Pearson Learning Summit

I returned on Friday from the Pearson Learning Summit in Phoenix, AZ. It was a great 2 days of networking, idea sharing, and higher education professionals working hard to provide the best opportunities for their students. I love being around a group of enthusiastic people ready to work. I connected with several faculty from other private colleges and universities, we share a common goal to educate a similar type of student and were able to discuss challenges and successes with these students.

I presented, with my colleague, Shawn Ulwelling, on a live lecture series approach to increasing online student engagement. Through a weekly online lecture series (same lecture offered 25 times a week for 650 students), a required synchronous learning session was added to online Medical Terminology courses at Rasmussen. We noticed an increase in student success through improvements in course averages and higher retention. The presentation focused on student feedback, methods used to create this learning opportunity, strategies for implementation, and plans for expansion.

At Rasmussen College, we are providing opportunities for our online students to attend synchronous learning sessions on a weekly basis in a few of our Q1/Q2 courses. As a new thought in our online programs, requiring the students to attend a synchronous class session, in addition to awarding credit for attendance, offers them an opportunity to interact with various faculty teaching the course, as well as their classmates from across the system. We are using a lecture series approach by offering a group of sessions throughout the week taught by highly qualified Rasmussen faculty. Students are able to select a time that best suits their schedule, as sessions are offered 7 days a week, morning, afternoon and evening.

This initiative started with Medical Terminology and Computer Applications, as high enrollment courses with varying success rates for students. With the great success of these two projects, we are now rolling out the required live lecture component to other courses in a two-phased approach. The goal is to pilot the project in a small sample of sections within a given course, and then, as we learn the best methods for instruction and further design an engaging live lecture, we’ll then roll out the lectures to the entire group of sections.

The success thus far is demonstrated by an improvement in student retention and student success rates in these courses. The response from students attending the sessions has been extremely positive as well. They use words like ‘interaction’ and ‘engagement’ to describe the experience. They are finding value in the live lecture through discussions with classmates and enhanced instructional opportunities with faculty teaching the course. The ability to have questions answered and receive guided instruction on specific assignments and course material provides them the tools they need to be successful when working independently on their coursework.  As one of the faculty delivering live lectures and leading the initiative across the College, I get a lot of questions about whether or not these live lectures are offered in other online courses. There is a desire amongst the online student population for live interaction and Rasmussen is working to increase those opportunities for students.

A ‘blended learning’ approach to course delivery is becoming more mainstream now in higher education as opposed to a new idea. Varying learning opportunities for students, especially those in the online modality, will keep them engaged in the course and improve their retention and attrition, as well as their overall satisfaction with their education experience. I shared materials for creating an initial plan to utilize this blended learning approach in one of their online courses with varying success rates.

Attached are links to the materials from the session shared using SlideShare.Net —

Feel free to use and adapt these materials to suit your needs. I just ask that you share how the process works for you, I’d love to learn what you are having success with.

Any other conferences coming up that you’ve attended in the past? I’m looking to learn more about how hybrid learning strategies are working for others and the types of strategies they are working through.

Until next time, have a great week — May Day is tomorrow!

~Heather

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Online Learning Today: where do I fit in? (#edumooc)

As I get acquainted with the eduMOOC process, I am still feeling a bit consumed by the process of it all. I thought starting the course in between quarters of teaching would be the best option, as I would have extra time to devote to it. I have, however, found myself consumed with setting up my courses for instruction this term and enjoying my vacation – 5 days at East Harbor State Park on Lake Erie with my husband and children. I’ve kept up with the Twitterfeed and read through several blog posts, but I don’t feel quite organized yet. I’m trying to give myself a break as this is my first MOOC experience, but that’s not an easy task for an overachieving, type-A like myself. I’m working on it though.

I did, however, decide on how I would reflect on the Week 1 topic: Online Learning Today. Talking about where I fit into the grand scheme of online learning today will provide me with a starting point for where to head next as we dive into Week 2: What the Research Tells Us. I’ll be able to apply this research, hopefully, to my current position.

I’ve been teaching online courses for almost 4 years now and…to be completely honest…despised it in the beginning. I thought “why in the world would I want to take an online course or teach one when I can have a more connected experience in a face-to-face classroom?” Boy, how that opinion has evolved.

As I moved states with my husband’s job, I was forced into teaching online as a way to stay in the working world and be a mother at the same time. I poured myself into learning everything I could about how to connect with students through a variety of channels online and began experimenting with several different communication strategies. I’ve had great success with podcasts, Twitter, video messaging, and live virtual classes. My teaching has definitely evolved over the past several years, but one thing remains constant – I want to connect with each student.

I’ve learned that students, depending on their background, life experience, or generation, desire a different type of communication in the online environment. I’ve attempted to reach students in a variety of mediums to meet their individual needs. At first I complicated the learning process in my class by adding too many technologies and offering too many options. I realized quickly that this was way too much work for me without providing a significant benefit to the students. Too many options caused them to be overwhelmed and complicated the course content and my teaching efforts tremendously. For the upcoming quarter, I’ll be going back to the “basics”, as I’m referring to it.

I have tried to transform my course management system into something it’s not. It’s not fancy or social, it wasn’t designed for Twitter widgets, a variety of video or images, or even instant messaging. I’m trying to simplify things this quarter and focusing solely on how best to deliver the course content and assess student learning, as opposed to using the latest and greatest technologies. If I’m using a specific application or piece of technology, like Twitter, there is an organized purpose. If I’m embedding a video clip, I’ll map it to weekly objectives and provide students with a synopsis of why it relates to their learning and its importance for the week. Each week will have both an audio-visual component accompanied by text-based materials discussing the same information. I want to hit all the senses – this will provide the ‘options’ for the student.

During a week-long professional development conference organized by the College, I reviewed an archived presentation by a colleague, Valerie Connor, and her husband, Martin Connor, discussing student-centered teaching across the generational divide. I found it amazingly eye-opening as they connected the various applications used today to communicate with students with the different generations that populate our education system. They discussed why Baby Boomers might prefer Skype as opposed to the Millenials preference for Twitter or Facebook. They also mentioned how GenXers would enjoy a Screenr video as opposed to the GenYers desire for something like Meebo. It was a thorough presentation with great tips and application strategies, the archive is well-worth 40 minutes of an online educator’s time. These strategies have helped me to organize my courses for summer quarter a bit more according to the population of students I’m working with.

While still overwhelmed in the eduMOOC process, I’ve connected with several individuals in the blogosphere and expanded my circle of educator colleagues. I’ll report the first week as an unorganized success! The goals for the weekend and into Week 2 are as follows:

  • Link eduMOOC materials and colleagues to this blog.
  • Add my ‘favorite’ readings from Week 1 to Diigo.
  • Introduce myself in the Google Group.
  • Attend the live discussion on Thursday.
  • Engage in the MOOC readings for 15-20 minutes each day.
  • Reflect on what I’ve learned using this blog, hopefully twice in a week.

That looks like a lofty list for the first week of a new quarter with close to 120 new students distributed across four courses, but I’m up to the challenge! Thanks for your patience as I navigate through the blogging waters, I’m still learning how to best project my ideas in this format. Until next time — study hard, and often, I’ll talk with you soon! …that’s how I end each podcast episode 😉

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The time has come…

…for me to start blogging. The impetus is the start of the University of Illinois-Springfield Massive Open Online Class (MOOC) “Online Learning Today…and Tomorrow.” I’m a bit nervous about the thought of a massive online course, just the word massive is intimidating enough. The course has actually come at a perfect time in the year for me. As a college instructor, my life runs in 13 week increments — quarters to be exact. Currently, I’m participating with other faculty in a week of professional development sessions as we just wrapped up spring quarter classes.

I learned of the eduMOOC from Jason Rhode, a fellow eduMOOC attendee and elearning colleague. After reading through his recent blog post with Tips for Participants, I decided to give blogging a try as a way to stay connected with participants in the course and share my thoughts and experiences in online learning. Be patient with me…and share any and all tips for a new blogger as you comment on my posts. I’ve dabbled a bit in publishing online content with some tips on podcasting, but this blog will serve as a more regular, constructive sharing of ideas and experiences.

I’ve been teaching online health sciences courses for over 3 years now and I’ve grown to appreciate the value of elearning. I love what I do! I work hard to create strong connections with my students through various web 2.0 strategies and I’ll share some of these as I continue this blog. For the next 8 weeks or so, I’m really looking forward to learning from the participants in the MOOC and growing my network in the elearning community. I’m a big fan of Twitter, as well as Diigo, and I’ll use both of these to connect with the course.

More to come as the course unfolds ….won’t you join me in this challenge?

Posted in Online Learning, Teaching Strategies | 1 Comment