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Starting off on the right foot! Internship Class: 512-101 Medical Terminology Kristina Vines March 19.

2013

Kristina Vines

Sp13-930C-2320 E-Learning Practicum

Page 1

Activating and Engaging:


Contextual Information The event that I am focusing on is Starting off on the right foot! by assuring that the students are well informed on how to navigate the online environment and also understanding class expectations. Although the primary occurrence was during the first week of class, it has had a cascading effect through-out the past several weeks as each student acclimates (at their own personal speed and ability). Some of the things that come to mind would be incorporating a Week 0 for the students to learn LMS navigation, a more clearly written Start Here page and video links on How to that is readily accessible for the students to both find and utilize. Information About the Event Factors that influenced the event are the different levels of student preparedness for the online learning environment, different learning styles and needs for students, clear, concise communication between the instructor and students, and an appropriate amount of time to prepare the course (unfortunately for me, I wasnt aware that I was teaching the class until three weeks before it was scheduled to start). Presenting Issues/Concerns Where I thought I had things spelled out well in the Start Here tab and in the syllabus, it became evident that what may be clear to me may not always be clear to each and every student. Although I positioned the Start Here tab at the top of the page, I mistakenly assumed that students would, in actuality, Start There. It also became evident that my starting section was word heavy and requires different media forms for all learners to utilize so that I can reach different learning styles. Visual perception sometimes relies simply on a photograph that the students can identify with or that draws their attention. Additionally, restructuring the syllabus may be advantageous for the students so that I break out a section that deals explicitly with Expectations of the course by creating not only an Assignment Outline that shows when things are due but also incorporating a Checklist for the students to follow within the syllabus. It would also be beneficial to fine tune the rubric that I created for the discussion board posts so that it more clearly defines class participation. Communication has been alright for the most part but at the beginning of the course I had students sending emails with questions pertaining to, How do I know if I am doing well? and Why was my score low on x assignment? I already had an excel spreadsheet that I was using with students but failed to include in the Start Here and Syllabus that this would be the form of feedback that I would be using with them, where to find it and when to expect it. Perspectives and Perceptions
Kristina Vines Sp13-930C-2320 E-Learning Practicum Page 2

My own reactions ran the gambit from understanding to frustration. I understood where the students were coming from and their concerns. I tried to show compassion during the icebreakers for those individuals that admitted to this being their first online course but I also found moments of frustration when I know that the information they were requesting was already included in the Syllabus and it became a point of wonder for myself as to, Are they even reading the information provided or trying to find the answers for themselves? I believe I was successful in providing the students with a compassionate tone and patience with answering their questions when communicating with them and that the frustrations that were experienced were (thankfully) didnt manifest them on an outward level that would have impacted the learning environment. I also know that some of my frustration was due to the simple time crunch that I was faced with in preparing the LMS itself for the class with the short notice that I was given to have the course functional for the students to learn within.

Exploring and Discovering


Weigh Priorities The creation of a Week 0 introduction for student learners to both the online learning environment and the course will be my focus for the class. A part of that will also be including with week ones assignments, a discussion forum that better acclimates the students to due dates for class participation and expectations on precisely how to complete their posts for each of the three phases of the discussion board activity. Search for Patterns The patterns that I am able to identify are the varying levels of student preparedness for the online environment and the misconceptions that students have about online learning. I had one student openly admit in the Icebreaker activity that she thought an online course was supposed to be easier with less work and after reading the class outline, she could see that it was going to be the same amount of work if not more. Compare/Contrast Anticipation is always one of the hardest pieces for any instructor regardless of the number of years that they have under their proverbial belt in teaching. This is because with each new class, student needs will be different and when something worked well the year before with one class, it doesnt mean that it will be as successful for the next cohort of students that you are working with in the classroom. Given that this was the first time for me teaching a class entirely online, I had to make the transition of an old Blended course that I taught the previous year into an online environment and where-as in the Blended course I had the face-to-face time with students to teach them how to navigate the online environment, I was not as prepared as well as I could have been for a fully immersed online class structure.
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I also anticipated that students would have the where-withal to read the Start Here tab and the Syllabus to learn about how the class would work and my expectations of their work when in actuality, not all of the students did this; instead, some of them tried to just dive into the course and wing it which caused for some complications early on in the course. Analyze Cause-Effect Relationships The single element in this event that am focusing on is preparedness; for myself and for the students. Having a better-rounded, clearly defined, structured starting week and a Week 0 element would have better prepared the students for the course and for the online learning environment. Some of the things that caused the event to occur are that I didnt use more than one form of media to reach out to the students at the start of the course which meant I didnt reach all learning styles/needs. Another is that the first week could have incorporated a how to lesson with regards to completing the discussion board activity so that as they progressed into the lessons themselves, the students would have already achieved a familiarity with class expectations regarding their weekly participation events which in turn would have reduced frustration for myself and for the student.

Organizing and Integrating


Connections This experience was an eye-opener for me in that even when I feel I am well prepared, things can still go awry. It has taught me how to think on my feet and how to try and to remember that not all students are fluent with computers and the LMS that is being used as one would expect when signing up for an online course. It also reminded me that there are still a lot of misconceptions that students have about Distance Education and that can cause some difficulties early in the class that need to be addressed swiftly yet compassionately so that it doesnt impact the individual students learning experience or the class as a whole. To me, the practicum course is a culmination of everything that we have learned thus far in the online certificate program and it pulled the different components of each course that I took into a singular learning environment for my students. The focus has been on writing rubrics, developing the online environment, structuring an encouraging discussion forum, etc and in all that, the focus on those first critical weeks of a students learning, somehow became less of a thinking point for me when structuring my own class. It rapidly became evident in the stumbling blocks that were experienced the first three weeks of class and it refocused my attention on just how crucial those first few weeks are when establishing a constructive, comfortable learning environment for my learners. Generalizations
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The advice I would give someone about to teach their first online course would be that a strong start is imperative for student learning and to keep in mind the different levels of comfort with a computer, an LMS and with the written word (i.e. typing, emails, etc.). Time permitting; it would be to the instructors advantage to create a Week 0 that helps student learn how to navigate the LMS course itself. To incorporate a lesson in the first week of class that reinforces course navigation and expectations on discussion board activities. To write the syllabus in clear, concise verbiage and have that same information incorporated into the Start Here content of the course. Lastly, to create a weekly checklist that helps the student stay on track. All of which, when done appropriately, will reduce the amount of frustration experienced by the student and the instructor at the start of the class. Applications The things that I will be taking from this experience and that will influence future practices will be prepare, prepare, prepare!! And when I feel I have it down-pat, to read through the design one more time and try to see it from a students viewpoint that has never experienced an online course before or that may have limited proficiency with a computer. I intend on creating a Week 0 for my future courses, implementing an introductory lesson for the discussion board and rewriting some of the syllabus so that it has more detail on student expectations. I will also take this same information and include it in the Start Here tab. Personal Learning The biggest thing Ive learned about myself so far is how easily it is that we forget. Although that is never any teachers intention, it is easy to forget what it is like for a student just starting out in this environment when we are already familiar with the LMS navigation and the course material. With regards to my students, I learned that not all of them have the skills developed for an online environment some may be poor typers or readers, others may not take into account personal motivation that is required for this environment. As a teacher, it is my job to be prepared for these occurrences and to help the student work through the difficult moments so that they can then focus their attention on the learning itself. Some of these preparations can be done with simple things such as a class calendar or checklist that they can reference or a well mapped out Starter section.

Kristina Vines

Sp13-930C-2320 E-Learning Practicum

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Instructor Feedback
Score 300 / 300 Feedback Date Mar 5, 2013 9:36 PM Dropbox Feedback Excellent insights and strong plans. More detailed feed back can be found in the 1 to 1 forum! ~ Dennis Kristina, I'm so glad we can explore this experience together. It will help me to see the state of your thinking. I didn't realize that you got your class with just three weeks of lead time. This means you have to discover the flaw and bumps as you go. Providing information in ways to appeal to all learning styles is always a good idea. I like our plans regarding an Assignment Outline, rubric and a Checklist. Everything you do for your students will come back to help you the next time around. Tuning up the pathway to individual feedback is also essential. Syllabus frustration is a common lament. I'm convinced most students only skim the syllabus. To my way of thinking you want to bring the relevant issues in the syllabus right on to the course/module pages. I've found that it's best to assume that most students will be in their first online class. This means orientation becomes a major objective of the course. Further complicating things (on top of a short prep time) is moving from blended to online. This is really a very time consuming task and it's easy to underestimate just how much prep you'll really have to do. Consider creating an FAQ of the most persistent myths and/or problems students are having. Then continue to revise this FAQ as things evolve. You'll save your time back by having a handy reference for you students. Also an FAQ can be a great orientation week tool. Keep in mind that even a seasoned online designer / teacher will need to revise a new class several times before things truly smooth out. Continuous maintenance and improvement is what it is all about. ~ Dennis

Kristina Vines

Sp13-930C-2320 E-Learning Practicum

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Kristina Vines

Sp13-930C-2320 E-Learning Practicum

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