Monday, January 28, 2013

Technology Can Infuse Motivation and Enthusiasm in Students

Veteran and top-notch online instructor Cathy Kennedy uses technology to enhance her teaching and her courses on a daily basis, and I am excited to share with you what Cathy says about technology in her classes and even share many of her great examples at work!

From Cathy:
"Using technology in online courses can infuse motivation and enthusiasm in students. One of the goals of using technology in my classes is to provide students with opportunities to interact within the course, with the instructor, and with other students. I believe that students want and need richer and more engaging online learning experiences and become immersed in the course when a deeper connection is made.

With the increase demand for online learning, it’s important for instructors to try to incorporate more technology into their courses, as technology plays a vital role in the development and expansion of online education.

Teaching an online course is quite different than teaching in the traditional classroom. I have done both for many years. These new technologies allow instructors to convey concepts in new and different ways.  I have seen students benefit and succeed in my course through my use of multiple teaching strategies. I see more engaged learners in the discussions, as I not only provide a “Prepare for Discussion” (Example) in each of my units, but I also engage every student in each discussion for the first three weeks to ensure that they understand what is expected, that they have been recognized, and have been given feedback (both in and after the discussion). I give them links to explore and summarize if they are not on track, and I also ask them to research to find more information that is on topic; expecting them to research and find information each week.

Using varied technologies in my courses (announcements, discussions, assignments, instructor profile, and e-mails) allows students to understand what to do, where to go in the course, what to consider, and how to complete assignments accurately, through the use of programs such as: Animoto, Go Animate, YouTube videos, Glogster, Cyberlink Youcam, Jing or Screencast-o-Matic. These are just a few of the many, many tools that you can use to engage, motivate, lecture and encourage your students.

Around the mid-term I make an Animoto video with music as a way to tell students they are doing a great job, and that the light at the end of the tunnel is near. Most of these programs can be downloaded into a YouTube video. I sometimes make ridiculous videos of myself wearing hats or something corny, and yes they are corny, but students seem to like them; or at least they tell me they do! This makes a connection and shows that I do have a human side. I try to incorporate music, graphics, explanations, motivation, clarification and animations to help reiterate a point or topic. Sometimes topics can be rather dry, such as limitations on tort lawsuits. I created rather fun Animoto using a Mission Impossible music and theme to get them interested, which I provide along with written instructions. I also have a weekend video that I made in Animoto as a way to let them know that I know they have been working hard, and that it’s also important to take a little time to relax.

Rather than explain how to do these things, I put together a video by splicing some of the technologies that I use together (using Cyberlink Power Director11). I’ve used most of the technologies listed above. You can see how I use them by clicking this link. CLICK HERE and turn up your speakers!

I hope you will try out some of the tools listed above. Most are free (except for Power Director).
There is also a way to make interactive videos in YouTube where students can make choices.
Here is an example and further below is a website to tell you how to do this.

Below are some websites that offer advice, tips and discussion on using technology in the on-line courses that may help you.

Using the Technology of Today in the Classroom
Eric Klopfer, Scot Osterweil, Jennifer Groff, Jason Haas
The Education Arcade
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Prof DeBock’s Innovator Network
Prof DeBock has helped me with many youTube videos in his “how tos”

Barach, Paper, Scissors (YouTube interactive video examples)

How to Make an Animoto Video

GoAnimate Quick Video Maker



Last, many of these have been discussed in Heather  Thomton-Stockman’s blog!"

Thanks for these great ideas and examples, Cathy!  I encourage all of you online instructors to try out at minimum one of Cathy's ideas and let me know how it goes.  After all, as Cathy said, "technology can infuse motivation and enthusiasm in students!" 

Heather Thomton-Stockman

Online Instructional Specialist 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Put it to video!

Do you have announcements, examples, directions, or any other written document in your course that students routinely DO NOT read?  If you answered yes, you are not alone!  In fact, Linda DesJardines, Lacey Finley, Laurie Haj Ashab, Meggan Hansen, Catherine Neset, and Elise Roberts all shared with me that this was an area they struggled with previously but have seen success in hurdling over by putting things to video!

When I say "put it to video" you don't need to have sophisticated recording devices; rather, using your headset and one of the free online screencasting tools -  like Screencast-o-Matic or Jing - you can quickly and easily articulate, demonstrate,  and explain to your students both visually and with audio what you are trying to convey.

  • Catherine Neset shared with me that when she put to video some documents that previously were in the class but seemed to have been ignored by students, she immediately saw a difference in student use and understanding of that information.  
  • Meggan Hansen uses screencasting to help demonstrate processes for students to emulate in their own process completion (seeing then doing).
  • Lacey Finley highlights to her students the importance of viewing these videos by placing "IMPORTANT, PLEASE VIEW" with the videos and she has seen their viewing rates triple in certain courses.  
Our goals as instructors are to get the information to students, help them comprehend, synthesize, and utilize the information, and ultimately be prepared to use it after course completion.  But if we aren't successful at getting the information to them to begin with, we cannot progress to the next steps.  Video might help in being more successful in that first step.  Give it a try!

You can find information on Screencast-o-Matic and Jing - as well as other video resources - by clicking on the labels on the side of this blog.

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, January 14, 2013

Evernote...Tracking Student Success

Good Morning!

Building off of the great strategy for taking notes that I explored in last week's blog post, this week I'd like to share approaches Meredith Butulis, our online Health Fitness Program Chair, and Katie Adams use in their classes.

Meredith shared with me how beneficial Evernote, a free online notebook readily available to you from any online medium, is for keeping track of her students in a quarter and beyond.  Meredith points out some of the great benefits of Evernote for her and her students:  "I keep a notebook for every student in Evernote.  That way I cannot only refer back to it to make material individually relevant throughout the course, but also accumulate information on students in the program.  This is very handy when it comes to trying to help with letters of recommendation, Externship searches, or career placement!"

As the Evernote website states:   "Evernote makes it easy to remember things big and small from your everyday life using your computer, phone, tablet and the web."  I encourage you to check it out and give it a try!

Katie also takes notes on her students, particularly if she receives messages from them about sick kids, a lost/stolen/broken computer, a dog being put to sleep, a scheduled surgery, weddings, etc.  Then after about a week or two Katie sends the student an email to follow-up asking how he/she is doing, congratulate him/her on the event, mention she is there for support, or communicate whatever is appropriate for the specific life event.  This is yet another way Katie shows her students she is there for them and recognizes that "life" also happens during one's education.  As Katie said to me, this has been "hugely successful - learners are incredibly overwhelmed by these communications."  Katie puts herself in her students' shoes and looks at how she would respond if she got these communications too, "I like to think if this was me as a learner, I would feel connected regardless of the online environment!"

Thanks for the great resources and ideas, Meredith and Katie!  And I encourage all instructors to give one or both of these strategies a try!

Heather Thomton-Stockman
Online Instructional Specialist

Monday, January 7, 2013

Welcoming Students and Making that Personal Connection

Good morning and welcome to 2013 and a new quarter! 

This quarter in my blog I will be posting best practices from some of the "best of the best" of our instructors so that we can all learn from one another.  If you have something you do that works great in your class(es) please let me know as I'd love to share with the rest of the faculty too!

With it being the start of a new quarter, I want to share with you a great strategy Catherine Neset has used in her classes during Unit 1.  During Unit 1's discussion, Catherine responds to each student's initial post and personally welcomes each student to the course, which I know many of you also do, which is great!  It is a great way to extend that personal touch right from the start. 

What Catherine also does during this process that I'd like to highlight is she jots down notes for each student based on what he/she has communicated in that discussion thread.  Those notes help Catherine connect individually with each student and to the class as a whole throughout the quarter.  This process has benefited her students greatly!  Here is a great example of how:
"A few quarters ago, I had about 1/3 of my bankruptcy class that were already employed and working in a creditor-type job.  Some worked for collections, some worked in mortgages, some worked in billing in a business.  The bankruptcy syllabus and course is designed from a debtor point of view.  Knowing that a chunk of the class needed a creditor perspective to benefit their employment, I was able to find examples and post additional resources to meet that need.  Personally, my background is on the creditor side of the equation, so I had fun with this."

This great example shows how connecting with our students from day one can really help to shape the success of the class as a whole!  I encourage you to give this technique a try and let me know how it goes!

Once again, welcome to a new quarter.

Heather Thomton-Stockman