Navigating Post-Truth Societies: Strategies, Resources, and Technologies

The blog was originally posted on the AACE Review by Sandra Rogers.

The Problem

While fake news and information bubbles are not new, awareness of their impact on public opinion has increased. The Wall Street Journal (2016) reported on a study that found secondary and postsecondary students could not distinguish between real and sponsored content in Internet searches. This became apparent when observing my college-bound niece google her bank on the Internet and quickly click the name at the top of the list within the sponsored content and then have the computer freeze from a potential malware attack. If teenagers cannot discern between promoted and regular content, imagine their encounters with fake news. The WSJ article recommended lateral reading (i.e., leave site to learn about it) and for adults to ask teens about their selection choices during Internet searches. In the instance with my niece, she was unaware of sponsored content. She also didn’t know that the first item in a browser’s search results generally is strategically pushed to the top because of search engine optimization (SEO) with keywords (meta-tagging).

Figure 1. Tag cloud of words from blog post

How can we help? What are good heuristics to determine the quality of online content?

Solution 1. Critical Reading and Thinking Skills

Determine the purpose of the Website by its domain (e.g., .com, .org, .gov). Analyze its content and graphics. Analytical questions to consider are as follows:

  • Is it current? Broken hyperlinks indicate a lack of attention to the site.
  • Does it look professional? Is it well written?
  • Does it have a point of contact?
  • Does the writer provide proper citations?
  • What is the author’s tone? Is the content biased toward a view? If so, is it substantiated with empirical evidence? Does the author present the complete narrative or are certain important elements omitted?
  • Do the graphics illustrate a valid point? Do they make sense statistically?

Are you an IT specialist, researcher, or educator? Each field has different approaches to thinking. The strategies you select would depend upon the nature of the content, as different content requires different ways of thinking. Bruning, Schraw, and Norby (2011) refer to this as thinking frames such as how one would think about scientific inquiry and the use of research methods. If you’re an educator, you might be interested in a WebQuest I developed to help students create their own job aid for critical thinking. It asks students to tap into the critical lens of their future field of study.

Solution 2. Primary Sources

Combat fake news by seeking the original source of information. Take time to verify the authenticity of what is begin shared online. Use various sources whenever possible for triangulation (e.g., interviews, observations, and documentation). This will ensure that what you read is corroborated by other articles presenting the same information. A good legislative resource is the U.S. Government Publication Office that provides congressional records, bills, codes, and Federal Register items. Their govinfo.gov website explains how to check the integrity of a government document found on the web by revealing its verification seal upon printing. It’s a digital signature placed in their PDFs; if the document has been modified, it breaks the verification.

Solution 3. Technology Resources

Use technology to decipher the trustworthiness of online content. Several Internet browser extensions provide visible alerts. For example, the Fake News Detector extension displays the word FAKE in red capital letters or orange for CLICKBAIT/Probably FAKE on the web page. It’s available in the Chrome store along with a few others and their user ratings. I started curating reputable fact-checking tools such as PolitiFact and Snopes on my Scoop.it! e-magazine, The Critical Reader. Some extensions are application-specific such as the Official Media Bias/Fact Check Extension that determines the veracity of articles on Facebook. It provides factuality (e.g., High), references, popularity, and positionality (e.g., left-center) at the base of the article on your Facebook feed. I personally use this one displayed in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Facebook post of Smithsonian article with Official Media Bias/Fact Check results

Solution 4. Seek Professional Content

Seek information from reputable researchers and educational leaders. Most professions adhere to ethical standards as a promise to their constituents. For example, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) states that members will not fabricate, falsify, nor plagiarize “in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results (AERA Code of Ethics, 2011).” This standard is taken very seriously in the field of educational research. Those in the past that didn’t heed ethical rules have paid the cost of being outed with plagiarism tools such as was the case for the German Education Minister and Former Defense Minister’s plagiarized dissertations and subsequent unseating of their government appointments (CNN World, 2013).

As an educator, I took the Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) pledge of fidelity to humanity, science, service, and toil, as an initiate into this international honor society. The ideal of science relates to the topic of this discussion. “…This Ideal implies that, as an educator, one will be faithful to the cause of free inquiry and will strive to eliminate prejudice and superstition by withholding judgment until accurate and adequate evidence is obtained. One will not distort evidence to support a favorite theory; not be blinded by the new or spectacular; nor condemn the old simply because it is old. All this is implied in the Ideal of Science” (KDP Initiation Ceremony, 2015, p. 4).

Do you have good fact-checking resources or more solutions to share? Please share those in the comments section.

References

Brumfield, B. (2013, February 6). German education minister loses Ph.D. over plagiarized thesis. CNN World. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2013/02/06/world/europe/german-minister-plagiarism/index.html

Bruning, R. H., Schraw, G. J., & Norby, M. M. (2011). Cognitive psychology and instruction. New York, NY: Pearson.

Caplan, R., Hanson, L. & Donovan, J. (2018). Dead Reckoning Navigating Content Moderation After “Fake News”. Data & Society. Retrieved from https://datasociety.net/pubs/oh/DataAndSociety_Dead_Reckoning_2018.pdf 

Code of ethics. (2011). American Educational Research Association. Educational Researchers, 40 (3), 145-156. doi: 10.31.02/001189X11410403

Ceremonies and rituals. (2015). Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education.

Shellenbarger, S. (2016, November 21). Most students don’t know when news is fake, Stanford study finds. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/most-students-dont-know


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Teacherrogers Products
Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

A Review of ‘Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online’

This was previously posted on the AACE Review by Sandra Rogers.

Digital screen with green code on black background
Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

In Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online, Marwick and Lewis (2017) of the Data & Society Research Institute described the agents of media manipulation, their modus operandi, motivators, and how they’ve taken advantage of the vulnerability of online media. The researchers described the manipulators as right-wing extremists (RWE), also known as alt-right, who run the gamut from sexists (including male sexual conquest communities) to white nationalists to anti-immigration activists and even those who rebuke RWE identification but whose actions confer such classification.

These manipulators rally behind a shared belief on online forums, blogs, podcasts, and social media through pranks or ruinous trolling anonymity, usurping participatory culture methods (networking, humor, mentorship) for harassment, and competitive cyber brigades that earn status by escalating bullying such as the sharing of a target’s private information. The researchers proposed that the use of the more digestible term of alt-right to convey the collective agenda of misogynists, racists, and fascists propelled their causes into the mainstream discourse through various media streams. Therefore, I’ll use the term RWE instead.

MEDIA ECOSYSTEM MALEABILITY

The Internet provides a shared space for good and evil. Subcultures such as white nationalists can converge with other anti-establishment doers on an international scale thanks to the connected world we live in. Marwick and Lewis reported on how RWE groups have taken advantage of certain media tactics to gain viewers’ attention such as novelty and sensationalism, as well as their interactions with the public via social media, to manipulate it for their agenda. For instance, YouTube provides any individual with a portal and potential revenue to contribute to the media ecosystem. The researchers shared the example of the use of YouTube by conspiracy theorists, which can be used as fodder for extremist networks as conspiracies generally focus on the loss of control of important ideals, health, and safety.

The more outrageous conspiracies get picked up by the media for their viewers, and in doing so, are partly to blame for their proliferation. In the case study provided with this article, The White Student Union, an influencer successfully sought moral outrage as a publicity stunt. Why isn’t the media more astute about this? “The mainstream media’s predilection for sensationalism, need for constant novelty, and emphasis on profits over civic responsibility made them vulnerable to strategic manipulation (p. 47) (Marwick & Lewis, 2017).”

ONLINE ATTENTION HACKING

Marwick and Lewis shared how certain RWE influencers gained prominence based on their technological skills and manipulative tactics. One tactic they’re using is to package their hate in a way that appeals to millennials. They use attention hacking to increase their status such as hate speech, which is later recanted as trickster trolling all the while gaining the media’s attention for further propagation. Then there are the RWE so-called news outlets and blogs that promote a hyper-partisan agenda and falsehoods. These were successful in attention hacking the nation running up to the 2016 Presidential election at a scale that out-paced that of the regular news outlets on Facebook (Buzz Feed News, 2016). Are they unstoppable?

The researchers indicated that the only formidable enemy of alt-right media is the opposing factions within its fractured, yet shared hate, assemblage. Unfortunately, mainstream media’s reporting on political figures who engage in conspiracy theories, albeit noteworthy as to their mindset, raises it to the level of other important newsworthy of debate.  Berger and Luckmann (1966) referred to this as ‘reality maintenance’ through dialogue, reality-confirmation through interactions, ongoingly modified, and legitimized through certain conversations. The media needs to stop the amplification of RWE messages; otherwise, as Marwick and Lewis stated, it could gravely darken our democracy.

ONLINE MANIPULATORS SHARED MODUS OPERANDI

Marwick and Lewis reported the following shared tactics various RWE groups use for online exploits:

  • Ambiguity of persona or ideology,
  • Baiting a single or community target’s emotions,
  • Bots for amplification of propaganda that appears legitimately from a real person,
  • “…Embeddedness in Internet culture… (p. 28),”
  • Exploitation of young male rebelliousness,
  • Hate speech and offensive language (under the guise of First Amendment protections),
  • Irony to cloak ideology and/or skewer intended targets,
  • Memes for stickiness of propaganda,
  • Mentorship in argumentation, marketing strategies, and subversive literature in their communities of interest,
  • Networked and agile groups,
  • “…Permanent warfare… (p.12)” call to action,
  • Pseudo scholarship to deceive readers,
  • “…Quasi moral arguments… (p. 7)”
  • Shocking images for filtering network membership,
  • “Trading stories up the chain… (p. 38)” from low-level news outlets to mainstream, and
  • Trolling others with asocial behavior.

This is a frightful attempt at the social reconstruction of our reality, as the verbal and nonverbal language we use objectifies and rules the order (Berger and Luckmann, 1966).

DISINFORMATION MOTIVATORS

According to Marwick and Lewis, media manipulators are motivated by pushing their ideological agendas, the joy of sowing chaos in the lives of targets, financial gain, and/or status. The RWE’s shared use of online venues to build a counter-narrative and to radicalize recruits is not going away any time soon. This was best explained in their article as, with the Internet, the usual media gatekeepers have been removed.

Some claimed their impetus was financial and not politically motivated such as the teenagers in Veles, Macedonia who profited around 16K dollars per month via Google’s AdSense from Facebook post engagements with their 100 fake news websites (Subramanian, 2017). “What Veles produced, though, was something more extreme still: an enterprise of cool, pure amorality, free not only of ideology but of any concern or feeling about the substance of the election (Subramanian, 2017).”  …Google eventually suspended the ads from these and other fake news sites. However, as reported in Dead Reckoning, new provocateurs will eventually figure out how to circumvent Google’s AdSense and other online companies’ gateways as soon as they develop new ones. This is because, as aforementioned, the RWE influencers are tech-savvy.

PUBLIC MISTRUST OF MAINSTREAM MEDIA

Marwick and Lewis acknowledged a long history of mistrust with mainstream media. However, the current distrust appears worse than ever. For example, youth reported having little faith in mainstream media (Madden, Lenhart & Fontaine, 2017). Republicans’ trust in the mainstream media was the lowest ever recorded by the Gallop Poll (Swift, 2016). Why has it worsened? They pinpointed The New York Times’ lack of evidence for various news articles on the Iraq War’s nuclear arsenal, as an example of long-lasting readership dismay. The researchers reported on how a lack of trust in the mainstream media has pushed viewers to watch alternative networks instead. Moreover, the right-wing extremists’ manipulation of the media demonstrates the media’s weakness, which in turn sows mistrust. Marwick and Lewis acknowledged that the RWE subculture has been around the Internet for decades and will continue to thrive off the mainstream media’s need for novelty and sensationalism if allowed. I, for one, appreciate what Data & Society is doing to shed light on the spread of fake news and hatemongers’ agendas on the Internet.

Instructional Material

If you’re a college instructor of communications or teach digital literacy as a librarian, see the corresponding syllabus for this article. It provides discussion questions and assignments for teaching students about media manipulation. To teach your students how to combat fake news online, see my other AACE Review post on Navigating Post-Truth Societies: Strategies, Resources, and Technologies.

References

Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Madden, M. Lenhart, A., & Fontaine, C. (February 2017). How youth navigate the news landscape. Retrieved from https://kf-siteproduction.s3.amazonaws.com/publications/pdfs/000/000/230/original/Youth_News.pdf

Marwick, A. & Lewis, R. (2017). Media manipulation and disinformation online. Retrieved from https://datasociety.net/pubs/oh/DataAndSociety_MediaManipulationAndDisinformationOnline.pdf

Subramanian, S. (February 2017). Inside the Macedonian fake-news complex. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2017/02/veles-macedonia-fake-news/

Swift, A. (2016). Americans trust in mass media sinks to new low. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Teacherrogers Products
Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Universal Access Through Inclusive Instructional Design: International Perspectives on UDL

The logo has the word accessibility with four icons on it: eye, hand, ear, and brain.

I’d like to let you know about the first edition of Universal Access Through Inclusive Instructional Design: International Perspectives on UDL from Routledge.  It’s co-edited by the Society of Information Technology and Teacher Educations’s Universal Design for Learning (UDL) special interest group Co-chairs, Drs. Susie Gronseth (University of Houston) and Elizabeth Dalton (University of Rhode Island).

This book “explores the ways that educators around the world reduce barriers for students with disabilities and other challenges by planning and implementing accessible, equitable, high-quality curricula. Incorporating key frameworks such as Universal Design for Learning, these dynamic contributions highlight essential supports for flexibility in student engagement, representation of content, and learner action and expression.”

I wrote a snapshot for this book on the following: Using the YouTube Automated Captioning Tool for Video Lectures. It’s based on my work at Spring Hill College in designing its new online Theology program. See my abstract below.

Abstract

“This snapshot describes the use of the YouTube automated captioning tool as a low-cost means for do-it-yourself captioning of video lectures to meet the federal guidelines for distance education. A graduate program took this approach when adapting their courses to the online environment, even though they had no prior experience with YouTube channels or captioning. With technical support from their instructional designer, they successfully launched their unlisted YouTube channels with their video lectures. In the process, they noticed how they optimized the course environment in accordance with the Universal Design of Learning (UDL) framework.”

There are many more instructional design snapshots for each chapter. Check it out!  Free review in eBook format available for instructors considering this book for course adoption.

References

Gronseth, S. L., & Dalton, E. M. (Eds.). (2019). Universal access through inclusive instructional design: International perspectives on UDL. New York, NY: Routledge.

Rogers, S. (2019). Snapshot – Using the YouTube automated captioning tool for video lectures. In S. L. Gronseth & E. M. Dalton (Eds.), Universal access through inclusive instructional design: International perspectives on UDL. New York, NY: Routledge.


P.S. Our book was displayed at the Routledge table at the AECT conference in Las Vegas.

Sandra Rogers is holding the educational book in which she is a co-author. She's standing in front of a table of other books displayed by Routledge.

Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Curation of Your Online Persona Through Self-Care and Responsible Citizenship

Embed from Getty Images

 

I’m excited to announce my publication in this new K-12 book titled, Leveraging Technology to Improve School Safety and Student Wellbeing (Huffman, Loyles, Albritten, & Green, 2020). My contribution to the edited book is titled, Curation of Your Online Persona Through Self-Care and Responsible Citizenship (Rogers, 2020). It’s written for secondary teachers and their students. It started as a few lesson plans for an interdisciplinary course at Spring Hill College (IDS 394: Wired) and grew into blog posts and eventually this chapter. See my previous blog posts on the Recipe for Digital Curation of Your Online Persona and the Global Interdisciplinary College Course. Below is the abstract for my chapter.

ABSTRACT

With each blog post, tweet, and online project, Internet users are building their online reputation whether they want to or not. In the absence of professional branding, users’ online presence contributes vastly to what brands them. Through critical digital pedagogy, teachers and students question all technology practices (e.g., self, school, society). This chapter addresses the safety, security, and perception of their online data through self-determined prevention, weeding, and branding based on their short- and long-term goals. Methods, resources, and a lesson plan are provided as guidance to support students’ well-being pertaining to the online dimensions of their academic and personal lives. Strategies discussed include online identity system checks to review current digital footprint and data vulnerabilities, contemplation of technology usage in terms of self-care and responsible citizenship, and curation and development of their online persona. These participatory practices address two of the ISTE Standards for Students regarding digital citizenship.


The book’s release date was October 2019. There are many interesting chapters on school safety from many different perspectives including the marginalized. If interested in purchasing, let me know and I’ll provide you with a 40% discount coupon code.

I presented some of the curation strategies mentioned in the book at the Association of Educational Communications and Technology’s annual conference held in Las Vegas, NV this fall. My session was hosted by the Culture, Learning, and Technology special interest group in a new free workshop-style Inspire session. It was titled, Safeguard Your Online Persona by Using Various Techniques and Technologies. It was well received! See my AECT blog post with slidesI’ve learned so much from taking a deep dive into this topic to write this chapter and look forward to sharing it with you.

References

Huffman, P., Loyles, S., Albritton, S., & Green, C. (2020). Leveraging technology to improve school safety and student wellbeing. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-7998-1766-6

Rogers, S. (2020). Curation of your online persona through self-care and responsible citizenship: Participatory digital citizenship for secondary education. In S. P. Huffman, S. Loyless, S. Albritton, & C. Green (Eds.), Leveraging Technology to Improve School Safety and Student Wellbeing. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-7998-1766-6


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Teacherrogers Products
Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Time-saving Tips for Teaching Online Part 1

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Commonly Used Software to Save Time

Teaching online courses is very time-consuming, especially if you have to build the course yourself.  Here are a  few tips to save time on various tasks. They include free or otherwise open education resources (OER) and premium software.

Assignments

Microsoft Word (premium software). Most educators know that MS Word provides the ability to give feedback on student papers through the Track Changes feature within its Review tool. However, most don’t realize that it also provides a way to automate common feedback through the AutoText tool.  To create your own automated personalized feedback, type word or abbreviation for common error and the corresponding corrective feedback and writing guidelines (i.e., APA or MLA) in a table. Then follow these steps:

  1. Highlight the text description.
  2. Select the Insert tab from the toolbar.
  3. Select Quick Parts in the Text section of the MS Office ribbon above.
  4. Then save the selection to Quick Part Gallery in Normal.dotm.
  5. Update name and description in the Gallery. If you make a mistake, edit the description provided by retracing your steps; it will ask if you want to redefine the Building Block entry when it detects similar content.

If the aforementioned directions don’t work for your version of Word, see their website. Not only will this save time grading, but it will help with consistency in feedback. I recommend providing the page number to the writing guidelines along with good examples as in Table 1. The more specific the better.

Table 1

Common Error with Corrective Feedback

doi Search for digital object identifiers (doi) at this site: www.crossref.org/simpletextquery. If you don’t find one for the article, provide the URL to its online location with the reference. See APA p. 49 for examples of references.

Google Classroom (free software). Google Docs also provides the option for corrective feedback on student writing. In this situation, you’ll need to be given access to the document and work within Google Drive or Google Classroom to use the tool. However, you’ll need to use Google Classroom to be able to save and reuse comments in their Comment Bank.

Content

Google Suite (free software). Google Suite of desktop publishing tools includes the following: Docs, Drawings, Slides, and Sheets. Because it’s cloud-based, after posting a link (or embedding them) in your online course or website, you can make updates from your Google Drive. This saves time when you encounter an error or need to make an update each term. You no longer need to remove it and upload a revised one as with MS Word or PDFs, which are static and based on your desktop.

Mobile Apps

To save time, install the mobile app for your learning management system (LMS) to readily access it on the go. This is helpful when you need to check something in the course that a student brings to your attention while you’re away from your computer. It’s also useful to see how responsive your course design is on a Mobile device. Consider other mobile apps for commonly used ed tech tools for the online environment (e.g., Zoom for video conferencing, Google Drive for collaboration and storage, MS Word for publishing).

Quizzes

Respondus 4.0 (premium software)This is a Windows application that helps you upload your paper-based tests or surveys or that of your textbook publisher’s test bank to your online courses directly.  This will save you from having to create test questions one-by-one in the LMS if you already have it prepared. There’s only a little advance formatting of your paper-based test for it to be rendered by Respondus. See their website for tutorials.  Ask your instructional technologist to see if it’s available at your school. [Note: Respondus also makes test integrity software which is something altogether different.]

Blackboard Test Generator (OER). This software converts your electronic file tests (i.e., MS Word or Text) into LMS test questions. It’s hosted on this website where you copy-and-paste your test to convert it into a bbquiz zip file that can then be uploaded into your LMS when you create a new quiz. The directions on this website are fairly straightforward. After you convert the text, you’ll obtain a bbquiz zip file. This works much the same as Respondus. The limitation of this free software is that it doesn’t convert images; you’d need to add those afterward within the LMS. For a more robust conversion, see Respondus 4.0 above.


What are your time-saving tips? Please share those in the comment section! I’ll be updating this as I remember short-cuts in building and running online courses. Part II will cover some non-software tips such as Ctrl+Z to undo mistakes on the web or LMS platform when there’s no undo button.


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Teacherrogers Products
Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Online Course Design for Active Learning within the UDL Framework

A wordcloud in the shape of a Rubik's cube with these main words from the blog on active learning: learning, students, course, provide, can, and UDL.

This is a WordCloud based on my blog post on active learning.

Active Learning Defined

Active learning engages students directly in the learning process through instructional activities with differing degrees of interaction that’s student-centered, whereas passive learning occurs indirectly and without interaction. The latter is often, but not always, teacher-centered. Student-centered learning emphasizes learner control and manipulation of information, so students can actively use what’s learned. Students respond well when they have a participatory voice in their learning.

Active learning is preferred because it triggers cognitive functioning. Examples of active learning include the following:

  • Studio model with a teacher or student observations and feedback (e.g., writer’s workshop, art production, portfolios);
  • Problem-based learning;
  • Group work (e.g., business proposals, case studies, mixed media presentations);
  • Debates;
  • Gaming and simulations;
  • Metacognitive strategies to monitor self-learning;
  • Transference of knowledge to new problems and situations; and
  • Assessments that require analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

See the University of Michigan’s instructor worksheet to reflect on active learning opportunities you already use or would like to try.

UDL Defined

Universal Design refers to the consideration of the needs of persons with disabilities in regard to physical spaces, objects, and tasks. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) recognizes those needs for course design. Its main premise is equal access to education and extends this to all types of learners. Active learning aligns with the UDL framework when lessons provide multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression, and multiple means of engagement (CAST, 2018). See my blog post on UDL to learn more and test your knowledge.

What does active learning look like online?

Active learning can take on different formats, levels of engagement, and levels of complexity in setup. It can be for individual or group work. Online educators use the community of inquiry (COI) framework to ensure students are engaged with the content, each other, and the instructor to maximize learning. Social presence (SP), cognitive presence (CP), and teaching presence (TP) are the essential elements to the communication loop for an online COI (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). This means that online learners are involved in cognitively challenging activities for CP (i.e., analysis, synthesis, evaluation), are able to interact with classmates for SP (e.g., discussions and projects), and that the teacher or student moderator is present in some way through communication, guidance, and feedback for TP. This aligns with the UDL goals to foster collaboration and community and to provide options for comprehension, communication, and executive functions (CAST, 2018).

Collaborative computer-mediated instructional strategies require interactive technologies such as videoconferencing tools for office hours and feedback, forum tools for asynchronous discussions, shared drive for collaborative documents, and portfolio or other platforms (e.g., blog, Google Sites, wiki) to share student work. These digital activities require clear guidelines for interacting with each other, the content, the teacher, and the tools in order to be effective (e.g., group roles, peer review criteria, schedule, samples, tool guides). Designing these opportunities for all students to access, build, and internalize information requires forethought.

Set the Stage for Active Learning

Tell your students what you expect of them in the online course. A best practice is to provide an introductory course overview with your syllabus, schedule, and protocol for interactions (Quality Matters, 2018). For some examples, see my blog on Student and Teacher Expectations for Online Courses. Share course requirements for the online environment and address learning values such as the growth mindset. This aligns with the UDL’s Checkpoint 9.1: “Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation” (Cast, 2018).

Dweck (2009) described those who underestimate their ability to learn as possibly having a fixed mindset, while those who believe that they can learn by establishing attainable goals and applying effort to learn as having a growth mindset. Students with a growth mindset want to be corrected; their ego isn’t tied to learning. Conversely, those with a fixed mindset don’t pay attention to corrective feedback. They believe that learning shouldn’t take any effort because it’s tied to their intelligence; their ego influences how they learn. Students with a fixed mindset may be resistant to active learning. See my blog post to Focus on the Process to Support the Growth Mindset of Students. This process aligns with mastery-oriented feedback promoted by the UDL to sustain effort and persistence (CAST, 2018).

Second, make sure students know how to use the learning management system (LMS) prior to high-stakes assignments to reduce anxiety and to reduce the cognitive load for the overall task. Here are some useful tasks to help familiarize students with the LMS:

  • Student acknowledgment form submission to try out the assignment tool (i.e., course expectations),
  • ‘Getting Acquainted’ discussion,
  • Syllabus quiz to ensure students have read it (also practice test proctoring software if utilized in course), and
  • Poll practical experience on the course topic to better understand students’ prior knowledge on the subject and drive instruction to meet students’ needs.

This aligns with UDL’s Checkpoint 7.3 to provide a welcoming course climate and predictability of tasks (CAST, 2018).

Content Delivery

The lecture, demonstration, or direct instruction of a skill is a passive learning event unless students are provided ways to interact with the content. Consider using EdPuzzle, PlayPosit, or Camtasia Studio to engage learners while watching a video lecture or demonstration with questions to answer before preceding to the next segment. The former two premium tools provide instructors with learner analytics such as level of engagement, successful attempts, and grades.

Instructional strategies. Strategy selection depends on various affordances and constraints such as time and resources. For example, an activity-centered lesson is based on an interactive task and requires collaborative tools and student groupings. Content-centered lessons are passive tasks where the student generally only interacts with the content, the exception being discussions of content. Experience-centered activities require a hands-on approach to developing something or serving/working with others. The learner-centered activity provides the learner with more autonomy over their pursuit of knowledge and includes metacognitive actions for self-regulation of learning; the affordances and constraints for this type of activity are highly dependent on the task.

Overall, the best practice is to utilize a variety of instructional strategies to address learner preferences through multiple means of engagement and expression for the UDL. Here’s a list of online instructional strategies for each type.

Activity-Centered
Content-Centered
Experience-Centered
Learner-Centered
Analysis of case studies

Critically review an article

HyperInquiry* team project

Academic controversy** assignment

Develop a book trailer on topic

WebQuest

 

Pretest/Posttest

Write a literature review

Complete modules on topic in computer-adapted program

Write essay

Make a presentation

Discuss content with peers and instructor

 

Develop questionnaires

Develop a personal model of topic

Participate in a simulation

Develop a workshop

Develop a wiki on topic

Produce a podcast on topic

Develop a how-to guide on a procedure

Write a blog post on topic

Serve others as a mentor, tutor, or volunteer on topic

Curate an art exhibit

Peer-review of papers or projects

Students create m/c questions for review

Design a project

Evaluate a program

Write an autobiography of your interaction with topic

Complete self-evaluation

Develop a personal learning network

Capture reflections in journal, audio, or video

Curate digital books and articles on topic for lifelong learning

Notes. *HyperInquiry is like a Webquest but at a deeper level of inquiry (Dempsey & Litchfield, 2001). **Academic controversy is a debate where students eventually take both sides of an argument.

Learning strategies. Learning strategies are ways students can engage with the course readings and other content to monitor their learning. Cognitive learning strategies include concept mapping, mnemonics, overlearning, metaphors, and similes. Embed these learning strategies into your instructional activities to build students’ brain schema on the topic and its relation to other subjects for long-term memory. Share this list of cognitive strategies with students. The difference between cognitive and metacognitive being concreteness versus meta-awareness respectively. Most students are likely familiar with structurally cognitive ones such as concept maps but may not be familiar with the others. Share this student learning organizer of metacognitive strategies. Tying learner strategies to your instruction will make it more inclusive.

Discussions

Discussions can have well thought out open-ended questions provided by the instructor, student-generated questions, or no questions at all. For example, one instructor has had great success without providing questions in his online discussions. Instead, he tells students the purpose of discussions and that they’ll find suggestions for these by listening to his podcast or video lecture for that unit. To increase engagement in larger online courses, the University of California recommends short targeted discussions, role assignments, and subdivision of course material to get the students talking and keep them on task.

Roles. Provide structure and student agency to discussions by assigning roles (e.g., starter, responder, wrapper) and rotating those roles during the course. Additionally, this will prevent the same students from posting first and everyone else waiting to reply. Student-moderated discussions provide SP to the online COI. See blog post on how to plan for an online COI.

Media. Use the audio or video recording features to share responses besides the text-based option to provide novelty and multiple means of representation. Ask students to provide a visual created by the student that illustrates their learning along with their reflection. See Google Drawing illustrating a students’ understanding of reading regarding semiotic domains. This provides both TP and SP for the online COI. The exchange of media will close the psychological distance between you and your students.

Monitor. For equity, a best practice is to create a matrix of teacher-student interactions to track your response efforts over the course of the semester. Monitoring your discussion posts will curtail various biases and ensure consistency. Use a spreadsheet to do this and include personal information shared in the ‘Getting Acquainted’ discussion to provide a more personalized context for meaningful interactions with each student.

Assignments

Highly effective tasks are those which are situated within the actual task (authentic or simulated) or end goal for your course for near transfer of information to long-term memory. This is in contrast to far transfer tasks that are related but not exact. Situated learning occurs through different modes of co-participation based on situational factors (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Learning in one situational context may not transfer to another unless it closely mirrors it and the learner is properly prepared; therefore, authenticity is crucial to the learning situation (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989).

Groupwork. Student-led projects provide student agency in the design of their own learning. Provide the parameters, team roles (e.g., team leader/organizer, researcher, writer, & presenter), and peer evaluation forms to ensure everyone participates fully. Include expectations for group grade such as everyone provides proofreading of assignment prior to submission. Encourage student groups to set up their own ground rules for group meetings and task sharing. Monitor group work by asking to be added to the document workspace such as a shared Google folder.

Presentations. As for hybrid courses, maximize the face-to-face meeting by asking students to present their work to each other during seminar sessions in their level one courses. This is referred to as flipped learning when you use class time for student activities instead of teacher-centered activities. For fully online courses, students can share their media presentations (e.g., narrated PowerPoints saved as MP4 files, podcasts, video projects) with other students in a media hosting site that allows students and teachers to provide feedback, as well as tags, titles, and captions.

Assessments

How can students demonstrate mastery besides multiple-choice tests? These are still useful for testing recall. However, to engage the learner in higher-order thinking skills, we should provide alternative assessments such as project-based learning, essays, portfolios, performance, products, and presentations. These don’t need to be end-of-term projects. Formative assessments can be formal or informal (practice tests, digital exit tickets, polls), which serve as comprehension checks and subsequent student feedback during the course. This is in contrast to summative assessments that test your cumulative knowledge on a topic at the end of the term. Formative assessments promote fairness by gathering evidence of students’ understanding throughout the course, which can be used to better inform/modify your instructional practices to meet students’ needs.

Testing is a learning event. Consider setting tests for multiple attempts to help students achieve mastery. This triggers new learning and/or review of content, as students revisit content for answers. Tolerance for error in course assignments also makes it more inclusionary. To prepare for a test, ask students to use the free tool PeerWise to create questions on the topic of study for each other to answer. Some instructors ask their students to submit questions for actual tests. In this scenario, students develop questions from the content according to its structure and importance.

Feedback & Guidance

Learning requires differing feedback loops offered at intervals throughout the course, hopefully, with just-in-time guidance. Feedback can come from intelligent tutors through computer adaptive programs, instructors, teaching assistants, peers, and subject matter experts from the professional field. Formats for feedback loops vary from discussions, recommended edits on a paper, rubrics, and assessments.

Rubrics. Rubrics establish the criteria and scale for various tasks such as discussions and assignments and make the expectations explicit. Rubrics provide consistency and speed with grading. Some electronic rubric features allow you to provide feedback at the criterion level and for overall performance. Additionally, you can tag your departmental student learning outcomes to these rubrics to help students understand why the task is important.

Scaffolded instructional feedback. Scaffolding instruction provides content in meaningful and manageable chunks of information. This entails providing visuals for structure, context, direction, and just-in-time definitions. For example, segment a lecture at viable points and ask reflective questions. For writing, break large tasks such as research papers into point-based phases of the writing process (e.g., outline, literature review with five citations, rough draft, final paper). Consider the UDL and design for tolerance for error by providing space to practice (e.g., mock interviews/comps/presentations, tutorials, simulations).

Peer feedback. It’s critical to provide guidelines and criteria for peer feedback tasks. This involves establishing roles, a clear project description, rubric, and instructions for tools used. For writing, assign a peer review of draft papers utilizing MS Word tracked changes or Google Docs suggested edits. Instructors can request access to the documents for review.

Conclusion

In summary, for active learning, students need the following:

  • Preparation for learning events,
  • Situated learning environments for near transfer,
  • Planned multimodal interactions that are cognitively challenging,
  • Cognitive strategies,
  • Feedback loops, and
  • Metacognitive strategies to monitor their learning.

Review your understanding of active learning with this interactive reader developed by the UCLA Librarian, Douglas Worsham (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

References

Brown, J., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32–42.

CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org

Dempsey, J. V., & Litchfield, B. C. (2001). Surfing below the surface of the Web: HyperInquiry. In B. H. Kahn (Ed.), Web-Based Training (pp. 229-234).  Englewood Cliffs, NY: Educational Technology Publications.

Dweck, C. (2009). Developing Growth Mindsets: How Praise Can Harm, and How To Use it Well. [Presentation]. Paper presented at the Scottish Learning Festival, Glasgow. Retrieved from http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/video/c/video_tcm4565678.asp

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2-3), 87-105.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Quality Matters™ Higher Education Rubric, sixth edition. (2018). Maryland Online, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.qualitymatters.org/sites/default/files/PDFs/StandardsfromtheQMHigherEducationRubric.pdf


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Teacherrogers Products
Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Minimum Technical Skill Requirements for Online Learners

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One of my tasks as an instructional designer on my college campus is to provide learning guidelines and protocols for distance education. One way to prepare students for online learning is to provide a list of minimum technical skills required and make recommendations on where they can seek help if they do not possess such skills. Below is what I prepared for our students. I’d love your feedback on it.


Students,

The following is a list of basic technical skills you should have to engage productively in an online course:
● use the learning management system (e.g., Schoology) tools to post discussions and upload assignments;
● use different browsers, clear browsing history, cache, and cookies, and refresh the screen;
● use email with attachments;
● create and submit electronic files in word processing program formats and save files to PDFs;
● copy and paste text;
● download and install software (e.g., media applications);
● download a media file for viewing or listening;
● use spreadsheet programs (e.g., Excel, Google Sheets, etc.);
● use presentation and simple graphics programs;
● use collaborative tools like Google Docs and shared folders on Google Drive; and
● use search engines to access digital books and articles from library databases.


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Teacherrogers Products
Pre-K, Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com