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Chapter Notes: Small Teaching Online

Notes on Small Teaching Online (Word Version)

Introduction

  1. Challenge of online courses: Difficulty logging in, accessing the course, knowing how to navigate the course, no familiar educational norms, not sure how to engage with content, no one there in real time that students can ask for help
  2. Characteristics of successful online learners: organized, good at planning, good at time management, disciplined, aware of the need to seek help, resilient
  3. Premises of Small Teaching (Lang):
    1. Paying attention to small, everyday decisions we make in teaching represents our best route to successful learning
    2. We should make these decisions based on research and UDL.

 

Part 1: Designing for Learning

Chapter 1: Surfacing Backward Design

In Theory

Backward Design

  1. Where do we want to go?
  2. How will we know if we’ve arrived?
  3. What will we need to help us get there?

Online instruction lacks the opportunities for reminding students about larger purposes of the course (filtering these out on a screen, p.10), so online instructors must work harder to make these transparent.

Models (and Quick Tips)

  1. Begin work on the final assessments in Week 1
  2. Make the purposes of class activities and assignments explicit: Clear rationale and instructions (e.g., TILT):
    1. Here’s what I want you to do
    2. Here’s why I want you to do it
    3. Here’s how to do it
  3. Have students reflect on and respond to learning objectives
  4. Look back, look ahead (Three Takeaways assignment)

Principles

  1. Design with the end in mind
  2. Provide frequent reminders of the purpose of content and activities
  3. Point students back to the core objectives
  4. Connect beginning and ending

Chapter 2: Guided Learning through Engagement

In Theory

Scaffolding and Formative Feedback

Models (and Quick Tips)

  1. Break down complex tasks (focus on process and offer checklists, create mini-assignments)
  2. Release content strategically: conditional release (CR) or adaptive release (on Blackboard; don’t overuse)
  3. Scour class interactions for cues re student understanding and interest
  4. Provide module discussion highlights

Principles

  1. Break down complex tasks
  2. Notice and respond to cues
  3. Give feedback – frequently

Chapter 3: Using Media and Technology Tools

In Theory

Don’t get sidetracked by bells and whistles; be intentional in use of tech (form follows function)

Models (and Quick Tips)

  1. Create short lecture videos – no longer than 6 minutes – with captions, transcripts, or text-based outlines; to increase re-usability, do not date or connect to heavily to other videos (e.g., remember when we….)
  2. Spur engagement with online content – add accountability through assessments
  3. Leverage video for spontaneous updates – record spontaneous teachable moments
  4. Source existing media
  5. Find the right tech for the job

Principles

  1. Identify the objectives
  2. First, do no harm
  3. Provide alternative means of access

 

Part 2: Teaching Humans

Chapter 4: Building Community

In Theory

  1. Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1935): The space between the student’s current state of knowledge and the potential state of knowledge they might achieve with the help of peers. An essential part of a student’s movement to the next level is observation of others, collaboration, and imitation of those who have reached the next level. Students need connections and community – the presence of their peers and instructor.
  2. Community of Inquiry: (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 1999)
    1. Cognitive Presence: The extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication.
    2. Social Presence: “the ability of participants in the community of inquiry to project their personal characteristics into the community.”
    3. Teaching Presence: “to support and enhance social and cognitive presence for the purpose of realizing educational outcomes.”

Models (and Quick Tips)

  1. Require peer-to-peer interactions (discussion board, small group discussion projects, introductions)
  2. Show up to class frequently: Post announcements engage in online discussions, provide timely feedback
  3. Prior to first day, post some information about who you are as a person
  4. Develop your cultural awareness – strive for inclusivity
  5. Cultivate and demonstrate genuine caring for your students (flexibility, oops tokens)

Principles

  1. Create zones of proximal development
  2. Establish teaching presence
  3. Support social presence

Chapter 5: Giving Feedback

In Theory

Feedback can be used to justify grades (summative) and provide instructions for improvement informative). Feedback should be timely and provide clear directions for improvement.

Models (and Quick Tips)

  1. Set deadlines strategically – both from the students’ perspective and your own.
  2. Have real-time, just-in-time conversations by phone or video.
  3. Be creative with virtual office hours (rebrand them, announce them ahead of time, use doodle, ask students to submit questions ahead of time, offer incentives, such as extra points – as long as you offer alternative ways to earn these for students who can’t attend).
  4. Use tech to streamline grading (rubrics).
  5. Give meaningful comments via media tools (audio and video feedback

Principles

  1. Be timely and responsive.
  2. Take advantage of the tech.
  3. Put yourself in your students’ shoes.

Chapter 6: Fostering Student Persistence and Success

In Theory

Dweck’s Mindset Theory – Learning benefits from effort, persistence, and reflection and reminders of this need to be embedded in your course. (Videos)

Models (and Quick Tips)

  1. Nudge targeted students, i.e., those in need of extra support.
  2. Assign a Goals Contract.
  3. Use mastery quizzes to demonstrate mastery of foundational concepts.
  4. Scaffold assignments to build self-efficacy.

Principles

  1. Help students commit to, and achieve, success.
  2. Provide lots of structure.
  3. Create the personal touch.

 

Part 3: Motivating Online Students (and Instructors)

Overarching Theory: Pekrun’s Control-Value Theory of Achievement Emotions

Chapter 7: Creating Autonomy

In Theory

The Meaningful Writing Project (Eodice, Geller, and Lerner, 2016) reports the result of a survey that asked students what made writing assignments meaningful. Their results identified three features: regular engagement with peers, the instructor, and content; connections between course work and their own experiences; and, agency—having some sense of control over their learning. Darby and Lang focus on autonomy rather than agency, as they see it as a broader term that includes students’ “awareness of themselves as independent learners show have both the responsibility and control of their own learning” (p. 160).

Models (and Quick Tips)

  1. Offer choice in online discussions (multiple topics s and prompts).
  2. Create self-enrolled scaffolded groups (include support structures).
  3. Apply specifications grading (all or nothing).
  4. Annotate, tweak, and co-design your syllabus.

Principles

  1. Offer choice to increase learner agency.
  2. Foster independence.
  3. Hold students accountable for their work.

Chapter 8: Making Connections

In Theory

Students need support and frameworks for organizing knowledge (Ambrose et al., 2010) both across course content and from content to their experiences.

Models (and Quick Tips)

  1. Activate prior knowledge (short pre-tests).
  2. Provide the framework (partial outlines or slides).
  3. Assign concept maps to help students connect ideas.
  4. Relate learning to personal experience, outside interests, and goals (take advantage of opportunities to extend resources by asking students to post some).
  5. Assign personal learning networks (cultivate a web of people and resources).

Principles

  1. Tap into prior experience.
  2. Provide organizing structure.
  3. Foster (unlooked-for) connections.

 

Chapter 9: Developing as an Online Instructor

In Theory

Reasons for growing as an instructor? Avoiding burnout and to contribute to a fast-growing field of teaching and research.

Models (and Quick Tips)

  1. Take an online class.
  2. Seek exemplars (models and examples of best practices).
  3. Build self-efficacy (make changes slowly).
  4. Certify your course design and teaching for quality.
  5. Pursue resources such as books, websites, podcasts, conferences, etc.

Principles

  1. Critically examine your online teaching practice.
  2. Make time to grow.
  3. Seek to energize yourself.

 

 

 

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