Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Setting Expectations - Jeannette Campos #2

Continuing from the previous guest post by Jeannette Campos, here are five more suggestions that she gives for shaping expectations about online learning.

6. Make No Assumptions: Establish a baseline of what your faculty do, and do not, know about instructional design. Faculty need to understand the relationship between instructional objectives, instructional strategies, instructional tools and evaluation methods. Be prepared to do a lot of intensive coaching around how to design and develop online, prior to how we deliver online. Take time for the basics. The learning will be so much more solid if it is supported by good ISD.

7. Professional Development: Schedule weekly learning lunches and support them with an online resource center for faculty. In my experience, this predictable and consistent support really made a difference. I also had great success facilitating a week long intensive seminar for all faculty developing online courses for the first time. Prior to that workshop, I standardized the folder structure, naming conventions and branding pieces (images, fonts and colors) to be used in all classrooms. Although the faculty were responsible for developing with these tools, the tools were really about setting and stabilizing expectations for the student: courses follow conventions, logical structure, predictable navigation and message design standards. Wow, learning is so much easier now that we aren’t confused and distracted!

8. Support: Break it down. Often times there isn't enough systematic support for online learning initiatives. To help you achieve a lot with a little, consider shaping expectations by breaking support questions down into four types: student support, BlackBoard functionality, faculty non-instructional support and faculty instructional support. Use your resources! Consider hiring a Federal Work Study student to handle the first three types of requests, and dedicate a capable and competent staff member for the instructional support issues. I think you'll find that both students and faculty alike are calmed knowing how to frame their request and seek help.

9. Engage: Involve them and make it fun. In my experience, online learning is really misunderstood and somewhat feared. Engaging the faculty, staff and leadership is very important. Shape the expectation that instructional technology is possible (for everyone!) and not so hard, so crazy, so radical, and so different from orthodox classroom instruction. It’s evolutionary, not revolutionary. Also, the more engaged the approach (student services, academic advising, library, etc), the greater the chance for student success.

10. Spell it out: Look to the abundant research out there to help you determine "what makes good online course design.” Consider using the research to determine what competencies you want the online learning on your campus to achieve. Then, use a research-based, competency approach to support your faculty development. Faculty like that they have a target that doesn't prescribe the methods they must use. They like it because it tells them “what right looks like” without removing their creative license to satisfy the standards. You can also use the competencies to certify courses. Faculty like this because the competencies provide a blueprint for the architecture of their online classroom. Last, it helps shape and manage the expectation of the students because they know, if they see the “certified logo” that this class passes muster.

There you have it. That's the end of Jeanette's thoughtful response to my question about shaping expectations for online teaching and learning. I really appreciate her taking the time to provide this feedback. Many of the things she mentions are similar to efforts we have made at Lake Superior College over the years, but a few of the things are either things we haven't gotten around to or things we decided not to do (such as "certify" a course for meeting design standards). Thanks very much Jeannette.

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