As instructors prepare for peer reviews I have the opportunity to look at online courses and offer insight. In a previous email I pondered the concept of “instruction,” recently I have wondered more about “good design.” Instructional designers and discipline specialists make great teams for designing quality online courses. Unfortunately, most of us at the college have been left to our own devises in terms of course design. My own course is not a great one, but what quality is there comes from listening to designers and struggling to put myself in the shoes of students. How do they interact with my course material? As someone who has been fascinated by history for very nearly 60 years it takes a great deal of cerebral contortion to view American history from a student perspective, but it is worth the effort.
The Center for eLearning would like to create a portfolio of TCC sample courses. Faculty members have shared that being able to deeply explore other online courses would be helpful. If you have a course that is QM certified, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We would like to include your course. Stay alert for more on this topic in the near future.
Blackboard Collaborate and Instant Messenger
The VCCS has renewed its contract with Blackboard Collaborate. The contract is for three years, with the first year ending in June 2015 to align with the contract dates of other Blackboard products. There are some important changes in the contract that you may need to be aware of:
1. Blackboard Instant Messenger (IM), an associated product of Collaborate, has been renewed for the first year only. Therefore, the enterprise instance of Blackboard IM will be discontinued by the end of June 2015. The reason for discontinuing this product was a significant lack of system wide adoption and use, despite substantial training and promotion.
During the recent Quality Matters annual conference held in Baltimore I was impressed with the emphasis presenters placed on implementing the seven principles of quality online teaching, and how those principles have influenced Quality Matters. After the conference I went in search for more information on the Seven Principles only to become sidetracked by the seven principles of the Unitarian Universalists, seven principles of Kwanzaa, the seven principles for making marriage work, and the seven principles of cosmic law. Rather than becoming too distracted by my continuing research interest in communal societies, the occult and late-nineteenth century medical fads I turned to the seven principles of quality online teaching.
Whenever a process is implemented, the challenge is how to communicate the process to stakeholders in a way that is easy to understand. For example, the TCC Teaching Online Program has numerous steps to ensure the quality enhancement of online and hybrid courses. This flowchart provides an overview of the process. Let’s say that you are a faculty member who has taught only face-to-face and want to begin teaching online.
Recently I was fortunate enough to be asked to facilitate a workshop for the new Faculty Academy on Instructional Design. Talking about instructional design is exciting, but limiting the discussion to three hours is challenging! I thought, “There are so many theories, models, trends, paradigms, strategies, etc…. how do I compress all of it into three hours?!” As I pulled the presentation materials together, I thought a lot about simplicity. I started going through my reference materials and realized the intended message to new faculty members should be clear and straight forward, not complicated as the instructional design industry sometimes makes it.
Following a recent conversation I began wondering about how to differentiate between instruction, as in teaching, and instructions, as in a set of directions regarding the completion of a task. Do we consider a course where an instructor provides a series steps for a student to follow (read chapter 12, complete quiz 12, move on to week 13) equal to a course where an instructor engages the student in the learning process? The seed of conversation developed in my mind while assembling a set of Ikea bookshelves. As I thumbed through the directions, a series of pictures displaying each step from start to finish, I wondered if directions on how to accomplish an everyday task is identical to academic instruction. Clearly, there are some disciplines which require step-by-step directions, as in solving a mathematical problem or assembling a computer circuit board. But to what extent do such courses require conceptual understanding and evidence of logic and reasoning about the operation?
At a convocation breakout session, Sarah DiCalogero, Chair of the Online Learning Committee, and I presented on the topic of Performance Standards for Online Teaching. The goals of the session were to first examine the current online observation form located in Appendix E3 in the TCC Faculty Professional Development and Evaluation Plan for those being observed in 2014. We examined the questions on the form and invited discussion on how each criterion might be evidenced by deans. We also suggested providing deans a path to follow for the evidence. Such a breadcrumb trail may enhance the evaluation process.
Second, we shared numerous online course evaluation tools that other universities are using to address performance standards for online teaching. This phenomenon of examining online courses is happening at more institutions than TCC.