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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Experiment. . .That Worked!

Some time back I think I mentioned that I was going to try an experiment in my online Spreadsheets in Accounting class. I'm not happy with the textbook we're using (that's an understatement), and I want to rebuild the class with some different problems. However, if you've ever tried to build a numbers-based course without a textbook, you realize that it's very labor intensive to build a set of practice problems.

In this particular class, students complete two sets of homework problems for each unit. The first set is based on a series of templates that students complete. The second set is based on scenarios for which students must complete spreadsheets from "scratch."

I decided to give students the option in the last two units of completing the model-building problems from the textbook OR of creating a new model-building problem of their own. The problem had to be accounting-related and had to include the scenario, instructions for completion, data, the completed worksheet, test data (for use in testing the model), and the completed test data worksheet as well as a chart.

I must admit that I was somewhat nervous about the results I would get. As it turns out, I didn't need to be nervous at all. The model building problems these students submitted were awesome! The scenarios they chose will be much more practical for future accounting students than many of those in the textbook, and students appeared to truly enjoy being able to create something that was meaningful and useful to them. Go figure!

Consider me a convert to the "give students an opportunity to create (at least part) of their own curriculum" camp. Yay!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Article on the Flipped Classroom

another flip
I've been thinking about the flipped classroom lately, not because I am teaching face-to-face again, but because I think there are some lessons there for online faculty.  In the flipped classroom the material you would typically present face-to-face, probably in a lecture format is moved online.  Much of the time that means lectures and presentations go online.  And that's important -- most fully online courses should have some sort of content presentation.  Just telling your students to read a couple of chapters in the text is not adequate.  That said, plan carefully what goes online and in what format.

Here's a great blog post by David Truss on what goes online in a flipped classroom:

He comments on lesson quality "No student is going to accept a barrage of 1 hour long lessons that they have to view at home on a regular basis. How much do you give them to watch online, at home? How deep do you go? How do you balance what students need to know and how much you put in your videos and screen-casts?

Also, how much does your flipped classroom either teach/promote higher order thinking skills or provide the scaffolding for higher order thinking skills in your class after students have viewed the lesson at home? This point relates to the other aspect of lesson quality below."

 That's true if your entire class is online also - content presentations are still important (and still missing from many online courses), but they need to be looked at as part of the entire course.  Where are you going with the presentation?  How does it tie to the remainder of the lesson plan -- the homework, the discussions, the applications, etc?  Too many of us still develop a content presentation separately from activities.  We need to connect all parts of the course in the fully online world. 

David Truss also comments about production quality - so many online courses are developed by faculty with no training in instructional design and minimal technical skills.  Great teachers can overcome those barriers.  The rest of us need support and access to resources.  A monotone lecture given by someone sitting in front of the webcam built into their pc isn't a good example of the kind of content presentation that help students get excited about the course material.  Look for support and ways to improve the way you are presenting material to students -- at the least we have to be engaging. 


(Photo credit:, HC_07)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Great Resource from Australia

I love that this set of resources from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, University of New South Wales, on how to teach online actually began with why? Why do we offer online classes?

For example here is a video on developing an online class:

They have also developed a set of PDF's with additional information on teaching online and a set of case studies that include information about specific tools.


Monday, April 18, 2011

eLCC 2011

More on eLCC presentations:

I went to a presentation on a redesign of a geography course presented by Karen Kaemmerling and Sean Renner of CCCOnline.  This was a course that started with a very traditional set of assessments -- essay, a research paper, and some multiple choice exams.  They had changed the assessments to include:
  1. Discussions:  students chose a term from a bank of terms, find a current event that reflects that their chosen term, then submit the term and the event to the discussion board.  Students also have to respond to at least two peer submissions.
  2. Discussions part 2:  Student generated discussions.  Part of the student introduction requirement is that students browse the text and the course and submit 5 topics for future discussions.  The instructor will generate discussion questions based on those topics as everyone moves through the course.
  3. Video reflection assignment:  This is a journaling assignment rather than a formal writing assignment.  Students watch at least one of the videos that come with the text and write a journal response to that video.  (Two reasons for this assignment -- first, it does force students to watch the videos; and two, it uses the extra multi-media material that students are paying for.)
  4. Annotated Google map:  This is a more creative assignment that ask students to develop an annotated Google map.
  5. Course Project:  A scaffolded assignment that leads to a course presentation
    1. Thesis
    2. Bibliography
    3. Presentation proposal (similar to a conference proposal) and proposed visual aid
    4. Student generated rubric for grading
    5. Presentation:  can be recorded Powerpoint, some other presentation software with audio, video.  The final presentation is submitted to the discussion board.  Students have to comment on at least two other presentations.
The negative comments I heard were around the required amount of writing and the level of written work.  This is a GT transfer course, so is required to include written work.  I think that could be addressed through the first discussion assignment - if the current events pieces are required to be formal essays that means the course would have a significant essay assignment for each unit.  You could also require that a written version of the presentation be turned in.  That includes a bibliography and some formal research. (Here's a link to the general competencies for the GT Transfer courses:  They are interesting to read through again.)

I went to a second session on Google Maps delivered by Scott Houck and two others from Metro State College.  That session was focused more on digital story-telling with Google maps, but didn't offer many specific examples.  I like the idea of using annotated maps, pictures, and video in many classes.  I tried to design an assessment for the international trade unit of my economics course around it, but have so far failed.  It's easier for geography, literature, history, humanities courses (takes less imagination on my part).  If you've looked at some of what Michael Wesch does (youtube), some of his presentations use annotated maps in an exciting way.

Google maps might be very good at helping to add the community piece to a class -- and that helps a lot with student success and completion rates.  So many classes are designed with a series of somewhat boring essays and a couple of multiple choice exams (mine included).  It was nice to brainstorm with some creative, out-of-the-box thinkers.

Last, I enjoyed a session on Data Analytics led by Jon Sherrill of CCCOnline.  I want to go look at a tool called Snap and analyze my discussions with it.  He commented that we need to remember to use all the proposed analytics for the benefit of the students.  That may be obvious, but I agree that it can be forgotten in the rush to data.  It is very important that we begin to collect and analyze student data though -- it may help us to be more efficient, but almost more importantly it gives us a way to respond to Washington when they are planning regulations that may not help 2-year schools.


Friday, April 15, 2011

eLCC 2011

Wow! eLCC 2011 was fabulous!

I went to a great presentation by Liz Kleinfeld on organizing your digital life.  Like Liz I had decided that Facebook is for friends and Twitter is professional.  Also like Liz I find it hard to really keep those two parts of my digital life separate.  I do try to keep the post-types separate though....  most of my Facebook is family and they don't really care about course development issues.  Then of course I keep a completely separate blog on the horse piece since almost no one other than me wants to read my training diary. :^) (Over at for those of you who do want to read about my difficulties with half-pass.)  Then there is Linked-in, which I haven't really figured out yet.  So far it's really just a directory for me, but I have used it to locate people I wanted to talk to, but had lost track of.  Liz had some very good points about how to fill in the profile information for all of those locations and why -- it is better to give people a better first glimpse of yourself than just whatever comes up first when they google you.  (I just googled myself - first Twitter, then Educause, then Blogger.)

On the vendor side I went to a presentation by Soft Chalk.  Didn't learn a lot of new things there, but I do really like the product for quick and easy content development with straight-forward navigation built right in.  I also went to a presentation by Terry Rowenhorst on NROC's new math course.  The material is very good -- a focus on the multimedia presentation of course, but the back end pedagogy is very well thought out.  The problems a student receives are based on whether or not they gave the correct answer on previous problems and the feedback sends them directly to the applicable portion of the "textbook".  There are also numerous applications built in as well as puzzles and other activities.

More coming tomorrow, need more process time!  Great keynotes by Ellen Wagner of WCET and Sage Road Solutions and Barry Dahl of Excellence in e-Education