I Haven’t Got A Clue

Dan Barnett | Innovate 2014
Portrait of a Good Natured, Clueless Geek
Connecting the dots, getting a clue, building flexible students
Clueless About What?
(Aside From Pretty Much Everything)

Not really understanding what students need in an online

Conditioned by habit into faulty assumptions or expectations

Needing more self-understanding by “connecting the dots” to reveal
deep habit patterns

Changing those patterns by creating new, fruitful habits

Helping students do the same
Connecting the Dots
Sometimes it’s easy—sometimes not so easy!
One Pattern: Cluelessness!
Chico State Student

From Student Evaluation (paraphrased)

I feel like you’re talking down to us. You have all the answers and
we don’t know anything.
Another Pattern: Geek Leanings
Made With
Radio (1969)
What are those strange plastic disks?
Mac IIcx (1989)

80 MB Hard Drive

128 MB RAM

1.4 MB Floppy


I’m still paying
Launching PHIL-018 (Eastern Religions)

Long weekend - document repository
(one side of the extreme)

@ONE course - converting f2f course
to online


Cool tools - use everything! (the other
side of the extreme)

Group work - just because
Going Online - First Considerations
Going In…

Skeptic about online learning (had no

Edited down lectures to an
embarrassing 12 minutes

Expectations that students saw the
course the way I saw it
What Surprised Me

Students actually read the textbook

Everyone “talked” (even the shy
WebCT Exemplary
Course (2004)
The year Facebook was founded.
(Didn’t know it was losted.)

YouTube was a year away from being
invented (2005)
Blackboard Catalyst
Exemplary Course
A more immersive experience—but are
students prepared? Nagging question!
Me Without A Clue

YouTube “what to expect” videos on the home page
(introducing the content within) confused students who
thought the video was “it.”

Students didn’t seem to read (instructions,
orientation), so I made them longer and longer.

Was there a way to help students understand their
online courses? And for me to
understand my students?
The Paper From CCRC
That Sparked A Key

“Role Ambiguity in Online Courses: An Analysis of Student and Instructor Expectations”
(Rachel Hare Bork and Zawaki Rucks-Ahidiana), Community College Research Center,
October 2013

Study 2 CC’s in Commonwealth of Virginia

“Role Ambiguity”

“… a situation in which expectations are incomplete or insufficient to
inform behavior”




Poor performance
Modeling Behavior


Students can see role
models and social norms

Instructors can learn
expectations from
collegial interactions


Not so much

Not so much
Misaligned Expectations
“Instructors and students agreed that motivation is an important
student attribute that is key for student success;

however, instructors felt that students should be self-motivated,

whereas students thought that instructors should motivate students
through the use of engaging course materials.”
Instructors’ Expectations About Students
Technological Preparedness, Time Management, Asking for Help
Technological Preparedness

“Instructors assumed that students who enrolled in online courses
would possess the requisite technological skills to succeed”

“It surprises me that sometimes students just don’t know how to
copy and paste and do some of the basic, basic stuff you do
through [Microsoft] Word.”
Technological Preparedness

Student responses

Older students said they were “comfortable with computers” since
they had used them at work

Younger students assumed that they already possessed the
requisite technological skills for online courses by virtue of their
“generational” familiarity with computers and mobile phones

“Students thought they had already met expectations (such as
tech skills)”
Time Management

“Instructors and students agreed that time management is important
to online success”

“Instructors articulated the need for students to be intrinsically
responsible and motivated, whereas students stated that instructors
had a duty to encourage and cultivate these student qualities”
Asking For Help

“Online instructors in our interviews often indicated that students
should reach out if they have any questions, and they felt that stating
this expectation clearly should be sufficient.”

“Since asking for help in an online course is primarily a private
student behavior, students who fail to enact help-seeking behavior
may be at a disadvantage compared with their peers.”

Students struggled with “proactively asking their instructors for help”
Students’ Expectations About Instructors
Timely Communication, Detailed Feedback, Online Presence & Pedagogy
Timely Communication

“Students expected instructors to respond to email messages within 24
hours, whereas instructors considered responding within 48 hours to
be appropriate role-related behavior.”

“While most of the instructors clearly stated their communication policy
in their syllabi, students still voiced strong disagreement.”

“One instructor expressed his frustration with students’ expectations of
rapid response communication saying, ‘I can just tell you, a mature
distance learner is very demanding ... and in many cases, are
unreasonable in their expectations. You know, they have lives, but their
instructor does not.’”
Detailed Feedback

“Students expected instructors to provide written feedback on
assignments rather than merely assigning a grade;

in contrast, instructors tended to provide only a grade, expecting
students to solicit more specific information if they did not
understand their grade.”
Online Presence & Pedagogy

“Students had clear expectations that the instructor should use
varied and engaging methods to deliver course content and have a
frequent online presence to guide them through the learning

“Students preferred that instructors use technology to diversify the
way that content is delivered, thereby providing multiple ways
student can engage with both the content and their instructor.”
Online Presence & Pedagogy

Instructor responses

They “often felt students were unrealistic in their demands.”

“Most instructors seemed unsure about how they could
realistically incorporate such materials or even how they could
actively ‘teach’ an online course rather than merely ‘manage’ it.”

Can An Ancient Geek Get A Clue?
The Continuing Trail Adventures of IDST-012, “Success In Online Learning”
The question:
We can build better
courses, but how
can we "build"
better students?
Taking The First Step

What if online students are tripped up not by technology but by unproductive habits?

What if students could learn a technique for coming to terms with their online courses
that could also form productive habits?

What if the instructor could clarify expectations, listen more carefully to students, and
form more productive habits as well?
Getting Oriented

Video throughout the course
alerts students to course
complexity & expectations

Course content provides
models for behavior and
opportunities for students
to practice techniques
How To Get A Clue

What if the techniques for coming to terms with an online course
were similar to the techniques law enforcement uses to “come to
terms” with a crime scene?

Couldn’t we leverage those same techniques for our own CSI?

Interviewed Mike Maloney, former Chief of Police for the City of Chico, now Public Service
Director at Butte College

B is for Boundaries - Secure the boundaries - Is the course self-contained?

R is for Remove the nonessentials - Don’t get caught up in details just yet!

E is for Evidence collection - Anything out of place? What do I need to DO to succeed?

Q is for Questioning assumptions - Am I assuming this course is like the last course I took?
• BREQ involves reading the syllabus with a purpose - finding clues about what is expected in the course,
what the student must DO in order to succeed; but MORE is needed!
• D is for Determination or grit - Persevere in the face of the third-week letdown and developing
approaches to keep one’s interest into the semester, even if it’s boring.
• A is for Authentication - Confirm that one has understood the assignment and then authenticating that
the assignment has been properly submitted - includes models for asking for help!
• T is for Tools - List the tools used in the course, from Google Docs to the discussion board, and find
out one new thing about three of them
• S is for Slow reading - Size up the textbook by reading the preface,
looking at the table of contents, finding out who the authors are,
checking reviews
Time For Help
• Why not ask for help?
• Embarrassment
• Wait until fixed
• We’ll get more time
• Not near a computer
• Instructor probably won’t answer
• I asked once and got a condescending answer:
“read the syllabus!”
• Who cares? All I need is a C
• Cultural: Living up to (or down to) negative stereotypes (“stereotype threat”: work of Claude Steele, Dean of
School of Education, Stanford)
Time For Help
• Use the “10-Minute Rule”
• Give yourself 10 minutes to fiddle
around; you may be amazed
• -
• From: hottluvva@hotmail.com

To: Dan Barnett

Subject: problem


Why isn't the quiz working?

[No signature]
• Even more helpful!
• From: student005@buttestudent.outlook.com
To: Dan Barnett
Subject: Problem with Q-02 in PHIL-008 N1234

Hi, Mr. Barnett,

I was taking quiz Q-02 for the second time just now
and when I clicked Submit nothing happened.

I checked My Grades but it says the quiz is "in

Would you be able to check and see if it submitted?

Stu Dent
Help For Time

The Pomodoro Technique

Work for 25 minutes

Relax for 5 minutes

Repeat 4 rounds

Take 15-minute break
What An Ancient Greek Taught Me

Aristotle said that we need to replace
unproductive habits with better ones, and
keep practicing until we come to enjoy the
new habit.

IDST-012 (“Success In Online Learning”)
is an effort to work out Aristotle’s vision in
an online course.
What Students Said

“I thought the video feedback on the assignments was a nice touch
for an online class. The video presentations are great too. I have
taken 3 online classes before, and none of those teachers did
videos. Your online class feels more like a real classroom!”

“I am emailing you to let you know that the personalized video was
very helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to create it and
send it to me; I feel I have an accurate idea of my progress so far in
the course and your opinion of my work, which is quite insightful and
What Students Said

“I have been at this school thing for awhile and I can't tell you how
valuable this class has been to me. I have some big bad habits that
I didn't even recognize. I couldn't figure out why my studying was
taking so long and I wasn't getting good grades, even after I studied
for hours. … Thankfully to this course I am learning how to prepare
for my future classes and how to build upon my successes and
build good habits through using the Habit Loop technique.” [article
by Charles Duhigg]
From Getting a Clue To BEING a Clue

Encourage habits that enable students to flourish

Read between the lines rather than becoming defensive

Show that you learn from your mistakes and model
responding, not reacting, to students

Incorporate new tools if they’re relevant, but
give up a cool feature or technology that’s not working

Find a mentor

Love your students
Thank you!
Image Credits
• Creative Commons Attribution License
• Mac IIcx: http://www.vectronicsappleworld.com/macintosh/articlepics/maciicx/snap1.jpg
• Tinkertoy: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b3/Tinkertoy_300126232168_.JPG
• Gremlin: https://www.flickr.com/photos/antonolsen/2363321403
• Chico State: https://www.flickr.com/photos/celticsu/2906182474
• Textbooks: https://www.flickr.com/photos/albertogp123/5843032561
• Tools: https://www.flickr.com/photos/18924124@N00/8649538637
• Rocket launch: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jkbrooks85/6191163191
• Eye glasses: https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielavladimirova/7691339866
• Police lights: https://www.flickr.com/photos/webhostingreview/3090392251
• Trees in fog: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dbnunley/12261705236
• Foggy road: https://www.flickr.com/photos/icanchangethisright/11811633666
• Aristotle: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rollercoasterphilosophy/4482693082
• Love: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mohsenmasoumi/3107904674
• Help button: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tsaiproject/6844681317
• Email: https://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/5167671844
• Courtesy
• Garbage container: http://www.outblush.com/women/home/kitchen/grocery-bag-trash-can/
• Connect dots: http://www.sheknows.com/kids-activity-center/print/sandwich-connect-the-dots
• Misaligned railroad tracks: http://bartsjerps.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/linux-alignment-reloaded/
• Trail: http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread991853/pg1