Baloo | Broadcast
"Be a torchbearer"
During the actual time you are teaching or "broadcasting" your course, there are many things to consider. How will you communicate effectively with your students? What will you do to ensure the integrity of your exams? How will students know how to reach you when they have questions about your course content? How will you establish your presence in the course?
Learning Design will help you answer these questions and others that may arise during your course. Here are some tips to get you started:
There are several elements of communication important to student success in online learning environments. Communicating the following elements, for example, are crucial.
- How are assignments collected, graded, and returned?
- What policies are in place regarding the participation, submission of assignments, academic integrity, etc.?
- What is the instructor’s expectation of how students will perform, communicate, and participate?
- What can students expect in return from the instructor?
- How should students contact the instructor and what is the preferred method?
- What student support (e.g. technology, library, tutoring) can students expect to have access to?
Communication should not be a one-way conversation. Students need a voice to be fully engaged in any learning environment – online or traditional. Research suggests that online students are more likely to become disengaged from a course if they do not have regular and meaningful communication with both their instructor and peers (Bajjaly, 2005). Creating opportunities for student-instructor and student-student interactions are crucial to success in online courses. With these ideas in mind, here are some strategies to consider to increase the quality and quantity of communication between students and the instructor and among students.
- Begin the course with introductions, including information about yourself.
- Use both asynchronous (e.g. discussion boards, email) and synchronous (live video conferencing, live chat, phone calls, live virtual office hours) to accommodate a variety of learning styles.
- Use structured discussion boards that allow students to engage in dialog and socialize with their peers. Additional discussion boards can be used by students to post questions when they need help.
- Establish groups in the learning management system (Canvas) early on and set guidelines for group tasks such as requiring groups to meet weekly to discuss their group project/assignment, assigning tasks/roles among group members, and discussing how the group will present information to the rest of the class.
- Explain how course assessments (i.e. assignments, projects, quizzes and tests) align to course outcomes.
- Moderate but don’t dominate online discussions.
- Listen to what students are saying to their peers and to you as their instructor. Students need to know their voice is being heard.
Baylor University faculty have the opportunity to utilize fully online-only test proctoring services to ensure integrity of online exams. These services give students the opportunity to take tests from any remote location using their own web cameras while being proctored or recorded in real-time. Each service offers a variety of test proctoring options ranging from lockdown browsers to live online proctoring. Visit the Online Test Proctoring website to learn more about Baylor University’s online proctoring options.
Office hours are important for student learning. Traditionally office hours have taken place face-to-face and can be limited by conflicting instructor-student schedules and student participation. In the online environment virtual office hours allow instructors and students a time and virtual place to meet for the same types of discussions that could occur during face-to-face office hours. Some of the benefits of virtual office hours are:
- Office hours can take place at more popular times, such as later in the evening, when more students can attend. Additionally, students can “pop” online when their actually working on homework, ask a quick question and go back to work.
- The instructor does not have to be on campus for office hours.
- You can archive the discussions and students can go back through the conversation if they need clarification or want to review the material under consideration. Likewise, students who did not participate in the conversation have access to the material.
- Instructors can cut down on having to reply to multiple emails with the same question or on the same topic. It also assures students of a timely response.
- Students can all be active participants, instead of waiting in a line outside your office door.
- Offers the whole class a chance to see what types of questions individual students are asking.
- Privacy. Online office hours can be just between the instructor and one student.
Canvas provides a suite of online tools to facilitate teaching online courses. All Baylor instructors are provided Canvas course sites automatically.
The following Canvas tools can be used to help facilitate virtual office hours and other online communication with students.
- Conferences allow you to upload files (ppt, word, pdf, etc.), access to a digital whiteboard as well as video and audio features.
- Scheduler is part of the Calendar in Canvas. It allows faculty to create blocks of time that students can sign up for, which can help to better manage online hours.
- Chat provides a way to conduct real time conversations with history. This feature can be used for online discussions that will allow students to go back and review material after the conversation has ended.
- Discussions is an easy to use tool that provide FAQ’s for a course, especially useful in large courses, and can help to cut down on repeat questions and answers that frequently occur via email.
There are many commercial solutions to holding office hours online. A few of the more popular options are as follows. It should be noted that Baylor does not offer support for these tools.
- Google Hangouts (limited to 10-15 people) offers free video conferencing
- Skype (professional, associated fee) offers screen sharing and group calls with a limited number of people
- join.me and GoToMeeting (formerly Jive Chime) are two products that offer screen and multimedia sharing as well as group conferencing
Materials adapted from The University of Washington website.
It is critical that your students know you are active throughout the course – that you didn’t just “turn it on”! Here are some suggestions for maintaining Presence throughout the semester.
It helps form a connection between you and your students when they can see you and get a sense of your personality. One way to do that is to create a short 3-5 minute video each week. It does not need to be formal – it works better in fact if it is not. You can use a webcam or your phone to record it. Then talk about current happenings, summarize some major trends you saw in projects that have been submitted, give a quick preview of the upcoming week, etc. You don’t need to edit it. In the example below, I did add a border with Cyberlink’s Power Director.
There are many ways that you can provide feedback other than just using the formal gradebook entry and text notes features in Canvas. You can insert an audio comment or even a video file to make your feedback seem more personalized. You can also send an email with a special note. For more comprehensive projects, you might even want to schedule a live video chat with each student depending on your class size.
You may also wish to pick the best project out of the group, ask that person for permission to share it, and then publicly include it as an example to praise in an announcement. (If the same person keeps doing the best work, choose someone else’s so that a variety of people get a pat on the back.)
Hopefully, at the beginning of class you created a bond with your students by introducing yourself (not just the class, but you as a person) and asking them to introduce themselves. If so, then you can periodically send an email that relates to some of the information you learned – i.e. ask how their daughter’s wedding was if they mentioned it was happening, send congratulations if their school’s team won a big sporting event, wish them well on an upcoming interview, etc. If they email you and say they are sick then follow-up to show you care by sending them a quick praying for you note. The more you are invested in their lives, within limits of course, the better chance you have of keeping them active in the course as well.