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Student-Centered Online Teaching: Ten Best Practices Dr. Susan Ko, Executive Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Maryland, University College FSI 2005 Keynote, May 17, 2005 Where are we now?

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Student centered online teaching ten best practices l.jpg

Student-Centered Online Teaching:Ten Best Practices

Dr. Susan Ko,

Executive Director,

Center for Teaching and Learning,

University of Maryland, University College

FSI 2005 Keynote, May 17, 2005


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Where are we now?

Online learning no longer a novelty. There is a body of experience and standards we can build on


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Consensus on Basic Standards

  • Commission on Institutions of Higher Education--Best Practices for Electronically Offered Degree and Certificate Programs (1999)

  • The Sloan Consortium Report—Five Pillars of Quality Online Education (2002)

  • Institute for Higher Education Policy—Quality on the Line—Benchmarks for Success in Internet Based Distance Education (2002)


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We have come far…

But misconceptions and fears about online education still abound


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Common Misconceptions and Fears

  • It’s an either-or world—online in competition with face-to-face

  • Faculty are helpless technophobes and technoboobs

  • The quality of learning online is superficial

  • Nuance of expression and personality are lost online


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more misconceptions and fears

  • Online instructors have to be online 24 hours a day

  • You need to be a computer-nerd. People-oriented people don’t do well online


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and even more…fears

Online students are big cheaters!


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The Specter of Alienation

Unlike face-to-face classes, online classes are cold and alienating.

This is the teacher


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Instructor as Social Director?

Online teaching reduces my role to “mere facilitator”

Shuffleboard, anyone?


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Student-centered teaching—what is it?

  • Focused on outcomes, assignments aligned with learning objectives

  • Attuned to student audience needs

  • Promotes active learning and engagement

  • Offers multiple modes of feedback and interaction

  • Provides paths for practice, reinforcement, and growth

  • Enthusiasm for subject and concern for students are evident


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But it’s not…

  • Too much or not enough content from instructor

  • Assignments and readings without any guidelines or connection to objectives

  • Posting a question on Monday and coming back to see what happened on Friday

  • The “surprise” class—keeping students guessing about what, when, and how


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Some Challenges for Online Instructors

  • Communication, communication, etc.

  • Coherent and logical organization of classroom, materials, etc.

  • Planning and time-management

  • Establishing presence and conveying personality, transforming “virtual” students into real ones

  • Focus on teaching, but learn the technology

  • Building classroom community


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Research on Best Practices

University of Maryland, University College

Office of Evaluation, Research and Grants—

Best Online Instructional Practices Study

Three-phase research study (2002-2005) on online classrooms, based on student evaluations,instructor survey instrument on teaching practices, retention data, and outcomes.


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Methodology

The study uses a mixed-methods approach:

  • 1) A survey of participating instructors’ experience as teachers using Instructional Practices Inventory

  • 2) Peer-review of archived courses

  • 3) Interviews with selected instructors and use of focus groups among them

  • 4) Student class evaluations and institutional data and their association with teaching practices

  • 5) Detailed assessment of learning outcomes


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Sample Used in Study

  • Piloted with small sample of highly achieving faculty (8 faculty)

  • Extended study to a representative sample (114 facultymembers)

  • Identified best practitioners and learned how practices are implemented via interviews (38 exemplary faculty)

  • Implemented a detailed assessment plan measuring learning outcomes (15 selected courses)


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Expectations for Online Teaching

Expectations for Classroom Setup and Online Teaching

  • Consensus document on base-line set of expectations for faculty teaching online

  • Posted on our Website www.umuc.edu/facdev/expectations

  • Widely distributed through training, faculty handbooks, orientations, etc.


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Best Practice #1—Design your Course

Put some thought into your course design

Strategies:

  • Identify and reinforce course goals and objectives throughout the course

  • Make sure your assignments are aligned with your learning objectives

  • Build in safeguards against cheating and plagiarism through assignment design

  • Pay attention to the pace and sequence

  • Be consistent in organization, nomenclature


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Best Practice #2—Use Variety of Learning Approaches

Different approaches stimulate interest, appeal and provide challenges to different learners

Strategies:

  • Use case studies, peer-to-peer activities, project-based assignments, debates, guest speakers

  • Integrate multimedia, library and Web-resources so that they are intrinsically valuable

  • Provide guidelines for all group activities


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Best Practice #3—Be Prepared

Online courses require an initial large investment of time and preparation, and updating thereafter

Strategies:

  • Build out as much of your course as possible before it launches

  • Update each time before it runs, and refresh from time to time


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Best Practice #4—Start Out Strong

Start out on a good footing from 1st day:

Strategies:

  • “Be there” to welcome the class—warm greeting with instructions on getting started

  • Introductions forum—icebreakers (you, too)

  • A detailed syllabus and schedule with contact info, dates for each unit of course, directions, criteria, due dates for assignments, participation, grading


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Best Practice #5—Provide for Interaction

Provide opportunities for interaction between instructor and students, students with students, and student with content

Strategies:

  • Interact with students in classroom on a regular and frequent basis—through announcements, discussion board, emails to whole class

  • Encourage students to talk with one other, not only to you


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More onInteraction

  • Design assignments that involve sharing of ideas, or team-work

  • Build an assignment around a primary source, multimedia, or Web resource

  • Facilitate but don’t dominate discussion

  • Start initial discussion threads to get things moving

  • Define participation and give credit for it

  • Send a personal email as friendly reminder to students who are not participating


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Best Practice #6—Promote Active Learning and Critical Thinking

Build in critical thinking and active learning strategies

  • Ask students to research and defend a position

  • Routinely ask follow-up questions while facilitating discussion, encourage students to do the same

  • Design assignments that require students to substantiate their ideas, verify and document their information


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Best Practice #7—Connect to Real-life Experience

Encourage students to apply real-world experience to course content

  • Encourage students to draw on personal examples and observations that are relevant to the course

  • Tie contemporary events or issues to course content

  • Whenever possible, encourage students to incorporate their own goals into study


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Best Practice #8—Give Feedback

Give regular, timely, and varied forms of feedback

Strategies:

  • Clearly describe grading and assignment criteria

  • Use rubrics to help guide students as well as to simplify feedback and grading process

  • Respond to students as promptly as possible


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More on Feedback

Strategies:

  • Provide individualized feedback on key assignments, and special attention to first major assignment

  • Let students know how they can improve

  • Refer students to resources for assistance whenever appropriate and available

  • Carefully structured peer review can provide a valuable element


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Best Practice #9—Clearly Define Grading Criteria and Processes

Clearly defined, systematic grading criteria to guide student work, manage expectations

  • Provide rubrics or clearly defined criteria up front

  • Let students know your “turn-around” time

  • Let students check progress through online gradebook

  • Provide individual incentive on group projects


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Best Practice #10—Maintain Enthusiasm

Maintain your own enthusiasm about the subject matter and communicate that enthusiasm to students

Strategies:

  • Stay organized

  • Be an active presence in the class


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and more enthusiasm

Strategies:

Make sure assignment load is reasonable

For the sake of your students, but for you, too!

No fois gras, please!!!


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and even more enthusiasm

Strategies:

  • Review and assess your own skills, teaching methods and style on a regular basis

  • Analyze student evaluations to learn areas of strength and areas for improvement

  • Keep current in your field

  • Set an example for your students of life-long learning—participate in faculty development activities like those offered by ION


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Thank you!

  • Bring your questions to the “Online Teaching Clinic”

  • Feel free to contact me in the future at [email protected]


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