I started teaching online in 2003 for a for-profit institution. It was two years after receiving my M.Ed. in Research and Collaboration at TCU where my focus was on online asynchronous learning. I was anxious to apply my research to my own classroom!
The realities of teaching online soon became very apparent. At that time the institution did not have an LMS. I taught the course through discussion forums. My students were lines of text on the screen, as I was to them. We didn’t have Zoom or any other video meeting software so we were confined to interacting through the discussions and email.
I realized quickly that I needed to somehow become a real person to my students; a person who cared about their experience and success. So I set about recording video introductions, using video and recorded screencasts to help them learn HTML, web design and multimedia. Soon I was asking them to post an audio or video introduction instead of text, encouraging them to share photos of pets and places they loved to travel. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was humanizing my online course.
What is humanizing?
If you google this topic, you will see quite a few results. We’ve been working on this for a couple of decades, so that doesn’t surprise me. I particularly appreciate the work of Michelle Pacansky-Brock, a community college faculty member turned faculty developer who started teaching online in 2004. She created a wonderful infographic on this topic.
“Humanizing leverages learning science and culturally responsive teaching to create an inclusive, equitable online class climate for today’s diverse students.” Brock, 2020.
Humanizing your course is how you bring equity into your course design and teaching.
It also brings decades of research on instructor presence and student persistence to bear on course design and instruction. Being an excellent instructor in both the physical and online classroom in higher ed is a skill that anyone can learn. So these steps can apply to in-person courses as well.
Steps to Take to Humanize Your Course
Brock offers eight elements to use in humanizing your course:
The Liquid Syllabus: A public, mobile-friendly website that has your brief welcome video and includes “warm, non-verbal cues and hopeful language” to ease anxieties about your course and how to be successful in week one (Brock, 2020, pp107-108).
Humanized Homepage: the homepage provides a clear and friendly welcome to the course and tells the student how the course works and has a clear Start Here link to the syllabus and/or the course information module in Canvas (this is also a Quality Matters and Online Learning Consortium quality standard). Here is an example
Getting to Know You Survey: In week one, ask the students to complete a confidential survey that provides additional information about each student and helps you identify which students are going to be ‘high touch’ requiring more of your time that other students. In Canvas, you can create a survey for this purpose. If you are logged into Canvas, go to https://westerncarolina.instructure.com/accounts/1/external_tools/43?launch_type=global_navigation to see an example of questions to include.
Warm, Wise Feedback: I love this and always attempt to convey support and encouragement in my feedback to students. Brock states, “Your feedback is critical to your students’ continuous growth. But how you deliver your feedback really makes a difference, especially in an online course. To support your students’ continued development and mitigate the effects of social and psychological threats, follow the Wise feedback model (Cohen & Steele, 2002) that also supports growth mindset (Dweck, 2007). Support effort + ability + action. And deliver your message in voice or video to include verbal or nonverbal cues and minimize misinterpretation.
Self-affirming Ice Breaker: Week one of a course is full of anxiety for students and can impede their ability to start the course. Try an ice breaker that invites them to share a part of their identity. One example from the infographic is to ask them to reflect on a value that is important to them and then choose an object from their life that represents that value.
Wisdom Wall: sharing the ‘wisdom’ or advice from students who have previously taken your class. You can use a collaborative tool such as a Word file in OneDrive that students can access, or Flipgrid, which can be enabled in Canvas. You can also have studente email their success advice to you that you would add to the file, or empower students to create their own by having a link to a shared Word document by changing the edit settings to ‘Anyone with the link’. Post this link in your course to share it with your current students and then they can also add their own advice. Here is Michelle’s example of a Wisdom Wall.
Bumper Video: Short videos used throughout the course to introduce a new module or clarify a sticky concept.
Microlectures: laser-focused short videos (5 – 10 minute) that walk the students through the comprehension of complex concepts. Before you record, identify the one or two ideas you want your students to take from the video. Write a script to make sure that you are saying exactly what you want to say in the short video. Also, remember to produce closed captions for all videos. If you need help with closed captioning in Panopto, please contact the help desk firstname.lastname@example.org
All of these suggested steps are part of the best practices in online course design and teaching. They are also steps that you can take at any time during the semester.
These elements will be included in the CFC’s Online Course Design Institute offered totally online this summer. If you’d like more information about the OCDI, please contact us.
Pacansky-Brock, M. 2017. Best practices for teaching with emerging technologies. Routledge, New York, NY.
We want to give a huge shout out to all instructors who made the shift to remote instruction with lightning speed so we could finish out the spring semester! As the parent of a graduating senior, I am so appreciative of everything you are doing so all of our students can complete this term. Has it been easy? No! Has it been comfortable? No! Are you making it work? Yes! If you’d had more time to make this move are there some things you would have done differently? Absolutely!
Guess what? We DO have more time to prepare our summer courses that were going to be offered in person, but now need to be moved to remote instruction. And we DO have the workshop to help you do just that!
Moving Rapidly to Remote Instruction (MRRI) will help you rapidly develop your face-to-face course for remote instruction for this summer’s semesters. If you are planning on teaching a summer course that needs to move online quickly, attend this three-week online workshop that will walk you through an intentional course design process and provide the expertise of the Coulter Faculty Commons and experienced WCU online faculty in designing and facilitating remote instruction. This is not the full Online Course Design Institute, which is for online courses that will be taught next Spring. Instead, we have more time to prepare for the summer courses and design them to be more enjoyable by you and your students.
Dates: May 11 – May 31 When: There will be a combination of live Zoom sessions, recorded tutorials, content and assignments/deliverables. You will have the opportunity to have 1:1 conversations with CFC staff and experience online faculty. Expect to commit 8 – 10 hours each of the three weeks to complete this process and be ready to teach. Where: Fully Online through Blackboard, Zoom, and Teams Outcome: By the end of May, you will have your online course designed and developed, in Blackboard, with a teaching/facilitation plan in place. You will also have the support of colleagues and the CFC throughout the summer.
The workshop is free and open to all instructors, including adjuncts. Please register, to let us know you are joining us and to allow us to ensure that we have enough facilitators to make this workshop successful!
The LMS Team have had several requests to launch online proctoring tools. We researched the issue and presented the options to the LMS Governance Committee. The committee, after consideration of the market leader, Respondus, put forward the following recommendations related to proctoring tools.
After discussing the advantages and disadvantages of these products and remote proctoring at large, the LMS Governance Committee voted unanimously to not adopt the Respondus Lock-down Browser and Respondus Monitor with the following justification:
Respondus Lock-Down Browser is a custom browser that locks down the testing environment within a learning management system. It is used for securing online exams in classrooms and proctored environments.
Analysis and Conclusions
Not an appropriate solution for online exams given at a distance as it only locks down the browser on one device.
Does not prevent using multiple devices to look up information and collaborate with others using another device.
Does not encourage authentic assessment.
Respondus Monitoruses a student’s webcam to video them taking the exam.
Analysis and Conclusions
More resource-intensive to implement – The LMS team will not be able to have this in place immediately.
Will create duplicative work – will need to pay for the continued license and will have to go through the implementation again with the new LMS.
Student privacy concerns – Students did not ask to go online or agree to video themselves. There are ethical concerns about student privacy.
Bandwidth resources concerns – We are already hearing of students having bandwidth issues and issues of exams being submitted as incomplete when students are using their phones to take exams in in the LMS; this will increase when they are also recording themselves.
No budget to extend usage – Respondus is offering their tools for free only through July of 2020.
Ignores Academic Integrity Task Force recommendation.
Does not encourage authentic assessment.
The LMS Governance Committee also voted unanimously on March 27, 2020 to deliver the following message concerning any type of video remote proctoring:
The LMS Governance Committee strongly advises all faculty to NOT require that any students record themselves taking any assessment. This includes not using Zoom, Panopto, Youtube or Blackboard Collaborate for recording. The Coulter Faculty Commons is assembling resources on how to create alternative assessments that can be used in various disciplines.
LMS Governance Committee
Eli Collins-Brown – Director, Coulter Faculty Commons, Chair
Amy Davis – LMS Analyst
Annette Littrell – Associate Chief Information Officer / Academic Engagement & IT Governance
Jon Marvel – School Director EMPM/Professor
Kenneth Chapman – Tech Support Specialist
Lee Nickels – Director Assessment & Instruction Technology, CEAP
Scott Barlowe – Associate Professor
Siham Lekchiri – Assistant Professor
As more schools begin to make the transition to distance learning and online classrooms, we want to help. Microsoft has created resources, training, and how-to guides that we hope will help educators and their classrooms make this transition.
To help support you during this time, we’ve created a support page for O365 with the information Microsoft has provided.
Microsoft Education is committed to helping all teachers, students, and staff stay engaged and focused on learning. Creating an online classroom is an important step in moving to a remote learning experience. Free for schools, Microsoft Teams, provides a secure online classroom that brings together classroom management features, collaborative workspaces like OneNote Class Notebook, and virtual face-to-face connections in a single digital hub that keeps students engaged.
We encourage maximizing asynchronous communication for almost everything. There are many great ways to use Zoom or other sychronous tools for limited real-time communication. Here are some standard best practices (tried and true from more than 20 years of online teaching) to get you started and hopefully help you manage your and your students’ stress!
General best practices modified for this situation:
Use announcements in the LMS to send a message to the entire class. I suggest one per day with reminders and encouragement. Be sure to select the email option so each student will get an email with the announcement that will prompt them to access the course.
Email your students from within the LMS because they are already enrolled and you won’t miss anyone.
To save yourself from feeling like you are chained to your laptop and answering a million emails, create a “Questions” discussion forum and encourage students to post and read/respond in that forum. Tell them not to email you unless it is personal nature, but all course questions are to be posted in the forum. Encourage them to answer other students’ questions to get the peer to peer collaboration going. If the answer is wrong or not quite right, you can post an encouraging and tactful correction. Check this Questions forum multiple times during the day.
Also, set specific ‘office hours’. If possible schedule these at the same time each day. Post the days & times in an announcement. Use Zoom for these real-time, synchronous sessions.
Use Zoom to hold real-time, one-on-one tutorial sessions with any student who aren’t able to ‘attend’ office hours. Keep these short – 15 minutes max. When using Zoom, be sure to post the link in your course in the announcements or Questions discussion forum.
The Coulter Faculty Commons has developed a planning organizer for faculty use for the remaining spring 2020 term.
The simple Word document contains weekly dates and boxes for each week remaining in the term. Faculty can use the document to notate “before” activities and “now” activities–to help them reflect on prior activities and chart a path forward, now that instruction is moving online.
Faculty can download the documents below. It comes in two forms–for a single course, and for a five-load course.