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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Schedule Page

Most faculty include a course schedule in their syllabus, so why post it as a separate page? The number 1 reason is syllabus length.  Your syllabus for your online course is probably pages (and pages) long.  Students may read it in its entirety once at the beginning of classes and they may refer to it now and then for answers to specific questions, but if it's a 10 or 15 page document they may miss or forget important details.

It's also a very good idea to keep due dates and assignments in front of students as much as possible. Adding a Schedule page and linking it to the main/primary navigation bar helps you do that.  It also helps to keep yourself organized.  I print out the course schedule as well and make sure I refer to it regularly so I know what I am supposed to be doing in each course throughout the semester.  I am busy, students are busy.  It's very easy to forget something important when it isn't right in front of your face shrieking at you. 

A schedule page helps students keep their lives organized.  Go back to that students are busy comment.  Students have lives outside of class that they have to organize around.  If they know up front everything that is due in a course and when it is due they have a better chance of succeeding in managing their time.  I also recommend that as many assignments as possible be made available when the course begins.  Then you won't have to go in and reset due dates for the student who has to complete assignments early.  I know this isn't possible with all assignments, exams in particular, but the more you can make available for the entire semester the better. (I really liked the old interactive schedule pages of 10 years ago where all of the assignments were linked from the schedule page, but you can't do that in BB 8 unless you only want to link from here.)

Last, a schedule page helps you, the instructor, think through the rhythm of the course.  When are major assignments due?  When are minor assignments due?  When are students doing the reading and when are they discussing it?  When can you add flexibility and when is it imperative that students complete a task?

A schedule page helps everyone involved in the class stay organized an be more successful.


Course Schedule and Due Dates

  • This page summarizes all of the graded assignments, exams, and reading assignments for the course. I suggest that you print it out and post it at a location that is easily available.
  • Also available See the Colorado Mountain College Website for the important academic dates for the semester. This includes the current Acadmic Schedule for Add, Drop and Withdraw dates.
  • All assignments are described in detail in the course syllabus or on the unit assignments pages. If you have questions check there and/or send me an email.
  • It is your responsibility to read and study the required chapters at least once during the assigned dates
NOTE: All assignments and discussions are to be completed by 11:59PM on the due date.

Assignments and Activities
Unit Dates


Chapters 1 - 4
  1. Unit 1 Threaded Discussion Opens Feb. 28
  2. Unit 1 Web Report Due (Mar. 10)
  3. Threaded Discussion Responses Due (Mar. 12)
  4. Exam 1 due (Mar. 13)

Feb. 28 - Mar. 13


Chapters 5-9
  1. Unit 2 Threaded Discussion Opens Mar. 14
  2. Unit 2 Web Assignment due (Mar. 31)
  3. Threaded Discussion Responses due (Apr. 2)
  4. Exam 2 due (Apr. 3)

Mar. 14 - April 3


Chapters 10-14
  1. Unit 3 Threaded Discussion Opens Apr. 4.
  2. Unit 3 Web Assignment (Apr. 14)
  3. Threaded Discussion Responses due (Apr. 16)
  4. Exam 3 due (Apr. 17)

Apr. 4 - Apr. 17


Chapters 15-17
  1. Unit 4 Threaded Discussion Opens (Apr. 18)
  2. Unit 4 Web Report avail. as a replacement for Units 1-3 Web Reports due (Apr. 21)
  3. Threaded Discussion Responses due (Apr. 23)
  4. Exam 4 due (Apr. 24)

Apr. 18 - Apr. 24


Chapters 18 & 19, 33 & 34
  1. Unit 5 Threaded Discussion Opens Apr. 25
  2. Unit 5 Web Report Due (May 5)
  3. Threaded Discussion Responses due (May 7)
  4. Exam 5 due (May 8)

Apr. 25 - May 8
NOTE: All assignments and discussions are to be completed by 11:55 PM on the due date.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box

I often have discussions about how to convert paper-based or face-to-face instruction to an online medium. Generally these conversations revolve, at least somewhat, around the known (or perceived) limitations of the online environment. This June 17, 2011, blog post entitled "Dream eLearning: No Constraints," (from "Penny For Your Thoughts"), reminded me to try to think outside the box when designing eLearning. The author was asked how she would design eLearning if there were no constraints. After musing that there are always constraints, she developed a list of five things she would like to be able include in her eLearning activities. The techniques she listed aren't necessarily new, but they are a strong reminder that with a little bit of creativity, we can indeed develop eLearning activities that engage our students. In a nutshell, she reminds us to make it real, make it active, make it a fun, and make it flexible. It was a great reminder to me that a slight twist on an old assignment can make it much more engaging and stimulating for my students.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Do Personalized Videos Enhance Retention?

An article in today's Chronicle notes that one department at Syracuse University is experimenting with sending a "personalized" video link to each of approximately 300 students who enroll for the summer term. The 30-second video incorporates the student's name into a generalized "we're glad you're here" message recorded by one of two celebrity Syracuse alums. There is no data yet to indicate whether or not the videos will increase retention, but it's an interesting concept!

Here is the link to the article if you care to read more: "Syracuse Sends Personalized Video Message to Admitted Students to Stop 'Summer Melt'."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Thoughts on Student Ratings

Earlier this week I read over all of the IDEA evaluations for the online courses.  Coincidentally I am also reading Inspired College Teaching by Maryellen Weimer.  Chapter 3, which I just finished, is Rewriting the End of Course Survey.  It’s all about what you can and can’t learn from the end of course surveys and actually mentions IDEA by name.  Following is a summary and interpretation of Weimar’s thoughts on evaluations.

What the ratings are:  They are summative feedback about an educational experience relative to the many other educational experiences the students have had. Trends in the ratings can be more useful than a specific rating of a specific class, particularly in online courses where response rates tend to be very low.  If 5 years of classes have spoken positively about your grading style and one class dislikes it you can and should reflect on that, but it may not be a change in your grading style at all.  They provide a summary of student opinions regarding your teaching behaviors over the years.

What they are not:  They do not provide a specific call to action.  Ratings give you information for reflection.  They typically do not give you specific changes to teaching behaviors.  For example, students may decry your lack of communication.  There are many ways to change your communication style.  Deciding what specifically to change requires careful thought and reflection as well as discussion with peers.

So what should you do with your ratings?  First, pull out the last five or six years of ratings.  Look at them as a group.  Do you see any trends?  Are the trends going in the direction you want them to go in?  Most of us think about our courses at the end of each semester and make changes to them.  Can a student response to those changes be seen in the ratings?  If it can’t, what other data could you find that would tell you if your changes are impacting student learning positively?   Ratings are a jumping off point for general reflection about your teaching.

Next pick out one rating that you would like to see improve, say, “stimulated students to learn more about the content.”  What specific teaching behaviors impact that?  Choose 2 or 3 things you could do differently that would help you generate excitement about your content.  How would you implement them?  Can you implement them this summer?  Give it a try!

If you are having trouble choosing one thing to change my advice for many faculty teaching online is to consider how you demonstrate instructor presence.  Students in online courses frequently do not believe the instructor is really invested in their course.  To convince them you are present and invested in the class and in their learning they need to see you in the course on a regular basis.  There are clearly many ways to demonstrate instructor presence – email, discussions, announcements, grading/feedback, response time in general to name the obvious.  Consider your teaching behaviors around these tools and choose one or two specific behaviors to modify for the summer.  Be sure to decide how to evaluate the efficacy of your changes so you can decide in August if the new behaviors should be continued or if you need to try something else.

Student evaluations are one good source of feedback from students.  They can help you decide how to change your courses and teaching.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reflecting on Teaching Presence

Signifying Presence
Today I finished reading through all of the IDEA ratings for CMC's online faculty this past spring.  IDEA is the student evaluation method used by CMC.  (More information here:  The survey was developed for F2F teaching, so could stand to be adapted for online, but it's still useful.  

At the same time I made it all the way to chapter 2 of "Inspired College Teaching" by Maryellen Weimer.  That's the chapter where she discusses the importance of reflection, of thinking about what you do in the classroom and then moving beyond that to why you do it?  A straightforward place to start is on policies.  Do you have an attendance policy?  Why?  What is the goal/objective of your policy on attendance?  Is it meeting that goal? We too often don't take the time to think about the ramifications of each policy or teaching behavior, especially when it is to be transported to the online world.

The class evaluation forms ought to be a good moment to stop and do some reflection about your teaching and the IDEA format does facilitate this.   What did students say about your course?  Do they like the organization? Do the assessments you've chosen help students meet the learning outcomes?  Are students able to negotiate the content easily? Do they feel that you, the instructor, are present in the course? 

Clearly the top faculty were very present in their courses.  They provided prompt, extensive, and useful feedback on assessments.  They responded to student questions quickly via email and discussion post.  They developed a class atmosphere which encouraged students to talk with each other and work with each other.  

The content was important also -- in courses taught be exceptional faculty students were stimulated to look beyond the material in the textbook and the course shell.  They learned how to apply the material to their lives and concerns, not just for exams and assessments.  They were enthusiastic about continuing studies in that content area.  It was exciting to read the student comments in those courses.

The surveys emphasized the continuing importance of faculty presence.  Be there (promptly and frequently) for your students in email, in discussion, in grading.  Ensure they know they have a guide through the content.  They will reward you with enthusiasm and excitement about your field.


(Photo credit:  Timothy Greig, Signifying Presence,

Sunday, June 12, 2011

APUS Webinar Series on Teaching Online in Community Colleges - Tammy Herdner

Best Practices for Online Learning, Part 1 (May Webinar), Tammy Herdner, APUS Legal Studies Faculty
  • Lead
  • Timeliness
  • Stick to a Schedule
  • Don't get behind the email 8 ball
  • No Surprises!
Lead:  Stay in front, build rapport, lead your student's educational experience.  Manage is not the same as leading.  Leaning is an opportunity to touch people, a platform that allows us to share our ideas with a lot of people.  Be remarkable and leave a mark.  Be very intentional and proactive about your class.  

Consider going through your class as a student, so you see exactly what they see.  Think about the class from beginning to end and be intentional about the entire experience from the student perspective.

Timeliness:  Is critical to prevent isolation.  When in doubt, communicate.  Consistent, adequate, timely feedback is a key way to prevent student's from feeling isolated.  Consider a weekly announcement on a regular date and time.

Stick to a Schedule:  This ensures good classroom management.  Tell students when you are going to have something done and then stick to it.  (This is a schedule for the instructor).  Sets a good pace for the instructor and helps you set expectations for students.

Don't get behind on email:  student panic = student email = overwhelming for the instructor.

No Surprises!: Students, especially in the online environment, don't like surprises. Plan the entire course before the semester begins.  Let students know exactly what will happen when, when due dates are, what the assignments are, etc.  Publish entire course before term begins.  Then don't change unless you have a very, very good reason.  Students are adults, they have full lives with families, jobs, community responsibilities.  They need to know ahead of time what they will need to do for your course and when they need to do things. (Lisa would add that it's a good idea to build some flexibility into your class.  Students also have crises.  It's nice to allow them the flexibility to manage those crises or other responsibilities without impacting the course.)

This was a very basic webinar, but had a lot of good ideas re organization and planning -- and I agree with the presenter that those are the keys to success in online teaching.  Following her ideas allows you to have the time to be a real person to students, to be present in the teaching space, and to lead your students to successful learning outcomes.


(Photo credit:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tony Bates comments on Instructional Design

Interesting summary of a workshop in instructional design at University of British Columbia from Tony Bates:

There is a lot to think about in the article.  I came away considering one of his last points:
Lastly, I was interested in what was not discussed. For me the elephant in the room is the design of campus-based learning experiences when much can now be done online. For what kinds of students, and for what areas of a subject domain, is online learning appropriate or when would it be best to use the campus, and for what? Are we really fully exploiting the campus experience in a world of online learning? What theoretical frameworks or design models do instructional designers have that will help with such decisions?
 CMC is both a residential college and a commuter college.  The goal of the Online Learning campus is not to bring in a "super-commuter", students from far far away, but rather to support and enable the students we already have.  Given that, how should online learning practices inform classroom practices?  How do we design online learning to help students get the most from their campus experience?  Interesting to think about as the relationship between face-to-face learning and online learning continues to evolve.

I also thought about his comments on mobile learning.  Perhaps mobile learning is not a significant part of formal learning experiences, but rather a method of increasing informal learning and the kind of continuing education that needs to spring up to fill the gaps in time and space with the information and analysis people need to continue to grow and innovate throughout their lives.

Does mobile learning have to be about sound bites?  Small bits of information that students can digest in a few moments between other parts of their lives?  Is it limited to reminders and notices?  Should it perhaps include answers to small questions?  What about larger questions and critical analysis? Is it always to be in response to a questions, never proactive?  I think of phones as something that you look at briefly, then move on with life.  How does that affect educational practices?


Thursday, June 9, 2011

APUS Webinar Series on Teaching Online in Community Colleges

American Public University System is running a monthly webinar series on teaching online in comunity colleges.  More information and links to past webinars is available at  Also a link straight to the slides.  (APUS as a side note, is doing a lot of research on teaching online right not.  This is a way they have for sharing back to the teaching community.  APUS has approximately 90,000 students, many military.)

This month's webinar was "Continuous Engagement:  Why it is Important to Effective Online Education" by Mary Dershiwsky.  Mary teaches for APUS and Norther Arizona University, Statistics and Teaching Research.  She had many great ideas for continuous engagement which I tweeted as I listened, but will also summarize here.

First Week:  login several times a day so there is minimal time lapse between student posts and questions and your replies and answers.  Set up an introduction area and personalize your replies to each individual student.  Work on humanizing yourself and on creating connections between yourself and your students. Post an affirming announcement two or three days into the first week. Lots of focus on the positive.

As the term progresses:  Consider a "Winner's Circle" area where you comment on student achievements.  Mary also uses a "Words to Lead By" discussion area which sounds like it is for encouragement and positive thinking.  Mark up assignments with what students did right.  -- Again, lots of focus on the positive. --

Keeping everyone moving:  Use a weekly assignment to ensure everyone logs in.  This can be a very short quiz, a discussion, a "minute paper" (recall and apply).  Consider hiding "Easter eggs" in your announcements or discussion posts with extra credit.  Students who find the Easter Egg can email you to let you know they found it.  Post a weekly wrap up which also sets the stage for the next week.

A goal is to humanize yourself and your students.  Respond to them by name so they know you are talking to them and so they are personally asked to re-engage with the material and the course.  Humanizing yourself and the course also helps reduce student test anxiety.

From short discussion after end of presentation:

Students didn't particularly like talking head videos.  They preferred narrated power point slides.  Voice Thread is a good tool to use for developing those.  It is good to have an photo of yourself, so they know who is talking. For talking head video consider Jing or Viddler.

Mary is speaking next month also - highly recommended!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

After First Impressions: Should they come to class?

Olympiastadion Seats
I've been thinking about attendance and it's effect on grades and then the online corollary - frequency of access to the course shell and participation in discussions.  Today @Busynessgirl tweeted a Chronicle article: on the same topic.  

The majority of my teaching career has been with adult students - not the 18 to 19 year old crowd, but the 28-34 year old crowd.  In my mind they are all adult enough to decide for themselves whether or not they are coming to class.  And yet.....  I don't have a formal study across many classes regarding participation and login frequency and their relationship to class success, but just in my own classes the students who login 3 to 4 times a week and are active on the discussion board do complete successfully at a higher rate than those who do not login. 

That means I require participation on the discussion boards and I tie that participation to course grades.  lately it hasn't been a lot of points, not even the difference between and A and a B, but still, there are points involved.

As a side note:  attendance and participation aren't quite the same thing.  Attendance in a F2F course means seat time and seat time is a proxy for things like learning outcomes, knowledge, etc.  Participation is probably a better proxy for learning outcomes and knowledge attained.  Clearly you can have attendance without much participation (especially in 8:00 am classes).  But participation requires attendance.

Also relevant:  The Two Lies of Teaching from Dy/Dan,


(Photo credit: From Hey Mr Glen,

Friday, June 3, 2011

First Impressions. . .

I just read a short article called, "Overcoming a 'Mullet' View of Faculty" in The Chronicle. It notes that we tend to form opinions of co-workers and students at the very first contact, which isn't a surprise to any of us. However, it made me think about what students might do early in a course to make a good or a bad "first impression" on me--and how that might color my reaction to or behavior with students throughout the entire course.

What do students do that makes a good, or a bad, first impression on you?