Checklist for moving course online
Worksheets and Checklists

A Checklist for Moving Your Course Online

A checklist is absolutely essential to moving a face-to-face course online. Not only does it help the instructor conceptualize their course in an online environment, it helps the instructional designer see what needs to be done. Here is a simple guide to preparing to move your courses online.

Topics to consider

Course length/timeframe

Most courses run the length of a semester, but this does not always translate directly to an online format. For instance, you may have 30 minutes of instruction in a course session followed by class activity and homework. Students are then given activities and readings to do outside of class that support the lecture. By contrast, in an online course, the “lecture” need not be the center of instruction, but more of a means to guide students to the concepts they will learn through other material. In my online business courses, I like to first provide students with relevant practical materials to dive in and see the concepts in action. I then use my lecture as a way to wrap-up and highlight what was learned in the module.

Course objectives

In many cases, there are fewer course objectives for online courses, in that material is chunked to keep students from becoming overwhelmed. Review current course objectives and make a note of which topics contain the most and the least number of objectives. Also, make a note of which topics/modules/sessions contain objectives that are often difficult for your students.

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Wikipedia
Assignments and Activities

Leveraging Wikipedia to Develop Students’ Writing Skills

In most courses with some sort of research writing assignment, there’s a strongly worded prohibition against using Wikipedia. IT’S NOT A RELIABLE SOURCE! And measured by academic standards, it’s not. But faculty members Frances Di Lauro and Rebecca Johinke at the University of Sydney see these prohibitions as a wasted learning opportunity. “In bringing Wikipedia into the classroom, discussing its strengths and weaknesses, and subsequently what constitutes research and peer review, we engage students in a dialogue about academic writing as a process and a product, while at the same time involving them in collaborative and participatory writing groups.” (p. 478)

Their well-referenced article describes various Wikipedia assignments used in an undergraduate writing course and a graduate course in magazines studies. It also contains a variety of information documenting that the Wikipedia of today is “a far more accurate storehouse of information than it was in its formative years. It now meets, if not surpasses, the accuracy of traditional specialist-built counterparts like Encyclopedia Britannica.” (p. 481) And that assertion is documented with research cited from Nature and other credible academic sources.

Wikipedia is a truly unique source. It’s gargantuan. By 2013, if assembled as a set of physical books, it would have totaled 15,930 volumes. According to Wikipedia Report Card, during the month of June 2015, 374,819,00 discrete visitors consulted articles in Wikipedia and that didn’t include articles accessed by via mobile apps. “The ‘epitome of crowdsourcing,’ Wikipedia is a unique encyclopedia that is peer-produced by a variety of users including ‘frequent and occasional contributors. . .specialists and generalists’ and a range of interdisciplinary scholars.” (p. 479-480)

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interpreting student comments on course evaluations
Reflections

Interpreting Student Comments on Course Evaluations

When it comes to feedback about course quality, students and teachers aren’t necessarily using the same yardstick.  “How hard is it to get a good grade?” is a typical student concern and priority affecting course feedback.  If teachers, administrators, and students hold different expectations about the course and about learning in general, the academic process falls short of its potential. Viewing student feedback through alternative student lenses helps teachers better understand end-of-course feedback.  Careful consideration of student feedback helps teachers and academic leaders sensitively manage these divergent views, which leads to increased student satisfaction.  More importantly, viewing course feedback through a student lens should improve learning and retention as it fosters changes that align teachers’ and students’ expectations and beliefs about learning.

Below are three examples of common student comments followed by a suggestion of how we could better interpret what students are telling us. Discussion of the feedback and possible interpretations can lead to policy and instructional changes that facilitate closer alignment of expectations regarding rigor, assessment, and learning.

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Good teaching. Engaged students.
Reflections

Is Good Teaching Caught or Taught?

There is comfort in things that are black or white, isn’t there? It feels good to have clarity and to be able to predict an outcome with certainty. I’m a scientist and therefore well-schooled and admittedly comfortable with predictability. Because, at least in my world, when the predictable does not happen, we usually find dysfunction. Disciplinary background aside, the question of whether good teaching is caught or taught draws many of us in because we gravitate toward having a definitive answer—black or white, caught or taught. Further, most of us really do want to be good teachers and we’d love to have a recipe or formula that predicts— or even better, guarantees—good teaching. If neither one of those are possible, then we’d at least be grateful for something that affirms that we are on the right path.

Unfortunately, I think most of us know that type of either/or clarity is elusive. With most complex issues we encounter, the “correct” answer hides somewhere in the mud of the murky middle and if anything qualifies as complex, it’s teaching. As one begins to pile on the factors and variables present in every classroom, regardless of size, discipline or location, it quickly becomes apparent why some concrete advice on how to navigate those variables would be welcome salve to any teacher.

As someone in charge of faculty development activities on campus but also because I want to become a better teacher, I think a lot about how we nurture good teaching. We could address the issue by asking what works. What are the attitudes, behaviors, or practices of teachers who consistently demonstrate good teaching? We might be able to emulate them or at least pick up a new approach or insight to improve our teaching. However, there are inevitable challenges with this approach. For example, the advice offered by someone who teaches physics may not be applicable or translatable to someone who teaches in a skill-based, professional program. Are we to assume that what any good teacher does can be integrated by another teacher, regardless of discipline?

Alternatively, we could look at the literature to gain insight on what characteristics of good teaching have been studied and proven effective. There are multitudes of articles that address the “what works?” question— how is faculty teaching encouraged, or measured or taught? Often, the best of these papers not only look at how faculty perceptions of teaching change; they also look at how courses change and student learning is affected. With those approaches in mind, I offer two cairns I have taken from the literature and my own self-reflection in hopes that they provide some direction in the continuing pursuit of good teaching.

First, prepare and train for a long journey. In his book, The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer reflects on the dramatic swings experienced by those who teach. One day, you feel like a master teacher facilitating conversation and guiding students to profound insights. The next day (or even in the next section of the same course), the silence is stifling and attempts at facilitation seem to cause students to withdraw further (Palmer, 1998). In the years I’ve been teaching, I’ve discovered that if I arrive at a point where I begin to feel confident and think that just maybe I might have some good teaching in me, a miserable classroom experience inevitably follows and I recalibrate my teaching skills and abilities.

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learner-centered teaching strategies
Active learning

Learner-Centered Teaching: 10 Ideas for Getting Started

Looking to incorporate some learner-centered teaching principles into your courses but aren’t sure where to begin? Here are 10 activities for building student engagement and getting students more actively involved in their learning.

Strategy One: Creating the Climate for Learning

  • Use the same activity but with a different topic. For example, before the first discussion in a class, you might have students talk about the best and worst class discussions they’ve observed. Have them explain what the teacher did and what the students did.
  • The activity can be used as an icebreaker for group work. Say you’ve put students together in work groups. Have them start to get to know each other by talking about the best and worst group experiences they’ve had and what they need to do individually and collectively to have this group function well.
  • At the end of the best/worst course discussion, ask a student to take a picture of the board (constructive use of cell phone in class) and send it to you. Then you can send a copy to each student. Obviously, you can write down what students said and distribute a paper or electronic copy.
  • Use the description of the best class as an early course feedback mechanism. During the second or third week of the course, have students rate the items they listed. For example, if they said, “The teacher respects students”; ask them to rate on a five-point scale how well that’s happening in class so far. You might rate them on some of the student characteristics.

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getting students to read what's assigned
Teaching Strategies and Techniques

10 Strategies for Promoting Accountability and Investment in Reading Assignments

As teachers, we see value in what we assign students, but students don’t always appreciate the relevance or understand the purpose of their assignments. Required readings are a great example of this disconnect. However, when students have some input into their learning, their response to assignments (yes, even reading assignments) changes. Rather than requiring fill-in-the-blank reading guides or giving weekly quizzes to “motivate” students to do assigned readings, professors can give students some alternatives. We can design those alternatives to give students greater choice and responsibility for their learning, thereby making the assignments more meaningful. Here is a collection of reading assignment alternatives we use and recommend.

  1. Non-structured Notes: Allow students to submit notes on assigned readings in various formats. These formats may include a detailed outline, graphic organizer, poster, summary paragraphs, or other visual representations of the material. Different format samples can be shared with the entire class or within small groups to stimulate discussion of the readings.

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tips for using Quizlet in college classroom
Tools and Technology

Tips from the Pros: Promoting Active Learning with Quizlet

How best to engage students and provide opportunities for active learning is a question we find ourselves thinking about and discussing often with colleagues. Quizlet is a user-friendly, technology-based quizzing system that works well to engage students in both face-to-face and online learning environments. Instructors can use it to create their own study set or browse through and use existing study sets. Study sets consist of groups of questions presenting content that students have reviewed. The content is presented as terms, definitions, pictures, diagrams, and labels, making the program flexible and effective for many disciplines. For example, an anatomy professor could insert pictures or diagrams of the skeletal system, and students may be charged with either labeling or identifying the correct term.

Quizlet has many functions both inside and outside of the classroom. One common use of Quizlet is its flashcard function, which is useful to review course content. In order to engage in the flashcard function, students click on a study set and then click on the flashcard icon. Next, one at a time, a definition is revealed and the student types in a term. The program indicates if the answer is correct and how many terms the student has answered correctly. In addition to flashcards, students can engage in a matching game. For the matching game, students click on a study set and then click on the matching game icon. Next, all the terms and definitions are on the screen in a scattered pattern and the student clicks on a term and drags it to the correct definition. The Gravity game is another popular activity using a video game format where students test their knowledge by answering questions before asteroids hit the ground.

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online teaching
Reflections

Reviving the Joy of Teaching

I have been an educator for 49 years. Throughout the years, I have seen innovation and experimentation in educational theory, practice, and style. I have experienced personal success, and failure in meeting the needs of students. For most of that time I have loved the practice and the art of teaching. I was rewarded by the feedback I have received from the many individuals whose lives I have influenced along the way. I relished the success of my students, both those school leaders and those I taught in a graduate education school leadership program. What made my

What made my relationship with these individuals special and rewarding? It was the human interaction marked by the personal connection that teachers can have with their students. It was the act of seeing the students regularly whether the setting was in a public school or a higher education classroom. It was the discussions, in and out of class, the sharing of ideas, helping students consider their futures, discussing the difficulties some were experiencing, and it was hearing about their successes that made teaching enjoyable and satisfying.

Then something changed that began to diminish the satisfaction I felt from teaching.

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encouraging student feedback
Feedback Prompts

Encouraging Student Evaluations Without Giving Extra Credit

Gone are the days of handing out course evaluations during the last week of class and asking students to fill them out and place them in the envelope in the front of the room. Now, students are sent an email with a link or perhaps are given directions in their learning management system on how to fill out class evaluations. With evaluations now handled remotely, it’s no surprise that the percentage of students who complete them has shrunk considerably.

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storytime in library
Reflections

A University Professor Teaches in the K-12 Classroom

During my recent sabbatical, I had the unique opportunity to teach full-day sessions for 14 weeks in two different K-12 settings. Here’s how that happened. I decided to propose this unique sabbatical project because my students regularly asked me about the clinical experience phase of the university’s library science program. The prospect of taking PRAXIS exams (two are required for library science certification) in a testing center and completing background checks and required Pennsylvania Department of Education paperwork were all student stressors. And although those of us teaching in the program can explain and mentor student teaching experiences in a library setting, our students knew very well that most of us had done our student teaching many years prior. Since then, the overall process has evolved to include complications such as required certification tests, background checks, fingerprints, and such. More to the point, I wanted to actually live the experience as a student might.

I didn’t arrive at my faculty position in this department via the more traditional route. I came to university teaching by way of the military, time in corporate America, and teaching at a community college. At this point, I do have a couple of master’s degrees, higher education teaching experience, and am a practicing and certified Pennsylvania Professional Public Librarian, but before my sabbatical I was not K-12 certified. Once my sabbatical project was approved I set out to “walk the walk,” doing the same steps required of our teacher candidates. First, there was some additional course work I needed to fill in certain gaps in my higher education-focused master’s degree in library science. Accordingly, to prepare for the sabbatical, I completed four courses outside the library science domain. Next, I obtained the clearances I did not yet possess or were not current enough to satisfy school district requirements, completed the requisite medical exams, and processed the paperwork at the sponsoring school district in order to be voted in and invited as a “student” teacher by the schoolboard.

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