The Munchkin Bear Advises Michael

This is a response question for the Instructional Design Course. Pick a character – Betsy or Michael – from the Orientation Introduction and tell us what they’re thinking in one paragraph. In the other paragraph, respond as if you are their instructional “coach.”

Michael’s views

This should be a snap. I have been teaching forever.  All I need to do is upload my PowerPoint presentations and lecture notes into Blackboard. A piece of cake! Okay, so maybe I’ll need to take that online tutorial about Blackboard. Maybe there is something I don’t know; it is possible. Logically, if I’m able to teach in front of a classroom of faceless strangers, I certainly am able to teach behind a computer screen! I should make a plan. Step 1: figure out which materials I want to use. Step 2: take refresher tutorial about Blackboard. Step 3: upload my materials. Step 4: let the class begin! Afterthought consideration: maybe I should develop at least one discussion board…

The Munchkin Bear Responds

            Michael’s viewpoint most likely represents what most would-be online facilitators think—before actually teaching an online course.  It’s time for Michael to engage in some actual online learning before he takes on the role of online teacher. First, since Michael’s timeline seems imminent rather than “sometime down the road”, Michael enrolling as a student in the internationally recognized ION MCVR program is not an option. Thus, I will develop a mini program for Michael which will identify basic vocabulary words such as VR = virtual reality, facilitator = his role as an online teacher, and module = individual unit of study in an online course. He will interact with me through the Blackboard message system, email, discussion board, telephone and/or Skype. Michael will quickly learn through practice about synchronous and asynchronous communication.

One of his first assignments will be to read ION’s “Strengths and Weaknesses of Online Learning” Michael will recognize that online learning attracts a more independent learner than he might typically see in his classroom. He will learn that there is more to online education that registering for the class. Further, linking him to the ION article will show Michael that utilizing outside sources beyond one’s own lecture notes provides variety to students. To reinforce this point and further expound on it, I will upload a PowerPoint to differentiate resources for him. At this point, we’ll discuss the differences of what it is like to be a student in an online class to that in a face to face class. Michael will now be able to begin planning, designing, and developing his online course because he has experienced the role of an online student.

According to “The ADDIE Instructional Design Process” wiki, a new term for Michael to learn,
, there are more than 100 Instructional Design models, yet the basis of each of them is the ADDIE model. Thus, before Michael begins his true development of his online course, he will be assigned two resources: “Instructional design for self-learning in distance education” and, a video about “Instructional Systems Design (ISD) Models”. Together these two resources will provide Michael with information about the ADDIE system and its components. The video will also provide information about two other ID systems (Dick and Carey Model and the Kemp Model) as well.  The document resource will provide a list of considerations for course development using the ADDIE model that goes into more detail than the video resource. By offering two different types of sources, Michael will clearly recognize the need for varied resources and understand that online course development is more than uploading existing materials in his teaching arsenal.

I am confident that Michael will assess his current plan, scrap it, and develop a course reflective of his expertise that will engage his online student participants and include analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation, i.e. the components of the ADDIE Model.


The Munchkin Bear



I’ve started a new online class: Instructional Design. Here’s my response to the first assignment.

Decide if you are a Lion, a Tiger, a Bear or an Oh My!…Choose a character from the Wizard of Oz and explain to us why it is fitting for you.

Yogi Bear, I am certain, influenced my love of the United States National Park system.

Further, even if I know exactly what is in a picnic basket, I enjoy the thrill of emptying a container filled with food. Unlike Yogi, I do not, or haven’t yet, taken food that is not mine; I ask first! However, like Yogi, I’ll admit, I’m “smarter than the average” bear. While like lions, I enjoyyogi bear park
a desert climate, and like tigers, I enjoy sitting by bodies of water, I prefer the more varied habitats of bears, which usually include mountains. And if this past winter is any indication of what bears experience, hibernation, may have an upside to it.  And like bears, I like honey. While the words, “Oh My” may have slipped into my vocabulary once or twice, it would be a rare response. So, I’ll choose to be more like a bear. To answer the second part of the question, while a great fan of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, I never thought to compare myself to any one of its characters. So, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll
choose munchkin because like munchkins, I am short in height and my singing might be questioned as actual singing. Hence, I shall become The Munchkin Bear.

In my role of The Munchkin Bear, I’ve decided to hobble along the ION MCVR road to continue my exploration of online education. Initially, I wanted to know how online classes worked and be able to answer questions my students ask of me. Now, I want to earn my certificate. While I prefer the face-to-face environment, the idea of online teaching intrigues me. In my real persona, I teach English as an adjunct instructoryellow brick road for Joliet Junior College, Joliet, Ill. For those who don’t know, JJC is the first community college in the nation, and Joliet is a suburb of Chicago and may sound vaguely familiar if you’re a Blues Brothers movie fan.

The Results Are In

Discussion boards seem to be synonymous with an online course. New to the online course realm, I wonder about the learning outcomes of discussion board participation. So, when asked to develop a survey as an assignment for my TT1411 course, rather than designing one for my current face to face class, I created one for my colleagues and for my students who have had experience with online courses.  Nine people responded to the survey. The results follow.

Which best describes your experience with online education?

This question asked respondents to select from among four answers. To date, nine have taken the survey; this represents an educational experience level from first year undergraduate work to post graduate studies with 44% indicating that the TT1411 course is one of a handful of courses taken online and 22% admit to being a seasoned pro at taking online courses and another 22% facilitate an online course. Only 1% indicated that this was the first online course taken.

Please elaborate about your experience with online learning. 

This question asked respondents to provide a brief background with online experience. Overall, experience ranged from novice to expert with experiences described as “I’m kind of enjoying it now though,” “It’s been a real eye-opening experience,” and “I like it because it lets you work at a pace that works with you.”

Which best describes your reason for taking this online class?

This question asked respondents to choose from four answers. Everyone remembered the reason for taking the online class, with reasons equally split among: It is required by my institution, I am seeking to expand my knowledge, and It is a required course.

Which describes your opinion of Discussion Board participation?

This question asked survey respondents to choose between two answers. Two to one believe that Discussion board participation is somewhat enjoyable as opposed to enjoyable. No one indicated that Discussion board participation is not enjoyable.

 Regarding Discussion Boards, I prefer

This question asked survey respondents to choose between two answers. While more participants prefer writing a response to a discussion board question to reading the discussion board responses of other participants, the gap is 12% or one respondent: 56% to 44% or 5 to 4

Regarding Discussion Boards, for the most part, I prefer when

This question asked survey respondents to choose between two answers. Survey respondents clearly indicated with 89% that they prefer when each participant answers different questions rather than when each participant answers the same question.

Regarding Discussion Boards, rank the following in terms of value to you.

This question asked survey respondents to rank four choices: read responses of other participants, read and comment on responses of other participants, read comments by other participants about my response, and read and reply to comments by other participants about my response. Although one student indicated a problem with the ranking mode, the results are evenly spread in rank with read and reply to comments by other participants about my response slightly emerging as the leader with 33% of the vote and the other choices equally ranked.

In order of most to least value:

  • Read and reply to comments by other participants about my response
  • Read and comment on responses of other participants
  • Read responses of other participants
  • Read comments by other participants about my response

Please elaborate on the value you place on Discussion Boards.

This question asked survey respondents to provide an opinion of discussion boards. Two comments indicated a high value: “Discussion boards are a critical aspect of online learning as it acts as one way which students can interact with one another as well as the content” and “Discussion Boards provide an opportunity for students to get involved and create a community of learning and thus I consider them very important.” Other comments indicate there is a value: “I find them useful,” “3 out of 4,” and “It helps the students see other opinions and responses to a question.” However, other comments suggest a more lukewarm opinion: “Ok,” “It’s a great way to get to know students,” “Unsure. It goes to the value and purpose of the discussion,” and “It’s good in an idea course. I don’t teach an idea course, I teach an application course.”

Choose the seven “must haves” in an online course.

This question asked survey respondents to choose the seven “must haves” of an online course from a list of 17 activities. Some 67% of the respondents agree that five of the seven “must haves” in an online course are: reading resources, academic in nature; reading resources, application in nature; discussion board with participants answering different questions; videos; and weekly assignments. While answers varied to fill the remaining two of the top seven “must haves”, 56% agree that icebreaker and application activities fill those two spots.  Next, 44% include a collaborative activity and a module reflection in the top seven “must haves”, followed by 33% including Polls and Surveys and podcasts.  In contrast, only 11% felt research activities and guest lectures belong in the top seven “must haves”. Further, only 22% thought a final project or a discussion board with participants answering the same question deserve to be in the top seven. Interestingly, no one included Twitter or a Course Wiki in the seven “must haves”.

The top seven “must have” list:

  • reading resources, academic in nature
  • reading resources, application in nature
  • discussion board with participants answering different questions
  • videos
  • weekly assignments
  • icebreaker activity
  • application activity

Didn’t make the top seven “must have” list:

  • Twitter
  • Course Wiki

A Bit of Self Reflection

the thinker

This list, written in January, reflects my goals for the TT1411 class, the catalyst for this blog:

  1. Learn and comprehend technology terminology and identify possibilities for class.
  2. Learn what Twitter is and how it could be used as a teaching tool.
  3. Develop a blog site.
  4. Develop a discussion post and utilize it as a class communication tool.
  5. Create an online class survey or quiz.

Since the class is nearly over and I’ve already submitted my final module reflection, it makes sense to me to review and reflect upon my original goal list. The bottom line is I achieved all of my goals. I learned what Twitter is and while I acknowledge it as a learning possibility, it is not among my favorite educational technologies right now. If you’re reading this post, you will acknowledge that I’ve created a blog site. I’ve developed Discussion Posts in the course. More importantly, I created two posts for my students in the classes I teach. I created an online survey. I chose to query respondents about Discussion Boards because while I acknowledge their importance to an online course, I have lingering questions about their learning value. I plan report the findings on this blog. The integration of technology into teaching possibilities is endless. Regarding technology terminology, while there is much more to learn, at least now, I have an inkling of what more I need to learn and an understanding of what questions to ask!

Under Investigation

investigationThese last few weeks have been a whirlwind in terms of  learning new technologies, both in practice and in theory. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have learned so much in such a short time. Because the course is ending, however, does not mean that my investigation into technology ends. Rather, because of the course, I’ve learned about or more about tools to enrich student learning. The only way to check effectiveness and fit for me and my teaching style is to experiment. Thus, some technologies which I’d like to further investigate include: podcasts and adding voice or music to a Prezi. Podcasts could create a sense of warmth and welcome for students. Further, adding voice or music to a Prezi could enhance a presentation. Also, I’d like to figure out how to wrap text around an illustration in this blog. To summarize my investigation into technology tools, especially for the format of online teaching, has, in the words of the Grammy-Award winning group, The Carpenters, “We’ve Only Just Begun”. For those unfamiliar with the song or the group, here’s a link for your enjoyment:

My List of 23 Things


According to the final #TT1411 assignment, a list of “23 things”, Helene Blowers, “an ingenious librarian”, is credited with the creation of such a list to be used for “independent self study”. This is My List of 23 Things that a facilitator should know before beginning online instruction. Only the first point is prioritized. Further, this list should be viewed as a list of 23 things to know before entering a virtual classroom. Be open-minded and know that this list or any list could ever be comprehensive. Just as technology changes by the moment, learning should be ongoing with a never ending list. So, consider My List of 23 Things as a snapshot of things that might prove useful when about to teach an online class.

1. Be a student first. If you are to teach an online class, it’s important to be able to relate to your students.  It would be inconceivable to relate to your students if you haven’t been an online student yourself. Remember the activities you found most beneficial and utilize them.

2. Links, resources, and recommended readings. If you provide a list of recommended readings, resources, and links, check them before you post them. Online data changes rapidly; make sure that your links work at least on the date you post them.  Otherwise, your students will experience frustration. Also, evaluate recommended resources and readings in terms of what benefits the students.

3. CMS. Know how to use the course management system at your institution. Whether it’s ANGEL, Blackboard, Moodle, or another system, learn it, use it, and practice the tutorials. Be able to use it, insist your students get to know the system, and be able to answer questions about it. Meanwhile, keep the IT number handy.

4. Diversified learning styles. The lack of face to face contact necessitates even more the importance of keeping students engaged. Remember each student learns in a different way. Find ways to engage the visual (spatial), aural (auditory-musical), verbal (linguistic), physical (kinesthetic), logical (mathematical), social (interpersonal), and solitary (intrapersonal) learners. Embrace variety.

5. Time management. Online education is not for everyone. It is important to convey this point to students. Offer tips and resources before the class starts. Have students take an online survey to assess their aptitude to do well in an online class. Remember to manage your time as a facilitator. Limit your time.

6. Terminology. While you do not need to be a walking glossary of online terminology, you should be aware of terminology, understand it, implement it, and stay in tune with trending terms. If a term throws you, contact IT.

7. IT. Connect with your institution’s instructional technology department. It’s a resource for you. Your students will come to you and if you don’t know the answer, you need to find it. Don’t you tell your students to use their resources?

8. Resources. Remember you are a resource to your students. Students are taking an online class for a reason. Remind them to remember their end goal. Let them know that you are available as a resource to help them achieve that goal. Remind them that there are resources available to them as students.

9. Surveys. Ask for student feedback as the course happens. Students generally will give their honest opinion when asked, especially if given an option for anonymity. They just aren’t used to being asked. Perform them frequently to weed out the disgruntled student who didn’t study or do an assignment and uses the survey to blame you. On the flip side, look at remarks carefully, and remember your goal to become an effective online teacher.

and More surveys. Create an online survey for students to take prior to taking the class. This will provide a class overview. Give a reflection survey at the end of each module. Ask for feedback on activity benefits and on facilitator access. As a result, students assess their own learning and the facilitator gets information about student connectedness and has a chance to modify instruction as needed.

10. Asynchronous Communication. Remember that most communication with students will be asynchronous. Make sure it’s thoughtful, responsive, and reflects a tone and attitude that is positive and encouraging.

11. Discussion boards. Provide a variety of discussion boards. For each board, students need to engage to at least two other responses and reply to comments about own response. Begin with a general introduction board. With the second discussion board, post one question about the readings with each student answering the same question. With the third board, list a variety of questions and have students claim a question, then return to respond to it. Diversify the discussion boards. Consider having a student-generated question discussion board.

12. Synchronous Communication. Remember your goal to be effective? Sometimes, a student needs the direct, real-time communication. Unless there’s some overriding reason that you’re unable to talk, IM, or video chat, do it. If there is a reason, let the student know of your extreme unavailability and be clear when you are able to be available.

13. Rubrics. Make sure each activity has a rubric. Students need to know how they will be graded. If there is a final project or an activity that goes longer than one module, make it available to the students in advance.

14. Gradebook. Make sure it is up to date. Some students like to track how they are doing in class and check grades to see if an assignment is missing. If you notice a student missed assignments, send a message through the CMS or an email. Provide feedback.

15. Be present. Make comments on discussion boards, yet avoid overlooking students. Post announcements. Send emails. Remind your students that you are part of the class by being part of the class. Facilitate and engage the students. Offer a variety of contact methods: email, messaging, chat room forum, telephone, and by appointment video chats.

16. Colleagues. Talk to others about their best practices as an online instructor.

17. Free stuff. There are many resources online that are free. Research them. Try them, and if they don’t meet your needs, eliminate them, and try something else.

18. Online library. Establish a class digital library of useful articles for the students.   Have students join and utilize social booknoting and establish their own libraries.

19. Expectations. Post the syllabus. Post a course calendar. Post the readings. Post activities and due dates. Post a statement on punctuality and grading. Post something about you. Let the students know in a clear, concise manner what it is you expect of them and what they should expect of you.

20. Communication outlets. Establish a chat or water cooler room, a forum to post general class questions, and an announcement board.  Respond and post frequently.

21. Campus activities. Remind students that they are part of a larger group than an online class. Remind them to visit campus or attend an activity on it. Let them know about events, clubs and organizations, career fairs, and special happenings.

22. Priorities. Remember that being an online facilitator is not, nor should it become, a 24/7 position. Yet, just as online learning provides easy access for students, it ALSO provides easy access to facilitators. Try and remember NOT to check the class activity every time you are on the computer. Time is a valuable, irreplaceable commodity. Just as students need to manage time, facilitators need to as well.

23. Assessment. Use student surveys, review activity engagement and grades, review the readings and assignments, review the notes you may have taken during the course and just as you assessed your students, evaluate what worked and what didn’t work. Make changes as needed and always remember it is up to you to implement the best strategies to meet the learning outcomes of the class.

Go Bananas Over SurveyMonkey


SurveyMonkey, according to its company website,  is a free “online survey software and questionnaire tool” for users to create a survey. It’s easy to use and offers a variety of question types. The basic format, which is free, allows 10 questions. Realistically, a 10 question survey is enough. If, however, a longer survey is needed, a premium membership is available for purchase.  Like other technologies, it is a matter of playing with it and using it. This is a tool to find out things. For example, it could be used to create a student survey about likes and dislikes on types of assignments. Thus, the results would help me better plan for the future. Using a self-created survey could provide valuable feedback. In fact, the questions in this survey are ones which will affect initial course developments if and when I teach an online course. Here’s the link to my survey:

MOOC: The Ever Changing Road to Education

MOOCs are growing in number of course offerings and in participant enrollment. Opinions vary regarding the impact they will have to student enrollment. Most agree, however, that if enrollments drop at secondary institutions,  rising tuition will be the culprit, not MOOCs.  Rather, most agree that  MOOCs perpetuate learning after college. The following reflects an end of the Module assignment: