According to Dr. Tony Bates, there are systemic problems with leadership in online learning management in higher education. In one of his 2018 year end reviews titled “2018 review of online learning: weak leadership,” Tony describes two classic cases of weak leadership in the area of digital and online learning. Dr. Bates is a Canadian scholar with a distinguished background in the area of distance learning.
Case 1: There was no project management, no change of course design, no course director, and three months before the course was due to be launched, no confirmed instructors. Worst of all, the department was not listening to the advice of the Centre for Teaching and Learning
Case 2: Under pressure from a couple of deans, the acting provost of a large university summons all the deans to a meeting to discuss ‘what we should be doing about e-learning.’ An external expert is invited to address the meeting for about 20 minutes. This is followed by a largely unstructured discussion where it is clear that about a third of the deans are anxious to move ahead rapidly with blended and fully online courses for credit, about half are open to moving but need more resources and technical help before making any commitments, and one or two are sullenly quiet, suggesting opposition….
Twelve months later, the situation remains the same, under a new Provost.
Does this sound familiar? Many higher education administrators and faculty members are still ignorant about the benefits and challenges of online and hybrid education. Universities need a strategic plan for online education so classic cases like the above are not so common.
Tony Bates is a well known leader in online teaching and administration. You can learn more about online learning from Dr. Bates by following his blog or by reading his free, open textbook, Teaching in a Digital Age. I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Bates and attend one of his sessions at the 2017 World Conference on Online Learning.
Members of the academic community have very strong opinions about online education. These opinions are often negative and based on myths, not evidence. Some like to share their negative perceptions in the comments section of articles or blogs about online education. Here is an example from the comment section of a recent Inside Higher Ed article entitled, “Online Education Ascends.”
Are we really ready to accept that the students are the best judges of the quality of an education they are just starting? And all kinds of things are here to stay, and most of them are horrible. That’s hardly a selling point. And maybe this is the heart of the problem. Online education for most administrations is a selling point and has very little to do with educational quality. (By: 3rd Tyrant)
I think 3rd Tyant’s comment was in response to Stewart Sutin’s comment that online education is here to stay. Sutin shared some well researched tips about how to ensure the quality of online education by:
Carefully selecting online instructors
Providing instructors with adequate training and access to course design specialists
Providing adequate budgets to support faculty and quality programs
I agree with all of the above. I also appreciated Chris’s reply to 3rd Tyrant’s comment,
“Why the assumption that in-person is high quality but online is not?”
I’m guessing 3rd Tyrant has bought into the common myths about teaching online and hasn’t done research on the subject. 3rd Tyrant and other online education naysayers need to take time to learn the facts about teaching online. The video below does an excellent job of responding to the ten most commons myths about teaching online.
I had a great experience using VoiceThread in my online class last Fall and this year I’m using it for my Syllabus overview. This is a super easy way to provide students with a personalized syllabus summary in an online course. I’ll be using the FREE version of VoiceThread again this year.
I’ll be sharing my experiences teaching with VoiceThread at the Magna Teaching with Technology conference in St. Louis on Oct. 7, 2018. The title of my presentation is “Supporting Effective Teaching and Learning Principles with VoiceThread.”
I’m using FlipGrid for the first time this year starting with class introductions. We will use both tools during the course to move beyond text-based discussions. FlipGrid and VoiceThread give us asynchronous opportunities to hear and see one another, and build a sense of community within the course. I have approval to do a study to explore how using FlipGrid and VoiceThread impact proven principles of good practice.
I decided to add FlipGrid as a required participation tool after hearing from a few faculty who tried it out in their online course and claimed their students loved it! I also like the fact that FlipGrid is now part of the Office 365 suite so educators can now take advantage of features only previously available be a paid license.
Finally, giving students an opportunity to explore these technologies supports several outcomes for a course about teaching, learning & technology. I can’t wait to give them a try!
One of the most exciting benefits of learning to teach online is that it positively impacts face-to-face (FTF) teaching by:
improving the use and integration of digital media and technology in face-to-face classes;
making more extensive and better use of the Learning Management System tools;
moving faculty from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side”;
offering professors more flexibility of how, when, and where they teach their class;
motivating professors to learn more about pedagogy and course design for all courses;
promoting the alignment of learning objectives to content, assessments, interactions, and activities in all courses.
Empirical research from faculty who participated in an intensive 4-week Teaching Online Workshop (TOW) at a private, non-profit university, supports external research findings (McQuiggens 2012, Sener 2012) that learning to teach online has a positive impact on F2F teaching.
The vast majority of TOW faculty agreed that learning to teach an online course has positively influenced how they teach their on-campus courses.
Learning Management Systems like Blackboard, Canvas, and BrightSpace often get a bad rap in higher education. The key is how faculty members leverage these systems to support student learning. Below are testimonials from Teaching Online Workshop graduates about how teaching online has impacted their LMS use in face-to-face courses
These findings are good news for students and higher education overall. When instructors apply what they learn about effective online learning practices to their face-to-face classrooms, it is a win-win for everyone!
Keairns, Kathy, & Tobin, Heather (2015). Faculty as Students: One Model for Preparing Faculty to Develop and Teach Online. Distance Teaching & Learning Conference. Madison, WI.
McQuiggan, Carol A. (2012).Faculty Development for Online Teaching as a Catalyst for Change. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Volume 16: Issue 2.
Sener, J. (2012). The Seven Futures of American Education: Improving Learning and Teaching in a Screen-Captured World. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing.
Are you ready to network with colleagues and LEARN strategies that support project-based learning, flipped learning, universal design for learning, and more? Mark your calendar for August 1 & 2, 2018, and then register for the 2018 COLTT conference.
One of the first things we ask faculty to share in the Teaching Online Workshop (TOW) is their apprehensions and concerns about teaching online. The Teaching Online Workshop is an online course for faculty new to teaching online. Participants experience online education first-hand as students in this intensive four- week course.
Teaching online can be very different from what most of us have experienced in the traditional classroom. Many instructors have apprehension and see great challenges with this method of education.
After reading through module 1.1 about online learning and taking the faculty preparedness for online teaching self-assessment, what are your main thoughts or concerns about teaching online? What potential benefits might you expect?
Faculty Concerns (from 2013 TOW)
“My first concern is that I gather much feedback from the nonverbal communication between myself and the students during class regarding their understanding, interest, previous knowledge, etc. I am hopeful that I can still receive feedback to tailor my course for the students I will be teaching.”
“My concern is how to determine the optimum number of bells and whistles (news stories, blogs, wiki’s, video links) to include in order for students to stay engaged?”
“First, I am concerned about the fact that students who struggle with time management and/or have procrastination problems typically don’t fare well during an online course because some of the students who enroll in our class will undoubtedly fit into this category. Second, I have heard many students talk about how they just need to post something to a discussion board for credit rather than because they have a really thoughtful point they are intrinsically inclined to share, so I’m trying to think through how I can manage that issue. Finally, I’m nervous about how well I will do with creating an online classroom feel in which students engage in meaningful dialog with one another.”
“The challenge I see is keeping a balance of social chatter vs. specific assignment discussions, I have seen this get out-of-hand per some online classes. I always appreciated the online facilitator who encouraged more specifics from students who generalized; they also minimized extremely long posts by reminding students to stay on point and the importance of being succinct when discussing a point or adding a relevant comment.”
“I am also apprehensive about being organized enough to pull this off effectively and in a timely way. I always meet deadlines, but I tend to procrastinate up to those deadlines.”
I appreciate the honesty and variety of responses to this prompt and understand that these are all valid concerns for faculty new to online teaching. I will share more concerns later but my next blog post will highlight this groups’ perceived benefits of teaching online.
There are a plethora of misconceptions and challenges about online education within the academy. It is no secret that many higher education faculty members are skeptical about online learning and hesitate to teach online courses.
Last week I had an opportunity to lead a workshop for faculty about online education. Here are the 7 reasons/misconceptions why faculty may be resistant to teaching online.
Note that I added technology challenges as a reason for faculty resistance to online education after it was identified as a concern by several faculty members who attended the workshop.
I think these are all valid concerns if you believe the misconceptions about online education.
This is a quick summary of a FREE professional development webinar I attended from the Teaching, Learning and Technology (TLT) group. This FridayLive session was about good practices for online education, esp. those encouraged by accreditors, states, et al.
Courses and educational programs that have on-line or distance components have existed long enough to have a history. Scholars and accrediting agencies are sincerely interested in promoting good practices that improve student learning. What are the good practices that have emerged, where did they come from, how are they implemented by individuals and by programs, and what are the interests taken by external agencies such as states and accreditors?
Guest: David McCurry, Director of Distance Education at University of South Carolina Upstate
Interviewer: Doug Eder, emeritus assessment scholar and faculty member
Moderator: Steve Gilbert, TLT Group
Summary & Resources
It was a good conversation and lots of great resources were shared (see below). The TLT group is a great organization with a long history of promoting effective teaching practices. Dr. McCurry shared the attributes of good practices in online education from “National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements” (NC-SARA). We also discussed the 2018 CHOLE Report findings and the role of the Chief Online Learning Officer (COLO).
UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
I just returned from LA after giving a talk at the beautiful Loyola Marymount University (LMU) as part of their Speaker Series. The Speaker Series is a very cool program that is:
“intended to help LMU faculty explore and understand the possibilities and potential challenges involved in online and hybrid teaching. Speakers are invited to facilitate an honest discussion of the opportunities, challenges, and pitfalls of online and hybrid teaching and to offer some lessons from their own institutions’ experiences.”
Like other organizations, higher education has been disrupted by the Internet and technological innovations over the past 20 years. The college classroom is changing as online and hybrid education become commonplace at many institutions today. Although there has been tremendous growth in online and hybrid learning, there is still a lot skepticism and resistance, especially from those who have no direct experience with these new learning formats.
Faculty resistance to online education is one of the challenges I highlighted during my talk.
Faculty resistance is a major challenge faced by traditional higher education institutions considering moving online. Many faculty are skeptical about online education and believe that:
online courses are less rigorous
there is more cheating in online courses
online teaching is more time and energy intensive
online courses are inferior to face-to-face courses
Faculty who haven’t taught online may assume online courses are self-paced with little opportunities for interaction with students. They may associate online education with correspondence or televised courses from the past that were much less interactive. They may also be skeptical about the quality of online courses.
Another reason for faculty resistance is the lack of rewards, especially related to tenure and promotion decisions. In many institutions, faculty who teach online are often looked down upon by colleagues. Although online education is more common today, there is little prestige for faculty who teach online.
If university leaders want faculty buy-in for online education, they need to acknowledge and address faculty resistance.
I was honored to be part of this wonderful series to talk about online education.
I used the “free” version of VoiceThread (VT) in my online course this fall, EDU 261 – Teaching, Learning & Technology, and based on that experience, I will definitely use it again. VoiceThread is a popular Web 2.0 tool used to foster learner engagement and increase instructor and student presence in online and hybrid courses. It is basically an online discussion on steroids, but it can also be used to create presentations and tutorials. Learners can add audio comments, video comments, or text comments to VoiceThread slides.
This is the second time I’ve used VoiceThread in this course. The first time VoiceThread was optional, and I only used it a few times during the course. This time I required students to use it as part of their course participation and discussion grade. I created a Voicethread almost every week to share mini lectures/announcements. Then bi-weekly, I required students’ to comment/respond to questions using VoiceThread in lieu of a traditional text-based discussion.
What I liked about teaching with VoiceThread
Easy to re-record VoiceThread comments compared to other screencast/video recording tools.
Flexibility for adding comments (text, audio, or video).
Opportunity to both see and hear student comments
Basic license free for students and instructor
Very few technical issues
How I will use VoiceThread differently next time
Use VoiceThread for ice breaker instead of threaded discussion
Purchase license for VoiceThread to fully leverage the technology
Use VoiceThread for Peer Review Assignment
Share/post student tech projects
Include Voice Thread discussion requirements on VT slide
Require everyone to post at least one video VT comment early in the course
In addition to supporting several of the principles of good practice on the slide included in this post, VoiceThread also supports the following UDL principles:
presenting content in a variety of formats
keeping learners motivated by offering choices
providing multiple means of engagement
I was able to teach the entire course using the FREE version of VoiceThread. The free account is available for anyone who is at least 13 years old and has a valid email address. It allows you to create up to 5 VoiceThreads, comment by microphone and text, and share or embed VoiceThreads via a shared link or embed code.