What I Have Learned in ETAP640

I just finished what may be my last discussion post for ETAP640. As I went through the post process, I was cognizant of each step: read your classmates’ posts; respond to something that resonates within you; teach (us) something by locating and sharing resources that support your thinking;  include the thinking and experiences of classmates; offer your opinion on what you are sharing; cite your resources for the benefit of all; tag your resources logically.

Alex had informed us at the outset of the course that each discussion post is an exam and I have learned why: discussion is the heart of online learning.  An instructor may vary the context, content, activity, instructional grouping, and time frame, but in the online environment, students’ learning is demonstrated through the vehicle of discussion.   It’s not just the process of discussion posts I have learned about; the theoretical constructs behind discussion posts also make them central to online learning.  Through posts, students develop and demonstrate the social, teaching and cognitive presence of the Community of Inquiry Framework.  Through participating in a community of inquiry, each member transcends self to exist as a fractional part of a summative, cognitive entity, a node in the connected network of cognition and the pursuit of knowledge.

The same can be said of blogging.  While I initially eschewed blog posts in favor of scholarly papers as resources, I came to learn that blog posts are personalized records of learning, thinking, and being.  They can be loci of scholarly thought in that the blogger may have already done some significant reading on your topic of interest.  Blog posts can also furnish the human connection that is necessary in the online environment.  During this course – my first online learning venture –  I often felt isolated and overwhelmed.  The expression of similar feelings in classmates’ blogs reconnected me to the group and made me feel a part of the whole.  I did not avail myself of this connection as often as I should have or would have liked to, but I believe that as my online learning curve diminishes, my ability to reach out to, enjoy, and learn from blogs will increase.  Through visiting classmates’ blogs, I see that diverse approaches to blogging are equally effective in that blogs are unique.  It is not about what the instructor wants to hear, it is about hearing the student’s articulation of what is being learned that is essential to evaluating the content of a blog post.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the tools and techno skills I have acquired.  Creating a Voki and and a VoiceThread for EED406 was a high point for me, as I learned that I COULD use the “cool tools” that Alex  is so excited about.  I continue to really love the teaching and learning possibilities inherent in Diigo even while I realize I am leaving ETAP640 with a very strong novice-level understanding of its strengths.  I look forward to learning to use screencasts and podcasts (as well as eventually teaching others to use them) in order to make content more interactive.  Seeing Tina’s and Diane’s use of them has furthered my confidence that they are accessible and not just for hardcore technophiles.  On Twitter, I now follow a few  modern-day scholars, have had a few of my tweets retweeted (RT), and have joined a few Twitter communities; I am interested in microblogging and will continue to use it in my coursework and online presence.  I am confident in my ability to create an online course.  When I zipped it, complete with a PollDaddy evaluation instrument based on the work of Dr. Phil Ice, I felt as though my work for ETAP640 was done.  Through trying to be “fearless” about using technology, as Alex advises, I have come to learn that confidence is something that one must exercise in all spheres of the online environment.

These reflections are to be borne in mind as I continue my sojourn in the World of Web 2.0. I would like to help future learners create and achieve this heutagogical experience of learning.  While the pre-ETAP640 Irene would continue this last sentence with “but I feel as though I am still a student myself”, the post-Pickett Irene says, “while I continue to learn with them.” As I have learned, online teaching and learning are synchronous; in an online, student-centered, 21st Century course, we can not help but to teach when we learn and to learn when we teach.

Thank you, Alex and ETAP640 classmates.  You have transformed my perspective and practice.




Next Steps

I feel good about where I am as an online instructor as I reflect on what I have learned and what my next steps will be.  Although I have a great deal more to learn – this is just the beginning of my experience in the asynchronous learning environment – I am excited to continue.  I know I  have learned a lot because of my response to my next online course in the COLT program.

When I received my Fall 2012 course notification, I promised myself that if I wasn’t too tired after finishing my final course review, I could open it and have a look.  This reflects understanding of and commitment to the  focus with which an online instructor must approach course management.  In his ETAP640 reflections audio file, Bill Pelz explains his evolution in online  course management, relating that at first he felt as though “he spent so much time in front of the computer that (he) had no life” (Pelz, personal communication).  That is how I felt this summer and how I will more than likely feel this semester as I make the adjustment from designing EED406 to managing it.  Now, Bill Pelz spends approximately 15 hours per week  managing 5 online courses and spends about 20 hours designing new courses when necessary.  I can see how this would eventually happen.  You begin to know your course environment deeply, continue refining it with each iteration, and further refine your management practices.   Basic course documents can serve as the templates for future courses for which you select content and activities that you know will work well within the course context because you’ve continued reading and trying new tools and activities.

Since I had traveled to Colorado while finishing the third course review – I had invested in gogo so I could access the internet in-flight –   I was too tired to take a peek at my fall course but a day later, I logged on to look around.  First of all, I saw an immediate difference in appearance between the Blackboard 9.1 and Moodle course management systems.  This made me recall Alex’s reasons for providing students a course environment that is able to be personalized and that incorporates tools outside of the course environment: the freedom of being connected to  varied web-based communities of practice, developing a digital identity, and revisiting the course after it is over – as well as our course-connected, external digital footprints –  came to mind.  I must say, when I viewed the ETAP640 course feedback instrument, at first I thought, “I don’t really agree that it’s that important to access course artifacts after the course is over” but now that I won’t have access to the work I create in Fall 2012 beyond the life of the course iteration, I think it’s very important!   As I navigated through the course map area, I was a little disappointed in the rigid and mechanistic appearance and handling of the Blackboard 9.1 system.  Have I been spoiled? While using Blackboard 9.1 as the cms may be more predictable – I’ll soon find out – moodle appears to allow more creativity and flexibility for course design as well as accessibility beyond the course run.

As I looked over my fall course, I checked the links, the interactivity of the assignments, the content (textbooks?), amount and clarity of information on each course information document … and I realized that I was looking at the course from an instructor’s perspective.  This was a transformative moment for me; when I first glimpsed ETAP640, I couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing.  Now I am appraising it.   This is why I feel good about where I am as an online course instructor.


Reflections on Course Design Process

Reflecting on the online course design process, I realize I have made a tremendous transition from first-time student to instructor in the space of one semester. What I have learned about myself is that I have an affinity for designing in the online environment.  Moodle makes great sense to me, which is a good thing because it’s easy to get lost in all those rooms that have similar verbiage, numerous little interconnecting links and passages and  a lotus-like multiplicity: in the words of Diane, “God help you if you decide to make a change!”

Most surprisingly, I have learned that I am technology-proficient. It’s not a question of, “Can I do this?”  for technophiles, it’s a question of, “Hmm, where can I find the time to tinker with that little whatever to see how it works?”  Using computer  technology to perform work is like using an electric sewing machine instead of hand-sewing or driving a car instead of a carriage one hundred years ago.  It’s an extension of the person who is using it to help make the person’s tasks “easier, faster, and cheaper” to complete, to paraphrase Alex.  While I am not yet a full technophile, I am surely no longer a technophobe!

As I apply theory to practice in the creation of EED406, I am desirous of a more deliberate connection between the two in future design tasks.  Much of what I did was tinged by emotional reluctance to try the unknown in this first venture.  I so deeply enjoyed the reading and studying portion of this course … it opened a new world of theory to me, made more exciting by the historic proximity of the leading researchers in the field.  Much of what I did was also done under time constraints for which I was not prepared.  While my effort was reactionary much of the time, I still believe I achieved great growth in adapting to an asynchronous learning environment.  I think the real test of theory application is the degree to which EED406 engenders development of community through candidates’ engagement in course discussions and activities.  I am really quite excited by this and while I must make certain adaptations to the course as I developed it, I will stay true to the interactivity I designed through use of discussion, blogs, Diigo, and Twitter.  I look forward to continuing to practice and learn about instructional design in the fall semester.




Further Down the Road

After conducting my course review last week, I was shocked to find out how much of my course I had completed and equally shocked to realize how much I still had to do in order to finish. I was extremely happy with what I had accomplished: the course information documents were (almost!) complete and are cohesive in tone and verbiage.  The  required redundancy is very helpful for students; moving through my course blocks, I can see how the eye seeks to find similar colors,  font sizes, and textual patterns on pages in order to make advanced – sort of visual or imaginal –  meaning of the text prior to making literal meaning.  We humans sure do love our patterns!   This is an aspect of  digital literacy that I find so intriguing:  the ability and opportunity to make non-verbal meaning out of images with the attendant, agreed-upon value of this type of meaning.  It’s sort of a blend of reading and the visual arts or the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words” reaching full fruition.

I also realized I had left out a number of important course documents and neglected a few very important caveats. I had no “next steps” document and I had totally forgotten the course calendar.  I also had to revise my blog discussion to include a “Do you know this is accessible by the world?” message.  Much revision of my evaluation documents, including the drafting of work samples, took up a lot of time in this second week of the module.  I struggled with this because when I adapt this course to Student Teaching Seminar in the fall, it is a satisfactory/fail- graded course.  I spent a lot of time refining the evaluation section of the course information documents even though I will not be able to use them for EED406.    I kept telling myself, “You need the experience if you want to be an instructional designer!” Not every course I write is going to be S/F and I have to look at all scenarios as possibilities, keeping an open disposition toward training and learning. I also did a great amount of work on my modules:  with the exception of Module 2 and, to a lesser extent, Module 1, the modules needed to be much better developed.  I still have two modules to complete, but my IceBreaker module and Modules 1 – 3 are ready to be be looked at for the final check.

As I said in my course review document, overall, I am really satisfied with EED406 thus far. I think it is engaging and warm, a “place” in which candidates will enjoy being together. I believe they will be excited to discuss their experiences in forum! So often, candidates feel alone in their student teaching placements after having studied with classmates for a number of years; this can be the place where they reconnect weekly to share stories of progress or setback. I just need to make sure I am there – in the course – with them frequently and that I boldly keep up with management and facilitation tasks.  Now, as we close out Module 5, I would say that I am 80% finished with my course.  I have two modules left to gussy up,but because of the redundancy of the course activities, much of this is cut and paste, color-code, and check-the-links to align them with the corresponding module question area.  I have also to pull together a mini rubric for a webinar activity.  I made great progress this week due to the checklist.

Drat that Reflection! It’s Always Right!

How are you applying what you have learned so far to your own course?

So far, I see that I am observing some of Chickering and Gamson’s principles.  I hope I am designing a good amount of interactivity into the course to encourage cooperation among students.  A Web 2.0 tool-dedicated Help! forum allows students to support each other in learning to use a different Web 2.0 tool in each module.  This ensures that the requests for help appear where they will be seen by all candidates, not just those who need help.  A separate, Connections forum allows students to share their experience of applying course content when at their student teaching placements. Students must read and comment on the blogs and Diigo posts of (at minimum) two classmates in each module.  While I realize group projects and collaborative learning are exciting ways to engage students cooperatively, the nature of the student teaching semester is determining the methods and degrees of interactivity I can expect students to achieve. This is also only the second iteration of the course.

I think one of the best aspects of EED406 is that everything the students learn is applied to their teaching practice to encourage active learning.  One activity that I am especially excited to observe is the students tweeting from their placements when they make a course- to- practice connection.  I am intrigued by the immediacy and brevity of Twitter as a blogging tool.

Another important activity in my course is the use of Diigo, which illustrates the point made by Alex that  an area for shared references and a class-annotated bibliography should be created.   I just have a feeling that students will really be appreciative of the development of a professional library that grows in multiples of twenty-two with just one contribution each time.  Hopefully, this experience of munificence will increase trust and a sense of community as good discussions take place around the resources they find for each other.

I am also trying to sow the seeds of community -building and the development of social presence into the language of course documents and web pages.  Encouraging the student through affective expression to ‘be there for classmates and trust that classmates will be there for you’ is idealistic but students of this age are wonderfully idealistic by nature; this type of message lights their democratic fire and motivates them to pull together.

Other ways I am trying to establish trust is to design the “one click away” idea into all course pages as well as to keep the number of pages in a module to a minimum.   I know how fragile and easily frustrated a student teacher can be mid-semester; knowing that the course is predictable (redundancy) will optimize student satisfaction and minimize emotional or motivational course withdrawal.

What have you observed about yourself during this (course development) process?

I have observed that I am inwardly obstinate and that I resist doing things in ways that someone else has determined to be effective, but when I get with the program, the promised results do indeed occur.  For example, I carefully reread the directions for blogging and I (not so inwardly) grumbled about having to be reflective, thinking, “I’ve written enough about this already!  What more do I have to say about it?”  As I wrote “Rant and Ramble”, thoughts about students and my course, based on what I had learned, began to occur spontaneously.  The resulting ah ha moments became the core of my entry … and I reflected on how Alex had written in her “Why do I have to blog???” post that reflection enhances student learning.  As I look back over this entry, I reflect that I need to improve my methods and levels of interaction with each student.  While I could say that the course hasn’t started yet, research tells us to design as much of the course up front as possible. Icebreakers are a great way to introduce oneself as the instructor, and I have yet to complete them.  So, reflection has proven its worth yet again:  reflecting on my work in designing EED406 thus far is proof that research-based best practice works.



Rant and Ramble

As you go through this process as a student in this course and as the developer of your own online course, what are you thinking about?

Of all the reflective questions for this module, this question resonates most deeply with me because it is the dichotomous perspective from which have I consistently viewed my experience in this course. How am I simultaneously learning how to be an online student and instructor?

It’s not easy.  As a first-time online student, the cognitive overload I feel is sometimes overwhelming and causes me considerable anxiety.  This anxiety causes me to procrastinate, which causes me to fall behind, which causes me to feel anxious …. !   Although I never would, sometimes I imagine how I would feel if I had hit the “unenroll from etap640” button that, in the early stages of the course, lurked temptingly on seemingly every page. Would the relief be worth what I know I’d be missing out on?

Now that I (finally) have a blog roll (read anxiety + procrastination), I can visit classmate’s blogs and I read similar plaints:  Victoria is also a procrastinator.  Diane wanted to “unenroll” due to stress, even as her COLT program acceptance notification arrived.  Ben is uncomfortable with the demands of pacing and the public sharing of the self.  THE PUBLIC SHARING OF THE SELF! I am such a private person that I don’t know which is more difficult, always feeling ‘behind the eight ball’ with the technology or the public sharing of the self!  (It’s probably the public sharing of the self.)

These feelings make me think of students, past and future.  These feelings help me develop compassion, as it is the experience of struggle that develops the ability to understand the struggle of ‘the other’.  The first question I asked in this class was something like, “How much technology help do we have to give to students?” I have the answer to that  question:  as much as we can.  It’s to be given in the course design, however:  we are to design the help into the course through providing resources.

Another thought I had about students is the amount of teaching presence  required to develop social presence (community), especially among the more reticent candidates.  Something that has been proven to work is frequent, immediate instructor feedback.  I am going to have to really make the effort to develop an online schedule that is both consistent and flexible, for my own presence of mind (not part of the Coi framework) as well as for my candidate’s academic growth.  Teaching presence also involves anticipating students’ needs based on monitoring progress and being ready to find that perfect something to support the student’s learning.

Lastly, to mirror my list of online student complaints, above, I think about the layout of the course; if it’s too many clicks away or the explanations aren’t clear, students become anxious, lose interest, and possibly withdraw.  This is an especially important point for my candidates, because Seminar is a mandatory course taken in the last semester of the program.  They can’t drop the course; to do so means they don’t graduate.

On the other hand, as a budding online instructor, I REALLY like designing in the moodle course management system.  Some of the most relaxing, happy hours I have spent on this class have been in the physical creation of EED406.  As a matter of fact, I had begun a blog entry entitled “I have my own classroom again”: I realized that the online environment is actually a type of classroom; is that why course language includes such terms as “area”, and “room”? I believe I demonstrate strong social, teaching, and cognitive presence.  I have communicated with teacher candidates via email for eleven years and I feel this contributes to my “voice” in the online environment.  I was very inspired when Catherine, another classmate who is a former student teacher of mine, told me I sound as real online as I do in person. I see course design as a highly intricate, creative endeavor, which makes it incredibly appealing to me.  Now if I can transfer some of that passion for creative intricacy to the area of time management I’ll be in good shape!




The Slow, Steady Growth of Community

Module 3  July 9, 2012


In my first Module 3 blog post, I adopted the perspective of the online instructor.  For this post, I will address three of Alex’s questions from the perspective of student.

How do you interact in this course?

Like my course mates, the ending of each module is the time for me to reflect on my growth.  As a first-time asynchronous learner, my greatest and most dramatic growth has been in the area of interaction.  When I began etap640, I interacted only to ask a question in the … Ask a Question forum.  In discussion forum, I drafted research-laden essays that were directed at Alex or to no one in particular.  There was no time to read the bulletin board and I was extremely reluctant to emit social presence.   As I conclude Module 3, I read and post on most forums, I engage multiple classmates to consider, inform, and/or question points of an issue, and I am beginning to draft elegant discussion posts in which I elicit instead of orate.

What if anything has been difficult for you?

While my growth in forum interaction is notable, my interaction beyond the forum, in the blogosphere and the Twitterverse, remains a focus for further growth. It is difficult for me to visit the blog sites of classmates and to tweet about what I am thinking or doing in the course.  Why?  I believe it’s a mixture of learning curve and time management.  It occurred to me today that if I want student teachers to tweet about connections between seminar and practice, I had better start tweeting about my own course work.    If I intend to scoot around and read students’ blogs and the comments they make on the blogs of others, I should practice by scooting to my classmates’ blogs.  Something else that is difficult for me is viewing exemplar online courses. I am beginning to navigate this course environment very successfully.  I viewed the  white spaces of Piorkowski’s French class (trés jolie!) and listened to Bill Pelz’s audiofile while surfing the Angel tutorial, but looking at an unfamiliar course environment makes me feel the panic I felt at the start of this course.  It’s just not something I’m ready to do yet.  I continue to rely on etap640 as a model.  My own course? I know every inch of it!  My classmates’ courses? Focus for further growth and I’m growing every day!

What is working for you in this course?

Something I appreciate about this course is the experiential quality.  The gradually unfolding, iterative nature of asynchronous learning allows us the freedom to succeed at an individualized pace.  I have seen Alex provide feedback to classmates in order that they improve their performance on an assignment; for me, this inspires trust and creates an ‘open’ learning environment. Yet the due dates give me a focus!   Something else that works for me is the research emphasis of the course.  I find the historic proximity of the research in online learning to be motivating.  The studies I read are written by scholars who I can contact via email! (Think Twitter, Irene!)  I am studying teaching presence with a recognized authority on teaching presence … how often does that happen?  Through exposure to research, I can now clearly identify and explain the difference between a study, a literature review, and a journal article.  I also see the logic of basing practice on research-proven methods.

I have spent my academic life I believing that I have to ‘go it alone’, since I walked home from school alone the first day of first grade.  Strangely, this course, in which I spend so much time alone, is teaching me that I don’t.  I have never had this much interaction and discussion of course content with classmates; not only do I appreciate their knowledge, I am coming to trust their ability to reframe and guide my thinking.  As I wrote earlier in this post, I started etap640 writing “research-laden” essays; now I rely primarily on the course resources for reference. While I do respect and appreciate the research I am exposed to, I realized that Alex has course objectives that are supported by the resources she has assembled.

As I read back over this post, I notice elements of community: people who help each other out, authorities that guide, supports and expectations to adhere to, enrichment, trustworthy surroundings.  It causes me to reflect on the similarities between online and physical communities, something I had not thought of before.  Could it be that we really are, slowly and steadily, growing into a genuine community?


Salience and the Hardworking ALN Instructor

Module 3  July 8,  2012


I would like to address two questions Alex has asked in this blog post.

Why do you do things the way that you do?

In these past two weeks, I have come to see the need for time management.  I approach writing as an art: I must be inspired, able to follow my muse, rephrase until the words are perfect …

In the online environment, it doesn’t work like that, and I would imagine it is especially challenging for the online instructor.  In a recent blog post, Alex wrote that she is up at 3:30 in the morning and spends all weekend on coursework.  Bill Pelz mentioned that sometimes he feels like a post reading machine.  A number of the online instructors in the COTS videos warn that without time management, online instruction can take over your life.

Diane and I had a discussion on the notion of salience this week, the quality that causes a topic, task, or approach to assume “prominence” within a set of choices.  It has always been my way to dive deeply into that which is ‘salient’ to me; I mentioned in a discussion post that I had stayed up until 5:30 a number of nights during Module 1 to learn about teaching presence.  I was driven to find out exactly what it was about teaching presence that I was missing.  During Module 3, I accidently blew my Course Information Area off the screen – DON’T touch that X at the top of the box under any circumstance – and had to reconstruct it entirely.  After I shed a few (tired) tears, I quietly – and expertly – created a new HTML box and continued on to block out my course modules in the same work session.

Well, I can’t exactly call it a work session because I don’t schedule work periods.  I have always worked when I am inspired, which I can see is not going to work as an online instructor.  Why do I things the way that I do?   I give my all to those things that have meaning for me, that engage me, that challenge me because I believe in authenticity.   I must find a balance, however, in order to complete the necessary tasks well so I can savor the doing of those that have salience.

How will you apply what you have learned to your own course?

There are a number of course-related, practical ways to better manage my time.  I know that to save time during the semester, I should develop the course now to the greatest possible extent based on the models and lessons being presented to me, the tried and true of research-based, best practice.  I can avoid many (and repeated) questions and corrections by articulating clearly and fully developed directions to activities.  Community building and high levels of interactivity in the course design will enable students to learn from each other; I will not be seen as the answer authority. This is freeing, not just for me, but for the students, too.  Knowing when to step back and observe the flow of social, teaching, and cognitive presence in students’ experience is important as well. When I was designing the Feedback portion of my module activities, I began the feedback statement with “I will provide comments and suggestions” in all five modules; I realized I was chaining the students to my leadership, and chaining myself to discussions that, after the second module, should be the realm of student kinship, wonder and knowledge.  I began Module 3 Feedback statement with, “You will be asking questions and making suggestions… “

I must work at accepting that authentically is not synonymous with exhaustively.  There are so many tasks for the online instructor that I must  remember to make it work before I make it pretty, to distribute my time and passion across the spectrum of the ALN experience.  I find the notion of time management to be salient.


Breakthrough on a Bias: “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”

Module 2       June 25, 2012

This week I had a breakthrough on a bias.

Alex and I have begun a bit of a dialogue regarding my reticence to post in discussion forum.  I know I’m a good writer, I craft my discussion well … so why do I prefer blogging to posting in the forum?

Three events occured this week that have helped change my perspective on discussion forum.

First of all,  I experienced that learning is socially constructed in the online environment.   I read a post on social media by Victoria, and as I prepared to respond to it, I came up with my own questions on the topic.  This caused me to further research it and I came away with a much deeper understanding and an outstanding article on social media.  Most importantly, I was aware that the reason this happened was because I responded to someone else’s construction of learning.

The second event took place in response to another classmate’s learning.  Lisa had posted on creepy tree house syndrome and, again, I did further reading in response to the questions she closed with.  As I studied, I came upon a suggestion about personal learning environments  (PLEs) that opened a new avenue of study … which I followed.   I realized why Alex has unchained us from the course management system of BlackBoard in favor of the relative freedom of Moodle and I glimpsed the future of higher education.  I also just talked  to Lisa about what I knew, what I had learned, and about my thoughts and feelings on our topics of … discussion!  I had created my first true discussion post.  Lisa responded the next day, stating she had done research on the concept of personal learning environments because … my post caused her to have questions!  Our learning had been amplified because we had learned with and for each other.

These experiences “highlight one of the fundamental differences between the F2F classroom and the online learning environment. ‘Discussion’, or the students’ contributions/posts/interactions in the online course, take on a significant importance in an online classroom. Rather than an extemporaneous activity by a select vocal few in the front row of a F2F classroom, effectively designed online interaction and learning activities are designed to engage all students in the course with the content, with the instructor, and with each other” (Pickett, 2006).  My learning about social media was a deeper engagement with content; and the work on PLEs was a deeper engagement with a fellow classmate, because our communication continued past the post – post-back level of interaction.  The thread was growing.

Lastly, an article on early attrition in first-time online learners cited by Ben helped me to reframe my bias toward discussion forum.  I am probably not so much biased as I am dealing with waves of cognitive overload, frequently experienced by first-time online students.  As I read the article, I saw myself as a student and realized that in time, I will become accustomed to this new way of learning.  I will probably even savor discussion forum.  For now, this first-time perspective will serve my online students well; Alex has stated that “(f)aculty that are able to assume the perspective of the student as they design their courses and activities are better able to be sensitive to these issues and to create effective online learning environments for their students” (Pickett, 2006).

There is a Jewish proverb that states, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” This is certainly true of discussion forum.  We learn with and for each other: as  you learn, I learn.  As we question each other’s findings, and question ourselves as learners, we learn even more.


Works cited:

a series of unfortunate online events and how to avoid them, Alejandra M. Pickett (2006).

What I’ve Learned about Reconceptualizing for the Online Environment

Module 2,   June 21, 2012


Earlier this week, as I revised my course profile, I reflected on how the online teaching paradigm compares with my current instructional approach as a student teacher supervisor.  How can what I do now be reconceptualized for the online learning environment?

“You are interacting with one single individual at all times.  There is no ‘class’ …” (Pickett, What Works?)

Interestingly, the majority of my practice is carried out one-to-one as I visit classrooms to observe student teachers’ practice.  After the observation is over, the teacher candidate and I (try to) find a quiet place and we debrief:  What went well in the lesson?  How do you feel ‘this’ went?  How can ‘this’ be improved?  Google __________ and let me know what you find out about it … and off I go to the next observation appointment.

I recognized some implications:  while one-on-one, reflective discussion is something I am used to, the element of face-to-face contact will be completely absent.  As I thought about this, I rewrote the profile as if I was speaking to a candidate in a debriefing session.  This led me to consider my tone.

“As with any complex social situation, how we present ourselves has a lot to do with how we are going to be perceived and also with how people are going to respond to us” (Scorza, 2005).

One of Alex’s edit suggestions referenced formality of language.  Since I was lifting the language of my original draft off of a static syllabus, it was long on standards but short on personal warmth, something that’s not necessary in a generalized syllabus designed to inform one hundred candidates. Very institutional … I admit, it was weird being effusive in text, but when I reread it the next day, I “heard” how much more personable and ‘closer’ I would sound to my reader. Success! This new skill was serendipitously reinforced by an interchange between Catherine, Diane, Alex and me in the ‘Ask a Question” forum:  Diane and I shared our understanding of blog post self-ratings with Catherine, and Alex followed up with a few corrections. Her friendly, informal tone conveyed information that I had not picked up on despite reading the blogging section thrice. This led me to consider perspective.

Design a course with the student perspective, one who has never taken an online course before” (Pickett, What Works?).

THIS will not be a stretch … as I added a significant amount of detail to my revision, I was careful to select clear language to name important aspects of the course, to use redundancy, and to be very literal in discussion. I also used short sentences, not something I do in f2f practice.  The image of the home course page, as I saw it downloading for the first time, is permanent and will ALWAYS serve to remind me to be simple, clear, direct, and warm … no matter how many times I teach my first or ninth online course.  The redundancy of terms in the course information section and pages was my lifeline in my first days as an online learner; it gave me a feeling of competency as I remembered where I had seen certain terms before.  Talk about student perspective!

“Your pedagogical approach, the nature of your content, and the constraints and features of the online asynchronous environment are what will determine how you design the ‘chunks’ of your course” (Pickett, 2006).

I found this guideline to be resoundingly true as I organized course modules.  I knew I wanted candidates to learn a Web 2.0 tool in each module and that relevant professional development topics were critical from a content perspective.  To better visualize how these elements would coalesce, I graphed course organization topics with modules and used sticky notes to move elements around.  Course chunks were very clear from the outset due to content and skills considerations, and activities developed naturally as a result of aligning these elements.

As I move into the next phase of course design, I will continue to use what I learn to adjust what I do to create what supports learners in the online environment. Reconceptualization and relying on what has been proven to work are two of the keys to effective online instruction.


a series of unfortunate online events and how to avoid them, Alejandra M. Pickett (2006).

What Works? LD Basics for the Online Classroom, Alex Pickett.

“Do online students dream of electric teachers?” Jason Scorza (2005). Journal of AsynchronousLearning Networks, Vol. 9, issue 2.