My List of 23 Things

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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.

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