Saturday, June 16, 2007

Teaching Online is Like Juggling: The big summer of 2007

Timing E-Learning Delivery

I still get nervous before a class. I keep checking the course tech, clicking links, creating new tutorials,trying to find the inevitable chinks in the armor. With almost 50 people starting in three of my classes at UW-Stout tomorrow (2 sections of E-Learning for Educators & Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits ) I know I'll be super busy next week. Today is the last chance to blog before an intense first week. Too often those first weeks feel like an avalanche (for the teacher and the student). Somehow the more I prep the more I can hope for a great start up.

Things do settle down quickly, but only if you help folks feel safe, and get oriented. I work to help people realize that an online class has people, not a machine, at the heart of it all. There’s nothing more powerful when it comes to retention than making that personal connection.

I’ve poured my nervous energy into blogging and working with the calendars & timing elements of Desire2Learn and My Moodle site. (I give students full instructor level access to Moodle in the third module.) D2L lets you set release conditions for nearly everything. I wish there was a way to set global default timing calendar for everything, but I always want the software to do more.

If I get the timing right, I can forget about the mechanics of presentation and focus on making personal connections with all of my students.

Module Release Timing: I’ve set the opening dates for all of the modules on three different classes. We run the modules from Monday through Sunday, with each new module opening on Friday. This way the ‘weekend warriors’ can catch up or work ahead. I’ve tried dozens of configurations, but this one works best for me. (Of course, I work weekends on the class so I can monitor transitions fairly closely.)

Can I see my grades? I’ve also set the timing on the gradebook. I only want one new module to show up in the student gradebook each week. If learners see all the assignments waiting in the wings I think they get discouraged… or perhaps intimidated. Better to limit the view to what’s been done and what lies ahead in the coming week. I broadcast through the News menu that I wrap my grades over the weekend, but some still write worried over the points if they don’t see an almost instant update.

Gradebook Comments: I use the gradebook comments a lot. Students don't see the comments until I real ease them for view. I often make notes as I read in the comments area, and then pull it all together at the end of the module. Then I release the grade for the week. That’s where I want to deliver individual feedback. I think it has more impact if the assessment and evaluation comments are in the same personal space. This takes a lot of time. My biggest stressor during online classes is supplying meaningful (specific) feedback. That’s why I like to co-facilitate with Sara. We can share the eval duties and go deeper into discussion facilitation.

News Bulletins: I also time the news sections so critical info pops up at the right time. This is tricky with D2L. I have to set both an opening date and an order of presentation. In some cases I need to set a news item closing date too. This news section is a pain… but it’s better than Blackboard and eCollege. Moodle is more primitive. I can set the weeks of a class and what students see, but it’s all manual. I’ll bet some Moodler has figured out a plug in for timing, but I haven’t had the time to look (nor do I have the skills to install and tweak an open source plugin.

Hmm... what's left to do? I should do an audio overview for the writing class. Hope I get it done in time.

Friday, June 08, 2007

InfoBytes - Four Terrific Tech Resources to Explore this Summer

Which new tech tools are having a significant impact on teaching and learning in many classrooms?

What are some cutting-edge web resources that reflect interactive and collaborative learning trends?

Infinite Thinking Machine

Sponsored by Google and written by educators, this is a top site for keeping informed about the newest tech trends. If you only have time for one tech blog each week, make it this one!

PB Wiki

“Make a free Wiki as easily as a peanut butter sandwich” on this user-friendly site which is perfect for beginning Wiki creators. For more on wikis, see the excellent YouTube video “Wikis in Plain English”.

Teacher Tube

View teacher-created instructional videos and upload your own videos on this educator version of YouTube created by teacher Jason Smith. Search for professional development videos or locate movies to help your students learn a particular skill.

Enter the world of social bookmarking and discover a huge collection of shared, searchable Web favorites. Find out what other teachers think are the best Websites and share yours. Save and organize your personal bookmarks and access them from any computer on the web.

Announcement: Final Call for Online Courses Starting June 18-25

15 summer courses available! Get ahead, start here!

Consider taking a summer online course from the comfort of your home and earn graduate credits to meet your professional development goals for licensure renewal.

FINAL CALL UW-Stout Online Professional Development

June 18

EDUC 744 911 Effective Classroom Management — Elementary

EDUC 744 912 Effective Classroom Management — Middle School-High School

EDUC 744 920 Teaching Writing with the 6-Traits — Elementary

EDUC 744 909 Teaching Writing with the 6-Traits — Middle School/High School

EDUC 744 925 Bullying in Schools

EDUC 744 951 Digital Classroom: Teaching Information Literacy with Primary Sources

EDUC 744 949 Instructional Role of Assessment

EDUC 744 937 Learning Applications for the iPod® and Handheld Computers

EDUC 744 928 Digital Photography Basics and Graphic Design for the Classroom

EDUC 760 E-Learning for Educators

EDUC 762 Assessment in E-learning

June 19 EDUC 744 940 School Library and Classroom Collaboration

June 21 EDUC 744-941 Mentoring Teachers

June 25 EDUC 744 930 Web Design

Registration closes five days prior to the course start date to allow time for assigning user name, password, university email account and online orientation practice activities.

Register online at:

Apply now for the September classes in the Online Master of Science in Education Degree Program and Reading Teacher Certification Program.

For additional information, email Joan Vandervelde at or call Joan at (715) 642-0209.