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Happy Thanksgiving from SCOL!

Posted by Eric Ludwig at 11/23/2016 9:39:30 AM

 As we pause this week to enjoy family, friends, food, and a bit of football, let us also remember and be thankful for those educators in our lives who have made a difference.  At the School of Continuing and Online Learning, our goal is to create excellent, meaningful, and relevant educational experiences for our learners, whoever and wherever they are.

We have written extensively about rigor, design, and facilitation.  We have discussed our ongoing initiative to encourage the use of the Quality Matters rubric.  We have talked about integrating active teaching and learning strategies into our pedagogy.  And we have highlighted why all of that matters.

As this holiday week rolls along, you will undoubtedly spend some time reflecting on the year you have had, the company you keep, and the future -- your future, your family's future, the country's future, the world's future.  Reflection is a powerful tool that helps us take stock of where we have been, where we want to go, and how we might be able to get there.  

As we teach and learn, we must also remember to tap into the powers of reflection.  For students, reflection is an indispensable component of learner-centered instructional design.  The act of reflecting demands critical self-evaluation:  it forces us to confront what we think we know or can do, what we want to know or to be able to do, what we don't know or cannot do.  For teachers, reflection opens up an opportunity for us to examine our own pedagogy and instruction.  Are we designing curriculum, instruction, and assessment in a way that promotes student learning?  Are we demanding quality and excellence from our students?  Are we demanding it from ourselves?

Without reflection, improvement is elusive, because improvement requires introspection and critique.  That process has to be both external and internal, from our superiors, from our peers, and from ourselves.  So, as you take time to give thanks and reflect on your 2016, think about how you can carve out space in your own educational practice for the same sort of deep, honest thought. 

Creating Standards for Online Course Delivery

Posted by Christine Dereberry at 11/1/2016 9:41:18 AM

No one would argue with establishing a list of standards that should be accomplished in order to complete a certain process. Standards are very helpful as they are used to set the bar for how a task or process should be completed and to what degree. Standards give individuals a target to reach and explicitly state expectations. However, by stating that there are online standards does that imply individuals feel compelled to meet those standards even if they are identified as a best practice? For example, suppose you were given a list of standards on how you are expected to facilitate an online course.  What would your reaction be to the following standards? 

Online instructors should be: 

  • well versed in effective communication and the learning tools within the LMS 

  • student-centered and flexible while maintaining and communicating high standards 

  • promote online dialogue to deepen the learning experience 

  • able to foster community virtually and facilitate collaborative learning among the students 

  • able to collaborate with students and the support systems at the university to further student success and participation 

  • able to project their personality through developing an online voice 

  • committed to the use of active learning within the online course 

  • committed to providing appropriate and timely feedback  

  • able to adjust the online course when needed by adding additional support to the instruction via the use of multimedia tools, including asynchronous and synchronous learning events, simulations, social media and other online instructional tools  

  • committed to helping students become successful no matter who they are or what experience they have 

The standards state what should happen in an online course around facilitation. So, how do you encourage faculty to adopt such standards? How should they learn about the standards and realize the importance the standards have for the success of our online students? Is the best course of action to be collaborative or punitive for establishing compliance with a set of standards? Where does training come into play when establishing standards? Who should communicate these standards as expectations to be followed?  

At the heart of all these questions lies the fact that the adoption of standards requires change and change is difficult. Change requires awareness that there is a need for the standards if things are to improve, communication on how we intend to improve, and buy-in from leadership to support the change. Change requires faculty commitment to attend training and apply the training to their online course.  

During our early adopter phase of implementing Canvas, we debated minimum standards on the requirements for creating a course homepage; after several months of discussion a minimum standard was approved. While no one was advocating that all courses look alike, it was agreed that certain information should be listed on the course homepage.  Yet, no one was in charge of ensuring this minimum standard was applied in all courses.  

Now that the School of Continuing Online Learning is in existence, there can exist monitoring for online courses to ensure quality.  To what degree is the university ready for this change? At this moment the School is ready to begin collaborating with the Colleges to define our work processes and standards. We welcome the opportunity to begin these conversations around online quality as we are committed to improving online learning at Stritch.