Helpers

Instructor Presence: Discussion forum response strategies

Instructor Presence: Discussion forum response strategies

We talk a lot about instructor presence in online teaching and learning and take for granted that it is a good thing. (It is). Let’s unpack this concept into a set of actions that have the desired effect on our online learners’ experiences. At the root of the discussion is a simple theory of social presence (Short, J., E. Williams, E and B. Christie, 1976) which suggests that various forms of communication fall along a continuum ranging from high to low social presence; face-to-face being on the highest end, and text on the lowest end. Right away, you can see that teaching and learning online is at a disadvantage. What can we do as online instructors so that learners positively sense our presence? What is “instructor presence”? In educational research, an often cited model for online course-based learning is the Community of Inquiry model (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). Within this model, importance is placed on how the instructor (and learners) assert their presence in the course, and presence affects learning. Instructor presence is classified into Social, Teaching, and Cognitive presence. While definitions vary for each, core similarities can be summarized as follows: Social Presence can be defined as “… establishing personal and...

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Anatomy of a discussion forum prompt

Anatomy of a discussion forum prompt

It is not unusual for online learners to be working full-time with family obligations and other commitments. They choose learning online because it allows them to be engaged 24/7, anytime, anyplace. However, with those affordances comes the possibility that learners will be engaged with course content, readings, and media in fragmented intervals across several days (and perhaps several times a day!). An online discussion forum prompt should help students to make the best possible contribution, and utilize their time effectively. As the instructor, simply writing a question in the forum prompt will not be enough. Below is an example of a discussion forum prompt with commentary (in red, on the left) that describes how it helps to sustain clear focus on the discussion topic and aid learners in completing all of the required tasks. The point values are not required, but if your assessment strategy includes evaluation of each facet of the discussion as you have prescribed it, then make it clear to students how that method will work.   The opening of the prompt is intended to recall the media and readings assigned to the module, and to frame the character of the discussion. Remember that your students...

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A replacement for myBrainshark

Introduction The following report (July 27, 2015) is in response to the impending closure of myBrainShark.com, a free online service for uploading a PowerPoint (PPT) presentation, adding audio to each slide, and then publishing in a Moodle course. myBrainShark is the free version of a larger enterprise-scale marketing and training solution called BrainShark [ http://www.brainshark.com/ ]. myBrainShark is popular in higher education online courses because of its easy interface and its inherent ability to present instructor presence. THE BAD NEWS: There is no perfect free replacement for this product, and access to the main BrainShark.com enterprise presentation products requires a substantial financial commitment. Since the myBrainShark Web tool does not occupy the same priority of a core course delivery system (such as the LMS, e-portfolio system, or media streaming system), only free products were reviewed here as a possible replacement. Pedagogical motive: The purpose for finding a replacement solution is driven by the desire for online courses to include the kinds of media that promote instructor presence, and which convey information with the greatest potential for clarity and meaning. We have continuously encouraged instructors to “move beyond PowerPoint” so that their courses are more personalized and less like a correspondence...

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Bloom’s Taxonomy: Why it matters with rich media

In the Introduction to Rich Media presentation, we saw how rich media fits into the activity design and development phase of building a course. Bloom’s Taxonomy was mentioned briefly as a guide for conceptualizing your activities. Now let’s take a closer look at it. Bloom’s Taxonomy was originally formulated by Benjamin Bloom in 1956 as a way to classify the characteristics of learning activities according to the level of thinking required. Orders of thinking range from straight recall at the lowest level, to creative invention at the highest level. Since its inception, it has been adapted and revised by various educational researchers. An elaborated history is available here. One recent revision has been given the name “Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy” (below) which has extended each level to include various “verbings” associated with each level of thinking in the taxonomy. How Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is Useful: Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is useful to you in designing your instructional activities because you can refer to the verbings at each level to determine the thinking skills you desire from your instructional activity. Do you want your learners to Remember? Think of activities that involve the verbings at that level. Are your learners ready for an evaluative activity? See...

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What skills do I need to use rich media?

You might be thinking that you need to be a technology wizard to use rich media in your course. Well, you’ll definitely need to learn some basics, but even at a novice level, you can still make good use of rich media in your course.   We divide proficiency with rich media development into three levels. Keep in mind that everyone’s proficiencies differ across the spectrum of rich media skills, so perhaps you may see yourself as having a combination of proficiency levels: LEVEL 1: I can find useful rich media content and use it in its existing form in my course. Examples: Curating a YouTube video into a course by copy/pasting its embed code into the content area of a module; uploading an existing image or diagram in a course module to accompany text; linking to or embedding existing multimedia from a website that demonstrates a phenomenon or function; linking to a special interest group within a social network system. LEVEL 2: I can do all of Level 1 skills, plus I can manipulate, add, or embellish media through the use of software or webtools. Examples: Curating a collection of YouTube videos into a playlist; editing, adding or embellishing an...

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Why use video in online instruction?

The following video provides an overview of the pedagogical case for using video in online instruction. Need a transcript? Click here It’s never been more easy to record and publish videos. But with this convenience comes a source of new challenges when we consider using video in online instruction. For example, even though face-to-face instructors can hold their class’ attention for an hour or more, the same lecture presented as a video recording will likely hold viewers’ attention for about 6 minutes. And even though video provides a strong sensory experience for viewers, videos alone do not cause learning. So what are the best ways to use video? This guide will introduce you to some of the basics of using video in online instruction, including a section on how it helps to promote your presence in the course. Along the way, this guide will show you a model for your own course development by mixing a variety of media: video, text, and images – all working together where their strengths are used to their...

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Using an external video resource in your course

Need a transcript? Click here Some course topics have an abundance of external video content available to use in your course. This guide will help you use videos in a way that will encourage learners to be actively engaged with them, rather than watching them passively. I like to call this the instructional “wrapper” that makes the video relevant to achieving instructional goals. But first, why is watching a video different than reading a textbook or research article, or posting in discussion forum? For one, watching a video is a fundamentally different in its experiential conventions than reading a textbook. A textbook or article does not “play itself” for the reader. The reader has to actively decode symbols and construct a narrative of meaning from phrase to phrase. With a video, the engagement is more passive. Students may “lean back” and zone out, as they have done most of their lives while watching video as entertainment. Or they may disengage with it because there is too much information to take in and they don’t know where to focus their attention. So instructors need to take action to counter this possibility. We’re going to wrap the video with prompts and...

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Recording videos of yourself on a PC

Most modern PC laptop computers with an up-to-date operating system come with built-in camera and microphone hardware. They do not, however, include a recording application to record video/sound into a digital media file. You will need to download and install a free application to complete this task. Hardware Checklist: Skip this if you already have a webcam and microphone Recent PC laptop. Most recent models include a built-in camera and microphone. If you have an older laptop, a recent laptop without a camera/microphone or if you are using a desktop model, you will need to borrow or purchase an external webcam with a standard USB connector. Check your local office supply or electronics store for an inexpensive model that is PC compatible. You do not need anything fancy, but you will need both video and audio input capability. Basic models range from about $35-$50. Recent version of the Windows operating system – Vista or higher. If you’re computer is running Windows XP or something older, please contact IT Help for further instructions. Software: Skip this is you already have MovieMaker software to record a video  The easiest way to record yourself with a webcam is through Windows MovieMaker. However, you will...

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Recording videos of yourself on a Mac

All modern Mac computers with an up-to-date operating system come with built-in hardware, media applications and capabilities to record video/sound into a digital media file. Below is the hardware and software you will need to successfully make your own recordings. Hardware Checklist: Skip this if you have a recent Mac laptop from at least 2007. Macbook or Macbook Pro from 2007 or later. These models include a built-in camera and microphone. If you have an older laptop or if you are using a desktop model, you will need to borrow or purchase an external webcam with a standard USB connector. Check your local office supply or electronics store for an inexpensive model that is Mac compatible. You do not need anything fancy, but you will need both video and audio input capability. The costs range from about $35-$50. Recent version of the Mac OS X operating system – 10.6 or higher. You can find out what version you are running by clicking on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your menu and selecting “About this Mac”. The OS version will be displayed in grey under the “Mac OS” heading. If your Mac is running an OS...

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Recording your own course and module intro videos

A course or module introduction video is more than just an interesting piece of media… It provides your learners with several benefits: It helps students to prepare to learn by gaining their attention, framing prior learning in relation to new subject matter, and setting the stage for new information. It promotes your presence in the course as a “real person”. Cognitive presence is a critical factor that helps learners maintain interest, feel like part of a learning community, and sustain their resilience. It gives you an opportunity to respond to the unique events and issues that emerge from module to module. This can can include highlighting specific forum comments from a student, citing a recent news item that points to your subject matter, mentioning due dates and tasks, and addressing patterns of misunderstanding directions. It leverages your talents as an instructor to be seen as the leader of the course. What should you put in an Intro Video? Typically, you will want to cover the following: What is this course/module about? Why does it matter? How does this course/module relate to prior knowledge? What has been said by students in prior modules that relate to this prior knowledge? How...

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