Saturday, December 22, 2007

When It's All Said and Done...

The Fall 2007 semester has come to an end, and with it my section of ENG 111 Online.

I'm happy to report that all the online students' portfolios I submitted passed!

(For more information on my department's portfolio process, check out this link. Keep in mind that the portfolio process for online classes is a little different.)

Looking back, there are only a few changes I would make to the online class:

1.) Use a screen capture lecture with audio to better help students understand the layout of the course and my expectations, which I AM doing right now as I'm developing my section of ENG 112 Online.

2.) Post more on the Discussion Board during the week. Every day I checked the Discussion Board, but I didn't post but maybe once or twice on each thread b/c I really wanted students to rely on each other for the discussion, not me. However, I noticed that when I did post students did seem more engaged and the discussion really went to the next level.

3.) Create a screen capture of how to use a wiki so students better understand what the is purpose of the wiki and to teach them how to use a wiki. I DID add this to my screen capture on the course expectations for ENG 112, so I'm excited to see how students respond to wikis this semester.

4.) Figure out how peer review online could be more meaningful. The majority of the students didn't like peer review if it meant posting a paragraph to the Discussion Board or using Word's Comment feature. I'm very open to ideas on how to get students (online and f2f!) engaged in peer review.

Besides those 4 things, I'm really happy with how the class went. Once I got a feel for online teaching, I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of the experience. I plan to teach more online courses in the future.

The one piece of advice that I can give future online teachers is: DON'T do it because you think it's going to be easy. Grading essays online takes a lot more time than grading them in person. I had to keep reminding myself that I couldn't really use the codes I do on f2f students' essays and I had to better explain what I meant in each comment b/c I couldn't "talk through my ideas" in a classroom setting, like I do when I give my f2f students back their rough drafts and final drafts. So, be ready for longer grading sessions. It's important to take the time and provide very specific, detailed comments, so online students can understand exactly what you mean and learn from the comments without any verbal explanation. It's strange, but once I got used to it, I liked it. It taught me a lot about my teaching style and helped me articulate more clearly what I feel is essential to academic writing.

I'm excited to teach ENG 112 online. 112 is the research writing part of the composition program here at BGSU. We spend a lot of time teaching what are credible academic sources, how to find those sources, and how to synthesize sources in order to create intelligent academic writing. As I've been creating the Blackboard shell for 112 Online, I've been realizing that 112 is perfect for online courses! I've been creating assignments that allow students to make more use of online medias. I feel confident doing this b/c by now students have a grasp on argumentative writing, so now I can focus more on finding sources online and doing activities that encourage students to think about those sources and how technology influences/contributes to those sources.

I promise share some of my ideas once I iron the out after the semester begins.

During the interim, have a great holiday season!

Monday, November 5, 2007

I've Hit My Stride

Here we are in the beginning of Week 12, and classes are going great, especially my ENG 111 Online Class.

The Online students and I are working well in our class weekly routine, and I'm excited to report that they have figured out the wiki and are posting to it.

Also, I've noticed lately that the Online students have been having stronger and stronger online discussion via the Discussion Board. I'm really proud of the way articulate their own thoughts and respond to one another by addressing specific ideas in a response or raising thoughtful questions to the post.

Two weeks ago, my f2f classes had an online discussion regarding a sample essay, and I found that their responses were more thoughtful and articulate (probably because they had more time to think about the essay and respond to it when they were ready--right after or a few hours after reading, not when I beckoned them in class...), and they responded to each other in more detail than they do during our in-class discussions, which I assume is because students feel less shy with a computer screen facing them rather than 22 students and their instructor.

Based on this info, I'm leaning towards using the Discussion Board for reading discussions in my f2f classes. I would assign them for homework and use the free time in class for working more with audience and counterargument or in-class writing. I've heard that quite a few teachers use the DB for reading discussions, so I feel kind of behind the times. I guess I just had to come to that realization on my own.

As for planning for ENG 112 Online, I say, "Bring it on!" My ups and downs with ENG 111 Online have really helped me see what is feasible for future online classes and what I can expect from online students. I really want to take 112 to the next level, though.

On top of doing screen capture lectures of my course expectations, wiki directions, and blog directions, I really want to create assignments that take advantage of our online medium. For Essay 4, the big 8-10 page researched essay, I'd like students to do some kind of online presentation at the end of it. I'm thinking something along the lines of a blog post, wiki presentation, or, if students have the devices, a YouTube video or a You3B compilation.

Check out this great video on YouTube:

(Thanks to Terence for showing it to me!)

Of course, whatever medium a student chooses to use, I'd like to see a written text accompany the visual text. I don't want the paper word-for-word, but rather a summary of the paper and a reflection on the writing process and how the essay has affected the student or what more work the student sees ahead of him/her in regards to this topic--some kind of extension of the topic or connection of the topic to the student's life.

I'm still working through the details of this ENG 112 presentation assignment. I'll be excited to see the end result.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Going Into Week 8--A Midterm Reflection

I was having my doubts that students in my online class were really excited about our class and its layout.

I've been proven wrong again. (I'm enjoying learning to accept being wrong.)

For Week 7's Blog Prompt, I asked students, "What is your response to our online class thus far? What aspects are beneficial to you? What suggestions do have?" Their feedback overwhelmed me with happiness.

According to their responses, they really enjoy the class and feel it is well-organized. Additionally, they like participating on the Discussion Board and find the lecture/reading quizzes "helpful." YES!!!

The two suggestions I got were regarding peer review and wikis. Students, in general, seem resistant to peer review. But I always try to communicate that it's about learning how to apply what you've learned about writing when you read someone else's essay and that peer review teaches us to reflect on our own writing, even more so than feedback from a professor. I do agree that I could add a podcast lecture explaining the importance of peer review and how to get the most out of it, which I plan to do in all future online classes.

As for Wikis, I think students will become more responsive to them as they find Wikis more and more creeping their ways into classrooms. Out of all of the "new" technologies, I think that is the one that is the most foreign to students, and that is the reason why they resist it. I've revised my wiki Front Page by adding more explanation about wikis and a video to help students learn how to use it. Beyond that, I'm not sure what else to do to promote the effectiveness and coolness of wikis. Any ideas?

All in all, I'm quite pleased with how the ENG 111 Online class is proceeding. I have been a little anxious lately because I felt like my students were confused and frustrated with the layout and "new" technologies, but hearing that they really enjoy the class and enjoy learning about "new" technologies has really eased my worries.

I think, too, a lot of my anxiety came from this being the first time I have taught online. It's so different from face-to-face because the interaction is so limited. Adjusting to limited interaction has been a challenge for me, especially because I am a physically expressive person, but my effort to develop a personal professional relationship with each student has made a difference. I think consistent personal emails with prompt responses to questions and progress reports in addition to showing my availability through Meebo has made a big difference. Most important, though, is more clearly stating my expectations for the course. I have no doubts that is the key to a strong online course, which is why I am so excited to do screen capture lectures to explain the "new" technologies and show exactly what I expect students in the course to do each week.

The whole teaching online process feels much like when I first started teaching composition: I was excited and nervous then frustrated then reflective then revisionary then starting-to-get-the-hang-of-it then revisionary then pretty good. Online teaching is a different kind of teaching one must prepare herself/himself for. I felt prepared in terms of my syllabus, course work, and technology knowledge, but I wish I would have had more training regarding how to interact with students and help them feel part of a community like a face-to-face classroom. Don't get me wrong, IDEAL did cover student issues during training, but I suggest there be more ways of showing how to establish personal connections with students besides the Virtual Cafe on the Discussion Board. Though, this does seem like something that develops naturally over time...

I've been thinking about how Facebook creates a tight-knit community, but it seems that students already know people on Facebook--they don't go there to meet new peers. I just can't stop thinking about the possible ways online teachers could learn how to create a more personable online classroom using Facebook as an example. I'm still working through these thoughts, but I wonder what others have to say about the topic...

Overall, I'm excited that my students are excited about the online class, and I'm learning a lot from our class, which is helping me develop ENG 112 Online.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Week 6 Reflection

By Week 6 I was hoping that my online students would be adjusted to our class' module and schedule of work. Unfortunately, only a few have seemed to grasp the open-ended-ness our our module--that all work must be completed by Friday at 11:59 p.m.

In the Achievement Requirements (AR), which students read Week 1, I explicitly explained how I expected students to approach each week's work and how to appropriately divide up that work. Unlike other online classes that give each task a due date, I explained in the AR that students should do the work according to their schedules and to approach a schedule like so: Monday for Lectures, Reading, and Quizzes, Wednesday for Discussion Boards and Wikis, and Friday for Blogs. But still the majority of students seem to have a hard time understanding each week's work (even though the organization of tasks are the exact same EVERY week and they perform these tasks EVERY week) and completing assignments by Friday at 11:59 p.m. It seems like students are picking and choosing what work they "feel" like doing. This is problem I have been addressing since Week 1, but to no avail.

To address this issue, I have sent individualized emails further explaining (strictly but kindly) my expectations to students who are having a hard time completing the work. When that didn't seem to work, I sent group emails (again in an authoritative tone that was stern AND encouraging), not naming students who weren't doing work but calling attention again to my expectations, hoping to get everyone on the same page. And when that hasn't seemed to work, I wrote an authoritatively detached email (that I also posted as an announcement) that students who fail to complete ALL of the week's work will be considered absent, and three absences will result in a portfolio not being submitted and an NR grade in the class.

I'm frustrated I had to resort to a "threat," but I can't figure out how else to motivate certain students in an online class setting. I can't understand why some of these students are in an online class, but they don't want to do the work of an online class.

For the ENG 112 course I am creating, I'm going to more strongly and clearly state my course expectations. Not only in the AR but also I plan to create a screen capture of a week's module, explain how to manage the module and break it down into times, and demonstrate how to use all of the Web 2.0 technologies like creating a blog and using a blog as well as how to use a wiki.

Some of my students are still resisting the wiki. I've revised the wiki assignments twice and even included a how-to video on wikis, and still there is resistance.

Am I using "too new" of Web 2.0 apps? I don't think so. I always thought my students were way more techie than me. But I may be very wrong.

Or I may be seeing that the resistance to these new technologies is a resistance to change in distance education and/or a resistance to students comprehending that online classes aren't "easy" or "no- brain-ers."

When I do become frustrated, I think about what I would change and how I would change and jot down the ideas so I can carry them through in my 112 class.

And I say to myself, "Thank God ENG 111 Online is a pilot course..."

Saturday, September 1, 2007

More on 112 Development

I spent the majority of the day working on my course shell for ENG 112.

I'm excited because I got pretty far--up to Week 8 (three paper cycles).

The biggest challenge I experienced was working with the new text From Inquiry to Academic Writing. If I could have relied on my syllabi from past semesters, I would be done developing the 112 course. However, because I chose to use a new text, I've been spending a lot of time reading the text and then creating coursework that works with the text and reinforces its lessons.

A Smart Move: I've been keeping a cheat sheet of what I want to do a couple of weeks before the class goes live. It's really helped me see what I have left to do and keep track of ideas for what I should do.

Reflection on Week 2

The ENG 111 Online Class is going really well!

This week's Discussion Question regarding possible topics for Essay 1 was outstanding! My students not only thought of really interesting topics, such as the kindergarten birthday cut-off dates and how it affects children with disabilities in addition to policies regarding sexual predators, but also they responded quite intelligently to one another's ideas. It was fabulous!

Despite the progress reports I sent last week, still I have two students who are not pulling their weight and doing the coursework. I'm not sure if this is because they are first-year students and haven't taken an online class before or if it is because they don't understand the tasks I have asked them to complete.

I've been sending personal emails to both of these students to "check up" on them, but haven't heard a response from either. I'm concerned for them because I don't want to see them fail just because they didn't do the coursework but they did do the essays. As a last resort I have "First Alerted" them--a program we have a BGSU to inform advisors of students' behaviors during the first few weeks, so they can help the students.

Rough drafts are due next week, so I shall see...

The two most interesting facts about this week is that almost all of my students did NOT do the Wiki assignment I included in the coursework. I'm thinking my directions weren't clear enough or they could not access Writeboard. (I tried from many other computers and it was hard to access...As of now, I much prefer PBWiki!) I emailed my class to figure out the problem so I could right it and we could continue to use Wikis in our class. Also, 2/3 of the students did not post to their blogs this week.

Full moon or laziness?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Development for ENG 112 Online

The development of the ENG 112 Online Course is going a little more slowly than I had hoped.

I picked a new textbook, which is fantastic (!). However, reading it and re-structuring assignments around it is consuming much of my time right now.

My goal is to get pretty far on it over the Labor Day weekend.

Reflection on Week 1

Through a Discussion Board thread on Blackboard I created called "Virtual Cafe," I met all of the students enrolled in my ENG 111 Online Class.

Most seem nice, diligent, and eager to learn in an online environment. Though I have two students who showed up the "first day" to introduce themselves and didn't complete the rest of the week's coursework.

To make sure each student knows where they stand in the class, I crafted weekly progress reports and sent them to the students via email. Obviously, I wrote a very firm email to the two who didn't complete their work; I explained the importance of doing the work and the repercussions for not completing the work (which is portfolios aren't automatically submitted, which means not completing work could result in not passing the course). In my progress reports to the other students, I praised them for aspects of the class they are succeeding in and suggested one way they could improve their online participation.

Based on their Discussion Board posts regarding the Discussion Questions, I feel their responses are a little on the brief side. So most of my suggestions on the progress reports asked the students to develop their ideas more with specific examples and support.

I particularly was excited to read the students' blogs. Each week I give students a prompt to respond to on their own blog. Then on Sundays, I read their blogs and comment on them. Again, the posts to the blogs seem a little on the short side, but it is the first week. I think students will start posting more when they get into the throes of the semester and have more to respond to.

In terms of the workload of teaching online, I find that as long as I stick to a schedule, I don't feel overwhelmed. I check the Discussion Board and Gradebook on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and this task normally takes me an hour or two depending on how many comments I make or how much work students have posted. Then I worked Sunday morning for about 2 1/2 hours, documenting all of the work that was completed by the due date (Fridays by 11:59 p.m.), writing progress emails, and commenting on blogs and Discussion board posts.

Overall, I'm really pleased with the work I'm seeing, and I look forward to reading the students' essay within the upcoming weeks.

To view some of my students' blogs, check out these links:
Creations by Rose

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's A Go!

My online class has 8 students, and I got official word it's going to run this semester!

I can't find language for how relieved and excited I am!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Update 8/10/07

As of today I have six students enrolled in my ENG 111 Online course, according to my roster available through Blackboard.

And as of today I haven't gotten any news either way for if I'm teaching it or if its getting cut, which I see as a positive. (No news equals good news.)

I'm continuing to work on my ENG 112 online class, but the process is slow. I've been trying to decide on a textbook for the course. I think the one that I have been using is a bit outdated. My only problem is I haven't come across any other texts that seem "right" either. This road block has let to me a standstill. I need to figure out the text so I can revise the assignments, create reading discussions for the Discussion Board, and brainstorm ideas for incorporating multimedias with the readings.

Any recommendations for Research Writing texts that include information on Source Synthesis?

Thinking Along the Same Lines

I just read this recent post on TerenceOnline.

I agree with Dr. Mark David Milliron's thoughts.

My only concern is how to overcome the resistance to online education.

I'd like to know some strategies for helping aboard those who are resistant. Any ideas?

Friday, August 3, 2007

PB Wiki is Awesome!

The more I play around on PB Wiki, the more teaching ideas I'm getting.

I think it might be the best wiki choice--for teachers, students, or onliners.

One of its coolest features: You can subscribe to it, which gives you up-to-the-minute edits.

Very cool.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Bad News and Good News

I'll start with the bad news.

Because of low enrollment, there's a very, very huge chance that my online class that I have discussed in this blog is going to be cut from this Fall's Schedule of Classes.

To say the least, I'm not happy. I worked really hard to make the online course multi-dimensional and engaging. My goal was the make this course as personable and challenging as my f2f classes, and I met that goal. My dream is to see it run. I'm saying prayers and keeping my fingers crossed.

I just hadn't thought about low enrollment until I talked with my boss a few weeks ago. In order for students to enroll in the online class, they must meet certain requirements: one is that they must be a.) a student who needs the class b/c his/her schedule doesn't work with a f2f class, b.) an adult learner who is taking classes through Continuing Ed, c.) a commuter or d.) a student who has not taken the class before f2f and not passed it. Once the student's information is verified, then he/she goes through an online screening process to make sure he/she effectively can complete online tasks. Though I fully understand the intentions behind the requirements and screening process, I feel like more students would be enrolled if the requirements were a more open to on-campus students who might have a job and/or activities that an online class would benefit. Heck, it would be great if any on-campus, commuter, and distant learner could easily enroll in the class. I really believe that any student would comprehend the work load and be able to navigate Blackboard after one week in my online class, which makes me wonder if the screening process is completely necessary. Without the screening process, I feel more students would register for the class because it would be one less step to worry about. Again, I fully understand that the intention of the screening process is to weed out students who want an easy way out of a required course. However, I firmly believe any student who registered in my online class b/c he/she thought it would be easier than attending class would find out quite quickly the first week that I expect a lot from my online students, just as much as my f2f students.

I support my department. Period. I just wonder if there are revisions that could be made to the registration of online classes in order to encourage enrollment. Online classes are the way of the future. I seriously learned so much from the online class I took through IDEAL (in order to train instructors to teach online) that I wish my graduate program would have had online classes. I would have taken them. And I bet I would have retained more from my program than I did.

While thinking about the merits of online teaching, I decided that the #1 benefit of teaching writing online is that writing is the main form of communication! How perfect, huh? Students learn even more about writing as they write discussion board responses, collaborative suggestions, feedback to peers, emails to the instructor and peers, etc. Talk about applying what a student learns about audience, tone, focus, etc.! Online classes are a valuable and progressive learning environment, especially those, like mine, that incorporate Web 2.0 technologies to keep students alert and challenged and those that take online learning seriously by clearly stating student expectations and responsibilities. In fact, I bet a lot of students experience more hands-on learning online than in a classroom where the temperature in the room might be too hot or too cold, where a student might be tempted to stare out the window daydreaming about tonight's plans while the instructor writes on the board, where making a good impression on the cute person in the next seat over is more important than the day's lesson, where some students even SLEEP. I remember being a student quite vividly. Hence, I did not retain a lot of lessons from my grad school courses, or more so, my undergrad courses. I had other things going on. I was at class, but most times my mind was somewhere else. Maybe I would be an even smarter teacher and person if I could have had online classes that let me learn when I was focused and ready to learn. At some point students have to learn to be responsible for their learning. Online classes makes them responsible for learning and taking their education into their own hands. How rad!

Online classes are the wave of the future, and I just feel that if my university plans on keeping up with the times, then every department needs to have a few online classes and inform instructors and professors about the usefulness of technology. Otherwise, more and more students are going to be daydreaming and sleeping while instructors try desperately to figure out how they can keep their students' attentions.

I promise to reveal the results once I find them out. Please keep your fingers crossed.

In the Spring I hope to teach the researched writing course online. I'm beginning to work on that course now, so expect more frequent posts. I'm excited about developing that course online b/c it has great potential for tying in multi-medias and even more Web 2.0 applications.

And now for even more good news: My "intro to the essay" videos are edited and uploaded to uTube. Check them out! I'm really pleased with the fabulous work! Thank you so much Terence and Michael!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Videos for Intros to Essays

Yesterday, I spent about three hours with Mike and Terence from IDEAL, shooting videos for my intro-to-essay segments. I was hoping for a sunny day so we could shoot outside, but it was cold and rainy. Hence, a lot of inside shots.

Once Terence and Mike edit the videos and create the final cuts, I'll be posting them to my Blackboard classes (yes, I'm going to use them both in my online and f2f classes) and to this blog.

I'm really excited to show the diversity of my assignments through the videos. And I hope to inspire my students with the videos. Perhaps the most inspiring one will be for Essay 3--Proposing A Solution. I really want this essay to become one that students can understand that their essay writing actually can make a difference. The topic I chose to focus on in the video was the problem domestic violence in Wood County. A friend and colleague of mine suggested I ask Mary Ann Robinson, the Domestic Violence Specialist for the Wood County Sheriff's Office, to be in the video. I learned a lot from her yesterday, and I think my students will too. If my students can see some of the possible solutions the citizens of Wood County have proposed and how those solutions are making a difference, I think they will feel more empowered in their essay writing and take the assignment more seriously and actually turn it into something that could make a difference in their communities! I have to say, I was empowered as a citizen and teacher by listening to Mary Ann. She really helped me see that all of us can make a difference.


The Online Class is almost completely uploaded. The podcast lectures are recorded and uploaded. The weekly schedule is filled in, and the videos are shot. The one thing left to do is get the portfolio forms uploaded and record an explanation of the portfolio process.

I'm super-excited!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Imperfections in Podcast Recording...

As I was recording some podcast lectures today, my dryer buzzed, my floor creaked, and I stuttered a couple of times. I did rerecord some pieces that sounded "off," but I kept the buzzer, the floor creaking, the sound of me pressing buttons on my computer because I think these imperfections make the lectures more like my f2f lectures. There's always outside noises and other disturbances and who doesn't stumble over their words every now and then? I think it lets my students know I'm human, not just a random voice in a computer.

I guess we'll see if I still feel that way after I listen to all of them again before posting them to iTunes...

An Online Library Assignment?

Background info: BGSU's General Studies Writing Program teamed up with the Jerome Library to better assist first-year students with finding sources for their essay. Therefore, first-year students are required to complete a Library Tour and quiz, in order to demonstrate they know how to do academic research.

My challenge: The ENG 111 Library Tour is to be done in person at the Jerome Library, and I want to keep the requirements of the online class exactly the same.

My solution: I refer online students to the Jerome Library's Virtual Tour and Distance Education page then using the same tour created by the acting chair of the Library Teaching and Learning & First Year Experience, I replaced questions to be answered in person with questions that can answered by viewing the Virtual Tour and Distance Education pages. At the end of the activity, students are to complete a multiple choice test in Blackboard that is very similar to the bubble sheet f2f students must fill out and hand-in to their instructors.

I'm a little concerned there may be too many steps for students to follow, but my rebuttal is that the f2f students have many steps to follow as well, so actually the online Library Assignment does replicate the same work level as the f2f Library Assignment.

I plan to report my findings on this assignment once it is completed in the online class.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wikis and Podcasts

Since my last post, I've been working on wikis and podcasts.

Wikis: I used Writeboard to create outlines of essays for students to collaborate on in order to help them compose their rough drafts. Also, on Writeboard, I created several brainstorm sessions to help students collaborate possible essay topics. I created a link to each Writeboard within the weekly schedule, which I thought would be the easiest way to to have students link to the wiki. Recently, though, Terence and I found a better wiki--PBWiki. This one allows all of the wikis created for the same class to be available on one page/one location. In other words, PBWiki has a front page that lets a teacher explain the class and the use of wikis and lets the instructor link the wikis being used to that front page. So I could have a page devoted to brainstorms and another one for outlines. How cool, right?! So I'll copy and paste the Writeboard wikis into the PBwiki and call it a day. The problem is finding the time to create pages and copy and paste text into the new wiki while I'm working on the podcasts. I have wikis in place in the schedule, so I think I might leave them in place and use Writeboard this first time of teaching online. And then for future classes I will revise and use the PBWiki. I would just rather focus my attention on the podcast lectures and class blog for now.

The podcast lectures are really coming along. At first I was going to wing the lectures with my unscripted notes and just talk freely like I do when I lecture f2f. But then I realized, I rely on student's immediate questions to guide my lectures as well as our conversation about the topic, but that spontaneous, live action couldn't really happen online unless we are all on a live chat together. (I really want my class to be asynchronous, so students can be at class when it's best for their schedules.) So I've spent today writing the script to a third of my lectures--I have 30 total.

Script writing is exhausting. And it takes so much more time than recording the script. I might spend 40 minutes on script that lasts about 2 minutes. This process is really time consuming. In fact, I don't have to work an 8-5 day, but I did. I took a half hour lunch break. Please know that I am not complaining, but the lecture podcast script writing and then recording has made me see how much more work is entailed in the creation of an online class. Lectures for f2f classes take me about 20 minutes tops. I jot down a list of things I want to mention, probing questions so that the lecture is more of a collaborative conversation, and then maybe some pages from our texts that relate to what we're talking about. Having to write out everything I want to say and figure out how to say as briefly as possible so the MP3 file isn't too big for the blog is very time consuming. Also, I've been linking every lecture to our MLA Handbook b/c I didn't use it in the online class readings, and that has taken me quite awhile to find the pages, summary boxes, and exercises I think would benefit the students the most.

Tomorrow I will record the lectures for the second essay cycle. This one has to do with evaluating sources, MLA citations and the works cited page. I think, perhaps, that is why script writing today was so slow. It's much easier to explain MLA in person! As I was writing my scripts I would come to a new lecture and realize I needed to add something to the lecture I just wrote, so the students see the interconnectedness of MLA and how lessons build from one another. Also, the first two essays had more lectures because these are the essays that I'm using to teach them the basics of argumentation and MLA. The last three essays have a significantly less amount of lectures because by then the students know the basics and just need pointers on dealing with the specific essay at hand.

Once I get my podcasts recorded, create the Library Assignment, and flesh out peer review, maybe then I'll consider setting up a PBWiki.

Thank goodness, I started this project early and still have plenty of time. I think IDEAL is right when they say it takes about 15 weeks to create an online class that is as engaging (if not more so) than a f2f class.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Be Detail Oriented: A Key to Filling in the Void

Since my last post I have been working on setting up the online class in a Blackboard development shell. As I was filling in the work schedule for each essay cycle, I realized two things: 1.) the details matter, and 2.) break the work into small chunks if you get overwhelmed.

Before I even began attempting to make any folders or activities in Blackboard, I created a MWF workload schedule based on my previous lesson plans and essay cycles in my f2f classes. Also, I looked at my old syllabi to gauge how much time to devote to each essay cycle. Then I made a list of the readings I wanted to use and broke those readings down into each essay cycle. Having these hard copies really helped me visualize how to fill in each essay cycle on Blackboard, and they also served as my guide or checklist for what activities to create.

Before I began actually working in Blackboard, I gathered all these schedules, my lesson plan binder, activities binder, and texts in addition to lots of scrap paper to jot notes down as I was working. Probably the most important of all of these materials was the scrap paper. By the end I had about 5 sheets of scrap paper filled up: one for reminders to do as I was working, one for things to revise as I realized the older folders I created in Blackboard needed the things I was creating in the newer folders, one for a to-do list for my lecture podcasts I need to record, one for a to-do list of revisions I want to make to assignments, one for questions I had for my IDEAL consultant, one for tallying numbers of Discussion Questions and Brainstorm sessions on the Discussion Board, and one for teaching ideas (for online and f2f) I had while working. OK, that's more than five...I told you scrap paper is important AND the details matter!

Honestly, I think the details are important to the class I am creating because I want to do different things: wiki, blog, podcast, etc. to engage my students at various levels. The more stuff you do, the more details there are. I am a very detailed oriented person, so being detail sensitive was not overwhelming to me at all. I could see it being overwhelming to those who are not detail-oriented. In that case, I would recommend not doing as much with newer technologies and just keeping it very simple--use the "Add Items" feature for lectures and the Discussion Board for brainstorms. Wikis, blogs, videos to introduce each essay cycle, and podcast lectures aren't necessary. I just feel, for me, they better represent how I think about writing and how I teach writing--metatext, different methods for all learners, and engaging for my students and me. The wikis truly let students collaborate, which is really important to my teaching philosophy. I want my students to learn how to work with each other and apply wht they have learned to figure out how to approach writing an essay. The blogging, I feel, helps students reflect and think critically about the material being taught and its application in the "real world." And the videos and podcasts are just my attempt to get the material to a generation that is video and iPod savvy. These things also are very interesting to me, so they keep me in engaged in my teaching.

Once I got started creating the essay cycle folders, within each essay cycle, I created a folder for each week within that cycle. For example, the first essay cycle folder reads "Essay 1: Arguing A Position (Weeks 1-4)". Within that folder, there are four folders: one for Week 1, one for Week 2, and so on. Then within each of those folders is the week's course work in the order I'd like to see students complete it. Any time I had more than one item, such as more than one lecture or reading, I created a folder so the course work looked more streamlined and not as overwhelming to the students. At first, I thought each week's course work looked more intense than my f2f classes. However, I quickly realized that the work load was the exact same; it just looked like more because a.) it was a whole week, not a day and b.) some of work is what I give my f2f students as homework and all online work is basically homework.

The basic order of work each week is: lecture, reading, lecture/reading quiz, discussion board, brainstorm wiki, and a prompt for the blog I'm requiring each student to author. Then when assignments (rough drafts, final drafts, etc.) are due, those tasks are added into the core rotation. I really wanted consistency, so the students would grow accustomed to a routine and find themselves not overwhelmed but prepared for the work. The weeks that were the most difficult to plan were the weeks where there was a day off, fall break, and Thanksgiving break. I wanted to make the work load a little lighter on these weeks to reflect the days off.

If I had to anticipate a question from those considering to build an online class, it would be how long did it take you to set up the course? To answer this, I would have to say (right now, without any revision and more details to add) about 30 hours total--5 hours planning with lists and 25 actually loading activities into Blackboard. What took the most time was building the first two essay cycles and making sure I recorded what I still needed to add later and double-checking that everything was in the right folder. After that, my work became much easier. (The first two weeks took me about 10 hours, which I chunked up. Then we had two rainy days here, so I worked 10 hours each day and five on one day to finish up.)

IMPORTANT: Blackboard has a "Copy" feature in its "Edit View." I strongly suggest opening several windows in Blackboard and copying folders. Then all you have to do is revise the essay title and page numbers of a reading or change the essay title of the rough draft that's due. Once I figured out that I could copy and change folders and items it took me about an hour per week. (Note: I was worried that copying and changing folder contents would change the original. That is NOT the case!)

Also, I strongly suggest breaking down the work into one week at a time or one essay cycle at a time. This way you are more likely to not get burnt out and to catch typos and mistakes (placing the wrong material in the wrong folder, etc.) Of course, I offer up that advice after I marathoned my work. Once I start a project, I become obsessed until it is complete. For my own sanity, I really wanted to create the class and then go back and gradually add podcasts I record and/or revise typos and such. (I'm a true believer in the revision process!) I understand I have all summer to do this work, but I have several weekend trips planned, a lengthy trip planned as well as part-time tutoring I start in June. I enjoy multi-tasking, but I really wanted to devote all my energy to the online class so it turned out the exact way I wanted it to. And it has. For me, I feel more comfortable having all the work planned and loaded and gradually going back and making changes than perfecting each week one at a time. It all depends what works best for you; for me it worked best to do more work initially and revise gradually.

The big pieces that are left for me at this point are recording my intro to the essay videos (there will be five short shorts no longer than 5 minutes) and welcome video, recording my podcast lectures (these will be no more than 5 minutes long each and there's about 25), revising two essay assignments (I'm using the same assignments for my f2f class, so working on the online class has really helped me improve my f2f classes too!), adding in activities that relate to the handbook (I'm thinking about adding these to my class blog where the lectures will be posted as well as announcements), and proofreading.

SIDENOTE: The blog for the class where announcements, lectures, and other helpful hints will use RSS technology, so students can subscribe to the blog to receive any updates that have been added. I plan on adding to this blog a link to the class blog and podcast lectures and I plan to upload my videos once I have completed these features.

Doing all this work to my online class really motivated me to improve the Blackboard shells for my f2f classes as well. That won't take as long, though, because all I really want to do for those is create essay cycle folders and revise the side panel buttons that navigate students to various places in the course shell so there are fewer buttons, which would make the shells look a little cleaner.

Seeing the course put together, for the most part, really makes me excited to teach online! And doing this work online has really helped me critically evaluate my teaching and lesson plans, which has helped me, in turn, make improvements to my f2f class activities. It's been neat for me to reflect on my teaching even more and have more direction fine tuning it. I'm seeing that f2f and online teaching are more alike than different. And f2f teaching and online teaching, for me, fuel each other, which is cool because it has really inspired me even more as a teacher!

I am anxious to see what my online students are like!

I'm just concerned about how the Portfolio will work. More details on that soon.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Most Important? The Syllabus

The previous Thursday evening I had a nice chunk of alone time, which I devoted to beginning the first "real" stage of creation of my online class.

I had already made some revisions to the Achievement Requirements (the part of the syllabus for the GSW program that clearly states the expectations of the course and of students enrolled in the course), so I thought I wouldn't have many revisions to make.

I was wrong.

I spent about 2 and half hours working through the fine details of Achievement Requirements (AR), making sure that those details were detailed in themselves. I should note that my f2f AR is fairly detailed, and I wanted to make my online AR just as much so. First, I added a section that discussed the layout of the the online class and my expectations of students in the online class. Also, I added a discussion board grade rubric, so online students would understand what I expect from discussion board posts. Also, I added a section that introduces myself to students, so they could get to know me. Finally, I created the Master Plan folders, which clearly state each paper cycle with the weeks included.

I had hopes that in two and half hours I could get through the first week of planning and uploading. Really, I only got through day one.

IDEAL wasn't kidding when they said you should plan to create an online course over the course of one semester--15 weeks. It may even take a little bit longer...depending on a lot of things...

I believe creating will be become quicker once I set a schedule and spend more time with it each day. I'm feeling positive!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Starting at the Beginning

The intention of this blog is to document the creation of an online class for BGSU's General Studies Writing Program. I'm using this blog as a reflection on how I set up the course and then how the course works during its pilot session this coming Fall Semester 2006. The online class is being developed on Blackboard, a university sponsored internet program that allows students to check their personal information at the university as well as course information, such as announcements, course documents, etc.

For starters, I sought help from IDEAL, a team who aids faculty in creating successful online classes, at BGSU. My first meeting with IDEAL staff member Terrence Armentano was Wednesday, May 9. During this meeting we collaborated on an effective key for the ENG 111 online course as well as ideas for how to conduct lectures (powerpoints, wikis, or blog with abilities for podcasting), keep track of passing/no passing grades, and collect rough and final drafts.

At this meeting, I chose to lecture through a blog on WordPress that is sponsored by IDEAL. I was attracted to the possibility of being able to post just text or text and a video clip, or post a podcast for students to listen to. Additionally, students will be able to leave comments on the blog, so they will be able to participate during lectures. Finally, having a blog for lectures will show students that blogs can be used for educational purposes, and it will be a nice tie back to the students each creating blogs for reflection on the material being taught.

Also, I decided to keep a grade book, but instead of having points for the work completed, online students will receive "complete" or "incomplete" grades, which translate well with GSW's ENG 111 grading system, which is "pass" or "no pass." I will ask students to email me their rough drafts to my gmail account, and I'm using the Blackboard feature "Assignments" to collect the final essays. The grade book in Blackboard allows me to comment on grades, and in the comment boxes I will post the end comments on final drafts with the grade. (Grades cannot be seen by the whole class, only the individual student who is logged into his/her personal account.) Complete will equal Pass, and Incomplete will equal Almost Pass or No Pass. This code will be explained in the Achievement Requirements, the document that explains the course and my expectations as the course's instructor.

I divided each week into several activities that online students will complete. These activities are very similar to the ones in my face-to-face (f2f) classes. Each week online students will have lectures to review, readings relevant to the material being taught in the lectures, discussion questions to answer on the Discussion Board, blog postings of their reflections regarding the material of the week, and other exercises to help them develop their argumentative writing skills. At the beginning of each week, I am going to write a short note of how the students should proceed. This note also will include any important due dates for the rough drafts, final drafts, or Library Assignment.

Starting tonight I'm going to begin to fill in the skeleton of the class with assignments and readings and discussion questions. My plan is to work on each week one at time. This evening, then, I will be working on Week 1. In future posts I will document how much time it takes me to create one week's worth of course work.

Please feel free to leave any comments with questions or ideas that can help me during this creation process.

My goal is to post regularly to this blog regarding the creation process in order to effectively document the creation and execution of an ENG 111 online class.