Course revisions are an exciting time in the life cycle of a course. Faculty reflect upon the past offerings and look for ways to improve the student experience. I recently talked with Dr. Rich Freese (DMA) about how he approaches the revision process. Rich facilitates courses for our UW Independent Learning program and I’ve worked with him on a course revision (U660206 – Legendary Performers) that won the 2018 ADEIL College-level course award. For this issue of IDigest, we talk about Rich’s secret sauce for cooking up award-winning course revisions.
In recent years, High-Impact Practices (HIPs) have gained popularity in online education, and it’s easy to see why. Strategies from HIPs encourage student engagement and motivation by going beyond the typical assignment types of essays and multiple-choice quizzes to foster authentic assessments such as portfolios, internships, capstones, and project-based learning. The UW–Parkside Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) focuses on project-based learning and is a great example of how HIPs can be used in Competency-Based Education (CBE) to great success.
I sat down with Terry McGovern, DBA, DM, who facilitates several BSBA projects, which includes the BSBA Capstone. We discussed how High-Impact Practices are used in the BSBA program, his insight a faculty member, and personal experiences he had with students. If you are unfamiliar with the BSBA project-based learning, just consider projects as courses. If you want more detail, you can learn more in Eileen Horn’s blog post Developing and Working in Project-based CBE!
The BSBA program aligns with HIPs by focusing on the value of projects, real-world situations, and high levels of feedback. These assignments are authentic and complex, and Terry finds a lot of value in “hands-on activities that reflect what students would see in the working world.” They can approach and work though tasks or problems in a natural manner and work together, all while receiving feedback on multiple occasions instead of only receiving it once which is common in the traditional education model.
The Value of Feedback and Reflection
In competency-based education, students can improve their assignments after they receive feedback and then resubmit it. This also strengthens the connection between students and faculty because they interact with the faculty multiple times through feedback. Terry finds this aspect of working in CBE very meaningful because “the faculty member doesn’t just walk away from it after one grade; I can work with student until they demonstrate mastery.” Another benefit of this model is that students may feel less intimidated by an assignment, especially if they are having trouble with it. Terry said that “if someone turns in a project and it needs a lot of work, choose not to overwhelm them and do it piece meal. I can say, ‘Let’s work on this, and then let’s focus on this next,’ which reduces the chances of students feeling overwhelmed.” Because assignments are broken into smaller pieces, it gives students the ability to gain confidence throughout the process of obtaining mastery.
As a faculty member, CBE assessment exchange is much more meaningful. The faculty member doesn’t just walk away from it after one grade; you work with the student until they demonstrate mastery.
Because there are so many opportunities to work with students in such a close manner, Terry does recognize the time commitment it can take. With multiple iterations of feedback, faculty need to spend more time on review and grading. That said, Terry doesn’t see this as a larger time commitment, saying that “faculty member’s time allocation is set up to allow them to work much more with students on submissions.” This is also offset because a faculty spends less time on the traditional aspects of education such as lectures because of the self-paced model and the utilization of open educational resources.
The multi-step feedback also process ensures that students are on the correct track and that the capstone project is properly framed. Another key element of HIPs that is used in the capstone project is built-in reflection points where students are given time to consider where they are in the project and what they have learned. Terry said that this helps students think strategically on what they’ve seen before, what a company has tried in the past, and what the company’s best ideas were and why. This reflection time is especially important because it gives students the time to make deeper connections and really identify areas of need in their current situation.
Connecting Education to the Real World
In addition to the standard project load, the BSBA Capstone project allows students to display the accumulation of skills mastered within the program. Terry said that the BSBA Capstone is both flexible and strategic because students have the opportunity to examine a case study from a primary industry or even start an initiative at their current work place! Because of this, most students apply their capstone project directly to their workplace. This motivates students because they can examine an issue at their workplace that they may not otherwise have time for and gives them the ability to show how they can critically assess an issue. Terry encourages students to “take the approach that they are consultant to their company by identifying a problem and tackling it as a consultant would. They can apply different models, research elsewhere in industry for best practices, present options for course of action, and recommend an action.” Students can show what they have learned, along with the value they bring to their workplace. As with previous projects and assignments, the capstone involves a multi-step process. Terry works with students through a series of drafts and feedback to produce a “consulting” report.
Students can take the approach that they are a consultant to their company by identifying a problem and tackling it as a consultant would.
Terry found that the projects used in the BSBA program do a wonderful job of gaining student engagement and fostering motivation because students are able to see a clear connection between their assignments and the working world. One success story Terry gave was when one of his students told him how helpful the BSBA program was during interviews. Because of BSBA, they were able to refer to the projects they completed in an interview as well as talk about important topics like strategic thinking, project management, and resource allocation. In addition to the program as a whole, the capstone is especially powerful tool. Terry spoke of a student who he recently worked with on their capstone project. Through this project, “the student was able to identify, real, large dollar savings for his company, which is the type of initiative that could get someone promoted.” These are great examples of how relevant high-impact projects are because students can demonstrate their mastery of a concept by recalling examples from their studies in the BSBA program.
What are some ways you can incorporate High-Impact Practices into your courses and projects to engage your students and help them grow in their careers?
If you sometimes feel like your course is taking over your life, you’re not alone. Does this sound familiar:
Some weeks I spend way too much time on my online courses. Some weeks I do not spend enough time on my online courses. Please remember we all teach courses in >1 program, including our home campus responsibilities, with both in-person and online modalities!
No matter how prompt you are or how much time you dedicate as an instructor, there is never enough time to do everything you should or could. I try to find ways to automate things, but that even takes some time.
What I find difficult is that students, because they tend to work all hours all seven days, will ask questions 24/7. I feel like they expect me to be constantly monitoring my email. I like to take the evenings and weekends off (call me crazy), and that makes me feel guilty.
These are some of the answers I got to the question, “What do you find the most difficult about teaching online?” When instructional designers like myself meet with an instructor for the first time, it often goes like this:
However, the well-intentioned ID might not imagine this reality during that conversation:
What’s the answer to this problem of no boundaries naturally existing in the “Anytime, Anywhere” model of online education? As a faculty-designer team, we cannot manufacture more time in the week. What can we do to achieve a healthy work-life balance in the online classroom?
Tips from a Journal Article
I looked for journal articles that applied to this issue, and I found one article from the Journal of Educators Online that I wanted to highlight called Creating Boundaries within the Ubiquitous Online Classroom1. If you have the time, I suggest reading the entire 21-page article. The authors briefly explain the theory of andragogy and the Community of Inquiry framework and then use them to support some time-saving strategies. They also highlight some efficiency tools that might save you time. If you don’t have time to read it, here is a summary of their tips and tricks. The article suggests setting three “priorities” as I illustrate below. (Click on an image to enlarge it.)
What UW Extended Campus Faculty-Designer Teams are Doing
After reading the research article, I realized we are already implementing these strategies in course design; this is why course design can seem like such a heavy lift upfront. Here are some of the strategies we as faculty-designer teams have used that help create a healthy work-life balance:
- Creating boundaries through office hours
- Using rubrics to grade more efficiently
- Generating automatic feedback through quizzes, practice activities, etc.
- Providing examples through multimedia or text to guide students when the instructor isn’t present
- Using technologies like the Canvas Teacher App, Speedgrader, Turnitin for efficiency
- Leveraging Peer Review and Group Assignments to save time (though the design time can be on the heavy end!)
- Saving announcements/pre-writing announcements
- Using and re-using just-in-time videos to clarify course concepts and provide help
- Posting “weekly wrap up” announcements to provide a feeling of closure and continuity before moving on to the next unit
- Finding opportunities during the course revision process to implement (e.g., cutting down on weekly discussions when one isn’t needed every week).
We want to hear from you!
Even though I see evidence that faculty-designer teams are employing time-saving strategies to set boundaries and manage time, I realize it’s not a perfect solution; instructors still struggle with work related to their online courses creeping into their personal time. We would love to hear your stories and strategies you would like to share.
Comment on this post or email me at email@example.com on what you’ve tried and learned about time management, setting boundaries, and teaching online!
1Hansen, B., & Gray, E. (2018). Creating Boundaries Within the Ubiquitous Online Classroom. Journal of Educators Online,15(3). doi:10.9743/jeo.2018.15.3.2
UW Extended Campus held its third annual faculty symposium this year in Madison, Wisconsin, on June 3 and 4. The instructional design and multimedia teams had a blast presenting our breakout sessions. While we can’t re-create the warm, fuzzy feeling of mingling and sharing ideas with our faculty in a blog post, we can at least share our presentation materials.
Connections and Reflections: Feedback in Canvas
Instructional Designers Stephen Beers and Eric Peloza chose this topic because it was focused on tools in Canvas, and it was timely and relevant because many of our faculty are just getting started in Canvas; Stephen and Eric also chose the topic because they wanted to highlight how important and influential faculty are in the student experience.
It was great to hear faculty share their feedback and knowledge of Canvas and its tools. For example, one faculty member mentioned how they used the mute feature, which many faculty found beneficial. Overall it was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the unique questions and topics that came out of each session. —Eric Peloza, Instructional Designer
I asked Eric Peloza about his main takeaways of the presentation. He highlighted four:
- Yes, feedback does matter. Our teams hear about the wonderful job our faculty do with feedback and how much students value feedback.
- The frequency and timing of feedback matters. This is a challenge for faculty and the good news is that Canvas has tools that faculty can leverage. Course level reports (course analytics) and announcements are great ways to reach or review the class as a whole. Templated feedback is another great way to help faculty. Using rubrics or automatic feedback in Canvas is a great way to improve the immediacy of feedback.
- Feedback is improved when it is specific. Canvas gives faculty options across all of assignment types in Canvas. This includes general feedback by way of text, video, or file upload, along with using specialized tools such as DocViewer in Canvas.
- Sometimes, questions work better than statements. This is best best leveraged in discussions. Interrogative questions can open up or keep discussion going among students. Again, Canvas can be leveraged here in facilitating feedback. Another great feature is that faculty can view all of a student’s submissions at once.
Download the Presentation Materials
Part Deux: Discussion on the Rocks? Add a Twist of Fresh Alternatives!
My fellow instructional designer Laurie Berry and I presented on ways to add a little “zest” to online discussions by varying the discussion format. We reviewed the two most popular strategies that we presented at the symposium last year (you can get a full explanation of these strategies in my blog post “Five New Twists for Online Discussions”). Then, we presented three new “twists” faculty used in their course during the spring semester. There may have been some light dancing as well.
[The faculty] seemed interested in trying at least one, if not more, of the presented twist ideas. They also liked the format/layout of the presentation where it showed the traditional question and seeing how the twist can transform the question into something new without too much effort. I think they also liked seeing their colleagues’ testimonials of student engagement as well as tips and tricks for success. —Laurie Berry, Instructional Designer
Laurie summarized the key points of the presentation:
Providing the same type of discussion throughout the course multiple times can become repetitive and boring to students and faculty. Adding a twist to at least one discussion provides unique ways to get students to interact with course content and to engage with each other. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new or different with a discussion board activity.
Download the Presentation Materials
Extreme Course Makeovers
Instructional designers Ryan Martinez and Kristine Pierick presented on a topic that nearly all instructors will encounter: how to prioritize course revision tasks. Ryan and Kristine used the metaphor of renovating a house and examples of how to pick specific projects to fit your time and budget to bring this presentation to life.
We had several faculty members express their own difficulties when revising their courses. We also shared several examples from faculty that were in the audience, so they were also able to elaborate more on our points, which was very helpful. All in all, it was also a good session because faculty were very willing to walk through some of their troubles and to also help some of the faculty who have not done a revision yet navigate some of their potential issues. —Ryan Martinez, Instructional Designer
Ryan summarized the main takeaways:
The main takeaways from our presentation are for faculty to be considerate of their time and resources when they are ready to revise a course, and reconcile what they can actually do in the time frame versus what they would like to do.
Download the Presentation Materials
Meet the Instructor: Building a Social Connection
Nick Meyer and Bryan Bortz from the media services team presented on how “Meet the Instructor” videos can build a social presence in your course. They demystified the process of working with media services to create a “Meet the Instructor” video. This session was recommended for faculty who are new to online learning and/or developing a course in the next one to two years.
The main objectives of the presentation were that faculty will:
- Gain an understanding of the purpose and importance of “Meet the Instructor” Videos.
- Acquire knowledge of the planning process.
- Obtain tips and tricks for generating ideas for “Meet the Instructor” videos.
- Gain an understanding of the filming process.
Download the Presentation Materials
For even more examples of what the media services team can do, view their Faculty Showcase here.
Do you have an idea for a future topic that you want to see us present (or to present yourself)? Comment on this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
This June, I had the good fortune to sit down and talk with Steve Dunn regarding time management strategies in online courses. Steve is a veteran faculty member of UW Extended Campus’ Sustainable Management program with over six years of teaching experience. He is also partnering with the new Applied Biotechnology program. In our discussion, we covered the three phases of the course cycle: planning, development, and teaching. This blog post will discuss some of the key items that we spoke about for each phase. The main question that I asked Steve was, “If you look back at your years of experience in online education, what are some things that you would tell yourself when you first started?”
In the first part of our discussion, we talked about the shift to online education and how to approach planning for an online course. We know that the online education provides students and faculty an opportunity to view education from a different perspective. This requires a change in approach, working from the desired result and moving backwards (backwards design). In brief, backwards design is the course development process of starting with objectives, then building assessments based upon those objectives, and finishing development by locating resources that help students complete the assessments. In regard to using backwards design, Steve stated, “Beginning with the end in mind was the single hardest thing to wrap my mind around.” It is important to think ahead when planning your online course, and the backwards design process represents a shift from the traditional line of course design where development starts with a textbook and determines objectives last. If you are new to online education, it may take you some time to adjusting to backwards design, but it is a valuable process.
Along with backwards design, Steve mentioned that one of the biggest changes in the online education was working with a team on course design and development. He said that he was he was at first overwhelmed with the resources and wasn’t used to others asking questions about course design. His advice was to lean into the team approach and listen to the support. Steve said, “Recognize that you are on a team and that the team is trying to help you to make the courses so much better. Most professors are pretty busy with teaching, research, and their personal life, so the team is a big time saver.” Use your resources early and often, and don’t be afraid to reach out for advice! It can save a lot of time in development and when the course is active.
Recognize that you are on a team and that the team is trying to help you to make the courses so much better.