Hard to Say Goodbye!

What Would Have Helped Me Learn More?

I think better orientation in the beginning (my own not the course) would have helped me catch on quicker.  I got a slow start and was overwhelmed by the flood of information coming at me, I was frustrated initially. However, once I got better adjusted I was able to start absorbing the information. As time continued, my own views began to shape. Alex and my classmates were a fabulous help, resource and influence in this process.  Everyone’s viewpoints helped me shape my own.

A better grasp of education/teaching beforehand would have helped me also.  I think not understanding what it was I was doing until the second or third module.  It dawned on me to watch Alex as she modeled what she was asking us to do and that helped me tremendously.

Direct links to databases or specific journals or resources would have been helpful also.  Sometimes when you are new to something, it is difficult to determine the “good stuff” from the unacceptable content.  However, having to find things on my own was extremely beneficial in the long-run.

What Hindered My Learning?

This is a difficult question as I had unforeseen circumstances that affected every aspect of my life and was a significant hindrance to my learning experience.  As I mentioned early on, being overwhelmed early on served as a barrier.   There was so many things going on and coming at me simultaneously, it was difficult to follow and I lacked direction/orientation (personal not from the course). In other words, I was frazzled.  At the time I was feeling this way, I shut down and that temporary slowed the learning process further until I regrouped.

What Got in the Way of My Learning?

Uncontrollable life got in the way of my learning.  I generally THRIVE in online and academic environments because I like to learn.  When I have good instructors, I am even better.  Unfortunately I got in my own way.  I thought I could do and handle things given my circumstances but this time they were larger than me.

Differences in learning also were an impediment. For some reason, I could not cognitively grasp the difference between delivering content synchronously and asynchronously, despite everything I learned. This is evidenced in how I approached my assignments related to the course.  My comments and feedback from Alex reflects this also, I consistently envisioned in my thoughts an in-class version of the course I developed.  Ensuring that ALL of the content was included in the course was initially paramount.  I spent a lot of time (wasted) trying to finagle ways to include everything.  It was draining.  I think I felt like I was cheating students if they did not receive equal content that I had when I took a similar course face-to-face several years ago.  This battle waged on for some time.  I have the legal pads to prove it!

How Do I feel now?

I feel like I am losing a friend.  I feel sad.  I really appreciate great learning experiences and this was a really great experience.  It was not easy but I learned so many invaluable things that I will take with me and build on and I am not just saying this because it sounds nice.  It’s the truth. It cost me tremendously to stay in this course and I do not regret it.  I wish that circumstances would have permitted a better experience but I still am taking a great deal away from it.

I have been changed in many ways, particularly in how I think, how I will teach, how and what I will study in the future.  I was a proponent of online learning before I took this course, I am a greater fan now that I understand the flip side of the equation.  I love the course I built and want to keep working on it and improve on it so when I am ready (in the near future) I can teach it.  I still do not think that I am quite ready to teach—there are a few things I need to work on. However, I am confident that I will be ready relatively soon.  I feel confident and empowered!!!

I would have to write a book to discuss everything that I learned from this course.  I write this with all sincerity.  From beginning to end, it was rich with information, full of activities and ideas.  It was fun!  I love teachers and it was a pleasure reading the posts (yes I read them) and really learning about teaching, what it entails from different perspectives.

I learned about pedagogy (a word I was unfamiliar with!) and begin to investigate different ones and where I fell on the spectrum.  It became personal because “teaching” in my discipline(s) has been for the most part, lecturing content.  I love taking online courses and stated from the beginning that I believed I learned and retained more in asynchronous (another word I did not know) learning environments.  I learned the difference between synchronous and asynchronous learning environments and what they entailed. I learned that online learning which is instruction and course content delivered off-campus via the internet is done in an asynchronous learning environment.

Part of the reason that I struggled with conceptualizing my class was that my mindset was rooted in a synchronous learning.  I believe this may stem from the disciplines of public health and social work, professional practice oriented programs that involve human interaction or that is the teaching model traditionally used in higher education.  The dilemma is that “instruction in health and social work including web-based instruction remains grounded primarily in an instructivist framework” (Reeves & Reeves, 2008).

The discussions really helped me to learn in this course.  In them I learned the difference between an instructivist pedagogy and constructivist pedagogy. I learned that online asynchronous learning necessitates a constructivist learning environment which involves learners as partners in building this knowledge through interaction with each and reflection on the learning process.

How do I know this?  Because I just told you that I did. AND I did it verbatim from memory—that’s how I know.  How else do I know that I learned this?  I have had to read and write numerous posts on this content think about this content to blog about this content and recall this content as I used the information to work on building my course.

I also learned about types of learners, adult, disable, older, 21st century among others and learning styles.  I learned how to learn and to teach learning.  How you say?  By practicing it, visiting exemplar courses of instructors who know about learning and teach learners and watching Alex model it—well.

Articles and teh Breeze presentations also helped me to learn and retain a lot of information.  From them, I learned about the best principles for effective teaching online and the best pedagogical practices for online teaching.  I learned about the community of inquiry model, and the significance of social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence and how it is necessary to build it into an online course.  I learned that teaching presence is not just the presence of the teacher, but can be evidenced by students as well.

I also learned about interactivity and interaction and the types of interaction which includes student-student, student-instructor and student-content and its importance in online learning.  I learned about using activities to enhance interaction and build social presence and foster a community.

What have I learned so far about myself during this process?

I learned a few things from this process.  As I mentioned earlier, I learned to recognize my limits.  In addition, I learned that I do have a strong foundation.  I was able to continuously revert back and forth from student-mode to instructor-mode to assess the course, my decisions and how they would inevitably impact both.  I also realized that I understood more than I believed.  For example, the course as it is presented today has already undergone several transformations.  I drafted and scratched several different formats based on things I had learned in the course that constantly came to mind, until I was satisfied that the course made sense and was something I could continue to build on and perfect.

The most surprising thing that I learned during this process is that I was able to pinpoint problems as I was working on the course AND I could gauge how a decision could impact the course.  For instance, some of my feedback from Alex centered on the course being to “assignment heavy” and not having enough interaction.  As a result, I went through several different types of activities in an effort to facilitate interaction and I was able to mentally and visually determine how my choices would work based on knowledge I gained in the class.  I was really surprised at how quickly things came together after running in circles so long.

And then it happened…I started second guessing everything.  After almost literally pulling my hair out, it dawned to me to start at square one—again.  I retraced my “course” steps again and thought about the learner, what messages I was trying to convey and the best, most effective ways to do it based on the tools and information I have been given.

I asked myself this question “is this reflected in my course?”  My answer —no, not quite, so I rearranged things (on paper—I have to see it) again and came up with options which included more interaction and less “busy do stuff”.  I also revisited the principles for effective teaching online, and the three principles of effective online pedagogy to use as points of reference.

Social and Teaching Presence in Practice

The main thoughts that I have about building social/teaching presence in my course came as a result of a revelation I had while going in circles.  I was trying to build the course as I envisioned and no matter how hard I tried not to, I kept thinking of the course in a traditional face-to-face context.  That kept me in a constant state of confusion as to what to put into the course.  I went back to the community of inquiry model and thought about social presence, cognitive presence and teaching presence, how they intersect and why they are important and relevant.  I decided to stop thinking about how the traditional class should look like on line and focused on supporting discourse, setting the climate and selecting the appropriate content in the course and I really gained clarity.  Consequently, I was able to come up with ideas that would build teaching and social presence into the course through the activities rather than lectures. For example, I was initially going to lecture on critiquing literature which is a significant part of public health given the push toward and heavy reliance on, evidenced-based practice.  I thought of using student led discussions and having them choose articles based on the models and their topic of interest and to critique them using a framework.  They were then required to summarize their “findings” lead and moderate the discussion on it.  I got the idea from Bill Pelz’s developmental psychology exemplar course and I also used Alex’s feedback and checkout what my classmates where doing.  I saw that Anneke was doing a co-teaching activity and thought it was a nice touch.

Shea, P., Fredericksen, E., Pickett, A., Pelz, W. (2003). Elements of quality online education, Needham, MA. Retrieved from http://ualbany.mrooms.net/file.php/187/readings/priliminary_investigation_of_TP.pdf

Where was I?

I fell extremely behind at this point, as you may have noticed from my missed blogs for this module.  I will actually post them despite being late as they may provide insight into the process I was going through as a student.

I made poor decisions this summer. I should have dropped the course or obtained help through disability services, family or friends.  Unfortunately, I had no way of knowing that I would be experiencing medical issues that would persist through the duration of the summer.  If I had not missed the dropped date I would have dropped the course.  I am in an immense amount of pain physically and it makes getting work done extremely difficult.  I also should have made arrangements at the beginning for some assistance given the amount of manual work that has to be done in this course.  My arrangements allow assistance for writing, typing etc.  This is new for me as I have always been able to manage myself.  So I learned through this experience that I have limits as a student and an instructor and I should tune into them given my circumstance because it will help me be more efficient and effective at both.

What I did is improvise by laying the project out physically which took a tremendous amount of time and then put things into the shell as I was able.  The biggest issues I had to deal with was making sure that I was creating an effective learning environment that was learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered and community centered and ensuring that I was incorporating the essential content of the course, the feedback I received and the best practices for online teaching which includes encouraging:

  • Contact between students and instructors
  • Student reciprocity and cooperation
  • Prompt feedback
  • Time on task
  • Active learning techniques
  • Communication of high expectations
  • Respect for diverse talents and ways of learning

How was I doing?

To answer the question, I was not doing well at this point.  I was overwhelmed and unsure of how I was going to get things done and make sure that I had incorporated information I outlined above.  I tend to lay everything out on the table in order to try and see the “big picture”.  Except in this case, the picture kept getting larger and larger and circular (e.g. going around and around) as I kept getting in my own way.  So what I did was make lists of everything that needed to be done and that should be included and began to work from them.  As I completed each list, more issues surfaced and I generated new lists.

What Did I Need to Complete the Course?

At this point, I needed to put everything into my shell.  I had arranged everything on paper and typed up quite a bit before I ran into trouble trying to paste the content into the course development tool.  I wasted a tremendous amount of time trying to format content.  Once I formatted it and revisited it to make changes, I had to reformat continuously.  I then realized that I was supposed to type the content directly into the tool.  This was time consuming but being able to reference a written and partially typed copy, actually simplified this process.  My personal issues also hindered me but I decided it is what it is and I will work with what I have.  I choose to see the postive in this experience and that is I am able to learn a lot of new things that I never would have been exposed to had I not taken this course.  Look at me blog, and tagg!

Who Am I?

Who am I as learner and educator, and why am I this way? 

Those are good questions.  I am still trying to figure it out.  I have observed that I am a visual learner, I need to hold things in my hands and take notes.  I believe it helps me to remember things.  This observation/reflection caused me to think about my students and what kind/type of learners they may be and how can I facilitate this in the design of my course.  I realized that the answer is simply to create a well-designed course.

This week I learned from Alex’s Breeze Presentation, the article by Shea et al (2007), course discussions and other content I had to engage with in order to participate in the class, that I am still not ready to teach an online class but I am still preparing.  I thought a great deal about my course as I worked through the module and my confusion and realized that I have a good concept, I may be approaching things wrong.  For example, after listening to Alex’s feedback on my assignment, I realized that I am still approaching the course from a traditional perspective and designing course activities in that manner rather than one suitable for onlline delivery.  I think my main problem is the course is a foundation course and there are specific learning objectives that I need to include. However, I also believe that the course is too much.    As a result, I am reworking the course and activities.

I thought about the concepts of interaction and  teaching presence and got great ideas on things I can do to encourage both in my course.  I learned about the importance of instructional design and organization and direct instruction and how I can use them to create an effective learning environment.  Issues with these elements were also evident in my last assignment.  Probably because I did not have clarity on how to translate my vision/concept into the course design/structure.

Most Challenging

Building the course has challenged me the most in this course.  I have to squeeze a lot of material into an online course and it is harder than I expected.  Staying up with things and getting things done has also been a challenge.  My hands get very numb that it is uncomfortable to use the computer or write.  I often have to shake them out or stop what I am working on and return to it later which is a source of frustration.

Most Difficult/Uncomfortable

Time management and getting things done has been the most difficult.  I feel so bad physically that I am moving at a snails pace.  However, I deal with it by focusing on really trying to understand the course and content.  I am learning and it will be okay.  As I am going through this process, I am thinking about:

  • How can create a well-designed learning environment?
  • How can I include the necessary material that needs to be covered without making it too difficult or overwhelming for students?
  • What do I want the students to learn?
  • What types of activities can I have them do that will help them learn?
  • How am I going to evaluate them?

My primary concerns now are creating an interactive learning environment where my students can learn and enjoy doing it.

What do I know that I did not know before?

Things have really been trying thus far, but I am starting to feel that things are coming full circle as I am beginning to see how to “connect the dots” to how things are supposed to be in effective and efficient online learning environments.  I misunderstood the assignment for module three.  I thought I was supposed to submit draft ideas of how I visiualized the activities for my courses were going to look, not develop them fully.  As a result, I sketched my thoughts to the best of my ability and submitted it.  The feedback I received was extremely helpful because Alex was confused about some of my ideas and that allowed me to see things how my students may see them and actually gave me better ideas for implementing activities into the course.

What I Really Know Know That I Did Not Know Before

Building a course take a lot of time and effort!  There is an art to it and it is a continuing, ongoing process.  I learned from Alex’s Breeze Presentation on Teaching Presence  and Class Community that there are best practices for online/teaching and learning and my course should be built accordingly using best practices.   These practices include:

  • Frequent contact between students and faculty
  • Cooperation and collaboration among students
  • Active learning techniques
  • Prompt feedback
  • Time on Task
  • Communication of HIGH expectations
  • Respect for Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

Although we discussed interaction in previous modules, the significance of it and the role it plays in online teaching and learning became extremely apparent.  I know now that interaction is key in online teaching and learning.  I also now know that I have to build opportunties for interation into my course—things are not necessarily automatic.

Something else I know now is the importance of community.  I have taken many online courses and primary reasons for doing so was for convenience and being able to work at my own pace.  The idea that the online class was set up to foster community is a new concept for me.  Thinking back on my experiences, I can say that I developed a support system and friendships through working with classmates in online classes, but before this class, I never realized that may have been the intent.


How I Will Apply What I Learned

How will you apply what you have learned to your own course?

There are several things that I in mind for applying what I have learned to my own course.  Given that it is important to understand the student perspective, and the fact that I am still a student, I can tune in and take notes about experiences in my traditional and online courses.  I can also solicit feedback and input from my classmates and ask my instructors about their specific course designs and the rationale that went into their decisions.

As I mentioned previously, online teaching is different.  So I have learned in advance that I am NOT going to remake the wheel or try to replicate a traditional course in an online setting.  I faced this difficulty when I was trying working on my new class concept and course building activities over the past two weeks.  Shea et al. (2003) discuss the importance of teaching presence in their article and state that not only does it support student satisfaction, but it is a mechanism for maintaining high quality online teaching and learning. I need to work on this in my course design.  I got some ideas from the exemplar courses that I may tweak and I learned that I do not have to recreate the wheel, but I would like to research some ideas to try and put my own novel spin on the class.

I also learned from Shea et al. (2003) and the course observations that online courses should be learner-centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered and community.  I tried to build these into my course as I sketched it out.  For example, the course is a theory based course which can be really boring and dry material.  As a result, I tried to design the course in a way that the students will have fun and put into practice what they have learned.  In every module, I try to accompany the reading materials with movie videos of real life examples. I am using authentic learning activities that replicate real life, current issues and situations.  Every decision that I am making has to do with the students learning and retaining the material. I am having students work collaboratively to address current public health issues as they will have to do when they get jobs and having various discussions to foster community.  I can and will improve on all of these areas as we move along in this class, but I feel I need to work on assessments and do a better job in that area.

What decisions have you made so far about your own online course?

I have chunked the modules into manageable topics.  I was torn between organizing by topic or population (e.g. gender, race, children etc.).  However, I decided to arrange the modules by topic and tie in populations in each module through supplemental reading (e.g. an article) and the movie and learning activities.

I made a decision about the exam.  It is standard for the course and all of the sections do it in traditional courses.  My decision for including it is that I think it will be a good way to assess student learning. I have taken it face-to-face; it is difficult, intense but served an excellent purpose as it really helped me to understand/reinforce the material.  Throughout the modules there are learning activities where students must discuss, apply and work with the theory or model.  The exam is a written with short-answer and essay questions. It will include scenarios that they may not have used.  For example, the stages of change model is popularly used in smoking and alcohol cessation programs, an exam question may ask students to use the model to address another issue.  As well, I specifically ask them to compare/contrast specific theories/models in various modules.  Another question may ask them to compare/contrast different theories/models and provide supporting rationale.

Bill Pelz talks about his experiences with using examinations in various versions of his developmental psych course.  I agree with his assertion that multiple choice exams do not add anything to student learning.  In our discussion thread, I shared about a professor who utilized student-led questions to teach us and how much I learned from it.  However, I think in this case the standard exam will be a better alternative and I want to start with that. I have taken essay question exams online and found them to be challenging and helpful.  I am thinking about using time constraints to prevent collaboration.

How do you interact in this course?

I have organized activities to encourage interaction in the hopes of fostering a community. I have seen my role primarily as the facilitator but as I stated above, I learned that I really need to work on my teaching presence.  Pelz and Piorkowski in their interviews and Shea et al. (2003) in their article really allowed me to see my deficits in this area.  I learned from them that teaching presence is the “design, facilitation/direction of social and cognitive processes for the recognition of personally significant and scholastically useful outcomes”.   I have learned that this includes:

  • Instructional design and organization
  • Facilitating discourse
  • Direct instructions

Consequently, I am using this as part of my “blue print” as I work through the design process in my course.

What if anything has been difficult for you?

Organization has been the largest thus far.  I keep shuffling things around and I am certain that I will continue to do so.  The dates/calendar is problematic. The large group project that builds on throughout the course is also proving to be a task.

What if anything do you find yourself feeling resistance to?

BLOGGING! I struggle so much with this.  It is personal to me and I know there is an appropriate way to do it, but I want to just free fall it if you will.  I really resist doing it and I was so caught up these past two weeks in trying to work on my new course that I missed an entry and did not realize it until long after.  This was not intentional and I was shocked that I missed it and now have a calendar to remind me.  However, it also allowed me to tune in to my feelings about it.  The good news is I have visited various websites to view content and I understand the rationale behind the structure and concede that the rubric for doing our blogs not only reflects standards but is actually the better way of presenting material.

As well, I have issues with finding other alternatives for reflection in my course.  The traditional course used reflection papers that I thought was helpful for reinforcing the information and helping prepare for the exam.  I tweaked it for my course and am satisfied with it but feel that I could do something “more” or better.  In his video on innovations, Larry Ragan stressed the importance of designing courses for reflection and pointed out the differences between traditional and online courses.  They are not the same and I have to keep reminding myself of this also because I am not going to be able to squeeze all of the content that is generally found in traditional courses.  However, I can design a process through various activities where students will learn just as much as or more online than in a face-to-face setting.

What is working for you in this course?

Not sure if you mean the course I am developing on this course.  If you are talking about this course, just about everything is working for me now that I get how it works.  If you are referencing the course I am developing what is working for me is the nature and pedagogy of online classes.  I personally love them and think that this particular course when it is well-designed will be a fun learning experience.

What would you change/suggest to make it better for you?

Larry Ragan also mentioned the lack of training among faculty and the need for self-evaluation.  I am in the process of seeking out additional training but I could do a better job with self-evaluating.  I am seeing a personal theme here, resistance to blog reflections, needing improvement with self-evaluation….

Something else that I need to work on in this class and my course design is social presence. In her YouTube presentations on topic, Alex talks fostering a community of inquiry framework and I learned about importance of 3 elements:

  1. Affective expression
  2. Interaction and open communication
  3. Group cohesion

I participate in this class and have built in myriad opportunities for students to do so in my course.  However, I need to improve in that area in both instances.  I have been so busy playing catch up that I am missing opportunities to contribute in class and engage with my classmates.  In my course, there needs to be a healthy balance of various types of interaction and I am not sure that I have found that happy medium yet.


Pelz, B. (2012). Developmental Psychology Course Learning Activities. Herkimer County Community College. Retrieved from http://ualbany.mrooms.net/file.php/187/mp3_files/bill/learningactivitiesbp.wav

Penn State World Campus. Competencies for Online Teaching Success (COTS) Larry Ragan – Innovation.  Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=10135682177CBD2D


Pickett, Alex. Social Presence. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4774D4B83AF5DF41


Piorkowski, R. (2012). Learning Activities, Elementary French I Course. Cayuga County Community College. Retrieved from http://ualbany.mrooms.net/file.php/187/mp3_files/rob/learning_activities_tour.wav


Shea, P., Fredericksen, E., Pickett, A., Pelz, W., (2003). A Preliminary Investigation of “Teaching Presence” in the SUNY Learning Network, Elements of Quality Online Education, Needham, MA.

(Ungraded but if it were I would have given it a 4)

What I have learned that I did not know before?

Why do I do things the way I do?

I do things the way I do out of experience and habit.  With regards to teaching and learning, I have determined from my experiences as a student, things that worked for me and did not work in instructors teaching pedagogy, how I learned and what I was able to retain.  I do not have much teaching experience to draw on right now, but I can use my experiences (particularly the myriad online ones) to think about what my future students may or may not appreciate in a course and things that might help them learn and find a way to address it in my course design.  I have learned that it is an ongoing process. I have gotten tremendous insight from viewing the exemplar observation courses that Alex provided to help us.  In his interview about his developmental psychology course, Bill Pelz candidly said “if something does not work, do not do it again”.  He also gave great examples of how his course evolved over the years from learning from hits and misses in previous versions of his course.

I have also learned to be Open about to suggestions and change.  Why? Because I know that learning is a lifelong process.  Continuous learning and education has long since been a part of the social work field.  Changes in interventions and new developments have necessitated this practice.  In more recent years, it has become significant in public health as the field now has a certification process and continuing education is part of the renewal process.  An article by Olson et al. (2008) discusses the push for lifelong learning that occurred as a result of 9-11 and concern about bioterrorism and emergency readiness.  I liken this to instructors having to take steps and continuously learn in order to be effective teachers.

What have you learned that you did not know before?

Where do I begin?!!! I had an inclination, based on my experiences that online teaching is REALLY very different from teaching in traditional face to face courses.  In his interview with Alex, Bill Pelz (2012) clearly states that it is.  I personally agree because I feel that I have learned more in my online courses than traditional face to face sessions.  It also seemed like a great deal more effort went into the content/material in the online courses (just my observation).  This module I learned that there are issues of pedagogy, faculty development, student satisfaction and reported learning to consider in online teaching.


During this module, I have thought more about myself as a teacher and my pedagogy than in previous modules. To begin, I working on developing a course that is very challenging.  There is a great deal of content to cover, it involves a lot of theory (which can be dry and boring) and at every corner I seem to hit a bump in the road.  As a result, I had to constantly revert back to my guiding teaching principles and asked myself these questions about who I am as a teacher?  What I want to teach my students? How am I going to achieve this? How am I going to engage them with the course, materials, each other and myself for the duration of the class?  I honestly have to say that this is an ongoing process because I learn something new every day that cause me to reevaluate things.

Faculty Development

Alex’s Breeze Presentation on the Keys to Success helped to clarify this issue for me.  I learned that there are certain qualities that good/effective online instructors have specifically:

  • A demonstrative passion for teaching
  • Commitment and time to develop a course
  • Discipline to complete it PRIOR to teaching it and the start of the course
  • Willingness to rethink how they teach
  • Institutional and administration support

I learned that faculty commitment to course development and completion are related to satisfaction.  What really stood out in this presentation to me was the SUPPORT needed to teach particularly online.  Alex chronicled myriad ways that she and her colleagues at the SLN support faculty and from this I learned:

  • Instructors should be instrumental in designing their own courses
  • My experiences as student will help me to remember/consider the student perspective in my course design (this has been continuous for me all through this module)
  • The importance of experiencing the course as the student will experience it
  • Clear, explicit instructions are MANDATORY!!!

I learned that I am not ready to teach online—JUST YET!! But very soon!  It is starting to come together mentally for me and I can visualize what I want to do in the course and troubleshoot the “kinks” without getting frustrated.  I also feel validated in a sense because the lack of training afforded me in my program led to me seeking out opportunities for training myself.  As a result, I will continue learning about teaching and learning as part of my program!  In addition, I do not feel as bad or lost in this course or about not being properly trained as an instructor.  I am gaining valuable experience from Alex and all of you and I learned from our discussions that lack of training in teaching is common in many graduate programs.

Student Satisfaction and Reported Learning

Shea et al. (2003) report a well-designed, completed course has a positive impact on faculty and student satisfaction.  Clear, explicit instructions are also mandatory.  In Alex’s Breeze presentation, she discussed the best lessons she and her colleagues at the SLN learned.  One of their initial finds was a relationship between faculty interaction and student satisfaction.  Consequently, I learned that I did not build in enough of a teaching presence into my course.  I noticed this after I drafted my modules and activities. Part of the deficit can be attributed to not being sure about certain components.  However, I learned from the presentation that talking with the professor and maximizing perception of student to access instructor are small things I can do to enhance the course and student satisfaction.

In their interviews on their respective exemplar courses, Pelz and Piorkowski discuss how they address this in their courses via a coffee house and meeting place.  They also provide great examples of the activities they use to have student’s report learning and gauge how they are doing.  Pelz’s student’s serve as instructors by leading discussions, conducting research on website of a topic and writing a review and leading a discussion on it and choosing questions based on course content for an examination.  In this manner he said he is able to identify what students are learning and how.

I particularly liked the Piorkowski’s ideas of using web notebooks and mp3s.  Not only is he able to obtain student’s reported learning, he also gives them practice in using two different types of technology.  I also appreciated Steven Zucker not using a book due to the expense and directing students to do research and report on it as part of the learning process.  I thought the above mentioned were cool ideas that I may want to incorporate in my course.  I’d like to improve the design and more interactive and fun.  I am using reflective memos and activities to assess reported learning but I have not finalized anything yet.  This is an area I have been struggling with.

Shea, P., Fredericksen, E., Pickett, A., Pelz, W., (2003). A Preliminary Investigation of “Teaching Presence” in the SUNY Learning Network, Elements of Quality Online Education, Needham, MA.

Pelz, B. (2012). Developmental Psychology Course Learning Activities. Herkimer County Community College. Retrieved from http://ualbany.mrooms.net/file.php/187/mp3_files/bill/learningactivitiesbp.wav

Piorkowski, R. (2012). Learning Activities, Elementary French I Course. Cayuga County Community College. Retrieved from http://ualbany.mrooms.net/file.php/187/mp3_files/rob/learning_activities_tour.wav

Zucker, S. (2006). Modern Art Course Learning Activities. Fashion Institute of Technology. Retrieved from http://ualbany.mrooms.net/file.php/187/mp3_files/steven/szlearningactivities.wav







Things have started setting down and I have been able get into the lessons and material and really reflect about who I am and where I’d like to be as an instructor.  This week I have learned that there will be differences among the learners in my online course but that it should not be an issue because online learning is suitable for many types of learners and I can be mindful of this in the DESIGN, DESIGN, DESIGN!!!

How do I want to teach my online class?

This week I thought a great deal about my course concept and how I should approach it.  Given that I have been a student in many online courses before, I feel I have a dual advantage.  However, teaching a research methods course online has is not without obstacles.  I referred back to the readings and listened to Alex’s Breeze presentation on best practices a few times.  I found it to be very helpful for helping me address issues I was concerned about like being available for students given the content of my course and I was subsequently able to work out a solution that I included in my course tool.

A concern that came up quite a bit in discussions was interaction.  Something that I learned was it is important to build a sense of community and provide community building opportunities.  Interaction is particulary important in research methods courses and I came across several articles while working on this module that support this idea, particulary in the form of activities.  Activities in online courses are important because they reinforce the materials students have learned.  Jonassen & Roher-Murphy (1999) wrote an article about activity theory and suppose:

  • Activity is a precurse of learning, NOT the result of it
  • Knowing can only be recognized in the context ot DOING
  • Activity and consciousness CO-EXIST and are mutually supportive
  • As we ACT we gain knowledge

The author’s also offered an interesting example to support their point stating “instructional designers learn by doing, learning the instructional design process by going through it and doing it”.   In an article about teaching research methods, Aguardo says something similar about learning research methods, students learn by doing and he proposes that instructors have students do activities to reinforce learning such as data collection and analyzing data.  Harrington & Standen highlight the need for having “real life” experiences and stresses the need for them and activities to be authentic.

Something else  I learned was in the article by Jason.  He highlighted the need for instructors to be empathetic and not give up on students.  I found this interesting because empathy is a key factor in social work.  We hear about it in every class.  It made me think because I have to be careful not to be too empathetic.  I have a chronic condition that requires so much of my time and energy at times without worning  and am constantly battling to maintain.  As a result, I am sympathetic to other people because I know how difficult life can be.

Aguardo, N. A. (2009). Teaching research methods by doing.  Journal of Public Affairs, 15(2): 251-260. http://www.naspaa.org/jpaemessenger/Article/VOL18-1/jpae18_01_final.pdf

Harrington, J. & Standen, P. (2000). Moving from an instructivist to a constructivist multimedia learning environment. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 9(3), 195-205. http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/6959/1/moving_from_an_instructivist.pdf

Jonassen, D.H. & Rohrer-Murphy, L. (1999). Activity theory as a framework for designing constructivist learning environments. Educational Technology, Research and Development; 1999; 47 (1): 61-79. http://faculty.soe.syr.edu/takoszal/IDE800-Adv-ID-and-ET/IDE850_sp06/additional_readings/Jonasson_Murphy_Activity-Theory-to-design-constructivists-learning-environments.pdf



Best Practices for Online Teaching

The first module was extremely trying for me, there was a bit of confusion and I got overwhelmed and made silly mistakes.   Despite this, I kept it moving and when it got to much, I let it be what it was and continued to move forward, which is my normal temperament.  However,  this time I believe that it has less to do with me and more to do with the fact that I am really learning a great deal from the course, instructor and my classmates –and I am okay with having struggled and not being perfect.

Effective Online Learning Practices

This week I learned from the readings, Alex’s article A Series of Unfortunate Online Events and How to Avoid Them and Breeze Presentation (which I loved and found particularly helpful) about what works in online teaching and learning.   Things that particularly stood out for me:

  • I learned my practice of never making assumptions is a good one.  Students are and will be different.  They have varying levels of understanding, ability, motivation and interest in the course content among other things.  My experience has been that people make assumptions and are often incorrect.  I have learned that –it’s a good thing NOT to make assumptions about my students, their skill sets and what they are bringing to the cyber classroom table/environment; I will probably be wrong.
  • Teaching online is not necessarily easier or less time consuming than teaching a traditional face-to-face course.  While researching information for our discussion, I came across
  • Teaching online does not have to consume my life.  By employing the effective practice principle of  time management, I can set standards and list times that I will be available online etc.  Because of the nature of the course I will be teaching (research methods) I will probably opt to have a regular set period for online office hours if possible,  keep in mind that students will probably have varying times in availability.
  • Learning to teach is an ongoing, continuous project.  It is like, total quality management involving continuous quality improvement which is a constant cycle of evaluation and improvement of online teaching and learning.  I now understand the need for consistently seeking feedback  to monitor progress and make adjustments.  It is not unlike we have been practicing in our course activities, assessing ourselves and others.
  • There are limits in what I can do in an online environment – RECOGNIZE IT.
  • I can provide learning opportunities for students offline.  Switch things up and make them interesting.
  • Course design is everything, the decisions I make impacts it and it will in turn be a significant factor (probably the most) in the learning environment and experience my students will have.

Benefits of having taken previous online courses

I also see the benefit of having taken online classes before.  I have several points of reference and comparison.  Now that I am in the “instructor”/”designer” seat, I can recall issues I have had as a student and evaluate if those issues may potentially be problematic for my future students.  This week I have drawn on my student experiences in this class.  I find the activities that we have done, particularly the readings, the breeze presentation and the discussions  helpful in really helping me think about how the decisions I make may impact my students.

Another thing that I learned was despite initially feeling frazzled, there are many things that I do understand about teaching that I do as a student and in my normal life as a practice.   When I take online classes, I am polite, responsive and slow to take offense – even when the topics/discussions have been touchy as some can be in social welfare and public health where socio-cultural issues and differences of opinion are commonplace.  Being sensitive to others is a good thing in the online and learning environment — even if I don’t feel like it because it promotes respect and helps for making a positive experience.   Although it has been a little chaotic, things are smoothing out, I am learning a great deal, and the learning to me is fun, so I think I’ll hang around another week.


Davidson, G. & Burnak, M. E. (2005).  Time management for online instructors.  Online Classroom – Ideas for Effective Online Instruction, 1-2.  Retrieved from http://www.vcu.edu/cte/resources/newsletters_archive/OC0510.pdf

America Society of Quality.  Total Quality Management.  http://asq.org/learn-about-quality/total-quality-management/overview/overview.html

Pickett, Alejandra (2006).  A series of unfortunate online events and how to avoid them.  Retrieved from http://ualbany.mrooms.net/file.php/187/readings/a_series_of_unfortunate_online_events.pdf