Tag Archives: online education

online composition course theory

Last week I perused the Kairos list of books they’d like reviewed. Many are books I want to read or am planning to use in my courses in the Fall. As I then moved books from my home office to my work office I organized the books I used in my dissertation on online composition courses. Revisiting the Kairos list, I’m noticing a HUGE gap in book-length research on teaching online (from composition scholars – I know there is research).

What I’m wondering is if:

  1. we see the existing research as comprehensive enough – to which I have a huge issue. I know Teaching Writing Online is still a highly recommend text, but I critiqued it in my dissertation 3 years ago and still think we need to move far beyond that text
  2. we are publishing in mostly article length projects. There are advantages to this, especially with amazing digital publications allowing for playful composition in our articles.

What I want to focus on here, is #1. Last week I also read a post on Hybrid Pedagogy about Critical Digital Pedagogy (I can’t find the article now, I’ll update this post with the link when I find it). What I found so important about this particular transcript of a speech was the focus on where we are as scholars of praxis with online/hybrid courses, and the potential for growth. Focusing on the idea that growth is not just inevitable, but needs to become the focus again of online pedagogy discussions is so important to me.

While my current institution fills more hybrid classes than online classes, the potential for graduate certificate student growth in online and hybrid grad classes exists. To develop this program and provide meaningful courses to post-bach professionals, our department needs to not only engage with current composition theories and coursework, but with online and digital pedagogies to provide courses that allow students to navigate for meaningful interactions.

The focus on Teaching Writing Online as translating curriculums to online space is insufficient, the hard questions aren’t raised and addressed. The messiness of online courses, the changes that occur part-way through a term to accommodate learners is missing. While critical digital pedagogy offers more critical thinking approaches to pedagogy than answers for designing learning given the tools students and faculty can access-

-and I would like to suggest adding considerations of race, class and gender since all may have an affect on student literacies when they engage with the courses – heck considerations for the HUGE variety of student literacies when they engage with digital material needs further discussion and consideration. Additionally, what do students expect from an online course, what do they get from an online course? These were questions I raised from the variety of data I found in my dissertation that still need further exploration. Just because students use Facebook or Twitter doesn’t mean we (educators/researchers) know anything about HOW they engage, so we don’t know what it will take to help students engage with critical engagement-

-the questions raised in critical digital pedagogy discussions seem to be the focus of just a few researchers (within a specific publication and their training institutes – why if you’re discussing critical digital pedagogy did you design ‘training’ based summer programs instead of a conference that would include more voices on equal footing – especially the voices of women and people of color?).

Yes, i’m actively critically engaging with critical digital pedagogy as I write this blog post, I understand the irony, but I do believe it is a solid theory to re-address the conversations that need to happen in relation to online/hybrid composition pedagogy, even the use of technology in f2f composition courses.

Through these meandering theory connections I’m wondering where the connection is between critical digital pedagogy and the NCTE/CCCC Teaching Writing Online discussions in actual practices. Why do some groups continue to work with one group of texts, while another group works with a separate set. What approaches to online course design do current online composition educators rely on for theory? Beyond developing studies based on current praxis – what are the current gaps in knowledge? What would it require to find out?

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Public Teaching

Two of my classes have been reading Learning {Re}Imagined  to begin our discussions of the purpose of academic writing, from shared background readings on goals of education – especially technology and education. The Twitter discussions from one class in particular have been fantastic! The types of tweets and content engagement that remind me why I teach.

This class has also enjoyed adding and circulating (retweeting) additional content – articles on current events, additional articles on writing, additional articles on education. As we’re going through this, these additional articles are then spurred tons of discussion about the goals of education – students began applying these ideas to their majors (sciences and education) to make the information relevant to them and their goals for the class.

Then, we were trolled.

This happens when you discuss current event articles and other Twitter users follow that information, but it’s always a bit jarring to me. This particular trolling moment, in combination with current political events, made me consider what it means to publicly teach.

The traditional model of the college learning process, the college classroom, is students come to class and all learning is confined to the classroom space. Learning occurs through reading and lectures, sometimes tests/exams or papers to test knowledge. This traditional model has also become popular in online courses – MIT and other institutions have public courses (available for free or a fee). Most of these free courses consist of video recorded lectures, discussion boards, exams and papers. I’m reading Desiging Your Life as a possible #villeonebook selection and the authors mention the perceived unfairness that only students at their university could access their class and how design thinking can help college students (especially those graduating) – so they wrote a book and created a website with supplemental information. Additionally, MOOCs publish courses. Technology has made public teaching more possible, and in many ways reinforced the ‘traditional’ college model of reading, lectures, exams and papers.

These ‘traditional’ public teachings don’t operate the same as holding class through Twitter. While the content may be controversial, the course structure embeds that controversy within a ‘classroom’. On Twitter, my students may have discussion about these topics at any time. A course hashtag doesn’t put up the imaginary classroom boundary walls that exist with online courses. This open discussion, then becomes an open discussion – open to the trolls of twitter.

This moment of trolling is the moment of public teaching – even if I don’t engage the trolls, my content and my pedagogy with Twitter led to the moment where my students and I were trolled. While this can happen in a MOOC or an open course, the imaginary boundaries seem less likely to inspire this approach to ‘entering’ a conversation.

I don’t intend to change or modify my Twitter practices. I continued on the conversation with my students leaving out the troll, and I will continue to engage my students with these public conversations and this public inclusion of articles and ideas. But, I am grappling with ‘what does it mean to teach publicly’. How do students feel about the public nature of class when they are identified by the troll? How do we deal with outside influences within our artificially created ‘online’ class?

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Twitter in the Classroom

I’ve been using Twitter in my courses for over a year now, yay! And so far i’ve collected tons of great (anecdotal) evidence that Twitter helps. So now it’s time to actually test the response.

Similar to my last post, my foray into classroom tweeting began with the desire to help students (online graduate students specifically) engage with course material and each other. Twitter seemed like a more effective platform for that engagement because students could post ‘notes’ and then respond to other student notes. The reduction in characters from a fully developed, well articulated discussion board post would, in theory, help students engage with the material so they could then write the fully developed, well articulated, thoughtful discussion board posts I was looking for.

As I begin to put together my IRB paperwork, I need a more clear research question. I began using Twitter to help students write about reading, to help them process their own notes on a deeper level. So an obvious research question here is: do students engage on a deeper level with course material?

But, I need measurable outcomes, measurable data. Here the most obvious is the tweets, i need to collect student tweets to understand trends in twitter use.

Going back to my anecdotal evidence, different classes used Twitter very differently. So, if I gather data from 3 hashtags this term, could I encounter 3 very different uses of Twitter? So then should I start with a more basic research question, when assigned tweets as a writing assignment, what do students do? How do students use Twitter when a required part of the classroom?

No matter what way I lean, IRB will need to go through, and I’ll need to make some decisions about comparing course data since I’m teaching a freshman level composition course, and a junior level composition course. To add to the ‘how do students use Twitter’ I could also look to the data for trend differences in use between the Freshman and Junior level writing courses which would indicate some connection back to understanding writing.

I’ll keep working through these ideas, but the use of Twitter builds upon my eventual hope to incorporate OER into the classroom, can Twitter and required ‘note’ tweets help students engage with course material (the problem here is what does engagement mean? and if I look for traditional ideas of engagement according to comp theory, can I ensure students know what that means and care enough to actually do that, so then am I measuring what students understand to be required versus authentic engagement…….oh the pandora’s box here).

I’ll update further with where I end up with this question – I have some Uses of Facebook in the Composition Classroom articles to read to help solidify my ideas before I submit the concrete proposal.

In the mean time, how do you tweet?

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OER: how do students use them in the classroom?

A year ago this summer I began using Twitter in my classroom with the long term goal of implementing OER (Open Educational Resources). I attended all the teach-ins presented by Faculty Professional Development at my previous institution, and often heard professors struggle in the ed tech sessions with how students learn from technology. While I try to use technology for meaningful learning I struggled with a more basic problem: how do students learn from Reading Online. As yet I haven’t seen an answer. I haven’t even seen much of an engaged discussion about this in relation to OER (and I’ve found nothing on Pinterest but hand notes for K-12 reading, Pinterest is now failing me in sparking brilliance!!!)

Here I will outline my reasons for seeing struggle in a fairly one sided argument (with myself) to continue to move toward the adoption of OER in the classroom. I want to cut down book costs, but I’m still finding students learn better when I assign a book versus an article (accounting for equal level of density between the two). I see huge connections to information literacy development that is necessary outside the classroom, so this isn’t just a cost thing for me.

Problem #1: It’s RARE that  student will come to class with the article printed, while mine is all marked up, noted, questions listed for class on the front, and often color tabbed so I can direct the discussion, check understanding and use the article for engaged learning in game days. On Game Days when students were asked to reference sections of an article, students flipped through pages, back and forth, back and forth, with what seemed like little direction or idea on how to focus and find what they needed in the text.

Problem #2: I don’t know how to transfer my own reading process to an online resource – so how can I guide students to do the same in a freshmen comp course using only OER?

Problem #3: OER are not designed to be printed, so what is the relationship between reading and taking usable notes? Similar to other online debates in relation to education (how do you authenticate the identity of an online student? – ummmm do you check id’s in f2f courses? like that debate) – this is a fine point question. Students don’t always/usually know how to take notes on their reading in a usable way to begin with so why would they know online – so then what do I do?

So it’s problem #3 that I believe provides the entry point (and the connection between maker education, digital rhetoric, and education that I strive for in my research) to OER. But I feel like I need to *solve* #2 to address #3. I need to find ways to take and retain usable notes from all my online reading. I need to find a way to store and access information, article references, annotated bibs for all my school-related reading first. If I can model one approach, and recommend good approaches that didn’t work for me, I’ll be in a place to help guide students through OER.

I think this is a good time to jump in with the why – why is this important. When I first started working at ASU with the hopes of a job paying for my master’s I worked at the front desk of a department. I had calls for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week asking for information that could easily be found on the ASU webpages. I became really good at finding those sources and sending them. Information retrieval, search terminology, all of that is a necessary information literacy skill (yay one more thing that needs to be taught and discussed in an already jam packed semester). The good news here, if I have an ARG for this!! The point is, in a job, this was one of the first skills I was expected to develop, QUICKLY. When I mastered that skill, I was promoted because information retrieval is a skill not many fine tuned. Hopefully the connection here is a bit obvious, students may have to search for articles and ideas for school, but they’ll similarly search in the work world based on modern uses of computers. So reading the internet and retaining/using information read is both an important school-based AND work-based skill (we’re mattress shopping right now, it’s also an adult skill).

The difference here, using my example (and drawing from Gee’s works) is need – I needed to demonstrate strong information literacy so I didn’t sit behind a desk my entire career (plus moving on helped my grad class schedule – so double need). I retain articles and blogs better when I consider using the information in class. I remember romance novels in more detail when I imagine the blog review I would write when I work up the nerve to start my romance review blog. Just like in videogames (Gee) the need to use information increases retention.

So my struggle with OER won’t be solved today, because I don’t know how (similar to textbooks and in-class articles) to make it seem necessary to students. I also don’t think enough research has been conducted on how students approach reading OER versus textbooks to begin to know how to address it. Through my Twitter assignment, I assign necessary tweets reflecting on readings, connecting performance to grade to artificially inflate ‘need’ but I think there are better approaches. So for the next 3 months (Fall term) my goal is to find ways to use online resources without printing. Wish me luck 😉

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online courses and twitter

when I initially began requiring twitter use in an online graduate class, the goal was to understand note taking behavior to attempt to help future students as textbooks for purchase phase out of the lower division undergraduate curriculum. Graduate students and upper division students continue to purchase textbooks for a variety of reasons, so their note taking could be similar to mine with underlining physical pages. There is the possibility in all cases that students simply purchase the electronic book for cost or preference reasons. All together, the goal is to find alternative ways of taking, tracking and keeping notes.

During the first semester I saw bonds begin to form with groups of students, who then used twitter to maintain and continue class connections. Students began directing tweets at each other as part of their normal course tweeting. In this way, the course twitter feed began to resemble a class discussion more than a forum based discussion board does. yes, there are character limits, but the overall feel of the space became conversational and bonding.

So this semester I began requiring twitter use in 1 face-to-face senior-level undergrad course and 1 online graduate course. I also offered the option to online grads in a second course – although as expected the use has been extremely limited here, mostly my previous twitter students posting messages and directly contacting me for immediate feedback.

In my online graduate course, now in week 4 i’m finding an amazing amount of engagement, interaction and discussion through twitter. Observations:

  1. Twitter engagement and interaction improved after I posted grades
  2. Twitter engagement and interaction improved after students began conversing more and note taking less, but the conversations are still mostly focused on the readings and highly engaged
  3. Not all students read and post at the same time, so groupings of high conversation activity form around people reading and posting together – which adds to engagement and conversation
  4. Students (online AND f2f) enjoy the direct contact to me – they run ideas by me, let me know when assignments will be late and generally keep me updated.

Potential updates in future use

  1. I’m intending to implement Twitter in the other online course. I really think the combination of twitter engagement and DB forum engagement is adding to learning – i have no data for this, it’s all observational based on conversation. The conversation in the twitter class is amazing
  2. I’m intending to build twitter into the questing in my upper division undergrad course. I have blog posting, as blogs are a requirement, but I think there are ways twitter can develop as professional a connection
  3. I still have students not filling out profile entirely who don’t appear in the class hashtag list – I need to play with settings more to ensure everyone has equal opportunity to share in the conversation

Overall, while Twitter sets a character limit for messages, when used appropriately, it can provide space for conversation and engagement with course readings that compliments the DB forums provided in an LMS. I feel online students can learn more from the combination of interaction types.

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Backchannel and Notes

In a summer grad class I taught I began using Twitter. I’ve heard amazing ideas and stories of uses in f2f courses for creating a backchannel for students to participate in class, and to identify when information needs further discussion. This second idea influenced my adoption of this technology in an online only grad class – could I use Twitter to create a digital archive of the course, similar to class discussions, and also use those notes to address any struggles with course materials. I specifically designed the assignment to create a store house of notes from reading, so students could use all the notes from all the students, plus LMS discussions, as they created their theory papers. It provided alternative approaches to course material, requiring students to find ways to write virtual notes about each reading in 140 characters or less.

Many students struggled in the beginning – thinking of notes in such short bursts was difficult to them. They wanted to write paragraph length notes. After the first couple weeks, Tweets were more effective for note purposes, and more useful to students as they wrote their paper.

Additionally, these notes demonstrated the learning and focus of students, so they served as an unofficial backchannel for me – I could gauge the responses of students and prepare for their projects more effectively based on their understanding, discussion and embracing of the course readings.

Moving forward with this assignment, I’ll be more overt with the backchannel. Students who experimented with Twitter were willing to include my handle when questions arose, and they were happy to engage with my posts when I responded, but few reached out to other students, instead preferring to post in isolation. I’ll work on engagement in the Fall as I use Twitter again in courses to further support engagement with the course, course materials, course concepts, and Twitter as a learning tool.

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Twitter in online grad class

I attended too many conferences this past Spring. I attended/ presented at CCCC’s, hosted/ran/presented at the Undergraduate Videogame Symposium at NAU, and attended/presented/mentored undergrads at NCUR. My topics and research interests for each conference overlap, but were still very different. I worried about tracking my own notes, my own conference learning, my own new ideas. As a seasoned notetaker (anyone who makes it through the PhD ha taken plenty of notes in their academic career!), I wondered how I could also represent these ideas and notes, how could a conference capitalize on this creative energy as data visualization?

What I considered as we planned for the UVS was how to track notes and the brilliant ideas being discussed. Data visualization to show the non-believers the intellectual work taking place at the undergrad symposium. I saw CCCC attemptthis with a compter lab of sorts, while the idea and theory was there, it was missing participant buy-in, understanding and support, so it became a quiet room for faculty and grad students to work.

The UVS utilized post-it notes and a board to track this. I assigned volunteers the task of taking notes, posting post-its, wandering around and asking participants questions. While this overcame the buy-in problem, the notes were not always helpful, they lacked uniformity, structure. Some simply wrote “fun” while others engaged with complex ideas related to cultural critique of videogames. I still feel this approach was successful, but the un-portability of the post-it note board makes this a stationary, difficult to share example of group notes, unless I transcribe everything.

NCUR was a jumbled mess of undergrads and faculty using the spaces they feel comfortable with in the ways they feel comfortable. While notes were taken, and hashtags used, there is significant sorting through peer to peer interactions to find notes.

At all the events I live tweeted.

From this was born the idea to use Twitter in my online classes for reading notes. I’ve read articles on using Twitter in class, for live tweeting during class, back channel conversation monitoring, and a more indirect method of raising questions in class, but so far not for reading notes.  Between CCCCs and UVS I scoured the internet looking for easy to use hashtag sorters. At NCUR I found a few, and found them to be too expensive. In any case, I had a plan, with a slid pedagogical foundation, integration of technology to support pedagogical practices, not technology for the sake of technology. Timelines and deadlines to consider with pedagogy to support, and yet I struggled with the assignment. this is twitter after all, the space gamergaters feel no one should care about, the space Sarkeesian (of Feminist Frequency fame) regularly receives death threats and levies critiques against pop culture, the space everyone who is anyone in the tech world and ed tech world claims is dying (they said Facebook was dying too, so take all that with a grain of salt). Today, I read this article on Chronicle Vitae – my Twitter struggles discussed by another faculty member. Marshall’s conclusion was to introduce the assignment differently, at this point, with the course starting today so the syllabus and assignment already posted, I can only hope it makes sense to my students. So begins the grand experiment of group notes for an online course using twitter…….

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grading

I recently read this article about grading. Aragon specifically speaks to students about how grades reflect points earned within the course, they do not reflect personal feelings about a student. I would add nor do they necessarily reflect learning, participation, ability to use this information to work toward the job/career students want. I have students who work hard in class, clearly arrive prepared having read the material, participate in discussion, and can’t turn in a paper on time to save their lives. They may write solid A and B papers, but the late submission drops their grades. It could be argued that in the work world submitting reports late, etc could result in loss of job – but is that really what due dates train students for?

Anyway, the discussion I want to have is in relation to grades, feelings and online courses. After reading Aragon’s article I was particularly interested in courses where interactions with the course differ – so large courses and online courses. Do personal feelings become attached to behaviors, interactions, comments and critiques differently, which may influence sense-making surrounding grades differently. My sister is currently completing a master’s program in London. She continues to receive feedback from her advisor on approval paperwork for her thesis project. The feedback is electronic – although my sister meets with this advisor face-to-face as well. In her case, and I don’t consider her overly sensitive, she feels the feedback is harsh, the critiques overly critical, and the rewriting difficult because the standards based on feedback are so high. In this case, yes, stakes are high it’s a master’s project – but the online feedback is influencing her sense-making. I always grade online – and unless I’m teaching an online course I rarely use rubrics so I include extensive feedback discussing the grade and the good and bad of a paper/assignment/essay/etc. Now i’m wondering if even this online feedback is too critical. In cases where I never meet the students, so online courses, do they see the feedback as excessively critical because they don’t know me? In this case I’m more prone to provide too much information to assist the student in future exercises since I can’t provide the same feedback face-to-face.

I haven’t researched extensively in the field of feedback research, but now i’m personally curious – as a grad online professor this summer and next semester – how do grades and comments influence how a student feels within a course? do these feelings influence subsequent assignments positively and negatively depending on the understanding and feelings about previous feedback? i think I’ll just add this to the list of future research project for now, and see what I can do to understand perceptions of feedback in my courses.

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Learning and the LMS

as I’m preparing my summer school courses, I’m reading extensive theory on online course design. I’m reading educational blogs on tech tools to engage learners, and support good learning. I’m reading books on incorporating textbooks in online courses. I’m browsing pre-created materials by book publishers to support the integration and use of their textbooks. In all these I’m seeing and reading that *everyone* supports a new view of education where the focus is no longer on content and content regurgitation, but instead on application and use of the knowledge gained from the reading – Project focused instead of Quiz focused. i wholeheartedly support this view of learning. as an employee of a department during my grad school days I evaluated transcripts and accreditation. I wasn’t expected to memorize schools and rules, instead I was expected to know how to research schools based on ministry of education, department of education, and university created websites, books, and materials to determine acceptability of courses and degrees. I needed to know how to find a breadth of information and apply it to the problem of transcript evaluation. How I researched was the required skill, not the information. This new approach to classrooms, in theory emphasizes a similar idea………and yet…….as I design my online course I explored the LMS provided by the book publisher. this LMS opens an empty shell and first asks you to create an assignment. The course is then designed around this assignment. While an assignment is better than a test, this product focused approach to learning within the classroom feels more like studying to take a text than it feels like researching as part of my everyday job. my question for today: how do we use product-focused LMS to support good learning? I don’t think there is one right answer, but I think it’s a question online instructors need to continue to ask themselves as they design, implement, teach and redesign online courses.

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