ETOM Fall 2011 Conference – In Review by Meegan Lillis
The first session I attended was with Robert Benard and Margaret Bourcier from Mott Community College, Distance Learning Preparedness Course Requirement. I was interested in this topic as we do not have a required orientation or skill assessment currently for our online students at GRCC, and this is always a hot topic in conversations around distance learning. The question that is always impossible to answer, but comes up constantly is, “how do you create an assessment thorough enough to identify the requisite technical skills without hindering the technically proficient student?” At Mott, they solved this by creating an online course that runs for one week, and is designed for students to be able to complete in four hours. Students are not allowed to register for an online course until they have taken this course. The course is free the first time, and $25 each subsequent times. The preparedness course covers more then just how to use their course management system, Blackboard, it also covers basic computer skills (how to download and save a file as), research skills (searching the web, downloading and evaluating resources, using the online library, and plagiarism) and personal skills (time management and online etiquette). Since they have implemented this course, which is constantly tweaked through feedback and evaluation from the faculty who teach the courses and the students who take it, their success rates are now neck and neck with on-campus and online courses.
Secondly, I attended a session on A Framework for Collaboration in Online Course Development with instructional designers, Stacy Whiddon and Ryan Crockett, from Schoolcraft College. The model at Schoolcraft includes developing master online courses that are then shared with all instructors who teach those online courses. There is a team that develops each course with the subject matter expert being responsible for writing the learning objectives and aligning them with appropriate activities and assessments, an instructional designer to ensure the course is of high quality with clear alignment between the learning objectives and course materials, and a project manager who will keep everyone on task and build the course in the course management system. The subject matter expert does get paid for the development as it requires a large time commitment and the entire course becomes the property of the institution to share with other instructors. Schoolcraft also has four different faculty trainings that are available to all faculty at Schoolcraft, but required for anyone who wants to develop a master course. The trainings cover not only the technology but Quality Matters and the process of putting together an online course. It was a great opportunity to see how other institutions develop courses. The biggest take away for me was their step-by-step process for development. Initially, the subject matter expert develops just the learning objectives and assessments for first three modules of the course entirely on paper and then have those reviewed by the instructional designer before continuing. After receiving detailed feedback, the SME will develop the remainder of the course and then fill in the activities that will bring give students what they need to succeed on the assessments. All of this is done outside of the technology, it is only after all of this initial planning that the materials are created in the CMS.
Next, I attended Discussion Board Dilemma with Laura Sandera from Davenport University. This session was completely filled! Laura introduced us to a number of free web 2.0 tools you can incorporate into your course to alleviate the pattern of post once to the discussion board and then respond to two classmates. At Davenport they have many students who earn a bachelors and then a masters from them which could potentially mean six years of “post once to the discussion board, and then respond to two classmates.” Here is a glog from Laura with a number of these tools: http://onlntrnr.edu.glogster.com/discussion-board-dilemma. I learned about a number of tools I had not been exposed to previously, not to mention tangible uses for tools I have heard of before but had no idea how to implement in a course. One of the most important take aways from this session was that Laura gives her students the option to use one of these tools. Some students may be hesitant or flat out resistant to using a tool like toondoo.com to create a comic strip to introduce themselves to the class, but for those students who are getting bored with the rote posting and responding, the option can really get their creativity flowing and help their interest in the class. Another example is Animoto.com, a tool to create 30 second videos, she uses this tool for her students to create Public Service Announcements which works great for a course like this in Health Care. Laura also has her students interview professionals in Health Care and record Skype interviews with vodburner for their reference later in writing up their assignment, but also to share the interview with their classmates.
The last session of the day that I attended was Teaching Online? How is that going for you? with Gary Ebels. The format of this session was a roundtable discussion for current and future online instructors to learn from each other what works in their courses and what does not. There was a large contingency from GRCC in attendance at this session which is encouraging becauseas we grow our distance learning and use of instructional technologies, it is helpful to have informal discussions like this one to share best practices and find out what professors in other disciplines do that you may be able to use in your course. This helped spark the ideas Donuts & Distance Learning and Bagels & Blackboard, coming soon to Distance Learning & Instructional Technologies! Hope to see you there!