Remember the Human in Online Courses

Remember the human is something we intuitively do in traditional face-to-face classrooms, but somehow this gets lost in distance education. If it’s only a text-based independent study, then we’ve silenced our students and treated them as mutes by not providing communication platforms that are supported in the grading criteria. Virginia Shea (1994) asks us to remember the human in the impersonal cyberspace, as part of her Core Rules of Netiquette. She was referencing politeness. I, on the other hand, am referencing the instructional goal of teaching to the whole student.

This blog focuses on the basics of computer-mediated instruction in terms of the dichotomy of transmissive (authoritarian) education versus that of a transformative one (democratic). Whenever I present on this topic at conferences, participants share that they or their peers have also encountered and endured transmissive online courses. I wonder how big the problem really is. Since first encountering this problem in 2012 as a doctoral student, I’ve dedicated my research efforts on addressing it.

Transmissive vs. Transformative

Critical pedagogies (e.g., Ignatian pedagogy and Freirean praxis) place the human in a real-world context as much as possible through learning experiences, questioning norms, and reflection. The goal being transformative learning experiences instead of transmissive ones that use the antiquated banking model of education where the teacher deposits knowledge for the student to withdraw (Bradshaw, 2017). An example of transformative learning is Ignatian pedagogy that advocates for context, experience, action, reflection, and evaluation (Korth, 1993).

Classroom interactions for transformative learning align with constructivism.   “Meaningful learning, as opposed to reproductive learning,  is active, constructive, intentional, authentic, and collaborative” (Jonassen,  2009, p.49). Hooks (1994) called this humanity-affirming location of possibility. The design of interaction treatments online doesn’t rely solely on synchronous sessions through web hosting with everyone present. Instead, the goal of high-quality online instruction is to avoid passive learning that requires little cognitive engagement. A good example of a transformative learning activity would be a student (or group) project where students provide each other with authentic feedback.

Interaction treatments are any direct or indirect action between and among students, teachers, and content. Besides written and spoken word, this includes nonverbal immediacy behaviors such as an instructor’s response time. The alternative, a transmissive education of information dumping, is unethical. Freire (1970) called it a corpse of knowledge. Nowadays, this is delivered by the uninformed online instructor through text-based study devoid of interactions with other students (e.g., read-write-submit). The lack of contact with others in the class is not only isolating, shielding us from social learning, but can be frustrating for some students.

Are we teaching machines to learn better than we teach humans?

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I recently read an introductory book about artificial intelligence (AI) and was struck how even the old AI addressed the environment of the robot, as this is something online instructors sometimes overlook for humans. If we want to come away as winners in the man vs machine competition, when humanoids such as Erica the robot have complete human feelings and singularity occurs in 2045, we should focus on providing human interactions in online courses.

Through trial and error, AI has developed heuristics to address robots’ interaction with the environment such as the symbol grounding problem, where symbols are meaningless unless they’re grounded within a real-world context.  For example, the Skydio R1 drone may become the ultimate selfie as it maps its environment using GPS, cameras, and other sensors. How often are instructors grounding the instructional content into the lifeworld of human learners?

What are the heuristics for effective human interaction in distance education?

Provide an online community of inquiry (COI) to dispel the perceived psychological distance between students and teachers in distance education to improve student learning outcomes and student satisfaction. An online COI, a sublime goal, requires consideration of the types of interaction treatments that could engender social, teaching, and cognitive presence for going beyond generative learning. These presences are the key elements for the COI loop (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 2000).

Technological affordances can provide humans with multimodal instruction such as narrated PowerPoints or audio feedback for teaching presence for an online COI. For example, podcasts increase student achievement and student satisfaction because they can listen to them over and over (Beylefeld, Hugo & Geyer, 2008; McKinney, Dyck & Luber, 2009; Seed, Yang & Sinnappan, 2009). Learning management systems allow for student-student discussions and the sharing of projects with opportunities for peer feedback to engender social presence in a COI. For example, Schoology’s Media Album allows students to upload their media projects for peer feedback. Projects also provide student agency in the design of their own learning.

Cognitive presence is the other component in the COI triad. Instructors generally provide this with interesting and challenging activities online that they’ve honed over the years from their F2F courses. In my two research studies (Rogers & Van Haneghan, 2016; Rogers & Khoury, 2018), the potential plans for cognitive presence have been high at the institutions; however, social presence has been average and teaching presence below average.

Designing interaction treatments (e.g., student-student, student-teacher, and student-content) will help address the psychologically perceived distance in computer-mediated courses (Bernard et al., 2009). These designed interactions need to focus on meaningful activities for the students’ lifeworld to aid their learning. Remember the human as you plan your online course; otherwise, the robots will overtake us.

References

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. doi:10.3102/0034654309333844

Beylefeld, A. A., Hugo, A. P., & Geyer, H. J. (2008). More learning and less teaching? Students’ perceptions of a histology podcast. South African Journal of Higher Education, 22(5), 948-956. doi:10.4314/sajhe.v22i5.42914

Bradshaw, A. C. (2017). Critical pedagogy and educational technology, in A.D. Benson, R. Joseph, & J.L. Moore (eds.) Culture, Learning and Technology: Research and Practice (pp. 8-27). New York, NY: Routledge.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.

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. doi:10.1016/s1096-7516(00)00016-6

Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.

Jonassen, D.H. (2009). Externally modeling mental models. In L. Moller et al. (eds.), Learning and Instructional Technologies for the 21st Century; Visions of the Future (pp. 49-74). New York, NY: Springer.

Korth, S. J. (1993). Precis of Ignatian pedagogy: A practical approach.  International Center for Jesuit Education, Rome, Italy.

McKinney, D., Dyck, J. L., & Luber, E. S. (2009). iTunes university and the classroom: Can podcasts replace professors? Computers & Education, 52, 617-623. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2008.11.004

Rogers, S., & Van Haneghan, J. (2016). Rubric to evaluate online course syllabi plans for engendering a community of inquiry. Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference, 349-357. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Shea, V. (1994). NetiquetteSan Francisco, CA: Albion Books. 


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

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Elements of Cooperative Learning and Their Application to Distance Ed

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According to Wikipedia, the cooperative learning theory has been around since the 1930s and discussed by researchers from diverse fields such as philosophy and psychology. Cooperative learning involves strategic group practices and elements to aid critical thinking.  As an educator, I’m most familiar with Kagan’s (1985) approach to cooperative learning. Additionally, I learned about Palinscar and Brown’s reciprocal teaching method; their article on Reciprocal Teaching of Comprehension-fostering and Comprehension-monitoring Activities (1984) predates that of Kagan’s work.  Johnson and Johnson researched and wrote about cooperative learning activities in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I learned about their work in my doctoral coursework on instructional strategies.

Johnson and Johnson (1994) were the first to describe the following five essential elements of cooperative learning: positive interdependence, face-to-face (F2F) promotive action, individual & group accountability, social skills, and group processing.  The following lists their elements and how they can be implemented in online courses.

  1. Element of Cooperative Learning: Positive Interdependence

Course Design– A) Provide an example of project team roles. B) Another layer to this is to then divide the content assignment into specific components and assign them to team members.

Resources–  I modified the list that Dr. Dempsey shared in our doctoral course on instructional strategies at the University of South Alabama: team leader, timekeeper, idea monitor, QA monitor, and Wild Card (for the extra item that varies according to the content or situation).

Difference from F2F Instruction: A) Not all students will be able to meet F2F on campus due to geographic distances. B) Not all students will see information (login) at the same time. Delays can cause emotional distress to team members and create psychological distance.

2. Element of Cooperative Learning: F2F Promotive Interaction

Course Design- Include synchronous sessions with live audiovisual possibilities.

Resources– Use virtual meeting spaces such as BigBlueButton, Skype, Google+ Hangout, & Second Life.

Difference from F2F Instruction: A) Students can discuss items freely without being in earshot of the teacher or other teams. B) Students need technical skills to be able to participate online. C) Meetings can easily be recorded for review.

3. Element of Cooperative Learning: Individual & Group Accountability

Course Design– Create a rubric for individual and group tasks explicitly described.  Ask the student to complete a peer evaluation of team members according to their assigned components.

Resources- Teacher asks students to create this for a greater understanding of the requirements.

Difference from F2F Instruction- No real difference except for no F2F lecture mode to explain rubric.

4. Element of Cooperative Learning: Social Skills

Course Design– Teachers model social skills with teacher talk.  They shape students’ behavior by providing praise when appropriate actions are taken.  They provide rubrics that describe the actions such as how many times to post in forums and to whom.  Students set up their own agreed-upon ground rules.

Resources– See Shea’s (1994) Netiquette.  There’s even a multiple-choice test that scores a students’ netiquette knowledge automatically.

Difference from F2F Instruction– A) Etiquette rules differ. B) In OL, every student gets the opportunity to respond. C) For OL, there’s a larger chance of procrastination due to the “absence” of the traditional classroom routine, physical building, seeing friends in the hallway to remind you, etc.

5. Element of Cooperative Learning: Group Processing

Course Design– Ask students to create their own set of group rules and definitions. (This was another Dr. Dempsey idea.) Monitor group work by asking to be added to their collaborative project sites.

Resources– Use Web 2.0 tools like wiki, clog, and/or Google Drive to collaborate.

Difference from F2F Instruction- A) Must decide on which synchronous and Web 2.0 tools to use and create accounts. B) Meetings include the World Map for time and date. C) May be grouped with someone that you will never meet F2F (I’m unsure of the psychological ramifications but certain this plays a role in online behavior).

References

Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. (1994). Learning together and alone, cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning. Needham Heights, MA: Prentice-Hall.

Kagan, S. (1985). Cooperative learning. San Clemente, CA: Resources for Teachers, Inc.

Palinscar, A.S., & Brown, A.L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities.  Cognition and Instruction, I(2), 117-175.

Shea, V. (1994). NetiquetteSan Francisco, CA: Albion Books. 

List of Student and Teacher Expectations for Online Courses

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

What I expect from my Students:

  • You’ll learn what the minimum technical requirements of the course include. Take the student orientation tutorial for this learning management system before getting started. Read the information in the Help tab (online manual) to learn how to use a tool. Seek other training services for basic computer and word processing skills.
  • Your discussion posts will be consequential and full of content! For example, simply responding “me too,” or “thanks,” doesn’t include content.  Use good grammar and spelling when posting online.  Use the spell check feature.
  • You’ll follow the rules of Netiquette. For example, no bullying online.
  • You’ll complete required tasks in a timely manner. Be proactive with a back-up plan in case you’re unable to access the Internet in your regular place of study.
  • You’ll preplan for testing situations to ensure uninterrupted span of time.  For example, you won’t be able to access the Internet in remote locations such as on a cruise.
  • You won’t plagiarize the work of others and claim it as your own. Cite your sources using the style guide required for your field of study (e.g., American Psychological Association’s manual for social science). Use the latest edition.

Protocol for Resolving Technical Issues:

  • First, make sure it’s not a browser issue (e.g., Google Chrome), and try a different browser to see if this solves the problem.  If so, then you need either to update your regular browser or clear its history, cookies, and cache.
  • If after updating your browser or other browsers don’t work, make sure it isn’t your computer.  Restart your computer. If the error persists, try logging in from a different computer to see if you receive the same error message.
  • Read log error messages and record problem specifics and forward this to tech support and your instructor. Take a screenshot, if possible, to illustrate the exact problem.
  • Remember that your peers can help you, too!
  • Last, after someone (or you) fixes the problem, make sure you refresh/reload the Web page, as the system will remember and display the exact same page (with errors) you were looking at the last time you logged in.

Updated 8/29/19

Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

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Face-to-Face to Online Course Development Checklist

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I created this list for instructional designers working with faculty in higher education who are moving their courses online for the first time.  This is not a comprehensive list but rather a checklist for talking points.  I hope you find it helpful!

  • Will the course shell be shared with others in your department?
  • What are the course learning goals and objectives? What are the objectives for each unit?  Review syllabus, lecture notes, and assignments.
  • What do you want your students to achieve through online activities and interactions?  Discuss reuse/redesign of existing activities such as a pen-and-paper vocabulary log conversion to an electronic glossary/flashcards.
  • What is your ability to develop multimedia presentations? Discuss training and helpful resources.
  • How familiar are you with the online learning management system? Discuss training and helpful resources.
  • Share sources of support for pedagogical assistance for faculty.
  • Share sources of online technological and academic support for students (e.g., Smarthinking, Turnitin, Orientation tutorials, LMS 24/7 Support Desk, learning strategies, or job aids).
  • What are the departmental timelines, constraints, testing requirements, and online resources?
  • Share samples of monitoring tools: weekly activity checklists for students and teachers, tracking sheet for teacher’s response to students in forums, and LMS site statistics and test item analysis.
  • Share sample rubrics for collaborative projects, forums, and individual assignments, as well as resources for creating rubrics (e.g. Rubistar).
  • Share a copy of Netiquette, sample rubric for forums, and effective set-up of threaded discussion to engender a community of inquiry.
  • Share your university’s accessibility guidelines for e-learning.
  • Invite faculty to view your model course as a student (teacher-as-learner role).
  • Share sample semestrial course checklist for design/redesign.

What other information would you share with first time online instructors? Please share your ideas in the comment section below.

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