How I learned

What helped your learning? What would have helped your learning more? What hindered your learning? What got in the way of your learning? How did you feel? And, how do you feel now?

The biggest thing that helped my learning was actually building my course.  This provided me with some experience to match the theory from the course.  The experience of actually teaching online would help even more.

My attitude towards discussion posts hindered my learning the most.  Because of the time it took to write, I never looked forward to it.  I gave a good effort on each post, however, and feel I learned a lot from them.

In a way other responsibilities got in the way of my learning.  Every time I couldn’t stick to my normal schedule for the class I had to play catch up.  It’s a good thing I took this course over the summer, I couldn’t have done it otherwise.

Earlier in the course I felt overwhelmed, like I couldn’t do a good job no matter what.  Now I’m feeling relief that I was able to figure a few things out and come out right side up.


What I learned in this course

A professor once told me that to understand something, one must experience it.  I believe in these words — I believe experience is the only way to gain understanding.

This class has provided many experiences related to teaching online.  It’s perfect, really, seeing as we are experiencing an online class as we learn how to teach one.  Education is perfect in that way.

Most valuably I’ve learned the differences between f2f and online classes.  This is something I thought I understood well coming into the class, with much experience in both.  I was wrong to think so — I only understood the superficial stuff.  This class brought my experiences to light and allowed me to make connections and build understandings of the deep, important realities.

Specifically, here are some of the things I have learned of in this course:

  • An ice breaking activity is essential to the online learning environment by provided a social presence in the classroom.  Sitting in front of a computer, I can relate to the girl who kept using a mirror to show who (what?) she’s talking to (a webcam) in “The Machine is (Changing) Us” video.  Social presence between students helps to eliminate that feeling of being alone in a class community.  I’ve even thought of having a mini icebreaker activity at the start of each module.
  • Discussions do more than just replace a f2f discussion.  They offer the opportunity for students to fully develop their thoughts and do research into a topic.  If done correctly, students can gain tremendous knowledge from discussions.  They also tend to take a long time to complete and can feel daunting to students.
  • You can’t leave anything up for interpretation while designing an online course.  In a f2f class the instructor is there to clarify any instruction the class is unsure about, however, online this is not as easily done.  The course must be careful to have clear and complete instructions for all activities.
  • Online class does not necessarily mean online work.  There is nothing wrong with giving an assignment that is to be completed offline, the student just has to be able to submit it online.
  • Spelling.  I’m a terrible speller.  Moodle would not give me spelling suggestions throughout the course, however, it did inform me of misspellings.  While this is most likely unintended, I never tried to fix it because I was forced to try to spell words correctly instead of mindlessly right clicking.
  • The mechanics of actually building an online course in Moodle.  It’s easier said than done, but once you figure it out it’s pretty neat.


What I’ve been learning

What have you learned so far about yourself during this process?

While I did find some mistakes, I was a little surprised at the amount of things in my course which did not need much work in terms of revision.  In reflection I think this due to the way I wrote out the materials the first time around.  I spent some extra time to sort of proof read as I wrote.

What I learned about myself is I tend to spend more time doing things the first time around, rather than moving though things more quickly and needing to come back to revise.

What has been the most surprising thing you have learned so far?

The amount of time it takes to really develop a great online course.  I remember reading that it takes upwards of 100 hours to build a course. I also remember not really believing it.  While I didn’t record my hours spent on my course, I would not be surprised if I was approaching the 100 hours.


How my course is looking. // How well can I actually do this?

Where are you in terms of completion of your online course? How are you doing?

I think I’m just about done.  I’m going to go back and make some revisions here and there, but I would be comfortable submitting it right now (I will still be using these next several days to do work on it).  Now that I have a course built I can consider how I chose to present the information and decide if I should include other topics.  What I’m thinking is this will be a continuously edited course for a little while.  One day I hope to get it just right.

What do you need to complete your online course?

Like I said I’m pretty much set, however, I have some new materials from a colleague that I think would add some variety and meat to the course.  They will serve mainly as additional resources for students and stuff to explore, should a student be interested.  One resource is a rocket simulator.  It’s a program that accurately shows how a rocket will fly given a whole variety of variables.  It is a bit expensive, however, it features a free 30 day trial, so I can at least check it out.  While it would be awesome to have students use this, I can’t ask they pay so much for it.  I’ll be doing research and maybe making a few phone calls to see if there are purchase options suitable for an online course.

I also launched a rocket with him last week and will be uploaded a recording of it to the course.

What thoughts do you have about moving from theory (social, teaching, and cognitive presence) to practice (building it all into your online course)?

I’m excited to try this!  There is always a big difference between learning about teaching and teaching.  With that said, I feel I know how to implement what I’ve learned in this course to my own online course well enough to have success.  There will be room for improvement, however.  I expect to get this down well, a lot of formative assessment must be done by the teacher.


Working with Moodle, Thinking of what they will see

What has challenged you the most in this course? What has been most difficult or uncomfortable and why? As you go through this process as a student in this course and as the developer of your own online course, what are you thinking about?

Actually developing content in my online course.  I had a whole plan and vision for the course, but when I actually got into Moodle and tried to put things together I found myself back peddling.  I found it difficult to do seemingly simple things like creating a discussion.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do and Moodle seems to speak a different language than me in this area.  At this point I believe I have it setup the right way, but I would want to do a test run of the course before it’s actually used.

The thing I’ve been thinking most about is how me as a teacher will be seen by my online students and how they will navigate my course.  Will they understand my directions, or will they become confused and unsure of what to do?  I have most things laid out with text, only.  In order to establish strong teaching presence and make things more clear for students I am considering adding audio and/or video to various areas of my course.

This study investigated the effect of audio feedback in asynchronous courses.  It states, “…Over one third of students cited the use of audio feedback as a key factor they would use in selecting future online courses is significant.”  That’s HUGE!  It seems clear that students prefer audio feedback to text based feedback — I’m willing to bet the same holds true for instructions and other documents.


Course structure and stubbornness

What decisions have you made about how you present yourself, your content, and how you will engage and interact with your students and assess them in your own online course? 

I have decided how I will collect assignments and run discussions in my course.  For the first time I actually created discussion areas in this module.  Like everything else I ran into a few problems with getting it to be the way I wanted, but I’ve figured it out.  I also wanted to have students be able to see each others written work as they turn it in, which does not appear to be possible with an assignment area, so I based mine off of Alex’s and am using a discussion area for assignment submissions.

With that said, I’m now debating incorporating Voicethreads into class discussions thanks to our discussion on teaching presence.  Wouldn’t it be cool if students could use that instead of being limited to text?

A concern I have is the grading method.  I noticed this seems to be embedded within each thing (such as a discussion) I add, however, I think I will have an easier time if I’m able to manually give grades right into a gradebook.  This is something I still need to work out.

Who are you and why are you that way as an educator and a learner? What have you observed about yourself during this process? What have you observed about yourself during your own completion of the learning activities in this course? How can you use these insights in the design of your own course? 

In a word: stubborn.  I’ve always had my own ways of doing things and unless I really see the benefit to doing it the way someone else wants me to, I have a hard time following rules.  As I move through the learning activities of this course I find that I must give a little bit more to keep in line.  However, as I continue to understand the purpose behind the rules of this course, I find it easier to follow them.  As a result of this, in my own course I will try to make an effort to explain the reasons I want certain things done certain ways.

This is also related to the importance of community created classroom rules.  This blog post tells an interesting story about this activity and outlines the main reasons we should do it.  Maybe I could actually open the floor in me course to have students contribute to rulemaking?


What does student centered learning result in?

In the past several weeks I have taken on several small projects.  I’ve done things like spackling a hole in the wall, which I’ve never done until recently.  Through these experiences I’ve learned a lot.  Moreover, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these projects.

My desire is to base my teaching and course development on my experiences — to try to make learning meaningful and enjoyable for students.  In thinking through this I realized that’s the foundation of student centered learning.  When students take the lead in learning they begin to take ownership over their work, which is s step towards making the learning meaningful.

I did some digging into project based learning, figuring that’s more or less what I did in learning to spackle, and found the attached article.  Concerning motivation of students it states,

A number of researchers have argued that choice and control are critical to enhance motivation on classroom tasks. (Page 376)

This sentence struck me because I feel it really ties my experience to student centered learning.  Being the sole participant, I had all the control in my projects.  Giving students the ability of choice should be helpful in making an activity more meaningful for students, thus increasing motivation.

A question I consider regarding this is: how much choice? Ideally I am tempted to say people would learn best when they have total control of their learning — down to the class structure.  This actually came up briefly in a discussion post I was part of: what if students actually created the objectives!  This level of choice is practical only for the most studious students — the ones who really want to learn, in my opinion.


3. How things are going for me in this course

Why do you do things the way that you do? 

I try to do things to the best of my ability, taking time into consideration.  Personally, it feels good to do something well — it creates a sense of pride.  At the same time I could spend all day doing certain things, so I often have to tell myself I’ve done enough for the time being.


What have you learned that you did not know before?

My understanding of objectives has evolved.  For me, to really understand something I need to be exposed to it from a variety of angles and multiple times.  In our discussion so far I have learned about objectives differently than I have before and , thus, feel my understanding of them has improved.  Specifically, fellow student George Dale posted this quiz in response to my post in discussion.  This provided that new angle to deepen my understanding of the topic.


How will you apply what you have learned to your own course?

I have already rewritten my objectives to be stronger based on my new understanding.  In addition, I will need to continue to make sure any activity I include in my course ties directly to an objective.


What decisions have you made so far about your own online course?

Most recently I have developed my modules based on content.  I decided to base it on content because that is how I am thinking about the course as I develop it, making it easier to put together.  I also believe this makes the most sense to students as they move through a term.

I have also rewritten my grading setup.  I decided to keep it simple and assign 10% of the overall grade to each module (except for 2, shorter modules [5% each]), leaving 30% for the final project and 20% to ‘other’ (discussion posts and reflection blog).


How do you interact in this course? What if anything has been difficult for you?

I interact with other students primarily through discussions.  In these discussions we have a bit of freedom when it comes to what we discuss.  For example, part of my discussions this module have been about a launch controller for rockets.  This freedom makes the activity feel more organic to me.

Something I find difficult is the way our post are organized in discussion.  That page gets very long, making it difficult to find specific content.  In addition, it makes the whole thing appear more daunting to me than I think it should.


What if anything do you find yourself feeling resistance to?

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing each post I make because I’m trying to hit everything on the rubric.  It’s a bit exhausting since there are so many post due.  Then again, we have plenty of time to get them all done, still feels like I’m climbing a mountain though.


What is working for you in this course?

I’m really excited about my course.  While I will most likely not have an opportunity to teach it online anytime soon, I will be incorporating much of what I learn and develop into my f2f teaching as well as a club I’m co-advising next school year.  This has provided motivation for me to put in solid time to developing the course.


What would you change/suggest to make it better for you?

I would suggest breaking the discussions and assignment areas into individual threads per student.  This was it’s easier to find a specific post or content and make participating feel more manageable.  Maybe even break up the class into small groups that must interact with one another (maybe a thread per 3 or 4 students would work?).


2. My learning in the course

What have you learned that you did not know before?

I learned a lot about the inner workings of Moodle.  Things like how pages are setup and how to develop the course to look and work a certain way.  While I have a lot of experience with computers, I have never built an online course before.

I also learned many dos and don’ts about teaching online.  The thing that sticks out the most is that it is okay to incorporate some offline assignments in an online course.  This is important to me because the nature of my course is a lot of hands on learning.  I will apply this by not shying away from offline & hands on learning in favor of something which can be done online.

What did you observe about yourself during your own completion of these learning activities?

A lot of what I learned about really resonated with me.  Having taken many courses online, I feel like I understand where many ideas are coming from.  The idea that interaction being the primary factor in deciding how satisfactory a course is made a lot of sense to me, however, I have never explicitly realized this.  But looking back, the classes that featured a lot of interaction are the one’s that stick out as being the good ones.

 What is working for you?

Two things in particular.

  1. The presentation with audio was beneficial for me.  I’ve always learned things better if I can hear someone talking about it as compared to reading about it.  That’s a really neat program!
  2. The way we’re building our courses allows me to explore on my own without being too restricted.  Personally, I learn best by doing, so this is great for me.  The videos provided are also very helpful since they show an actual screen of the website.