Day 36 Confab-ulous!

COD

“Do you want to confab with us today around noon?” The e-mail dropped into my Inbox at the perfect time, Monday morning. This week is heavy with committee meetings and a big off campus conference on Friday in addition to teaching preparation and hours of grading time.  I needed to catch my breath and touching base with friends for a few minutes sounded perfect — a jump start to the week.  Although we don’t have a water cooler to gather around, we make an effort to check in with each other.  It’s important to establish a relationship built on integrity and trust.  According to Best Health magazine, work friends are good for you.  They make your life easier, they improve your performance, they keep you on track, they understand your stresses and successes and they’re a surrogate family (whether we like it or not).

My COD colleagues/friends are the greatest. We’ve been working together in our Communications subdivision for many years now, navigating the professional landscape of teaching in a community college.  If I have questions or concerns, my colleagues will go to great lengths to figure it out, make a recommendation or find a resolution.  We share student stories, scholarly journal articles and upcoming events in our field. Their collective knowledge encourages me to stretch and reach for the best methods in teaching, publish articles, present at conferences and try something new.

We talk about our families, write sympathy cards, celebrate baby showers and honor retirements. Work is life and life is work.  When my husband was in the Air Force and stationed far away on a military base for training, one of my dear colleagues surprised me by placing a beautiful stack of stationary in my mailbox with a note that read, “Keep writing.” When our first daughter was born my colleagues came to visit and brought gifts including a huge bag of fresh ground coffee to stay up late with our newborn. When I forgot my lunch one of my colleagues did not hesitate to run to our cafeteria and minutes later appear at my door holding a sandwich, pretzels and a Coke from the fountain (my favorite). These are the people I live with on campus — altruistic, funny, smart people.  They make me laugh and admittedly have also made me cry. Like any working relationship, we have encountered disagreements and disappointments, but this group of amazing humans make coming to work every day well worth it. I couldn’t do it without them.

 

 

Day 35 Emoticons

emoticons

Last week Facebook introduced new “reaction” buttons to enable users to more accurately express how they feel about posts.  In addition to the classic “like” thumbs up, now users can tap on “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad,” or “angry” emoticons. Can we clarify our tone or elevate the mood of our messages with emoticons?  Is using a whimsical icon simply a nonverbal gesture to assist in communication?  Perhaps emoticons can curb a misunderstanding or confirm an ironic spin. If posts are taken literally, can an emoticon project the message, “just kidding?”

In my online writing classes we spend a lot of time discussing audience, purpose and tone. After all, we’re not in a face-to-face environment where communication can be enhanced by tone of voice, facial expressions or nonverbal cues. Digital communication is different. But is a smiley face appropriate for online class communication?  What approach should we take to accepting and even enjoying emoticons as they flash across our screen?

In a recent Discussion Board thread students were asked to examine their writing processes and compare them with others by responding to the questions:  What kind writing do you do and what are the preferred conditions for these types of writing (i.e. social media or school writing)?  I was surprised when students included several emoticons to express themselves — it added a creative flair to their words:

DB2Post: Your Writing

I feel like once you hop off social media and get into your school writing, you have to remember you cannot abbreviate everything, I feel like that is the hardest for me to remember. And that is where the biggest difference in social media and school writing is for me.

I appreciate that, I do try to use bigger words sometimes I feel like that makes writing more interesting, and makes the writer seem more engaged. But social media writing, such as Facebook commenting eetc, has us using such casual writing thats sometimes it hard to remember to write properly when you’re in a class such as English class, most importantly.

DB2 Post:  Your Writing

I totally understand how hard it is to stay away from social media, also because a lot of us know so many people on there, I mean its sad to say thats our life, but really I mean we do get a lot of useful things from social media. Thats young adult news for us now a days.Image result for emoticon finding something new

DB2 Post:  Your Writing

I think its awesome you write in your journal, that will for sure make you a creative writer. Its a good way to express yourself and this will always be helpful in longer essays.

I am on the same page with social media, its so difficult to snap yourself out of that sort of writing style. We go from abbreviating words in ways no one even understands sometimes, to then having to go to school and write long essays the correct way, I mean i even forget how to spell certain words sometimes and i sit back and i tell myself this is not ok.. I am sure with this class it’ll just bring you back to proper writing techniques and soon enough you might find yourself wwriting pproperly on social media sites.

DB2 Post:  Your Writing

I love you honestly, sometimes people don’t like to admit that social media keeps them sane. I unintentionally get on social media while out to dinner or with groups of family and friends. Its also like your so used to it you do it out of habit, even though you probably wont find anything new every 5 minutes you open up the sites.

Day 34 Guidelines and Standards

cross discipline

In our Teaching with Technology Committee meeting (subdivision committee) we discuss information related to what is happening institution-wide as well as in our division and subdivision. Groups of faculty, administrators and staff serve on committees throughout the College, but sometimes the right hand isn’t necessarily aware of what the left hand is doing.  Since we are a large community college serving over 30,000 students and have multiple committees  (we even have a Committee on Committees), we can experience redundancy or a lag time in communication between committees that share common goals. It is an area we are continuously striving to improve.

During a recent Instructional Technology Committee meeting (institution-wide committee), Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education (via the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions C-RAC 2001) were shared.  This is an important document which identifies nine hallmarks of quality online courses:

  1.  Online learning is appropriate to the institution’s mission and purposes.
  2. The institution’s plans for developing, sustaining, and, if appropriate, expanding online learning offerings are integrated into its regular planning and evaluation processes.
  3. Online learning is incorporated into the institution’s systems of governance and academic oversight.
  4. Curricula for the institution’s online learning offerings are coherent, cohesive, and comparable in academic rigor to programs offered in traditional instructional formats.
  5. The institution evaluates the effectiveness of its online offerings, including the extent to which the online learning goals are achieved, and uses the results of its evaluations to enhance the attainment of the goals.
  6. Faculty responsible for delivering online learning curricula and evaluating the students’ success in achieving the online learning goals are appropriately qualified and effectively supported.
  7. The institution provides effective student and academic services to support students enrolled in online learning offerings.
  8. The institution provides sufficient resources to support and, if appropriate, expand its online learning offerings.
  9. The institution assures the integrity of its online learning offerings.

According to the Instructional Technology Council, accreditation standards require that distance education courses are equivalent, or better than, those taught in a traditional face-to-face classroom environment.  The learning outcomes must be the same, regardless of instructional delivery method.

In order to promote efficiency in our working relationships, it is imperative to keep the lines of communication open — committees collaborating with committees.  For example, we archive our committee meeting minutes in a Blackboard shell in an ongoing effort to exchange information. We invite a variety of College committee members to our committee meetings to share resources. Working together within a transparent structure is an effective way to be consistent in delivering quality online education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 33 What’s on the Schedule?

Planning Online

In our College of DuPage Communications subdivision we have a group of Committee Chairs including Teaching with Technology, Literature, Creative Writing, Film, Composition Steering, Academic ESL, Developmental Writing and Reading and Professional Communication. We work closely with our committee members and Associate Dean to share committee goals. The Committee Chair position is a 2-year rotating voluntary appointment. Each chair has a myriad of responsibilities including writing budget proposals, suggesting in-service meeting topics, overseeing curriculum development, leadership in faculty meetings, participating in adjunct faculty support sessions, and forwarding course scheduling recommendations for upcoming semesters.

Course scheduling for online sections involves looking at our current semester calendar, student enrollment trends, considering the launch of newly developed online courses and reviewing  the “roll over” schedule from previous semesters.  Are there too many 16-week course sections in English 1101?  Should we increase 8-week sessions in English 1102?  Do students prefer enrolling in the first 8-week session of English 1101 and continuing onto the second 8-week session of English 1102?  Why do students typically register late for English 0492 and English 0482 online?  Should we suggest scheduling additional hybrid courses?

In growing additional online course offerings, we need to look at our current schedule and identify student preferences.  For example, many of my students prefer the late start 12- week online format.  Anecdotally students have told me that late start classes give them time to “breathe” between semesters and adjust their work and personal schedules accordingly.  They like the pacing of a 12-week semester — it keeps them on task with weekly due dates and required assignments.  However, student feedback in my 16-week online courses is the opposite.  Students tell me, “It’s too long.  I got a new job in the middle of the semester and had to quit school.  It was too much.”  “I had to move and lost my home Wi-Fi for awhile until I could get everything up and running.  I got off track.”  A 16-week online semester seems ripe for  “life gets in the way of school” situations that prohibit students from finishing the course.  Consequently our Teaching with Technology Committee has recommended offering shorter online courses such as 5-week, 8-week or 12-week options.

Day 32 Alphabet Soup: LMS and CMS?

LMS

Online learning is an enormous industry and Learning Management Systems (LMS) have revolutionized the way we look at “managing” education.  When we discuss Learning Management Systems it seems like we begin to worship at the altar of a business model that puts customer satisfaction and product efficiency in the lead. Canvas, Desire2Learn, Blackboard, and Google Classroom are a few LMS vendors currently available.

Decoding the abbreviations and acronyms used in online learning can be confusing.  It is my understanding that a LMS is a platform for delivering e-content, not necessarily a course with a grade book and all of the features needed for teaching.  A Course Management System (CMS) creates the framework in which the content is stored and displayed on the website — it manages student enrollment, tracks student performance, and distributes course content.

What is the best LMS for our community college?  An institutional committee has been formed at College of DuPage including faculty, staff and administrators that will explore answers to this question.  The committee is charged with investigating multiple Learning Management Systems, comparing their advantages and disadvantages in an effort to continuously strengthen and improve our current LMS, Blackboard Learn. Will the committee recommend changing from our current LMS or possibly upgrading to the latest version, Blackboard Ultra?

According to the company’s log, Blackboard Ultra promises to empower instructors to better manage and plan the educational journey for their students: to create a simple way to develop curriculum, to ensure students are successful in their studies and to provide useful and timely feedback through grading to students.  Their “value promise” for students is to enhance confidence and minimize anxiety by helping them work collaboratively, experience their education in a way that makes sense to them, and to benchmark their academic progress and constantly improve.  Wow!  Sounds good to me.

I’m not sure if we will adopt a new LMS or not, but I am cautiously optimistic.  Will we make the move to BB Ultra?  If so, what additional tools will it provide and will these tools be useful?  Will a new LMS version of Blackboard include mobile access, interactive gamification, tracking and cloud based features?  Will assessment and attendance tools be built in?

Considering a LMS involves direct impact on our online learning environment, what is College of DuPage willing to pay for a new LMS or an upgrade to what we currently have? What will our budget allow? Satisfying the demand for a LMS that offers all the bells and whistles we would like in order to accomplish goals both in and out of the classroom is challenging. Stay tuned.

 

 

Day 31 The Beauty of Blogging

Annie dillard

This is the first blog I have written.  I follow blogs like Katrina Kenison’s Celebrating the Gift of Each Ordinary Day and NPR’s This American Life, while my daughters read YouTube stars Tyler Oakley and Jenna Marbles’ blogs.  And my husband checks the Bleacher Nation blog daily to keep up on the latest in baseball. Blogs are a like modern day journal, but published for a wide audience.  The tone is informal and conversational, not worrying about the conventions of grammar or mechanics.

I found WordPress one of the most intuitive blogs to navigate, especially for a beginning blogger like me.  All of the pieces of the blog are available: sharing, formatting, archiving and previewing, but some assembly is required. There is no spell check feature and I have not figured out how saving revisions work when re-publishing a blog post, but I think after 30 days of blogging I’m starting to get the hang of it.  I found plug ins and embedding video difficult and looked for a technical assistance help line phone number, but it turns out WordPress does not offer help via phone, but through forums.  The forums are written by other bloggers and can be useful when seeking answers about WordPress.

I named my domain teachingwritingonline.wordpress.com with the intention of recording every day I teach online this semester at College of DuPage. The free domain name only lasts for 1 year and if I would like to continue the blog, I’ll have to make a choice to pay a fee in order to keep it going.  I’m starting to see patterns emerge in my blog posts in regards to access, comparisons in delivery (f2f versus online), institutional support and a strong sense of online classroom community.  I’m glad I’m investing in blog time and am looking forward to sharing my experience with anyone who may be interested in what it’s like to teach English courses online at a community college.

 

Day 30 Did you really mean it?

Wifi

Digital citizenship involves the use of appropriate and responsible technology use.  It is a way to behave and respect one another.  In my syllabi I outline Discussion Board expectations and provide examples of past Discussion Board posts.  I also include a statement of conduct and diversity: Students are expected to participate in dialogue with the instructor and fellow students in a prideful and respectful manner. This includes polite conversation and consideration of viewpoints and perspectives that are perhaps different from our own. Deviations from these, including taunting, derogatory slurs, personal attacks, physical outbursts or aggression and other forms of blatant disrespect towards a person’s race, cultural/ethnic group, gender, physical/learning disabilities, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression will not be tolerated and may result in dismissal from the class.

Today two of my students started a heated argument on the Discussion Board.  The original DB prompt was about checking the reliability and validity of sources for their upcoming research essay, but two students splintered the topic and got into a debate about politics.  The conversation turned into an angry disagreement regarding who is the most qualified candidate running for President of the United States.

Student #1 (posting a picture of Donald Trump with a quote from People Magazine, 1998): “If I were to run I’d run as a Republican.  They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They love anything on Fox news. I could lie and they’d still eat it up.  I bet my numbers would be terrific.” Know the source, right?

Student #2: Yes, this is a class about checking sources.  People Magazine is trash and so is Trump.  You are a loser if you vote for this guy.

Student #1:  Are you calling me a loser?

Student #2: If the name fits . . .

Student #1: At least I don’t have a mental disorder voting for dip*****.

Student #3: Stop trying to reason with him.  You can’t reason with a die hard Republican because according to Trump. . . .

Student #4: Are we basically playing eeeny-meeny-miney-moe in choosing a president? If Trump gets the nomination, I will vote for him. I read People!

Student #5:  I’m still holding out hope for Hillary.  You’re all crazy.

I immediately flagged the Discussion Board posts and called both Student #1 and Student #2 to review the expectations and guidelines for an appropriate Discussion Board exchange.  They both admitted to getting caught up in the argument and apologized.  I removed their posts from the discussion.

In the online environment, discussions enter a new dimension. Responses can be spontaneous and sometimes unfiltered.  When an instructor posts a question on an asynchronous discussion board, every student in the class is expected to respond, respond intelligently, and respond several times.  Many online students have indicated that this is the first time they have ever “spoken up” in class and that they enjoy the opportunity, but there must be respect for one another.  There is no dignity or anonymity in name calling or bullying and it is not tolerated in my classes.