Oct 29

Twelve Strategies to Promote Online Growth While Ensuring Quality

Blogging the Online Learning Consortium International Conference 2014

Presenters: Brian Udermann (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, USA)Cristi Ford (University of the District of Columbia, USA)

Juggling concept: the more things you add for your online learning program, the more likely is that a ball will drop. It’s ok. Pick it up and keep moving forward.

Interesting Notes

  • 25 % of faculty think their institution are pushing online education too much (not the 85% we might think).
  • At the beginning they asked everyone to stand up, and then sit down if you don’t have this in place: one person who oversees online education; have an online advisory board; have an instructional designer; have policies and procedures.

Strategies and Audience Ideas

  1. Have one person who oversees online education for your campus. Don’t add it to someone else’s load as an add on to their other responsibilities. Include things like proctoring, policies, tutoring online, student services, support services – available for ALL online programs.
  2. Have an Online Advisory Board. Should include Faculty, students, administrators, business services, program directors, instructional designers, student support services.
  3. Offer high quality faculty development opportunities. Ideas include: Online learning competency assessment (for people who say they’ve taught online); Online learning academy (6 weeks in the summer for 3 days a week – for those who are totally new); OLC workshops; during the school year accelerated online learning academy; elearning scholars institute – OLC workshops for faculty who want to dabble in online learning. And then after they take the workshop, they teach it to other faculty at a brown bag lunch. Weekly sessions. Use tips and tools to get them in the door, and then teach them something about pedagogy.
  4. Create faculty buy-in. Consider what motivates and demotivates faculty. Student need is a very high motivator. A national credential for training. Something that recognizes faculty at graduation – like a stole to wear. Competencies are important.
  5. Hire an instructional designer. Best way to increase the quality of online learning at your institution. Create an online education factbook for your institution. Impact of online courses on the graduation rate. Impact of instructional designer on retention rate. Partner your ID with your “grumpy guy” to sell resistance faculty on online learning. Two models: they are a consultant and training or are they actually building and designing the course? Interesting thought: the ID on the higher ed side is similar to a media specialist on the K12 side. 
  6. Create a policies and procedures manual or handbook for online education. i.e. what are the policies: do we pay more for online courses? can I start my online course a week early? when do I give the final exam in my online course? can I teach my course through my personal blog? student evaluations of instructors, i.e. enrollment in online shouldn’t exceed face to face, dropping online courses, workload, response time, policy for changing instructors in the middle of the term, credit hour. Example of the online handbook at UWLAX. You might need a document with policies and a document with best practices. University approved policies, faculty expectations, best practices etc.
  7. Have a course review process in place. Examples: Quality Matters, Penn State Quality Standards, Lone Star College, Community of Inquiry, Quality Assurance Model Florida State.
  8. Provide financial support for training and course / program development. Give certificates, buy stoles, give incentives.
  9. Ensure high quality student support services for online learners. Library, student ID, assessment, communication, student communities, personal services, etc.
  10. Create a strategic road map for your institution. For example, who is responsible for these different issues and getting them done. How will you get there. Think logistically about what it takes.
  11. Collect and use data. Number of online courses, gen ed online courses, students taking online courses, graduation rate in six years if they took online course. Tell faculty about it – those who teach online, those who don’t. Share share.
  12. Dare to be different.

Things To Work On

  • An online program policies and procedures manual. This is ours and this is Brian’s. Improvements could be made on ours!
  • Have a workshop on ways to reduce cheating (same level of cheating for online and f2f)
  • Build more faculty training options
  • Intellectual property clarity. For example one option might be: university has a non-exclusive in perpetuity license for the content; and if the university funds creation of media, the university owns that media.

Bonus: Brian is an excellent example of how to interject humor into your teaching.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.janinelim.com/?p=5368

Oct 29

Leveraging the Investment in Online Education: A Workshop for Campus Leaders

Blogging the Online Learning Consortium International Conference 2014

Presenters: Mary Niemic, Dylan Barth, and Laura Pedrick

Interesting Notes


[Photo credit: LendingMemo.com]

New term: Nanodegrees. In the context of the different types of online learning – MOOCs, self-paced, competency based, credit, certificates, degrees, modules, etc.

Report: Online College Students 2014 (from LearningHouse). Reputation, price, credit transferability, and job credibility are important to students. Within 8 weeks of application, students want to be able to start their degree.

Support for Learning: The idea of integrating offices for learning technologies and professional development to one unit that supports all good teaching – online, blended, on campus. Active learning, blended learning, educational technologies, etc.

Resource: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning; UW Milwaukee is building a national database of research on online learning; with grants for others to participate in the research.

University of Nebraska High School – has existed since 1929 (kind of like Andrews University‘s Griggs International Academy that started in 1909). Only 11% of the enrollment in this HS are in Nebraska.

Critical success factors: mission and goals; goals aligned to specific metrics; sustainable resource management strategy, administrative structure, policies, systems, effective communication, comprehensive evaluation plan that drives future efforts.

Favorite quote: It’s not the flashiest thing that determines quality, it’s the thing that helps students learn the best; and the method of allowing for faculty presence.

Interesting Discussions

  • Choices

    Photo Credit: Akuppa John Wigham

    Enrollment Data. Do you count online learning in the fall with a census date, or do you count the full year? How to discuss counting with the rest of campus that is counting in the fall where it makes sense. But online students and coming and going all year long.

  • Honors. Who has honors options for online students? Most everyone in the room doesn’t – discussion of how all students have the right to access to honors programs; but there may be significant resistance on campus to offering honors options online.
  • Educational models that are changing – flipped, blended, competency, self-paced, shrinking semesters, synchronous or asynchronous. What are the benefits and challenges for each and which to choose for the degree? How to work with faculty who start with the idea that we just need to stream what is happening in the classroom? The online student doesn’t want the class on Tuesday at 2:30 pm; but how to assist faculty to realize students want to time-shift, and that is why they have chosen online learning. There isn’t really a huge market for synchronous learning.
  • Misunderstandings about what teaching is; what online learning is. The idea of “shrink-wrapping” a course by recording it and sending it to the student, with no other teaching included. A faculty member who wanted to be recorded so that when he died, his course could still be taught and his family could get the income. Misunderstandings about where the “teaching” happens in online learning, or even in f2f classes.
  • Revenue. Planning to do online learning just for the revenue tends to fail. Funding models: 5% of tuition to the central support of distance. Or 10% of the distance fees. Seed funding for new programs; and tuition/fee distribution to encourage continuity of offerings. Centralized vs decentralized, and how the funding models follow that. What the costs are for U Nebraska.
  • Traditional students. Traditional students who take online courses have a faster time to complete their degree; they are taking online courses to supplement during clinicals and practicums. Traditional students are interested in supplementing their on campus experience with online. Resources created to support online students can end up supporting the on campus as well – i.e. one stop shopping for all your university needs and records, etc. Lots of swirling among institutions and even between online and on campus enrollment.
  • Change. Supporting online learning can create additional capacity in the university for change. Course redesign, support services adjustments, all have benefits for the university as a whole for dealing with change and becoming more flexible.
  • Systems. For universities part of a system, do you have competing programs? or not? Using funding and marketing as carrot/stick to keep universities in the same system from offering competing programs. Using market research to determine what the students are interested in? Restricting online competition vs. allowing competition within the system face to face. System thinking – you aren’t stealing each other’s students, the community colleges are stealing your students.
  • Summer. High demand courses, high interest, finish in four, online courses for the summer.
  • Market saturation. The market is getting saturated for online learning – and it’s important to think about the market and what is already out there. The MBA is the most saturated online degree.
  • Definitions. What is blended? what about percentages? Recommendation to review UWM’s definition.
  • MOOCs. What are they good for? Brand recognition, fodder for research projects, service to the global community.

Interesting Companies and Resources

  • NetTutor for outsourcing or supplementing tutoring
  • LTI intergrations – there may be legal issues depending on the student data you are sending to the LTI integration sites
  • OER resources – contributing, using, participating
  • MapWorks – early intervention and student success
  • U of Texas Productivity Dashboard – how are students of various degrees doing after they graduate? what are the trends for employment?
  • LibGuides – libraries using a libguide to support the learning, courses, and programs
  • Toggl – a tool for time tracking to work on faculty work load issues

Good Ideas to Apply

  • Online orientations; including for on campus students who missed the on campus orientation
  • A short certificate for online and blended teaching, and then create a community of those participating. The course is evaluated the first time it’s taught online or blended, and then the faculty member receives a certificate.
  • Accountability metrics: target demographics, capacity , growth, graduate job placement, not too many metrics. Consistent follow through on reporting the metrics. Need to think more about our metrics & goals in the various areas. Is it possible to do across the university or only by program and degree? Use this to manage expectations – have a metric that is challenging and achievable.
  • Have a librarian dedicated to OER
  • Have a librarian dedicated to distance education
  • Have a librarian create a LibGuide for each online course (or maybe program)
  • Create a guide for department chairs on developing an Online or Blended program
  • Online Program Council – or peer groups for program-level peer-to-peer best practice sharing
  • Evaluation plan: course surveys, designing surveys at the course level, evaluation of support systems, data consistency across programs, continuous assessment; system/campus wide, monitoring what you have built

Final advice

  • Keep the principles forefront – why are we doing it? it’s really about the students – access and flexibility – we are trying to do what is in the best interest of the students

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.janinelim.com/?p=5363

Oct 27

Faith Integration

Andrews University is a Christian school; and therefore faith integration in online learning is an important value and task. Among other statements, the Andrews University Mission Statement includes this: Andrews University students will seek knowledge as they understand life, learning, and civic responsibility from a Christian point of view. How this is done makes for interesting discussion and research. There are certainly many viewpoints on the best way to integrate faith and learning; as well as different views on what it really means.

Some core issues for online course development and teaching online at Andrews are:

  • How does your own faith experience intersect with your teaching and learning?
  • In what ways do you encourage students to consider the course content & discipline’s philosophy from a Christian point of view?
  • What can students learn or experience regarding civic responsibility from a Christian point of view?
  • What are the Biblical foundations that intersect with your course content (as applicable and appropriate)?

What could this look like in an online course? The evidence may come in instructor-student interaction, in discussion on how the Christian worldview intersects with the content knowledge, in how students are viewed and treated as whole persons made in the image of God, in the instructor’s teaching presence. Here are some examples:

Instructor Presence

  • Hosting and encouraging student participation in an online chapel
  • Tone of your interactions with students
  • Ways that you show students you care – praying for them, helping struggling students, etc.

Writing Assignments

Another common way to explore the intersection of a Christian worldview and course content is through discussion forums, essays, and/or writing assignments.

Teaching Civic Responsibility

Biblical Foundations

Are there any natural connections between Biblical perspectives and your course content? Here are a few examples to challenge your thinking:

Note that it is important that these connections be appropriate, thoughful, integrated, and respectful of other faiths represented in your classroom.

Hopefully these ideas provide some background to help you consider how a Christian worldview intersects with your course content – and how best to assist students in their own growth and understanding throughout the process.

Talk to your Instructional Facilitator for more ideas or assistance with applying these ideas to your course.  Find these tips and more online in the Online Course Development Support Site.


Permanent link to this article: http://blog.janinelim.com/?p=5344

Oct 20

Critical Thinking

Last week as we considered creating a Learning Community, we briefly shared some ways to encourage critical thinking in an online course. This week, let’s examine some specific instructional strategies that can be used in the online classroom.

To learn more about critical thinking, explore What is Critical Thinking? and the Critical Thinking Toolkit.

Group Work

The following examples are designed for group work, which can be supported by the discussion forum and collaborative tools such as a wiki, Dropbox, or GoogleDocs.

Writing Assignments

These writing assignment examples can be submitted directly to the teacher via the Assignment tool or TurnItIn, or shared with the class to stimulate further discussion.

Need some more examples? Browse the Reusable Learning Objects for Critical Thinking.

Ready to assess critical thinking in your class? Try the Critical Thinking VALUE rubric.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.janinelim.com/?p=5342

Oct 13

Learning Community

One of the biggest concerns of faculty and students new to online learning is the feeling of disconnection and distance. Creating an interactive learning community can make all the difference for student satisfaction in an online course. In addition, the learning community is a great way to encourage students to think critically about your academic content, to reflect on their learning, and to consider connections between a Christian worldview and the core content to be learned.

The Community of Inquiry model of online learning includes the Social Presence and the Cognitive Presence. (We will examine the Teaching Presence in depth later.) Let’s look at some ways to support the Social Presence and Cognitive Presence in your online classroom.

Social Presence

Social Presence is “the ability of participants to identify with the community (e.g., course of study), communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop inter-personal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities” (Garrison, 2009).

In a face to face class, how do students and the professor get to know each other? They see each other’s faces and body language. They share their ideas in classroom discussion. They may meet each other outside of class to work on additional learning.

Online, we need to deliberately set up spaces for students to get to know each other and for you to get to know them. In high quality online programs, students even feel a bond of solidarity and friendship and are excited to meet each other later face to face.

Here are some ideas to enhance the social presence of your online classroom:

  • Create an introductions forum for students to get to know each other personally and professionally. Have students share prior knowledge and experience on the content.
  • Create general forums to support the class. Some examples to choose from include:
    • Watercooler
    • General Questions
    • Technical Questions
    • Learning Process Comments
    • Housekeeping Issues
    • Online Chapel
  • If you have a live synchronous time, always include icebreaker times. Have students share the weather where they are, or something interesting from their location.
  • Encourage students to share personal experiences to connect with the content, where appropriate.

Cognitive Presence

Cognitive Presence is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001).

Talk to your Instructional Facilitator for more ideas or assistance with applying these ideas to your course.  Find these tips and more online in the Online Course Development Support Site.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.janinelim.com/?p=5340

Oct 06

Stimulating Learning Experiences

As you continue to think about the learning design of your course, consider this week the learning activities and student engagement in your online course.

 How will you provide diverse opportunities for engaging intellectual discovery, inquiry and creative problem-solving? What ways can you provide choices for students to meet learning outcomes?

Offline Activities

Just because a course is online doesn’t mean that the student has to stare at a screen the whole time. Here are some ideas for learning activities outside of the online classroom:

Using the Forum for More Than “Discussion”

The discussion forum is great for interaction, but what else can you do with it besides “discuss”?! Here are some ideas to bring in some variety:


Consider how you can provide choices for students to meet your learning outcomes.

Talk to your Instructional Facilitator for more ideas or assistance with applying these ideas to your course.  Find these tips and more online in the Online Course Development Support Site.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.janinelim.com/?p=5338

Sep 29

Learning Design: Thinking about Alignment and Assessment

Before you get too far down the path of building your syllabus, we encourage you to think through your learning design. We provide a Storyboard Framework for you to consider the big picture of your course. You will, if you haven’t already, discuss this further with your Instructional Facilitator in the Learning Design Meeting.


This week, consider the concept of alignment within the context of assessment. Alignment means that we want to create continuity between the learning objectives, the course activities, the learning materials, and the assessments.

Objectives > Activities > Assessment

Why should assessments, learning objectives and instructional strategies be aligned?

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What are the learning outcomes for this class? Do I have clear guidance from the department curriculum?
  • Are my learning outcomes observable (strong action verbs) and measurable?
  • Are my intended learning activities consistent with all the learning outcomes?
  • Does each intended learning activity help students reach the learning outcome? How does it help them? How do I know they have met or deeply understand the learning outcome? What evidence will I have of the students’ learning for this outcome?
  • Are the feedback and assessment activities consistent with the learning outcomes and the learning activities?


As you consider the broad strokes of your class, think about your options for assessment. What are some options besides quizzes and exams? Do any of these other options align with your learning outcomes?

Converting a course from a face-to-face format to an online format provides an opportunity to rethink and reconsider your usual teaching patterns. Take some time to think through these concepts and integrate these ideas into your plan for your online course.

Talk to your Instructional Facilitator for more ideas or assistance with applying these ideas to your course. Find these tips and more online in the Online Course Development Support Site.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.janinelim.com/?p=5336

Jul 06

Essentials: Structure and Routine in Online Courses

Note: This article was originally published in the Journal of Adventist Education, Distance Education Issue, April/May 2003. I’m reposting it here to give it a new home.


Essentials: Structure and Routine in Online Courses
By Janine Lim (p. 16)

Recent studies indicate the importance of consistency and structure for students learning online. Data obtained from surveys of students enrolled in asynchronous (completely online) courses offered by the State University of New York indicate that three factors “contribute significantly to the success of asynchronous online courses. These factors are a course structure that is both clear and consistent, an instructor that interacts frequently and productively with students, and a constructive and dynamic discussion between students and their peers.” [1]

In addition, researchers at the University of British Columbia who evaluated 127 courses offered online “have concluded that appearance and structure can make or break an online course.” [2] Why is structure so important? Higher levels of thinking are impossible in chaotic online courses. Structure is key!

Since 1999, alone or with a team, I have designed six online courses that are available for graduate credit from various universities. The course titles are: “Internet in the Classroom,” [3] “WebQuests,” which was chosen as an exemplary course in a WebCT 2000 study, [4] “Technology Tools for Literacy,” [5] “Active Online Teaching,” [6] “Integrating Technology in the Curriculum,” [7] and “Technology in the Early Elementary Classroom.” [8] All of the classes have been offered at least twice. Because of this experience, I’ve gained an understanding of the importance of routine and structure in online courses.

Given the importance of structure in an online course, we will examine two areas in this article: (1) creating a familiar structure by comparing standard components of face-to-face classes with online classes, and (2) creating course routine by using a consistent template for each module.

Creating a Familiar Structure
Most traditional classrooms are structured in fairly similar ways. Students know where to enter (the door), when to come and go (the class schedule), and how the room is defined (the walls). Students know where to sit (desks and other furniture), where the teacher will be (front, at a desk), which direction to face (arrangement of chairs), and where to look for information they need to copy (chalk board, white board, etc.). These familiar structures are consistent in classrooms around the world.

Many classroom learning experiences also have a familiar structure. The student knows that the class will include reading (a textbook and handouts), listening (lecture or classroom discussion), writing (homework assignments and notes), talking (asking questions, peer discussion, etc.), and evaluation (quizzes and exams).

An online class challenges assumptions about how learning takes place. The student must learn to negotiate the unfamiliar processes of a virtual classroom. Likewise, the teacher must deal with a variety of unfamiliar issues relating to the learning environment—the walls, desks, and chairs of the virtual classroom. Routine and structure provide a safety net and a sense of security for students, letting them know what to expect. Creating a safe learning environment is part of the AVLN standard for integrating faith and learning. Students learn better in a safe and consistent environment. For example, note these student comments from the second week of “Technology in the Early Elementary Classroom” course in the spring of 2002:

  • After the first week, things are easier. I like that the format will stay the same.
  • The organization followed week one and is very easy to follow.
  • Organization is great! I recently had some computer training that was so unorganized it felt like a big waste of time. We spent all of our time getting ready to learn, finding what we needed and then evaluating. Barely any actual learning took place. This course is the exact opposite. [9]

The “Door”
The most intimidating part of an online class may be simply getting enrolled. Instructions (listed both in the syllabus and online) should indicate what skills are necessary to complete the course, as well as the equipment required for class projects. To help students enter the class means dealing with their individual needs. The instructor must provide access to appropriate support services and learning materials.
To assist students, create a window of time when they should first access the course. During this time, check E-mail, phone messages, and mail as often as possible, If your institution has a help desk, tell students when and how to access it. If possible, mail (not E-mail) instructions for getting into the class. Call students on the telephone if they haven’t logged in by the first or second day of the course. Be helpful and patient. Communicate the technical requirements and prerequisites early, so students know whether they have the technical expertise to take the course.

Time of Class
In a face-to-face course, students know when the class begins and ends. The time frame is clearly defined and regular. As you design your virtual classroom, be sure to define the time frame for your students, as well. When are they expected to log in? Do they need to log in a certain number of times a day? A week? How do they provide evidence that they are in class (posting in the discussion area, submitting assignments, reading pages, completing quizzes)?

Be very clear about your expectations. Communicate them in several places (in materials mailed to students, in the syllabus, in the online instructions, etc.). Do students know when they have to turn in assignments? Making these due at a regular time each week helps them get into a routine. Some classes use Sunday night as a weekly deadline. This allows students to use the weekend to finish any incomplete work.

The “Walls”
In a face-to-face class, the four walls of the classroom create a boundary and a feeling of security for students. They learn to trust one another when they realize that only the participants and instructor(s) of the course are listening to their ideas and opinions. In the virtual classroom, the instructor must create a comfortable space for students to share and learn. Most courseware, such as Blackboard and WebCT, provide a secure password-protected method for students to access and “enter” the classroom. Be sure to plan for introductions and other activities that help students get to know and trust one another.

We hear a lot these days about “moving beyond the four walls of the classroom.” In traditional education, this means enrichment experiences using Internet resources, access to experts via E-mail and video conferencing, or other types of creative learning outside the boundaries of the school room. The same can be true in an online course. Many online classes provide links to many resources and Web sites with supplemental material. Since it is difficult to tell how long students spend on various tasks, be careful not to overload them with extra material. Indicate clearly which resources are required reading and which are optional. For example, in the course “Technology in the Early Elementary Classroom,” the “See It” section provides 40 to 60 examples of technology integration for each core subject, such as reading or science. Participants are encouraged to choose the ideas that fit their needs and teaching style.

Within a course, there may be defining walls as well. Some courses divide students into small groups for various learning activities. These walls can be permeable, allowing students to move into other discussion areas and learn from people who are not in their group.

However you define the walls in your online course, keep in mind the needs of your students and provide the necessary support for them to access the resources and experiences of your course.

Dissemination of Content—The “Furniture”
In a traditional classroom, the student enters, sits down at a desk, and listens to the instructor for the majority of the session. Usually, this is when the teacher integrates faith and learning and encourages higher levels of thinking.

As you design your course, consider where students will “sit” to learn. How do they “listen” to you? How will they get the majority of their instruction? Do they need to do most of reading online? Can they print the materials? Do they know they need a fast printer? Do they know you are using multimedia/audio/video? Do they have the necessary software so they can listen to video clips? If not, who will help them install it? Plan to use a simple and consistent instructional structure so that all students will be able to participate.

In my online classes, I have chosen to create the instruction as Web pages. This allows me to control the dissemination of information. I prefer this method because many of my students do not have fast Internet connections and are unable to view fancy multimedia. I also like to have my instruction in a form that is portable from one courseware platform to another (i.e., Blackboard or WebCT). Courseware changes often; I would rather not redo my work each time I teach in a new medium. Web pages are easy to access and print, and they can be created to load quickly. They allow me to guide students through selected resources and links without overwhelming them with information.

Whether you use multimedia, Web pages, or another format, be sure to create a space for instruction that is regular and consistent. This helps students stay on track with the required work. Decide on the “icons” students are to click on to access various areas of the course. Keep these to a minimum to ensure simplicity and ease of use. Think about what students are to accomplish in those areas. Provide documentation that explains the various parts of the course. Later in this article, we will examine ways of making instruction regular and consistent.

Classroom Discussion
The AVLN teaching standards require that online courses address the relational basis of learning. [10] This includes interaction between all of the following: (1) learner and content; (2) learner and learner; (3) learner and teacher; (4) learner and self (reflection); and (4) learner and community (including service). The asynchronous discussion tool in your course can address most types of interaction.

To make your course interaction consistent and constructive, require substantive postings from each student/group during each week or module. Decide how to assess the discussion, and communicate your expectations clearly. Most students aren’t used to being graded on class participation. If they aren’t participating (especially in the first week or two), check up on them by E-mail or phone to make sure they understand that they must post their comments in the discussion area.

In many online classes, students tend to view the discussion area as a place to debate argumentatively, to upload summaries of articles, or to post lengthy opinions. Rarely does the discussion reach the level of dialogue, “a living experience of inquiry within and between people.” [11] Dialogue is “about evoking insight, which is a way of reordering our knowledge-particularly the taken-for-granted assumptions that people bring to the table.” [12] Help students learn to engage in meaningful dialogue with their peers. Some useful strategies for encouraging dialogue can be found at http://www.avln.org/learning/aot/dialogue.htm [link dead].

Monitor the discussion area frequently. Delete offensive posts, and communicate your expectations to the authors of abusive or inappropriate messages. With a little practice, you will find the discussion in your class blossoming. Your students will enjoy your class more because they feel connected to one another, the content, and their instructor.

In reality, everything in an online course is “homework.” Because of this, you need to find ways to keep students from spending extended periods staring at the computer screen. Create assignments that they can do offline and then report on. Encourage them to print out reading materials rather than reading them off the screen.

For assignments that won’t really enhance the learning of others, have students submit materials directly to the instructor. For assignments that share learning and construct knowledge about the topic, have them post in the discussion area. Pick one or two methods for students to use for submissions and stick with them throughout the course. Students shouldn’t have to learn to do new things or master new software for each assignment unless using software is part of the content for the course. Using technology in the online course already requires extra effort. Make things as simple and easy for your students as possible.

Course Routine and Consistent Templates
Now that we have examined ways to provide for the door, the walls, and the furniture of the virtual classroom, let’s take a closer look at how to create routine. This can be accomplished by incorporating a consistent template for the weeks or modules in the course. Let’s tour four online courses and examine the templates. [13]

“Developing WebQuests”
In this class, participants learn what a WebQuest [14] is and then create one in teams. Each week, the course has two new pages on the Web: (1) introduction and (2) instruction. The introduction page includes a quote, a graphic, the objectives, the assignments, and a note on time management. The instruction page includes links to readings and instructions for creating the portion of the WebQuest due that week. (This section of the course addresses the faith and learning standard and focuses on the thinking processes.) Discussion centers on chapters in the required textbook and the process of creating a WebQuest. Weekly discussions address the relational basis of learning standard and encourage higher-level thinking. The creation of a WebQuest meets the learning experience standard, and the assessment in the course was authentic, based on the completion and quality of the WebQuest created.


“Active Online Teaching”
In this course, the template is very simple. Each page contains a quote (generally taken from the Bible or Ellen G.White’s writings), a picture, and three components: Readings and Links, Discussion Starters, and Experiences. Students respond to both the readings and the experiences in the discussion area.


“Integrating Technology Into the Curriculum”
In this course, teachers develop instructional units that integrate technology into the curriculum. Experiences and examples modeling the integration of technology are included.

The template for this course includes six components:

  • Readings and Discussion (faith, thinking, and relational standards);
  • Experience (shown below)—a project created from the student’s point of view (experience and support standards);
  • Examples—includes lesson plans, sample assessment tools, and more (this allows for the individuality of learners—they can choose what applies to their situation);
  • Application—a culminating activity for the module, such as a lesson plan, a presentation for the school board, or an assessment plan (assessment and experience standards);
  • Assessment—information about the number of points possible and criteria used to evaluate participation for that week (assessment standard);
  • Evaluation—participants evaluate the course (assessment standard).


“Technology in the Early Elementary Classroom”
This course takes an in-depth look at ways to integrate technology in core subject areas (reading, writing, math, science, and social studies). The course homepage was designed to be a warm, inviting space, using primary colors.


Each component is linked from the first page and has its own separate page. The template includes

  • A short paragraph introducing the module;
  • A quote related to the module;
  • Read It: required and optional readings on that week’s topic;
  • Talk It: discussion questions for the week;
  • See It: 40 to 60 technology integration ideas and examples for that subject;
  • Do It: choices for creating a student project example using KidPix or a digital camera. Projects are posted in the discussion area for peer review;
  • Manage It: classroom management tips for a technology-rich classroom;
  • Software Feature: exemplary software packages in that subject area;
  • Web Share: two or three “must see” Web sites.

Components to Choose
When creating a template for your online course, choose a few components to include in each module. Here are some possibilities to get you started:

Readings Assessment Application
Discussion Quizzes Papers
Journal Tests Portfolio
Experiments Activities Projects
Simulation Group work Problems
Modeling Research (library or Web) Lectures
Examples Case studies Lecture notes
Student-created questions    

As you create your course, keep in mind the AVLN standards for online teaching. [15] Be sure to plan ways to integrate faith and learning, both in the curriculum, “cyber chapel” or class devotions, and in your interactions with students. Encourage human interaction and relationships in your course, while providing stimulating learning experiences and appropriate assessment.

With some careful thought and design, you can create a virtual classroom with structure and routine—and one that addresses the AVLN standards. Your students will feel comfortable in the safe learning environment you have created and will have a rewarding learning experience.
Janine Lim is an Instructional Technology Consultant at the Berrien County Intermediate School District in Berrien Springs, Michigan. She is an active Adventist Virtual Learning Network (AVLN) board member and chair of the AVLN Course Committee. She also teaches online regularly for AVLN, the Berrien County ISD, and the ATA Technology Academy, a Michigan grant project.


1. Karen Swan, “Virtual Interaction: Design Factors Affecting Student Satisfaction and Perceived Learning in Asynchronous Online Courses,” Distance Education 22:2 (2001), pp. 306-331.
2. Kelly McCollum, “Researchers Pick Best and Worst Web Courses,” The Chronicle of Higher Education 44 (February 27, 1998), p. A29.
3. Offered through Berrien County Intermediate School District and the Adventist Virtual Learning Network (AVLN). Offered for credit through Andrews University, Grand Valley State University, and Western Michigan University.
4. For more information on the WebCT Exemplary Course project, visit http://webct.com/exemplary. This course is offered through the Berrien County Intermediate School District and the Adventist Virtual Learning Network (AVLN). Offered for credit through Andrews University, Grand Valley State University, and Western Michigan University.
5. Offered as a partnership between the Berrien County Intermediate School District and Andrews University.
6. Offered through the Adventist Virtual Learning Network (AVLN). Team designed with Shirley Freed and Marilyn Eggers.
7. Offered through the Adventist Virtual Learning Network (AVLN). Team designed with Marilyn Eggers.
8. Offered through the Ameritech Technology Academy grant project in Michigan. Offered for credit through Central Michigan University and Western Michigan University. Team designed with Marilyn Western. To be offered through the Adventist Virtual Learning Network (AVLN) in the summer of 2003.
9. These are actual participant comments from the Week Two required feedback questions.
10. See http://www.avln.org/standards.htm.
11. William Isaacs, Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together (New York: Currency, 1999), p. 9.
12. Ibid. p. 45.
13. If you would like access to view any of these courses, please e-mail me at janine@janinelim.com.
14. A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web. See http://webquest.sdsu.edu for more information.
15. See http://www.avln.org/standards.htm.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.janinelim.com/?p=5321

Jul 06

3 Simple Rules of Facilitating Online Discussion

3 Simple Rules of Facilitating Online Discussion

The role of the instructor in online discussion includes that of a facilitator. The following three basic rules are compiled and adapted from Connected University’s Online Faculty Training course.

  1. In the first week, respond to every participant’s introduction posting and make them feel welcome.
  2. After the initial response to participants, try to respond at least once to each participant every week or so, depending on the size of the class. Note: I’ve tried this, and it started to feel forced. So I went back to my original rule: post when you have of value something to say! See #3.
  3. Instructor posts should deepen the conversation.
    • Validate especially strong points without praising the person.
    • Ask questions. Challenge those on the right track to extend themselves even further.
    • Redirect those participants who aren’t quite hitting the nail on the head to more closely approximate what you’re looking for in their understanding of the concepts involved.

Note: This was first written for the AVLN Active Online Teaching course in 2002.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.janinelim.com/?p=5318

May 07

Harnessing the Leadership Potential of Online Adjunct Faculty

USDLA 2014 session by Jennifer Varney and Amie Ader-Beeler from Southern New Hampshire University

At Southern New Hampshire University, they have a standardized curriculum, where the online faculty are teaching. They have 8 week courses for undergraduate, and 11 week courses for graduate. They have about 600 adjuncts, and 30% of them in any semester are on their first time teaching the course.

The challenges they were trying to address are similar to many of us:

  • Providing a consistency of experience
  • Consistency of grading
  • Having key performance indicators
  • Measuring faculty performance
  • The bandwidth of administration, i.e. scaling measuring, monitoring and coaching

They started with organizational goals and recommend we do the same: what is important to measure? What are we promising to students? What is important to our university?

From that, you can get key behaviors – things that the faculty have control on. This is what you want to focus on.

They use Blackboard – and some main areas they are concerned about are:

  • The welcome to the student. The orientation, the personality of the class. The instructor paints the classroom space in the students’ head. Nice visual!
  • Discussion & dialogue between faculty and students.
  • Announcement area – where the faculty give real-world connections for the content
  • Grade center / gradebook / feedback

Need to define the areas in the course that the faculty should be working.

From defining the key behaviors, you can move to creating expections for those key behaviors.

For example, in discussion, they should bring in their own ideas, they should recognize student strengths. In feedback, they need to work on timeliness.

They gave their good instructors an opportunity to be a lead instructor. They get access to their assigned 25 instructor’s courses, they they interact, coach, and support them. The team leads are organized by discipline. This makes them feel more invested in the institution, and makes all the adjuncts feel more connected to the institution.

In the team space, they are sharing best practices, providing ongoing faculty training, discipline specific coaching, and recognizing successes.

This was an amazing session full of concepts and suggestions that we can use to improve our online faculty support.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.janinelim.com/?p=5314

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