Friday, February 02, 2007

E-Learning: Reading Posts during the first week...

Getting Started: Week 1

I've got two very robust online classes going right now. E-Learning for Educators and Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits. With 19 in each class, I'm reading a lot of posts. (I've got the classes grouped so the volume of posts isn't burying the students.)

Social Icebreakers

It's the critical first week and the icebreakers have worked well. This is a discussion where every one in the class is talking together. With about 150+ posts in the icebreaker discussions of each class folks are staggering a bit trying to cope with the multiple threads of ideas and introductions. It's like walking through a crowded room where everyone is talking and sharing. I always like to start a class with a big social exchange. It give folks a chance to learn the software while they get to know each other without the pressure of an academic assignment. This is great!

An International Group

I think everyone gets a kick out of learning online with people from around the world. In addition to a large group from Wisconsin, we've got folks from New York, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, California, and Vermont. From overseas there are teachers connecting from Korea, Okinawa, Taiwan, Dubai, Germany, and England. I get a kick out of the geographical diversity of each class. (If I had the time I'd create a Google Earth tour of everyone's home...hmm with time enough...)

Ways to read a discussion thread in D2L

Over time I've learned to read these threads using some of the D2L message reading options. I like to check every box in a thread and then view it in printing format. This puts the entire thread up, one on top of the other, in message format. It's easy to read the entire exchange and scroll past the re quoted text. (Sometimes I wish folks would delete the quoted text, but I always leave it up to them to follow my model. I don't want it to be too complicated.)

Changing Subject Lines

When I respond I usually change the subject line. I'm trying to model this method early on so folks learn to capture the essence of the post in the subject area. Some do, some don't.

Mark as read

When I finish reading the posts in message view I scroll to the bottom of the group and click "Mark as read". I then close the window and return to the main discussion. A quirk of D2l is that you have to hit the refresh button on the navigation bar of the message system to get the posts to go from bold to plain (for read).

This helps me see my progress as I work through the posts.

Notes Become Grade Book Comments

I'll often write my responses into the grade comments area as I read the posts. I can put the notes in a field visible to participants, or in a private comment box. This way I capture my thinking about each post as I read and work a bit on my comments for the week. I can then paste them into the public discussion or save them for the private feedback for each learner.

Obsessed with feedback

I want to offer evaluation comments to all students at least once a week. Sometimes this becomes overwhelming and I have to lighten up. A really efficient voice conversion system would help. My right hand has carpal tunnel and a degraded thumb joint making typing a bit painful... but not enough to keep me from it. Still folks deserve timely and regular feedback, from their instructor and from their colleagues.

Good start

Both classes are rolling and packed with articulate interesting people. My job is to help them become a community so they can learn from each other. This is going to be fun!


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