5 Pitfalls of Online Teaching

Female student looking frustrated with books and computer

I took my first series of online courses for professional development in 2009.  The courses were highly interactively and well-designed because they were taught by experts in the field of computer-assisted language learning.  A shout-out to my professors in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate program, Principles and Practices of Online Teaching!  (See blog on this topic). Ever since then, I’ve compared online courses to those.

As a working instructional designer and current PhD student enrolled in online courses, I bring a well-rounded perspective to the topic of distance education.  I’ve researched and written about how to develop an online community of inquiry.  It has become my personal agenda to ensure that students taking online courses don’t get frustrated from the course design and lack of teacher presence.

Here’s a list of what I consider the top 5 pitfalls that will surely decrease student learning outcomes and student satisfaction:

  1. Lack of pattern in weekly assignments will cause confusion, especially in a hybrid (blended) course. For example, as you plan threaded discussions, quizzes, and assignments, make sure they follow a pattern; otherwise, indicate on your syllabus any gaps in the established pattern of assignments.
  2. Numerous clicks to find content leads to frustration. To increase findability, use clear navigation practices to reduce time lost on task and frustration levels (Simunich, Robins, & Kelly, 2012).
  3. Lack of synchronous sessions to connect with the human leads to reduced achievement. To increase student achievement, include synchronous sessions (Bernard et al., 2004), Arbaugh and Hornik (2006) suggested video conferencing, voice messaging, or some other types of multimedia.
  4. Instructors not responding to students’ discussions in a timely manner. There are  several theories on human learning about delivering targeted instruction at the right time such as Vygotsky’s (1978) zone of proximal development, Ebbinghaus’ serial position effect (primacy and recency effect), and the presence or absence of retrieval cues in Cormier’s information processing theory.  Students need prompt feedback that targets their instructional needs (Arbaugh, 2001).  See my blog post on instructor feedback for online courses.
  5. Lack of student-student interactions (Bernard et al., 2004).  Make sure students can talk to one another and share their finished projects.

Do you agree with my top 5?

References

Arbaugh, J. B. (2001). How instructor immediacy behaviors affect student satisfaction and learning in web-based courses. Business Communication Quarterly, 30, 42-54.

Arbaugh, J. B., & Hornik, S. (2006). Do Chickering and Gamson’s seven principles also apply to online MBAs? The Journal of Educators Online, 3(2), 1-18.

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Borokhovski, E., Wade, C. A., Tamim, R., Surkes,  M. A., & Bethel, E. C. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of ITs in distance education. Review of Educational Research, 79, 1243-1288.

Simunich, B., Robins, D., & Kelly, V. (2012). Does findability matter? Findability, student motivation, and self-efficacy in online courses.  Quality Matters (QM) Research Grant, Kent State University.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

List of Student and Teacher Expectations for Online Courses

(Originally posted in 2015, I thought this blog was relevant now at the beginning of the semester for all those teaching online this term.)

What you can expect from your Instructor:

  • I will reply to your questions within 24-48 hours except during holidays.
  • I will provide clear and concise instructions and exercises for you to follow.
  • I will return graded assignments within two weeks from the due date.
  • I will monitor discussions to clarify students’ postings, highlight good or interesting comments and ideas, and provide insight.
  • I will provide the necessary components of successful interaction: explanation, demonstration, practice, feedback, and assessment.
  • I will provide a range of practice opportunities–from self-corrected multiple choice items to free form expression on a concept.
  • I will provide meta-cognitive, cognitive, and social strategies for instruction.
  • I know the platform you are using very thoroughly, so that I can anticipate and make good guesses about the origins of any problems you are likely to have, and some answers for them.

What I expect from my Students:

  • You will meet the minimum technical requirements of this course. Take the student orientation tutorial for this learning management system before getting started.  Seek other training services for basic computer and word processing skills (e.g., JagSkills).
  • You should always use good grammar and spelling when posting online.  Use the spell check feature.
  • All your messages will be consequential and full of content! For example, simply responding “me too,” or “thanks,” does not include content.
  • You follow the rules of Netiquette. For example, no bullying online.
  • You will complete all required tasks in a timely manner.
  • You will not copy (plagiarize) the work of others and claim it as your own.  Cite your resources using the American Psychological Association’s (APA) manual for publications. It’s currently in the 6th edition.

Protocol for Technical Issues:

  • First, make sure it’s not a browser issue (e.g., Google Chrome), and try a different browser to see if this resolves the issue.  If so, then you either need to update your regular browser or clear its history/cookies/cache.
  • Read the information in the Help tab (online manual) to learn how to use a tool.
  • Read log error messages and record specifics of problems and forward this to the tech support and instructor. Take a screenshot if possible to illustrate the exact problem.
  • Remember that your peers can help you, too!
  • Last, after someone fixes the problem, make sure you refresh the Web page, as the system will remember the exact same page you were looking at the last time you logged in.

Sandra Rogers

Updated 11/19/2915

How People Learn a Second Language

(Excerpted from my dissertation.)

Learning a second language is an arduous task. Most scholars would agree that it requires a lot of practice (Krashen, 1982; Nation, 2014), language activities that are embedded in realistic tasks (i.e., communicative approach) (Hymes, 1972; McFarlane, Sparrowhawk, & Heald, 2002), plasticity of the brain (Pinker & Bloom, 1990; Ward, 2010), and high levels of motivation (Crystal, 2010; Gardner, 1985). Here are the five stages of second language (L2) learning: preproduction, early production, speech emergence, intermediate fluency, and advanced fluency (Krashen & Terrell, 1983). Progress through these stages depends on level of formal education, family background, time spent in an English-speaking country, and many other variables.

For young children, oral language and literacy development should include support in their native language, sufficient time and support, developmentally and culturally appropriate material, a balanced and meaningful literacy program, and reliable, ongoing, and valid assessments (TESOL, 2010a). For adults, more specialized vocabulary and education on the sociocultural dimensions for the workplace or academic setting are required (TESOL, 2010b). Otherwise, adult L2 instruction is like that of young children, as noted in the vision and action agenda of the National Literacy Summit (2000). For example, they propose that adult learners also have access to native language or bilingual texts and instruction that is based on meaningful contexts.

There’s some disagreement as to the developmental stages of SLA, but most agree that the initial stage includes a silent period in which you understand some of the L2 but may not be able to produce it (Granger, 2004). Scholars disagree as to whether there is a critical period (cut-off time) for learning a second language with native-like fluency (Crystal, 2010). For instance, cognitive neuroscientists prefer the term sensitive period to refer to the limited window of time to learn due to evidence supporting the possibility of extended learning (Ward, 2010).

I agree with Pinker and Bloom’s (1990) idea that the critical period varies with maturation and plasticity of the brain due to natural selection. Hurford (1991), in his evolutionary model, referred to language learning past the critical age as the natural selection pressures activating the trait.  These pressures affect adults who come from around the world with the hope of learning English in order to attend an American university. One way to affect the plasticity of the brain is to play video games. Current research on the brain and its behavior indicate that playing highly arousing, reward-based video games activates brain plasticity (Kilgard & Merzenich, 1998).

Numerous factors affect learning ESL. For one, learning English takes a long time. For beginners, basic interpersonal communication skills can take two years to learn, while cognitive academic language proficiency can take five to seven years (Cummins, 2008). Influential factors include, but are not limited to, native language (L1) writing system, age exposed to English, cognitive ability, and exposure to other languages (National Literacy Summit, 2000). Another important factor is gender (i.e., female, male, other), which is influenced by the gender of the teacher, strategy use (Kiram, Sulaiman, Swanto, & Din, 2014), and conventional norms (Oxford & Nyikos, 1989). There’s no conclusive evidence that one gender is better at learning a L2. Oxford and Nyikos (1989) posit that it has more to do with strategy preferences and conventional norms.

References

Crystal, D. (Ed.). (2010). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, 3rd ed. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Cummins, J. (2008). BICS and CALP: Empirical and theoretical status of distinction. In B. Street & N. H. Hornberger (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Language and Education, Volume 2: Literacy (2nd ed., pp. 71-83). New York, NY: Springer Science + Business Media LLC.

Gardner, R. C. (1985). Social psychology and second language learning: The role of attitudes and motivation.  London, England: Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd.

Granger, C. A. (2004). Silence in second language learning: A psychoanalytical reading. Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters, Ltd.

Hurford, J. R. (1991). The evolution of critical period for language acquisition. Cognition, 40, 159–201. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(91)90024-X

Hymes, D. (1972). Models on the interaction of language and social life. In J. J. Gumperz & D. Hymes (Eds.) Directions in sociolinguistics: The ethnography of communication (pp. 35-71). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Kilgard, M. P., & Merzenich, M. M. (1998). Cortical map reorganization enabled by nucleus basalis activity. Science, 279, 1714-1718.

Kiram, J. J., Sulaiman, J., Swanto, S., & Din, W. A. (2014). The relationship between English language learning strategies and gender among pre-university students: An overview of UMS. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Mathematical Sciences, Vol. 1602 (pp. 502-507). Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: AIP Publishing LLC. doi:10.1063/1.4882532

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practices in second language acquisition.  Oxford, England: Pergamon Press.

Krashen, S. D., & Terrell, T. D. (1983). The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom. London, England: Prentice Hall Europe.

McFarlane, A., Sparrowhawk, A., & Heald, Y. (2002). Report on the educational use of games. Cambridge, England: TEEM.

Nation, P. (2014). What do you need to know to learn a foreign language? School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies.  Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/about/staff/publications/paul-nation/foreign-language_1125.pdf

National Literacy Summit. (2000). Adult ESL language and literacy instruction: A vision and action agenda for the 21st century. Office of Vocational and Adult Education. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Oxford, R., & Nyikos, M. (1989). Variables affecting choice of language learning strategies by university students. The Modern Language Journal, 73(3), 291-300. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.1989.tb06367.x

Pinker, S., & Bloom, P. (1990). Natural language and natural selection. Behavior and Brain Sciences, 13, 707–784. doi:10.1017/s0140525x00081061

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (2010a). Position paper on language and literacy development for young English language learners. Washington, DC: TESOL International Association. Retrieved from https://www.tesol.org/advance-the-field/position-statements

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (2010b). Position statement on adult English as a second or additional language program. Washington, DC: TESOL International Association. Retrieved from https://www.tesol.org/advance-the-field/position-statements

Ward, J. (2010). The student’s guide to cognitive neuroscience. New York, NY: Psychological Press.

My K-5 Elementary School Literature Products on Sale at TPT

I’m a teacher-author on TeachersPayTeachers.com (aka #TPT). I’m having a 20% off sale for cyber Monday and Tuesday on everything (#CYBER2016)! Here are the descriptions of a few of my seasonal elementary products aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Gingerbread Man with bow tie near stack of other cookies says, "Catch me if you can, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"

K-2 Story Illustration: The Gingerbread Man

This is an 18-page document with text from  story retold by Sandra Rogers in which students are provided space to illustrate the story to match the meaning described in the text. 12 vocabulary words are boldface typed within the story with definitions provided on a glossary page. It includes a vocabulary pretest.  The end purpose is to have students read it to their parents or other students in the school.  Students will be eager to learn the new words such as plump, almonds, and hay, so that they could accurately illustrate their self-made booklet.  This activity correlates to the following #CCSS on Speaking and Listening: Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
Kinder: #5. Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.
Grade 1: #5. Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Grade 2: #5. Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings. (Note: The text and drawings can serve as the storyboard for recordings.)

Other similar products include the following:

Image of Santa on sleigh pulled by reindeer

K-3 Poetry Illustration: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas #CCSS SL.K.5, SL.1.5, SL.2.5, SL.3.5

K-3 Holiday Literacy Pack Bundled product includes those mentioned in this blog post plus 2 literacy center posters (Reading and Writing), a literacy activity checklist, and a generic strategy usage form for self-evaluation. #CCSS SL.K.5, SL.1.5, SL.2.5, SL.3.5


Pine Wreath with burlap flowers from Colonial Williamsburg

Wintertime in Colonial Williamsburg 5th Grade PowerPoint Presentation

The 15 images in the presentation are photos taken of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia in the winter. The purpose of the presentation is to give students a glimpse of colonial life. The photos include children’s toys, holiday wreaths, a bedroom, chamber pot, a kitchen, a dining room, a coal-burning furnace, a cellar, a garden maze, the Governor’s Palace (The Wythe House), the Royal Capitol, a home, wallpaper, a horse-drawn carriage, and a soldier’s drum. The PowerPoint slides include brief lecture notes.


*These literature activities are also available for sale individually. Other products include Spanish language editions.

**All my products are on sale for TPT’s #CYBER2016!

Thank you for shopping Teacherrogers store!

Happy holidays,

Sandra Rogers,
Instructional Designer

Join me at the MSERA 2016 in Mobile, Alabama!

Photo of Sandra Annette Rogers
Say hello if you see me.

Join me in Mobile, AL this November 2nd-4th for the Mid-South Educational Research Associations (MSERA) 2015 annual meeting.  Click this link to see the full conference schedule.  The conference takes place at the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel on Water Street downtown.  For more information on the MSERA, visit their Website.  The great thing about #MSERA is that they are friendly and welcome newcomers—and they remember your name the time they see you!

I’ll be making two brief paper presentations and chairing these same sessions. Here’s my schedule:

  • 2:00 eLearning Session in Grand Bay Room I/II: November 3 (Thursday)

    Rubric to Evaluate Online Course Syllabi Plans for Engendering a Community of Inquiry

    Sandra A. Rogers & James Van Haneghan, University of South Alabama


    10:00 Instructional Design Session in Windjammer Room: November 4th (Friday)

    Magis Instructional Design Model for Ignatian-based Distance Education

    Sandra A. Rogers, Spring Hill College

     

Goodbye eCollege, Hello Schoology!

Venn Diagram of the tools and features of eCollege compared to those of Schoology LMS

Here’s a link to the PDF of this image.  Pearson is closing its door on eCollege and eCompanion, so we adopted a new learning management system (LMS).  Schoology by comparison has so many more features for our learners.

My Middle School Literature Products for Sale on TPT

I’m a seller on TeachersPayTeachers (aka #TPT). I’m having a 15% off sale right now on everything! Here’s a description of my bundled middle school literature pack: (aligned with #CCSS)

3 Poetry Studies
Edgar Allan Poe: 1) Annabel Lee, 2) Leonore, and 3) The Sleeper. This product includes 11 questions and answers to be used after the students read all three poems. Links are provided to website with all three poems. The discussion questions address the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for reading literature for craft and structure RL 6.4-12.4 and RL 6.5-12.5.
Sample question:
In the poem Annabel Lee, what do you think the poet is referring to when he says that she was taken to the kingdom on the other side of the ocean?

2 Novelette Studies
1. Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:
Novel study activities include 17 questions and an answer key. One website resource is listed. Chapter activities are divided into two parts: Chapters 1-5 and 6-10. Story not included. This product is aligned with CCSS for RL 6.1-12.1, RL 6.2-12.2, and RL 6.3-12.3.
Sample question:
Do you think we all have a bit of good and evil inside of us?

  1. Richard Bach’s book, There’s No Such Place as Far Away: 8 questions and answers provided for this literature study. Story not included. This product is aligned with CCSS for RL 6.1-12.1, RL 6.2-12.2, and RL 6.3-13.3.
    Sample question:
    This book synthesizes the philosophy of Richard Bach—nothing is impossible for those who pursue what they want. This is called objective reality. Do you believe in objective reality? First, discuss it in pairs, and then share your opinions with the group.

1 Novel Study
Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight: This product includes 20 questions, seven website resources, and an answer key. Four of the website resources include vocabulary flashcard decks based on the Twilight Saga created by Teacherrogers. Students will be able to access 25 vocabulary words from the Twilight novel, as well as 20 words from each of the other books in the series. The novel study is divided into three parts: 1) Chapters 1-4, 2) Chapters 5-13, and 3) Chapters 14-24. This product is aligned with CCSSS for RL 6.1-12.1, RL 6.2-12.2, and RL 6.3-13.3.
Sample question:
How do the Cullens differ from all the other students? Describe their appearance, mannerisms, and language. (Chapter 2)

1 Short Story Study
Henry James’ A Problem: 10 questions and answers are provided in this literature study. Questions focus on the key ideas and details in reading the literature. This products is aligned with CCSS for RL 6.1-12.1, RL 6.2-12.2, and RL 6.3-13.3. A link is provided to access a free electronic copy of the story.
Sample question:
The story includes fortunetellers. Do you believe some people can foretell the future of others? Why or why not?

***These literature activities are also available for sale individually. Other products include Spanish language editions. Thank you for shopping Teacherrogers store!

Sandra Rogers,
Instructional Designer

Problem Analysis: 3 Job Aids to Find Root Causes

What kind of vocabulary can you learn from role-playing video games?

Brightly colored winged-ferry is learning about a quest from a farmer in his field.
Example of gameplay in EverQuestII

In my current gaming research study with EverQuestII® (EQII), I was pleasantly surprised to see a dominance of neutral words and only a slight majority of negative words over positive ones.  This is based on the participants’ text-based, chat logs that I analyzed with the vocabulary concordancer called Range.  Chat logs include language from the non-playing characters (NPCs), playing characters (gamers), and game alerts.  Range parses the most frequently used words from a text file.  Then we categorized the top 109 most frequently occurring words according to their positive, negative, and neutral attributes.

Positive Words:  achievement, benefits, bonuses, boost, defeating, defense, eligible, encounter, focus, gain, health, increases, loot, points, power, prestigious, promotion, purchase, relieve, and reviving

Negative Words: assassin, combat, corpses, critical, crush, damage, debt, destroyer, destruction, disbanded, disruption, drained, fails, fanatic, fear, infected, inflict, interrupted, intimidation, overrun, purulent, slashing, slay, strike, suffering, threat, and loot* (actually a positive word in game context)

Neutral Words: absorbs, agility, already, attributes, banner, beetle, claim, collect, commoner, consciousness, consider, convert, copper, current, dedicated, discourse, discovered, dwarf, engage, errands, forum, griffon, hail, icon, idle, levels, limb, magic, melee, member, mentoring, northwest, outpost, parries, piercing, reset, reverse, reward, rifts, riposte, shield, silver, spirit, stamina, statesmen, strength, target, thirst, throne, tower, trade, trigger, unique, unknown, untamed, vocals, weight, zone, and purchase

EQII is a text-heavy, massive, multiplayer, online, role-playing game (MMORPG).  It’s a fantasy game with various virtual worlds, numerous characters to play, and thousands of quests, so the language encountered won’t be exactly the same for everyone.  Nevertheless, I noticed some of the same language being encountered at the early levels of play.  For my research study, I’m using some of these common words parsed from English language learning (ELL) participants’ chat logs for their pretest-posttest of new words learned from gameplay.  I want to know if MMORPGs combined with ELL strategies are a good extracurricular activity.

CALL Criteria for Use of EverQuestII Video Game

Ocelot in full armor with sword on a snowy tundra with orcs running in the background
Meet my virtual identity, Kerrannie

As a computer-assisted language learning (CALL) budding researcher, I selected EverQuestII(EQ2) for my second language acquisition (SLA) research study based on a previous study and similar gaming literature. Little did I know how much reading and advanced vocabulary was involved in this game—vocabulary that you need to know in order to advance to the next level.  Reading fiction is a good way to improve your vocabulary.  Reading while immersed in the context is even better for the language learner!

EQ2 is in the game genre of massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).   Scholars like Millard (2002) believe that modern technologies can improve literacy.  I’m using EQ2 combined with SLA strategies as an after school intervention with English language learners’ to see if it will improve their grammar, reading, and vocabulary.

Chapelle (2001) developed criteria for CALL media selection that included language learning potential, learner fit, meaning focus, authenticity, positive feedback, and practicality. Other SLA researchers have used it to vet video game selection for their research (Miller and Hegelheimer, 2006). This criteria is a great way for me to share how impressed I am as an ESL educator with EQ2 as a medium for informal learning. Here are my initial understandings of the fit with the CALL criteria proposed by Chapelle: (albeit brief…)

  • Language Learning Potential: Text-based and/or live chats with native English speakers; written support of all communication in chat logs and speech bubbles; scaffolded introduction to each player’s role; and environment, animation and audible alerts enhance understanding
  • Learner Fit: Current literature indicates promise for gaming for educational purposes; EQ2 is rated T for Teen (ESRB, 2016) for a more approachable theme; and participants are university students who are familiar with online gaming
  • Meaning Focus: Role-play takes on meaning of several narratives on various kingdoms; and encounters provide salutations, skirmishes, and humor,
  • Authenticity: 5000 creatures to encounter on 8000 quests for situated learning encounters with non-playing characters and gamers; capability to build your own virtual identity; and possibility of failure
  • Positive Feedback:  Level-up announcements; tokens for continuance in gameplay; game currency for quest completion; and rewards for being courageous, etc.
  • Practicality: Free up to 91 levels of play; online for ease of access anytime; and tutorials available in-game and on YouTube; and user-friendly tips and error messages.

Drawbacks include the need to have sufficient computer graphic card, hard drive storage space, and the support of a “gaming coach” for those first-time gamers.  I realize that EQ2 is no longer the most sophisticated or popular game since its heyday was around 2011. Actually, this is why I selected this video game for my research study—so that participants will likely not be familiar with it.

References

Millard, E. (2002). Boys and the Blackstuff. National Association of for the Teaching of English (NATE) Newsletter, 16, January.

Chapelle, C. A. (2001). Computer applications in second language acquisition: Foundations for teaching, testing, and research. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Entertainment Software Rating Board. (2016). ESRB Ratings. New York, NY: Entertainment Software Association.  Retrieved from https://www.everquest2.com/news/february-2016-producers-letter-holly

Miller, M., & Hegelheimer, V. (2006). The Sims meet ESL: Incorporating authentic computer simulation games into the language classroom. International Journal of Interactive Technology and Smart Education, 3(4), 311–328.