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.

 

First Steps into Learning & Teaching in Higher Education Begins #fslt12

I am planning to attend the First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education massive open online course (mooc) that begins today and runs through June 22. Focused on “new lecturers, people entering higher education teaching from other sectors and postgraduate students who teach,” I am hoping to spend some time over the next few weeks on this to help my own online teaching, something I learned quite informally in the early days of online teaching and learning.

Participating in this as a mooc, one that is both structured (it is funded and offers formal university education) while also keeping the best elements of a mooc (open education, constructionist perspectives through leveled expertise, a schedule allowing for us to take what we need and share where we see a need, a workable timeline and realistic level of commitment, and the opportunity to meet new colleagues and learn in community), is what I am hoping to experience.

I am glad that the organizers of this mooc have a central “home” location on the website and via Moodle with an easy to follow schedule, so will begin to check them out later today.

While I have participated in several moocs over the years, I am looking forward to this one as the topic is specific, useful for my professional practice, limited in scope and time, and includes some people (Jenny Mackness and Sylvia Currie) whose work I have long since found valuable and solid and cutting edge and trustworthy. I hope to get and share some ideas and hopefully expand my own network of colleagues.

 

Networked Learning Conference – Synchronous Discussion on November 20

The Hot Seats series of online discussions preceding the 2012 Networked Learning Conference will have a synchronous discussion with Terry Anderson & Jon Dron (both at Athabasca University) on Sunday, November 20, at 1:00 MST via Blackboard Collaborate to begin their week of asynchronous discussion, “Nets, sets and groups. Different tools for different contexts.”

As some of the emphasis in the #nlc2012 overlaps that of the #change11 MOOC, I am looking forward to seeing how they complement one another and help me to move my research along. I hope to see some of my colleagues there!

 

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.

 

Online Course Creation–Issues Debrief

My Online Course Design class met for the first time last night, and I think it went somewhat well (though it would probably be best to ask my students their thoughts about this!). I used (and am continuing to experiement with) an online adapted version of Stephen Brookfield’s Critical Incident Questionnaire, so will code the results for next week and try to understand more about their perceptions. More about this additional project later.

Overall, I was happy with how the technology (and my teaching, of course!) worked. While the NYU online course system is brand new (the Epsilen Environment), there are a few items that arose that I need to address to try to understand them a little better. I already emailed our technical people about them, and hopefully they will be able to help me determine how to use them better or otherwise open them as help desk tickets or enhancement requests:

  1. Attendance. I took attendance on paper and could not figure out how to enter this into the system afterward. I wonder if this had to be done in real time?
  2. File / Application Sharing. I was able to upload my PowerPoint slides, though when I shared a Word file (and in fact the entire Word application, I believe) I could not tell I was being shared nor could I determine if my students were still able to hear me. I am not sure if I missed the indicators that these were still happening, but I had to go back to the online course screen several times (3, to be precise) to ask my students if they could still see and hear. On top of all this, it seems this did not get recorded in the course archive, so I do not have any direct way of knowing what the experience was like.
  3. Webcam. I tried to use my webcam, though it cast a greenish / yellowing / ghoulish complexion. True, I do try to stay out of the sun, but I do not look like that! Disatisfied with how my laptop’s webcam looks and how crisp and clear everybody else was, I just ordered a new one (Logitech QuickCam Orbit AF) this morning and will receive it on Friday. As one of my students commented about how a webcam helps to maintain attention during a class, I think I need to pay more attention to having a good one that works well.
  4. Share a Web Link. I had trouble sharing a web link. I believe it opened in another window, though as it did not pop-up and come to the front (such as happens with WebEx), I could not be certain that it happened.
  5. Student Names. Probably one of the strangest open issues (that has already been reported to the vendor) involves seeing the student names in the class. They are not visible as names–only as usernames! Correct–I cannot determine who is present by seeing their names, so have to see the usernames and then look at my printed paper to link them up with their real names. I see this as being a strangely anachronistic issue, one that is problematic for me as class facilitator and problematic for the students as we are now part of a class learning community.

As blogging (either private or public) is a course requirement, I am trying to model something about what I am hoping for my students to do. We will eventually have a discussion about ethics, privacy, public persona, Googleability, etc., though I generally do my best to share my thoughts and experiences via my blog without being overly critical or personally confrontational. Hopefully this will maintain (or even increase!) my credibility as a teaching and learning professional.