Initial Musings on Reflective Practice for #fslt12

Now that we are in our first week for of the First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education mooc (massive open online course), we find ourselves focused on the topic of reflective practice.

Needless to say I have been reflecting on what to write here all week. Here it is Friday, and still thinking. Perhaps still reflecting is a more apt descriptor.

I think that is one of the things I am beginning to learn (or at least articulate) — we can do lots of reflecting, though without somehow making it present and sharing it, there may not be much benefit for the larger community.

While this mooc is focused around “new lecturers, people entering higher education teaching from other sectors and postgraduate students who teach,” I initially thought it may not be the best fit for me, in that I have taught online, I teach courses on how to teach online, and I study and learn and virtually live online (pun intended), but the power of a mooc to think and reflect and informally interact (potentially) with other really interesting people has really captured my thinking, and while my own blended course that I am teaching is beginning at Pace University (where I am teaching the course NURS 840: Teaching and Learning in Advanced Practice Nursing), there is always a benefit in considering one’s own teaching and learning practices. Even if I learn a few things along the way that helps my own teaching (and in the process my own learning), then kudos to us all.

I believe taking the opportunity for my own considering my work and direction, especially as I am beginning to teach my own new university course, may hopefully benefit my own students (all adult learners who have a lot of professional education and significant responsibility in their own roles). With this said, I really like the assignment that the mooc organizers have invited us to engage in (with the beginning of the Reflective Writing verbiage here):

Your reflections are your own and personal to you. Your reflective writing should therefore focus on whatever is most useful to you at this time. However, a successful MOOC relies on open sharing of ideas and resources, so we hope you will share your reflections.

If you are unsure about what to focus on, then you might try the following suggestions. If you have chosen to be assessed, please follow the guidelines below.

We suggest that in this first week you reflect on your overall experience to date as a teacher; what kinds of students have you taught, what have you discovered from the experience, and what have you most enjoyed in your teaching?

With this in mind, I am increasingly very aware that my  biggest challenge with sharing this reflecting is just starting the writing process. I find the same challenge as I work on my doctoral thesis — I have all of it floating around in my mind, with my biggest challenge to sit and begin to write about it.

Phew, with this start now out of the way, I find I am already (and quite naturally, I might add) considering the suggested elements of the The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in Higher Education 2011 in this light, and expect to continue this thinking in another post tomorrow.

Until then, good reflective practice to you.

PPOCCID Online Class Began Tonight

My new online class, Principles and Practices of Online Course Creation and Instructional Design (#PPOCCID) at NYU’s SCPS, began this evening. I am glad to see that there have been some nice improvements to the Epsilen online class platform:


As I am asking my students to blog over our 8 weeks together, I thought I should continue to do the same (and as I have been so busy at work and with food poisoning and a paper to complete as well), I am far-enough behind in my sharing here that I have a lot to say!

Building Success in Online Education Programs for Adult Learners

I arrived a few minutes into the introductory remarks for this symposium with Matthew A. Eichler, Tani K. Bialek, Cathy Twohig, Cynthia L. Digby, Rod P. Githens, and Lynn A. Trinko. Glad I made it just in time for the introductions. Just from listening to the intros, it is clear that there is a lot of interest in this area and the attendees have had a lot of  different experiences in the process.

Online discussions within class discussion boards, it can reduce some of the isolation involved in distance learning and traditional education. Online discussions have a written record of their experiences. Online discussions require a great amount of structure; “discuss this” is not sufficient. Structure questions, clear expectations, and utilize reference materials. Model a discussion posting and model how to respond with others at the beginning of a class, both to show people what to do and what you expect, as well as to help new online learners see what and how to do this. Ask people to cite who they use, even if that includes posting a link to it. Focus on active moderation, and ask people about tone and use of humor.

Form a “Coffee Shop” space in the class, to share things that may be useful but is not directly  related to the work of the week. Make yourself willing to share your own experiences, especially since you expect students to do the same.

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is electronic exchange of information with voice. There is an example of a Wimba Voice posting. I have not seen this product before, though at NYU we use Epsilen that integrates Wimba. Tani did a research project with a purely online course without a synchronous component, and there was limited student use of the voice-technology, due to fear of technology, it takes longer, background sounds, and the like. Tani created a brief eLearning session that demonstrated how to do this with voice and slides.

Cathy discussed online student services and the depth of these services compared to F2F services, and it seems this is a rich area for new research strands.

Cynthia then spoke about faculty and course programs. Really interesting statistics about how long it takes to get an online course material ready to go online (100 hours per faculty per course and 100 hours for tech support). I asked about this as an area for future research, in that universities do not compensate faculty for this extra (free) work, and students still pay the same amount for the learning (though they do not generally use the physical plant and facilities). From a critical theory perspective, I find this very troubling.

Rod is now speaking about social presence, and the emphasis on creating and supporting social presence and fostering online learning communities. The most effective place to facilitate online learning within a program is on the institutional (department) level. This helps to have a clear thread through the program and may help to build and support community. One of the challenges is for learners who prefer to have solitary learning, and this is another factor to consider with developing programs and setting expectations. At times, posting their own photos and speaking about their jobs and careers can set up a problematic status situation. Some really good questions that were raised about how online and distance education

Lynn is discussing the Community of Inquiry Model (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 2000), which is about the social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. Teaching presence usually includes course design, discourse facilitation, and direct instruction. For the design, she suggested to storyboard and think about the layout, student navigation, think of the users / audience. She then does all the assignments along with her own students, to show the students that she is part of their group. Ouch; how does she have the time? While I think it is important to try to have as much democratic exchanges as possible, the students and the instructors really are on different levels. She also spoke about the other components of this model, and it is something I think I want to know more about. She engages the students and is online almost all the time in the class; this seems to be overly teacher-focused or otherwise too much work rather than helping to empower the students to address their own issues and support them through the process. I wonder if this is what is really happening, but just not clearly stated? She does podcasting, online office hours, Happy Friday weekly letters, instant messages, chats, etc. This seems a bit too intense for practical application, andd while I am sure this helps along her students, it also seems to somehow make them expect her to help them facilitate their issues and struggles, rather than their beginning the process and struggling (learning?) a bit on their own and with their colleaguees first.

Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning?

I just read this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning, which discussed the initial results of a survey about distance learning.

Interesting findings:

  • more work with less compensation and respect for faculty
  • worse learning outcomes for learners

Honestly, the results do not surprise me. There is a lot more work with online and distance education, and there is not compensation for all these additional efforts. It is a great challenge to engage and maintain the attention of people without the benefit of body language to assess attention, mood, and questions. Fostering a sense of community and shared learning(?!); do not even get me started on these hurdles . . . 

Perhaps this demonstrates how those of us who work in distance education are still considered pioneers (martyrs?) for a changing learning modality? Perhaps institutions embraced distance learning too quickly without considering the additional financial and personnel support needed (beyond the pricy systems themselves)? Perhaps these are the normal growing pains involved in every major shift in teaching and learning?

Let’s face it, changing any aspect of the status quo (and higher education changes very very very very slowly) is a challenge, especially when there becomes more of a flattening of authority in education (the teacher no longer is in front, much of human knowledge is a few keystrokes away, etc.). Whatever the case, I am glad I teach and learn online, as the many benefits of it changes the very dynamics of adult learning itself.

Online Course Discussion Board / Forum Suggestions

I just read an interesting paper by Ben Plumpton at Open University, entitled How students can make conferencing work. While it is not a research paper, there are many practical suggestions in it that I am planning to use for my Principles and Practices of Online Course Creation and Instructional Design (PPOCCID) course that just began.  I have previously used discussion forums to support our weekly synchronous session, though will increasingly rely on them as a student will be joining the course who cannot attend any of the synchronous sessions, and I need to establish a course esprit de corps for our work.

Plumpton had me when one of his paper sections was titled “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM?), which is one of the more practical and pragmatic concepts I know and use in my classes. He is right, as he says (p. 2) about online conferencing (use of discussion boards / discussion forums):

  • You get support when you need it (in exchange for giving support to others);
  • You have a richer vein of experience to draw on, because you can pool examples, references etc;
  • Very often a group can produce better work than an individual. One person might put forward a thought or idea, often not completely formed or finished, someone else picks up on it and takes it forward, that sparks off more ideas in others, and between them the group creates something much better than any could have done on their own;
  • Learning by ‘talking’ is more powerful for most people than learning by reading – you think about things more deeply, and are likely to remember things better;
  • The best way to check your own understanding is to explain it to others. Explaining things for your fellow students is good practice for the kind of explanations you’ll probably have to do in assignments.

I am planning to discuss this paper with some colleagues this week (online, of course!), and hope to get more of an understanding of it in the process. Perhaps others may find this useful as well?

PPOCCID Class Begins Tonight

I am teaching PPOCCID (Principles and Practices of Online Course Creation and Instructional Design) again beginning this evening. I made the syllabus available for anybody who wants to see / use it (comments and feedback are very welcome!).

ppoccid screenshot

One of the ongoing assignments for my students will be to blog:

Course Blogs

Reflective Practice is a critical aspect of teaching and learning, and a fundamental element of teaching online involves acquiring a comfort with technology to communicate and collaborate.

Online learning is a more networked experience than traditional face-to-face (F2F) learning. Thus, students are required to use a blog for this course. Students may use their own blog (if they have one) or create a new one (Blogger,, or elsewhere). Blog posts should be done at least once a week discussing some learning or a reaction to anything in the course.

Making at least two comments every week on other course attendee blogs is required.

Let me set an example for our first posting!

List of Online Research Resources

One of the discussion lists I have recently started to follow, the one from the Association of Internet Researchers, had an email posting that I found very useful, and just received the author’s permission (via email) to repost (as it was not available online outside of its original archived posting). Thank you, Alecea Standlee (who is doing doctoral work at Syracuse University), for putting this together.

I am reposting this without making changes or alterations.



Chen, Shing-Ling, G. Jon Hall, and Mark D. Johns. 2003. Online Social Research: Methods, Issues, & Ethics. Peter Lang Pub Inc.

Dicks, Bella, and Bruce Mason. 2008.

“Hypermedia Methods for Qualitative Research.” P. 740 in HandBook of Emergant Methods, edited by Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber and Patricia Leavy. The Guilford Press.Fielding, Nigel. 2008. The Sage Handbook of Online Research Methods. Sage Publications (CA).

Hewson, Claire. 2008. “Internet-Mediated Research as an Emergent Method and Its Potential Role in Facilitating Mixed Methods Research.” P. 740 in HandBook of Emergant Methods, edited by Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber and Patricia Leavy. The Guilford Press.

Kazmer, Michelle, and BO Xie. 2008. “Qualitative Interviewing In Internet Studies: Playing with the media, playing with the method .” Information, Communication & Society 11:257-278.

Kendall, Lori. 2002. Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub: Masculinities and Relationships Online. University of California Press.

Knobel, Michele, Colin Lankshear, and Chris Bigum. 2007. A New Literacies Sampler. Peter Lang Publishing.

Mann, Chris, and Fiona Stewart. 2000. Internet Communication and Qualitative Research: A Handbook for Researching Online. 1st ed. Sage Publications Ltd.

Mulder, Ingrid, and Joke Kort. 2008. “Mixed Emotions, Mixed Methods: The Role of Emergent Technologies in Studying User Experience in Context.” P. 740 in HandBook of Emergant Methods, edited by Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber and Patricia Leavy. The Guilford Press.

Palgrave. 2005. Virtual Methods: Issues in Social Research on the Internet. 1st ed. Palgrave.

Additional readings

Anderson, Ben, and Karina Tracey. 2001. “Digital Living: The Impact (or Otherwise) of the Internet on Everyday Life.” American Behavioral Scientist 45:456-475.

Bakardjieva, Maria. 2005. Internet Society: The Internet in Everyday Life. London: SAGE.

Bargh, John A. , and Katelyn Y. A. McKenna. 2004. “The Internet and Social Life.” Annual Review of Psychology 55:573-590.

Boellstorff, Tom. 2008. Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton University Press.

Lévy, Pierre. 2001. Cyberculture. Minneapolis, Minn: University of Minnesota Press.

McKenna, Katelyn Y. A., and John A. Bargh. 1999. “Causes and Consequences of Social Interaction on the Internet: a Conceptual Framework.” Media Psychology 1.

Palfrey, John, and Urs Gasser. 2008. Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. Basic Books.

DiMaggio, Paul. Eszter Hargittai, W. Russell Neuman, and John P. Robinson. 2003. “Social Implications of the Internet.” Annual Review of Sociology 27:307-336.

Schaap, Frank. 2002. The Words that Took Us There.

Talamo, Alessandra , and Beatrice Ligorio. 2004. “Strategic Identities in Cyberspace.” CyberPsychology $ Behavior 4:109-122.

Thomas, Angela. 2007. Youth Online: Identity and Literacy in the Digital Age. Peter Lang Publishing.

Turkle, Sherry. 1997. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. Simon & Schuster.

Walker, Katherine. 2000. “”It’s Difficult to Hide It”: The Presentation of Self on Internet Home Pages.” Qualitative Sociology 23:99-120.

Wellman, Barry , Anabal Quan-Haase, Jeffrey Boase, and Wenhong Chen. 2003. “The Social Affordances of the Internet for Networked Individualism.” Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 8.


Ess, Charles, and Fay Sudweeks. 2001. Culture, Technology, Communication: Towards an Intercultural Global Village. State University of New York Press.

Kendall, Lori. 2002. Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub: Masculinities and Relationships Online. University of California Press.

Raacke, John, and Jennifer Bonds-Raacke. 2008. “MySpace and Facebook: Applying the Uses and Gratifications Theory to Exploring Friend-Networking Sites.” CyberPsychology $ Behavior 11:169-174.

General Cyber Theory

Cherny, Lynn, and Elizabeth Reba Weise eds. 1996. Wired Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seal Press.

Best, Steven, and Douglas Kellner. 2001. The Postmodern Adventure: Science, Technology, and Cultural Studies at the Third Millennium. 1st ed. The Guilford Press.

Burkhalter, Byron. 1999. “Reading Race online: Discovering Racial Idenity in Usenet Discussions..” P. 336 in Communities in Cyberspace, edited by Marc A. Smith and Peter Kollock.

Dyer-Witheford, Nick. 1999. Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism. University of Illinois Press.

Flanagan, Mary, and Austin Booth eds. 2002. Reload: Rethinking Women + Cyberculture. The MIT Press.

Huysman & V. Wulf (2004. Social Capital And Information Technology (Pp. 113-135). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Leung, Linda. 2005. Virtual Ethnicity: Race, Resistance And The World Wide Web. Ashgate Publishing.

Marshall, Jonathan Paul. 2007. Living on Cybermind: Categories, Communication, and Control. Peter Lang Publishing.

McLuhan, Marshall; Agel, Jerome. 1967. The Medium is the Message: an Inventory of Effects. Bantam Books.

Nakamura, Lisa. 2002. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. 1st ed. Routledge.

Nakamura, Lisa. 2007. Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet. Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Stone, Allucquère Rosanne. 1996. The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age. The MIT Press.


Rheingold, Howard. 2000. The Virtual Community.

Smith, Marc A., and Peter Kollock. 1999. Communities in Cyberspace.

Vangelisti, Anita L., Daniel Perlman, Jeffrey Boase, and Barry Wellman, eds. 2006. “Personal Relationships: On And Off The Internet.” P. 914 in The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships. Cambridge University Press.

Wellman, Barry , Janet Salaff, et al. 2003. “Computer Networks as Social Networks: Collaborative Work, Telework, and Virtual Community.” Annual Review of Sociology 22:213-238.


Perhaps having this more readily available, it may help some researchers (or budding researchers) out there.

Let’s see, what can we add . . .