Thoughts at a Conference – Texas Distance Learning Association, Day 3, Part 1 – 4/9/2015

The second full day (third overall day) at the conference (Texas Distance Learning Association) started early for me.  To beat traffic, I got here quite early.  There was no scheduled breakfast, but, luckily, there were some basic muffins and drinks, so that carton of yogurt hours earlier got a supplement before the session started.  I have taken advantage of the quiet time of getting here early to clear some stuff out of my inbox and do some general grading for my classes, so it was not a waste of time by any means.  Today looks like a fuller schedule of sessions than yesterday, and more of them appear to be directly focused on the teaching side of things.  So I am hoping for some good content today.

Roundtable: Instructional Design: Solutions and Resources

A general discussion and networking opportunity – no focused guidance but an open-ended discussion

First major question raised – standardization vs. instructor freedom in design

TXDLA putting together a MOOC on teaching people how to teach online.  Also proposing a certification track for instructional design.  Question also about do they need their own certifications or should they be a repository of what is out there and worthwhile.

One of the things discussed was the question of instructional design when most of us who teach were never actually taught how to teach.  We are experts in our subject, but we are not taught how to put together things like student learning outcomes, cross-course competencies, and the like.

Another funny thing, of course, is that I’m in the room with instructional designers who are talking about the struggles they have with faculty and such, and as I just noted, we don’t actually have instructional designer at all.  So, it ends up being a funny conversation because people are talking about having instructional designers and how to make it a priority for instructors to get instruction on how to teach, especially to teach online, as we simply do not have it.

Assessments that Rock

Presenter – Sheree Webb – Instructional Designer – Tyler Junior College

OK.  It has not started yet, but here’s a good sign – there’s a history assessment up on the screen before we get started.  This might be directly relevant in the best way.

The question of what our students actually retain out of our classes – assessments chosen well give you the best ability to choose what students retain.  Since they are so focused on what is on the test, giving them assessments that aim at what you want them to get out of the course makes it more likely they will retain that information.

The question of the assessment not matching the learning outcomes.  The example given were the traditional history multiple choice tests that are so incredibly poor at focusing the students on what they should learn.  Who cares if they can recall random facts in history.  Recall (or as I call it in my class, memorize, regurgitate, and forget) questions are poor assessments of student success.  Are we really so poor in teaching history that what we want the students to be able to do out of the class is recall random irrelevant facts or do we want them to be able to do higher-level learning?  I just get so frustrated at the way history is taught, like multiple choice exams matter.  That we should care whether they can recall the facts has always seemed to me to be a base level of teaching history.  Of course, the argument on the other side is that you have to understand the facts to be bale to make the connections.  But, I just wonder if any of us really believe that the students completing a multiple-choice exam actually shows that they do understand that material, or have they just memorized and forgotten?

Assessment level – you want to give frequent assessments – Frequent assessments keep students engaged in the course and help them gauge how they are doing.  Recommendation – at least one formative assessment a week.  Formative means – quizzes, short essays, debates, discussion forums, short case studies, reflection questions, questions or problems with the answers posted.  Keep they engaged on a regular basis and have them be assessing their progress as they go along.

Authentic Assessment – Real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills.  Could be – performing a task, real-life situations, construction/application, student-centered, and direct evidence.  This doesn’t mean you can’t do traditional assessment – selecting a response, contrived, recall/recognition, teacher-centered, and indirect evidence.  You need a combination of the two, but you need to have authentic assessment, which is often left out.

You Have Me at Hello

Presenter – Dr. Wendy Conaway – Ashford University – Assistant Professor

This one is intended to discuss the introduction forum in online classes and how it can increase student engagement.  This may not go well, as there seems to be technical issues in getting going here.  This has happened more often than not in my sessions here, as everyone seems to be having some sort of problem getting the provided computers to do what they are supposed to do.

I wonder at what point you give up on a session?  Is there a 15-minute rule on a 50-minute session?

Discussing first impressions – how we connect with students throughout the course.  We represent us, the course in general, and for students who are in a course with us the first time, it can shape how they feel about the whole college.  We represent all of the courses if we are the first ones that we encounter.  It also can give you the benefit of the doubt with the students later in the semester.

Instruction Forum – a place to create social presence – creating a persona and creating a connection between you and the students.

Introduction forums promotes a sense of community – opportunity to share and learn about each other.  People here require their students to respond to others – getting to know them.  I can’t imagine doing this.  I have eliminated mandatory responses in my classes, and I certainly would not include it here.

Introduction forums help student engagement – it helps to alleviate anxiety and can be motivating to participate.  Helps with student retention as well, keeping the students in the course.

I am going to break here for lunch and go ahead and post this one up for the first half of the conference.  I will post the second half at the end of the day.

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About Scott Williams

I am an educator, community-college instructor, thinker, husband, parent of three, student of life, owner of a parrot, player of video games, voracious reader, restless wanderer, and all around guy.

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