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 to 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 is no undo button.

Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Teacherrogers Products
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A Rubric to Identify Online Course Plans for a Community of Inquiry

This blog was originally posted on the AACE Review (Rogers, 2018).

Community of Inquiry

A community of inquiry (COI) is what it sounds like—people gather to learn from each other. I argue that a COI can be preplanned to engender a robust learning environment. What that entails is under investigation. For instance, a query of COI educational research on the EdTechLib database garnered 6500 articles. “The ‘community’ in “community of inquiry” is not defined by time or space. A common question, problem, or interest helps to forge the connection” (Shields, 1999, para. 2).

Historically, interdisciplinary scholarly communities have been around since the time of Theagenes of Rhegium who orally interpreted texts to pupils in the 6th century B.C.E. (Hornblower & Spawforth, 1998). Those ancient Greek gatherings were generally teacher-centered in a unidirectional flow of information between the teacher and listening participants until eventually taking on the Socratic method of shaping pupils’ understanding through questioning for critical thinking in the 3rd century B.C.E.

As for the American educational setting, the foundations of a COI can be found in John Dewey’s writing and reform efforts, which were influenced by Charles Sanders Pierce’s logic of inquiry for scientific methods and Jane Addams’ pragmatic approach to social analysis (Shields, 1999). For example, Dewey strongly believed that through experience-based learning, students could intellectually address the subject matter with the assistance of their teachers (Dewey, 1938).

Fast forward to computer-mediated instruction, Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) proposed a COI framework for distance education. It includes the following elements they deem essential: social presence (SP), cognitive presence (CP), and teaching presence (TP). According to Google Scholar, their COI framework has been cited academically 4817 times. Based on their research and related literature, my interpretation of the COI presences is as follows:

  • SP is the co-construction of meaning through shared learning experiences to engender student agency from connectedness.
  • CP is the engagement in learning activities that demand higher-order thinking skills.
  • TP refers to feedback and instruction and can be presented through the instructor or student-led activities.

Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric ©

The online course syllabus serves as a plan of action that can be utilized for discussing continuous improvement between course design collaborators (i.e., instructional designers, course developers, instructors). To that end, I developed a rubric to evaluate online instructors’ planned interactions for delivering computer-mediated instruction based on their syllabi. It is used to analyze proposed interaction treatments (ITs) such as student-student opportunities for discussion, not the actual course. Our purpose was to determine the inclusion and strength of ITs to provide instructional design (ID) feedback to online instructors regarding their course plans. The underlying theoretical premise being the more interactive the course, the higher the level of student satisfaction and course achievement. Cummins, Bonk, and Jacobs (2002) conducted a similar syllabi study that looked at formats and levels of communication of online courses from colleges of education.

The rubric’s purpose is to provide a pragmatic solution to prevent problematic teacher-led (passive knowledge) online courses with little student interaction nor rigorous academic challenges. The Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric© is based on general concepts from Garrison, Anderson, and Archer’s (2000) COI framework, quality distance education rubrics (California State University-Chico, 2009; Johnson, 2007; Quality Matters™, 2014; & Roblyer & Wiencke, 2004), and significant literature. It consists of the following categories: ID for CP, technology tools for COI, COI loop for SP, support for learner characteristics, and instruction and feedback for TP. The 5-point rubric has the following scale for the criteria: low, basic, moderate, above average, and exemplary. Points awarded determine the course’s potential level of engendering an online COI (i.e., low, moderate, or high). See rubric.

Content Analysis Research of Online Course Syllabi

Rogers and Van Haneghan (2016) conducted the initial research utilizing the rubric with two raters. Good interrater-reliability agreement was obtained in the review of 23 undergraduate and graduate education online course syllabi, intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) = .754, p < .001 and 95% CI [.514, .892]. Results indicated the potential for above-average CP (M = 4.7); however, SP (M = 3.1) was moderate, and TP (M = 2.7) was basic. Rogers and Khoury (2018) replicated the study at a different institution across disciplines with 31 syllabi; those findings mirrored the previous study’s levels of COI presences indicating a weakness in TP. For action research, the rubric criteria and results can serve as talking points between instructional designers and course developers to address gaps. Table 1 provides common ID feedback based on our 2018 syllabi analysis.

Table 1

Common Feedback Based on the Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric Analysis

Rubric Category Instructional Design Recommendations
Instructional Design for Cognitive Presence Include higher order thinking activities such as case analysis, papers that require synthesis or evaluation of peer, self, and/or product. See the list of cognitive activities in the Online Course Design Guide in Table 3.
Education Technology for COI · Add group work for collaborating on projects with Google Hangouts or Skype, so students can learn from each other.

· Use Schoology’s Media Album for students to share their projects and obtain peer feedback. For example, students could narrate PowerPoint project and save as MP4 to create a video presentation to add to a digital portfolio.

COI Loop for Social Presence · Provide a rubric for discussions to make the criteria clear.

· Provide discussions on readings to enhance learning from each other.

Support for Learner Characteristics

 

· Add the College’s accommodation statement.

· Provide links to academic tutoring services.

· Provide strategies for remediation and/or resources for building background knowledge.

Instruction and Feedback for Teaching Presence · Add specific online virtual office hours and format options. For example, use Skype, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime with your smartphone for human interaction.

· Describe direct instruction. Will there be narrated PowerPoints, audio summaries, lecture notes, or commercial program?

· Add information on feedback response time and format.

References

Cummings, J. A., Bonk, C. J., & Jacobs, F. (2002). Twenty-first century college syllabi: Options for online communication and interactivity. Internet & Higher Education, 5(1), 1.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. The Kappa Delta Pi Lecture Series. New York, NY: Collier Books.

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

Hornblower, S., & Spawforth, A. (1998). The Oxford companion to classical civilization. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Johnson, E. S. (2007). Promoting learner-learner interactions through ecological assessments of the online environment. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 3(2). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no2/johnson.htm

QM Higher Education Rubric Fifth Edition. (2014). Quality Matters. Retrieved from https://www.qualitymatters.org/sites/default/files/PDFs/StandardsfromtheQMHigherEducationRubric.pdf

Roblyer, M., & Wiencke, W. (2004). Exploring the interaction equation: Validating a rubric to assess and encourage interaction in distance courses. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 8(4).

Rogers, S., & Khoury, S. (2018, October). Rubric to evaluate online course syllabi plans for engendering a community of inquiry: Round II. Paper presented at the meeting of the Association of Educational Technology & Communications, Kansas City, MO.

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.

Rubric for Online Instruction. (2009). Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. California State University-Chico. Retrieved from http://www.csuchico.edu/tlp/resources/rubric/rubric.pdf

Shields, P. M. (1999). The community of inquiry: Insights for public administration from Jane Addams, John Dewy and Charles S. Pierce. Archives of the Digital Collections at Texas State University. Retrieved from https://digital.library.txstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10877/3979/fulltext.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y


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

Join me at AERA 2018 in NYC

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

I’m so excited about attending my first conference of the American Educational Research Association (#AERA18) this year. This year’s theme is the dreams, possibilities, and necessity of public education. It will be held in New York City from April 13-17th at various participating hotels. There are 17,000 registrants!

My first event at the conference is to meet my second language research mentor on Friday! The Second Language Research special interest group (SIG) offered mentorship from volunteers in their group, and I signed up.

On Tuesday the 17th, I’ll be participating in a roundtable to discuss the research study with the Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric(c) that Dr. Van Haneghan and I conducted. It will be held in conjunction with other roundtables on the topic of Quality Assurance of Online Teaching & Learning, which is hosted by the Online Teaching & Learning SIG.  Join my roundtable at 10:35am to 12:05pm at the New York Marriott Marquis, Fifth Floor, Westside Ballroom Salon 4. If you can’t make it, the paper will be provided in the AERA Online Repository.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the Spring Hill College Friends of the Library for helping fund this professional development activity!

Fair Use Recommendations for Viewing Copyrighted Media for Educational Purposes

Copyright (c), Creative Commons (cc), Public Domain is not copyrighted (letter c with slash through it), Fair Use symbol has balance scales

One of the first issues I encountered on the job as an instructional designer was the misuse of copyrighted media by instructors. Unfortunately, this was propagated by the previous uninformed instructional designer. According to the U.S. Copyright law and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), copying copyrighted material is a violation. Basically, you cannot modify the existing format (e.g., copying a VHS to DVD format or converting it to a MP4 file) Review your faculty manual or school guidelines on the use of copyrighted material in the classroom. Also, I recommend talking with the copyright expert on your campus.  For example, I learned a lot from a librarian at our College who is knowledgeable on the topic.

Here are a few useful websites to reference to aid your understanding of the topic:

The following are some practical solutions that I put together for a job aid when redirecting instructors to best practices within the law. Here are some recommendations to show copyright-protected videos to students:

1) Only show a small segment of a privately owned video in your class to illustrate a lesson, as part of the Fair Use laws (Title 17, Section 107, U. S. Code, Copyright.gov). Avoid showing an entire video of copyrighted material, as this constitutes a public performance of it and is prohibited by law. Use a Fair Use checklist to determine the purpose, nature, amount, and effect of the media use for educational purposes.

2) Place your videos on course reserves for checkout by students in the library for one semester only to meet spontaneous requirements. Fill out the necessary paperwork with the library at the circulation desk for course reserves. If a student does not have a VHS or DVD player, they may be able to check out one on a TV cart to take to a study room in the library for viewing. Meanwhile, place a request order with the purchasing librarian for the library reserves. See solution # 4.

3) Search the library’s video databases to see if the same content is available (e.g.,  Films on Demand and WorldCat). Films on Demand provides Live Media Streaming. Students log in with their school credentials to view.

4) There is an option for the library to purchase DVD formats for multiperson use to include in their collection. Contact the purchasing agent in your school’s library to learn more about this option.

Please share any of your recommendations on this topic!

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. 

Copyright Issues for Online Courses

Here are three main takeaways for proper use of copyright protected material in online courses.

I. Follow the Law on Copyrighted Media

Please note copying or changing the original format (e.g., VHS to DVD) of copyrighted material is a violation of the U.S. Copyright Law and Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I recommend you review your institutions policies (e.g., Faculty Manual) on the use of copyrighted material in the classroom. Here are some recommendations to properly show copyright protected videos to students.

  1. Only show a small segment of a privately owned video in your class to illustrate a lesson, as part of the Fair Use laws (Title 17, Section 107, U. S. Code, Copyright.gov).  Avoid showing an entire video of copyrighted material, as this constitutes as a public performance of it and is prohibited by law. Use a Fair Use checklist to determine the purpose, nature, amount, and effect of the media use for educational purposes.
  2. Short-term, one time use– Place your videos on course reserves for checkout by students in the library for one semester only to meet spontaneous use requirements. Fill out the necessary paperwork with the library at the circulation desk for course reserves. If a student does not have a VHS or DVD player, they can check out one on a TV cart to take to a study room in the library for viewing. Meanwhile, place a request order with the purchasing librarian for the library reserves. See solution # 4.

  3. Find it online– Search the library’s video databases to see if the same content is available.

4. Purchase institution-wide license of media object– There is an option for the library to purchase DVD formats to include in their collection. Contact your library liaison and the purchasing agent for the library to learn more about this option.

II. Proper Use of Copyrighted Articles

Articles in the library databases are very easy to share with others. When you share an article from one of the library’s databases, look for the shortened URL for the article. It is called the permalink, stable URL, or persistent URL – different databases use slightly different terminology, but all three versions are the same thing – a shorter URL that acts as an anchor for the article that you’re interested in. Databases normally place the permalinks, stable URLs, or persistent URLs in the Tools section of the article record. This URL doesn’t work by itself or anyone could access it. Your institution’s EZ Proxy service authenticates school users and allows them to access content that your school licenses.

Why do I need to do this for my course? Posting copyright protected articles directly in your online courses constitutes a copyright infringement. Copies of written works are permissible if they are made for personal use only and the copy will not be shared or distributed to a group without the documented permission of the copyright owner. As an instructor, you’re encouraged to direct your students to the original source of the work to avoid copyright infringement.

III. Cite Your Sources

Cite your sources in your online course and material according to the appropriate style guides (i.e., APA, MLA, & Chicago Manual). This sets a good example for students and covers your general use of the copyrighted material (Quality Matters™ Rubric Standards, 2014). Also, cite any media sources (e.g., images, sound, video clips) reused in your video lectures and/or PowerPoint presentations.

See the US Copyright website for specific information.