Thursday, June 29, 2017

Learning how to teach online through an online course

Two weeks ago I posted this:
I am taking a two-week course from a well known and reputable organization that credentials online courses (no names, but if you don't know who they are, you should).  When I finish I will have some thoughts.  On the good side, I plan to take the subsequent courses from the organization. 

Now I am finished and will finish my reflection on it.

I don't want to use the name of the organization.  Anyone familiar  with online education knows who it is; hint--it's out of the University of Maryland, originally.

This organization has a certain philosophy and system of online education.  It took me a couple of assignments to "align" myself with its philosophy.  At first I was a little snarky about it.  "I've taught online for 19 years. I was teaching online at the beginning and before online was cool.  I used to create my own courses in Front Page, before there were Learning Management System programs, for Pete's sake!"  After being told to redo an assignment, I said, "Ok, I'll play it your way, I get it."  By the end I said, "Ok, yes, this system makes sense, I see why it works and what they are doing."

What I get from this is:
1.  the concept of unlearning.  This does not mean forgetting, because obviously we can't erase memories.  I think of unlearning as "making space for a different schema or framework."  We can hold different schema in our heads at the same time.  I understand this organization's schema now.  I think it is very good and worthwhile, although rigid and granular when I might look at a course more holistically.
2. the need for humility in learning.  Humility is not a popular concept, but the act of putting yourself into a position to learn inherently means you submit to an authority, at least temporarily, for a larger purpose, and opening your mind to the value of what is taught.  I took classes during my doctorate from people I thought were in left field and still do, but I submitted myself to them for the larger purpose of getting a doctorate.  I learned valuable things from these people although I still differ from them philosophically.
3.  the experience of being a student.  Oh, I didn't like being told I did something wrong!  It reminded me to be empathetic for my online students, whom I often tell they are wrong in some way!  On the other hand, I am dealing with an online student who keeps plagiarizing and told me it was my fault and that I was ridiculous.  I take lots of online MOOC type courses (which didn't pan out as the end-all of higher ed but are very useful) but this one was more tied to work so I wanted to get a perfect grade.
4.  I learned about some new technologies and I saw how important alignment is.
5.  The facilitators did a fine job.  One of them teaches at a nearby institution and I already know her, so I think that helped.
6.  I plan to take two more courses and be fully credentialed by this organization.

Now, the downsides.  The LMS that this organization uses is inferior to what I am used to.  I think it is open source but it shows.  I really struggled with its layout and navigation, and this is from a person who has used two versions of Blackboard, Canvas, and D2L/Brightspace quite a bit.  Consequently, the course was not visually rich at all. I can appreciate some of that because I have often warned about over rich-courses that require too much bandwidth, but this course was just plain boring visually.

Secondly, it was intense and time-consuming, but that's really a good thing.  It makes it worthwhile and they don't want to give away their credentials. I noticed that most of the students did not keep up with the daily assignments.  I spent good money on the course and wanted my money's worth. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Why we don't change as instructors: data vs. emotion

Mary Ellen Weimer writes provocative things about teaching.  Here is one of her articles:

Here she is dealing with one of my favorite topics, faculty resistance to improving teaching even when we know there are better ways.  As one of her sources states, faculty approach faculty development the way our students approach learning in the classroom, although we fuss about how students do that.  I saw myself there.  See my post above on my current online learning experience.   

Monday, June 19, 2017

Academic Freedom, Marble Statues, and General Insanity

OK.  Is is getting to the point that anyone who says anything publicly gets death threats?  What exactly is a death threat?  (A generally, "You should die for your viewpoint" or "I know where you live and work and am coming there to kill you soon"?)

So, interesting article below from Inside Higher Ed about a common fact, a conclusion about that fact, the publication in popular media about that conclusion, and the response from people who take things too seriously.  Yes, everyone who has ever taken a humanities course knows the Greeks and Romans painted their statues.  But . . . does that mean they weren't racist? (are you serious?)  Does that mean that the beauty of white marble (which would have been normalized by the Renaissance and Baroque artists, not the 18th century) is a white supremacist statement?

If racism is only framed as black (African, dark-skinned) vs. white (Northern European, pink skin toned) then the discussion is over.  There are other "phenotypes" who have historically hated each other and tried to kill the other off.  (We need only go back to World War II, China and Japan, to see that, or 1994, Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda.) Racism is far bigger than one country's historical struggle with slavery.  Not to minimize that; it is the U.S.'s unique and tragic problem and legacy. It just isn't the only instance of racism in world history.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Shout-out to ed2go

This summer I am engaging in two significant professional development activities.

I am going to get certification as a Quality Matters reviewer.  For those who don't know, that is an organization that credentials online courses.  It's about time, since I was an early adopter (1998) of online teaching.  My institution pays for most of it. 

Secondly, I am taking four courses with ed2go, which is affiliated with Cengage (Pearson) on teaching English as Second Language.  Right now I am taking two of them concurrently.  They are well done; not exactly graduate level, of course, or even undergrad, but informative and well designed. The assignments are easy, but the readings are at the right level for both a lay person and a professional with advanced degrees, as am I.

These are not without costs, but I found them very reasonable.  I had taken an ed2go class on epublishing several years ago.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Another Reason for College Instructors to Stay Off Social Media

From my go-to of the day, (along with Christianity Today), Inside Higher Ed:    

(I realize it is better to "hide" the link under a word but I want this to be transparent.)

My take on this:
1.  I tend to side with the student, for once, although she is only 51% right overall.
2.  The instructor lost my support when she went to social media.  Cardinal rule of teaching:  Never, ever, ever discuss classroom issues on social media.  It violates privacy, it will bite you on the butt,  it's nobody's business, and it makes the instructor look childish.  Just wrong.