Welcome to The Professor Pickett School of Success!

the end or is itWhen we began our journey at the beginning of the summer, I continually asked myself: “What have you got yourself into.  I feel overwhelmed! Can I pull this off? Should I drop this class? Is it worth it? How could I ever build an entire online class over the course of a summer? Is she nuts? ….Oh yes, she’s definitely nuts!”. Boy was I wrong on every account! This course has not challenged me as a student, as an educator, but as a  person. This course has been the most intense course that I have ever taken. Each week, we have worked towards creating an online course that I am most certainly proud of. With the superb guidance by Professor Pickett, I have a course that is ready to go live. A course that will challenge and engage my students. The process to get to this point was challenging, but each step along the way has made me a better educator, and my future students have you to thank for it!

If I get to chose who I would want to draw/write a treasure map to lead me to that pot of gold, Professor Pickett, I would want it to be you. From day one it is evident that you k now what you are talking about. In your course documents, information, and manual, you have given us a road map that one can’t mess up. If one fails this course, it’s truly not because of the instructor. It’s because one chose not to use every single item that you have given us to our advantage. In my future endeavors as an educator, I know which educational model I will follow: The Professor Pickett School of Success is the one and only choice!

In life, as taught in this course, we must: Reflect, Connect, Organize, Build, Refine, Implement, and Evolve. These are not only the titles of our modules this semester, but a guide to success. If we fail to use these seven principals, we will never be the best educators possible and will have mediocre learning environments, and non engaged students.  Stay one step (or several for that matter) ahead of your students. The best quote from this class that I will use until the day I die, “Assume Nothing, Anticipate Everything”.

Remember to breathe! You can do this! -Professor Pickett

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Reviewing our online masterpieces

edcationo not enoughThis week, we had the opportunity to formally review some of our classmates online course in preparation of our final submission of our course. This assignment has been crucial step towards creating a course that not only serves as the project for this course, but is a product that is for the most part ready to go live and be used in the online educational world.

As stated in my overall course review, there was one thing that was very apparent.  “It is always said that everyone learns differently, and that is completely evident with these course reviews. One person likes something, and the other person says it needs to be changed. Items that Professor Pickett said was a positive, one of the classmates says it needs to be changed. I agree that things can be better, and I will most certainly change. I will be working to clear up my directions. I have seen some great narratives while reviewing others courses, and feel that I could do a better job at guiding the learner. I must keep in mind to anticipate everything!”

When I picked my course topic, I wanted to pick something that applies to my life, music. I have already created a mini-course in another class that focused on music theory, so I decided to pick music history. Music history course by nature, are very dense,  which requires time and effort to be successful in understanding and applying the material. I feel that by incorporating video material into my course, that it will lead to a better understanding of the curriculum, rather then reading an assignment, listening to an audio example, and then taking a test (which is what my Music History courses were like in college).

Tim Gallwey says , “don’t forget you are dealing with a human being that has tremendous potential and is somewhat handicapped with their interferences”. Be honest with your students. Be respectful of the individuals in your educational environment. Remember that learning is an adherent capability within people. You don’t have to put it in to people, you have to encourage it and bring that out.

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Proper planning will save you time!

assume nadaWe began this semester learning about how to teach online. Each week, we slowly built our course from the ground up based on the educational theories being discussed within the course. I have often complete one big assignment at the end of a course, and wondered why it wasn’t broken up over the life of that course. I can sit here today and honestly say that spreading the development of our course over several weeks allowed me to not only spend time working on one section of the design process, but allowed me to create a top notch product each week where I could actually see my learning taking place.

This week, I haven’t had to do much with my course at all, due to the work referenced in last weeks blog post. Working with the checklist allowed me to make fine adjustments while I was reviewing the course. Thankfully, I invested time and effort on each developing assignment which made it very easy to refine the course. If one takes these assignments seriously, it truly does make your job much easier when it comes down to the review and refinement process.

I firmly believe that I have created a course that is ready to go live. I also believe that my course will be a success. I look forward to receiving much needed feedback from future students, as I work to refine my course. I know there will be things that I need to refine, but I hope that due to the “assume everything, anticipate everything” philosophy has left me one step ahead of my students.

As I sit here now, I know that I would like to change how my final project will be conducted. As stated above, I feel that working on a project over several weeks leads to a better product, and I should follow my own advice. This change will be made if I ever get the opportunity to teach my course in the online world.

 

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The Power of the Checklist

checklist_blue

The beginning part of this weeks module, we had to do a complete review of our course to see where we were, and what work we still needed to complete. Throughout the design project,  I have referenced this checklist before by using the course manual, so I always had this document in the back of my mind prior to having to compete it for this module. As modeled by Professor Pickett, and referenced numerous times throughout this blog, one must “Assume Nothing, Anticipate Everything”. My girlfriend, who has a degree in Music Performance, was the person I turned to to peer review my course. It was actually interesting to watch her click on something, and for me to know in my head already what some of the ideas she should be thinking based on how I had set up the course. It was interesting that I would write down on a separate piece of paper what I thought was on her mind, and showed it to her once she had mentioned it to me. Although I was not 100% accurate, I was correct almost all of the time. Changes were of course made based on her questions/comments to be sure that I fit into the “Assume Nothing/Anticipate Everything” philosophy.

Using the checklist, I found several issues that I needed to address. The majority of my issues were in the form of spelling/syntax errors, unclear directions, and minor flow issues between activities. I was able to easily correct and fix any errors that I or my peer evaluator had found when reviewing the course. My peer evaluator who has never taken an online course before commented many times at how easy it was to navigate (once I pointed out where to actually begin since I forgot to add this important directional information), and to know what the expectations were for each module.

One thing I would still like to work on would be my discussions. Although I have changed them to more then short answer responses as directed by Professor Pickett, I continue to struggle with amazing/knock your socks off discussion topics. I believe that my topics will be able to generate discussion, I still could work on developing these further if needed.

I firmly believe that this checklist allowed me to present a course this week that is one that is ready to go live. Will there be things that I will need to change as we go through this course? Yes. Will I adapt my course based on experience? Yes. I look forward to working through the problems/concerns that come with teaching an online course for the first time, but with the proper training and the use of this assignment, feel that these problems would be kept to a minimum.

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Teaching Presence

online_education_1Teaching presence, not to be confused with teacher presence, is directly related to the opportunities for each member of the class working together to enhance the learning of the entire class community. Professor Pickett outlines seven effective strategies for the online course developer/facilitator/instructor.

1. Encourages student-faculty contact and interaction
2. Encourage cooperation and reciprocity
3. Encourages active learning
4. Gives prompt feedback
5. Emphasizes time on task
6. Communicates high expectations
7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

Professor Pickett has also stated that “courses characterized by effective teaching presence are more likely to develop a stronger sense of community on the part of the students equals high levels of student satisfaction and reported learning”.

Using these principles while developing my course has opened up my thoughts on creating successful teaching environments both in the online and f2f platforms. It is crucial for us as educators to create learning environments that are conducive to our learners and their interests to learn. As we continue working on courses, one thing that Professor Pickett state in this weeks video, was that  “research shows that there is a relationship between teaching presence and the development of community in online learning environments”. When dealing with such a great deal of diversity, we must create an environment “where there are ample opportunities for interaction and the social construction of knowledge, that results in online teaching and learning communities of satisfied students and faculty” (Pickett). It is key that we focus on creating an environment that has deep roots and fundamentals that surround “teaching presence”.

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Social, Cognitive and Teaching Presence

learning presenceAs an educator, we must focus on the learning experiences of our students. Learning experiences can be broken down into three categories: Social, Cognitive and Teaching Presence.

Social presence is defined by Professor Pickett as “the ability of students to protect themselves socially and effectively into a community of inquiry”. She defines cognitive presence as “the extent to which students are able to construct and confirm meaning though sustained disclosure in a community of inquiry.” Teaching Presence is defined “the design, facilitation and direction of cognitive and social processes for the realization of personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes.”

1. We must be Knowledge Centered. If we are knowledge centered, we become outcome oriented. We focus on the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for our students to apply the information we are feeding them. We must also look at providing ample opportunities to successfully transfer the material.

2. We must be Learner Centered. We focus on the strengths, interests and preconceptions of our students.

3. We must be Community Centered. This has been a strong message that has been repeated every module this semester. We must create and environment where our students feel safe to ask questions, work together, and allow them to develop lifelong skills.

4. We must be Assessment Centered. We must provide ample opportunities for students to display and show us that they are learning. We must provide them quality feedback so they can revise their thinking if needed.

These ideals have played a crucial role in my thought process not only as we develop our course, but as an educator in general. When developing a class for the online learning environment, it is imperative that the time be spent developing a course that is rich in content but creates numerous opportunities for interactions both instructor/peer and peer/peer. To be effective as an educator, we must push the envelope to create an environment that challenges higher levels of thinking. These ideals are crucial to our success as instructors in the online environment.

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Its all about the Social Presence

puzzle pieceWhen we first began this journey, one question that I had, and have had over the past few weeks, is how was I going to create my social presence online. I know who I am as an educator in the F2F environment, but the world of asynchronous learning is completely uncharted territory for me as an educator. As I have worked on my online course, I have found ways to incorporate my style into the virtual learning environment.

 

As educators we must:

-Break down the barriers that exist between us in the online environment. This can be achieved by using humor, self disclosure and expressing our emotions.
-Create a community. This can be achieved by establishing trust with the learners in my course. Students must be comfortable with me as the instructor, and the other students in the class in order to create an effective learning environment.
-Create a realm of Open Communication. While developing my course, it is important that I achieve this by using online discussion areas. I must also create opportunities for the learners to ask questions not only to me, but as a class, and let them know that it is ok to help each-other with their questions, comments and concerns. It is important that I incorporate these ideas into my online course.
-Give a compliment and acknowledge to the students when they have done a great job. Let them know that they are appreciated is another way to ensure a positive and rewarding learning environment.
-Create an environment that yields healthy debates and discussions. It is ok for the teacher to not be in the drivers seat of the course. Allow the students to take the lead, and allow the class to steer where the discussions will go.
-It is important to focus on the “WE” and the “US” factors. If we want to create a learning environment that has great cohesion, we must treat it like a family. (Social Presence Videos)

These factors have all finally clicked this week while working on my course. It is important to have a learning environment that is conducive to discussions without any hesitation by the participants.  Rather thinking of it as Mono y Mono, Hands in Hands or fitting together like a puzzle piece, it is our job to create a learning environment focused  around the dynamics of the class. I feel that I have a better understanding of that through the work spent on my course this module.

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How to create effective course designs using effective teaching practices.

success

Professor Pickett has stated many times throughout the course that it is important to re-invent your teaching methods and strategies from the F2F learning environment when beginning an online teaching endeavor. “What is it they need and what can I provide for them so they can be successful?” One must also consider if you are “taking away the possibility of their learning or am I giving them the ability to learn that for themselves, to explore, apply, refute, engage with whatever the concept is because if I am doing all the work, then I am the one doing all the learning, not them.” (Social Presence Videos).

When developing a distance education/online learning course, planning and organizing “must occur well in advance of scheduled instruction” (Simonson et al., 2012). Careful decisions must be made on the way the material would be presented to the class, how to keep learners engaged, alternative assignments for times technological problems arise, and the time frame necessary to allow the learners to be successful.

 

Application:
While building my course, I have created opportunities for open participation by my students in discussion areas. It is important for me as the facilitator to take part in the online learning environment, rather then be a fly on the wall. It is key to be involved in ones class to ensure the sense of community that we are working so hard to establish. As an educator, we must be open for opportunities to reflect, evaluate and revise our courses to be sure that our students are getting the most out of the course, and that we as instructors are providing a quality learning environment so our students get the most out of their time with us. As reported by Professor Pickett, it is important to recognize the strong correlation between the quantity and the quality of interaction with the instructor and the satisfaction of the student and reported/documented learning. As we continue to spend time revamping and reinventing our course, we must be ever aware of what we are teaching and how we are going to best get our messages across to our learners. Alexandra Pickett says that “successful, effective, and satisfied online instructors have effective course designs and effective teaching practices.”  This has been something that I have continually thought about while creating my course documents for this module and will continue to be a driving force in my future educational endeavors.

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Importance of Design

instructional design

When creating an online course, time and effort must be placed in the DESIGN process. One may have good instructional/educational practices, but one must have the proper tools to implement them in the online world. Professor Pickett states that “just because you can, doesn’t meant you should”. How one designs their course is truly vital to the success of the students. If you teacher a face to face class, re-conceptualize your ideals for the online learning environment. You don’t have to make your class harder because it is online.

 

A course can not be built over night. You can’t teach the course and develop it at the same time. An online course is a “living breathing thing”. It should grow and evolve over time. If something in your course doesn’t work, don’t do it again. Learn from your course, and revise it to fit the needs of your students. It is important to remember that just because your course is online, it doesn’t have to be done all online. Use offline activities to reinforce the material being taught online.

 

Professor Pickett describes “best practices” to follow when developing ones course.
1. Have a comprehensive overview

2. Clear Contact Information

3. Clear and explained learning activities

4. Explain in detail how the students will be evaluated

5. Have a clear and comprehensive course schedule.

6. Clearly identify where you want your student to start and where they will be going next.

 

Other things to remember when planning your course:

-Break up longer documents into smaller, easily digestible documents
-Every module should begin with an overview of the activities, readings, due dates and the modes of evaluations.
-Create a community within the class
-Create opportunities for student interaction
-Have “conversations” with students through first person voice
-Gather Feedback that will allow you, the teacher to improve the course in the future

 

The main thing to remember, is that you should assume your student knows nothing, and anticipate everything in advanced. A good course takes hundreds of hours of preparation and revamping. It is crucial to not skimp out on any of the planning stages of your course. Interact with your students, and make them feel comfortable in the class learning environment. (4)

Assume Nothing, Anticipate Everything

educate

After the completion of our first model, I have learned a lot about how important it is to be organized. Professor Pickett has stated many times to assume nothing and to anticipate everything. I am not going to lie, I have struggled keeping up with all the clicking and going in between pages to make sure I don’t miss anything. Take for example, out blogging, I totally missed the grading portion specifically in reference to our self evaluation. This hurt my grade in the first module. Was it because things are difficult to find? Not at all. I just hadn’t taken my time. Professor has truly assumed we know nothing, and has done an amazing job with being descriptive and upfront on how we will be evaluated. It is becoming evident to me that hundreds of hours (as referenced to the French course we observed) to create a successful online asynchronous course. When developing a distance education course, planning and organizing “must occur well in advance of scheduled instruction” (Simonson et al., 2012). Professor Pickett (2008) states that “a student that is not well-oriented to you, your course, your specific learning activities and your expectations, will have confusion and many questions, will feel uncomfortable, and will be less apt to succeed in your online classroom”. This will lead to a student who is uncomfortable and dissatisfied with your class experience. “Their confusion, questions, and discomfort will result in more work for you, your own dissatisfaction, and a crummy evaluation from the student” (2008).
Professor Pickett outlines several steps to be successful when creating your course.

  1. Assume Nothing. Document everything from the onset. Be clear and concise.
  2. Be responsive and present in your course. While developing an online learning environment, it is important for the instructor to have a well thought out process in regards to what their involvement will be in the course. Are you going to dictate your course, or are you going to guide the students through the course?
  3. Use directives. Use 1st person conversational voice. Your goal is not to teach, but to interact. (ex. You can expect, You will be)
  4. Be sensitive to the student perspective. How will the student view what I am doing within the course?
  5. Create well explained activities both on and offline. What instructional cues will you use? How will you create thought provoking discussions?
  6. Encourage and create a sense of community. How will I create a learning environment that is respectful and the students feel open and willing to be open with each other? How will the students converse with the instructor, and other classmates? How will private conversations between instructor and student be handled?

Using Professor Pickett’s many years of experience to our advantage, is definitely one of the best aspects of this course. She has walked the walk, and talks the talk. She leads by example. She has worked so hard to allow us to have the right tools to be successful, and this has allowed me grow as a student throughout the first few weeks of this course.

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References

Pickett, Alexandra (2008). A Series of Unfortunate Online Events and How to Avoid Them. SUNY Learning Network.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.).