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Best Practices for Online Teaching & Learning: Module 1-Orient

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Best Practices for Online Teaching & Learning:  Module 1-Orient


Module 1: Making the Connection Welcome to Module 1: Orient This module focuses around the essential question: “How do faculty and students make sense of
a new online learning environment?” This presentation provides you with an example
of one way that content can be delivered to students. The Notes area can be used to place your “lecture
material” or additional text that supports the information presented on the slides. Overview of Teaching and Learning in New Environments Although the idea is perhaps counterintuitive,
technology can actually increase student engagement in learning. The use of well-designed learning activities
supported by technologies that encourage student interaction with faculty, with their classmates,
and with the content can result in higher-order thinking skills. The thoughtful use of technology for learning
can also teach students ways to organize information and collaboration skills which can endure
past the course and even into their work and home lives. Interactivity can be thought of as interaction
among students, between yourself and your students, and between students and the content. As you begin to design your first unit of
instruction, we encourage you to apply the idea of interactivity to your assignments. The structure and direction you build into
assignments, the assistance you give students in organizing their learning and collaboration,
and the feedback you give during and after an assignment are key areas to focus on while
redesigning learning activities. Teaching and Learning in an Online Environment As you start to think about the online learning
environment, it is worth taking a step back and considering the benefits and the challenges
the online environment offers us. While deep learning still takes place, for
instructors, it becomes less about being the “sage on the stage” explaining it all (though
to be fair, many of us do not solely operate in this fashion) to operating more as a facilitator
and creating an environment to heighten the learning opportunities and interactions with
the content, other students, and you as instructor. The removal of the physical presence can be
challenging for some faculty as it leaves us without one of our most essential forms
of feedback: body language. What this means is that as facilitators, we
have to find ways to create a positive environment where we are able to pick up the cues and
concerns of our students. Learning online also looks different. As an asynchronous environment, it can be
challenging to feel part of a “class” and the student must navigate his or her own way
through a course. Think about your first day coming into this
course. Did you feel any anxiety or confusion? Was there any trepidation about what you were
doing? Was there a moment of hesitation in posting
your syllabus (did you double check it; wondering what your peers would think)? You may not have felt any concern or there
may have been some element of alert in coming into this environment. Students are going to experience the same
thing in many different ways (often to a larger degree as they may be less self-assured than
we are). It is important to tune into the ways in which
learning and interaction change in some ways and remain the same in others. Characteristics of a Successful Online Instructor Successful online instructors pay heed to
several important elements of their course and how it plays out through the semester. Instructors will want to provide clear and
specific details with regards to assignments, due dates, expectations, and overall flow
of the course. Many a student will find himself/herself frustrated
by vague guidelines (“write a paper about subject x using 3 sources”), confusing due
dates (listed on the calendar as one date, on the syllabus as a different date, and listed
on the drop box as a third date), hypocritical standards (telling them their papers must
be in perfect grammar and spelling, but then having ample spelling mistakes throughout
your course), and unclear course directions (not specifying how assignments are to be
submitted or in what format). Consistency, clarity, and responsiveness are
the central hallmarks of a good online instructor and, it is of no surprise, they are regularly
desired elements in a face-to-face instructor too. Characteristics of a Successful Online Student
Some students are natural online learners; they are self-motivated and know how to properly
plan out their week to make sure the work gets done in an orderly fashion. They are comfortable in asking for help but
are also capable and do well working on their own. They want more freedom to move through the
material and interact with it at their chosen times and places. That is not to say they complete it when they
want regardless of deadlines, but they appreciate setting their own schedules with relation
to established deadlines. However, that will not be the entire class. That is not to say they cannot become or take
on the attributes of successful online students, but the instructor needs to help them identify
the skills they will need in order to complete the course properly. This can take the form of clarifying the degree
and level of work needed early on (through the course orientation or as part of the syllabus)
so that students can make an informed decision about how to go about their work. Teaching and Learning in a Hybrid Environment Unlike online courses, instructors of hybrid
courses get to see their students face to face; however, depending on the format of
the hybrid course, when they encounter each other may vary. The challenge of hybrid learning is thinking
about how the face to face and online components mesh together in order to enhance learning
and not just repeat learning. A good hybrid makes the pieces interdependent
(hence why the term blended is often used). It is not just doing more homework outside
the class as some would treat it, but creating the environment for purposeful and important
learning for students whether it be additional content (for example, the “flipped classroom”),
individual peer interactions, group discussions, or further interactions with the instructor. Many of us are familiar in doing this to some
smaller degree through forms such as having students watch a documentary in lieu of class,
having students meet on their own in lieu of class for a group project, or even meet
with students one on one for student-teacher conferences. Characteristics of a Successful Hybrid Instructor
Instructors want to make sure they sufficiently and substantive explain up front the rhythm
of their specific hybrid class. As hybrid can take on many forms, making sure
students know exactly what face to face and online time consists of is tantamount to supporting
your students. Instructors also want to make sure they choose
the right type of assignment, assessment, and activity for the right environment. Some activities might lend themselves well
to the online environment while others are better in the face to face classroom; a successful
instructor will consider what is best for learning or experiencing the activity more
than what the instructor may feel more comfortable with. Characteristics of a Successful Hybrid Student
Students that do well in hybrid classrooms enjoy the variety that the format offers. They also appreciate and recognize the changed
dynamic of face-to-face time where they feel more encouraged to bring in outside material
and engage with the instructor about course material more so than in a traditional lecture
classroom. They enjoy and value the moving beyond the
course textbook and finding other ways of making sense of the course but still have
the opportunity to be challenged in the face-to-face setting. They recognize (immediately or in hindsight)
that the hybrid environment gives them more autonomy and more responsibility to work with
than a traditional classroom. Active Learning and Student-Centered Learning Much of successful online and hybrid learning
focuses on the idea of active learning and student-centered learning. At the core of active learning is the belief
that the learner is not passive in his/her education. This viewpoint moves beyond looking at the
classroom as a place where the instructor provides information and the students (almost
uncritically) consumes information. Instead, learning is approached as a lively
process in which both instructor and student explore the course through dialogue and interaction. Coupled with that is student-centered learning
which approaches learning by considering what is best for the student’s learning experience–not
necessarily what is easiest for the instructor. A great example of this is changing the way
to evaluate students from the traditional multiple choice exam (which is easy to grade)
to something that might play upon the students’ strengths more (a portfolio, presentation,
or nontraditional assessment). That is not to say that such things as multiple
choice tests should be removed but instead should be applied when it seems the best for
the students’ learning as oppose to the ease of the instructor’s experience. Best Practices – Quality Guidelines Course Kickoff
Instructions are included that clearly let students know how to get started in the course
and where to find various course components. Orientation/Start Here materials are included
in the course with: Course orientation (following provided PowerPoint
template) Syllabus
Course schedule Instructor introduction
Information on how to work through the weekly content
Communication expectations around how students communicate with the instructor and classmates
(e.g. email, discussion forums, group projects) and how the instructor will communicate with
the students (e.g. avenues, times, and turnarounds with communications and feedback for assignments)
are clearly identified. Course and institutional policies – academic
integrity, late submissions, etc. Minimum technical skills expected of students
to be successful in course Technical support available and how to access
it Information on or links to institutional student
support services and resources (Disability Services, Academic Support, Library, etc.) For hybrid courses, it is important to make
sure that: Online and face-to-face activities are integrated. Decisions about putting activities online
or face-to-face should be intentional, appropriate and have pedagogical rationales. The relationship between the face-to-face
and online components is explained. Students should understand what they are expected
to do before, during and after each face-to-face meeting. Assessments are appropriately balanced between
online and face-to-face modules. The specific hybrid format is explicitly addressed
within in the course material (and when relevant, communicated in advance of the start of the
course). Questions Please feel free to post them in Questions
Forum or send me an email: [email protected] Thank you!

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