Today I drove 45 minutes north to attend a conference at Elgin Community College called “Enriching Learning Environments with Technology.” The conference is held every other year to provide a local opportunity for professional development with a variety of disciplines and institutions. For me, attending teaching and learning conferences is like engaging in a therapy session. Conferences give us freedom to share our ideas, methods and theories in a supportive space. We eagerly attend conference sessions with the intent of listening and responding to one another. A conference day can be filled with honest feedback, insight and perspective. It’s a feel good cathartic time to release our energy and connect. When I came home from the conference I immediately wanted to integrate some of the nuggets I took away from the sessions today.
In the morning, the keynote speaker, Baiyun Chen, an instructional designer at the University of Central Florida spoke about online and blended education and shortly after, our breakout sessions began. Navigating the conference schedule rooms and hallways, I attended the first session, “Writing in the Margins of the Internet” with presenter Grant Schubert from Rock Valley College. The description intrigued me:
This presentation will focus on an assignment in which students are to pinpoint and unpack the rhetorical appeals in a digital document. I will then demonstrate the organic nature of the annotation and also the academic importance. The annotation community is booming and is on the cutting edge of not just technology, but journalism, composition, and anything textual. I have used digital annotations in the classroom.
Schubert demonstrated the web annotation tool Hypothesis which allows users to provide commentary, references, and insight on top of news, blogs, scientific articles, books, legislation and regulations, software code and more: https://hypothes.is/annotating-all-knowledge/ He also introduced us to genius.com, another knowledge base that can facilitate collaborative reading of news, poetry and song lyrics with a feed of annotations left by fellow students.
The next session I attended was “Creating an Active Learning Online Course/Program” with Cathy Cabai, Coordinator of Surgical Tech at College of DuPage:
Two online learning allied health education programs have recently been created at College of DuPage: Surgical Assisting and Anthesthesia Technology. Both of these programs use differentiated instruction, consisting of nine courses. Within these nine courses are discussion question activities, students photographing themselves, journaling exams, reflections, case studies, hypothetical situations, a version of a murder game, and research/essay papers, to name a few. Tools such as Quizlet, YouTube videos and creation of YouTube videos are used.
Cabai talked about Dale’s Cone of Experience and displayed a graphic that incorporated several theories related to instructional design and the learning process. Edgar Dale theorized that learners retain more information by what they do as opposed to what is heard, read or observed. This has become known as experiential learning or action learning. Cabai related Dale’s theory to online learning; students remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what the hear, 30% of what they see and 90% of what they do. Cabal said we need to keep this in mind as we design online courses and continue to grow with the 6.7 million students (in 2001) who elect online education.
The next session was with another College of DuPage colleague, Jennifer Gimmell, Professor of Physics who presented, “Semi-Flipping Introductory Physics: Improving the Effectiveness of Instructor Face Time.” This dynamic presentation was described as:
Instead of a fully “flipped” classroom, we have developed a middle ground approach which promotes a more active learning environment. In the “semi-flipped” classroom, only half of the available instructor face time is devoted to the traditional lecture setting; the other half is devoted to the interactive discussion and problem-solving exercises.
Gimmell demonstrated Flipit Physics, a suite of online instructional resources including interactive quizzes, homework and a series of prerecorded videos used as assessment points throughout the online course. She tracked motivation and engagement in her physics courses and concluded that students in her semi-flipped classes experience bigger gains — they are more motivated and enthusiastic about the course materials and enjoy driving the course content once a week.
After a lunch panel discussion, “Hints and Best Practices for New Online Instructors” with a group of faculty from Oakton community College, it was time for the last session of the day and I chose to participate in Michelle Moore’s “Creating Scholars: Online Learning Design that Fosters Student Success and Retention.” Dr. Moore is one of my Communications subdivision colleagues whose scholarly work always impresses:
This presentation will illustrate the design of online components of two introduction to film courses, one traditional classroom-based and one online. Both classes have been very successful. Students report how much they have learned from the class, how much they enjoy interacting with their peers to learn new material, and how the class has improved retention. This session will also demonstrate how online learning spaces allow for a clear sequencing of material that does not always happen easily in the traditional classroom.
I may be biased, but this was my favorite presentation of the day. Moore began by quoting Maurice Schramm, “It’s not technology itself that determines student success, but rather the course design.” Moore went on to say that online course design should involve strategic repetition; there has to be a connection between unit materials for the students to successfully move through the course. She showed multiple course syllabi as examples and invited the audience to think about creating the most important aspects of the course when engaging in design. Using the rhetorical term scaffolding, courses should involve heavy Discussion Board usage to build a scholarly community and encourage critical thinking. The teacher should not be in the center, but on the edges with students leading the conversation with one another.