What helped my learning?

What helped your learning?

I cannot thank my peers enough for their insightful feedback, research, and comments.  Having 7 other sets of eyes (along with Alex) to critique and force me to think more clearly made this so worthwile.

Using diigo to share links with each other broadened each of us to new sources of research.

What would have helped your learning more? What hindered your learning? What got in the way of your learning? How did you feel?

What would have been very enjoyable was having more “forced interaction” via voice.  I would have enjoyed more components where the voicethreads was used.  I really liked how this course was laid out; I don’t think (after the initial getting used to the technology) that anything hindered my learning whatsoever.  Changing my perspective of having everything be synchronous to an asynchronous world was the impetus behind me being so comfortable in the course.

Robert (2)

What Have I Learned?

What did you learn?

I learned how important it is to structure my content around providing the students with teaching presence, not teacher presence.  I’ve realized I can rely on my students to guide each other and trust them more when I design a course that is effective.

How do you know you learned it?

I learned it by listening to feedback from my instructor, my peers, and by continually reviewing the content myself.  I’ve never felt so renewed in my teaching style.  Being able to reanalyze my beliefs and styles throughout this semester has enabled me to truly focus on providing a better product for my students.

Can you provide examples of things that you have learned? – be specific, give details.

Each module that I put together, I was forced to put myself into the eyes of a new student, a new online student, a fellow instructor evaluating my course, and also in the eyes of myself.  After designing what I thought was an effective online course, I received feedback on my discussions that “they really aren’t discussions, they are written assignments.”  I took this feedback positively, and looked at the outcomes I was seeking to get from my students, and realized that if I put together this portion of the course a bit differently, I could attain the same results.

I also learned how to reflect better on the course material, and use the material to provide my peers with insights that I probably couldn’t have prior to this course.  Reading over posts by my peers, and following up those posts with research (both from the in-course required materials, and from outside sources I researched on my own), I received high rankings on my posts that I never felt before that I could accomplish.  I pushed myself outside my comfort zone and was able to contribute to the course effectively through my strategy of enhancing the course material with outside research.

Robert (3)

Re-thinking Theory to Practice

In moving from theory to practice, I had to let go of any thought of the in-class classroom (at least at first.)  This helped me get away from one thing I couldn’t let go of from F2F, which is the whole nature of the “syncronous” classroom.  Anderson describes this hangup as necessary to let go of because ” it constrains participants in terms of a single time that learners and teachers must be present.” (Anderson, 348). To get past this concept, I needed to rethink how I looked at discussions, and looked at ways to get the same content across without relying on time as being a necessary component (other than the two week time period.

Anderson also discusses my attempt to combine some of the more transferable elements of the online course in describing some of his best practices.  He states “many institutions, including Athabasca
University, are developing both paced and unpaced models of delivery to accommodate student learning preferences and needs. Within a single class, it is possible to offer optional synchronous activities…” (Anderson, 362).  I’ve been able to integrate this into my course as their are some activities that require a synchronous component in discussion (you must post a response to a written assignment before you post comments on anothers).

It made me also curious after reading bits of Anderson’s book to explore what exactly they do at Athabasca, and direct from their website (http://www.athabascau.ca/aboutAU/).  They break down barriers by:

  • Time: Individualized study courses allow you to learn at your own pace. Flexible instruction frees you from the demands of specified class times and rigid institutional schedules. For undergraduate individualized study courses, there are no admissions deadlines; students may enrol year-round.
  • Space: The University can be wherever you are, through individualized-study packages (student manual, study guide, textbook(s), and if appropriate CD-ROM, audiocassettes and videotapes) and the Internet.
  • Past educational experience: Any person, 16 years of age or older, is eligible for admission to the University.
  • Level of income: AU’s method of learning allows you to pursue part-time studies and a full-time career. No longer does a university education necessarily mean the loss of employment income.
  • Recognizing prior learning: AU’s Prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) process permits you to seek credit for learning that you have acquired through your workplace or your life.

(excerpt from http://www.athabascau.ca/aboutAU/)

This has given me more to think about when it applies theory into practice.  How can I take into account students who may not have the time to complete all the activities?  How can I structure future courses to allow attendance at asynchronous times (i.e later start dates?)

Robert (4)


Anderson, Terry.  Teaching in an Online Learning Context.  Retrieved 8/4/08 from


Athabasca University.  About Athabasca University.  Retrieved 8/4/08 from


Further Self-Analysis (Designing Online Courses)

In viewing a presentation this week on my “workation” (my attempt to work and go to Florida for a vacation), I found a quote in partricular that peaked my interest. “A book is not a play, a play is not a movie. The movie version may impart much of the same information, but the design and delivery are different.”  (Riedinger) By putting together my “workation”, it was a great way for me to reexamine how to design my online course.

Riedinger mentions Bill Pelz’s Three Principles.

“1. Let the students do (most of) the work.”

“2. Interactivity is the heart and soul of effective asyncronous learning”

“3. Strive for presence.”

It became extremely difficult for me to let go of “right and wrong” answers and to create a sense of community at the same time.  However, by creating an experience in my personal life where I was able to extend my vacation to 9 days of which 2 I spent working vs taking a 4 day vacation, I enabled myself to see better about what I was doing wrong in designing my course.

In looking at Pelz’s three thoughts above, I realized that I can create assignments that may look like discussions, but in order to make them effective I need to outline the guidelines better.  Likewise by making the course as interactive as possible using some of the advanced discussion tools, I was able to replicate some of the same results I expect to get in a F2F class in an online format.

To relate this back to my learnings from my vacation, I realized that I may get the same results from working in a different environment but with a different set of rules.  Being remote, I didn’t have the access to my office for some books and references I am used to having.  It made me realize that I can’t expect my students to have the same type of discussions we’d have in class if they were all in different locations.

And now, on to answering some of the questions for the week…

“After conducting your own course review of your own online course, where are you in terms of completion of your online course? How are you doing?”

I’m satisfied with the overall design of my course, and after receiving some very timely and effective feedback, I realized I needed to re-approach the discussion parameters and discussions themselves that I had initially designed.  It was clear to me after further review that I needed to make the discussions more interactive, or make them into written assignments

“What do you need to complete your online course? What have you learned so far about yourself during this process?”

I need to give my course another fresh look now that I have changed some of the assignments and discussions to be more interactive.  I’ve learned that I need to complete assignments like this early in the future (like I did this time), as it has enabled me to get feedback before the assignment was completed so I can make further changes.

“What has been the most surprising thing you have learned so far?”

The most suprising thing that I have learned so far is that there are so many different ways to get what may be the same results in a course.  I’ve found that I can get much more vibrant discussions by leaving more up to the students, something that in the past I may have neglected in my F2F courses.  It is clear to me that I can apply many of the methods from my online teaching experience to my F2F discussions as well, something that will help me structure all of my courses better.

“What thoughts do you have about moving from theory (social, cognitive and teaching presence) to practice (building it into your online course)?”

From theory to practice makes all of this semester that much more relavant to me.  The most telling part of my experience for this course has to come up with answers to the same question more that once.   For example, I have come up with some initial answers this week to the blog discussion questions, and I plan on relooking at the answers I came up with this week and reflect further in my next blog post

Robert (4)


Bonnie Riedinger, ETDL Director, Manchester Community College. Training Brick and Mortar Supervisors to Effectively Evaluate Online Course and Training.  Retrieved 7/29/2008 from net.educause.edu/ir/library/powerpoint/NCP08036.pps

Who am I? (Part 2)

What have you observed about yourself during this process of developing a course? What have you observed about yourself during your own completion of the learning activities in this course?

I have observed that I have had a tough time in the past really digging deep and thinking a while before submitting my thoughts.  In the F2F format, I’ve been so used to having one opportunity only to contribute, where in this format I’ve felt more at ease letting things gel before going forward with posting.

How can you use these insights in the design of your own course? 

I can continuously revise my work as I go, and not look at it at a totally finished product.  However, i need to be cautious of the mistake of not planning enough ahead of time.

What has challenged you the most in this course? What has been most difficult or uncomfortable and why?

Managing multiple tasks has been a challenge I’ve embraced readily.  I have found however that if I go more than a day or two from participating in discussion that things seem to pile up and I get a little scattered.  This weekend was a grand example of that;  I planned an escape a few months ago during this weekend, and once I signed up for the course wanted to keep my plans.  I quickly realized it would create more work for me, but because I prepared for the challenge by scheduling specific time on my trip for schoolwork, I was able to deal with it with a limited level of discomfort.

As you go through this process as a student in this course and as the developer of your own online course, what are you thinking about?

I’m thinking mostly about how I can make this effective despite the change in format.  Having practiced with online or blended learning on a limited basis, I look at each opportunity to share learning with my students as a new day and a new approach each term (much like I have proceeded with in the past in my F2F courses)
Robert (3)

Why I Love Teaching (and how I’ve learned to pay attention to 5 categories

I love teaching, because of many reasons.  Most of them involve the ability to continue learning while I am helping others continue to learn.  Not only in the methods, but the perspectives others bring to the work I put together.

Alex asked me to take a look at the following 5 criteria, and how I am able to use these to stay on track, and which are presenting a challenge.

– Passion for teaching “You don’t need to be an amazing technologist” (Pickett, 2008)

Keeping the language conversational in a-non F2F course has been a bit of a challenge.  However, I’ve learned that if I keep things in the first person, I am better able to get through to the students.  Likewise, keeping from making the website nebulous has enabled me to create a simple design that my students will be able to read.

– Willingness to “rethink” how you teach – reconceptualizing what you do F2F in the online environment (Pickett 2008)

I’ve realized that it can be hard to rethink how I teach if I focus on the format instead of the content.  I’ve got to look at the content differently by using these new tools to present the format in a different manner. It’s been a challenge to put the F2F environment aside and focus only on the distance learning format here.

–Commitment and time to develop (Pickett, 2008)

The time I’ve taken to prep this course has put a strain at times on other things I’d like to be doing.  But it has created opportunities for me to be able to be more disciplined in my use of time (vs. filling time for the sake of filling time.”

– Complete course prior to teaching (the discipline to do so) (Pickett 2008)

It’s been such a joy to be able to look 8 months out vs 2 months out to plan this class.  Although it is due in just a few weeks, I now have been able to plan much further out than I’ve been used to.

– Institutional/administrative support (Pickett 2008)

As a small business owner, it’s been something I’ve been used to to depend on myself vs others for support.  However, it is so important to count on others the busier I get.  Incorporating this step will be the most important for me in developing a routine to focus on what’s most important vs the things others can handle.

Robert (3)

Just because something may be complete…

As I mentioned in a prior post “…just because something is complete doesn’t mean that a “sign” needs to be put up indicating that that part of the assignment is over.”

It is clear through our learnings this semester in ETAP 687 that continuing to discuss issues throughout the term helps us reanalyze our thoughts and patterns of thinking.

Prior to the module discussion on Blending Learning, I had an assumption (flawed) that was that the journey from F2F to online was one that was one way, and resulted in a complete change from F2F to online.  It is clear from reviewing Alex’s presentation that it is not a stop along the way, but rather a method of revisioning the course vs completely dropping one format for another.
This is a clear example of how my perception has changed because of my ability to relook at my own thoughts and beliefs with new perspective (even if the discussion has ended)
Robert (2)


Who am I (Part 1)

“What do you know now that you did not know before?”

I know how important it is to be more learner centered in my courses, especially as I begin to teach courses online.  Garrison Anderson, Rourke and Archer stated that effective online courses have “social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence.” (Pickett) 

“How are you applying what you have learned so far to your own course?”

I’ve applied what I’ve learned so far to get a better focus on how to present a class for the first time in an online format.  I must focus on facilitating discourse through finding a good balance in discussion to not only facilitate it, but continue the discussions effectively.  When students make points, I need to encourage them that they are doing well and also probe further.  And by “encouraging, acknowledging, and reinforcing student contributions” (Pickett), I will enable the students to provide the teaching presence to fill in the gaps that I can’t.

“What decisions have you made about how you present yourself, your content, how you will engage and interact with your students, and assess them in your own online course?”

From Alex’s presentation, I realized that class community is the key to making this course effective.  I will need to develop a sense of trust and group identity through using various types of discussions.  Looking at some of her suggestions, and my own experience from ETAP 687, I realize a good balance of faculty and peer evaluation is important to engage the students to do their very best.


“Who are you and why are you that way as an educator and a learner?”

I am an asynchronous learner, and I think that it took taking this class to realize that.  When I am motivated to do something, there is no stopping me.  However, when I don’t feel like writing, there is no “starting” me.  This learning method I uses enables me “to create a schedule that works for me, not for others. This personal attention gives you the flexibility to include the things that are most important to me.” (Dartmouth).  And in turn, I need to realize that in order to develop an effective course, I need to realize students as well also operate on work schedules that work best for them.


Robert (4)


Dartmouth.  Managing Your Time.  Retreived July 15, 2008 from http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/time.html

Pickett, Alexandra.  Keys to success: Are you ready to develop an online course?.  Retrieved July 14, 2008 from http://ualbany.mrooms.net/mod/resource/view.php?id=410


Design by De-Signing

It’s been a whirlwind of a two weeks this module.  I’ve learned so much about myself in terms of how to better structure my thought patterns around this course.  

What has intrigued me the most has been the well-thought out feedback and discussion posts of my peers.  I’ve learned so much these past two weeks, and that is what I am going to reflect on in my blog this time.

From Jarrod,  I Iearned some of the best practices in the hybrid model. It’s clear from his observations from Scorza that communication, planning, and encouraging communication are some of the most important elements of the hybrid learning environment.

From Alex, I learned “there is absolutely no reason to blend instruction unless there is an integration between the 2 environments” (Pickett, 2008).  This has totally changed my perspective on how online learning works.  I thought before this course that it’d be an easy transition, and that perhaps somewhere in the middle was a happy medium, but through the discussion and further research have realized blended learning may just me a stop on the road to completely online learning (or going back to F2F with some online components).

From Aubrey, it was “it is a completely different animal to try to answer questions with no definitive answers” (Warneck, 2008).  Designing online courses while leaving the discussions to grow naturally is one of the most exciting parts of the online curriculum.  Truly, students can get so much out of an environment where no question is out of the question.

So these were just a few of the things I learned this week, but most importantly, I’ve learned to de-sign in my design.  By that, I mean that just because something is complete doesn’t mean that a “sign” needs to be put up indicating that that part of the assignment is over.  I’ve felt more comfortable going back and re-answering questions or reevaluating my own thoughts on course design, and to me, that is the greatest learning I’ve had in a long time
Robert (3)



Take a deep breath! You can do this (Pickett, 2008)

Great advice from Alex, and just what I need right now.  After a whirlwind period since March 1st, where I went from teaching one class and scurrying for work to teaching 6 classes in one term and starting my PhD program, I now am done with teaching for the month of July and “taking a deep breath” as I work on this new concept in my life called “relaxing.”

Viewing Alex’s presentation for this module helped me get more focused on the task at hand of developing my strategic management course.

For this assignment, I’m going to focus on how the “five factors have contributed to online success.” (Pickett, 2008)

The five factors are below, followed by my comments on each

— Passion for teaching “You don’t need to be an amazing technologist” (Pickett, 2008)

I love teaching.  Anyone mad enough to go from teaching one course at one college to 6 courses at two for a semester while commuting three hours each weekend to get home has passion for teaching.  But seriously, what made me wake up to effective online teaching was the fact that the technology is just a tool; it’s the passion behind it that makes it effective.

By putting the same drive into your online class that you do F2F, you can recreate the energy, even if the platform is different.

— Willingness to “rethink” how you teach – reconceptualizing what you do F2F in the online environment (Pickett 2008)

I enjoy the spontaneity of the F2F environment.  It has encouraged me to make my discussions vibrant and encourage the students to communicate “real-time”, but asynchronously.  What I mean by this is as I put together my discussions of the cases, I can reflect back on the prior discussions so that the thoughts from prior modules stays fresh.  Having a basic concept of the discussion is great, but for that particular element, I don’t necessarily have to know what discussion question I have to ask from week to week, just a general idea.  This will get me to rethink how I run discussions, but moreso get me to rethink how to do so online.

–Commitment and time to develop (Pickett, 2008)

I’m being forced to rethink how I am using my time to develop my course.  Seeing my thoughts and words on a computer screen ready for anyone to view has given me the structure I need to be an effective online instructor.  Sometimes, I get feeling that some of my lectures can be run by the seat of my pants depending on the topic for the week, but that won’t pass muster online.  There needs to be more defined parameters, and more upfront planning to make sure the topics flow properly, something a non-timed environment must reflect.

— Complete course prior to teaching (the discipline to do so) (Pickett 2008)

Now that I’m just doing my online course, I need to have discipline to focus on this task.  I’m so used to runnying around like crazy to get everything done that I need to be better at focusing given the additional time I have on my hands now.  So I’m as of today getting back to doing my schoolwork at 6am when no one I know is awake and I can “pretend” the rest of my day is full of commitments.

— Institutional/administrative support (Pickett 2008)

So reliant are we on ourselves when we teach a F2F class! But I’ve seen the resources available now to me at my school, so I know I can leave the technical side to my school, and rely on the effective resources I have to concentrate solely on the content.  I can refocus on working on the content offline (especially in this module), and then use Moodle as a tool to house this information, vs relying on making sure I save my work as I go and hope I don’t accidentally hit the back button on my browser and lose all my info (as I did a couple times already with discussion posts!

Robert (3.5)