for building the course modules; for students, it will help provide general guidance about what to expect and when to schedule time to accomplish assignments.

4. Rhythm and routine
Online learners respond well to consistency, particularly regarding activity deadlines. For example, each Monday at 11:59pm short essay paper is due; each Friday at 11:59pm blog posts are due. This kind of rhythm is critically important for student success, and even more so in an accelerated course online.

5. Lone Ranger
One of the most common concerns for students new to online is feeling isolated. Students crave interaction with other students and generally feel more satisfied with the learning experience when they can share ideas and learn from their peers. To address this student need, the design of an online course should include required collaborative work, structured discussion interactions, and/or peer review/critique of assignments. These activities should occur within the course regularly, if not frequently. Unlike impromptu face-to-face discussions, online interactions must be intentionally facilitated and designed: instructions for these activities should be clear, concise, and direct. They should outline expectations and articulate any limitations. Essentially, the activity prompt is critically important, as an instructor cannot change or revise the question to garner a different response without causing confusion and disruption.