Observations on Observing Courses

I spent the weekend avoiding dime-sized hail and reading over some sample courses from prior online teachers.

At first, this assignment seemed quite laborious, but when I decided to challenge my senses and read along while listening to commentary, I found it much easier to observe a couple of the courses.

Some of the best practices from these courses I will definitely consider using in my online course.

Modern Art – Steven Zucker

I enjoyed the simplicity and clarity of his course information documents.  They were succinct, clear, and directed students to the appropriate assignments.

His writing was in first-person, and his Next Steps page was very clear and explained fully how to use the Bulletin Board and Meet Your Classmates sections

His integration of the Timeline into each module makes the student stay on track and be self-taught on items they may need clarification on.

Northern Renaissance – Beth Harris

I enjoyed some of the directions on this site, including “1. Because we are always looking at reproductions of works of art, and not the originals in churches, chapels or museums, we should stay away from discussions of color. What looks red on your monitor may look orange on mine. So its just best to stay away from this topic — there are so many other things to talk about anyway.”  What may be stating the obvious needs to be clearly addressed, and Beth has done a great job in clearly dictating to the students how to be effective without being too “preachy”.

John Prusch – Elementary German

The academic integrity page may seem like a redundancy, but it is a necessary component to any learning environment.  He has clearly stated the university policy and how offenses are handled.

His expectations are listed quite bluntly, which helps set the students expectations up right out in front.  “More specifically, I would like to point out a few particular expectations that have proven most in tune with a truly rewarding learning experience online. Full, timely, and considerate involvement in the course activities is essential.”

Using the “triangles” to enable the students to minimize the sections they aren’t reading helps the student stay focused on the task at hand.

For it being an Elementary German Course, I nonetheless wish he used the English meaning in the titles of his course documents so the novice reader could understand what it meant.  However, his approach does have a good effect; it forces the reader to look at each of these documents to see what lies beneath.

Elementary French 1 – Rob Piorkowski

This course was my personal favorite to observe.  Rob seemed legitimately interested in sharing the thoughts behind his course.

His approach to ““Tell students in advance what they are about to learn” is an effective teaching tool to get students focused on the learning methods they need to follow.

I enjoyed listening to his explanation about what he learned the first time he taught online. In his 1st module, he asked too many discussion questions first time around, and combined with rest of activities, it was too much.  Now, he uses 1 discussion question instead.  This is a best practice I will employ in my course week one, and if more discussion is required, I will ask more questions.

Developmental Psychology – Bill Pelz

Bill’s course was very detailed in terms of discussing the importance of discussion. “Every semester a few students get off to a poor start because they do not fully understand” how he grades.  He clearly detailed the important components behind the discussion, and how each discussion is graded separately.

He also clearly laid out what his role was in the class, listing out all his roles, including “answering and addressing concerns…monitoring and evaluating the discussion…evaluating written assignments…posting progress reports

— Final Thoughts on Observing Courses

This was an experience I will not soon forget.  Learning from those who have came before is an effective method for preventing mistakes for first-time online learners.  As one of my former professors told me “Remember the 7 P’s – Proper prior planning prevents pretty poor performance”, planning my course utilizing these tools will enable me to be on the road to being effective in teaching online.

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Thoughts On Moodle and Course Documentation

I’ve begun work on my course this week, and have found Moodle to be quite a meddling experience.  However, as we’ve learned, technology is only a tool that is enhanced by the content we provide.

I’m working on adding content as the week goes on, and realize that indeed 120 hours is probably the appropriate amount of time to spend on prepping an online course.

Feeling a little slow today, perhaps its the 3 hour drive to Connecticut I dreaded taking today.  Soon enough, I’ll be relocated permanently to Upstate NY and these drives will happen less and less.


Online Course Design – How Demographics and Stats Will Affect My Design

In reviewing the SLN Student Demographics, and in seeing the profiles of my fellow students, it is clear the online medium will continue to grow.  The key points I took out of the demographics included that 39.3% of students take online courses because in class courses “conflics with personal schedule.”  As well, over 43% of respondents indicated that they work full-time, and almost 50% have access to Cable Modem or DSL. 

Taking into account time management, I must design the course to have components that allow for maximum contribution in a compressed period.  I enjoy the two week format because it allows those with multiple responsbilities to contribute. 

Likewise, with the ability for most students to access a higher-speed connection, I must also take into account that certain students may not have this access.  I must test the video content out on some of the assignments to ensure that it can be streamed or downloaded over a slower connection to avoid pitfalls of technology issues.

Likewise, the video by Diblasi shared many key points that will need to be considered.  The fact that over “1,000,000 blogs are posted each day” shows that the amount of information that is posted daily needs to be considered and utilized.  Blogs can help students share ideas and develop a greater sense of community.

“Myspace users call up 31.5 million page views per month.”  By taking advantage of the social networking aspects of online learning, students will be able to expose themselves to networks that they would not be able to tap into offline.

Thankfully, after taking the self-assessment for technology, I am pretty comfortable with the online format and with all the technology behind it.  I offer my assistance to those who aren’t so comfortable, and welcome any suggestions you may have to assist me with my growth as a teacher as well.


Reactions To 1st Two Weeks of Online Learning

Random musings from the first two weeks of class…

1. I never thought I’d enjoy writing again until this last week.

2. My suspicions about online learning have been confirmed.

3. Never have I felt so stimulated by discussion with my classmates.

4. I never want to hear the words rubric, pedagogy, or baccalureate again (just kidding about this one).

In 2005, I wrote my first book, Manners Positivity Heroics .  I reflected on several of the stories for several years, and once I got in onto paper, it took me just a few weeks from conception to print (and of course I’ve had tons of comments on the hatchet job I did editing it). 

What I learned at the time was that very often it is the time we reflect where we learn the most, and time to write down the reflections is often much less.  In viewing Brown and Adler “Arguably, the most visible impact of the Internet on education to date has been the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, which has provided free access to a wide range of courses and other educational materials to anyone who wants to use them”.  The course format has provided so many more resources to share links, share information, and reflect on each other’s thoughts.

It has made me realize that the book is not necessarily the best medium any longer to share and provide information.  Developing a community where learners can share and develop content WITH YOU instead of reading content BY YOU can present even great opportunities for shared learning.   I’m looking forward to using the blog format once again to invigorate the thoughts I shared in my book.

For the first time in a very long time, I’ve been inspired to write and write a plenty; dormant ideas I’ve wanted to share are coming out of my vault But most importantly, I’ve learned to reflect and share resources with others through a community of learning that can far exceed the learnings I could achieve on my own.

So here’s to continued collaborative, asynchronous learning, and avoidance of the words rubric, pedagogy, and baccalaureate!


Learnings from “Ten Ways Online Education Matches, or Surpasses, Face-to-Face Learning”

In reading “Ten Ways Online Education Matches, or Surpasses, Face-to-Face Learning” by Mark Kassop, I reflected back on how many of the ways mentioned in this article were ways these great professors taught me and convinced me to get into academia. Their methods could easily be transferred over to an online format because they focused on the student, and not on bombarding us with what they wanted us to learn.

The article mentions that “Particularly in the discussion group mode, students have the opportunity to explain, share, comment upon, critique, and develop course materials among themselves in a manner rarely seen in the F2F classroom.”(Kassop) Effective teachers I’ve had in face-to face learning can capitalized on the effective discussions that take place in the classroom by creating an environment which makes discussion points inclusive, whether it be by having an extended period for discussion or a peer-based open forum as we have seen in ETAP 687. By using discussion boards, these in class discussions could easily be expanded upon.

In-person classes that I took that were most effective were able to “be accessed, viewed, and studied 24 hours a day, 7 days a week” (Kassop). I took two classes where we had access to an online simulation program that could be viewed by the entire class, and it enabled us to contribute round the clock to learn from each other, and distribute work accordingly.
The third point from the article that resonated with me was “even though they do not see a teacher across the classroom every day, online students generally have greater access to instructors.” The best teachers I had adapted to the new technology by being accessible by email within a 12-24 hour period for non-emergencies and within minutes for emergencies. An online course can show just how great these teachers are at communicating, because they have already had the practice doing so in an offline world.


Hello from Robert

Good afternoon!  This is my first course at the University of Albany.  I am an instructor of business and technology at SUNY Delhi at our SCCC branch in Schenectady.

I am calling my blog “Breathe with Braathe” ( my last name is pronounced brawth-AY).

I look forward to sharing thoughts with the class on Online Learning.