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 either need 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.  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 you were looking at the last time you logged in.

Sandra Annette Rogers, PhD

Updated 7/11/18

Problem Analysis: 3 Job Aids to Find Root Causes

My Human Performance Improvement Toolbox

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Beresford and Stolovich (2012) defined human performance improvement (HPI) as three perspectives: vision, concept, and end. Vision is for individuals to succeed in areas that are valued by their organization’s stakeholders. Concept is to use the vision to accomplish the organization’s goals through successful interactions with not only the organization’s stakeholders, but also with the customers, regulatory agencies, and society. End refers to terminal behaviors, products, and other outcomes that provide a return on investment (ROI).  I’ll use Beresford and Stolovich’s perspectives on HPI in my toolbox to address the needs of an organization.

Gilbert (2007) provided HPI with a formula for worthy performances (Pw), which is Pw = Av/Bc, where Av refers to valued accomplishments and Bc refers to costly behaviors. The term “costly” can have positive and negative connotation; it references the costs involved with each performance (e.g., salaries, resources, and trainings). Gilbert’s formula is a powerful tool for better determining worthy performances.

The first step in improving a particular performance is to conduct a needs assessment (NA) to better understand the current performance in relation to the desired outcomes such as industry standards (benchmarking) coupled with the vision of an organization. A NA helps organizations identify the gap (need) between the actual and optimal performance levels of an organization. I would rely on the Aultschuld’s (2010) three-phase NA model (preassessment, NA, postassessment), as a guide for interacting with a NA team and NA committee of stakeholders. In the preassessment, my team would gather data on the topic from key informants, literature, and extant resources.

The NA team would follow up on emergent themes describing the perceived need and gather specific information via interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups on what the respondents value as possible solutions. The NA postassessment process identifies the problem succinctly. Is the gap due to a lack of incentives, knowledge, skills, or institutional support?  Training is not always the answer.  Interactions and behaviors can be improved via instructional and/or noninstructional interventions. For instance, HPI can be as simplistic as buying a better writing instrument (e.g., Dr. Grip pen) to expedite note-taking on the job. This would be a noninstructional intervention.

I’d utilize the various job aids provided in Aultschuld’s series of books to identify and address the problem in light of the organizations concepts. For example, I favor Ishikawa’s Fishbone Diagram with the bones representing the various issues within labeled categories of performance. Moreover, I’d collect solutions from stakeholders and conduct a Sork feasibility study to determine the appropriate solutions.  Given the complexity of a NA, the Aultschuld series would serve as another item in my HPI toolbox.

I created a manual of methods for problem analysis (PA) for novice instructional designers that can be used on a daily basis when a full NA is impossible.  I studied Jonassen’s typology of problems to determine the type and possible actions required.  I learned if the problem is well-structured, then a quick solution can be found because it is easily solved.  If it is ill-structured, then I should conduct a PA to get to the root of the problem. I would use Harless’ (1974) list of 14 questions for PA. I recognize his first one as being very important: Is there a problem? After a problem(s) is identified, I would use Toyoda’s Why Tree for root cause analysis; this technique keeps asking why for each response given until the root(s) is identified. Then I would use Sanders and Thiagarajan’s 6-box model to see which areas of an organization are affected by these performance problems: knowledge, information, motives, process, resources, wellness. I also learned from Jonassen’s (2004) work that we should collect our problems in a fault database.  This is something I have been doing to improve our turnaround in resolving learning management system (LMS) issues at my workplace to increase our ROI for cost, labor, and learning outcomes.

For interventions at my workplace, I use job aids, embedded performance systems, and the aforementioned idea for a fault database. I purchased Rossett and Gautier-Down’s (1991) HPI resource book, A Handbook of Job Aids.  This book provides matrices (Frames Type II) for the user to discern which job aid should be used with which type of task. I also create job aids for the workplace to facilitate teaching and learning.  For example, I create how-to guides for instructional technology software (e.g., Camtasia Studio) for instructors who are unable to attend trainings and must learn on their own.  Job aids are useful HPI tools for infrequent tasks like the occasional instructional video one might need to create for class. I have also been focusing on providing performance support mechanisms for right-time needs for students and instructors.  I noticed an overreliance on the instructional designer to answer all LMS related questions.  To provide an embedded support system, I added a webpage on our LMS to answer frequently asked questions. This has greatly reduced my cue of email requests, all the while improving the performance of those affected. In closing, for my HPI general framework, I rely on Beresford and Stolovich’s HPI perspectives of vision, concept, and end.  To put my framework into action, I rely on the works of Gilbert, Autschuld, Jonassen, Harless, Ishikawa, Sanders, Thiagarajan, and Toyoda.

References

Altschuld, J. W., & Kumar, D. D. (2010). Needs assessment. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Beresford B., & Stolovitch, H. D. (2012). The development and evolution of human performance improvement. In R. A. Reiser & J. V. Dempsey (Eds.) Trends and issues in instructional design & technology (3rd ed.) (pp. 135-146). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon Pearson Education.

Harless, J. H. (1974). An analysis of front-end analysis. Improving Human Performance, 2(4), 229-244.

Jonassen, D. H. (2004). Learning to solve problems: An instructional design guide. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Rossett, A., & Gautier-Downes, J. (1991). A handbook of job aids. San Francisco: CA. Pfeiffer & Company.

Interrelated Processes: Problem-solving, Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking

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Do you think that problem solving, critical thinking, and creative thinking are synonymous?

In order to solve problems effectively and efficiently, you need to use creative thinking and critical thinking.  Jonassen (2000) created a typology of problem solving.  He identified 11 types of problems: logical problems, algorithms, story problems, rule using problems, decision-making, trouble-shooting, diagnoses solution, strategic performance, case analysis, designs, and dilemmas.  He described each type of problem’s resolution process.  For example, if a problem presents limited variables that can be controlled through manipulation, then an analyst would know that they have a logical problem by referring to Jonassen’s typology chart.  Logical problems are “discovered” in Jonassen’s description of its structuredness, where discovered refers to solutions drawn from logic.  Determining the logic model is a type of critical thinking process.  Problem solving depends on the type of problem and its structuredness, context, inputs, abstractness, and activities (Jonassen, 2004).  Therefore, one should critically analyze the type of problem and its structuredness.

The overarching strategy for problem analysis involves the steadfast engagement of critical thinking processes.  Using a systematic process assists you with adequately thinking though the complexity and multifarious components of problem solving.  Some instructional design approaches ask questions in a stepwise process to analyze problems.  For example, Harless’ (1974) first question in the process of front-end analysis (FEA) asks: “Do we have a problem?”  Learners must use critical thinking to avoid making assumptions about a situation.  Is it a problem or an opportunity?  Dick, Carey, and Carey (2009) suggested that novice instructional designers develop their critical thinking skills to become effective performance analysts.  They urged analysts to be open-minded and view problems from multiple perspectives.  Critical thinking processes include synthesis of a problem statement, FEA, triangulation of data collection, root cause analysis, active listening, system-wide checks and balances, and reflective thinking.  Thinking critically helps you avoid various FEA pitfalls such as Groupthink.

Addressing a problem strategically takes some creative thinking.  For example, there are timesaving strategies and models for problem analysis such as Jonassen’s idea of keeping a fault database.  When I read about this, I thought of how simple, yet, creative this strategy was.  Have you heard of Toyoda’s Why Tree? It’s a creative and simple technique for getting to the root cause of a problem.  He first used the method in the Toyota manufacturing process in 1958.  It consists of five why-questions that represent deeper levels of understanding the problem.  For each answer, you ask why until you uncover the true root cause.  Responses are mapped out according to different leads/reasons.  There are three benefits to using this process.  First, the different branches/reasons that stem from a problem statement can lead to more than one root cause and various interventions.  Second, it creates a mental map for synthesis of a presenting problem.  Third, it aids novice analysts in digging deeper to uncover the real root causes and avoid superficial conclusions.  This creative process utilizes deductive reasoning, which is a type of critical thinking.  Therefore, critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem solving are interrelated processes but not interchangeable terms.

Ideas for Teaching Problem-Solving, Critical Thinking and Reasoning

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Note: Last semester, I took a graduate school course on advanced theories of learning.  One of our tasks was to apply the information we learned to describe how we might develop a curriculum for teaching problem-solving, critical thinking, and reasoning.  What follows are my musings on the topic.

If I were to teach problem solving, critical thinking, and reasoning, I’d embed it into the content already being taught (e.g., math or science class). The selection of instructional strategies would depend upon the nature of the subject matter, 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.

PROBLEM SOLVING. I’d determine the thinking frame that corresponds with the content. Possibilities include scientific inquiry methods for science, engineering method of systems approach for information technology and machinery, or the use of cause and effect when writing analytical essays.  As for instructional strategies, I’d use Dewey’s 5-step problem-solving model, which solves different types of problems.  I’d consider various instructional models: team-based learning, problem-based learning, and tools for discovering the root cause of a problem (e.g., Ishikawa’s Fishbone Diagram and Toyoda’s Why-Tree).  Bruning et al., encourage educators to teach how to evaluate solutions, products, and processes.  They found that most of the time when an improvement has been made from problem solving it is because there was some type of evaluation or reflection of it.  The means-ends analysis could help learners evaluate each step in the process of problem solving.   Here are some options for problem-solving formats: Web quests, gaming, report writing, brainstorming, natural frequency formatted problems (Gigerenzer, 2002), worked problems for case studies, and real world problems.

CRITICAL THINKING. I’d include information on functional fixedness and divergent and creative thinking.  Functional fixedness is the inability to view common objects in a new way, which inhibits critical thinking about things.  Divergent and creative thinking are skills that can be taught to students, so that they think outside the box.  Second, it’d be important to include information about groupthink (conforming to group consensus instead of individual concerns), overgeneralizations, and prejudice when dealing with people and ideas.  I suggest the following instructional strategies to teach critical thinking: advance organizers, imagery, concept maps, Frames Type 2(there’s a rule involved with the matrix), jigsaw group work, reciprocal teaching, and metacognitive strategies (e.g. self-regulation of understanding).  Appropriate formats include debates, HyperInquiry, mock trails, writing, simulations, gaming, cooperative group discussions, journals, think-alouds, case studies, and apps that teach critical thinking.

REASONING. I’d create measurable objectives that address verbal and written reasoning skills on the topic, or mathematical reasoning if warranted.  I’d include logic models and frames to analyze and evaluate.  In my opinion, educators should explicitly teach how to make inferences (inductive and deductive reasoning). Inductive reasoning is a bottom-up approach to exploratory research, while deductive reasoning is a top-down approach to comparative research.  I’d include the Bayesian model (a logic model), so that students could understand probability errors and other probability theories.  I suggest the following instructional strategies to teach reasoning: metaphors, analogies, Venn Diagrams, case studies, cognitive apprenticeships, and metacognitive strategies.  Appropriate formats include persuasive essays, debates, HyperInquiry, mock trails (persuasive arguments), simulations, and gaming.

 

Your blogger,

Sandra Rogers