Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30, 2012

Good Evening Online Instructors,

This week I'd like to share a "Teaching Tip" with you from Brian Craig, our Online Paralegal Program Chair.  He offers a great, and very simple, strategy for connecting personally with each of your students in the discussion boards.  The strategy Brian uses himself to make sure he responds directly to each student at least once during the quarter is to create a simple Excel spreadsheet with student names in the rows and the unit numbers in the columns.  He then places an "x" in the appropriate cell when he personally responds to that corresponding student's discussion post.  In Brian's words, this can "show that we care about each student."  Thanks for this idea, Brian, and I encourage others of you to give this a try too.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23, 2012

Good Evening Online Instructors,

I received some great responses from last week's blog post where I shared with you one of Sam Osterhout's "Teaching Tips."  I'm so glad you are finding these tips helpful and beneficial.  If you have a tip of your own you'd like to share, please just send it my way!

This week's "Teaching Tip" comes from Catherine Neset.  She shared with me a great article from the American Psychological Association.  This article highlights study strategies to help students at all levels of education succeed.  Catherine has shared this article with her Ethics graduate class and I would like to share it with all of you in case you too, would like to share it with your own students.  The article title is:   Study smart:  Make the most of your study time with these drawn-from-the research tips and can be accessed at

A particularly interesting finding highlighted in the article discusses the importance of interweaving - or mixing - topics and tasks when studying rather than focusing solely on one topic for a long period of time.  As stated in the article, "the mixing — he calls it 'interleaving' — forces students to notice and process the similarities and differences among the things they're trying to learn, giving them a better, deeper understanding of the material" (2012).  By emphasizing this to our students, we can help one another by helping our students see the connection of their course material and thinking more broadly about their education as a whole, which will ultimately help them to be more successful.

I encourage you to check the rest of the article out and share some of these ideas with your own students.

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 17, 2012

Good Morning Online Instructors,

One of the requests from the end of the year survey I sent out before my maternity leave was for even more teaching tips and tricks in general, so for the next several weeks I will be sharing some specific expert tips with you.  And to help me with this, I have solicited the assistance of your fellow experts in the fields...the online program chairs and full-time faculty members.

The first tip I will be sharing with you comes from Sam Osterhout, a full-time faculty member in the area of General Education (primary focus is on writing courses).  Sam offers a unique and insightful look into a teaching strategy to help open the door to more student-instructor dialogue and to promote a more complete student-content/student-text relationship (I think we can all agree that getting students to read their texts thoroughly and critically can be a challenge at times...Sam's strategy strives to overcome this obstacle). 

So here is the teaching tip for the week, in Sam's words:
"Give them zeroes. This one won't be for everyone, but I've found it helpful recently, particularly for assignments that seek to reinforce a specific skill that is covered by the text. If a student completely misses the mark, I give him or her a zero and tell him or her to revise/redo the assignment after reading the chapter on that topic, and submit it to me via email. If it's done properly, I'll give points for it. Let me give you an example. In composition, there's an assignment that requires the student to write several thesis statements to match several different topics. There's a chapter in the text dedicated to thesis statements. Still, I get some pretty amazingly off-the-mark assignments. On the topic of Pets, I get "thesis statements" like, "Pets. Dogs or cats?" On the subject of higher education, I get statements like, "College - to tell about college?" Clearly, there wasn't a lot of chapter reading going on. I used to give half credit and go to great lengths to give immaculately detailed feedback about what makes a good thesis statement, and how theirs didn't fit that criteria, and suggestions for change. Then I realized I was essentially just rewriting the chapter ten times a week. Additionally, I was doing a lot of the heavy lifting for my students, and while they followed my instructions, they didn't retain much of the lesson. Subsequent thesis statements on subsequent assignments weren't any better. 

Now, for poorly written thesis statements, my feedback is simple: they receive a zero and a note: "You're on your way to a good thesis statement [I always start positive], but this isn't there yet. Reread the chapter on thesis statements, revise this assignment and send it to me, via email, with a note describing why these thesis statements aren't thesis statements. If your revision is effective, I'll give you points."

I find that the zero scares the students into taking action ("This guy's serious!"), and the revisions are usually gleaming jewels of perfection (well, almost). I also find that this opens the door to two-way discussion between me and my student. The revision email thread usually goes back and forth a few times. Imagine that - having a substantive email conversation with your student about thesis statements (or about any subject you teach). It's less work for me in grading, more work in dealing with email, but it's a more effective approach to teaching the concepts that drive my courses. And it builds on my relationships with my students. PS. when you go back into the grade book to add points, leave your original note in the comment box and add something like, "*Revision received via email." This just gives you a paper trail so down the road you won't wonder how you could have ever possibly given the submitted assignment points."

And just to add an additional thought to Sam's suggestion here, I would recommend when you go back into the grade book, that you actually upload a copy of the revised assignment using the Instructor Feedback area so that a copy is retained within CampusConnect too.

If you have any questions on this "Teaching Tip" please let me or Sam know.  And if you have any great "Teaching Tips" you'd like to share with your fellow instructors, please send them my way!

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

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 10, 2012

Good Morning Online Instructors,

I hope everyone had a smooth start to the quarter and that you are excitedly engaged in working with your course content and your students.  One way to really engage students is by incorporating lectures into the coursework.  We all have varied learning styles in our classrooms and even though we are online we can still work to reach the audio and visual learners just as we would in a traditional classroom, we simply need to use technology to assist with this.  In fact, we have technology on our side to help us with this as there are so many great lectures already prepared and waiting for us to take advantage of by simply clicking a few buttons.  Experts from some of the top schools such as Yale, Berkeley, and Princeton have made their material accessible to the masses and we can share their expertise with our students too.  Here is a link to a compilation of academic lecture repositories.  I encourage you to browse through the sites and lectures and try to incorporate even one new lecture link into your class(es). 

If you have questions on how to add in a link to your class, please let me know, I'd be happy to help.  And if you do add one in, let me know that may be something our curriculum team would like to add to the master course itself.

Thanks and have a great Week 2!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 3, 2012

Good Morning Everyone and Welcome to Spring Quarter! 

I'm excited to be back in the swing of things and to be working on this blog again.  If you have any ideas for training courses or blog topics you'd like to see discussed or covered at any point, please don't hesitate to let me know.

With it being the first week of a new quarter, I wanted to share a couple of ideas with you on how to personalize your course(s) as a way to really connect with your students, even in the virtual environment.  Creating a strong instructor/student connection from the start sets you and your students up for greater success as the quarter progresses.

When welcoming your students in Unit 1, why not add in some personal flare to show your students who you are as a person in addition to you as their instructor.  In fact, research has shown that when students connect with their instructors, they are that much more motivated to succeed as they don't want to let their instructors down (and the students benefit greatly from this in the long run).  While connecting in the virtual environment may be more difficult, it is even that much more important because it is virtual, so I encourage you to brainstorm ways to show the "human" side of you as their instructor as you welcome them into your class(es).
Here are some ideas to hopefully help you spark some ideas of your own:
  • A video introducing yourself
  • An audio message introducing yourself
  • A picture montage set to your favorite music selection using Animoto
  • Creating a fun and quirky Xtranormal video where you have one of the Avatars representing you giving a self-introduction
  • A Prezi slide show
  • Options are endless - simply start brainstorming your ideas
Personally this quarter I am using this Prezi Presentation and my Course Tutorial video to share some additional things about me and my course expectations.

I hope these ideas spark some additional ideas for you as ways to connect with your students.  If you try something out, let me know how it goes!

Thanks and have a great rest of the first week!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist