An Application of my Learning in EC&I 831

December 11, 2009

Hey Everyone!

It’s not even a week since the last class in EC&I 831 and I’m already applying the things I’ve learned to my practice as an ABE instructor. A sure-fire sign indeed that Alec is doing something right!

As some of you may know, I teach exclusively online classes for an ABE program and one of the classes I’m teaching is Psychology 30. During the course, I have learners reflect on a number of controversial issues with more than one side to them. Traditionally I’ve had those learners complete the assignment in a journal response, one that only I would see and mark. I had always wanted to change the format of these assignments into something more collaborative and now that I’ve taken this class, I’ve also taken the plunge into having my learners participate in an online Forum discussion surrounding the various given issues. I teach completely asynchronously so all of my learners tend to be at different points in their program so I was concerned about achieving a continuity of discussion given that situation. I still don’t know for sure how it will all work out, but I’m winging it anyway and I’m sure I’ll learn and adjust things as I need to along the way!

I did think it a prudent idea to write up a set of expectations, both for the learners and for me, to refer to in order to help establish the expected norms. Here is what I composed and posted on the course site as a guide for learners to follow when participating in the online classroom Forums:

Forum Discussion Guidelines

In Units 2, 3 & 4 of this course, you will be involved in discussions with other people taking this course about different issues surrounding human development. Some of the people who have posted in these discussions may have finished the course by the time you get here and so any comments you make on the posts they have created may not be responded to by the original writer. Please do not get discouraged by this. I’ll be monitoring the discussions as well and offering alternative points of view to consider too.

There are two expectations with regard to these Forum discussions. You are expected to give your view on a given situation, making sure you are backing up that view with solid, well stated evidence from the course or outside reputable sources. This is where the bulk of your grade for the Forum discussions posts will come from.

In addition to composing your original post, you are also expected to read the work of other students enrolled in this class and to comment on their posts in a constructive, thoughtful and always respectful manner.

General Guidelines for Commenting on Posts:

  1. Tone of Voice: This is an academic class and not a casual goofing off sort of discussion or chat group you can find on the Internet. While humour is always appreciated, please keep it appropriate to a classroom context.
  2. Write in full sentences: While this isn’t an English class, the bulk of the communication you will do in this course is based on writing, so it is important for you to practice well developed writing skills. Any errors in grammar and sentence structure tend to erode overall meaning and this is something we want to avoid.
  3. Comment in a constructive, positive manner: Abuse of any other person in this class, either past or present will be dealt with severely. Respect the opinions and thoughts of other classmates at all times please.

I realize most of these guidelines are likely unnecessary for me to iterate here as everyone here is an adult, however I’d rather err on the side of caution and just be crystal clear as to what the expectations are.

Please contact your instructors for further explanation of expectations should you require any clarification of the points discussed in this document. Thank you!!

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I hope this will be useful for my learners as they work their way through the course. If you have any suggestions that I could include to improve upon what I have here, I’d be delighted to hear them 🙂 Thanks and talk to you again soon!

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6 Responses to “An Application of my Learning in EC&I 831”

  1. Jeffg said

    Great feedback for the kids to follow, heck I have been blogging for about 4 months and I still learned something. Thanks for your wonderful insight througout the course. This course wouldn’t have been the same without all of the wonderful feedback from others.

    • Michelle Clarke said

      Thanks Jeff! I have had a few students start Forum discussions and they still need a bit of guidance even given these directions. That instruction is more along the lines of “… give more detail; expand upon your initial thoughts; delve into more aspects of the subject..” and so on. It’s a bit difficult trying to cultivate an in-depth discussion yet, but hey! At least we have started it! That’s something for sure.

      And you are absolutely right. The most valuable thing about our course were the reflective discussions and connections we made with one another throughout the course. I’m hoping to foster that same sort of collaborative climate with my adult education students. Thanks for the comment and the visit 😀

  2. Hi Michele – I teach ABQ online courses in Ontario that are partly synchronous (i.e. we are all on the same module at the same time with start and end dates.)

    The online discussion forum is the most important part of the course in my view and posts and follow ups can vary wildly among students. Consider posting yourself a great deal at first, to model appropriate posts and follow ups.

    Forum discussion makes up part of the formal assessment and here are the things I look for (and model too, naturally): posts and comments forward discussion in real and substantive ways (one gets verrrrry tired of ‘great job!’ comments or another “teacher story” which doesn’t relate to the topic); specific and appropriate references to the readings of the course; links to new ideas, other people’s ideas or ideas discussed previously in the course; posts explore connections between course ideas, personal thinking and experience; posts show regard for the ideas and work of others.

    I’m thinking of trying Edmodo or maybe Ning with the group I will be teaching in the Winter session – is this something you have considered?

    • Michelle Clarke said

      Thank you Wendy for some very concrete advice! I have actually been trying to get the ball rolling, so to speak, by doing a lot of what you say, such as posting/responding to everyone’s posts and asking the devil’s advocate sorts of questions.

      In particular, I will incorporate your suggestion of further readings and see if I can’t find some appropriate online readings that broaden/expand the issues at hand for the students (and for myself! I never stop learning as I teach after all) as well as the many suggestions you have for linking and demonstrating connections across curricula and between students and contexts. All are truly magnificent suggestions!! Thanks so very much!

      I haven’t had a chance to check out Edmodo yet (that’s now tonight’s homework for me) and I signed up for a Ning account a year ago (but haven’t used it, haha… I’m still working on increasing my connectivity slowly!) but I will most definitely have to check that out! Please keep me informed as to how you are finding things. I’m going to subscribe to your blog right now so I can keep abreast of changes and innovations you incorporate in your online teachings 😀

  3. Wendy J. said

    Hi Michelle – thanks for your response to my comment and your kind words – like you, I am a newcomer to all things Web 2.0 – and to make matters worse (well sort of) I just retired from teaching, so I don’t have secondary students to try things out on anymore! The upside is I have more time to mess around with things online. My blog is designed to show other teachers how to incorporate technology into their classes and is very raw really compared to other people’s blogs. I am still thinking about how to use blogs/nings and edmodo in the online environment where I teach, since the ‘class’ is already using WebCT as its main online platform. I do think incorporating more web 2.0 would help the variety of learners I encounter in online class, because WebCT is so limited in terms of multi-media. Is your online class using a ‘closed’ platform too? One thing I tried out was VoiceThread to assist those teachers who had never taken an online course and were not much involved in the digital world . Here is a link to a Voicethread I created to introduce online learning to a new group of teachers – it might give you some ideas of how you could use Voicethread too. http://voicethread.com/share/539765/ If you are on Twitter and would like to follow me I am @wendyljackson. (I’m not terribly interesting to follow, but I follow some wonderful people including Dr. Couros, where I found your blog). Cheers.

    • Hi Wendy! I have never heard of VoiceThread before.. it’s quite an interesting take on the traditional text-based forum discussion, isn’t it? I think I’ll need to play around with it a bit to really understand what it can do and see if perhaps it is something I can add in to the courses I teach.

      The courses I’ve developed and deliver online utilize Moodle, which can be delivered on an open or a closed system. The college I work for has elected (for financial and proprietary reasons) to use it as a closed system. I’ve also developed things using WebCT but honestly I love the features and ease of Moodle over that particular platform. It’s all about what one gets used to, I suppose, and the fact that Moodle is a free open sourceware product appeals to me too 🙂

      I just today created a couple of instructional aids for my courses using Captivate. I have had Captivate installed on my computer for some time but hadn’t really utilized it yet. I bit the bullet today and created two instructional vids complete with audio. It was super easy and super fast, actually. I think when I get to work tomorrow morning I’ll write a new blog talking about it and post a video I did there, just to share it. Plus a demonstration is worth a thousand or more of my words!

      I’ll be keeping an eye on your blog, Wendy, and pass it along to my colleagues as well!

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