This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
How many are currently teaching online and how many are thinking about teaching online? I believe I offer some hope for either category? (smile) I am here to share with you my experiences of over 10 years of Internet instruction. I taught my first online class in the spring of 1996 with 12 brave souls who were interested in how this would work. Well, for some of use we are still experimenting on the part of “how this will work”? I have taught online to about 3,500 students in the past 10 plus years.
Let me start by describing my course. I teach two courses. Four sections of 30 students of General Psychology and three sections of 30 students of Lifespan psychology. My classes usually fill quickly so in one course I have around 120 students and in the other around 90 students. By the 12th day class rolls, the numbers have settled down to
around 110 and 85. So roughly about 100 students on average per course. Here is a number that should shock and amaze you – my classes will average over 100,000 class hits per course and in some cases even as high as 180,000 student hits per course. This past spring semester with 118 students I had 187,000 student hits. For those of you not familiar with a BlackBoard ‘HIT’ – it simply means that a hit indicates a student has logged in to BB (Announcements hit) and gone to the Cyber Café (Discussion Board hit), read a new posting (hit) or made a new posting (hit). How do I account for such an amazing level of activity? Let me walk you through my course philosophy and my attitude towards Internet Instruction.
Let me talk about my attitude for just a second. I love to use the word OPPORTUNITY when I talk about Internet instruction. (NOTE: write word on board – OPPORTUNITY) I am a salesman. Like any good
salesman I need customers for my product. salesman, I need sales leads.
I am selling a
product to about 210 students who responded to an advertisement placed in the college catalog that says, “A psychology Internet course is being offered this semester. Register here!” Bingo, I
have a sales lead. Three weeks before the semester starts, I contact this potential customer with an e-mail that introduces myself, my course, and the exciting experience in education that they are about to embark upon. The results are usually phenomenal in that students tell me they have never heard from an instructor before the class started – let alone three weeks before the class starts. Now I have their attention. Two weeks before the class starts my second e-mail goes out with some of the college administrative tasks: get your Blackboard account set up, use your student identification number (g000) in our case. I also discuss the first couple of assignments that they will want to do
once the course opens in about 10 days. This gets them thinking about the course fundamentals. They know the textbook to purchase; they know the software they will need for the BB course. I have given them all the basics and the course hasn’t even opened yet. Now one week before the semester starts I have my final e-mail (sent on Sunday) advising students the class will open on Thursday. With this method I have already established rapport with over 90% of my students. (NOTE: INSTRUCTOR TO CLASS; STUDENT TO INSTRUCTOR; INSTRUCTOR TO STUDENT) They have received three e-mails; they have advanced notice of two major assignments; and they are chopping at the bit to get in. Oh, when I send e-mail #2, I include e-mail #1 for those who were not registered at the time e-mail #1 went out. And likewise with e-mail #3. (hope that makes sense?)
Now that the courses kick off, my salesman hat is quietly replaced with my professorial instructional hat. What do students want from an Internet
course? They want the same thing from an Internet course that they expect from a classroom Face-2Face instructor in my opinion. The want two things at least. First, students want the course material to be presented in a variety of ways and not just a single modality. Second, students want an instructor to be animated and reflect a genuine interest in the course and students. In transitioning from the face-2-face classroom to Internet instruction in the cyberspace classroom I offer my students a variety of different ways to view and understand the material. Second, I remain an animated instructor online. By this I have to be creative but I remain animated online by being involved and visibly online with my students. Research reflects that students who are engaged in their Internet course are more likely to complete
their Internet course. I operationally define “animation” by my level of activity and interaction required in the course.
To keep my students engaged in the course, and to keep my course on their personal front burner, I send my students two e-mails ever week. Every Sunday and every Wednesday around noon like clockwork, my students receive an e-mail from me. By the way (BTW), I seem to condition my students to this behavior and by the third week, if I don’t send it out by noon time, I am receiving e-mails asking if I am ok. (smile) (NOTE: INSTRUCTOR TO CLASS INTERACTION)
Just as I send my students two e-mails per week I require them to send two e-mails per week. One email to me and one to a fellow classmate. (NOTE: STUDENT TO INSTRUCTOR INTERACTION and STUDENT TO STUDENT INTERACTION). But, Doc, how do we know to
whom to send an e-mail? Those of you who are familiar with BB are aware of the Homepage. How many use it? It is an interesting assignment. It is worth 25 points in my courses. Ten points for the Introduction and I require the Introduction to be at least 250 words and another 250 words for the Personal Information section for another ten points. Oh, BTW, did I mention that I don’t have a writing assignment in my Internet course? (smile) The remaining five points are earned by identifying three favorite web sites. What is always interesting is when I receive an e-mail from a student advising me they only have one favorite site. I encourage them to go online and find two more websites or look at their classmates Homepages for some ideas and suggestions. Works wonders when you suggest what should be the obvious. What if they only post one favorite site? No points. I tell my students my course is not hard but they should
take my assignments as seriously as I do. And I take my assignments very seriously.
Let me mention a few things I do when answering student e-mails that might be useful to new Internet instructors. I always reply to e-mails in a timely manner which means hours – not days. I always take the time to type their first name or whatever name the student uses in their e-mail to me. Yes, if they fail to sign their name as I have asked, then I respond to their e-mail handle, which indeed may be a “Hi, email@example.com.” They usually remember to sign the rest of their e-mails to me. The other thing I do is always ‘thank’ students for their e-mail to me. I either simply say, ‘thank you for your e-mail’ or I say, ‘I appreciate your e-mail.’ A final thing I do is a counseling strategy borrowed from Carl Rogers’s playbook on Client-Centered therapy in that I take one or two comments from the student’s e-mail and
reflect it back to the student. Perhaps the student said they are having a bad week and may not make the chat session – the start of my e-mail would look like this: Hi Alex, Thank you for your e-mail. I am sorry to hear that
you are having a rough week. The chat room won’t be the same without you tonight but remember the Archive will be there for you to read later when you are feeling better.
Many students have commented how they felt I had made them feel like I really listened to them and they were the only person in the class. Now that is a real Mission accomplished. (smile)
I have another ‘getting to know you’ assignment called Information Sheet. It is worth 10 points. It contains 10 groups of questions worth two points
apiece. The form asks such questions as what do you
do for a living, or vocation, or pleasure? What is your favorite book, TV program, sports team? Why are you in college? What is your philosophy of life? Then I get the e-mail from the student advising me he or she has not yet had philosophy yet, so what should they do? I usually simply reply with a “is the glass half full or half empty?” and the student takes it from there. Sometimes we
marvel and roll our eyes at some of the e-mails received from our students. But keep in mind that the Internet is a different way of taking a college course. It is a different paradigm and requires a different attitude towards teaching and towards students. Had I asked that same student for his philosophy of life, he would not have hesitated in the face-2-face classroom. But in the cyberspace classroom; well, that same question must mean
something different? (smile) (NOTE: STUDENT TO INSTRUCTOR COMMUNICATION OPPORTUNITY) Internet students just need to be reassured. It is new to
many of them as well. BTW while it may seem tempting to use sarcasm in responding to e-mails to students – please don’t. translate well in e-mails. Sarcasm does not
I have two relatively easy assignments for students to start the semester off and each of these assignments are worth 5% of the course or 10% of their total grades can be earned by completing two simple assignments: the Homepage & Information Sheet. But keep in mind – two very important things are happening here: Students are doing something active in your course and your course is being kept on the student’s front burner.
Let me share with you another way I keep my course on the front burner of the student’s busy week. I have an assignment called Surveys and they are by design, meant to keep students on their toes. I encourage students to login to the course every few
days, but never go more than three days without logging in or they might miss a survey. What is a Survey? Well it is a simple little assignment that pops up according to a random schedule throughout the course. The Surveys are announced in the Announcements and the survey is hot-linked to the proper forum in the Discussion Board. One question might be where I ask students to answer three engaging questions: What do you bring to this course? What do you want from this course? And how will you measure your success in this course? And yes, I do caution my students that it would be very misguided to respond with such answers as: MYSELF; AN “A” IN THE COURSE; MY GRADE. Their answers are posted in the proper forum of the Discussion Board and the response must be between 200 and 250 words. All this for 10 points. Oh, did I mention that I don’t have a writing assignment in this class? (smile) (Opportunities – perceptions) I used to require students write a ten page paper for this
class. Ten pages equal about 2,000 to 2,500 words. Now my students write ten 200 to 250 word – don’t forget the 500 plus word Homepage assignment – now they write 2,500 to 3,000 and think nothing of it. After all, at least they don’t have any writing assignments in this Internet course. (smile) I want to point out something else that quietly happens during this course with this survey assignment. The writing skills improve. (NOTE: STUDENT TO STUDENT COMMUNICATION and PEER EVALUATION OCCURS). The
first few survey postings are somewhat ragged; poor sentence structure; poor grammar; etc. Once students see that classmates are reading and responding to their postings the quality of the postings go way up. (NOTE: STUDENT TO STUDENT COMMUNICATION). In my experience, the last five or six survey postings are radically improved from the first four or five postings.
I mentioned perception awhile ago; let me share another perceptual change that has taken place in my course. A few years ago I tossed out all of my formal exams. Yes, folks, I teach a college level course and I have no exams. A couple of years ago I was getting complaints from students expressing concerns over how hard my exams were. So many students seemed to have “test anxiety”. In chatting with them I pointed out how good their quiz grades were so the quizzes must not give them this ‘test anxiety’. For the most part I learned that students had fewer problems with quizzes but seemed to have a lot of problems with exams. Well, being the good
instructor of psychology that I am, I immediately took all of my EXAMS and completely rewrote the name on the data files carefully changing the titles to QUIZZES. Exam 1 became Quiz 1 and in the past two years I have had only one student e-mail me about a serious condition they had called “Test Anxiety” and when I pointed out that I don’t give
tests in this course, I give Quizzes, we never spoke on the topic again. Now, I know some of you
are saying, “Come on, Doc, students certainly know what you are doing?” When they ask me about the quizzes being exams, I simply offer to post an actual EXAM in lieu of the easier QUIZ but, it will be for credit. I get no takers. (Opportunities – take advantage of perceptions)
Let me talk a little about my Chat Rooms. Every Sunday night at 7:00 PM for General Psychology and 8:00 PM for Lifespan for many years now I have held a highly successful chat session with my students. How successful are the chats? I no longer offer any credit for attendance and I still have from 25 to 30 students showing up for each session. I used to give points for attending. I used to hold them on different nights and different days. My advice is to do what works for you and they will follow. Some students cannot attend regardless of when the chat
is held. Other will not attend regardless of when the chat is held. Remember, if you do offer points you need an alternative point earning vehicle for those students who honestly cannot attend due to church, work, or family obligations. I use to have assignments in the Discussion Board that correlated with each chat but this became an administrative nightmare for me to track and count. My advice – don’t offer credit in the chat room. I tell my students that this is a college level course. Not everything we do in life needs to be done out of a reward. Again, being a good psychology instructor and always looking for learning OPPORTUNITIES this opens the door for me to spend some time talking about something called INTRINSIC MOTIVATION, we do things because we want to do them. We are
internally motivated towards a goal. One word of advice on the chat room – have fun there. It is not unusual for me to start off with a set agenda but end up with slightly off task. Some instructors may
frown at this practice and insist that the chats remain on task. The question I have is, at what price? My view is that this is the student’s time to be in an environment with their instructor. have chosen to use the time wisely but also following my instructional instinct accommodating my students occasionally to get off task as long as it is on something I can justify. Once we were talking about hugging young children. I made an offhand remark about ‘hugging young children correctly’ – by that I mean to get down to “eye level” with the child instead of the child being smashed into a belt buckle. Get the knees of your pants dirty if need be. I talked about two of my I
grandkids – ages 3 and 4 and explained that getting on your knees with the grandkids have much value in their eyes. They just smile from ear to ear when I am down at their eye level. I received e-mails for the entire week from students telling me how much they enjoyed that Sunday Chat as the best one yet.
Postings to the Cyber Café. Want to hear some impressive numbers? How about 80 students making almost 1,600 postings in the 8 weeks of an 11 week summer semester? Oh, yes, and with about 70% of topics on task! Today, one week before the conference, I have my General Psychology Cyber Café postings standing at 1,179 from about 50 students and my Lifespan cyber Café postings at 1,015 from about 55 students. Look at the current update I have on CD provided as a handout. (NOTE: STUDENT TO STUDENT and INSTRUCTOR TO STUDENT and INSTRUCTOR TO CLASS) Amazing – yes, I have some amazing students. What fosters this level of excitement? In my opinion it is the constant feedback to my students. They know I am here and they feel a since of connectedness in the Internet classroom. They feel a part of a real learning community.
Today I have shared with you what I have learned from my students while teaching online for over 10 years now. I suspect the most important thing I want to leave you with is the idea that Internet instruction is very different from the classroom. It requires a different attitude towards students; it requires a different mindset towards instruction. In my opinion, we take what we learn from the classroom and start our Internet adventure from that comfort zone. Then we start modifying, adjusting, and translating the learning moments from the classroom into learning moments online. It can be done but it is different. That is what I tell my students. My Internet course is not hard, but it is different – it is very different. Enjoy the journey. If you have any questions or wish to discuss your Internet class feel free to contact me at Wayne.Hall@sjcd.edu or my Internet class e-mail address DocHall@ev1.net. Like all my e-mails, I will try to get right back to you. (smile)
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.