Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November 29, 2011

Good Morning Online Instructors,

I hope you all had a nice and relaxing Thanksgiving holiday and are ready and motivated to finish out the quarter strong.  It is hard to believe we are already in week 9!

At this stage in the quarter I often ask myself what I can be doing to help my students end strong and pull all of the course material together.  One great tool available to help us accomplish this is online flashcards. As an instructor you can create flashcards for your students to study from, or you can have students make their own flashcards (this way they will be studying as they create them, which is yet another added benefit).

Many online flashcard sites have various study techniques that allow students to print cards, study on their computers, send to their personal mobile devices to study on the go, etc., making studying very user-friendly.

A few online flashcard sites include:
Check these out to find one that best fits your own teaching style and course needs.

If you have any questions on any of these online flashcard resources, please let me know.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Early!

As mentioned in last week's blog, this week I am going to focus on effective online group project assessment strategies.
  • Before a group even begins its project, it is important - as the instructor - to point out that there are multiple personalities and perspectives at play in each group.  Therefore, laying everything out on the table as far as group members' expectations and project result desires will help to ease anxieties or concerns. Requiring groups to create Team Charters or sets of rules and expectations will set the stage for effective accountability and assessment later on.
  • Research has shown that effective online group project assessment should be broken down into four areas:  Instructor Assessment of Project; Project Process Assessment; Student Self Assessment; and Peer Assessment.
  • Not all of these areas should be equally weighted, but all areas should be addressed in some capacity.
  • Instructor assessment of project:  Using a pre-developed grading rubric that was originally shared with the group in conjunction with the group project assignment details, the instructor will grade the end group project product.
  • Project Process Assessment:  Using the touch point stages of the project, the instructor will gauge and assess how the group is working holistically and assess the process, once again using a pre-developed grading rubric.
  • Student Self Assessment:  Most effective in the form of a reflection paper, students should individually analyze and evaluate his/her participation in the group process and contribution to the end product.  Each student can individually assign a score to him/herself, but the real grading of this component is the instructor's evaluation of the student's reflection.  Did the student really engage in the reflection process and did he/she exhibit an understanding of his/her strengths and weaknesses in the process?
  • Peer Assessment:  This final phase of the assessment process allows students to use their Team Charter guidelines to evaluate one another on overall group process participation and contribution.  A quick and easy way for students to evaluate one another in this fashion is to assign points to each team member based on his/her evaluation of the Team Charter criteria, then the instructor will average the scores from all team members.  That averaged score will be what is recorded for individual team members in the grade book.  
If you have any questions on any of these assessment strategies, or if you have approaches you have used that have worked well and differ from what is stated above, please share those with me.

Thanks and once again Happy Thanksgiving!
Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 16, 2011

Good Morning Online Instructors,

This week's and next week's blog posts are going to be dedicated to offering some research findings, some tips, and some observations your fellow colleagues shared in their "Facilitating Online Groups" instructor training courses this quarter.  The great insights gained from the training sessions can benefit all of us as online instructors.

First of all, the following article is one I shared with all participants in the training course.  I received several positive comments about how much the instructors liked the article that I wanted to share it with all of you:
Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age

Now, to some of the great insights your fellow instructors shared in terms of being effective online group project facilitators:
  • From the beginning of the project, instructors should take an active role in each group project by helping groups define project goals and objectives.  This doesn't mean the instructor should define these for the group; rather, the instructor should facilitate the process by making it a requirement for groups to engage in this step whether through a discussion board or some other means (graded or non-graded in nature).
  • In addition to the group project's goals and objectives being defined, having each team create a Team Charter or set of rules to abide by helps to have all team members have a say and be on the same page.  (Specific standards for participation and consequences for non-participation can be clearly laid out here, making it easier to address non-participation issues later on.)
  • Instructors should create touch points throughout the group project where instructors can "check" in on the progress to see how things are progressing and "assess" in some fashion throughout.  This also teaches students how to effectively manage group work in the future.
  • A great strategy to help individual groups and group members take more control and ownership of their work and progress is to assign and rotate the group leader role.  This person, which can and should change throughout the process, can help to keep the group on track and "monitor" overall progress.
  • Research has revealed that student selected groups tend to be more harmonious, so this is something to consider when organizing groups.  
  • Research has also shown that students take their work and specifically their writing more seriously when it is evaluated by  peers rather than teachers.  This offers strong support for group work and the group peer review process on writing projects.
  • While this probably seems obvious, it is something we often forget to really evaluate when creating and facilitating online group projects:  Make sure the project is a Group necessary project.  By verifying that student understanding of the course content and objectives are more effectively met by group collaboration you are creating justification for group work.
Next week I will be focusing on some points raised in terms of group work assessment, so please be watching for that post too.

I hope you find these tips useful and I encourage you to implement them into your courses by altering the way you may currently facilitate group projects or by giving group projects a try in the future.

If you have any questions please let me know.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November 8, 2011

Good Morning Online Instructors,

I'm posting this week's blog a bit early as the focus this week is offering tips on the Grade Center as you finish up grading of Unit 5 material and prepare to submit midterm grades.  I've shared these tips before, but in case you are new or would like a refresher, I wanted to share these again.

Click here to access a tutorial on how to set the grade center total column to display students' running total percentages and letter grade.

Also, as you are working on individual assignment grading, please don't forget that you can download grade center columns into an Excel document to be able to enter all student scores and feedback on one document to then upload back into the grade center quickly and easily.  Click on this tutorial to walk you through this process.

Finally, you can also download all assignment submissions for a particular column, making downloading of assignment documents more efficient.  Click here to access a quick tutorial on how to download all submitted assignments at once. 

If you have any questions on any of these tricks or processes please let me know.

Have a great rest of the week!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November 3, 2011

Good Afternoon Online Instructors,

A couple of weeks ago I shared with you an excellent YouTube on proper APA paper formatting.  I have heard from several of you that you really liked the video and have already shared it with your students, which is great.

As a result, I wanted to share the YouTube video with you again in case you missed it the first time.  And more importantly, I wanted to share with you the fact that a quiz has now been created around this YouTube video that can also be placed into your courses to help students with APA formatting even more.

If you are interested in having this APA YouTube video and video quiz placed into one or more of your courses, please let your ADOF, Kristen O'Connell, Kelly Schmidt, or myself know and we will be sure to work with you to make that happen.

Thanks and have a great week!
Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist